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.

 

 

Paris By Numbers

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Last winter I spent a week in Paris with my husband that I’d planned months in advance. Each meal was chosen with care, and we found ourselves running from one side of Paris to another like the proverbial chickens without heads, and it was cold and rainy. I vowed that the next time I returned, I would do it differently; I would use math. Since I’m a writer and not a STEM girl when I say math, I mean numbers; specifically arrondissement or “districts.” I culled together all of my favorite “eating, drinking, shopping and seeing” lists from over the years and created a Google document to use as a roadmap so that I wouldn’t miss something fabulous just around the corner (a dreaded fear). I have to say, it worked like a charm, and I will continue to build on it and take it with me when I return in May with my daughters for Mother’s Day, and their first trip to Paris.

The trip began with a semi-stalker moment. One of my favorite bloggers, Sara Lieberman, is a NYC expat living her dream in Paris and writing about it. Her newsletter, Overthinking It is fabulous and one I look forward to reading when it arrives in my inbox on a bi-weekly basis. Many of my past Google searches about all things Paris have her name on the by-line, and now I understand why – she is a FONT of knowledge. More on Sara and her many talents in next week’s blog. Sara suggested we meet for wine at La Cave du Paul Bert. I have to thank my friend Syd for the personal introduction!

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Me and Sara only a few hours after arriving in Paris (my justification for how I look in this picture).

This is a picture of the special ladies that shared my week. Kylie (on the left) was in Paris working on the branding of her frozen yogurt shops, California Bliss , which help to fund her non-profit Global Glow an incredible organization that helps young girls in 27 countries around the world (and my school in the Bronx, The Bronx Academy of Letters) to find their voice and tell their stories. And Lisa, Efrot and I were there to eat and shop and TALK. We all accomplished what we set out to do!

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We ate at L’ami Jean Bistrot Belhara Les Philosophes Cafe Charlot Bofinger Ellsworth and La Societe where we were joined by Candice Kumai, a food and wellness influencer with a HUGE following.  We had yummy margaritas at Candelaria the speakeasy in the non-descript taco shop (thank you Tori B for the great rec).

And we sang into the wee Paris hours at Aux Trois Mailletz a past favorite from Maria. We took advantage of the twice-yearly sales, where almost everything was 50% off, (see Google doc mentioned above for names) and spent our last day together combing the stalls of the Vanves Flea Market.

This buyer’s paradise has always been on my Paris To Do list, but I was never able to get there. I’m thrilled with all my purchases, especially my new coupe glassware that I’ll use to make my current cocktail, the French 75 (thank you Jacqueline) and my cool coasters, from 1924 that say Liberte*Egalite*Fraternite.

There is no place like NYC, but Paris is my happy place. Every time I leave, I can’t wait until I can return. A tout de suite!

Amusez-vous soyez audacieux!

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Up Your Spontaneity Quotient

In this Sunday’s NY Times (aka my activity bible), I read an article in the travel section entitled How To Up The Spontaneity Quotient On Your Next Trip. This spoke to me because truth be told I am a planner and have been guilty of overplanning. But I am always looking for the middle ground, the happy medium between not missing out on the “must do, eat, see” things, and finding that hidden local place that you’ll think about for years to come. Reading the article also made me think about my everyday life in NYC. I subscribe to oodles of websites and receive emails all day every day informing me of the “next best everything,” and these emails inform my decisions. But I also spend time wandering unknown neighborhoods snapping pictures of places I want to return to the next time I’m nearby. I am going to make it a goal of mine to consciously practice deliberate spontaneity by going on more “missions” and talking to more people I don’t know.

Monday I had lunch at Pastaio di Eataly, the new restaurant addition to the flagship Eataly on 23rd Street. I’m a fan of eating at the bar, and this is one long bar that curves around a butcher block where fresh pasta is made. It’s like watching art. Everything was fabulous.

Have you been to the Museum of the City of New York? I’d never been, but after my visit last week I will return. I went to see an exhibit called Rebel Women. It was fascinating! Turns out there were female badasses all the way back to the early 1800’s. The museum has a fabulous gift shop that changes 1/3 of their offerings with every exhibit. I spent just as much time in the shop as in the museum, and I managed to cross off a few Christmas gifts on my list. Walking from the museum on 5th Avenue and 103rd, I found the end of Park Avenue at 96th street. It stopped me in my tracks.

