As a native New Yorker from Montclair, New Jersey, why am I so enchanted? Let me count the ways Less than 30 minutes from Manhattan on the frequent NJ Transit trains, Montclair is bordered by a chain of parks and gardens lined with leafy paths, dotted with brightly colored blossoms and mature trees, and dotted with numerous water features. An energetic, creative atmosphere pervades this city, which hosts the Montclair Film Festival every October, the recently renovated Clairidge Cinemas art house, and avant-garde and other contemporary works at the Montclair Art Museum. The Saturday morning farmers market is a joy to explore for its abundance of produce from nearby farms including Japanese sweet potatoes, watermelon radish, Russian banana fingerlings, and more than half a dozen different types of hot peppers (such as Thai dragon chilies and Fatalii peppers). ). As a foodie, I find it difficult to choose from the plethora of cuisines served in Montclair’s restaurants, from Ethiopian to French to Brazilian.
And now, thanks to the newly opened, I have a reason not to visit Montclair for just a day, but to stay for a while MC Hotel.
This sun-drenched, modern luxury hotel is just a pleasant stroll from Walnut Street Station and is centrally located on bustling Bloomfield Avenue. (It’s also just a block or so from the Montclair Art Museum, a popular 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 devotion to an ethic that revolves around local sourcing, be it the art that adorns the walls of public spaces that resemble some kind of gallery; or the food and drink on offer at Alto, the rooftop bar and lounge on the ninth floor with great views of the Manhattan skyline; or the Grab-n’Go items sold at The Market, an open space connected to the coffee bar and Allegory, the on-site restaurant that specializes in Mediterranean cuisine. In fact, the origins of some ingredients couldn’t be closer to the source, also known as the hotel’s rooftop kitchen garden, which grows everything from lavender and rosemary to pineapple mint and orange thyme. Pizzas are topped with homemade basil, pineapple mint is a mojito side dish, tri-colored sage is added to salads, and Mexican mint is part of a taco recipe.
Most of the hotel’s salespeople live or work in and around Montclair. And the artists were Montclairians, live nearby, or take inspiration from the green surroundings of Montclair. This links the MC Hotel very closely to Montclair and the nearby communities in New Jersey. This allows guests to experience the tastes and cultural aesthetics of the surrounding neighborhoods even if they are not far from the hotel.
Local food and beverage manufacturers –
Federica Heiman, owner of Dolce Federica, is an artisanal chocolatier who lives in Montclair. Heiman uses Belgian and French chocolate to create delicious creations that refer to her Italian heritage – she grew up in northern Italy – whether it’s flavors like limoncello or ingredients like hazelnuts, which grow in abundance in northern Italy. “For the MC Hotel I want to offer you an original, modern and simple design, but with flavors that are neither too clichÃ©d nor too strange,” says Federica.
She changes things as she designs each of her collections, including seasonal variations. You can find two of their dark chocolate bars in The Market: Fruitti di Bosco, a mix of mixed dried berries (raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries); and Noci Miste, which is rich in different nuts: Italian hazelnuts, almonds and pecans. You will also find small boxes with a selection of candies: Bacio with hazelnut, citrus limoncello, Casses e Pep Rosa with black currant jelly and pink pepper ganache and vanilla ganache with a cinnamon crumble base. Also available from The Market is a Hot Chocolate Stick, which is essentially a high quality hot cocoa âkitâ consisting of dark chocolate and mini marshmallows on a wooden spoon. Just add hot milk, stir and enjoy.
Leo and Denise Ford-Sawadogo are the married couple and co-owners of the Montclair Brewery, a microbrewery whose slogan couldn’t be more apt: âBuilding a community, beer for beerâ. âOur selection of craft beers at the MC Hotel enables us,â says Denise [to have the] Opportunity to live up to our slogan by working with a hotel that takes the community as seriously as we do. “
Given their roots in Africa – Leo is originally from West Africa – and the Caribbean (Denise’s family is from Jamaica), it’s no surprise that their craft beers are infused with some unique ingredients. These include baobab fruit imported from West Africa, hibiscus, and passion fruit. The MC Hotel serves its MC / Claremont Pilsner, a crisp, light beer with an earthy taste and a hint of citrus fruits, on tap. (It is brewed with Czech hops, lemon peel, and a little rosemary.)
