Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bits & Morsels - Dining Al Dente

The view from McCarren Pool & Roof in Brooklyn.
by Erin Frankel

Whether it's leafy gardens, breezy rooftops,
festive backyards, iconic parks, or street side cafés you're looking for ... here is our summer 2014 al fresco dining guide:

The East Pole exterior.
Upper East Side

The East Pole

The Space
Down the steps of the elegant historic brownstone in which The East Pole is situated, are several tables that are carefully arranged in front under an arbor. The bedecked greenery offers a peaceful and luxurious ambience. Think garden party.

The Appeal
The menu is a perfect marriage of the Martignetti brother’s New American cuisine with Towill & Winser’s English locally sourced farm-to-table fare. This fresh, local cuisine is paired with a stellar cocktail menu. Try the New York Vesper with refreshing flavors of gin and lillet blanc or the Summer in Avignon with soothing hints of lavender; ideal for a quiet evening in the garden.

133 E 65th St
New York, NY 10065
(212) 249-2222
The East Pole Bar.
The East Pole private bar. The East Pole private dining room.
Sant Ambroeus Coffee Bar at Loews Regency Hotel

The Space
Cool down from the summer heat with a refreshing summertime treat from Sant Ambroeus’ first gelato cart, parked right outside the coffee-bar outpost of Sant Ambroeus at the Loews Regency Hotel.

The Italian restaurateurs have successfully imbued the outdoor patio with an unruffled, tranquil ambience, unfamiliar to the sidewalks of Park Avenue.

The Appeal
Now you can pair your Negroni or Shakerato (iced espresso and sugar) with Executive Pastry Chef Chris Hereghty’s handcrafted gelato with other dining options at the coffee bar or as take-out.

From tropical flavors, such as raspberry and mango, to rich and creamy flavors including hazelnut, chocolate chip, and chocolate, the Sant Ambroeus gelato cart is a destination in itself for Sant Ambroeus enthusiasts and travelers alike. Each gelato cup is priced at $4.

540 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Upper West Side


Lamb Terra Cotta at Bustan.
The Scene
This charming pan-Mediterranean restaurant boasts a 35-seat garden with a beautiful wood and brick enclosure, which is completely confined from the hustle and bustle of a very loud stretch of Amsterdam Avenue. Its interior is furnished with seaside Mediterranean accents, like potted olive trees, playful metal sculptures of butterflies, large colorful umbrellas, and a variety of garden critters dotting the vine-covered fencing around this delightful green sanctuary.  

The Appeal
What makes dining al fresco at Bustan truly special are the multi-cultural culinary influences of Executive Chef Efi Nahon. Here, you will find a fusion of exotic and innovative flavors and ingredients with culinary techniques from the coasts of Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Greece, Italy, France Turkey, and Israel. The whole experience is said to “seduce the palate.”

487 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024
(212) 595-5050
Central Park

Rouge Tomate’s Cart in the Park

The Scene
At the entrance to the Central Park Zoo you’ll find Rouge Tomate’s pop-up cart, making for an easy and accessible way to get new, local, nutritious alternatives to your typical stale cart park vendor fare.

The Appeal
Rouge Tomate uses the highest quality vegetables and fruits as well as sustainable and responsibly raised proteins. This year, some of their newest and most popular items that won’t break the bank include The Red Burger made with grass fed beef, napa cabbage kimchi, red onion jam, tomato, and wild arugula ($8); Italian Chicken-fennel sausage with rhubarb mostarda and charred picked fennel ($6); Spanish Duck with spicy duck chorizo, sweet pepper sofrito, cucumber, and mint yogurt ($6); and the Funky Funghi Burger, a ground portobello with provolone, tomato, wild arugula, red onion, and spicy "ketchup" ($7).

In lieu of brick and mortar, you’ll find all the park has to offer: plentiful greenery and a great view of the iconic Plaza Hotel.

