Mayonnaise has all the hallmarks of a foodie cult-favorite ready to follow the bacon's path in 2007. It's funny, a little trashy, tastes good on a surprisingly huge number of things, and now it has its own high-end purveyor. New York's Grub Street reported today that Sam Mason, formerly of WD-50 and more recently as the driving force behind Soho's Tailor, is planning to open a mayonnaise specialty shop in Brooklyn's up-and-coming Prospect Heights neighborhood. At least one New York food blog throws up its hands at Brooklyn's "total descent into self-parody," but there's no reason such a shop shouldn't get the same treatment as any experiment in high-end specialty food store. And its owners have reason to believe Empire Mayonnaise will succeed.
Mason's partner, Elizabeth Valleau, told Grub Street "that New York is in the grips of a 'condiment revolution,' with room for growth; however, as of yet 'nobody is coming in and owning the mayonnaise.' " Writer Jessica Loudis seems dubious of that claim, but there's no denying mayonnaise's rise in the national estimation. Last week, mayonnaise (specifically, Hellman's) emerged as the best-selling condiment in the United States, pulling ahead of salsa, which held the distinction since 2006. Whether or not there's enough interest in the iconic oil-and-eggs spread to support a store that sells only mayonnaise, plenty of New Yorkers and foodies think the store is a step too far toward precious. The Village Voice's Rebecca Marx has had enough:
So it's come to this, Brooklyn. You've turned into that friend whose behavior we just can't make excuses for any longer, and that saddens us. There are so very many things we'd like to say to you, but we don't even know where to begin. So instead we'll just sit here, eating the last of that jar of your paprika-smoked heirloom pickles and wondering when it was, exactly, that you decided you'd be better off as a headline in The Onion.
On Grub Street, commenter BrooklynGrits also invoked The Onion, and asked, "Has the NY food scene finally jumped the shark?" He or she was no doubt reacting to this description of Empire Mayonnaise's business plan: "Empire will initially feature around 40 flavors, with Mason devising a new one each week; coffee, smoked paprika, foie gras, and mushroom are already on the menu." Hey, if the East Village can support an all-French fry restaurant, maybe Brooklyn is ready for an all-mayonnaise shop.