NYC’s Best Kept Brunch Secret: The DIY Bloody Mary at Double Crown

One of the best-kept brunch secrets in all of New York has to be Double Crown‘s self-serve Bloody Mary spread. I’ll cop to never really noticing Double Crown before, even though it’s one of the better looking rooms downtown and occupies a spot on the Bowery (about a block north of Houston) that’s rapidly being transformed into the epicenter of new New York. The restaurant claims to explore “the aesthetic and culinary dualities arising from the British Empire’s forays into Southeast Asia.” That at least explains the exotic condiments in the spread, like Sriracha, fish sauce, and coriander. Here’s how it works.

It’s fairly simple: You order a glass of booze (I recommend the Absolut Citron for an added kick), which the bartenders will generally (and generously) fill about a third of the way – then, you attack. This is the tricky part. The ingredients are so varied and attractive, it’s hard to know where to begin. You can go the traditional route, starting with Worcestershire and ending with celery, or you can get mad scientist on it with chopped jalapeños, ginger, cumin, and a caper berry, because you’re insane like that. The most amazing thing about it all? The scant advertising on DC’s website or the rest of the web. If you’re the owner, and you’ve got a card like this, shouldn’t you play it? In Bloody Mary crazed New York, this should be the holy land.

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The New Downtown: W New York Downtown Hotel Opens

What is Downtown? Is it a location or a state of mind? The new W New York – Downtown hotel is located so far downtown that if it went any farther south it would be swimming with Luca Brasi. Out of the ashes of tragedy, a new downtown is being born. It isn’t the old Financial District that’s being reconstructed, but a new vision, a new idea, a new city. As glass and steel is welded and manipulated into place, the W is focusing its energies on the soul of the area. For many, the area still brings back hard memories, but going there is also an opportunity to honor courage, and strength, and the reasons we all live here. The new downtown is all about residences and nightlife and amenities that just a few years ago were not available without going at least a good mile north. I used to live in Tribeca, just north of this developing district, but far enough south not to find what we are used to finding. Getting an OJ at midnight was an ordeal. Laundry, restaurants, and fun was a trip to another hood. The new downtown has almost all the services you would ever need, and every day what’s missing is being addressed. It’s becoming a self sufficient little burg. It feels like another city, until you walk into the W. Then it feels like home. I caught up with the grand dame of the WNYDH, the lovely Sofia Vandaele, and asked her what it’s all about.

You are the general manager of the W Hotel on Albany St. It’s W New York Downtown and our official address is 123 Washington St. We’re on the corner of Albany, just a block south of the World Trade Center perimeter, and two blocks away from Wall St.

I just got a tour of the hotel, and it’s spectacular. And I’m not just saying that—I think it’s absolutely beautiful. This area is booming now. The old is being washed away and the new is going up. How does the W Downtown, the WNYDT, intend to embrace this neighborhood? What are you trying to do here? Well, when you look at the neighborhood, the first feeling you have is a sense of energy, and we’re a part of it. There’s a lot of regeneration, a lot of revitalization happening in this area, and not just with new buildings and construction. I think it follows you in every aspect of life here. Whether you come to work, whether you come to live here, it’s the fastest growing residential community in greater New York. It’s a community for us, as a hotel, to reach out to.

For people looking for an apartment in New York, something I’m doing right now, this area has always been an area where you can find good rent, because there’s been nothing here. In the past, you couldn’t get groceries, you couldn’t get this, you couldn’t do that. There was nothing here, but that’s changing rapidly. Massively. You almost sense that people really come here to live in New York. You get an area where people live and work that has a fantastic Whole Foods close by, that has a phenomenal Bed Bath and Beyond, great restaurants in the Battery Park City area. Stone St. is going through a revival, South Street Seaport, and everything in between. Plus the area is accessible from anywhere in Manhattan, and it’s also accessible to niche areas, Governor’s Island, for example.

And there’s a waterfront. Are you basically servicing the guests in the hotel with your food and beverage strategy, or are you hoping that the neighborhood will feed you as well? Do you expect people from the traditional downtown, or other parts of Manhattan, to travel here? All of the above. With the 58 floors we’ve built here, WNYDT is a hotel, but it’s also 223 residential units. It’s really about being part of a residential community. Our BLT Bar and Grill is a 24/7 experience, because the person that works down here will come with a colleague for a drink. Then they might go for dinner at BLT Bar and Grill, or invite friends over for after-dinner. On the weekend they come back with the family.

