While not entirely true for this intrepid Food & Drink Examiner – the adage that Gothamites often don’t see their city until out of town guests visit is true enough.
The last few days, hosting a pre Labor Day Weekend food and drink discovery tour for two women – one from Florida who spends dreamy time in Costa Rica for yoga and the other who hails from Bahamas where she and her family make Biminis for the lucrative boat trade were here to experience Gotham – one for the very first time.
A different kind of island experience one might add.
With too much to see and eat and drink in one day, it was agreed that this day we’d take our mindfulness from the morning’s Stanton Street Yoga practice and community practice led by guest yoga master, Leila Dylla, and head to Wall Street to catch the NY Waterways to Dumbo for some views, parks and eats.
We weren’t disappointed.
It was the second hottest day of this miraculous “Goldilocks” summer (not too hot; not too cold) but being on the waterfront of Gotham’s island and Brooklyn’s waterfront made a summer scorcher ok if not downright pleasant.
The Brooklyn Bridge Park offers vistas and lots of shade trees.
There are power stations for smart phones and Wi-Fi connections right there on the extended dock area, too.
The Fulton Street Landing kind of juts out into the East River on the Brooklyn waterfront, punctuated with a combination of casual and elegant dining.
The Fulton Lading there is the site of the original 1642 ferry, designed by Robert Fulton. NY Waterways
In front of the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and next to the River Café is their low key, affordable and charming waterfront eatery serving borough brews, hot dogs and other comfort food.
Red tables and chairs, a shaded eating area and a killer view of the Manhattan skyline, along with the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges’ architectural designs.
The Gotham real-time entertainment includes the maritime moving vista of pleasure boats and commercial tankers and ferries and all manner of water traffic.
And the cutest ferries this side of a children’s picture book.
Move onto the River Café for gardens and upscale dining pleasure.
This icon of Gotham's riverfront dining scene just reopened to much foodie love after Sandy slammed into the face of the romantic, idyllic dining spot.
So all the Cupids waiting to pop the question – get your jeweler ready and the River Café on speed dial. Or Open Table
Up the street is the charming café – Almondine Bakery serving delicious French-inspired treats, -- noted for the “best” croissants, baguettes – heck – a best bakery in Gotham, along with it hello-sweetheart sandwiches.
Across the street is Jacques Torres Chocolate and The Powerhouse Arena book store– a must see for any lover of the literary arts, reading clubs, cooking, decorating, and book-based events and exhibitions. Love the layout and design with its industrial cement floors and steps cum seats in its self-described “community space.”
Several good restaurants dot Main Street - from sweets – One Girl Cookies restaurant brimming with all manner of sweets: Animal Cracker cakes, mini cupcakes, angel food cake, Whoopie Pies, and tarts, all made exuberant, fresh ingredients. And the Stumptown coffee served is terrific – hot, cold, whipped…
A few doors down is Atrium Dumbo restaurant – a market-driven menu peppered with lots of local, artisanal food and drink and Plant wall art!
The Mexican food truck at the water/park side of the street’s cul de sac offers outstanding food, good value and the opportunity to take the meal to a picnic table either on the beach area or in the Brooklyn Bridge Park shaded picnic tables in front of the magical, transporting, Jane's Carousel(www.janescarousel.com) (Open 11 am to 7 pm)
Originally built in 1922, by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (not 1899 as Wikipedia entry, plus it says so right there on the platform!), installed in Idora Park in Youngstown, Ohio, was restored by Jane – not once but twice, due to Sandy’s wrath. The Carousel is a work of art -- a nostalgic merry-go-round for kids of all ages enclosed in a glass cube – that unlike the Apple store on Fifth Avenue – opens up.
Riders gallop with giddy joy on the classic, macron-hued horses while watching the East River, the Manhattan skyline and Brooklyn swirl past.
Digging into the chipotle pulled pork, back beans, rice and salad, while enjoying the incomparable view was a simple food pleasure and a good meal memory.
Talk turned to what to see in the way of NYC culture – Broadway, museums and then, just like that, in a New York fairy-bubble kind of way, our tablemate announced he is an events producer, a friend/associate of the producers of Queens of the Night (www.queenofthenightnyc.com) invited our gorgeous out of town visitors to his Saturday night water-themed party – as in mermaids and Poseidon – for all his friends who are not at Burning Man.