Other Montclair Brewery beers rotating at the MC Hotel include the light Golden Buddha Passion Fruit Ale; the refreshing Buzz Ale Belgian Style Blond Ale, named after Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk the moon and a native of Montclair; and the Belgian-style coriander-colored ale from the People’s Republic of Montclair. The brewery’s Black is Beautiful is also available in cans and on tap in the hotel. This beer contains baobab and is a twist on a bold recipe with malty, nutty, and dark chocolate flavors. (Black is Beautiful is a global collaboration of craft breweries, including Montclair Brewery, that aims to raise awareness of the discrimination and inequality experienced by people with color.)
Childhood friends, JD Recobs and Chris Buglisi, co-founders of Misunderstood whiskey, founded this brand when they were in Montclair straight out of college. In fact, they originally supplied their product by paddling their bikes through Montclair, Hoboken, and Jersey City.
The brand name couldn’t be more appropriate. “We believe that not just flavored whiskey, but the entire whiskey category as a whole is being misunderstood,” says JD. They made Misunderstood whiskey a spirit “that is enjoyed year-round, fun to mix, and welcomes any whiskey drinker without compromising the quality of the taste,” adds JD.
Recobs and Buglisi created their ginger spiced whiskey by relying on bourbon aged in new American oak barrels and American whiskey aged in used bourbon barrels, something that adds flavor. Thanks to the sweetness of the mashbills from Indiana and Kentucky, mixed with the gentle notes of ginger, this whiskey appeals to connoisseurs and newcomers alike. The taste is wonderfully complex and seamlessly merges with ginger and caramel with a hint of butterscotch, which makes it perfect any time of the year.
At the MC Hotel you should try the âGoodfellaâ, a signature cocktail that contains this whiskey along with tangled lemons and oranges and Amaro CioCiaro. Enjoy the refreshing citrus notes, the pleasant bitterness and the slight sweetness of the CioCiaro as well as the gentle ginger finish.
Connor Barshay, who is now 14 years old, has long been a foodie who, according to his father Ethan, especially prefers anything salty, hot and hearty. No wonder he created his own brand for hot sauces. Connor lives in nearby Verona and is the chef and co-owner (together with Ethan) of Connors Saucery.
Made in small batches (50 bottles at a time), this handcrafted brand is more complex than a simple spicy sauce where the heat is the focus. Boiled instead of fermented, the hot sauces by Connor let the fruity pepper notes shine. The base – smoky garlic, onion, and vinegar – is mixed and then the specific peppers are added, including Serrano, Jalapeno, Fatalii, Habanero, or Bhut Jolokia, all of which are from farms / growers based in New Jersey.
Ethan says, “It’s very important to us to encourage people to incorporate the sauces into their cooking instead of just using them as a condiment.” Among the six hot sauces sold at The Market, you’ll find ILLIMEINATI, that consists of orange habaneros plus fresh lime juice, cumin and turmeric; the snake charmer, which contains Spanish onions and smoky madras curry, which gives it an Indian flair; and the Caribbean-tasting Mada and Bird, which is made from fatalii paprika, fresh mango and ginger.
Local artists and locally inspired art –
When you stand at the front desk to check-in, you’ll find yourself looking at Rest, a living, organic piece by Karen Kimmel, inspired by the Jersey coast where she spent many summers as a child.
In the lobby hangs the pastel-colored âPearlâ by the artist Basia Goszczcynska, which converted plastic bags for oyster farming and thick rescue ropes that were obtained from the Atlantic off New Jersey.
Walk through the lobby bar and you’ll notice a large black and white nature-based mural by illustrator Ruben Toledo. This piece reflects his walks through the many green spaces of Montclair.
As you stroll through Allegory, you will discover a bold hue of fabric stretching across the wall above a bench. Together with his late wife Isabel, Rubens’ piece shows their view of the lush surroundings of Montclair.
It is worth taking the elevator to each of the guest room landings just to see the series by Siona Benjamin-Kruge, a Montclair-based artist who was inspired by her forays into the Anderson and Edgemont parks, two green spaces near whom she lives. Each painting entitled âMontclair Shangri-Laâ shows the same fantastic scene, but with a significantly different color palette, reflecting the seasons as well as different weather and time of day.