Noma Talent in Brooklyn, Bespoke Dinner Parties, and Libations for All
Plus, not-to-miss wine in the Azores, department store omakase, and how to bring Italy home.
Plus, a Midtown institution and a fantasia of color in Brooklyn. These are the restaurants and consumables our editors loved this month.
I’M WRITING THIS on a flight back from London, where I took the first real vacation I’ve had in a long time. Before I went, I received a flurry of restaurant recommendations, each one posher and more dazzling than the next. I went to zero. I’m confident each would’ve stunned. But for whatever reason, fashionable food was not the priority this trip. The irony? I felt the most truly fed I’ve been in a very long time — falafels eaten while standing on the street, bacon devoured over a sink, home-cooked lasagna with a decidedly burned-but-no-less-exquisite crust, a birthday cake the morning after (Hostess HoHos stubbed with candles dumped on a dish), wonton broth on a delicate, post-revelry stomach. Reflecting on each perfect bite now, one meal in particular comes to mind: a pint of Guinness, cold and creamy as iced coffee, and a packet of Mini Cheddars, like Cheez Its but less acrid, more umami. I savored this pseudo supper, knees up in a tufted armchair at The Churchill Arms — a beloved pub that can only be described as somewhere between the spirit of Christmas and Bag End. Made all the more delicious by my companion, a local who showed me his city in the most colorful way only locals can. This is all to say: The perfect meal can be absolutely anything. Sometimes it even comes in a plastic bag. And sure, yes, there were quite a few tonier, Departures-worthy places, including one where the locals who took me implored me not to write about it. Sometimes the best meals are the ones you keep to yourself.
— Sophie Mancini
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Fortunes is not just ice cream, it’s ICE CREAM (sorry, I’m shouting). All hyperbole aside, it really is the very best. And with 10-year-old twins constantly jockeying for one more scoop, I believe I’ve sampled my fair share. Owners and married couple Brian Ackley and Lisa Farjam met as students at Bard College in 2001. While entertaining and hosting dinner parties, Farjam would cook the main course, and Ackley discovered his talent for dessert. Ackley later perfected his technique at Penn State’s Short Course. Nestled in upstate New York’s tiny charming hamlet of Tivoli, Fortunes opened officially in 2019. The bright and cheerful shop was designed by Ackley and Farjam and has an ardent fan base. All products are made by hand with ingredients sourced directly from local farms and orchards. Seasonal flavors range from Labneh Sour Cherry to Darkest Chocolate to Blueberry Verbena. Our favorite pairings include the darkest chocolate and raspberry shake, mint chip with caramel sauce, and, for the purist at heart, a most perfect vanilla cone. — Alex Brodsky
My new go-to spot for after-work drinks in Manhattan, Donna is remarkable for a few different reasons. Not only do they offer a menu of truly unusual cocktails — a paloma on tap, an elderflower and plum highball, an old-fashioned that involves Filipino and Overproof Rums, coffee, and soy sauce — but it is a business that describes itself as “a worker-owner cooperative business … an equitable, sustainable, and employee-owned bar.” As someone who worked in the service industry for nearly two decades, it’s refreshing to see businesses like Donna put the power into the hands of the employees. Empowering business model aside, it’s also simply a great place to go when you need a fancy drink that looks like a flamingo; a whole roasted fish; or just a truly tasty bean-and-cheese pupusa.
— T. Cole Rachel
There are certain restaurants that, when you step inside, feel like nothing bad can ever happen. Bar Vinazo is one of these places. A newly opened wine and conservas (tinned fish) bar in Park Slope, Vinazo fills the need for a quality Spanish spot — a category that feels woefully sparse in NYC. The interiors are all blond wood and airy light. The vermouths are killer. And the food is utterly craveable: delicate tinned seafood of the highest caliber, funky Spanish cheeses, savory cured meats, and heavier dishes like Galician-style octopus and fideuà — think paella but with tiny noodles. For your next date night (friend date, date with book, etc.), come to this oasis, and then come again. It’s one of those places where you instantly want to become a regular. I just wish it were closer to my apartment. — Sophie
One of the things that I love about living in NYC is the relative ease with which you can find almost any kind of food your heart may desire. That being said, authentic Cajun and Creole food is pretty hard to come by. This is why I was so pleasantly surprised by Alligator Pear, a NOLA-inspired eatery that offers dishes such as tempura alligator bites, blue crab beignets, and jambalaya paella (done three ways!) in an environment that feels remarkably transportive. With its velvet upholstery and art-deco flourishes that bring to mind something out of New Orleans’ Garden District, Alligator Pear is the uncanny mix of funky and fine that one would expect to be hidden away in one of the outer boroughs, not situated in Midtown Manhattan. — Cole
