Now an official New York City landmark, the forty-seven-story Waldorf Astoria is a legendary hotel, having been the first to offer room service and the notorious Waldorf Salad - a mix of lettuce, apples, walnuts and celery.
Constructing a corridor to link adjacent buildings, cousins from the distinguished Astor family fused compatible ideas and founded the Waldorf Astoria in the late nineteenth century. In 1929, they sold their original location to the developers of the Empire State Building and moved to Park Avenue. Different owners and designers have made alterations to the hotel over time, but to this day, it has loyally and consistently stood for the epitome of luxury. In the course of its long history, the Waldorf Astoria has hosted a grand range of celebrity guests, including Marilyn Monroe, Ella Fitzgerald, and Cole Porter, as well as every American president dating back to Herbert Hoover.
This historic hotel was built in 1926 and has seen everyone from Tallulah Bankhead to Joe DiMaggio pass through its doors. After World War II, it was redesigned to allow each room to be unique, and suites were named after their famous occupants. Marlon Brando called Sayonara Suite home; Tennessee Williams lived - and died - in the infamous Sunset Suite. Today, customers can enjoy the lavish rooms and eclectic history of the hotel, and dine at the Monkey Bar, located just next door.
Pod 51 offers an experience unlike most New York hotels. Rather than merely serving a necessary function, the hotel is a destination in itself thanks to its conceptually fresh architecture, stylish decor, and excellent dining options.The philosophy behind the hotel's design - small is beautiful - finds its roots in the Japanese tradition of capsule hotels. The Pod (and its sibling, the Pod 39) offers lodging that ranges from the "bunk pod," a tiny but appealing room equipped with bunk beds, to the "studio pod," a more expansive space, all for relatively affordable prices. Despite the low square footage, the rooms never feel cramped, thanks to bright colors, creative furniture (a hanging chair, window side counters instead of a table), and an economical use of space.The hotel offers a beautiful rooftop, replete with candy-colored deck chairs and a bar. Their cafe has outdoor seating in a lovely, unexpected bamboo garden. Finally, Pop@Pod, the result of collaboration between the hotel and Pop Burger, sits adjacent to the hotel.
What has become an iconic symbol of East Side elegance began as a row of townhouses. In 1882, Henry Villard, a successful German businessman, appointed the McKim, Mead, and White architectural firm to construct six private brownstones around a courtyard. The houses were modeled after the sixteenth century Palazzo della Cancelleria, thought to be the oldest Renaissance palace in Rome.Move forward almost one hundred years to the spring of 1974 when Harry Helmsley – a top real estate investor and broker – built a fifty-five-story hotel on the site of the Villard Houses. The Helmsley Palace Hotel opened in 1981 and was run by Helmsley's wife, Leona. Dubbed the "Hotel Queen" (or, alternatively, the "Queen of Mean") Leona was known for her quick temper and, later, for her criminal activity. In a massive scandal, the couple was indicted for evading more than $4 million in income taxes and for the misappropriation of hotel funds. Yet, through all this controversy, the Palace has remained a New York City icon.With a stunning exterior that is brightly illuminated at night, the 899-room hotel is just as beautiful on the inside. The palatial lobby boasts the famed Grand Staircase, a decadent chandelier, high ceilings, and intricate columns.
Together with its restaurant, Tenpenny, the hotel continues a level of intimacy, with a limited number of rooms per floor. The building is shaped like a sail with a curved front, allowing guests a unique perspective on the street below. The real strength of the Gotham lies in its details. Every room has a full glass corner window allowing for a panoramic view of Manhattan. In addition to either the private terraces or balconies in each of these rooms, they also have their own distinctive shelf of books bought from the Gotham Book Mart - a New York institution that lived in the vacinity from 1920 until it closed its doors in 2007. Books are available for guests to purchase, and the hotel restocks each room with new volumes on a regular basis.