This neighborhood is expanding. As I look out this window, the Deutsche Bank building is being taken down two floors a week. The neighborhood is growing exponentially. Can the hotel grow? Is there a roof? There are different parts of the hotel that will definitely be activated. Our key element is on the 5th floor. Our Living Room bar and terrace has no equal downtown. We will definitely tap into our connections to get the best possible drinks on the menu. We’ve worked with celebrity mixologist Charlotte Voce. She’s put a fantastic cocktail menu together. We have the outdoor space, a complete wraparound terrace on the 5th floor bar that really nobody else has. But at the same time, BLT Bar and Grill is our culinary provider throughout the whole building, and next summer they’ll have an outdoor space on our public piazza in the back on the hotel. We have our own DJ booth. We have a music director

Who’s your music director Michaelangelo L’Acqua

He’s an old friend of mine, he’s part of my family. So Ma, as he is known.

New York City is the only major city I can think of that has a waterfront but rarely uses it. You’re downtown, you’ve got Battery Park, you have these new developing spaces, Battery Park and Riverside Terrace. Do you believe that the water can be developed into a major attraction? We’re really at the tip of Manhattan. We’re surrounded by water, and I think that flux of energy in itself is felt. Whether you arrive from Brooklyn via water taxi, or you come around the tip of Manhattan, or you come to the World Financial Center, you have a little harbor here.

SV:Hotels are increasingly being driven by hospitality. Most hotels are being hospitality retro-fitted. You built this hotel around hospitality. How important is hospitality to a hotel? It’s the core. What’s so unique about the positioning of W is that we build everything around the core of our “Whatever, whenever” service. We strive for that passion, that personality within our people that will consistently deliver that “whatever whenever” service. It’s in small little things. We had such an amazing experience this week. There was a young boy here who just had surgery, wasn’t feeling well, and our doorman, Richie, took it upon himself to actually build a rapport. He said to managers, “I really want to do something for this kid.”

What did he want? Charleston Chews. The candy. Oh, they’re amazing—don’t have them, or else you won’t stop. So you know, the kid said, “That’s my favorite candy.” So we got them and sent him a note with the sweets that said “From your buddy Richie. That’s whatever, whenever. You go that extra mile. It’s the core hospitality spirit. It’s small things, sweet simple things, or it’s big wow experiences. You can book a chopper or a helicopter to go to your house in the Hamptons. We’ll get it arranged for you

You people know where to get Charleston Chews in this town? We actually found them in a small deli close by.

Are hotels the future of New York nightlife? I think they have been for a while, and I think they will continue to be an important part of the nightlife. We don’t just offer the bar or club experience. You can come and have a fantastic dining experience. You can have great drinks, but you also have the music, you have fashion. It’s much more about the 360 degree experience.

You’ve got the Ace Hotel, you’ve got the Standard hotel, you’ve got the Gansevoort Hotel, and of course Ian Schrager. Gotta give Ian credit for starting the boutique hotel. That’s what people say, anyway. How did the industry change after this? W brand is evolving. What did you borrow, steal, learn from the experiences of these other NY brands that have broken so well. The Standard, in particular, had a way of regenerating the Meatpacking District. We really feel the W has led the pack of these lifestyle hotels for 12 years already. When W Union Square came to that area, it added something, and we really feel that WNYDT, as a hotel, will be the catalyst to assist people like the downtown alliance and other partners that are so critical to the success of downtown. We will definitely be a catalyst to help them succeed in putting downtown, as a destination, on the map.

How did a nice girl like you come to this? Well, for me hospitality, literally, comes from within, it comes from the heart. It’s something that I grew up with. My mom and dad they were in hospitality industry In Belgium. It’s something that I have always embraced as a passion. I’ve been with Starwood for close to 15 years. When I started in hotel operations, it was like a tailor-made jacket. And then I got an opportunity here in NY, so it was a designer jacket that I got to put on. It’s an amazing brand to be with.

