BITING INTO THE BIG APPLE
About New York City, New York
BITING INTO THE BIG APPLE
The Big Apple can dazzle with the bright lights of Broadway, fanciful dining, luxury shops and constant bustle. But even in Manhattan there’s another side that’s cozy, intimate and welcoming. Think wood burning fireplaces, delicious value priced meals in neighbourhood eateries and hidden speakeasies with convivial vibes.
A couple of hotels in New York City offer rooms with wood burning fireplaces but mostly only in a few top suites. The Royalton, built in the 1890’s as a residence for young bachelors, is the exception with 55 rooms boasting fire the old fashion way. Though the place was completely redesigned in 1988 by Philippe Starck with all-white avant garde dazzle in the lobby and redone again by New York firm Roman and Williams in 2007 to bronze and dark wood coziness, the fireplaces remain. So the hotel has taken the theme and launched “Fireplace Packages” for the 21st century.
Guests can choose from five wood types created by Brooklyn-based wood sommelier Ted Whitehead to customize their in-room fires: maple, oak, pecan, apple and hickory. Lead bartender Joshua Brandenburg has created outstanding wood-infused cocktails to match with this and executive chef Vanessa Miller pairs it all with tasty tapas. My smoky Hickory Old Fashioned paired with a crostini of prosciutto and ricotta was delish. When I went to my room I ordered the pecan chip sachet, Island of the Hills cocktail (Woodford Reserve, pecan orgeat) served with pecan topped oven roasted sweet potatoes and the film Brooklyn on TV, and was transported to another era.www.royaltonfireplace.com
Toronto native Jason Soloway grew up in a food focused family who made an early foray into opening a fine dining Italian restaurant in the city. Living in NYC for 15 years now, he’s taken his passion for cuisine and funnelled it (as co-owner) into two neighbourly eateries with top notch cooking and cocktails. Nestled in the East Village, The Eddy, on a block formerly known as curry row (for its Indian eateries), is an intimate 30 seat restaurant with the charm of a homey cottage.
Chef Brendan McHale’s menu is brilliant – and the five course tasting menu a steal at $75. The pappardelle pasta with bone marrow and pecorino is scrumptious, the seared octopus tasty tender and the juicy grass-fed dry-aged rib-eye flavour packed. The wine by the glass list has well picked surprises and the cocktails, such as Strange Visitors are playful. To top it off, the service is super welcoming: “no dick heads allowed” said Soloway about his hiring practices. It’s no wonder it’s a NYC critics pick. www.theeddynyc.com
His other restaurant, The Wallflower is barely bigger with 26 seats plus ten at the bar. His partner here is Xavier Herit, who for seven years served as the head bartender at Daniel and wrote a cocktail book with Daniel Boulud.
This West Village spot has a Cheers-esque vibe; locals are barely through the door and their favourite cocktail or wine is in their hands. Of course cocktails are amazing, amusing and knee-weakenly good. If there be sure to order his Negroni Carbonato kept cool in an ice bowl (the type the Turkish use for cooling raki).
The open kitchen, manned by tall Texan Chef Derrick Paez, is teeny tiny, but somehow the big chef manages to produce French driven – with contemporary touches of Italian and Columbian - five course tasting menus that are delightful. Foie gras mousse that melts in your mouth, chèvre on breakfast radish to awaken the palate, tuna tartar with an earthy hit of truffle vinaigrette, tender roasted Poussin and delicate cheesecake on gingerbread for example. After dinner the place becomes a cocktail lounge staying open to the wee hours. Weekend brunch (11 – 3pm) features omelettes, pain perdu, pan bagnat and other crowd pleasers. As at The Eddy, staff here is warm and welcoming.www.wallflowernyc.com
Regarding cozy bars, right in Grand Central Terminal is a hidden place that started off as an apartment in 1923 - that most likely also served as a saloon for entertaining guests with booze during the real Prohibition era. The Campbell Apartment with its 25 foot high wood ceiling has been meticulously restored (at one point in the 1940’s it was a police station complete with jail cells) to its original grandeur without losing the time warp of well-rubbed dark wood, towering paned windows, faded leather seating and ancient carpets.
After work crowds pack in for a glass of the signature Prohibition punch (passionfruit juice, rum, Gran Gala and champagne), vintage cocktails and a nosh of charcuterie and cheese before heading for the trains. Under the same ownership is the nearby American bistro, Madison and Vine in the Library Hotel with a smart wine list, inventive cocktails and tasty bistro items such as Maine peekytoe crab cakes on kale cabbage slaw, turkey club sandwich and short rib Bolognese. http://hospitalityholdings.com
Welcoming and fun speakeasies and prohibition style bars are all over the East and West Villages in lower Manhattan – more about them and the wonder of a real winery in the city centre in my next column.