I’m Still Standing

When you wake up on Tuesday with a substantial hangover, you know it’s going to be a long week. But when friends from California arrive for spring break, you don’t stay home just because it’s a Monday. We started the night with cocktails at the George Washington bar at the Freehand Hotel where they were staying. They make a lovely French 75.

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A few drinks later, we dashed down to the village for a bottle of bubbles at Air’s Champagne Parlor before going downstairs for an 8:30 seating at Tokyo Record Bar. It’s always nice in a big city like NY, to feel welcomed and included and the folks at these two locales always make us feel that way. We are so excited to try their latest food and wine experience at the newly opened Niche Niche billed as a “dinner party with friends.” We have reservations on the 29th!

Wednesday night was the Bronx Letters Foundation annual chef tasting event. It was an incredible night. If you weren’t able to attend this year, please consider joining us next year! It was so great to be surrounded by so many friends!

Thursday morning was a little rough going, and it made it all the more challenging by a promise I made to my friend Hilary to go to the Peloton Studio to take my first ride. n.b. I don’t enjoy working out, and the last thing I thought I would ever do is try and attempt to work out while pedaling a bike. I was overjoyed when it was over, and I’ll admit I didn’t hate it. The workout was led by Ally Love who magically appeared in the Sunday New York Times yesterday. Now I know what she’s doing when she’s not sweating on a bike. I did enjoy the post-workout treat at Chanson. The thing about NYC is that there are so many fabulous places you can easily walk by them without knowing what’s inside. Such was the case with Chanson until I saw pictures of their magical Black Sesame Kouign Amann on Instagram. I wish I kept on walking; they are that good. Now I’ll have to avoid that part of 23rd street.

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The peloton workout was the beginning of our “day of wellness.” After showers, we had an incredible lunch at abcV which is as beautiful as it is delicious. From there we went to my favorite stretch’d and finished up with a face massage at facelove. A face massage is just what it sounds like and is all the best parts of a body massage without having to get undressed. Just don’t make plans afterward because your hair will look like you’ve been rolling around in bed all afternoon.

Friday night, Tom and I went to see Elton at Barclay’s. He sang for 2 1/2 hours and took me down the yellow brick road of my life. I first saw Elton as a 15-year-old at his free concert in Central Park. I was young, wild and free and I’ll never forget what it felt like to dance in Sheeps Meadow surrounded by my best friends and hundreds of thousands of others. The next time I saw Elton was in 1998 at MSG. Tom and I took Thomas (age 8) and Hayden (age 4). So to return as an emtpy nester was both beautiful and bittersweet.

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Elton in Central Park in 1980 in the now famous duck suit created by Bob Mackie.

We ate a quick pre-show dinner at the new Gupshup in Gramercy. Fans of high-end Indian and craft cocktails will enjoy this new addition to the neighborhood. The food was good, and so was my drink, but it’s expensive, and only a ten minute walk from Little India…

Tom and I went for a long walk Saturday up the Highline to see the progress at Hudson Yards. We have tickets to climb the Vessel on opening day (March 23rd). The tickets are free, and you can reserve them here. We were hungry and had no plans for brunch, so we took advantage of our way west location and stopped in at the Chelsea branch of Sullivan Street Bakery. This bakery, originally located in Soho, has been around for almost 20 years and there are several reasons why – including these insane Bomboloni (aka donuts).

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Saturday night I spent with two of my kids waiting at our apartment for my youngest Annie to land from spring break. We had plans to go for a late night early birthday dinner downstairs at Gramercy Tavern, but unfortunately, due to severe flight delays, she didn’t arrive until after they stopped serving at midnight. Our Saturday night dinner turned into Sunday brunch. Gramercy Tavern is a great place to celebrate anything. It just feels special when you walk in, and the service is very attentive. I loved the little coconut cake they brought for Annie’s birthday. It wasn’t something I pre-ordered, I just let them know we were celebrating when we arrived, and they asked for her name. Now that’s excellent service.