Central Park, enter at E 64th St @ 5th Ave
New York, NY 10023
Midtown East

Casa House

The Scene
Casa Lever, one of Midtown’s most stylish destinations for authentic Milanese dining, has opened Casa Lever Gardens — a tranquil oasis within the outdoor courtyard of the Lever House building.

This is the ultimate destination for cocktail and culinary aficionados who like their aperitivo while taking in the sights of the Lever House’s notable art collection, taking in the energy pulsing up and down Park Avenue, and listening to musical performances within the garden ranging from Cuban rhythms to contemporary jazz ... all within the enclosed refuge of one of Midtown’s most noteworthy architectural buildings.

The Appeal
Casa Lever's Gardens opened just in time for diners who want to complement their outdoor dining experience with the viewing pleasure of the World Cup ... right on a large flat screen TV within the garden! The Casa Lever team will be airing the exhilarating soccer games until Sunday, July 13th. Here, you can have it all.

390 Park Ave
New York, NY 1002
Midtown West

Spyglass Roof

The Space
The Skylark is arguably the chicest and most comfortable place to enjoy a beautiful Manhattan sunset, a bird's-eye view of the Empire State Building, and the neon lights of Times Square ... all without the hubbub and street grind 30 stories below.

The Appeal
The floor-to-ceiling windows opening onto an expansive 1,500 square foot rooftop deck with a 360-degree view of the entire city is only one part of the allure. At this multi-level lounge, guests can enjoy a creative all-American menu with a “New York edge” consisting of sharable plates, like the Skylark Sirloin Sliders on a smoked salt mustard seed dusted bun; the Mini Lobster Rolls with old bay dusted chips; the Maryland Lump Crab Cakes with lemon Dijon tartar sauce and fried pickles; or the Mac & Cheese Cupcakes with smoked tomato chutney.
Make sure to gear up for mixologist Johnny Swet’s variety of red, white and blue specialty cocktails and frozen cocktails including some personal favorites like The Skylark, a combination of Hendricks gin, Zu vodka, St. Germaine liqueur, blue curacao, fresh lemon, and brandied cherry; Little Devil, a mixture of Milagro tequila, anchor eyes chili & combier cherry liqueurs, agave, lime juice, and ancho chili grilled lime; Bramble Sangria, made with rosé wine, Nolet’s Gin, Crème de Mure, and lemon juice; Summertime, a blend of Tito’s vodka, watermelon, Thai bitters, agave nectar and lime juice; And my all-time favorite frozen drink, the Cactus Flower, a refreshing mixture of Tequila, St. Germain, prickly pear puree, and lime juice.

200 W 39th St
New York, NY 10018
Redeye Grill 

The Scene
Fireman Hospitality’s large Midtown eatery provides some respite from the hustle and bustle of 7th Avenue.  The sprawling outdoor patio offers a variety of dining options to cater to each and every mood. You can indulge in fresh sushi and exquisite seafood platters while lounging on one of the six couches or opt for more formal seating at one of the many tables for two.

The Appeal
On the patio, speciality craft cocktails are poured by world-renowned mixologist Brian Van Flanders. His Standing Ovation cocktail, made with Tanqueray No. Ten Gin, Chartreuse, fresh lemon & tarragon, has received quite the “standing ovation” thus far.

890 7th Ave
New York, NY 10106
Hell's Kitchen

Gotham West Market

The Scene
The block-long AvroKO-designed emporium offers one of the largest urban street-inspired aesthetic, both indoors and out. And, now that the sun is shining, you can enjoy the variety of artisan vendors and eateries outside of the floor-to-ceiling glass throughout the day and late into the evening.

The large market offers expansive outdoor communal seating along the 11th Avenue facade so guests can enjoy their meals from any of the different restaurant counters. And, in particular, El Colmado and The Cannibal operate glass façade windows that open into outdoor bars that function as extensions to their existing counters.

The Appeal

Outdoor Dining can be dressed down here. Cyclists who ride over on the Hudson are encouraged to valet their bikes during their visit to NYC Velo, the Market's bike shop and porter, to enjoy Chef Francis Derby's pastrami lamb breast, Mast Brother Chocolates or a fresh Blue Bottle Coffee.

