Eataly. The beast that isEataly. Located in the heart of New York City on 5th Avenue, this grand indoor mega-market focusing primarily on Italian goods blew my foodie mind. I had been told by several others in our party that I "MUST visit Eataly." I was already in-the-know so to speak, having read about it on many different accounts through my food connections. I was not, however, prepared for it in reality. How does one describe walking into this culinary slice of heaven?
"Eataly, the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in the world, is finally here in New York. Two years after Oscar Farinetti opened his groundbreaking food and wine market in Turin, Italy, he has teamed up with Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Lidia Matticchio Bastianich of Batali-Bastianich (B&B) Hospitality Group to transform a 50,000 square - foot space in the Flatiron District into New York City’s premier culinary mecca."
"The marketplace located at 200 Fifth Avenue (the former Toy Building) is the city's ultimate destination for food lovers to shop and taste and savor – an extravaganza includes a premier retail center for Italian delicacies and wine, a culinary educational center, and a diverse slate of boutique eateries. This gourmand's delight features cured meats and cheeses, fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, fresh fish, handmade pasta, desserts and baked goods and coffees."
That would be putting it lightly...
You see, from the outside, Eataly bears very few markings- only a large, simple sign draped in the massive entry window. If you weren't paying attention, or knew what you were looking for, you very well may pass it by. The building resembles most of the Flatiron District's buildings, made of stone and enormous, planted on the corner of 5th and 23rd next to Madison Square Park. Outside, in the divide between the streets sit colorful, blooming Marimekko unbrellas shading calm lunch breaks and wandering tourists like myself. Once you enter the building, it's a whole different story.
My biggest problem as I walked around Eataly was getting the chance to take proper photographs. There are so many people and so many things to look at, it's virtually impossible to get a clean shot from a distance. Just when you think, "ah, perfecto, I can snap a pic of the- whoops, here comes 30 more people spilling into the frame." I can't blame them, in fact, I was one of them numerous times over, with cameras flashing left and right. At times I felt like hollering, "everyone MOVE so I can take a cool picture of the cheese!" Of course I didn't. I moved with the waves of people throughout the different enclaves, breathing in the fresh pasta, meats, vegetables and herbs with glee.
Let's straighten some things out here. Eataly is loosely separated into sections that are all specifically devoted to their own product. There are "market" areas and "eating" areas-- in other words, you can shop for groceries or you can grab a bite at one of their many food counters. Here's a map:
Yes, I agree, it does look like a city. So, contained inside these "city" walls are twenty (yes, 20!) different individual markets, divided into these categories:
Books & Housewares
Coffee & Tea
Dairy & Granola
Dolci & Chocolate
Dry Pasta & Rice
Preserves & Honey
Sauces & Condiments
Needless to say, it's a food-lovers paradise. I found myself spending a half an hour just examining the olive oils, and the dried pasta is endless. There were so many items I'd never seen before, it made me feel a little overwhelmed (in a good way). The only downer of visiting a place like Eataly while on vacation is that it's hard to take advantage of all the fresh foods. I was in a panic, scrambling to come up with a reason to throw myself a picnic or a party that evening, just so I could buy fresh squishy cheese, prosciutto, chanterelle mushrooms and ricotta ravioli. Alas, I had to refrain and kept to my "just-looking-but-dying-inside-a-little" plan.
On top of these wonderful markets, Eataly has thirteen (13!) restaurants. All of the restaurants cook using the highest quality product that is sold, that's right... in store. You can literally bounce from one restaurant to another easily, covering as many as you like in a day or you can just swing by a single counter for lunch and a glass of wine if you choose. Check out your options:
Pranzo- Lunch, a light midday meal between breakfast and dinner; luncheon. Classic dishes celebrating a different region of Italy each month.
Manzo- A more formal dining experience "that celebrates meat from the United States. Manzo offers both modern Italian preparations as well as traditional Piedmontese beef dishes." The Chef also specializes in snout-to-tail meat specialties, a rare and unexpected treat.
La Piazza- An enoteca in the heart of Eataly with marble countered bars and standing tables. Cheese, oysters, wine, charcuterie plates and other small bites abound. Take a peek into the world of the food artisans as they work, sample aperitifs, enjoy slices of Parmesan and enjoy a glass of bubbly. Good for the casual nibbler.