You’re a busy gal. Where do you go out and play? I live near Nolita, so my neck is definitely East Village, LES, Nolita. I love Madame Geneva, I think it’s a great. It’s the back of Double Crown. Everybody knows double crown! I’m Belgian, so I love steak frites, which is my national dish, and I go to Lucien for that, which is on 1st and 1st. Lucien is great, and the Pink Pony is obviously another one.

New York: Top 10 Restaurants as Nightclubs

So, are restaurants really the new nightclubs? Check out these multitasking contenders.

Minetta Tavern (Greenwich Village) – A night at Minetta, complete with Barry Diller, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Harvey Keitel sightings, spawned this thesis. Your visit will confirm all the copious booze, packed interiors, and loud soundtracks of a nightclub, but you’ll also be served top brasserie eats. ● Hotel Griffou (Greenwich Village) – Stealth-posh scene-stealer serves up vintage dishes, but the elaborate array of intimate rooms is just as big a draw. Big enough to draw Leo, Chloe, and Kanye, among a glut of bold-faced names. ● Monkey Bar (Midtown East) – Graydon Carter’s latest monkeyshines lays down a hierarchical supper club scene, with banquettes for the literary elite and tables in the pit for you. Oysters named for Rockefeller, meatloaf named for Ephron. But it’s all about the scene.

The Waverly Inn (West Village) – High-wattage crowd in low-wattage light, with cozy, clubby feel that preserves the charm of the original. Still unlisted digits; go bathe yourself in the self-congratulatory vibe of the inn crowd inside. ● Charles (West Village) – Exclusive enough to start its run behind papered-over windows. But that’s how the peoples wanted it, and the unlisted number and email-only ressies just make this loungey supper spot all the more desirable. ● Delicatessen (Soho) – Corner attraction rocking enough lumber to show up a Lowe’s. Steers focus away from the food and onto the scene, which is tight, attractive, and ready to put away a few fancy-pants cocktails. And maybe eating. ● The Stanton Social (Lower East Side) – Lofty, tri-level space is sleek and energetic; draws in the Yorkville types looking to experiment with “ethnic” food. On the nightclub side, the music’s loud enough to make a Pacha DJ wince. ● Buddakan (Chelsea) – Stephen Starr’s sixth-borough export still catering to overflowing MePa mobs scarfing down fusiony fare. Stunning, mansion-esque space delves deep. Able to accommodate every single person heading over to Kiss & Fly and Tenjune later, all at once. ● Double Crown (Greenwich Village) – AvroKO design masters follow up Public success with vintage vibe, sprawling space. Come colonize another stretch of the Bowery and let the pretty people distract you from the just so-so food. ● bobo (West Village) Ring the downstairs doorbell for Boho-Bourgie dinner party scene. Kitchen still not fully sorted, but that’s alright with the frisky crowd lounging about the elegant townhouse digs.

Industry Insiders: Torsten Gross, Hardheaded Philanthropist

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation supports innovative research for spinal cord injury and works with individuals living with paralysis. A noble cause like this one needs the right direction, the right planning, and the right foundation. In comes Torsten Gross. An active member of the Foundation and wheelchair-bound himself, he is also the producer and organizer of fundraising events. Most recently, he underwrote and organized Reeve Rocks at Le Poisson Rouge in New York. BlackBook caught up with the busy philanthropist post-soiree.

How was the first Reeve Rocks event? I was very pleasantly surprised to say the least. We don’t know the exact count yet, but we’ll find out how many walk-ups we had. Even if we make just a little bit of money, if you do a couple of these, it adds up. I think we got a good enough turnout through auctions that we’re going to see a return. This was the first one; we’ve learned our lessons.

You underwrote this fundraiser yourself, and secured great sponsors. Getting a big auction list is a good thing. The next time around, we’ll have amazing pictures, video, something big and small. The sponsors we got really cared — either they knew the Reeve Foundation, or they knew me. To make it synergistic, we got some weird things given to us, and no, I’m not going to tell you what they are. The point is to raise money and keep costs low. The not-for-profit community has rules, but I wouldn’t have been able to pull off the event without the help of a lot of really dedicated people.