Opened in 1992 and originally located on the Upper East Side, Oceana moved to 49th Street in 2009. The Livanos family sowed the seeds for the glorious Oceana long ago when they ran a diner and realized their ambitions to develop it into something more. Having worked hard to make their dreams a reality, Oceana continues to pride itself on the freshness of its food and makes a point to have direct relationships with the fish mongers and farmers. Although some have called Oceana the Mecca of seafood, the restaurant's menu is notably diverse. The executive chef, Ben Pollinger, takes to the broad reaches of American cuisine and mixes elements of different dishes together, often in an unexpected way. The Manhattan Sideways team eagerly sampled a few of the marvelous dishes, including the Copper River Sockeye Salmon Crudo, featuring pickled ramps, parsley oil, and Amagansett sea salt, and the Sea Scallops Ceviche that is topped with peaches, ginger, and cinnamon basil. I was pleasantly surprised by the incredible vegetarian dish that the chef also prepared - Summer Squash & Cranberry Bean Salad, consisting of zucchini, gold bar and pattypan squash, pignoli, purslane and drizzled in lemon vinaigrette. Absolutely delicious.The last member of the Oceana team that we were introduced to was their wine director, Pedro Goncalves. Pedro, who began working at Oceana in 2001, makes a concerted effort to develop drink pairings to accompany the delectable food menu. Standing near the white marble bar, he proudly told us that Oceana has 1100 wine listings and 600 spirits. He went on to report that with forty-seven different gins, Oceana has one of the largest selections of in the city. "There is something to fit every personality," Pedro said.
La Maison du Chocolat is a sophisticated example of a delectable chocolate shop. Everything sold inside its doors is made in Paris, with the exception of the ice cream that includes ingredients from France but is prepared on site. The day that Manhattan Sideways stopped by, we met Brigitte who has been working here since 2010. A knowledgeable chocolate connoisseur, Brigitte shared La Maison's history. We learned that Robert Linxe, the founder was originally from the French Basque Country, but acquired much of his craft while attending school in Switzerland. He went on to run a successful catering service in Paris for twenty years before deciding to pursue his true passion. At the time, chocolate was considered something to be saved strictly for special occasions; as Brigitte told us, people thought Linxe's enthusiasm for a shop devoted to chocolate was "crazy." Nevertheless, Linxe was able to find an auspicious space in Paris with a wine cellar, which he used to make the delicacies and protect them from the damaging effects of the weather. In 1977, Linxe opened the doors and welcomed Paris to his specialty boutique. Within three weeks, all of the chocolate had been sold and Linxe was dubbed the master of ganache. And in 1996, over twenty years later, Nicolas Cloiseau, the highly acclaimed chocolatier and pastry chef joined the business continuing La Maison's coveted reputation.Brigitte stressed that the discussion of chocolate is akin to that of wine; expertise comes from reading on the subject, perhaps taking a course, and most importantly, much experience. Moreover, chocolate and wine may be enjoyed together when paired consciously. Chocolate always goes well with "a nice red wine," Brigitte said. Quickly turning to the particulars, she added that milk chocolate is best paired with white wine and dark chocolate with port. Brigitte continued to enlighten us, saying with detectable fervor, "Good dark chocolate should not be bitter." It takes approximately ten days to dry cocoa beans. Rushing this process, a common crime of many chocolate companies, results in this bitter taste.Brigitte made a point of showing us how to taste chocolate: smell it first and then let it melt in your mouth. After this incredible offering of chocolate wisdom, Brigitte presented us with a plate of small pieces of chocolate arranged deliberately in a circle. Beginning at forty percent, each successive piece around the circle had an increased concentration of pure chocolate. We continued to climb past eighty and concluded with a piece of one hundred percent pure chocolate. At this point, a natural thickness set in and the pieces lost all association with candy. Suddenly, each of us agreed, it felt as though we were appreciating chocolate, not as a beloved dessert or comforting treat, but as a wonder of the earth.