Expat Eyes

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When you live in a foreign country, you see it through expat eyes. It’s a special lens which allows you to see things that natives don’t see. When I lived in Tokyo, I was fascinated with all sorts of things that the Japanese people took for granted, and didn’t find particularly interesting, like vending machines, bathroom slippers, automatic doors, the lack of garbage cans on streets, the wrapping of packages ( I could go on and on…). When I returned to my native land of NYC, I was determined to bring my expat eyes with me, but what I’ve realized recently is that although I have a carpe diem attitude, it isn’t the same thing. This realization came on Wednesday when I had plans with my Australian friend who is an expat in New York. It was a rainy day, and she had a few suggestions of how we should spend it. The first was to get something to eat in Grand Central in the Noma foodcourt. I had no clue what she was talking about until we arrived. I had dashed by it many times, rushing to get through Grand Central and had no idea that it was a Claus Meyer venture, a co-founder of Noma, a ground-breaking restaurant in Copenhagen. I love sitting and talking to Wendy because she always has good ideas and interesting observations about life in NYC.

After lunch, we went to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) to watch a free film, which Wendy had signed up for online. I had no idea you could see movies at the MOMA. We watched Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House in a packed luxurious theater. It was a fun look at New York City in the 40’s.

 

On Thursday, an absolutely beautiful day, a friend and I walked downtown in search of a place to eat outside. We found ourselves at The Wren on the Bowery. I’ve been to the Wren before for lunch and brunch, and I highly recommend it. However, I wouldn’t recommend going for drinks. Cocktail hour it’s packed with kids that were born in the mid-90’s. From there we walked down the Bowery to Prince Street and walked through Soho stopping at a new store I’m totally obsessed with, The Eight Senses.  Around the corner, we met up with Toni, the owner of Olives, and a good friend of my friend Lisa. She brought out her two beautiful dogs and we hung out on the sidewalk in the sun talking and catching up, constantly being stopped by people who wanted to pet her adorable baby pug, Dumbledore.

Friday night we had dinner with friends at Salinas a warm and cozy tapas restaurant on 9th Avenue in Chelsea. The space has several small dining rooms, an inviting bar and delicious food. The weather had turned colder that night and luckily our dining room had a nice fireplace. After dinner, we walked over to Milk Bar to get a baby birthday cake shake.

Saturday we had tickets to the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Thankfully, the weather was gorgeous and it was a great day to walk the garden grounds. Admitedly, we are a bit spoiled as we lived in Japan for six years and have been to real deal Hanami parties, but it was still fun to take pictures under the pedals, and watch the festival goers let their freak flags fly. Japanese festivals seem to be an invitation to let loose and dress up, which I love.

Coffee Shop has been around forever (the owner is a former model and married to music producer Jellybean Benitez – Madonna’s old boyfriend) and is a great backup spot if you are in Union Square and you want to eat outside. The food is decent and the people watching is ideal. It’s known for it’s beautiful staff, which makes waiting for a table more enjoyable. Tom and I had a late lunch and felt so happy to be eating outside in the neighborhood.

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Saturday night it was time to put on our dancing shoes, or in my case, my van high tops. Dinner was at Barbounia a fun place to go with a group in Gramercy. Their flatbreads are HUGE.IMG_9319

We had an after-dinner drink at my favorite place to people watch Mari Vanna and then it was off to Retro Club NYC where I’d reserved a table and invited a group of disco-loving friends. We danced and sang and jumped up and down until the wee hours. It’s amazing how the words to songs like It’s Raining Men, The Dancing Queen, and Disco Inferno come right back.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

Boogie Wonderland

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Last night, after a dinner party with friends, and an alcohol-impaired session of the Name Game, our group went dancing. I love to dance, and as you get older, your opportunities become limited to weddings and bar-mitzvahs. When I read about the recent opening of Retro Club NYC a dance club that catered to people my age, that played the music I loved, and served cosmos, I knew I’d be going sooner rather than later. There was no bouncer at the door, the entrance fee was $10, and the playlist was epic. I’ll be back.

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I often feel like a kid in a candy store living in NYC, but this week I witnessed actual kids in a candy store at Economy Candy. I was there filling up the senbei jar that I keep on my kitchen counter, and the door opened, and a class trip came streaming in. The squeals were at a decibel I haven’t heard in a while. I’m not known to squeal, but I could relate to their excitement. It’s how I feel when a new restaurant opens in my neighborhood, like BoucherieTender Greens, and Simon and the Whale or when I walk down a street I haven’t yet discovered, and it’s a gold mine.

This week I had a plan to visit H Mart to buy my favorite Japanese mayonnaise, Kewpie (I promise, buy Kewpie and you’ll never buy Hellman’s again). Normally, I walk up Broadway, but that day, I was coming from the subway on Park. Walking on 32nd street, which is officially Koreatown, I was astounded by the depth and breadth of Asian culinary options. I can’t recommend any yet, but my son works in the neighborhood, and I’m going to make it a point of meeting him for lunch more often.

While wandering on Prince Street, I was so excited to see that Allbirds opened a shop in NYC. I LOVE their wool sneakers and wear them whenever I have a lot of walking in my day. They come in many fun colors, and a new slip on version. Up until a few months ago, you could only order online. If you go to the store wearing your Allbirds, they give you a pair of new shoelaces (in fun colors) for free.

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A highlight of the week was attending the Global Girls Glow celebration after their presentation at the UN for the Commission on the Status of Women . Global Glow was founded by my friend Kylie Schuyler and works on breaking barriers to education and success for young girls. They currently work with over 6000 girls in 27 countries. I am so proud of the work they are doing, and it was a privilege to hear some of the girls tell their story.

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And speaking of fun charity events, I want to tell you about a delicious event coming up on April 16th. I’m on the advisory board of the Bronx Academy of Letters  a public school in the poorest congressional district in the US. I help the high school seniors write their college essays, as well as fund raise for the school.  Every year our honorary chairperson, Anthony Bourdain gathers the best NYC chefs to come and cook for 500 of our friends. Please consider buying a ticket and joining us for an amazing night!

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Have fun. Be bold.