600 11th Avenue
The Garment District

Lugo Caffé

The Scene
Between the fast food chains, congested packs, and foul streets of the glorious area we call Penn Station, is a refined contemporary Italian oasis called Lugo Caffé.

The 150-seat Italian café lodges an expansive outdoor area, conveniently located right next to Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, making Lugo Caffè the ideal refuge to enjoy multiregional Italian classics like fritto misto and caponata with some sweet aromatic Italian wine before a long commute or catching a game at MSG.

The Appeal
Aside from the restaurant wasteland that Lugo Caffè inhabits, ultimately giving the restaurant a leg up, the spacious Italian brasserie and outdoor cafe offers a refined interpretation of Italian comfort food with a Dolce Vita twist all day long.

So, if you miss your train at an odd hour, Lugo Caffè offers a stopping group for an espresso and pastry early in the morning, aperitivo midday, and dinner options throughout the evening, which include large portions of luscious salumi and cheeses, vegetable dishes (eggplant caponata, Tuscan bean salad, and grilled zucchini with pine nuts), and larger meals like Neapolitan-style pizzas, house-made pastas, and grilled meats and fish.

1 Pennsylvania Plaza
New York, NY 10119
Murray Hill


The Space
Past the office building facade, you will find two expansive outdoor spaces; a wide 44-seat patio and a more casual 72-seat Biergarden, each presenting scenic panoramas of the East River.

The Appeal
For some, the river view and the privacy offered by the building's concealment of the restaurant may be enough of a draw. But, Chef Sisha Ortuzar has created an innovative new American menu, with fresh ingredients from the on-site Riverpark Farm. And if you're lucky enough to score the Riverpark Farm Table, a private chef's table on a working urban farm with a capacity of 12, you'll have the chance to savor raw-bar bites and house-made charcuterie, then indulge a family-style feast made with home-grown produce, as well as meats and cheese from other local farms.

450 East 29th Street


The Scene
There's a secret-garden kind of tranquility to the more rustic back garden patio that opens in the warmer months at the Gansevoort Park's nouveau Italian Asellina (it's open to hotel guests only so plan on spending a night or two!). The terrace wall offers the perfect respite from the Park Avenue South flurry.

The Appeal
Complementing the opening of the quaint outdoor patio, Ristorante Asellina has recently relaunched its wine menu just in time for the new summer season, offering unique summer varietals by the glass and bottle. After a long workday, take a romantic getaway to the quieter outdoor garden, pairing the new Centine rosé from Castello banfi with a light bite, like the signature eggplant caponata, the hamachi crudo, or a selection of traditional pizze. Or, opt for a refreshing summer cocktail, like the la Bianca, a cooling mixture of belvedere black raspberry, lime, white cranberry, and Moscato d'Asti.

420 Park Ave South
New York, NY 10016

The John Dory Oyster Bar

The Scene
The John Dory Oyster Bar features sidewalk seating for 26, along Broadway and 29th Street, where guests can enjoy April Bloomfield's signature seafood dishes and expertly crafted cocktails. And the expansive block of sidewalk seating looks as good as the people it attracts.

The Appeal
Happy Hour Offering:
• $2 Oysters & Clams (specific/limited selection of east & west coast available in quantities of 6 or more)
• Half off Oyster Stout Beer, Prosecco on Tap & Sherry on Tap
• $5 Oysters Shooters

Happy-Hour Hours
• 5-7pm daily
• 12-3pm Sat & Sun

1196 Broadway at 29th Street
New York, NY 10001

Terroir on The Porch

The Scene
Breezy boardwalk warmer weather staples (think cold, refreshing craft beer or aromatic sweet wine) just don't taste the same indoors. That's why the High Line's seasonal outpost, Terroir on the Porch, gives New Yorkers a place to munch on Marco Canora's signature risotto balls with a glass of Grüner Veltliner under umbrella-dotted communal tables aside the lush High Line greenery and the scent of the sea ... or the Hudson River. Still, it works.