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I am looking forward to this coming Friday and our tickets to see Burn This. With Adam Driver and Russell in the lead roles, it is going to be a HOT ticket!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

What’s The Story?

IMG_4587I love stories. I spend a lot of my time either telling them or trying to get others to tell theirs (in 650 words or less) in their college application essays (shameless plug). I remember the low-tech days of yesteryear fondly, unfurling the knots in the extremely long phone cord, dragging it through the kitchen, down the stairs, and into my room. The best stories were swapped holding that hard piece of plastic to my ear, with nothing else to take my focus away. And I think that with all the ways we have to distract ourselves today, personally told stories are even more critical than ever. They take time and care to craft and tell well, and they require the focus and attention of others. If you have a story to tell, I want to hear it. Last Friday night, I sat in a little quiet nook at the Yale Club and told my story to Kim Berns for her new podcast, What’s The Story with Kim Berns  available on iTunes (although my episode is not up yet). We talked about what it’s like to pivot at a certain age and find fulfillment by taking an unexpected path. We spoke non-stop for about twenty minutes, and then I earned my fee; a well-made Tanqueray and Tonic.

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I was able to sneak in a quick Broadway show with Toni on Wednesday. We saw A Choir Boy, which we both thought was fantastic. It’s a 2 hour, no intermission drama, but it’s also got great music due to the subject matter. And even though the play is twenty years old, it is still extremely relevant, sadly, today.

Did I mention I have a sister who’s a vegan? She’s been opening my eyes to a culinary world where you can’t cook with anything that makes food taste good. We met for lunch at Nix, which boasts a brand new shiny Michelin star. I took a picture of the gorgeous beet salad with quinoa, but the real star of my meal was the mushroom veloute that was so creamy I wanted to go back into the kitchen and have them prove it was vegan.

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I took my first yoga class at Humming Puppy. We can all agree the name is ridiculous. I’m even embarrassed typing it, but the experience was nothing to laugh at. It’s a new way to yoga, brought to you from Australia. The main difference between this yoga studio and all others is the humming. Throughout the practice, there is a constant hum in the room that comes from surround sound speakers. It sounds like the tones made from Buddhist temple bowls. Something like this. I will return, but it won’t be my go-to spot due to the temperature in the studio. Women going through menopause have no business doing yoga in 80-degree rooms.

I’m always keeping an eye out for a fun, casual restaurant on the Upper East Side with decent food, as most of my friends live up there, and I feel bad always recommending restaurants downtown. Last week I went with friends to The Writing Room. I chose it because of its hugely storied literary past (as in Billy Joe’s song Big Shot “…they were all impressed with your Halston dress and the people that you knew at Elaine’s…”). There was a great buzz in the room, it was packed, and the food was really good. I’ll keep it on my short UES list.

Saturday we killed two little birds with one round-trip Amtrak. My oldest son was in Philly visiting his girlfriend at med school, and my youngest goes to Penn. Tom and I got on a late morning train, arrived in Philly 1 hour and 15 mins later, just in time for an incredible brunch at Wm. Mulherin’s Sons in Fishtown. The restaurant is located in an old rye whiskey distillery and has four extremely cool hotel rooms upstairs. I am already planning on renting these rooms for Annie’s graduation in a few years. Sshhhh don’t tell anyone with a sophomore at Penn. The food was fantastic, and after we ate, we moved to the couches in front of the wood burning fire for coffee.

We had some time to kill before the next meal, so we walked up Frankford Avenue which is one of the main streets in the Fishtown neighborhood. This street looks so freshly gentrified, it’s almost as if the paint is still wet.

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There are a number of fun restaurants and bars and an inordinate amount of vintage clothing stores, all carefully curated to the point where you don’t know if the clothes are new or used. Here are a few we stopped into: Two Percent To GloryJinxed, and Urban Exchange. We also passed at least two open breweries on our way up the road. From there we ubered to another fun neighborhood, Queen Village. We started with happy hour cocktails at Tatooed Mom, a place we all loved. From there we walked to Hungry Pigeon a restaurant that has been on my radar, and I was excited to get a reservation (albeit 5:15). The menu is small, and is meant to be shared family style. We sat at this beautiful communal table and enjoyed everything we ordered.

