We had an epic food and shopping weekend in NYC. Here’s what we did.
When planning a recent trip to the city with my girlfriend and her other companion, the Pomeranian, Russell, I knew I wanted to explore NoMad and since I had previously stayed at The Redbury Hollywood and enjoyed it immensely, it seemed a no brainer to book a room at their NY outpost. The Redbury New York just completed a major renovation to update the classic and storied Martha Washington Hotel. Opened in 1903, it was the first hotel built in the city to provide housing for professional women. Being the history geek that I am, I knew the hotel had attracted disparate luminaries such as the Duchess of Marlborough and Veronica Lake. I was curious to see how the new owners would retain aspects of the historical flavor while incorporating modern updates.
Upon arrival, we pulled up to the imposing and handsome brick and limestone facade of the hotel. A renaissance revival masterpiece with massive Palladian windows and charming balconies was dramatic and impressive and I instinctively knew I’d made the right choice before we even set foot inside. It’s worth noting that many of the 19th century gilded age buildings in the neighborhood are being lovingly renovated which gives the area an authentic euro feel, but none are as impressive as The Redbury New York (29 East 29th Street. New York 10016 – 212-689-1900).
Check-in was seamless and I was relieved that the staff seemed to be more pleased than I that my girlfriend had brought her pooch. For a nominal $150 fee, Russell, was now a VIP, booked for grooming and about to be pampered. My significant other was thrilled and all was right in my world before we even keyed into our room.
Our accommodations were spacious by NYC standards. Bathrooms had clearly been remodeled during the upgrade and were furnished with upscale amenities. The king bed was very comfortable with high-end linens. My girlfriend and I both appreciated the complimentary Wi-Fi and stocked mini bar. Even in ultra luxury properties, these accouterments don’t always come so easily, so it was a welcome surprise. We were anxious to head downstairs to Marta, acclaimed restaurateur, Danny Meyer’s much talked about Roman pizzeria.
Just to preface, I travel a lot for work, and am treated to a lot of excellent meals so I can be a bit jaded to be fair. Our pizza was as advertised. “Crackly.” I know that might sound odd, but it aptly describes the best thin crust pizza I’ve tasted. The Cozze was covered in crushed tomatoes that tasted like they had just been plucked, fresh mussels and Calabrian chilis. Amazing. Could have ordered two. We also went with the Funghi because I’m a mushroom hound and it was ridiculous. In hindsight, I should have ordered another one to stash in the mini bar to consume at midnight.
DAY ONE: BRUNCH, A COUPLE MUSEUMS AND DINNER
The next day, we woke up after having slept pretty damn well. Manhattan can be noisy but we both crashed out and were excited to explore the neighborhood. As I mentioned before, this is interesting territory. In order to fortify ourselves (after dropping Russell at doggie daycare) we headed to brunch at Penelope (159 Lexington – 212-481-3800) which is located in what looks like a quaint New England style cottage. The waitstaff were super warm and low key, making us feel as though we had just dropped by to visit friends who happened to be whipping up the most amazing blueberry waffles we were probably ever going to consume.
We opted for the $20 prix-fixe special which included a full entrée and breakfast cocktail which was a staggeringly good deal. The waffles which were topped with a sinfully tasty orange citrus butter were divine, as were our rose infused mimosas. Plenty of fuel and some liquid courage to sustain us at our next stop.
At the Museum of Sex (MoSex 233 5th Ave @27th Street.) we immediately headed to the immersive installation, Splendor in the Grass. This exhibit in no way has any correlation to the Natalie Wood, Warren Beatty film of the same name, although, Warren might approve. Again, it’s immersive, and not for the faint of heart. Although I must say that everything was tasteful, and there was absolutely nothing remotely creepy about any of it. Very cool experience. 18 and older, (although, if I had a teen, I probably wouldn’t give them admission fare.)