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I love my book club. It was started about a year ago when I moved back to the city, and a friend and I decided to start one. I’ve always found community when sitting with a glass of wine in my hand and a book as the basis of discussion. Our book club is a day time event, and the host changes every month. If you host, you pick the book and you serve what you like. This month, the book was a controversial choice, Undone. The host chose it because she is good friends with the author, John Colapinto and he agreed to join us (hence the change to evening) for a glass of wine and a spirited discussion. John is a well-known established non-fiction writer, and this book was a diversion from his typical subject matter. I felt a little sorry for him as we discussed the book for an hour before he arrived – it was almost like he was thrown to the wine-soaked wolves. Without turning this blog into a book review, I’ll say that John’s a great writer and I kept turning the pages. You might want to read for your self…

I just want to say again how I, along with every other NYC resident and transit employee was NOT READY for this.

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I know there are a million poke spots in NYC, but I will walk way out of my way to eat here. If you find yourself in Chelsea, check out Wisefish Poke.

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Saturday night we booked a table with friends at the Cafe Carlyle a classic NYC institution. The last time Tom and I had been, Bobby Short was alive and tickling the ivories. Bemelman’s Bar was packed, and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. There was a ton of glam, vat-sized martinis, and the show was great.

I’m typing this blog as I wait for Amazon Fresh to deliver all my Thanksgiving needs (they are now officially 3 hours and 20 minutes past the deadline and say they won’t deliver) but my refrigerator is spotless and mostly empty, waiting for the arrival. My kids fly and train into the coop tonight, but I have reserved a very fun double bunk room for the four of them at the Freehand Hotel (a five-minute walk from the apartment), so there will be no dirty towels left on the floor of my guest bathroom. I think they are pretty excited to bunk up together too.

I wish you all a very festive feast, and hopefully, there won’t be too much discussion around your table about politics and climate change, because those will only ruin your appetite. Take a break from the negativity for a bit and enjoy all the good things that bring you and the people you share your meal with together.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

Fall Break

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As an empty nester, I try to make a big deal when one of my kids comes home for the weekend. Lucky for me, two of them live in NYC, so when we are joined by a third or a fourth, it’s cause for a bit of a celebration. This weekend, the youngest came home from college and, in an unusual turn of events, I had them mostly to myself. Tom was teaching at Columbia Thursday, Friday and Saturday and so there was time for serious #mombonding.

Thursday night we went to dinner at Bistro Pierre Lapin a new French bistro that was on my short list. Even though it opened only a few months ago, it has the ambiance of a favorite spot that’s been around forever. The first thing we noticed when we walked by were the real tapers on each table. It hit me that it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten by real candlelight and how much I miss it. The menu has all the French bistro favorites you’d expect and many unexpected choices as well. The ravier, an overflowing tray of small vegetable dishes served tableside is impressive, as are the Plats D’Accompagnement – five out of the nine are potato based. We chose the truffle fries and the pomme aligot – a potato puree with cheese, also served tableside.

It was divine and unlike anything I’ve ever had. The meal was over the top delicious and extremely high in calories, but it was worth it.

Friday night we celebrated Tom’s upcoming birthday at one of our favorite bars, Sel Rrose. I was able to reserve a large table and invite friends to join in the celebration. The cocktails and the oysters are the focus at this corner spot on Delancey and the Bowery. I also brought two boxes of doughnuts from Dough to blow out candles. It was the icing on the evening. Oh, and just in case you didn’t know, skin is in. IMG_3938

Saturday brunch was at Nur. I’ve been to Nur several times for dinner (it’s two doors down from my apartment and serves excellent middle eastern food), but they just started serving brunch. All three of my kids were recently in Israel and are now huge fans of the food. The brunch is prix fixe and begins with their sesame bagel (large enough for four) with varied mezzes, and then proceeds to shakshuka and an egg stuffed pita and ends with a small dessert. We rolled out of there in desperate need of a long walk.

Saturday night we were craving Asian and went to our new favorite sushi restaurant Kanoyama. It’s authentic and feels like a place you would find in Tokyo. The fish is very fresh, but the prices are very reasonable. It’s always packed, but they take reservations between 5:30 and 7. After that, it’s first come first wait. And because we were in the neighborhood, we stopped in at Sundaes and Cones our neighborhood ice cream paradise.

Tonight I’m cooking, and the smallest child’s request is for Bulgogi. I’m off to HMart to buy the ingredients for Korean “fire meat.”

Tomorrow we diet.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

I’m blaming everything on menopause. It’s just easier that way.