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But I want to return for lasagne season. You need to pre-reserve with 24 hours notice. You get your own lasagne (classic bolognese or vegetarian) with a few accompaniements for $80 PER ORDER. It feeds 4-6 people or 2 who like leftovers. I’m intrigued.

I love Philly, and I’m grateful that I get to continue to explore it over the next 2.5 years while visiting my daughter. It’s a city of neighborhoods and stories – my favorite kind of city.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

The Perfect Holiday Cocktail

IMG_3718I was in Napa last week for the annual Tokyo Tomodachi gift exchange. Each year, a group of friends who met in Tokyo many years ago re-enact a holiday tradition that was started by a group of expats in Tokyo circa early 2000s where great friends dress up, eat a decadent meal, drink many cocktails and fight over an expensive trinket. I look forward to this exchange every year, and it really has nothing to do with the gift. I don’t see these women often, but our connection to one another was formed in the perfect kind of petri dish – we had no extended family, we lived in a very foreign land, earthquakes were a regular occurrence, and we all shared an adventurous and curious spirit. Our time together last week was a whirlwind of fun, and the best gift I could have given myself for Christmas. We cheer each other on and give big hugs when needed. We learn from each other, and I always return home with a list of things I need to read, see, buy or eat. I think a part of the magic is that we are not in each other’s daily lives and so we never take one another for granted. We appreciate every minute together.

Okay, getting back to the title of this post… the perfect holiday cocktail (besides the mix of old friends, great food and bottles of Napa wine), it’s called a Paperplane, and I’m a huge fan. Hilary, the Napanista made it for me last week. Equal parts Bourbon, Aperol, Nonino Amaro, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Shake over ice. Many of these will be quaffed on Christmas Eve at my apartment.

Before I get to the “all things good in Napa” part of this post, I need to tell you about a new play that just opened at St. Ann’s Warehouse on Sunday. It’s called The Jungle, and the reviews are fabulous. I have tickets in January, and I can’t wait. You should go too. Also, Oklahoma (from the same St. Ann’s Warehouse) is coming to Broadway, and the tickets went on pre-sale today. The show was so fun, and I know it will be a big deal. Get tickets for this too!

Napa:

Sleeping in a home surrounded by grapevines is divine. These were the views I had with my morning coffee.

 

We had two full days in Napa and did some serious wine tasting. First up: Okapi Wines. Kim is awesome. You need to meet her and drink her wine.

 

 

Next up: Kenzo Estate a very special place for our Tokyo group. The wine is mostly distributed in Japan, so it’s hard to experience unless you visit the estate. The attention to detail in everything they do is very Japanese, right down to the etching of the names of each wine on the glasses.

 

 

Dinner that night was at Miminashi – are you sensing a Japanese theme? The food was divine – Japanese but with a twist. I loved everything, but I’ll be thinking about that macaroni salad they serve as an amuse bouche. I need the recipe. Put this place on your Napa list. The dessert is just as good as the meal so leave room.

On the second day, our crew became a peloton (I recently learned the definition, and I’m excited to use it in my first sentence) on our rented ebikes. We started in Napa and powered our way to Yountville along the highway next to the train tracks – the views were breathtaking, but we were going so fast it would have been dangerous to take pictures. Thankfully this ride took place BEFORE the wine.

 

 

Lunch was at the new Restoration Hardware restaurant in Yountville. I’ve been to the one in NYC, and I thought it was nice. The one in Yountville will blow you away. The food is better, and the experience is more authentic. I also learned that antique wheat threshers can be art. Now I want one.

 

We dropped off the bikes and ubered to Robert Sinskey Vineyards where there was a table waiting for us in a cave surrounded by library wines, and more food. Somehow we powered through it. Their wine tasting pamphlet “Gluttons Only” was aptly named.

 

Guess what was next? More wine! Our last stop was at The Prisoner Wine Company, which gets a lot of play on Instagram and is very popular with millennials. I was sort of obsessed with their sexy rose and shipped some home. The question will be whether I wait until summer returns to drink it – not likely.

