At 25 years old, Laura Maniec was named Wine and Spirits director for the BR Guest restaurant group. After earning her master sommelier designation (which made her the world's youngest female sommelier—one of only eighteen women to have received this accreditation at the time), she was ready to retire. Retirement, for Laura, meant starting her own wine bar/classroom/event space last year, and moving from Brooklyn to Gramercy, just a few blocks away from Corkbuzz. We worried the busy gal might have too much on her plate to make time to explore the bounty of the neighborhood (and feed herself properly), but she assured us that she's doing her part to eat and sip her way around her new home.
Burger: When I used to work for BR Guest, my whole office team would always get Shake Shack; we'd send our intern to Madison Square Park to wait in line. Now, I usually head there on my way back from Bikram yoga and get a double Shackburger on my way home, sometimes with fries. I catch up on email while I'm waiting.
Coffee: I go to Joe's every day, sometimes twice a day. I'm so thankful it is two doors down from us. I get the house coffee with splash of milk and brown sugar. Sometimes I get a scone—they're really good. They have a blue cheese one, and I love the thyme and apricot scone.
Sandwich: Num Pang is so good. I hope not a lot of people learn about it—I don't want the lines to get longer. Usually someone from the sommelier team goes out to get everyone sandwiches, and we get a bunch to split, typically the pulled Duroc pork and peppercorn catfish sandwich, and eat at the Corkbuzz bar.
Bagel: I used to go to Ess-A-Bagel a lot when I was running; I'd get a bagel after a long run, and eat it at home before I showered. They don't let you toast bagels there, but they're warm and fresh. I get an everything, scooped out, with veggie cream cheese.
Breakfast: I love Organic Avenue. I get an E3 booster shot—it gives you good energy—and they have the best pear juice. Sometimes I also go to Valentino Market for my whole wheat egg white wrap with honey-roasted turkey and American cheese.
Dive bar: I go to Park Bar for gin and tonics after work sometimes. It's kind of an industry place, filled with bartenders, servers, chefs. I always see someone I know.
Cocktail bar: Flatiron Lounge does great cocktails. I love this cocktail called La Cola Nostra. It's dark rum, light rum, and Averna, which is what I grew up with when I was just starting in a restaurant at a young age—my grandparents would give it to us. The Averna lends a bitter, spicy, earthiness that cuts through the sweetness of the rum. Unlike other cocktail bars which will remain nameless, you don't have to wait 40 minutes for a drink there, even though they definitely take their ingredients and craft seriously, and it's busy all the time. I go after work or on a night off, or sometimes on a date night.
Wine list: They have an amazing wine list at Craftbar, and I don't think people realize it. I love the back vintages of German and Austrian wine, and the pricing is fantastic. It's really fun to go with my sommelier and get an older bottle of German Riesling, like a 2001 or 2002 that's really showing some development.
Healthy and seasonal: I like everything on that menu at ABC Kitchen, it's all delicious. It's simple, not fussy, Greenmarket-inspired food, just like how we like to cook at Corkbuzz. Our team goes there, and their team comes here too; we really love them. I get the heirloom bean salad, roasted Kombucha squash toast, and spaghetti. There's always something cool and interesting on their wine list. The last few times I was there, I had different bottles of Beaujolais. It goes really well with their earthier, fall food that's in season right now [at time of this interview—ed.], and it's simple and really flavorful, with a great value.
Tacos: I like Dos Toros Taqueria. I go for dinner, or sometimes lunch in the middle of the day on Friday when I want a taco and a beer. I get the carne asada taco and a Tecate in a can, which is my favorite inexpensive beer.
Late-night eats: It's not super-late (around 10 or 10:30), but I love going to Gramercy Tavern after work for delicious cheese and a glass of Gahier Chardonnay 2007, Jura. All their wine by the glass is amazing; they have interesting, off-the-beaten-path choices, and classic picks. Their beer program is wonderful too: it's a big list with great vintage beers. Sometimes I go for inspiration to see what we're missing. It's a New York City institution run by one of the best restaurateurs in the city, so I want to see if we've missed something. I always sit at the bar and let them pick cheese for me.
Date night: Dell'anima is a perfect date night place. My good friend Joe [Campanale] owns it, and when he's there it's even better, but everyone on staff is great. I always get a green salad and try their pastas because they're really good. I love the Tajarin Alla Carbonara, which has speck, egg, scallions, and pecorino, washed down with a delicious glass of Movia Ribolla Gialla. They have a lot of orange wines there, so I'll get their more out-there, golden-orange wines. It's kind of fall's answer to rose.
Can't-miss neighborhood spot: 15 East is my favorite sushi place. It's been there for quite awhile, but it's somewhat underappreciated. The last time I was there, I went with a bunch of sommelier friends who were in from California. I usually sit at the sushi bar. I go for the Omakase menu, and anything that Roger or Miromi is pouring. I usually like to ask Miromi to pour me wine blind. Sometimes at sushi bars the wine is an afterthought, but it's not just sake that goes with sushi.
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