I’ve recently noticed an uptick in canned wine selections at my local wine shop. I personally love the idea because I no longer feel guilty opening a bottle for just one glass. Several brands have thrown their hats in the ring, but Nomadica caught my attention with its attractive cans (all designed by different artists) and delightful flavor profiles. Founded by Kristin Olszewski, a certified sommelier who left her mark at notable restaurants such as Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles and Husk in Charleston, Nomadica is rooted in sustainability with its eco-minded packaging and low-intervention winemaking. The brand’s beautifully designed cans and boxes are fantastic host gifts and conversation starters at dinner parties (people are always surprised by the freshness and effervescent taste). Available in eight varieties including red, rosé, white, sparkling, spritz, and my personal favorite, a California version of an Italian orange — Nomadica’s cans now have a dedicated space on my bar cart. — Elissa Polls
The iconic Casa Lever just reopened, reclaiming its place as the ultimate spot for a power lunch/dinner. I actually caught a glimpse of myself walking in and had curiously transformed into Don Draper. The space is elegant and handsome — mod curved white walls evoking the interiors of a spaceship, striped carpeting planting diners firmly in a chic homage to the ’60s. You can’t really go wrong with the food here — this place is a well-oiled machine. From sweet crudos and delicate pasta to hearty platters of fish and meat, all charmingly served tableside, everything is executed with finesse. Midtown’s regained an institution. — Sophie
This take-anywhere rosé is clearly the creation of serious wine lovers
As a former bartender, I have remained steadfastly dubious of any sort of wine that comes in a can, which is why I approached Waves Rosé with a fair amount of skepticism. Still, I was immediately swayed by the fact that: A.) the packaging is remarkably designed, and B.) this take-anywhere rosé is clearly the creation of serious wine lovers, as evidenced by the descriptions of both the vintage (“his combination of varieties resulted in a powerhouse of freshness with aromas of pomegranate and red plum along with hints of stone”) and the blend (“made with organic grapes 55% Zinfandel, 38% Carignan, 4% Barbera, 3% Viognier”). Light and breezy, I found these diminutive cans to be my favorite summertime accessory, perfect for making an impromptu spritz next to the pool. — Cole
Torrisi’s been buzzing for some months now. I went when they first opened, mouth agape at the production of it all, but had to leave early for a play about Robert Moses (bravo, Ralph Fiennes!). So I went again, for the full experience, and you know what? I get the buzz. It’s what a vibey New York restaurant should be. For that sexy Thursday night when you want more than just a meal — you want dinner and a show. Drake and his seven bodyguards were there. The ceilings are cinematically high. The cocktails are strong yet balanced on the tongue. And Torrisi has a dish that, to me, has already hit classic status: Italian and American hams with zeppole — an Italian prosciutto and a local varietal with fluffy doughnuts and compote. Salty, carby, and sweet. Pasta-wise, I’m excited to order their raviolini with prawns and saffron again on a crisp autumn night. — Sophie
While Brooklyn has experienced a true boon in recent years when it comes to cool boutique hotels, few of them offer a dining experience quite as vibrant as ElNico. Situated on the top floor of Williamsburg’s Penny hotel, this Mexican restaurant is like an Instagram fantasy come to life — a fantasia of bright green couches, softly curved wooden chairs and tables, and multicolor mobiles suspended from the ceiling. The food is no less vibrant than the environs, with Chef Fer Serrano crafting dishes such as clam tostadas, fried oyster tacos, and a pink mole — all of which looked just as incredible as they tasted. Despite being stuffed after our meal, my friend and I opted to have one last mezcal and a seat on the terrace, which offered a truly convivial place to sip and take in the sunset. — Cole
Sophie Mancini is a New York based writer. Under the New York Times’ creative agency, she helped lead the relaunch of Departures Magazine, where she then went on to become the food editor. Her background spans editorial, brand, and books.
In addition to her work with Departures, Alexandra Brodsky is a filmmaker and photographer. Her films have been screened at venues such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the American Film Institute. Recent photography publications and exhibits include Index Magazine, Pearl Press, Humble Arts Foundation, Too Tired Press, and Charcoal Book Club’s Chico Review. She is an alumnus of the Screenwriters’ Colony in Nantucket, the Film Independent’s Screenwriters Lab, and a Fulbright Scholar. She is also a founder of Quality Pictures, with Mary Stuart Masterson and Cassandra Del Viscio, a Hudson Valley–based production company making quality entertainment for social impact.
Elissa Polls is the head of production for Departures. A producer who typically stays behind the scenes, she has worked with creatives from around the world, helping bring their ideas to life. Polls has over 15 years of production experience and lives in Berkeley, California.
T. Cole Rachel is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and teacher with over 20 years of experience working in print and digital media. He is currently an editor-at-large at Departures.
Jess Rotter is a Los Angeles–based illustrator and artist. Rotter’s work has frequently featured in the Washington Post. Her clients range from Natalie Portman to Questlove.
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