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Our final meal together that night was at Angele in Napa in a small private room. We dressed up…heels, fur, jewels, the works and kicked off the night with the giving of omiyage. The Japanese love bringing small gifts to friends when traveling and we do the same when we see each other.

 

The evening ended back at Hilary’s house where gifts were exchanged and fought over, all in good fun, of course.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

Mother Emeritus

 

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Being an empty nester brings both endings and beginnings, and for me, this was especially true yesterday. I remember many past Mother’s Days spent at Yankee Stadium, Playland Amusement Park, and other assorted kid-friendly locales, where I would spend most of the day chasing, wiping, feeding, blowing noses and often yelling. The peace only came when all were fed, watered, and put to bed.

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Later on, as I became a more seasoned mother, I remember cherished Mother’s Days spent alone, in my home, at my request, while my husband entertained the four children and I was able to do whatever I wanted. Usually, it included the pure joy of walking from room to room in my house, and finding them empty. I could polish off an entire novel in one sitting.

But now, at 52, with my oldest child 26 and my youngest 19, those labor-intensive and sometimes solitary Mother’s Days are long behind me, an ending that in retrospect I’m both melancholy and elated to see go. Because now, Mother’s Day is all about me, and I get to spend it surrounded by my grown children.

My kids understand two things that are sacrosanct to me when it comes to Mother’s Day; it’s the thought that counts, and it’s an insult, eye roll free day. The word of the day is KIND, and I usually bound out of bed ready for the loving, warm, selfless, considerate, big-hearted moments to unfurl. And to their credit, they do. My smile is especially wide on this day.

Sometimes, the stars align, and I get to share it with my mom, and that is what happened this weekend. A mother’s day gift in and of itself, and as a bonus, I spent a good majority of my weekend holding my new niece, Jules. Nine weeks old and life affirming. There is nothing better for the soul then holding a sweet smelling newborn.

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Last week I went to the Tefaf Art Fair at the Park Avenue Armory. It graces NYC twice a year in spring and fall. I highly suggest you put it on your fall to do list. As my artist daughter, Sophie said, “This art show is extra.” Maybe it was the strolling cart of Ruinart Champagne, or the oyster bar, or the hundreds of real flowers hanging from the ceiling, or the priceless works of art for sale that had prices like $3.5 mm. Or maybe it was the clientele and their ensemble and exotic accents. Or perhaps it was the very Old New York setting of the Park Avenue Armory. Regardless, it’s a must go.

 

Meeting up for lunch on the upper east side, I usually gravitate towards  Fred’s, Grazie or BG in Bergdorf’s – all of which I love, but I had a friend in from LA, and I wanted to try something new. I chose Amali, and we had a lovely lunch in their back room that feels like a garden, but is actually inside.

Job Hunt Update: I have a follow-up interview this week at a firm that I’m very interested in, and think could be a great fit; more on that next week.

Things I’m looking forward to this spring:

The opening of Broken Shaker the rooftop spot on the top of the Freehand Hotel that’s in my neighborhood. I’m intrigued by the brunch option.

Pisellino the new joint venture between the chefs from Buvette and Via Carota two of my all-time favorite West Village spots.

Oh, and eating oysters and drinking rose at Grand Banks.

See you next week when I post my interview with my favorite perennials Amy Nobile and Trisha Ashworth, co-authors of Just When You’re Comfortable in Your Own Skin, It Starts to Sag who will be speaking at the 92nd Street Y on May 23rd.

 

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

Snowboots and Sunscreen: Spring in NYC

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The week started with lunch on Monday at La Mercerie a retail restaurant in Soho created by the team behind Le Coucou (my favorite restaurant in NYC). I went with two friends who are home stagers, who love all things design related. It was packed with fashionable diners, the food was good (but don’t come hungry as the portions are small), but the star was the bottle of rose we drank. It was delicious and very reasonable. The home store selections were fabulous, but the prices were so high they were almost laughable. I’m not sure who will shop here, but it’s fun to walk around after you eat.

