Glorious Eats: Food Boats in New York City

Water Table New York

image via The Water Table

I’m a sucker for novelty alfresco dining. Delicious food served in an out-of-the-ordinary outdoor setting? I’ll buy that ticket. This summer, the waterways around Manhattan have some of the hottest seats in the city. Here are some of my favorite boats-turned-restaurants to try before the fall:

Grand Banks Oyster Bar

Grand Banks
Docked at: Pier 25 Hudson River Park

New this summer, Grand Banks serves sustainably sourced oysters, seasonal small plates like red snapper ceviche, fluke crudo and fried squash blossoms, cocktails and wine aboard the historic F/V Sherman Zwicker, the last of a fleet of schooners that fished the Grand Banks of the North Atlantic (read more about the boat’s fascinating history here). Tables are first come, first served and, if you like what you see, the boat is available for a limited number of private events.

The Water Table lobster roll

The Water Table 
Sailing from: Skyport Marina (23rd Street & FDR Drive)

Cruise around New York Harbor aboard a repurposed Yard Patrol Boat built for the U.S. Navy in 1944. The three-course, New England-inspired menu served on Saturdays and Sundays runs $75 and includes chilled cucumber soup, a Maine lobster roll and an ice cream float, while Sunday’s $50 menu stars lobster mac and cheese. Cocktails and craft beer are also available for purchase and reservations are required.

North River Lobster Company Opening at Pier 81

North River Lobster Company 
Sailing from: Pier 81 (W. 41st Street & West Side Highway)

Also new this summer is North River Lobster Company which specializes in, you guessed it, lobster in all forms. They also serve other seafood like shrimp po’boys and fish tacos, and have a raw bar offering. The boat goes out for a 30 minute sail every half hour (check the sailing schedule here). Beer and wine are also available and seating is first come, first served.

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Glorious Getaway: The Graham & Co.

Graham & Co

I’ve always got my ear to the ground for weekend getaways within a few hours of New York City and, after a friend raved about her recent visit to Graham & Co. this 20-room boutique hotel has just moved to the top of the list. It’s in the Catskills, which means easy access to nearby hiking trails and swimming holes in the summer, and Hunter Mountain for skiing in the winter. They offer free bikes for exploring the town of Phoenicia’s Main Street and it’s a short drive to the region’s other charming towns like Woodstock.

Graham & Co movie

There’s lots to keep guests busy at the hotel, too. During the summer they host family-friendly movie nights under the stars. There’s a badminton court, hammocks for relaxing in and the pool, which is fed by an artesian spring on the property.

Graham & Co room

Graham & Co room

Each room is decorated with little knick-knacks hand-picked from local shops, plus Tivoli radios in all and kitchenettes in some. And breakfast is offered on weekends. Note: they get booked up way ahead of time, so be sure to reserve early.

Graham & Co

Graham & Co breakfast

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All photos via Graham & Co. 

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National Treasures: Bittermilk

Bittermilk

I look forward to Garden & Gun magazine’s Made in the South Awards every year. They do a fantastic job of uncovering some of the best craftsmanship in the south. This year, they highlighted Charleston-based Bittermilk, a company founded by Gin Joint proprietors Joe and MariElena Raya that creates a line of three hand-crafted cocktail mixers: a smoked honey whiskey sour mix, Tom Collins with Elderflowers and hops and, my personal favorite, the mix for a bourbon barrel aged Old Fashioned. Just add the booze and you’re in business. At $15, they’re now my go-to, affordable hostess gift for drink lovers. Or, for a bigger gift, pair with these copper cocktail glasses, handmade in Austin, Texas by Sertodo Copper.

Sertodo Copper cups

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Glorious Check-in: Castle Hill Inn, Newport

Castle Hill Inn

A few weekends ago, we packed our bags for Newport, Rhode Island and an overnight at the Castle Hill Inn. Originally constructed as a shingle-style summer home of noted marine biologist Alexander Agassiz in 1874, the house evolved over the years, first becoming Naval officers housing during World War II, then a summer hotel and finally a year-round destination that joined the prestigious Relais & Chateau group in 2008. Like most hotels in this group, the service is top notch and the place full of charm. 

View from the lawn at Castle Hill Inn

Even if you aren’t a guest here, the hotel’s Lawn restaurant should be on your list of places to visit. Because of its position on the peninsula at the entrance of Narragansett Bay, the hotel offers a perfect view of the East Passage and the Atlantic, and the spectacular yachts that sail by. We brought a backgammon board, and parked in a pair of their Adirondack chairs, ordered a couple of rum punches and had a spectacular shot of the sunset, right into the water.

Also worth a trip: The Lawn’s Jazz Brunch, which takes place every Sunday between Memorial Day and Columbus Day.

Harbor Houses Castle HIll Inn

We stayed in the hotel’s Harbor House rooms, cozy little spaces with small fireplaces and porches overlooking the water. Just in front of the rooms are steps down to Grace Kelly Beach, a rocky little enclave named for the actress who made Castle Hill her home while filming High Society in Newport in 1956.

Bike riding Newport

One of the best things we did during the weekend was take advantage of the hotel’s free bike rentals and go for a ride along Ocean Drive along the southern coastline of Aquidneck Island. The rolling hills were fairly easy to navigate and, since Newport is known for its Gilded Age mansions, there is plenty in the way of gorgeous real estate to ogle along the way.

Frozen lemonade Brenton Point State Park

On our way back to Castle Hill, we stopped for a frozen lemonade along the seawall in Brenton Point State Park, easy to find from a distance as the excellent breeze coming off the water make it a popular spot for kite flying (there’s even a kite festival here every July).

Lighthouse at the Castle Hill Inn

Before heading back to our room to change for dinner, we also popped by the little lighthouse on Castle Hill’s point, built in 1890 by American architect H.H. Richardson. In addition to serving as a beacon for ships navigating Narragansett Bay, the lighthouse has also acted as the starting and finish line for many of Newport’s famous yacht races.

The Breakers in Newport

The next day we headed for The Breakers, one the Vanderbilt Family’s summer retreats and probably the grandest of Newport’s mansions. As we toured the rooms bedecked with tapestries, marble and frescos, listening to tales of the Gilded Age’s high society I kept thinking that this home and the family who inhabited it are basically the American version of the Crawleys from Downtown Abbey. Funnily enough, they used to refer to these homes as “cottages” (hardly!). I’d love to return during Newport’s Music Festival, when classical pieces are performed in the halls and on the lawns of these great homes.

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