What makes for a successful event? Having the right people come together for the right reasons. I thought I would just be giving the money to make the thing happen, and then I fell in love with what I was doing. We didn’t get international donations, or 300,000 people, but what I care about is the 400 people who said “Holy shit, I didn’t expect this. I want to go to the next one!” So money or no money this go around, we’re in for the long haul.

When’s the next Reeve rave, and where will the underwriting come from? Chances are, the next one will come out of our pockets again. Where the money goes is up to the Foundation, so it’s not just spinal cord research, but it’s also today’s care for paraplegics. That’s why the Foundation is behind the operation. It won’t go into a bank account to accrue money to have a bigger and better event; it will go back into the Foundation.

So, why you? Because I’m the one who rebranded all of the Foundation’s work. One of the things we came across was that in 15 years, nobody’s going to remember just that Chris Reeve had an accident — they’ll remember Christopher Reeve the personality, the actor. This is one of the ways to bring awareness to the possibilities.

What do you do when you’re not planning events? I’m the CEO of Innovation Consultancy.

Tell us about Innovative Consultancy. We’re very new, and we’re growing fast because we developed a business model no one has done yet, especially in the innovation space. It’s happened more quickly than we’d ever hoped. We don’t deal with promotion, marketing, or communications; we deal with innovation and the product itself. Consumers are so geared toward what they want, as they’re scrupulous with their money, that companies are looking to us for new stuff — and they need it now.

Who do you work with? I’m New York based, but we innovate everywhere. My company’s name is Fatbaby Innovation. Before I invented it, I was working at an ad agency and rebranded the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. I really started to fall in love with what they do and who they are. I’m in a wheelchair myself. I had an injury 15 years ago in a diving accident. So in one way, shape, or form, I’ve always had something to do with the Reeve Foundation. I now have the ways and means to be able to help out. The face of the Foundation is suffering a bit now that Chris and Dana are no longer here, so we need to bring a younger group of activists and supporters into the mix. We (Matt Reeve and I) wanted a show, and I decided to personally put down all of the money for it.

How would you describe yourself? I’m insanely attractive and on a roll. Pun intended. I can never sit still. If there’s something that needs to be done; I want to be in the mix at all times. I think a lot of times people pass things off too easily, especially when it comes to charity. When somebody has the ways and means, this is the time for the right people to step up. And I practice that.

What are your spots? In Vino on East 4th, because they’re a local, amazing restaurant, and the people there make it the world a better place. Knife + Fork because the chef, Damian, is the only person in the kitchen. He gets up with all the food and serves it in a 30-seat place. Lastly, the back room of Double Crown is a hidden room that’s absolutely fantastic. It’s a great place to go and have a drink with friends and not have to deal with the riffraff. It’s not snobby or elitist; on the contrary it’s very laid back, so I don’t know why they let assholes like me in there.

Name two people you admire. This will sound so cliché and retarded, but my parents. And then I’d say Matt Seiler, the global CEO of Universal McCann. He’s a brilliant, out-of-the-box thinker.

What are the trends with philanthropy now? I’m sure I’ll get flamed from rich people, but young people have the heart for it, and they want to get involved. If a lot of people donate $20, it’s a lot of money.

Any big negatives recently? Giving without heart is just awful. Giving money with your heart behind it is important. To give as a tax deduction is great, but at the same time, why not put a little bit of heart into it? Your giving doesn’t only mean money, it also means time. The Reeve Foundation is about finding the cure, but it’s also about quality of life for people in wheelchairs.

Something that people might not know about you? I’m so loud and obnoxious. Everybody knows everything because I don’t shut up!

NYC: Free Films Featuring Free Food

imageAll right, recessionistas and frugal-living cheapskates. This one’s for you. Starting this Saturday, the NYC Food Film Festival will be kicking off its third season. What makes this festival a standout is the part where they not only serve the films to you at no cost; they also hand out free food at the films — food that was featured in the films. Genius! So that means if you head on over to the Beef Is Bueno screening, you might just score some Argentine beef for your belly. Likewise, if you choose Know Your Mushrooms (which has an amazing score by The Flaming Lips), you’ll also be treated to a mushroom-tasting session. More details and fest trailer after the jump.