That’s a New York moment.
But no time to lose – hastening goodbyes, it was on to the NY Waterways ferry to North Williamsburg to the Brooklyn Brewery, The Wythe Hotel and whatever food and coffee and drink adventure beckoned.
While the heat may have contributed to the OK Corral streetscape, it is rather more indicative of the Williamsburg (“Billyburg”) and Bushwick neighborhood neighborhoods that some have described as being “like the Wild West.”
Curiously, the Brooklyn Brewery was not open for tastings. All the more sad as Garrett Oliver was awarded the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional accolade in May and this Examiner was talking up that sensation and a rather recent event at the brewery for Lior Lev Sercarz, La Boîte spice master – for his spice beer christening for Brooklyn Brewmaster Reserve Cuvee La Boîte spice beer "love child" and was keen to show off the brewery…
Note to tourists and visitors: tastings are only open to regular tasters on the weekends and private parties during the week.
Note to Brooklyn Brewery: please consider an open tasting room for drop-in visitors – perhaps Thursdays and Fridays or for the summer months.
Across the street to the brewery is the impossibly cool, Wythe Hotel. This Examiner must’ve had some connection to the place in a former life as it just feels like coming home.
An all-too simpatico connection – from the first time discovery to the delight of rooftop cocktails to literary and fine art installations.
All brick, forged iron, incredible views, and lots of Brooklyn integrity along with trés Brooklyn (as the French say) hospitality and style, this former factory built in 1901 blends up an altogether exciting experience. Every time.
This day the cocktail confections started at the main floor bar in the Reynard restaurant, The Ides – rooftop bar opens daily, in-season, at 4 pm.
In the downstairs bar, patrons bask in the open, rustic high-ceilinged room with marble-topped tables for dining, a long, white wrap-around marble bar and comfy stools just made for conversation and imbibing.
Sookoun the bartender is a cocktail sprite! His happy, welcome and ongoing banter could’ve come straight out of a drinker’s fantasy – or a movie. With a shock of a hairdo that is not altogether unlike a dark-haired Woody the Woodpecker, he delivers a perfect blend of bonhomie and mixed concoctions straight up and sure to please.
His one-word moniker puts him in the all-star constellation of a Cher, or Madonna or Usher… His name is just so lyrical!
The spirits, beer and wine offered at the Wythe are an impressive list – a nice mix of local distilleries and breweries and imported tastes.
Ordering off the printed Wythe cocktail menu, this Examiner was a bit disappointed there weren’t more intriguing or adventurous, creative recipes offered – especially herbal-based mixes. After all, the benchmark is set rather high for the borough so the unexpected is well, expected.
Perhaps one needs to have their cocktail recipes at the ready in order to take advantage of the well-stocked bar…
The cocktail tasted good enough – after all it was a mix of fennel and a natural sugar cane, Velvet Falernum, garnished with a lime and lemon.
It must’ve been Sookoun’s superb people skills that allowed him to discern a well concealed and, truth be told, minor disappointment. He offered to create a more potent herbal drink.
Now, we were getting somewhere.
Shazaam! His cocktail creation was a legacy cocktail, the Last Word, that was a new discovery for our party and one that felt bright, refreshing and modern. The Last Word’s base is gin – lots of botanicals to start with, plus a blend of lime, Chartreuse, maraschino served over crushed ice was a tour de force.
He also introduced the very herbally-tasting Braulio Amaro Alpino that was kinda' like an Armagnac and something one gets at the pharmacy – in Switzerland (where this Examiner schooled for some college).
The bar there is very cosmopolitan and upscale international – and not just from Manhattan… seated alongside our party was an interesting couple: a Danish man and his German girlfriend – who visit once a month for business and frequent the Wythe every trip.
Hated to leave delightful and happy Sookoun but the rooftop beckoned.
The mesmerizing view of Manhattan’s storied skyline is breathtaking – for locals and visitors from afar.
The rooftop offers a nice complementary environment for taking in the visual drama: waist-high planters that allow for, careful, drink rests, seats, and tables.
With LiV Long Island Potato Vodka drinks in tow, the threesome watched the start of a heart-throbbing sunset over Gotham and toasted to a New York food and drink holiday.
Cheers. Happy Labor – Less Weekend.