On our walk back up town, we stopped in Canadian clothing store, Oak and Fort. The clothes are fashion-forward, reasonably priced and age appropriate for empty nesters. That night, Tom and I went to the Nets game at the Barclays Center – our tickets, purchased from our seat filler club Play by Play were $4.50.

On Tuesday, I went on a yummy walking tour in Astoria with Angelis from In Food We Trust. I’d been on another one of his tours at the MET, and this one was just as good.  His tour begins at 2 pm and includes a ridiculous amount of food. If you go, make sure you skip lunch first.

And then Wednesday, the first day of spring, we got pounded with snow, again. Walking the empty snow-filled streets, I was amazed to see many stores closed due to the snow. Thankfully, Breads Bakery was open, and it was my luck they’d just introduced their matzoh ball soup, special for Passover. It was the perfect thing to eat on a snowy day. IMG_8478

I had a hilarious late Friday lunch at Marta with my friend Kim Berns the stand-up comedian. The restaurant is located in the Redbury Hotel and was jammed. It’s a great place to meet up with friends when you are looking for a casual place in midtown. The location is officially in NoMad, but it’s a quick walk from Grand Central.

Saturday I participated in my first march ever together with hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. I’m not a fan of crowds and stay away from packed concerts and festivals, but I felt spurred to action. Marching with Tokyo friends and our daughters, I was so happy to be there, and my intrinsic fear melted away.

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From the march, we went to The Affordable Art Fair. If I had more empty walls, I would have had a big shopping day. The creativity was off the charts. The stormtrooper/Buddha was for sale, as were virtual bookshelves and chairs made from the metal tops on champagne bottles.

After all our walking, we were thirsty and stopped in to Beechers Handmade Cheese for happy hour (which is a daily event at Beechers). Wine and a cheese plate were exactly what was needed. Each piece of cheese was paired with a different add-on, from dark chocolate to candied walnuts.

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Saturday night we took our two NYC kids to Pinch Chinese in Soho. We had four seats at the bar, and we ate our way through the menu from the fabulous soup dumplings to the ribs. pork belly, whole sea bass, ma po tofu, string beans with pork, and wagyu fried rice (two orders). The food was so good. I was happy to find a new spot in Soho, as I feel the restaurant selection has been limited lately.  IMG_8527

 

After dinner, there were drinks at Reservoir Bar, a great place to watch the Elite 8. And then late night, on the walk home, we ducked into the AMC theater on 19th street and walked into the last showing of Love, Simon (using our Movie Pass tickets of course!)

Being an empty nester in NYC allows for spontaneity – something that hasn’t been a part of our lives for a very long time. It feels good!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

I Do.

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One of the things I love about living in NYC is that at some point, friends who live far and wide arrive for one reason or another (this week it was a Haiku event, college tours and a 50th birthday). These short, but oh so sweet meetups are the best excuse for dining out and drinking on weekdays. And this week was no exception. There was a dinner at Nur which is always a dining experience. The chef is Israeli, and the dishes are exotic. They use ingredients that I’ve never heard of, so it makes eating here an adventure. Make sure to book ahead (way ahead). Moving from the Middle East to the Far East, our group had a delicious meal at Atoboy a newish Korean restaurant from an adorable young Korean couple who are about to open another restaurant, Atomix this spring. This is the perfect place to go with a group (they max out at 6), but the menu is divided into three sections, and each person chooses one from each group. Go with six people, and you can order one of everything on the menu and share.

Thursday happy hour found me at Mari Vanna an authentic Russian restaurant across the street from my apartment. You can sit at the bar and enjoy their blinis and caviar for $14 (it’s much more expensive at dinner). They also make a mean lychee martini.