Screenings of films take place at Astor Center, Water Taxi Beach L.I.C, and Water Taxi Beach South Street Seaport. While most every screening is actually free (and the food too!), you will have to buy tickets for the opening night and the mushroom night. Opening night ($35) features a pair of short films by Joe York: “Mutton: The Movie” and “Buttermilk: It Can Help.” The food portion will include BBQed mutton and a buttermilk tasting. The mushroom night will feature a showing of the film “Know Your Mushrooms,” and the food part will include a mushroom tasting as well as Chef Brad Farmerie’s (of Double Crown and Public) aged ribeye mushroom cheesesteaks. Both of those nights are at Astor Center. Other than those two ticketed events, entry is free, though the festival is requesting donations of two canned goods per person for the Food Bank for New York City. Check out the full schedule here.

Industry Insiders: Sandra Ardito, Giving the OK to KO

Sandra Ardito heads sales, marketing and special events for KO Hospitality Management (Cooper Square Hotel, Empire Hotel, Hotel on Rivington, and Chelsea Hotel in Atlantic City). We met the hospitality connoisseur at the Cooper Square Hotel to get the scoop on the Hamptons Memorial Day hotspot, the Reform Club Inn (suites and private cottages in Amagansett), working for Ian Schrager, and why we should stay at Cooper Square (besides the fact that it’s the location of the Bjork’s afterparty tonight).

Is this the first hotel KO has developed? No, we did the Empire Hotel on 63rd Street, and we did the Chelsea Hotel in Atlantic City for Paul Sevigny and Matt Abramcyk. For those hotels, I would describe us as the hired guns.

Who are the other members of the KO team? Klaus Ortlieb, Yana Yevinson, Meg Burnie, Manuela Kolb, and Annie Ohayon.

How’d you get here? I was the director of special events at Chanterelle. Budgets were $250,000 to a million back then. And while there, I moonlighted by helping people open their restaurants. I opened the Harrison with owner Jimmy Bradley. I met some amazing people, like Joey Campanaro from Little Owl. I was Jason and Jen’s investor at ‘ino on Bedford street. Eventually, Meg Burnie brought me into meet Klaus at the Hotel on Rivington. That’s when I left Chanterelle. My first event at the Rivington was Timothy Greenfield Sander’s XXX Book. Bill Dye called me to be part of Gramercy Park Hotel with Ian Schrager. We opened with the Marc Jacobs party on September 11, 2006, after working for months nonstop. I shadowed Ian for the two nights before we opened the hotel. He had receptions for all of his friends and was surprised at how I knew them. He said, “You are the girl, you are going to do this.” It was like a love letter. And he trained me and nurtured me into this role. Finally, Klaus started KO Hospitality Management about a year and a half ago and asked me if I wanted to be a partner. It was very hard to leave Ian. At KO, we work with owners and developers from ground-up construction. We attaché the restaurant, the architect, the interior designer, and conceptualize the entire project.

Something unique about Cooper Square Hotel? Every book in the Cooper Square hotel was picked through Housing Works, which is a charity for AIDS victims. People can purchase the books and the money will go to the charity. Klaus is a seasoned professional who only takes on projects he believes in. He worked with Andre Balazs and Ian Schrager for years. He wanted the experience at Cooper Square to be completely different, that’s why there’s no reception desk. There’s a lobby host who shows you to your room. It’s about personal attention. Klaus sat on 575 chairs until he choose what he felt was the right one. We’re also building a screening room on the second floor. There’s an indoor/outdoor bar on the second floor as well, and a 3,000-square-foot terrace.

What is your specific contribution? The total experience here. I hand-picked the staff. What Ian and Klaus have given me, I hope to give to someone else.

What’s the next project? We are helicoptering to the Reform Club Inn in Amagansett to get ready to open for Memorial Day weekend.

What music do you listen to? Rock ‘n roll — Iggy Pop, The Raconteurs, Jane’s Addiction.

Favorite artist? Radek Szczesny.

Favorite restaurants? ‘inoteca, Little Owl, and James in Brooklyn

Favorite bar? Royal Oak in Williamsburg, Madame Geneva in the Double Crown and Bowery Electric.

Favorite hotel? East Deck in Montauk for a retro motel and The Crillion in Paris for high-end.