The Appeal
Aside from the spectacular views of both the Hudson River and the activity on the High Line, Paul Grieco and Marco Canora's popular wine bar, operating as a seasonal open-air café, offers equally refreshing, savory dishes and drinks from Terroir's ever-changing seasonal wine and beer list, which happens to also highlight artisanal wineries and breweries from New York State. The view is always a bit better with a summer of local Riesling.

The High Line at 15th Street (@10th Avenue)
New York 10011
Union Square

The Rialto.
The Pavilion

The Scene
With only six years of delay, Simon Oren's sprawling outdoor Union Square restaurant overlooking park is finally open. Located in the epicenter of Union Square within the old Luna Park space, the large outdoor area is best at night, when the landmark is beautifully lit by a massive cluster of bulbs within a chandelier underneath the restaurant. The majestic stone structure is now dressed with palm trees, vibrantly colored umbrellas, tables lit by hurricane candles, and ivy covered walls. The result is pure beauty.

The Appeal
Chef Mario Urgiles' nods to the locavore ethos are abundant in the 50-seat outdoor oasis, which not only overlooks the local Greenmarket, but uses fresh herbs and spices from the Greenmarket in many of the local farm-to-table seasonal dishes like the branzino with local vegetable ratatouille; and in cocktails like The Park Side (light and dark rum mixed with fresh mint, lime, guava foam, and local pollen).

20 Union Square West
New York, NY 10003
The Pavilion, outside and in.
West Village


The Scene
Now, you can reserve a table on SushiSamba's recently renovated rooftop. The roof has been transformed into a lush garden oasis with abundant greenery and vines coating a dining space with open skylights and a new striking walnut bar. And, if you prefer no buffer to your sun-drenched meal, there is a large outdoor seating area that overlooks Seventh Avenue for some superlative people watching.

Kiwi Caipirinha.
The Appeal
Rooftop aside, also available this summer at SushiSamba is their new signature Kiwi Caipirinha, which is being offered throughout the World Cup tournament (in honor of SushiSamba's part-Brazilian legacy). If you can't make it to the restaurant soon, we've provided their recipe here so you can make it at home. Yes, it's that good.

Kiwi Caipirinha

• 2 oz. Leblon Cachaça
• 1/4 oz. Pernod
• 1 oz. apple juice
• 1/4 oz. fresh lime juice
• 1/4 oz. simple syrup
• 1 kiwi, peeled and chopped

Muddle kiwi and simple syrup in a shaker. Shake hard with remaining ingredients and strain over crushed ice. Garnish with fresh kiwi slices.

87 7th Ave South
New York, NY 10014


The Scene
No longer do you have to be packed in like sardines with 50 other diners in the small space that houses The Navy in Soho. The restaurant's irresistible popularity as a kitschy-decorated, maritime-themed seafood-centric retreat triggered owners Akiva Elstein and Matt Abramcyk to open the windows out onto the street and offer counter seating, so guests can enjoy their rosé and oysters in the sun along with everything else on chef Camille Bacerra's seafood and vegetable-focused menu.

The Appeal

Chef Camille Bacerra, who claimed her fame on Top Chef, hones her fine culinary process with simple techniques combined with a strong interplay of textures and flavors in all of her dishes — traditionally found at seaside restaurants and rarely found in a small neighborhood space on a quaint SoHo street. Now, you don't need to leave the city to indulge in market-driven fare, and you can savor Bacerra's fine ingredients al fresco.

137 Sullivan St
New York, NY 10012

Sonny's Soda Shoppe

The Scene
New to the ever-expanding rooftop scene, Sonny's Soda Shoppe is an Italian inspired rooftop gelateria and cocktail bar. Located on SoHo's tallest rooftop, Mondrian Soho's 3,000 sq ft indoor and outdoor penthouse has transformed the turf-coated surface into a 1950s era Italian Beach Club.

Forte de Marmi at Sonny's.
Designer Devinn Bruce gets his inspiration from the famed Italian beach resort, Forte dei Marmi; he has plastered the veneer with the classic Italian umbrella stripes along with a 30-foot photo mural to invoke the glamour of the beach clubs from the Tuscan Coast.