I was the one who thought I’d never go through menopause. Of course, I knew I would one day stop ovulating, but I had a feeling all those ugly symptoms my friends would bemoan about were not going to affect me. Every time a girlfriend would grab paper within her reach and create a makeshift fan, inside I shook my head and said: “that’s never happening to me.” Why I thought this was true, I have no idea. I just did.

Have you heard the saying “when man plans, God laughs?” Here’s a variation on the theme, “When middle-aged women plan, Mother Nature laughs.” And right now she’s bent over holding her sides guffawing. All of a sudden, and I mean all of a sudden, I no longer have a waist or an internal thermometer, my teenage acne has returned, I’m disoriented on occasion, and all I want to do is drink wine. I blame in all on menopause.

But here’s the exciting part; I don’t care. On some level, of course I’m not happy that my pants are tight, or I spend the night kicking off covers, and my doctors cringe when I tell them how much and how often I drink rose, but I’m letting some of the worrying go. And that says a lot because one of the best things I do is worry.

One thing that hasn’t changed is my energy, and Tom and I have been busy! We spent a fabulous 48 hours in Quoque, which if you didn’t know Quogue Is Not The Fucking Hamptons It’s our annual pilgrimage to our friends from Tokyo who now live on the West Coast. One of the highlights was a sea to table meal on the beach. IMG_1361

And seeing this a few feet from land.

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Making the rounds of seaside spots, we spent one night on Hen Island a magical place off the coast of Westchester that no one knows exists. My brother and sister-in-law have a family hideout where you spend most of your time bobbing in the bay, watching the sunset and digging for clams. It’s a complete off the grid opportunity – no running water or electricity – rustic and remote.

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We returned home, showered, and had a night in our bed before taking off on the next adventure, item #10 on my Summer To Do List – Glamping on Governor’s Island at Collective Retreats. The forecast improved over the course of the day, and we took the 1pm ferry to the island. Waiting for us in the ferry terminal on the city side was a rep from the company that checked us in and gave us braided bracelets that showed that we were guests of the retreat. Five minutes later, we were on the relatively empty island and were so excited to have Island Oyster mostly to ourselves. We’d been before on a weekend, and it was a madhouse. IMG_1426

We took our time and had a delicious lunch with lots of cold beverages. Walking over to the Collective Retreat area of the island (it’s a long walk, and there is no other way to get there than by walking – bring a wheelie bag), the weather looked like it was about to take a turn for the nasty. IMG_1435

But we were optimistic because it looked like this on the island.

We found our cabin and were so excited to settle in for an afternoon nap and some reading. Within 15 minutes, this happened.

We were evacuated, along with everyone on the island. They refunded our money, and we’re going to try again next summer. On another note, an Italian resort company known for restoring old buildings and making them into cool resorts just bought a huge piece of the island and will be opening in 2020 as a resort spa. I can’t imagine a better view from the pool. It’s on my Summer 2020 To Do List.

I started lifting weights recently – gasp…Tom has been begging me every other day for a year, and I finally said yes. I’ve been eight times, and I don’t hate it. But sometimes it leaves me a little stiff, and the other day I saw a great ad in a cab for a new spot called Strech’d. It’s a place you go where someone stretches you out. I went for the quickie session (25 minutes), and I came out feeling like I could twist and turn and bend much better than when I went in. It’s about half the price of a massage, and you leave without feeling like a greased watermelon. I bought a packet of five, and I’m looking forward to my next visit.

I have a friend that I’ve known for a long time, but we haven’t spent a lot of time together. But whenever we get together, we have a plan and a destination, and it’s always enlightening. This past Wednesday it was a guided tour of the UN. The last time I was at the UN I was in 3rd grade. Our tour guide, a beautiful journalist from Brazil that speaks three languages fluently and was very well versed in all things UN said they never get visitors from NY – everyone is always from somewhere else. The one hour tour costs $20 and is extremely interesting. I highly recommend it! Here I am pretending to be a delegate.

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I’m writing this blog from the Kimpton Hotel in Charlotte, NC. Tom and I are here to celebrate the 50th birthday of a very good friend who is one of the strongest women I know. It’s a priviledge to be here to celebrate another year of Rachel.

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Charlotte is a pretty happening city. Our hotel is a short walk from the Panther’s stadium (we had tickets to see them play the Dolphins last night, but my handbag was too big, so they turned us away), but fortunately, our hotel has a hopping rooftop bar with awesome views.