Il Pesce- Indulge in a daily selection of oysters, as well as unbelievably fresh crudo offerings often seasoned with no more than Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sea salt. The freshest of fish is served with a huge helping of mouth-watering WOW.
Le Verdure- Fresh, local produce dishes served with Italian rice and/or grains with a great view of the produce market itself. The food is wholesome, filling and non-fussy.
La Pizza & La Pasta- Pretty self explanatory. Pizza and pasta using the most amazingly fresh ingredients- the lines are longest here throughout the day for good reason. Yum!
Birreria- I was awestruck when I saw this place for the first time. An unbelievable rooftop restaurant and brewery that serves hearty fare (think sausages & kraut) in a convivial, comfy environment. This place is open (and busy!) year round, thanks to a retractable ceiling.
Rosticceria- Farm-raised roasted meat sandwiches. Enough said. Okay, there is also a selection of savory antipasti to complement your meal. You can even take chunks of their delicious poultry, pork and beef home a la carte if you choose. A very popular lunch stop.
I Panini- Some of the best panini sandwiches around. The ingredients on these sandwiches are so fresh and so tasty, they don't even bother using condiments. To make them even more irresistible, the bread loaves are carted down from Eataly's bakery just a few stalls down. These bites put the plain old deli sandwich to shame.
Pasticceria- Spoon desserts, pastries and cakes that are good for you. These morsels are made with less butter, unrefined sugar and rice flour to improve their quality and taste, without sacrificing their flavor or traditional Italian flair.
Gelateria- Gelato! Organic, local ingredients that literally melt in your mouth. Try the coffee, hazelnut or pistachio variety- take a pint home to share with loved ones, or keep it all to yourself.
Caffe Lavazza- One stop coffee shop. Their specialty: hot chocolate, a shot of espresso and a cool layer of cream. So good. Providing New Yorker's with their daily fix.
Caffe Vergnano- "Vergnano began as a small grocer’s shop in Chieri, a small town at the foothills of Turin. Founded in 1882 by Domenico Vergnano, it is still run by the Vergnano family. Its coffee bar at Eataly honors Italian caffe culture with a stand up marble counter where you can enjoy an espresso and cornetto while chatting with the barista. It sources beans from the best, including Jamaican Blue Mountain and Hue Hue Caffe in the highlands of Guatemala. 50% of Hue Hue’s profits go back to the Guatemalan farmers and prisoners in Torino roast the beans as part of a social rehabilitation program."
If that wasn't enough for you, Eataly also has it's own cooking school, La Scuola di Eataly. Offering a range of handcrafted seasonal and traditional cooking classes geared toward the food and wine lover, there are numerous course available year round for the homespun chef. The day I visited, class was in session, so I poked my head in and observed a very astute group of individuals enjoying a glass of wine as the instructor chopped, sliced and diced her way through a recipe that they would soon all be attempting. I couldn't help but feel a little envious. The classroom resembles an at-home kitchen, with a warm, inviting atmosphere and ample space for experimentation. I wanted to enroll right then and there.
I have to admit-- I did not want to leave this culinary circus. In fact, I spent three hours just wandering the aisles, examining shelves, sampling foods, taking photos and talking to visitors. I can only hope that I will visit again one day, hopefully with the hubbs in tow. I was so sad that he wasn't able to be with me this time, although I'm sure we would've spent far more money and several more hours enjoying la dolce vita if we were both present. I can't wait to take him back soon.
Eataly was nothing short of an "experience" for me. As strange or amateur as that may sound, it is a true statement. I've never been to Italy and even though I do plan on going in the future, this was by far the closest I have felt to it. I've never seen such a well thought out marketplace filled with stunning produce, meats, pastas and various other accompaniments. The staff is remarkably educated and informed on their particular expertise, bringing an authentic, real feeling to the entire place. With it's sheer size and monstrously accessible food options, Eataly is sure to stand strong for years to come. I highly suggest you buy yourself a plane ticket, bring a shopping bag, an empty stomach and whole lot of cash. You're gonna eat your little heart out.
For those of you who are interested in some spectacular fun coming up at the Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco, check out these two Fleet Week events. The Hubbs and I will be attending the Sky High Party for sure. Hope to see you all there!
What: Brasserie S&P is delighted to be hosting an event in partnership with Glenmorangie for a complimentary tasting and the opportunity to meet Glenmorangie Master Brand Ambassador David Blackmore to learn about this elegant single malt whiskey.
