Backed with experience in some of the world’s top restaurants including Wine Spectator Grand Award winners Eleven Madison Park, the Little Nell and Canlis, chef Austin Johnson and sommelier Dustin Wilson debuted their highly anticipated One White Street this month. Set in a longstanding three-story townhouse in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood, the dual concept consists of a more casual bar and à-la-carte dining area on the ground floor and a higher-end tasting menu experience on the upper two floors.
According to wine director Audrey Frick, the team drew inspiration from Paris’ multifaceted Frenchie, which comprises a fine-dining restaurant, bakery and wine bar all under one roof. “It's really fun and exciting to essentially have two restaurants in one,” she said.
Frick (previously of Tavernetta in Denver) built a wine list of 200-plus selections that’s available throughout the space, aiming for accessibility at all price points and styles. “It’s not a tome; this isn’t Eleven Madison Park,” said Frick, referring to the Grand Award winner’s 5,000-label list. “But I've taken a lot of time and focus to make sure that everyone can find something that's wonderful for them.”
There are nearly 150 bottles under $150 to suit the laid-back, wine-bar feel of the downstairs area, including “indigenous grapes that are exceptional at that price point.” There’s also a page of affordable chilled reds and a diverse list of nearly two dozen wines by the glass. Plenty of splurges are available, from producers like the Rhône’s Auguste Clape and Burgundy’s G. Roumier. As Frick grows the collection, likely to about 400 labels, she’s hoping to thoughtfully expand into less familiar winegrowing regions like Georgia and Japan. Though it’s not a blanket rule, she says the program will maintain an emphasis on winemakers practicing regenerative agriculture and skew heavily toward smaller and grower producers.
The list will evolve and change to complement the highly seasonal cuisine, for which Johnson sources ingredients through an exclusive partnership with Rigor Hill Farm in New York’s Hudson Valley. Summertime options on the à-la-carte menu include grilled scallop skewers with summer squash and arugula pesto and glazed gnocchi with sweet corn and chanterelles. At $148 per person, the six-course tasting menu includes plates like chilled foie gras with black truffles and smoked tomatoes with Calabrian chile vinaigrette. Wine pairings are available for $86.
Above all, Frick says One White Street’s wine program serves to support the guest experience. “It’s about listening to what our friends and guests love,” she said. “And then it’s like, OK, we have this for sure, but if you want to try something else in the price range that you’re looking at, this could be really fun for you [too].”—Julie Harans
Grand Award winner the Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va., has appointed cellar master Lindsey Fern as its new wine director. A member of the team since 2014, Fern takes over from longtime wine director Bill Harris. She now oversees the 2,400-selection wine list that’s held the Grand Award since 1995 and shows strengths in California, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Italy, Germany, Oregon and other top regions.
Though Fern has plans to expand the list’s offerings to include more selections from South America and local Virginian producers, she notes a dedication to honoring the history of the list. “There is no one person or sommelier that can take credit for our wine list; it’s 43 years in the making,” Fern told Wine Spectator. “I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to contribute to our magnificent wine list. I want to continue to uphold the integrity of what we offer our guests and my contribution will be to add wines that move me and that I feel can elevate the guest experience.”
For her, taking on the position was a lifetime in the making; she recalls falling in love with the world of fine dining from an early age. “I loved the whole experience; getting dressed up, valeting our car, being served beautiful food that I had never heard of,” she recalled. “The energy of it all was captivating. [Chef-owner Patrick O'Connell’s] goal is to create a transformative experience for each guest when they visit the inn. I feel a deep connection to that philosophy and truly felt like I had found my home when I came to work at the inn.”
O’Connell echoed that philosophy in a statement. “We like to create special moments that you can’t find anywhere else—a perfect surprise around every turn,” he said. “Lindsey’s passion for this approach to hospitality will certainly translate even more into our list; I can’t wait to see what she brings to the table.”