In addition to the Italian coastal pizazz, the 160-seat rooftop terrace boasts arguably the best panoramic views of the downtown Manhattan skyline. And, if a heat stroke kicks in, there's even a new 60-seat interior that offers a delicate refuge from the fickle summer weather. Sonny's screams summer.

The Appeal

Beyond the chic décor and spectacular views, Sonny's Soda Shoppe offers a unique menu, curated by Isola's executive chef Victor LaPlaca, of signature pizzas and snacks and an outdoor Gelato stand showcasing rotating flavors by Laboratorio Gelato. And, mixologist Julio Torres shakes up frozen Limoncello and fresh Italian cocktails, like the FORTE DEI MARMI, a refreshing blend of Pisco, Cynar, cherry, Lambrusco, mint, and lime in addition to special "Gelato Floats" like SONNY'S BLOOD ORANGE GELATO FLOAT, a sweet tasty concoction of Don Julio Anejo, Chartruese, vanilla gelato, and blood orange soda. Can't make it to the Tuscan coast this summer? Go to Sonny's!

Mondrian Soho, 25th floor, 9 Crosby Street
New York, NY 10013
East Village

Au Za'atar

The Scene

Salwa Fallous with her son, Tarik.
This bustling East Village eatery, which recently opened this spring, offers 14 serene sidewalk tables, seating up to 28 people, that span both sides of the corner of 12th street and Avenue A.. Unlike many sidewalk tables, the two-tops are set far back from the curb to avoid close encounters with traffic fumes and irritable pedestrians.

The Appeal
Salwa Fallous, a native of Lebanon, dishes out traditional flavors of the Levant and North Africa. Named for the Middle Eastern spice blend, za'atar, the restaurant's menu incorporates such time-honored Middle Eastern classics infused with seasonings like baba ghanoush or tabouleh (made fresh to order), as well as hindby (chicory simmered in olive oil), arnabeet mekle (cauliflower marinated in Lebanese herbs and spices then fried), and kibbe naya (lamb tartare with scallion and mint).

Large format platters of mezze, merguez and grilled kebabs are available for the table along with such Mediterranean favorites like mussels, lamb chops dusted with za'atar, and Tunisian couscous served vegetarian or with lamb, housemade merguez or chicken. The menu is based on family recipes developed by mama Fallous, a native of Lebanon. Her son, Tarik, oversees the operation and a beverage program that is non-traditional for a Middle Eastern restaurant, featuring natural and organic wines from around the Mediterranean (Lebanon, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy), along with international craft beers and house-made sangrias.

188 Avenue A (corner of 12th St.)
Bait & Hook

The Scene
Located on the north edge of the East Village, Bait & Hook is the ideal destination for leisurely, brunch, lunch, dinner, or a midday oyster fest. The outdoor sidewalk seating area, seating up to 49 people, offers a laid back, cozy, respite from the din on the streets. This is the epitome of serious seafood without pretension.

The everyday seafood bar now offers the complete package for the regular — a relaxed vibe for a quick, satisfying bite, affordable date or group gathering — all had at friendly prices.

The Appeal
Soccer and seafood is al fresco here. Whether you're chilling with a cool cocktail or an ice-cold brew and a dozen East Coast Oysters ($2.50 each) with Pomegranate Mignonette and house made cocktail sauce or one of Bait & Hook's signature Baja style fish tacos, you'll always feel welcome to linger and watch your favorite on one of the big screens.

And, there is no compromising when it comes to ingredients; the menu has been created using quality fixings, such as chicken from La Pera Bros, sustainable seafood from Bronx Fish, and American Wagyu from DeBragga. All of Bait & Hook's sauces are made in-house, and the menu offers several gluten-free options, as well as organic ingredients in the selections.

