What’s Your Favorite Restaurant?

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Last week, someone I just met asked me to name my favorite restaurant. They had heard that I dined out a lot and that I was slightly obsessed with food. It stopped me in my tracks. After an awkward pause, I had to confess that I didn’t have one. I started thinking about why I couldn’t come up with an answer to a seemingly straightforward question. And what I came up with is that I don’t have a favorite because I rarely return to the same place twice. That’s probably a combination of FOODFOMO and a never-ending amount of curiosity. But after Friday night’s reservation, my restaurant fickleness may be coming to an end.

Niche Niche is the newest initiative of the sprightly Ariel Arce. I’ve enjoyed many nights at her champagne bar, Air’s Champagne Parlor and have eaten in her basement izakaya,  Tokyo Record Bar a few times since it opened in July 2017. What I learned about Ariel is that the emphasis is always on the bubbles and fun and less on the food. But Niche Niche was billed as a dinner party. When I received an email inviting me to book before they opened up on RESY, I jumped at the chance. There were two nightly seatings at $40 per person with an additional wine pairing at $40 per person (you can’t do one without the other). Each night there is a “host,” a wine importer, that chooses the night’s wines. As Ariel welcomed us that night, she said: “Obviously none of you are New Yorkers because you’ve agreed to a dinner where you cannot make any choices about what you eat or drink.” Our host had a German catalog of wines, which probably drove the menu: Skate wing schnitzel with spaetzle and cabbage.

We had a reservation for the later seating at 8 pm. Tom and I were the oldest by decades. I’m pretty sure I saw a table of kids home for spring break. We are often on the older side due to the location (downtown) and the newness of the places we visit, but this was extreme. And when the dinner platter for two was placed on our table, I realized I was about to ruin a week of eating well and watching calories for fried fish with pasta. I was less than thrilled.

And then I read Frank Bruni’s article in the New York Times Sunday Review. And it all made sense. I’ve been eating out like a millennial or maybe even a GenZ’er. I need to let my 50-something flag fly. As Frank so wisely posits, “It’s not just sex and sleep that change as you age. It’s supper.” It’s not like I’m going to stop trying new places, but I’m going to slow down my RESY trigger finger and read a few more reviews before I book. And I’m going to allow myself to continue to return to the restaurants that have the potential to become my “favorite.” See my list below.

I’ve always wanted to speak French after studying in Paris in the summer of 1986. It’s taken this long to attempt that goal. I started a ten-week course on Tuesday at CouCou. It’s the cutest little school in a narrow three-floor building in Nolita. Learning a new language at 53 is not going to be easy. I even had homework – hopefully I don’t make a fool out of myself when I have to recite Chanson Automne in Tuesday’s class.

On Thursday night, I went with my son to see The Lehman Trilogy at the Park Avenue Armory. I didn’t let on that the play was over three hours long with two intermissions, but I was a little nervous he might leave before it ended. It was one of the most enjoyable and engaging theatrical experiences I’ve had in a long time. It’s a very limited run, but I encourage you to find tickets. It was that good. Hayden thought so too. We continued talking about it on Saturday at Yankee Stadium watching the Yankees lose to the worst team in baseball. But it was sunny and warm, so it wasn’t a complete disappointment.

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So the answer to what’s my favorite restaurant is never going to be just one. Here are a few that might make my list:

French: Le Coucou  Buvette

Italian: Carbone Lilia Via Carota

Pizza: Rubirosa Emily Roberta’s

Chinese: Wu’s Wonton King

Thai: Pinto Garden

Fast Casual: Mint Kitchen

Sushi Take Out: Ennju

Sushi: Sugarfish

Steak Frites: Raoul’s

Indian: Sahib

If you have a favorite, please let me know!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

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.

 

 

I Feel It In My Fingers, I Feel It In My Toes (Christmas Is All Around Us…)

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I really love Christmas. It’s not my holiday, but I’ve adopted it by marriage. Converts, in general, are always the worst when it comes to going overboard and I am guilty as charged. So if you love Christmas too, stay tuned to my blog this month, because in addition to fun NYC things to do, see, eat and imbibe, there will be a lot of pics of stuffed animals coming out of store windows, and other assorted holiday regalia.