Who do you admire in the business? I grew up reading about Ian Schrager and then had the pleasure of working for him. He hired me to be his director of special events. The man who started the party is looking at me and letting me see his vision. It’s an honor and the best compliment. I also admire Klaus Ortlieb for his loyalty, compassion, and integrity, and Nur Khan for the incredible way he takes care of people

Who do you feel does it right? Joe and Jason Denton of ‘inoteca and Lupa

What’s something people don’t know about you? I’m an avid gardener and spend all my money on plants for my roof deck that I made totally grassroots style with my boyfriend.

What are you doing tonight? Going to Bjork’s concert at Housing Works and then to her after party at Cooper Square Hotel.

Photo: Mike Mabes

New York: Top 10 Best Appetizers

Sometimes the first course is worth the whole meal.

1. Grilled corn Mexican style at Café Habana (Nolita): The corn comes two to a plate, grilled and topped with a generous pile of chili powder, lime, and cotija cheese. 2. Devils on horseback at Freemans (Lower East Side): The bacon-wrapped figs are the perfect mix of sweet and salty. 3. Carcofi at Bacaro (Chinatown): The stuffed, lightly breaded artichokes here are a must-have.

4. Any mozzarella at Obika (Upper East Side): The mozzarella here is a veritable smorgasbord of smoked and sweet flavors. 5. Soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai (Chinatown): Put the dumpling on your spoon, gently break the shell until the soup leaks out. Eat. Repeat. 6. Crispy potato gnocchi with foie glazed balsamic figs at Thor (Lower East Side): The best gnocchi I’ve ever had, anywhere. And I’ve lived in Italy. 7. Half-pint of prawns at Double Crown (Greenwich Village): The heads are the best part … just pretend they’re deep-fried potatoes. 8. Chorizo champinon fundido con queso at Xicala (Nolita): Delicious homemade chorizo or mushroom (or both) with melted cheese in a small pot. I dream about the cheesy goodness. 9. Local diver scallops at Park Avenue Winter (Upper East Side): The seasonal menu changes, but if scallops are on the menu, order them. 10. Tuna spring rolls at The Mercer Kitchen (Soho): I can’t come here without ordering at least one, sometimes two.

Short Stack: Openings

New YorkChar 4: Whiskey and BBQ. The whiskey comes in 150 different flavors. ● Chloe 81: Latest LES underground bar. Red booths, white tiles, and hipsters galore. ● Double Crown: New spot from the folks behind Public and Stanton Social. ● Five Leaves: Heath Ledger’s pet project; expect a coffeehouse/oyster bar.

Tierra: Tapas. More tapas. This time of the eel and foie gras variety. ● Shi: Asian Fusion in Long Island City ● Café Petisco: Low-key Chinatown diner. ● Tong Thai Brasserie: Affordable tapas—squid, spring rolls, and crab fried rice

Los AngelesCity Sip: New wine bar in Echo Park ● 24K Lounge: Belly turned iCandy turned Seven, now is going by 24K Lounge. $100 Gold-flecked martini’s are available.

San FranciscoPress Club: 9,000 square feet, 8 wine tasting bars, in the cellar of the Four Seasons. ● Bangkok Express: Thai food in the Financial District. Nothing new to see here. ● Soul Food Experience: Southern food, southern hospitality, Oakland, CA.

Napa & SonomaElements Restaurant & Enoteca: Tapas and 50 wines by the glass. ● A/K/A: Upscale bistro in St. Helena. Portobellos, braised beef, calamari + wine.

ChicagoMista Pizza: Thin crust, organic toppings, BYOB. ● Crescendo: Bottle-service club reopens. $20 cover. ● Dirty Martini: Martinis on tap, with sci-fi martini glass chiller and all sorts of dirty things (bleu cheese, anchovies, roasted red-pepper olives) to make your martini, well, dirtier. ● The Bristol: Everything from scratch. Everything: Ketchup, cheese, pasta, saltines. Plus hogs are butchered onsite. ● Café Con Leche Bucktown: French toast and chilaquiles in this tiny taqueria, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. ● More: A cupcake salon, with sweet and savory options, try the red velvet and then the fig/bleu cheese/port. ● John’s Place Roscoe Village: Comfort foods, plus brunch. ● Late Night Thai: Graveyard shift Thai. Open 9 p.m.-5 a.m. Genius.