Who: Brasserie S&P
When: Thursday, October 4, 2012, 6PM to 8PM
Where: 222 Sansome Street-- Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco
What: Please join us at our “Sky High Party” and viewing of the Blue Angels Sky Show from our 40th floor SkyDeck during Fleet Week. The reception will feature Highflyer Wines by Somerston Winery, cocktails mixed by our Mixologist Priscilla Young made with Blue Angel Vodka and small bites from Executive Chef Adam Mali of Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco. Admire the extensive views of San Francisco Bay and beyond with the incredible flight of the Blue Angels!
After an exhausting day of exploration in Brooklyn, I was happy to finally check into my room at the Wythe Hotel. My accommodations were a welcome respite after all of the time spent outdoors in previous hours. The cushy bed, gently swaying drapes, and the drone of the air-conditioning proved to be too much for my tired soul- I admit it, I walked into my room, plonked down my suitcase and took a 3 hour long nap. It was badly needed after a full night of restless travel and an entire day of activity. I had every intention of heading out to dinner in the evening, but by the time I woke up it was 9pm and Williamsburg was crawling with party people. I didn't have it in me that night to wander any further, so I just took a nice hot shower and went back to sleep. Fail! I felt like such a goober the next morning for not taking advantage of my surroundings, but ah, so it goes...
I woke up the following day feeling revived and ready to take on the city. The Wythe Hotel is located just a few blocks from the Canarsie-14th Street subway route, also known as the L line. I was directed to it's location, easily reached on foot- again, another beautiful day. As I walked down Wythe Avenue towards the station, I noticed the incredible amount of bicyclists passing me by. Where were they headed? Did *everyone* ride their bikes that much? There was a shocking lack of automobiles on the road, even during commute time. As I rounded the corner onto 7th Avenue, I was stopped dead in my tracks-- I've never seen so many bikes in my life. Clearly this was the Bedford Avenue entrance to the Canarsie Line, but my goodness! I desperately wish it had occurred to me to take a photo of the waves of bicycles chained together on everything from phone poles to trees to cars to eachother. It was a fantastic sight to see, one that made me smile from ear to ear.
From Bedford Avenue's L line stop I hopped on the train in headed straight into New York City. I decided to to jump off at Union Square, a quick 8 minutes away from Brooklyn. As I emerged up the stairs and out into the blaring city sunlight, I was happy to see that the streets weren't too crazy yet, giving me plenty of room to move about the surrounding blocks without drowning in humans. I was determined to make my way into SoHo, headed for the flagship Dean & Deluca store on Broadway, a place I've wanted to visit for ages.
We're lucky enough to have a Dean & Deluca right here in our own backyard in Napa Valley, but it's always fun to visit the original location of a favorite foodie haunt. This one has been around since 1977, and is still going strong. I enjoyed wandering the jam-packed market, along with hundreds of other ogling shoppers seeking out new and delicious discoveries. Unfortunately I hit the store right at lunch-time, so the lines were long and the atmosphere was quite chaotic. After sampling fine cheeses and chocolate, ordering an espresso and wishing I lived closer so I could take home some of their gorgeous flower bundles, I settled on sushi for lunch and pushed my way up to one of their window counters to gobble down my purchase. It was certainly an entertaining way to experience the daily buzz of city life- I'm glad I stopped in for a visit.
After wandering SoHo aimlessly, taking in the scenery, popping into shops and finally finding the perfect pair of city sandals to immediately put on my sore feetsies, I did a huge U-turn and started walking back up towards Union Square. I was following the skyscrapers by sight, not really paying attention to the streets and generally enjoying the scenery (like I've said before, once I start walking I don't stop until I literally run into something). Well, I ran into in the Flatiron Building. I love this building so much I could sit in a chair and stare at it. Actually, I did sit in a chair and stare at it for quite some time... Such an iconic piece of architecture.
I also reveled in the quaint beauty that is Madison Square Park for an hour or so. It was irresistible on this particular day- green, lush, and shaded in all the right spots. People eating ice cream cones, sunbathing, chatting with friends over coffee, snoozing on their blankets and playing fetch with their dogs. I found a man creating giant, glossy soap bubbles in one of the tiled corners, bubbles so big you could fit a human in them. I sat, enchanted, and laughed at the expressions of tourists and children alike as his massive rainbow bubbles floated and bounced across the lawn. The park was teeming with life and leisure, almost as if it was encapsulated in it's own terrarium amongst the busy city streets overflowing with taxi's and towering buildings. I bought a soft pretzel, planted myself on the lawn and proceeded to people watch, ignoring the outside world. And, oh hey, I found the Empire State Building as well.