Last week started on a total high. I am a BA (Bon Appetite) insider, which just means I signed up to be one, and I was able to snag two tickets to their second only live taping of the BA podcast at The Bell House. I’m obsessed with the podcast (who else can wax poetic about vinegar for 30 minutes like Carla Lalli Music? ). My cousin Wendy and I got there early, scarfed down the insane ham sandwich (oh the baguette, the thinly sliced ham by Brad Leone, the ethereal spread of butter, and sprinkle of sea salt) and snagged the second row. We were glued to our seats for two hours.

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Next up was a visit to The Velvet Underground Experience, the pop-up on lower Broadway. When I was a student at NYU, I was obsessed with Andy Warhol and all things “Factory” after reading Edie: American Girl. There is something for everyone in this exhibit, and it’s right around the corner from Indochine, which makes for the perfect, spot to eat afterward. We felt like we had time traveled to 1983.

Katherine, one of my all-time favorite humans, landed in NYC (from Tokyo where she lives and where our journey together began) this past weekend, and it was one non-stop party (and gab-fest). It started with a fabulous brunch at Legacy Records, one of the hardest reservations to get, but I did watch a few people walk in off the street and get seated. I might try that next time. My obsession with the soft scramble continues, and this time it had black truffles mixed in. O-M-G.

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It was a gray and rainy day, so we decided it would be a great opportunity to wander the seven floors of merch at Dover Street Market. The only thing I could afford was the Matcha Cappucino (barely, at $7.50), but I got quite the kick out of what’s on offer and how much of your paycheck you need to use to get it. As I asked myself, “Who shops here?” A wave of hip young Asian girls swooped in and almost ran us over.

Sunday night Tokyo Tomodachis (friends) from far and wide came together at Prune to celebrate friendship and eat fried pistachio nuts. Prune is one of my all-time favorite classic NYC restaurants. It holds about 20 people – reservations are a must. They created a special prix-fixe dinner and made a cute menu just for us. They also serve chunks of melted dark chocolate on buttered crusty bread for dessert (and this comes with the check…) The night ended with cocktails at the Raines Law Room and then just one Kelly Clarkson karaoke song, My Life Would Suck Without You.

Monday morning Katherine and I hit Midtown hard. We took pictures in front of all the decorations including the tree. We waited on line and shopped at the new FAO Schwarz – thankfully the line went fast. It’s worth the wait to see the Rolls Royce toy cars, the kiddie supermarket, and the teddy bear chairs. I snapped a few cute pics…

I found the windows at Saks strangely similar to the red trees Melania put up at the White House…

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Famished from all the selfies, we stopped into a new-ish spot in Midtown called Handies by Bou. It’s a six-seat handroll counter in the lobby of a small boutique hotel, The Sanctuary. The fish was fresh and simple and not expensive. It’s a great place if you need a little pick me up near Rockefeller Center.

Laden with bags, we returned to downtown to drop our bags. However, we first had to stop and see the chocolate waterfalls at Venchi the new gelato spot in Flatiron. And then, of course, we had to have some – silly Katherine chose a thimble full of coffee with her chocolate, but my cone was insane; Hazelnut gelato that had a thick layer of fudge on top. Worth every calorie.

After dropping off our bags, we ran over for a quick stretch at my favorite spot Stretch’d before going to celebrate Chanukah at Airs Champagne Parlor. Is there anything better than champagne, potato latkes, and caviar? NO. I love Air’s because we have a lot in common. We both like good champagne, and we agree that you don’t have to spend a fortune to drink it. Last year Tom and I spent New Year’s chambonging with the gang at Air’s, and I am happy to say we will return this year. Can’t wait!

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Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

Diner en Blanc – C’est Incroyable!

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Sitting at lunch on August 23rd in the lobby of The Study at University City, my phone alarm informed me I was 60 seconds from go time. I stopped Child #4 mid-sentence and logged in to the Diner en Blanc website waitlist link, swiping and typing as fast as my fingers allowed. No one I knew had ever been to this event before, and I couldn’t even remember where I read about it to get on the waitlist in the first place, but if there was going to be an all-white pop-up dinner party in NYC in September for thousands of people, I wanted in.

I’m pretty sure I let out a hoot, or clapped or did something that made my daughter’s eyes roll to the top of her head, but when I successfully secured a table for two to the event, I was pretty ecstatic. I’d read that it takes years sometimes to get off the waitlist. When I explained to Tom where we were going, I’d say his elation factor was slightly lower down on the scale – somewhere around indifferent and unimpressed.

