Midtown Manhattan's best picnicking (plus five more picks from New York City)

Jump to: Picnic pick | Eric Asimov's wine pick | Brooklynguy's wine pick | Alice Feiring's wine pick | Doktor Weingolb's wine pick | Special BYO resto pick

picnic served by waiter morgan library and museum cafe new york smoked deli meats marinated olives lettuce baguette whipped herb goat cheese
The plan was to blog but I stopped fighting the weak wireless signal that gave me the Internet one minute and totally disconnected me the next. So I decided to leave the laptop in my room and hit New York hard. While that made for a bit of gap in my blogging, I now have lots to say about my five-day getaway, including a few juicy tidbits about wine and food.

Consider this update as five posts in one (use the anchored links at top to navigate through it -- it's lengthy). I hope this makes up for the recent inactivity.

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First of all, as I alluded to my last post, New York City is fiery hot pit of asphalt and sweat in the summer months, especially when you are caught in Midtown or on a subway platform, or worst of all in Midtown on subway platform (Warning: Never take an uptown train from the 47th-50th Streets/Rockefeller Center station without a towel). What I discovered is that but just 10 streets down from that sauna stop on the B, C, F and V line, I discovered an oasis of refreshment and air-con at the corner of 37th Street and Madison Avenue, also known as the Morgan Library & Museum. The collection alone is well worth the price of admission, but what I went in for was its fantastic café which is at the centre of this amazing building complex.

As you can tell from the photo I posted at the top of this entry, the food is just as inviting as the cool and airy space of the café (pictured below), which the Morgan website accurately describes as "a casual dining atmosphere in the glass-enclosed central court, evoking European alfresco dining." You bet, alfresco! This is by far the greatest place for a picnic during the dog days of summer. Save Central Park for less humid weather.

renzo piano restoration and expansion pierpont morgan library and museum interior renzo piano pierpont morgan library and museum interior cafe view

The brilliant thing is that the Morgan Café emulates a real outdoor courtyard: the high ceiling is composed of a lattice of glass and steel slats, there are trees amid the small dining tables, and on exceptionally warm days like when I was there last week, the sunlight enters the space in bearable measured amounts through the help of automatically shifting shades along the glass structure (follow part of that transition in the photos below).

renzo piano pierpont morgan library and museum interior glass and steel structure renzo piano pierpont morgan library and museum interior mechanical blinds renzo piano pierpont morgan library and museum interior

As for the café menu, plenty of picnic-perfect choices but my order of a plate of cold cuts, goat's cheese and olives is an amazing deal. For only $8 you get to make a couple of your own prosciutto and salami sandwiches (just slap on the cheese and that lettuce onto the complimentary rolls they offer you!) and for $7 more, get a glass of wine. (I felt like I won the lottery the instant this $15 alfresco feast started -- surely you can do no better in Manhattan.)

I chose the Château Routas Rouvière Coteaux Varois 2006, a salmon-coloured rosé from France's Provence region. It was thirst-quenching, quite dry and very likable alongside the spicy marinaded olives and salty cured meats. It had a drinkable table-ready style that some alcohol-drenched rosés from Provence don't handle as deftly. Light and appetizing, this wine is meant for casual lunches when it's really hot out. But I don't need to tell you that. See more detailed notes on this wine.

With this kind of fuel I had energy to wine-shop...


winner of wines of the times panel tasting report macon white chardonnayMy initial instinct was to take a tip from Eric Asimov and so I went for white Mâcon -- Burgundy's best summertime deal. If wine is your bag, Mr Asimov is much-respected and hard-to-miss in the blogosphere. Of all his recent recommendations, I'm finding these white Burgundies to be the most up my alley.

I love this style of Chardonnay, which is full of mineral and bright citrus flavours, though some deem it too light. I happen to value light, and not just because it often translates to light-on-the-wallet. This is Eric's point about Mâcon and its hinterland, known on the label as Mâcon-Villages.

While the results are not yet in on any specific Mâcon bottles (for that please refer to Eric's notes), I can report that New York definitely has better price-points on these wines than here in Quebec. These $12 bottles in Manhattan routinely convert to $20 bottles here in Montreal (and this is not usually the case with most French wines). Expect tasting reports for some Mâcons soon around here, most imminently for the one pictured here!


When I met the wine-wonderful Brooklynguy for lunch in TriBeCa, we discussed our common interest in wine and love for MTA buses. They are certainly cooler transportation than the subway and are routed all around the city and its four boroughs. To get to Macon Street in Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighbourhood, buses are the best means of public transit and, much to the glee of Brooklynguy, I recounted how I traveled along the #43 - Franklin, the #48 - Lorimer and the #25 - Halsey.

beaujolais wine organic unfiltered vissouxWhy do us winos like buses so much? Besides being street-level and perfectly temperature-controlled (most of the time), they are wine-shopping-friendly, or to put it more precisely, they are bottle-friendly. This is because they have padded interiors and are rather spacious if you like to buy by the case. Most importantly the differential in ambient temperature between a shaded bus stop and the coach is a lot less bottle-shocking than sweltering subway platform and meat-locker train car. (Also the bus is more personable, even when you haven't got a supply of wine on you: just before getting off at Classon Avenue, a kind Bed-Stuy rider pointed out all the globs of sunscreen smudged across my face that I had missed smoothing out.)