After my lazy afternoon in the park, it was time to get serious. Well, about as serious as one can be when walking into one of the single most passionate, jaw-dropping food "experiences" of their life. Like a kid in a candy store- no, bigger than that-- like a maniac walking in circles overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude and significant over stimulation of the senses surrounding them on all sides, delirious with foodie joy, it was time to enter: Eataly.
Stay tuned... (It needs it's own post, I promise.)
My arrival and first few hours in Brooklyn were spent settling into base camp at the Wythe Hotel, but after breakfast and exploring a little, I was ready to meet some of the locals. I had no agenda that entire day, so I was free to walk as far as I wanted, delving into the depths of the surrounding blocks.
When you look at map, Williamsburg seems pretty huge and daunting... But when you are actually walking through the neighborhood, it's really not all that big. In fact, before you know it, you've travelled a few miles and are approaching another enclave that is completely different from where you began. The streets are completely flat, so walking long distances isn't nearly as taxing as, say, San Francisco. I would venture down five blocks easily, take a left, keep wandering about five more and then take a sharp right and end up finding myself three miles away. You find beauty and oddities in the most unexpected places around here.
I had several hours to kill, so I just kept going... and going... and going. I found myself meandering south, down Kent Avenue, surrounded by newly built condominiums. This must be the "gentrification" so many people had been discussing while I was sitting at Reynard's for breakfast. These huge, glossy, out of place buildings are home to who knows how many people along the waterfront. They aren't particularly unflattering additions, but I can see why some of the neighbors would be bummed by their massive presence. I'm not clear as to what was in their spot previously, and I'm sure there are positive effects as a result of their existence, but compared to the quaintness of the rest of the area, these big boys are definitely... well... blocking out the sun.
What appears to be the best part, in my opinion, of structures like The Edge condominiums, is that they seem to be directly related to the renovation of the East River State Park. From what I could tell, the park looked to have been given a pretty decent face-lift in recent years. The comfy grass patches, the newly installed lighting, shellacked park benches and adolescent trees all seemed like new kids on the block- a welcomed sprucing up of the area, no matter. There were hundreds of people lounging, sharing a picnic, playing ball with their dogs and enjoying the unusually clear skies. Lucky for me, it was the perfect day to take some amazing photos. The view of Manhattan from the ferry landing was just completely irresistible, stunning even.
Folks, the first photo is not a pieced together panorama shot (the hubbs was amazed). I took it, standing with a bottle of water in one hand, baby bulldog at my feet trying to get my attention, with my camera, in between passing bicyclists. It was an unbelievably gorgeous day. Even the front of the ferry boat appeared to be smiling as it skipped across the water.
I spent a decent chunk of time just sitting in the park, admiring the view and taking in the scene. I thought to myself, "I could live here." I even started plotting exactly how I could make that happen. Can you blame me? The mix of new and old in Williamsburg is fascinating, if not always welcome. On that particular day, I was ready to pack my bags and search for an apartment and a job. Instead, I kept walking...
I found myself headed up Bedford Avenue in early afternoon, baking in the light and sunshine that was drowning North Williamsburg. I didn't mind the heat, and I certainly didn't mind the people watching. I think most folks were at work, but the one's that were left out and about were friendly, helpful and unique in their own way. They didn't mind my stopping to take photographs, pet their dogs or ask questions about the surrounding area, which was incredibly refreshing. It never ceases to amaze me how warm, open and excited people are to communicate with each other here, especially in Williamsburg. It may be bold to assume, but in my experience, I've felt nothing but love from New Yorker's. Ok, never mind the occasional sideways glance at my hair, which is to be expected, but at least that usually results in a funny conversation none-the-less.
This brings me full circle to Wythe Ave. By mid-afternoon I was hot, hungry and incredibly thirsty for a tasty adult beverage. Hey, where I come from, glasses of Cava are flowing freely by 3pm, so it was about time to sit down and relax a little. I'd made my way around what felt like 20 square miles on very little fuel and I needed to re-charge for the evening's festivities, so I headed my way back to the Wythe Hotel.