I spent the next month on and off planning for the event – this was not going to be an easy one to pull off. We were assigned a meeting place on Delancey Street on Monday, September 17th at 4:30 and we were to bring a specific size folding table, two white chairs, white linens for the table and creative white table decor, dinner for two with plates, champagne flutes and silverware (all non-plastic and all white). And, of course, we were to dress in white from head to foot.  We were not allowed to bring alcohol and had to pre-order bottles of wine and champagne that would be waiting for us.

 

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This year, the location was Governor’s Island! If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you’ll know it’s one of my favorite places in NYC, and we’ve been many times. It was a real feat to get 6,000 people (and all their stuff) over to the island on ferries before the 7:30 start. Thankfully, our group was in one of the first ferries, and we had plenty of time to set up.

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Around 8 pm, the dinner was officially opened with the traditional wave of the white napkins. There was a fabulous live band, a super fun DJ, entertainers, and even a wedding proposal. Tom and I spent the night meeting lots of new people, walking around and looking at all of the creative costumes and over the top table arrangments, and of course dancing.

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Needless to say, it was a BLAST. Since we went this year, we automatically get invited back next year, and we get to bring FRIENDS. Who’s with me?

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#dinerenblancnyc2019 #deb2019

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

A Perfectly Imperfect Marriage

I recently read somewhere that if we only fell in love with people who were perfect for us, then there wouldn’t be so much fuss about love in the first place. That easily could have been written about my marriage to Tom. When we met, we had almost nothing in common.  I was a born and bred Jewish New Yorker from a divorced, and remarried family with several half-siblings, who attended college in NYC and only dated guys with accents. I wasn’t athletic in the least, and I’d never had a beer in my life; I preferred Kir Royales sipped slowly in dark wine bars in Soho. My hobbies included reading, dancing, and shopping in flea markets and second-hand stores. Tom grew up in a Catholic family in Rhode Island, with a football captain father, and a homecoming queen mother. His entire life centered around sports, all sorts. When the family would come to the beach house for weekends, they would get a keg (just for the family).

But from almost the first moment we met, in a training program at Merrill Lynch, we were melded to one another. It was a match that many couldn’t quite understand. This weekend, we celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary, and although it wasn’t a “big” number, each anniversary we celebrate is the most important day of the year. In my high school yearbook, when asked to list my life goals, it says, “To be the President of something, and to be married successfully.” I was 17 when I wrote that, and although I have given up on the first part, I couldn’t be happier that I have managed to attain the last.

Each year we make sure to make a big deal out of our anniversary, and this year was no different. We shared one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time with old Tokyo friends who now live in Napa. On a side note, if you want the inside scoop on all things Napa, follow Hilary’s blog at Napanista. I had somehow scored a reservation at Legacy Records, and it was the perfect place to celebrate our anniversary. From the gulp-able cocktails to the unbelievably delicious food, to the decor, and overall buzz in the room (not to mention sitting next to Sting), made it a great start to an exceptional evening.

From there, I reserved a table at our favorite champagne bar Air’s Champagne Parlor. Amanda saved us a fabulous corner table where we ordered a bottle of Louis Roederer vintage champagne and continued our celebration. Tom and Chris had fun with their Chambongs.

We ended the night at the bar at Gramercy Tavern with one last drink and a shared hamburger and homemade chips.

Saturday morning, Tom and I made our way to Raoul’s for an anniversary brunch. We had many dates at Raoul’s back in the late 80’s, and it continues to hold a special place in our lives. Not to mention, it has somehow managed to stay relevant 30 years later. The drag queens are gone, but you can still have your tarot cards read while you wait for the bathroom. They make an incredible hamburger au poivre that you can only enjoy at brunch or the bar. Somehow the soundtrack yesterday was from the 80’s and we ate our way out of our hangovers listening to the Pet Shop Boys, Soft Cell, and Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark.

The last of the planned weekend anniversary festivities was a real treat. We returned to Westchester for a small and very delicious dinner party with the two couples who were there when it all began. Some “never before told” stories were revealed over a perfectly cooked meal, accompanied by very old Moet. The perfect end to a magical weekend.

There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, but if you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself in a perfectly imperfect one.

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.

 

 

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.