Last year, when Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Eleven Madison Park closed for a three-month renovation, owners Will Guidara and Daniel Humm wanted a way to keep their staff employed. Their solution: EMP Summer House, a seasonal pop-up restaurant in East Hampton, N.Y. The Long Island outpost will return this year on May 25, with reservations opening up May 1 (this is a partnership with American Express; an AmEx card is required to make a reservation).
"We're taking that same precision that we have at EMP … instead of wearing suits, we're wearing slacks and button-down shirts," said Eleven Madison Park wine director Cedric Nicaise. While there were around 250 selections on last year's wine list, this year will jump up to 400, with a focus on white Burgundy, Syrah and Pinot Noir.
"Vintage depth is one thing, when you look at restaurants in the Hamptons, that's not totally there," said Nicaise. "So we're definitely offering that in a number of different categories." The list features a range of blue-chip selections, such as a vertical of Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon dating back to 1990.
Come December, New York won't be the only place to experience Eleven Madison Park: Humm and Guidara's Make It Nice restaurant group and American Express recently announced plans to open an EMP Winter House in Aspen, Colo. Stay tuned for details in the coming months.—L.W.
Two months after the opening of Pronto by Giada in Las Vegas, prolific celebrity chef Giada de Laurentiis, owner of Best of Award of Excellence winner Giada, is gearing up to open her third restaurant May 22: GDL Italian by Giada in Baltimore's Horseshoe Casino.
"It's sort of like a trattoria-style Italian restaurant, which I've never done before," she told Wine Spectator. "You know, I have a fine-dining restaurant, Giada, and I also have a quick-serve, Pronto by Giada, so for this one, I wanted to do something different, something in between."
Similar to Giada in Las Vegas, the Baltimore restaurant will focus on wines from California and Italy, highlighting prominent regions like Napa, Tuscany and Piedmont, as well as lesser-known ones such as Lodi and Puglia. But unlike her flagship, it will also feature selections from New Zealand, Oregon and France—namely Champagne and Provence—as well as an extensive by-the-glass list. Nathan Templeton, Horseshoe Casino's wine curator, helped design the program.
The cuisine will be a combination of de Laurentiis' California-Italian fusion and new menu items designed specifically with Baltimore in mind. "For instance, we did sort of a crab arancino with an Old Bay mayonnaise and pomodoro sauce … sort of giving homage to where we are in Maryland," she said.—L.W.
Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar is chef Charlie Palmer's swanky downtown Napa restaurant and lounge located on top of the new Archer Hotel, five flights up from Charlie Palmer Steak Napa (a concept that has four Restaurant Award winners). The rooftop bar has panoramic views, comfortable seats, fire pits and a "reverse" happy hour from 9 p.m. until close, making it easy to linger.
The wine list is a tidy group of about 100 selections, with 20 offerings by the glass and wines in cans. It strikes a balance between local and international bottlings, the majority priced at $75 or less, from producers like Lang & Reed, Bisci and Olivier Leflaive.
On "Brown Bag Wednesdays," a bottle of wine is served blind for guests to guess the variety, vintage and vintner. One out of three correct guesses gets 10 percent off the bottle, two means 50 percent off, and if all three are guessed correctly, the bottle will cost just $1.—M.W.
City Winery, which has four Restaurant Award–winning locations, is opening its largest location to date in Washington, D.C., next month. The 42,000-square-foot space will have four floors, including a 150-seat restaurant, concert venue, and onsite winery managed by winemaker Pascal Valadier of Oregon's Flying Rooster. The opening of the entire space is planned for late May.
"We're really excited about working with some of our favorite producers, but also to bring in some new stuff that is really doing well in the market here," national wine director Rachel Driver Speckan told Wine Spectator. The 460-selection list, overseen by wine director Vanessa Phillips, will be similar to other City Winery locations, with some tailoring to local tastes. City Winery's core food menu items will be available, as well as signature dishes by chef Brandon Ingenito.—J.H.
Chef José Andrés, whose Think Food Group includes 14 Restaurant Award winners, is known for allying his culinary empire with his humanitarian efforts. At his newest restaurant concept, Fish by José Andrés, the signature dish comes with an environmental mission.
The restaurant opened this month in the Cove at Atlantis, a luxury resort in the Bahamas. It aims to protect the ocean through sustainably sourced seafood. Notably, it serves lionfish, an invasive species in the Atlantic Ocean that has no known predators there and is a voracious eater of the native fish and crustaceans, thereby throwing off the ocean's fragile ecological balance. The hope is that serving the venomous fish, which is safe to eat with its spines removed, will decrease its population.
Wine director Andy Myers created a 96-selection list inspired by regions known for their seafood, such as Spain and California.—J.H.
David Chang's Best of Award of Excellence winner Momofuku Ko in New York City now has a bar room offering à la carte dishes. It will serve as a testing ground for chef Sean Gray's high-end tasting menu. The handwritten menu shows the day-to-day evolution of the dishes, some of which might later be included on the tasting menu. Two to three by-the-glass wine specials are offered each day. Guests can still enjoy wine director Ambrose Chiang's 785-selection list, which has strengths in Burgundy, California, Italy and Champagne.—J.H.
The Palm Chicago reopened April 16 after a remodeling and menu revamp that started in January. The Award of Excellence winner now has a more modern, open layout with new art installations and a temperature-controlled, glass-enclosed wine room that stores more than 2,500 bottles.
While there are no major changes to the wine list, general manager Phil Jahnketo says the new food menu reflects shifts in their customers' tastes, such as opting for vegetables instead of starches. New dishes include jumbo crab over grilled romaine with charred-lemon vinaigrette and a 35-day aged rib eye served with grilled broccolini.—J.H.