To say I stumbled upon Kinfolk Studios would sound ridiculous. Ridiculous but true. When leaving my hotel in the morning, I took a sharp right onto North 11th Street, completely missing the block straight in front of me by about 35 feet. I was so excited to see the New York skyline, I simply followed the seagulls and the strange salty breeze coming from that direction, avoiding the large, curious "outdoor-indoor" design studio/cafe/gallery/bar right under my nose. Thankfully, it sucked me in on my returning trek- much to my own embarrassment that it had been there, in my face, all along.
Kinfolk Studios (Brooklyn) describe themselves as, "A creative space featuring a rotating selection of projects highlighting the finest in art, music, food and culture." To say the very least. What started as a collaborative bicycle design company has blossomed into a creative empire. I absolutely do not want to misrepresent in any sense here because I have the utmost respect for these folks, so I'm going to use their own words:
"Kinfolk Studios is an international design studio formed in 2008. Kinfolk evolved from our desire to create unique handcrafted products and memorable social experiences. Using our combined experience from a variety of disciplines we set out to source the highest quality designers, builders and techniques."
"Kinfolk is Akira, John, Maceo, Ryan and, Salah. Our vision started as simply trying to make the bikes that we had in our heads. Simple handmade products whose aesthetic is classic yet modern and most importantly timeless. It’s never been to be the biggest bike company, or to get rich, or anything like that. And we figured if we wanted these bikes, then other people probably would too."
We aren't just talking your run-of-the-mill cruiser bike here. We're talking top of the line, outstanding performance, absolutely stunning (and pricey) designer road bicycles. I'm not an aficionado myself, but even I can tell superior quality in craft when I see it. Just wanted to give the design team a quick shout out.
My experience at Kinfolk Studios had nothing to do with bicycle design and all to do with meeting some fabulous, creative, energetic people who were a joy to share a few pints with. Let me start by saying that the Brooklyn location is a breath of fresh air when it comes to venues, both on the East and West coasts. The large rolling garage door hangs open in a welcoming manner, with chairs and small tables spilling onto the sidewalk. Feel free to wander in, sit at the bar or on one of their many recycled hardware benches (evidently, according to staff, picked up from the Wythe Hotel building pre-renovation). The back room of Kinfolk is decked out in a luminous mural, allegedly hand painted by the fellas across the street at SKY High Murals, along with a photo-realistic art piece hanging high in the atrium.
Notice on the right hand side next to photo-painting a rail built of wooden slats-- for you trivia geeks out there, those are wooden looms, recycled and re-used from (you guessed it) the old cooperage textile company next door, otherwise known as the Wythe Hotel.
I sat alone at the bar and ordered a beer from the delightfully friendly bartender/barista. It was midday, so Kinfolk was pretty quiet, with the occasional coffee seekers wandering in. I proceeded to sit and chat for about an hour, slowly being introduced to people as they started filling in. Each and every person associated with Kinfolk Studios was as genuine and interesting as one would expect from such a creative place. I was lucky to make nice with the boys who run Frej- Kinfolk's very own pop-up Scandinavian restaurant.
Frej (pronounced FRAY) is currently undergoing some seasonal changes and will back in the fall. I had the rare chance to chat with the young chefs of this burgeoning Nordic-inspired fine dining brigade for a few hours, casually. It was enlightening to meet such fresh faces in the world of 4-star restaurants, all eager and easily excited by the culinary possibilities on the horizon. From what I hear, Frej possessed only 18 chairs (all housed in the back of Kinfolk) and a 3 month waiting list, due to the very limited and highly prized seating arrangement. Not to mention the food- most, if not all, sourced locally and completely fresh, farm-to-table style. The wildfire started to rage when foodies from all over the greater New York area found out that these fellas were serving a five course tasting menu for only $45 dollars a pop. Regarding the quality and ingenuity of Frej's cuisine, the New York Times described it as, "an entire meal of uncommon ingredients sensitively assembled can be had for less than the price of some Manhattan entrees." I look forward to hearing more about this crew of renegade food fiends and their next endeavor. They deserve all of the success in the world- best of luck to them and may they find their ultimate niche.
In addition to housing the hot spot Frej, Kinfolk Studios also hosts a variety of special events, such as music dj's, art gallery openings and private affairs. If you are anywhere in the neighborhood, stop by, grab a beer or cocktail, enjoy the atmosphere and party till the wee hours. The staff is awesome.
