I occasionally go to NYC and venture into Manhattan to take classes or exams at the International Wine Center as part of my WSET Diploma program. I spent last week in NYC so I could attend the fortified and sparkling wine units. Lately though, it’s Brooklyn, not Manhattan, that has my heart, and I’ve taken every opportunity to stay there and explore. By now I’ve made some discoveries, so here I give you my wine (and cocktail) geek guide for a night out in Brooklyn in three different neighbourhoods.
The hipper-than-hip Bedford Avenue strip at the heart of Williamsburg has gotten a little overwhelming for my tastes. Things are calmer on the other side of the tracks (meaning the highway that divides the neighborhood) in South Williamsburg.
Start with one of the house cocktails or craft beers at Burnside, a cozy rustic-chic bar with a Midwestern theme. Next, move on for dinner at Shalom Japan, a Jewish-Japanese (yes, you read right) fusion place. Skeptical? I was too, until I tried the food, which was delicate, flavorful, and delicious.
But what impressed me even more was their wine list. By the glass or the bottle, this list is a hidden gem. There are several sherries on offer, as well as what was possibly the best selection of Hungarian and Croatian wine I’ve seen. Fancy a glass of Hungarian Hárslevelű or Crotian Plavac Mali? This is your spot. The list is divided into helpful subsections, including “Nerdy Whites” and “Nerdy Reds.”
My favourite discovery of the night was a “nerdy white,” Fekete Béla’s Juhfark 2009 from the Hungarian region of Somló. It was a concentrated, mineral-driven white with high acidity, a distinctive smoky note, and a pleasing touch of bitterness. It was my first experience with the Juhfark grape, and I believe I’ll be back for more.
For something a little more classically Williamsburg (if such a thing can be said to exist, and yes, I do mean hipster), check out Reynard in the Wythe Hotel for their natural wine-focused, French-heavy wine list. The boy on wine and I enjoyed a bottle of Philippe Bornard’s Trousseau “Le Ginglet” 2010 from Arbois Pupillin (Jura) there back in March after I wrote a particularly challenging exam.
Oh, and a Williamsburg bonus, if you still have the energy: to go local, try post-dinner drinks and cheese at Brooklyn Winery.
If you want to get a little culture in before eating and drinking, check out the Brooklyn Museum. I really liked its blend of historical and contemporary exhibits. Then head down the street for a cocktail at Tooker Alley, a Prohibition era-inspired cocktail bar. I stuck with a classic, an old fashioned, but they also have modern twists on classic cocktails.
When the hunger hits, head to rustic Italian eatery Franny’s, a Brooklyn institution. They don’t take reservations, so be prepared to wait in line, but their fantastic Italian wine list (according to Eric Asimov, one of the best in the city) makes it worth the wait. Being gluten intolerant, I didn’t indulge in their specialty, pizza, but the boy on wine assured me it was a damn fine pizza.
If pizza’s not your thing, you can easily make a meal of their antipasto dishes, or opt for polenta or pasta. There’s a reason this place is always packed, although the corollary to that is that I felt a little rushed through the meal. All part of the experience, but it kept me from indulging in the fantastic wine list as much as I would have liked.
But at least that leaves room for post-dinner drinks. Since they have no outdoor sign, stepping into Weather Up feels a bit like walking into a modern take on an underground speakeasy. The cocktail list is creative, the waiters (even the men) all wear their hair in fashionable braids, and if you wait long enough you can snag one of two booths in the front or a seat at the bar. Otherwise, stand around sipping a cocktail through a metal straw and soak up the vibe.
The NYC wine bar to end all NYC wine bars, Terroir has a new outpost and it’s in Park Slope. I could easily spend a couple of hours reading through their quirky tome of a wine list, but my eye was caught early on by a whole page dedicated to sherry and madeira. The happy hour truly made me happy, as it featured those wines for as little as $2.50 a glass. In the interests of studying for my fortified wine tasting exam, I took advantage.
For dinner, trundle over to Applewood, a farm-to-table style restaurant with matching farmhouse décor that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into someone’s country house (it reminded me a bit of Montreal’s Nora Gray). Their tasting menu features sustainable, somewhat-locally-sourced ingredients (sautéed Long Island manila clams, pan-roasted New Hampshire rabbit saddle) and is worth the splurge (only $30 per person if you go Monday through Thursday). We opted for the reasonably priced wine pairings ($16 per person), and I happily tried my first sparkling wine from New Mexico.
And that’s only three of Brooklyn’s neighbourhoods – I have so many left to eat and drink my way through!