You may be familiar with wines organized by red, white or rosé — but what about bottles categorized as “Old Pals”, “Good Fellas”, or “BFFS” ? Welcome to Veritas Studio Wines, a small-but-mighty independent wine shop on a quiet block of W45th Street where you can embrace unexpected and unique flavors at affordable prices.
The creative mind behind Veritas and its unique offerings is none other than longtime New Yorker Jeremy Kaplan, whose career began in marketing for Madison Square Garden. After years of working on campaigns for the Knicks and Rangers, Jeremy decided to pursue a lifelong interest in wine by jumping directly into the heart of the city’s hospitality industry.
“I had a friend in the wine industry tell me that to get my foot in the door, I needed to work at the best restaurant I could,” said Jeremy. “At the time, the best restaurant I had worked for was Friendly’s!” he laughed. “Fast forward to 2008, I got the opportunity to work in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Tribeca called Bouley — for a year and a half or so, I worked for free, shadowing the sommelier,” he said. “Eventually, I just started being a ‘som’ — that was my first time tasting everything. You taste everything you open,” he noted. “I’d taste, I'd say, between 25 and 40 wines per shift, and probably 1500 to 2000 wines total in my time there. It was like going to a museum and being able to see the great pieces of art.”
Having learned the ins and outs of fine dining, “white tablecloth” wines, Jeremy moved to the West Village’s late Bar Blanc, where he helped develop their beverage program to much critical acclaim. “I was very proud [of Bar Blanc], because the wine list got noticed in the Times and in New York Magazine,” said Jeremy. While he doesn’t hold an official sommelier certification, “I am blessed with a palate that allows me to taste a wine and say, ‘I think people would like this.’”
It was his innately intuitive palate that caught the attention of an investor —who in 2014 asked Jeremy to open up a new shop in what was previously a commercial studio space known as Veritas Studios (also known as the place where the famous “Mikey Likes It” commercial was filmed, Jeremy told us). Running Veritas gave Jeremy the opportunity to build his own wide-ranging program of wines — and to make them accessible to everyone from novices to seasoned vino vets. “Our categories are about using language that people are familiar with, making people feel comfortable — certainly embracing anybody who walks through the door,” said Jeremy. “We seem to do well with people who are curious — who are willing to take a risk on something they've never heard of.”
More than anything, he looks forward to guiding patrons through their own wine education, he told us. “I'm involved with our customers’ most important decision of the day,” said Jeremy. “They’re picking the wine that they're going to go home with to accompany their dinner, the wine that they're going to use to smooth things over with their spouse, the wine that they're going to go celebrate with — or maybe bury their sorrows in,” he added. “This is the last stop many people make before they go home — and it's a nice thing.”
Paul Stuart's flagship location commands the southwest corner of Madison Avenue, a 60, 000 square foot retail space dedicated to fine menswear. Established in 1938 by haberdasher Ralph Ostrove - and named after his son - Paul Stuart is committed to revitalizing and updating the classic American style. Continuing on with the family tradition, CEO, Michael Ostrove, explains that Paul Stuart is "an American interpretation of its Anglo roots, " those that stretch to London's famous Savile Row.
Beer Culture opened in the summer of 2013, offering beer, cider, whiskey, and bottled sodas. Customers can come in to pick up a bottle – or growler - of beer to take home, or grab a seat at the bar to chat with the friendly staff while noshing on some charcuterie. The record player behind the bar is usually going and if the owner, Matt Gebhard, and bar manager, Peter Malfatti, are around, they are bound to strike up a conversation and offer to guide patrons through their extensive beer selection. The beers are organized by region. The first door of their huge, glass-front fridge is full of beers from New York State, while the second is full of east coast beers, and the third and fourth is full of central and west coast beers. A bit further back into the room is their international fridge, proudly boasting selections from the UK, France, and three shelves worth of Belgian beers. For patrons who just want a nice, cold, familiar beer, grandpa's fridge is the place to go. Customers often mistake the old Kelvinator across from the bar as a prop and are always surprised when they open it up and realize that it works and that they recognize all of the brands inside of it. Matt included grandpa's fridge because he thinks that there is a place for all beers (except lite ones, which are not sold on the Beer Culture premises) and that some brands hold emotional value for customers. True to its name, the beers in the old Kelvinator are those that Matt had seen in his own grandfather's fridge growing up. Matt's first true exposure to beer and its culture was during a year he spent studying abroad in Belgium. When he came back home to upstate NY, Matt was nineteen and decided to pursue his newfound passion by working in a local Belgian brewery. He remained here for a few years until he met Peter, his future bar manager, who was living in Rochester, NY. Before opening their own place, Matt came to Manhattan and worked in a Belgian bar in Midtown. Although he enjoyed it, Matt told us that he wanted to do things his own way and fulfill his vision of what a bar should be. The bar that these two terrific guys opened is one that is dedicated to the simple, comfortable and unpretentious beverage that they adore. Nestled between Eighth and Ninth Avenue in a residential part of 45th Street, Beer Culture, is a hybrid bar and bottle shop offering its customers over 500 different types of beer. Although at the time of this write-up, Beer Culture had been around for less than a year, both Matt and Peter already feel like part of the block. As Matt stated, "We pride ourselves in being an establishment of beer nerds, not beer snobs. "
After eleven years in her Noho location, Executive Chef and Food Network star Alex Guarnaschelli opened Butter in the Cassa Hotel, a Midtown twin to her well-known restaurant. Shaped by Guarnaschelli's own travels and time spent working abroad, the attractive dark wood restaurant with comfortable booth seating, is American but with the requisite global touches and ingredients expected of fine dining. When Chef Guarnaschelli isn't filming, she is in the kitchen, on the line, adding her fine touch into every aspect of the cooking. As members of her staff shared with us, Alex is dedicated to bringing fresh and simple ingredients together in beautifully crafted dishes. On a rare and special night out with just my husband and daughter, I could not pass up the opportunity to bring my butter-loving girl to this dining experience. Since she has always considered the dairy treat to be its own food group, I had the highest hopes for the meal - particularly the bread basket - which did not disappoint. The warm Pullman-style rolls with the house-made butters (a plain with a hint of sour cream for richness, and an herb that was light and lovely) were out of this world. All three of us agreed we could leave satisfied just from that - and a spicy cocktail, of course (the Ghost Margarita) But we powered ahead sharing the burrata salad. The creamy burrata with garden-fresh tomatoes was divine and the ribeye steaks that my husband and daughter ordered were cooked perfectly and sat atop smashed purple potatoes. And, as a vegetarian, I always keep an eye out for restaurants working to develop unique, hearty main courses. The charred coconut milk-soaked cauliflower was much appreciated. We finished things off, in case one thought we had already indulged ourselves sufficiently, with the raspberry beignets accompanied by a vanilla dipping sauce. If the name of this restaurant alone does not have one's mouth watering, I am sure that it is now!