Whew! That's all I have for now, but it doesn't even cover the evening of my first night in Brooklyn. Coming up- a great dinner visit to the alluring Cafe Mogador... Stay tuned!
* Kinfolk Studios bicycle photo courtesy of Kinfolk Studios.
I have returned from an incredible trip to New York.
Brooklyn to be exact. And if you want to be even more exact than that, Williamsburg. The heart of Williamsburg. This is a place I've never really had a "reason" to visit, but have desperately always wanted to find one. I mean, c'mon, it's Brooklyn. THE Brooklyn. A place I've only ever seen in movies, or replicated on the back lots of Hollywood production facilities. Not only is this huge borough New York City a historical enclave of unique cultures, architecture and landscapes-- it is home to 2.5 million people, all living within just 71 square miles. With so many new faces met, and so many brilliant places discovered, it is impossible for me to fit all of these wonderful experiences into a single, comprehensive article. I've got to slow down, catch my breath, and take things one step at a time. The first step, gentle readers, is the realm of Williamsburg.
I arrived, bleary eyed and desperate for coffee at JFK by 8 o'clock in the morning. I thought it best to get there early, to take advantage of my limited time in the area (4 days)- but when you jump on a plane after having a glass of wine around midnight, fall asleep drooling on yourself and wake up feeling dehydrated with a migraine, you really have to reconsider the benefit of red eye flights. I was sleepy but cheerful, excited but exhausted, curious but cloudy in the head. A 45-minute taxi line awaited me, full of screaming babies and folks who didn't know up from down, but most of us were amicable. We were all, so to speak, headed somewhere.
Climbing into the cab, I was immediately grateful for the cushy seats and air conditioning. The New York area was experiencing a sweltering degree of heat and was loving every second of it. As we drove through Queens and into Brooklyn (an hour and half later thanks to VWE traffic), I noticed the locals were out in droves. Shorts abundant, bare skin, sandals and tank tops with neon sunglasses perched comfortably atop their noses. Pure sunshine was filling the streets and the New Yorkers couldn't have looked any happier. Having come from the East Bay in California (100 degree dry heat), I was personally looking to hide behind the shade of an enormous skyscraper or get a cool Atlantic breeze blown at me instead. Clearly that was not going to happen as we cruised through Williamsburg in search of the hotel, sun 'ablazing, not a cloud in sight.
My first thought when rounding the corner onto Wythe Avenue was, "I love you already." Scruffy brick buildings, urban warehouse boutiques, bicycles lining the streets, fantastic graffiti adorning sheet metal gardens and... stuffed animals hanging from the power lines? Not just a couple. Not just stuffed animals. Sneakers, high heels, umbrellas, bike wheels, balloons and bottles. Brightly painted rubber balls, garish toy teddy bears, pink flamingos, Chinese lanterns and paper stars. All hanging from the sickly power lines that zig-zag the streets of Williamsburg. Not in the "Oh no, turn around, we're in the wrong neighborhood" kind of way. My interpretation of the spectacle was more of a "We love this place, and we're taking what used to be a problem and making things better" kind of way. Street art. Proud street art- a brazen declaration of reclaimed concrete jungle. I was enamoured.
Just eight stories high, the Wythe Hotel stands bold on the northern streets of Williamsburg, with it's historical red brick scrubbed clean, it's lead paneled windows and it's colorful HOTEL sign facing what seems to be a recently explosive creative hotbed. It has a commanding, yet copacetic feeling to it as you approach. It is elegant, yet edgy- chic, without looking out of place. A spiffed up version of it's previous (rather aged) industrial self. What was once an old factory built in 1901 on the Brooklyn waterfront as a cooperage, has been preserved, renovated, and turned into a place where people feel welcome as guests.
In the lobby hangs remnants of the building's past, reminding you that this was once a hard-working factory. I was told by a friendly local that it used to be an old textile company, which would explain the large iron mechanisms still looming over the front desk. It is bright, sleek and simple on the interior of the main lobby, with polished wooden floors and simple wooden furniture. I was late to discover the wonderful early 1900's reading nook that also inhabits the first floor. You can grab a cozy chair, choose a book or a boardgame from their extensive collection and bathe yourself in the light of one of their many large windows.
