A luxury hotel in the Garden State that’s sure to delight foodies and art lovers
As a native of New York, why am I so enamored with Montclair, New Jersey? Let me count the ways. Just 30 minutes from Manhattan via frequent NJ Transit trains, Montclair is dotted with a necklace of parks and gardens dotted with leafy paths, dotted with colorful flowers and ancient trees, and dotted with numerous bodies of water. An energetic and creative vibe runs through this city which hosts the Montclair Film Festival each October, is home to the newly renovated arthouse, Clairidge Cinemas, and showcases avant-garde and other contemporary works at the Montclair Art Museum. . It’s a pleasure to explore the Saturday morning farmer’s market with its abundance of produce from nearby farms including Japanese sweet potatoes, watermelon radishes, Russian banana fry, and over half a dozen different kinds. hot peppers (such as Thai dragon peppers and fatalii peppers). As a foodie, I find it difficult to choose from the cornucopia of cuisines served in the restaurants of Montclair, from Ethiopian to French to Brazilian.
And now I have a reason not to just visit Montclair for the day, but rather to stay there for a while, thanks to the recently opened MC Hotel.
This contemporary and sunny luxury property is a short walk from Walnut Street Station and is centrally located on bustling Bloomfield Avenue. (It’s also about a block from the Montclair Art Museum, a favorite cultural hub.)
But it’s not the location that sets the MC Hotel apart and makes me fall in love with it. No, it’s the hotel’s adherence to an ethic that revolves around local sourcing, whether it’s the art that adorns the walls of public spaces that resemble a sort of gallery; or the food and drinks on offer at Alto, the ninth-floor rooftop bar and lounge that offers sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline; or take-out items sold at the market, an open-plan space linked to the café-bar and the Allegory, the hotel restaurant focused on locavore and serving Mediterranean cuisine. In fact, the origin of some ingredients couldn’t be closer to the source, aka the hotel’s rooftop vegetable garden that grows everything from lavender and rosemary to pineapple mint and orange thyme. The pizzas are topped with local basil, pineapple mint is a mojito topping, tricolor sage is added to salads, and Mexican mint is part of a taco recipe.
The majority of hotel salespeople live or work in and around Montclair. And the artists were Montclairiens, live nearby or were inspired by the green surroundings of Montclair. This is what intimately connects the MC Hotel to Montclair and neighboring New Jersey communities. As a result, guests can experience the flavors and cultural aesthetic of the surrounding neighborhoods even if they are not traveling far from the hotel.
Local food and beverage manufacturers –
Federica Heiman, owner of Dolce Federica, is an artisan chocolatier who lives in Montclair. Using Belgian and French chocolate, Heiman handcraft delicious creations that reference her Italian heritage – she grew up in northern Italy – whether it’s flavors like limoncello or ingredients. such as hazelnuts, which grow in abundance in northern Italy. “For the MC Hotel, I like to offer them inventive, modern and refined designs but with flavors that are neither too cliché nor too foreign,” says Federica.
She changes things up a bit when she designs each of her collections, including seasonal variations. In The Market, you will find two of its dark chocolate bars: Fruitti di Bosco which is a mixture of dried berries (raspberries, blueberries and strawberries); and Noci Miste which is rich in a variety of nuts: Italian hazelnuts, almonds and pecans. You will also find small boxes containing a collection of sweets: Hazelnut Bacio, Citrus Limoncello, Casses e Pep Rosa made with blackcurrant jelly and pink pepper ganache, and vanilla ganache made with cinnamon crumble. The market also offers a stick of hot chocolate, which in essence is a high quality hot cocoa “kit” made up of dark chocolate and mini marshmallows on a wooden spoon. Simply add hot milk, stir and enjoy.
Leo and Denise Ford-Sawadogo are husband and wife co-owners of Brasserie Montclair, a microbrewery whose slogan could not be more appropriate: “Building the community one beer at a time.” According to Denise, “The availability of our selection of craft beers at the MC Hotel allows us [to have the] the opportunity to live up to our slogan by partnering with a hotel that also takes the community as seriously as we do.
Given that they have roots in Africa – Leo is from West Africa – and the Caribbean (Denise’s family is from Jamaica), it’s no surprise their craft beers are steeped in unique ingredients. These include the baobab fruit imported from West Africa, hibiscus and passion fruit. On tap, the MC Hotel serves their MC / Claremont Pilsner, a crunchy and light beer with an earthy flavor and a hint of citrus. (It’s brewed with Czech hops, lemon zest, and a little rosemary.)