Fern will also oversee the wine program for O’Connell’s upcoming venture, Patty O’s Café. Slated to open this fall, the café and bakery will be a casual outpost near the inn, offering simple American dishes and some of O’Connell’s classic creations. Fern says the list will be smaller and more accessible, with about 30 selections available by the glass or by the bottle. Guests can expect wine dinners and a focus on local bottlings as well as lesser-known growing regions.—Taylor McBride
Chefs Jake Leiber and Aidan O’Neal and restaurateur Jon Neidich, the team behind Award of Excellence winner Le Crocodile, opened Bar Blondeau on July 30. Like its sibling restaurant, the French-style bar is located at Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn, N.Y. “It's our most thoughtful and focused project we've done to date,” Leiber told Wine Spectator via email. “We've had the time to make the right decisions to open something we feel very excited and confident about.”
Le Crocodile sommelier Rafa García Febles has put together a 45-label wine program focused mainly on French regions, with additional picks from California, Italy, Spain, Germany and Hungary. There are several natural wines to choose from, along with orange wines and pét-nats. Febles looks to spotlight overlooked regions, as well as new frontiers that might inspire conversation; the diverse by-the-glass selection includes blueberry sparkling wine from Maine and a Grüner Veltliner–Vidal Blanc blend from Maryland. “[The] wine program is fun, approachable and designed to offer pleasant surprises,” said Febles, “If someone comes in and wants a beautiful white Burgundy, or a crisp rosé, we will happily pour it for them–and if they want to try something a little off the beaten path, we're here for them too.”
Leiber and O’Neal’s seafood-focused menu is a playful spin on familiar hotel bar fare. Influenced by French, Spanish and Portuguese cuisines, it’s based on sustainably sourced, seasonal ingredients. Diners can enjoy small plates like oysters with apple and ginger, salmon rillettes, lobster salad with basil, and leeks with miso and pine nuts. “Bar Blondeau is rooted in French cuisine, but we're not afraid to color outside of the box,” Leiber said. “We ultimately want to offer the most fun bar menu we can, and we're going to add dishes we want to eat when we're drinking a martini at the bar.”
Leiber and O’Neal started planning Bar Blondeau in December 2021, knowing they wanted to open a bar to complement Le Crocodile. While Le Crocodile is a brasserie-style restaurant in a garden setting, Bar Blondeau is located on the hotel’s sixth floor and offers picturesque views of Manhattan through floor-to-ceiling windows. The space has been designed by architectural group Bonetti/Kozerski with oak walls, gold-tinted lighting and a marble-top bar. A plant-lined space for outdoor seating is also available. “We wanted to pull from that Old World hotel vibe, and also lean a bit into the vibe of a Parisian wine bar,” Leiber said. “And of course, the view from the kitchen is great. We get to watch the sunset every night.”—Collin Dreizen
Himmel Hospitality Group, which owns several Restaurant Award winners including Grand Award winner Grill 23 & Bar, opened the Banks Fish House in Boston late last month. It’s an inspired venture between the group’s owner, Chris Himmel, and chef-partner Robert Sisca, who are both fishermen.
“As a kid born and raised in the coastal town of Marblehead, Mass., I have always been imprinted with a love of fishing, seafood and the open water,” Himmel told Wine Spectator via email. “We pay homage to the fishing traditions found off New England’s coast, and our fish house is a celebration of those fishermen’s life work and the camaraderie of their lives at sea.”
Chef Sicca offers a wide variety of seafood such as lobster, oysters, scallops, halibut, razor clams, uni and Dover sole. Naturally, New England favorites like clam chowder, lobster rolls and fried clams are available as well. The extensive menu offers a range of dining experiences, from casual lunches of tuna tartare or a bagel and lox to special-occasion dinners with caviar and seafood towers.
More than 150 wines are available by the bottle, and 24 are available by the glass—a relatively focused selection compared to Grill 23’s 2,000-label program. “The shortened list means that each bottle listed has a purpose for being there,” beverage manager Jason Percival said. “We only list about half of our inventory, so it has quick turnover, and features a dozen new additions from week to week, which keeps the list fresh and new for our regular guests.”
Wines are listed by style instead of geographic location, presented under headings such as “crisp, clean, refreshing,” “rich and full,” and “savory and smooth.” Percival notes that the wines listed under the “dry and minerally” heading pair particularly well with the lengthy raw bar menu. There are also large-format selections of Champagne, Chablis, Loire whites and both white and red Burgundy.
Looking ahead, Himmel and Sicca are planning to extend the restaurant operations from five to seven days a week and expand the menu to offer brunch.—Jessie Lauck
Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at @WSRestoAwards and on Instagram at @wsrestaurantawards.