Inside of the Wythe Hotel you will find, discreetly so, a lovely restaurant & bar by the name of Reynard's. There are no signs, no markings really of any kind. Just a handful of tasteful cafe tables and an extremely large turn-of-the-century wooden bar. You will find no bells and whistles at Reynards, just a refined menu that includes locally sourced fruits and vegetables, hearty soups and delicious European inspired protein dishes- all presented in a sophisticated display of special touches. Upon my arrival that day, I was parched and needed sustenance, so I walked in, sat myself down and was politely looked after for breakfast. I ordered their Poached Egg with Ham, Frisee and Toast... It was delightfully good. The eggs were cooked perfectly, the smoky ham was impressive as a substitute for plain-old-bacon and the frisee had the most interesting flavor and texture. I loved the pairing. And the toast. Oh, the toast. I ate the toast everyday there after, a thick, grilled buttered toast with a hint of savory. Divine.
I also treated myself to one of their well-known Bloody Mary's. A girl needs a little kick in morning, especially after a long flight. I will honestly say, it was one of the best I've ever tasted in my life, and believe me, I've tasted plenty. Reynard's makes them using completely fresh ingredients- we're talking chunks of fresh horseradish, creamy tomato juice, hand-brined olives and gherkin pickles and the perfect dash of spices. Again, I enjoyed this classic tall glass of yum every morning of my stay. It will be haunting me until I return to Williamsburg again one day (hopefully sooner than later!).
Over the next few days, I did indeed eat again at Reynard's. I stopped by for a late lunch snack one afternoon after wandering the big city streets. It was really just a time-killer and a reason to chat with more of the staff until the hubbs was off duty from his huge Bordeaux tasting on the 8th floor. I decided to try their Smoked Tomato Soup and a bowl of the Wood-Roasted Olives. The soup was creamy and smooth, with the slightest smoky flavor and a salty bite. The olives arrived warm and shiny, with bits of rosemary and thyme that melted in your mouth.
All-in-all, I'd say Reynard's is a welcome accompaniment to the Wythe Hotel. The staff is warm, polite and helpful. The food is simplistic, yet original and the setting is a cozy mix of old European style and new-urban trendy. They serve brunch, lunch and dinner and according to them, the "bar is always open." Take a load off and enjoy some of their classically prepared drinks such as the Salty Dog, Rusty Nail or the Tom Collins or enjoy one of their many exotic aperitifs sidled up to the robust bar. You won't be disappointed. And if you get a chance, look up the origin of the name Reynard- I was fascinated at the extent of the story behind this fantastic fox creature who's namesake graces the menu...
Near the end of my first day I was finally able to actually check-in to the hotel and get comfortable in our room. We were granted Brooklyn view queen accommodations that were on the 3rd floor overlooking the Brooklyn Bowl and the Brooklyn Brewery, both of which put on spectacular displays of nightlife every evening. Our room was beautiful and comfortable and served it's purpose for our stay. My only advice to readers would be that in general, the Wythe Hotel is not for the faint of heart. A lot goes on in Williamsburg, especially at night, and most guests of the hotel are right out there with the crowds of people in the middle of the scene. While we enjoyed the hotel immensely, I would have to say it is no place for a patron looking to hide away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Wythe Avenue is hustling and bustling until the wee hours, in all of it's glory- and the Wythe Hotel is smack-dab in the middle of it. Expect a rollicking good time.
Oh! And if good times are what you live for, look no further than the Wythe- on any given evening, catch the elevator to the 6th floor of the hotel to enjoy the amazing view and funky hotspot bar that is known as The Ides. This place is jumping seven nights a week, with live dj's, great drinks and even more entertaining people watching. Arrive early, because a line forms first thing in the early evening and more than likely you'll be stuck standing in it. Patience pays off once those elevator doors open into a virtual Brooklyn bash overlooking all of Manhatten. Enjoy.
This was all just the first day of my adventures- there's so much more to share, it's unbelievable. Beyond this block of Williamsburg lies 5 more restaurant experiences, wandering the Big Apple, Bedford Avenue treats, a walk by the waterfront and an exquisite rooftop party thrown by none other than the awesome Creative Feed crew and the good people of the Bordeaux Council. Stay tuned for more stories!
Wythe Hotel Info:
80 Wythe Ave. at N. 11th Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY 11249
P:718-460-8000 F:718-460-8001 firstname.lastname@example.org