We’ve been enjoying the Southern Hospitality and the southern sized portions!

Sweet potato pancakes, a pimento cheese omelet and fried green tomatoes with faro, kale, and cauliflower.

Looking forward to the celebration tonight!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

Cake and Ice Cream

IMG_0361It was my 53rd birthday last week, and more than any birthday in the past 25 years, I feel uncertain of what the future holds. It’s been exactly one year since we moved into the city as empty nesters and what an incredible year it’s been. But I can’t help thinking; what’s next? I spent the last few months trying to gain meaningful employment as well as find an agent for my middle-grade book. Both to no avail. I have re-learned how rejection feels, and it’s not great. However, I realize that no one is going to come and find me in my apartment. So if accomplishing my goals means additional rejection, then I’m sure there is more of that to come this year. The good thing is that I have so many friends in the same situation; looking for answers to what they want to do now that their kids are grown, and that helps.

As I said, it was my birthday, and there were lots of opportunities for celebration. A fun dinner at Eleven Madison Park (EMP) Summer House with old friends included cocktails on swings, and make your own sundaes (pictured above). IMG_0353

We used to have a home in Amagansett, and the town still holds a special place in my heart. But last weekend, I noticed that two of my favorite spots (the old Amagansett Market and Mary’s Marvelous) have been replaced with expensive gluten-free vegan health food. Sad!

On my actual birthday, Tom took the day off from work, and we had a lazy romantic lunch at Le Coucou my favorite restaurant in the city. We sipped pink champagne, and there was zero concern for calories.

Lunch was followed several hours later with a family dinner at Palma.

I’ve passed by this sweet little Italian restaurant many times while wandering in the West Village and it’s always packed. I booked a table in the back garden, and it was a perfect evening. Everything we ordered (and we ordered a lot) was wonderful. It would be an excellent place for a romantic date night.

Tuesday, Marybeth treated me to a great birthday by visiting The Met Cloisters to see the second part of the Costume Institute’s Heavenly Bodies. It was the perfect summer day, 75 degrees with no humidity. We couldn’t have timed it better!

Wednesday I scheduled a 90-minute birthday massage. My therapist came recommended, and when I arrived, I found out that he was visually impaired. This is something I was used to in Asia, as many of the best massage therapists are blind. And the first 45 minutes of the massage was great. And then he fell asleep. Yes, he did. I kept trying to wake him up by coughing or sniffing, and sometimes someone in the hall would drop something, and he would come back to life. It was a very odd 45-minute finish.

One of the best things about living in the city is that we get to see our Tokyo friends who are now scattered to various latitudes and longitudes around the globe. At some point, everyone makes their way to NYC. We met up with good friends who now live in Australia on the roof of Eataly at Serra by Birreria, which looks better than it eats. The bar is jammed after work with millennials drinking frose and aperol spritzes, and the food is just ok. But if you want to feel like you’ve been instantly transported to a terraced garden, it’s a good spot.

Friday night, I got an early reservation at Davelle a tiny Japanese restaurant on the Lower East Side that just received a great write up in the NY Times, and a high rating on The Infatuation. It has three small tables and a few seats at the bar, and that’s it. There was a line outside, and almost every seat was filled with Asians including a friend of our son’s from the American School in Japan. Having lived in Japan for many years, I am familiar with Oden, a main dish on the menu at Davelle, because it’s what they sell at every 7-11 counter in Japan. Small bowls of dashi broth with various ingredients like daikon radish, fried tofu, vegetables, etc… We ordered an assortment, as well as the best potato salad, and a delicious Japanese curry rice with shabu-shabu beef on top, and a crave-worthy spicy cod caviar spaghetti dish. Tom and I enjoyed the meal, but I wouldn’t suggest the place to the uninitiated. You need to really enjoy Japanese food to appreciate Davelle. It’s that authentic.

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6 pm dinner reservations scream for after dinner cocktails. We walked down Delancy to Sel Rrose one of our favorite cocktail bars (they also have the best truffle fries). The cocktails are divine, the bartenders are model-gorgeous, and it’s just a really fun place to people watch.

Late night, there was pie. And not just any pie – the best pie in NYC at Petee’s Pie . If you haven’t been, go – they are open until 1 am!!! Tom and I shared the strawberry rhubarb and bought a coconut custard to bring to friends tomorrow.

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Off to sweat it out at the Yankee/Red Sox game!

Have fun. Be bold.