231 Second Avenue, at 14th Street
New York, NY 10003

McCarren Pool & Roof

The Scene
Sheltering Sky, the brand new rooftop bar at McCarren Hotel & Pool located in the center of Brooklyn's ever-popular Williamsburg, has recently opened. Designer Fernando Santagelo and co-owner Nur Khan got inspiration from the iconic novel by Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky, a spiritual adventure that follows the protagonist as he escapes the New York intelligentsia, set against the Sahara and North Africa.

The modern space is truly an urban retreat, with sultry Moroccan accents throughout. There's a fresh salt-water pool with expanded seating against a giant new mural — perfect for the trendsetting hipster crowd who seek some poolside action this summer. And, the roof offers a perfect bird's-eye view of the Manhattan skyline, with wraparound views of McCarren park and the beautiful skyline set against the tone of live music each evening. Sunday nights, expect a reggae-themed soiree with food & drink specials.
The Appeal
Refreshing rooftop cocktails like the Fresca de Sandia — loaded with tequila, muddled watermelon, agave, and cilantro combined with summer poolside classics like a shrimp tempura BLT, lobster lettuce cups, and a white cheddar, dry-aged burger. And, to top it all off, McCarren Hotel is screening the World Cup games by the pool, and has partnered with Nowhere FC for World Cup activation! Nowhere FC will be conducting an art pop-up 'Football Concierge' service as they promote a new line of products, including custom jerseys and specialized badges.

160 North 12th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11249
And for those of you heading out East ...

Topping Rose House

The Scene
A renovated historic porch wraps around the restored Greek revival mansion that houses Tom Colicchio's farm fresh menu, which just happens to offer produce grown on the property's one-acre Topping Rose Farm.

The Appeal
Scenery aside, the menu here is a game changer. The menu is the work of Top Chef alum Tom Colicchio himself. Colicchio oversees an impressive empire of restaurants, yet at his first East End establishment all of the pastas are made in-house and the greens and herbs scattered throughout his divine dishes are grown on their farm just a stone's throw away from the dining room. If they're not grown on the Topping Rose Farm, they're likely from another local farm just down the road. We love supporting the locals.

The upscale restaurant even supports its fan-base during this heated World Cup. The restaurant showed the 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. matches daily within their Bar Room with a special menu of globally-influenced World Cup-inspired snacks and beverages. And, guests who arrived wearing their team's regalia received their first drink for free!

One Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike
Bridgehampton, NY
Bay Kitchen Bar

The Scene
Summer in the Hamptons requires just a few things: refreshing cocktails, seafood, and sunsets on the water. You easily get all three at the newly opened Bay Kitchen Bar, run by father-son team chef/owner Eric Miller and managing partner Adam Miller.

Situated right by the marina on Three Mile Harbor, home to some of the best sunsets on the East Coast, the view is unrivaled. Bay Kitchen Bar boasts arguably the most tranquil atmosphere among any new restaurant in the Hamptons. The nautical themed décor is spread throughout the Indoor and outdoor deck seating, which is perfectly secluded from the hullabaloo closer to route 27. This is a place for those who want to dress up, sit back, relax, and dine in peace.

The Appeal

There's a level of convenience if you happen to own a yacht; you can tie up your boat at the marina, sit back and enjoy. You can enjoy the sea-to-table cuisine and refreshing summery cocktails if you arrive by car, too. Chef Eric Miller uses as many local ingredients as possible. The raw bar offerings include three variations of fluke crudo, two kinds of ceviche, East & West Coast oysters, lobster, and a gigantic shrimp cocktail.

Cocktails are infused with local, fresh flavors. The Violet Collins, a candied violet ice cube, looks as unique as it tastes. Or, choose any one of the restaurant's signature Juleps, offered in three different flavors (Blackberry, Pineapple, and Bourbon Vanilla) all made with the simple syrup which the restaurant concocts on their own in many varieties (including vanilla, honey, cinnamon). And they make their own house grenadine! There's an even happier happy hour special here: every day from 4-7 p.m. you can down $1 oysters paired with wine all while watching the sun set over the harbor.

Bay Kitchen Bar
39 Gann Road, East Hampton, NY 11937