After our afternoon interlude, we started feeling a tad guilty about Russell, so we retrieved him from his luxury surroundings at doggy day care and made a family outing to Madison Square Park. The Redbury New York is less than three blocks from the park and the entrance to the dog run is on 24th Street on the western side. Our furry companion was thrilled as he frolicked in what had to be one of the cleanest dog parks we’d been to. It was like Singapore caliber clean. No wonder The Village Voice voted it NYC’s best off leash dog park in 2015.
At this point, we’re ready to begin the evening. We had reservations at renowned chef Justin Smillie’s well reviewed restaurant, Upland (345 Park Avenue at 26th St). I was amped to try this particular spot as Smillie’s tour de force cookbook on grilling, Slow Fires, had upped my BBQ ante considerably. It didn’t hurt that Obama had dined there and apparently raved about it.
When we stepped inside we were immediately enchanted by the hand painted murals, the custom blown glass and the lemons which I must expound on. There are dozens upon dozens of vessels filled with preserved lemons, obviously a native plant in Upland, CA. What is super cool about these lemons is that they are illuminated by LED lighting which gave off this incredible, otherworldly magical luminescence that I haven’t seen replicated elsewhere. To make it even more spectacular, there are subtle copper accents throughout the establishment, which this sexy citrus glow plays off of masterfully. Talk about romantic lighting.
I was pushing it with my girlfriend, who normally doesn’t care for wings, but the crispy duck variety marinated in olive oil and lemon were calling my name. She stopped complaining as soon as she took her first bite. I was keen to continue delving into Smillie’s grilling repertoire and ordered the grilled Berkshire pork chop, absolutely planning to sample Annie’s slow cooked lamb neck with potato petals, pimento and Bulgarian feta. We opted for a Bordeaux blanc that was an amazing value. Actually, we opted for two. We knew we could walk back to the Redbury, or cab it, which was becoming more likely as this memorable night continued to unfold.
Expectations exceeded. And yes, we were lazy as sin and cabbed it back to home base.
DAY TWO: SHOPPING AND EXPLORATION
We both slept as if we had indeed been hypnotized or put in a hard day in a citrus grove. I was counting on Redbury’s brunch to whip me back to life and it definitely did the trick. They offer Counter Culture coffee, a boutique brand of beans that offer the perfect perk. Also a must: The Basil Limonata, an aromatic and fizzy refreshment that helped undo the damage of the previous night. Once again, we were locked, loaded and ready for our last afternoon of gastronomy and exploration.
Our first visit was Marimekko (Marimekko NYC Flagship Store. 200 5th Avenue. 212-843-9121). The iconic Finnish store offers shoppers the ability to wander in, peruse and pick textiles that can be immediately transformed into one-of-a-kind tablecloths, napkins, shift dresses or whatever strikes one’s fancy. Pretty amazing to have custom made linens ready to go on the spot. But that’s NY. This company also sponsors a great deal in Madison Square Park.
For lunch we ventured out separately as we were both meeting friends. Our lunch pick was Kat and Theo, a neighborhood destination restaurant that has a distinct mediterranean, almost Moorish flair. My buddy and I both opted for the lamb burger and truly, it was pretty much the highlight of my trip. Just perfect. Juicy, not gamey, but exotic enough to make me realize I wasn’t going to get this again on the west coast anytime soon.
Meanwhile, my girlfriend was at Zuma (Zuma 261 Madison 212-544-9862), which has quite the reputation as the new “it place” in sushi land. I received a glowing update from her on the spicy yellowtail roll with Serrano peppers and the dynamite spider roll with chili.
After reconvening at our hotel, I was suddenly patting myself on the back for adding The Redbury’s Red Carpet Treatment option to our reservation. It had many perks such as the complimentary drinks at check-in. However, the true value really became apparent with the 1pm check-out we were guaranteed. We most definitely savored every last minute and I’m convinced even the inimitable Veronica Lake would have been impressed.