Friday night, Tom and I went to see Carousel on Broadway. The opening is still a week away, but the theater was packed and on their feet for the curtain calls. Jessie Mueller (Beautiful, Waitress) and Joshua Henry (Aaron Burr in the first US tour of Hamilton) are superb. The dancing is just as good as the singing, and the young girl who plays their daughter is also a soloist in the New York City ballet, and this is her Broadway debut. That being said, the show is incredibly sexist, and I found it unsettling. When Billy Bigelow dies, I wanted to scream “Yes! You’re better off without him!” I know this show has been revived many times on Broadway, but in today’s #metoo world, it just doesn’t hold up; in fact, it’s insulting.

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Weekend brunch was at Left Bank a recommendation from a friend. It’s far west Soho, in a really cute neighborhood that I don’t often find myself. The restaurant had a great vibe, warm, and inviting, and I wanted to order one of everything on the menu. Their brunch offerings go outside the norm, with choices like sweet or savory Dutch Baby (see below), and pot roast, eggs, and potato latkes. I will return.

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Saturday night Tom and I sat in a candlelit place of worship watching as two young, fresh people said I do. I adore everything about weddings. The pomp, the circumstance, the toasts, the overflowing champagne, and of course the love. There is no other event in life where the star of the show is love.

As I write the last few sentences of this blog, the sun is streaming through my windows (reminding me to call the cleaner). It’s been a long and cold winter, but with daylight savings today, I can almost feel spring in the air. It makes me want to start making a list of all the outdoor cafes and rooftops bars I need to visit!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

Points of View

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I have no business hanging out in FiDi. I have no job that takes me there, nor any other reason to take the 6 train to Fulton Street, and yet I find myself returning time and again. It could be the unparalleled view from The Bar Room at Temple Court, or the rosé gummie bears and other assorted alcohol-infused candies they sell at Sugarfina in the Oculus,  or the “feels like Paris” vibe of Augustine it’s an area I suggest adding to any NYC itinerary.

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At the beginning of the week, the weather allowed for a quick walk with a friend on the bridal path in Central Park. We didn’t have much time, so we entered the park at 85th and 5th and walked up to 96th. You get a “big bang for the buck” on the quick trip as the view is breathtaking and you can stop in for a brekkie board and a flat white at Blue Stone Lane on East 90th Street inside the Church of the Heavenly Rest.

I met up with a friend from out of town at Danji for lunch. Danji is one of my “go to” spots for a pre-theater dinner in Midtown, and now they are open for lunch. I can’t say enough about the bibimbap set. It was delicious and economical too. Make a reservation as it was packed!IMG_7829

This week I got a request for a hotel recommendation in the city that wasn’t too expensive for parents and teens to stay together while looking at colleges. I suggested the new Freehand Hotel, but I would also recommend reading this article for more suggestions throughout the city.  Have you heard about the new Recharge app? You can book luxury hotels by the minute. In a recent article about the app, the writer suggested using the app for nursing mothers and people on business trips between meetings. Strangely enough, it didn’t mention the most obvious of uses. It seems these days, there’s an app for everything.

I spent most of the weekend at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference (SCBWI) at the Grand Hyatt so there was no time for brunch. Instead, I’ll mention my yummy lunch at UrbanSpace. I often find myself dining and dashing at many of their delicious vendors while in Midtown. On Saturday I ate at Mr. Bing; a new addition to the UrbanSpace food market. I chose the Peking Duck Beijing pancake medium spicy. I relished every bite and could have shared it with a friend, the portion was so large. IMG_7837

Saturday night I had a reservation at Tokyo Record Bar. You might have already heard about this place as it’s super-buzzy right now. It’s on MacDougal in the West Village in the basement of a brownstone building (their upstairs neighbor is the bubbly Air’s Champagne Parlor a current favorite of mine.) You need to get a reservation at Tokyo Record Bar, stat. They only have two seatings a night, 6:30 and 10:30 and they offer a tasting menu for $50/pp. I don’t want to give away too much, but let’s just say that after dessert, they bring out a large cheese pizza for gluten fans and french fries for the gluten-free. Go. IMG_7853

Tom and I ended the week at a high-calorie, super fun Superbowl party back in Rye. No matter how many adventures #emptynestnyc is having living in the city, it’s always important to remember where you came from and the people who are important in your life.

Have fun. Be bold.