Other beers from the Montclair brewery circulating in the MC Hotel include the light-bodied Golden Buddha Passion Fruit Ale; the refreshing Buzz Ale Belgian Style Blond Ale, named after Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon and from Montclair; and the Belgian-style beer from the People’s Republic of Montclair, tinged with coriander. Additionally, the brewery’s Black is Beautiful can be found in cans and on tap at the hotel. Containing baobab, this beer is a variation of a stout recipe, with flavors of malt, hazelnut and dark chocolate. (Black is Beautiful is a global collaboration of craft breweries, including Brasserie Montclair, designed to raise awareness of the discrimination and inequalities faced by people of color.)
Friends since childhood, JD Recobs and Chris Buglisi, co-founders of Misunderstood Whiskey, created this brand after graduating from Montclair University. In fact, they initially delivered their product by pedaling their bikes around Montclair, Hoboken, and Jersey City.
The brand name couldn’t be more apt. “We believe that not only flavored whiskey, but the whole category of whiskey as a whole is misunderstood,” says JD. They made Misunderstood Whiskey a spirit “that is drunk all year round, is fun to mix, and is suitable for any whiskey drinker without compromising on flavor quality,” JD adds.
Recobs and Buglisi created their Spiced Ginger Whiskey using bourbon aged in new American oak barrels and American whiskey aged in used bourbon barrels, which enriches the flavor. Thanks to the sweetness of mashbill from Indiana and Kentucky mixed with sweet notes of ginger, this whiskey appeals to connoisseurs as well as beginners. The flavor is deliciously complex, perfectly blending ginger and caramel with hints of toffee, making it perfect whatever the season.
At the MC Hotel, you’ll want to try ‘Goodfella’, a signature cocktail that features this whiskey with mixed lemon and oranges as well as Amaro CioCiaro. You will appreciate the refreshing citrus notes, the pleasant bitterness and the slight sweetness of CioCiaro as well as the soft ginger finish.
Connor Barshay, now 14, has long been a foodie who according to his father, Ethan, especially preferred anything salty, spicy and salty. No wonder he created his own brand of hot sauce. Residing in the nearby town of Verona, Connor is the executive chef and co-owner (along with Ethan) of Connor’s Saucery.
This artisanal brand which is made in small batches (50 bottles at a time) has more complexity than a simple hot sauce where heat is central. Cooked rather than fermented, Connor’s hot sauces let the fruity notes of pepper shine. The base – smoked garlic, onion, and vinegar – is mixed, then specific peppers are added including serrano, jalapeno, fatalii, habanero or bhut jolokia which all come from farms / producers in New Jersey.
Ethan says, “It’s extremely important for us to encourage people to incorporate sauces into their cooking, rather than just using them as a condiment. Among the six hot sauces sold in The Market, you will find ILLIMEINATI made with orange habaneros, fresh lime juice, cumin and turmeric; the Snake Charmer which contains Spanish onions and smoked Madras curry, giving it an Indian touch; and the Mada and Bird with Caribbean flavors, made with fatalii peppers, fresh mango and ginger.
Local artists and locally inspired art –
Standing at the reception to check in, you will find yourself contemplating “Rest,” a lively, organic piece created by Karen Kimmel that was inspired by the Jersey Shore where she spent many summers as a child.
In the lobby is the pastel-colored “Pearl” by artist Basia Goszczcynska who reused plastic oyster bags and thick salvage ropes from the Atlantic waters off New Jersey.
Stroll through the lobby bar and you’ll notice an expansive black and white wall mural based on nature by illustrator Ruben Toledo. This room is the reflection of his wanderings in the many green spaces of Montclair.
As you walk through Allegory, you’ll discover a boldly hued fabric that spans the wall above a bench seat. Along with his late wife, Isabel, Ruben’s play shows their take on the lush surroundings of Montclair.
It’s worth taking the elevator to each of the guesthouse landings just to see the series created by Siona Benjamin-Kruge, a Montclair-based artist who was inspired by her wanderings in Anderson Parks and Edgemont, two green spaces near which she lives. Entitled “Montclair Shangri-La,” each painting features the same fantastic scene, but with a markedly different color palette, reflecting the seasons as well as other variations in time and time of day.