Brooklynguy, being the generous and knowledgeable guy that he is, suggested I take advantage of a rare Beaujolais while I could and snap up the Domaine du Vissoux Pierre-Marie Chermette Beaujolais 2005. It's not that difficult to find in Manhattan. I would certainly get it again. It's an unfiltered wine and you can sense it immediately, as in I-can't-believe-it's-not-Beaujolais-cru. My uptown hosts thought it was bold, round, rich and delicious. A hit from an advised expert... check out the full review on Brooklynguy's Wine and Food Blog.


I have never met Alice Feiring, New York-based wine enthusiast of great expertise and integrity, though she has responded to my brusque queries and desperate emails. She is the one who saved New Year's Eve for us when we hadn't a clue where to take our Cervaro Castello della Sala Antinori Chardonnay for a hopping good time. Well, Alice answered that question and supplied so many more reliable suggestions, like this next wine pick, for instance.

Yes, it was a total no-brainer to instantly buy the Domaine des 2 Ânes Fontanilles 2004 when I happened past it at Astor Wines & Spirits. She wrote about it as an everyday wine with substantial value back in February so I wasn't sure it would still be in supply. Luckily it does seem to be quite well stocked. But unfortunately, it's put into one of those extra heavy bottles that sit in your bag like a stone and makes you wonder why you're schlepping around so much weight at a free jazz concert staged in Washington Square Park. My advice: Make your purchase on the way home rather than when setting out. Astor's open till 9 pm every weeknight.

gimigiano vernacia mormoriaI'D LIKE A SIX-DAY VERNACCIA IN NEW YORK

For THE best Vernaccia di San Gimignano that gets made you've got to try Mormoraia. It's a little more expensive than most Vernaccia varietals at about $16 per bottle but it does taste like the height of Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a grape that gets very little respect.

Respect is something that it may not need if pure aromatic refreshment comes this easily and this cheaply. In the Mormoraia Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2006 you also get great balance, nutty depth and a profound finish for an otherwise lightweight varietal. I wish I could've brought back more of this across the border. I certainly could've afforded more. As it stands on my map, I've clearly marked down New York Wine Co. (it's 21 Warren Street near the Chambers Street subway station), the Lower Manhattan wine shop that sold me this great stuff.


dr weingolbAnd to save the best for last, there's Petite Crevette, the longtime fish-specialty restaurant on Hicks Street in Brooklyn. I had the pleasure of taking a friend of mine out for a birthday lunch there even though she does not eat fish. Fish lover or not, this is a cozy little nook that charms you and sates you, thanks to Neil Ganic, "a chef who has a knack for turning out satisfying, homey but refined dishes that value flavor over frills."

Here's a guy who can single-handedly chat up your table and whip up a codfish burger at the same time. That neither one comes out overdone, rushed, or inauthentic makes this restaurant a true winner. Evenings are much busier so if you like the welcoming chit-chat and attention, definitely try it for lunch. Also definitely bring you own bottle of wine. There's none of those huge corkage fees here. Perhaps a vivacious and slightly rustic Greco di Tufo dei Feudi di San Gregorio 2004 to handle the flavourful fish and mouth-watering appetizers (two words: Cremini mushrooms!) as well as all the other non-seafood plates that are served.


Sonadora said...

I'll take some of that picnic and perhaps the rose as well! The weather here in the DC area is not much better than NYC!

Marcus said...

Hi Sonadora,

Glad you were able to see my indoor picnic pictures when you visited -- I somehow lost them all during the course of the day yesterday. Just managed to re-upload them now.

Mmmm... they do make me hungry and thirsty.


Joe said...

Hey Marcus, thought we lost you again. I didn't know winos were bus guys! I use the 24 myself, but now that the weather is nice I ride my bike to work. Two - four bottles fit nicely in my backback, and prevent me from bringing any work home...I have to try that New York Wine Co. on my next trip.

Marcus said...


I've perfected the five-bottle haul using the backpack I ride into work with. I can do six if there's a sale and I'm pressured into buying more. (Beware of the new red SAQ bags which are no longer built to withstand hanging from handlebars.)

It's funny because in inclement weather I take the 24 bus to work too.

And we converge at Cours Mont Royal to shop ... hmmm. Doppelganger.

I don't think I have a wife and kids like you though my apartment is really messy since I unpacked in a hurry so I can't say for sure.

Brooklynguy said...

Thanks for the shout out Dok. So good to have met you in the flesh (although I should be careful using phrases like that with you, now that I see your WBW 36 photo). And Viva la Bus!

I'm so glad and proud that you and your company enjoyed the Vissoux Beauj- thanks for trusting me!

Marcus said...

Bguy, thanks to you and your wise wine ways.

And it was your quiz about me being barefoot that inspired me to go one step further for WBW 36 Naked Chardonnay.


Kathleen said...

Thanks for the restaurant tips!I can't wait to get back to nyc.

Marcus said...

Lots of great restos and bottles in the Big Apple Kathleen. Enjoy yourself when you go.

Hey, did anyone notice how in the photos directly above there's a striking similarity between the crest on the shirt I'm wearing and the logo on the Vernaccia bottle? Eerie. And not planned!