Have you noticed that the ultimate cache is when a city becomes an adjective? Brooklyn seems to have cornered the market globally as the new adjective. I started to wonder who else has made the list? Which zip code is trending? Which place is so utterly electric that it becomes inspirational to designers, foodies, television writers? (Dallas, Girls, Friday Night Lights come to mind where place is a character.) As a result of this new adjective status, rents skyrocket, trust fund tragedies arrive and everyone wants to emulate it. That is what a noun becoming an adjective means.
Brooklyn is a the ultimate synonym these days for "cool," "hipster," handmade (but not in the spirit of Aunt Gertrude and her doily-covered jams way) but handmade trendy -- rather purveyors with letterpress printed papers that wrap 99.9 percent pure dark chocolate, single-sourced. Cities that become adjectives appear to be hedonistic, pleasurable and with a name that immediately conjures up an eruption of local color that anyone can identify. So I began to make my list based on cool events. How about Austin with South by Southwest? "Oh, that's so Austin?" Hardly. Or maybe something is so Park City with Sundance? Seattle? Chicago? Minneapolis? No. No. No. LA turned into an adjective years ago, likely after LA Story or The Graduate. These were iconic moments when the entire country, if not the world, wanted to import what was going on between the 405 and West Hollywood and it seems to have staying power.
I first started to think about this noun-adjective transformation while having coffee with two leading chefs in the U.S., Ana Sortun, creator and owner of Oleana and Sofra, and Jody Adams, owner of Rialto Bar and Restaurant at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square and TRADE in Boston Seaport. Both women own restaurants in Cambridge (02138 -- said to be the most opinionated zip code in America and home to Harvard and MIT brain trusts.) We were talking about why Cambridge and neighboring Somerville were seeing a plethora of new, hip restaurants emerging. I suggested a foodie awakening that seems to be rampant from Malibu to Brooklyn. Sortun was more practical but Adams took it further. She took adjectivization into movement territory.
"Rent," offered Sortun. "I don't think people in Cambridge have changed, I think that it's saturated in certain areas and it's not here."
"I think it's both and it's happening around the country. In France, when they talk about a really good place, it's called Brooklyn. Any foodie thing that is happening in France, the adjective they use is now Brooklyn."
Sortun who is opening her third restaurant this month in Somerville, agreed. "The adjective here is Brooklyn too. We use it. Somerville is the Brooklyn of Boston. And maybe Cambridge will become an adjective too."
"Yes, it's très Brooklyn. It's très Cambridge!" Adams laughs.
And that is how we started to muse over the noun to adjective conversion. When is the tipping point? How does it happen? Can it only be based on food? LA proves that wrong. There have long been items that we coin as descriptions of place. Cowboy boots in Denver and Nantucket Reds, popular this time of year on the northeast, but when I started to list what cities can legitimately claim adjectivization there are few. I bounced names around as a party game the other night and have been bugging my family for weeks with Idaho, St. Paul, St. Louis, how about Charleston, Bosie, or a state like Vermont? Very few stuck. So here is my list of those who have made it as well those who may make it one day soon. I would add that to qualify one should be able to imagine some French hipsters in Paris over morning coffee announcing to their friends that something is: "C'est très (insert city)." What's your list? Here's mine.
Definite: Brooklyn, LA, and South Beach
Up and Comers: Napa, Cambridge, Silverlake, Somerville, Nashville (Hey, they have there own TV show and not the reality type -- one with enough local color to fuel the writers)
This is an exclusive excerpt for the Huffingtonpost.com. For the full interview with Ana Sortun and Jody Adams, please see www.theEditorial.com.