When my daughter was going into junior year, I found a handwritten list in colored magic markers in her bedroom that said “Summer To Do List.” Of course, I swiped it and put it in my box of treasures for safe keeping, but I remember it had some really adorable things on it, like going to an outdoor concert, getting a tan, and having a summer fling. I think about that list every year right about now.
In fact, it was the inspiration for my own
SUMMER TO DO LIST
1. Get tickets for Shakespeare in the Park and get them the old-fashioned way by arriving with a cup of coffee and waiting in line at 7:45 in the morning.
2. Go to Tipsy Scoop and eat ice cream infused with alcohol.
My love of crusty french baguettes (like this ham and fromage with salty butter from Arcade Bakery that will instantly transport you to a bench in the Tuileries Gardens) is in direct correlation to the state of my constant TMJ. But, after years of suffering, I’ve found the solution, and I want to share it with you. Dr. Elizabeth Hale injects my jaw with botox every five months and my hard as rocks muscles melt away. Book now, and you might get in before September. She’s very popular.
This week began with a night filled with tasty bites and creative sips surrounded by great friends for my favorite cause; raising money for the students of the Bronx Academy of Letters It was our annual Chef Tasting where some of New York City’s best chefs and mixologists donate their time and food to support our school. This is a picture of me and one of my absolute favorite chefs, Christian Petroni, who always volunteers at our benefit. His lasagne this year was amazing!
Many delish meals were gobbled, and cocktails quaffed this week. My doctor has suggested that I refrain from drinking two days a week so I don’t get osteoporosis – who knew? But living in NYC makes that a challenge! We hit both Dante and Dante at Genuine– I returned to Dante for the almond milk pancake – OMG, and a Friday night dinner with old friends at Genuine including Aperol Spritz on tap! There was a millennial dinner with all four of my kids and their friends at Indochine, jalapeno basil margaritas at ABC Cucina, and curry in a hurry at IndiKitch.
We went to a total bust of a festival on the The Highline, but it was a gorgeous spring day so the time spent wasn’t a waste. I just bought tickets for next weekend’s Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Sitting on a picnic blanket eating onigiri, drinking Sapporo and celebrating hanami is one of my favorite things to do.
Just got this summer’s lineup for Summer Stage – free music in public parks all over the five boroughs. Looking forward to listening to opera, packing a picnic and spending a summer evening in Central Park on June 11th.
All my kids were in town for a night we’ve all had on the calendar since Christmas. Our absolute favorite comedian, Sebastian Manuscalco was in town at Radio City, and we had tickets to the last show Saturday night at 10. We had an absolute blast. If you aren’t familiar with his comedy, you can watch two of his shows on Netflix. Be prepared to laugh out loud.
AND I AM SO PSYCHED FOR SPRING! It’s my first one living in NYC since I was 21. I’m going to take full advantage of everything. Look out for me in every outdoor cafe, floating bar, and rooftop lounge!!!
Muffins allow us to eat cake at breakfast without guilt. It’s the same idea with dermaplaning. I can have my face shaved without admitting that I shave my face. I’ve been dermaplaning since I lived in Japan – Japanese women have been shaving for years, and they have the most beautiful skin I’ve ever seen. When I mention this beauty secret to friends, they’re perplexed. Almost no one I know in New York has ever done it. I go to Wynter at Bare Beauty about once a month, and I walk out without any facial hair and a layer of dead skin removed. I highly recommend it.
Another fun Japanese find is my recent discovery of a Spanail location in Soho! Spanail has over 70 locations in Japan, and they are the absolute best in nail art and gel nails. And the service is very Japanese. They take their time, and you never feel like you are being rushed out the door. And, you can get sushi nails, so there’s a reason to go!
You might notice that the look of the blog has changed since last week, and that’s because many readers have been asking for a way to quickly search for specific info. It’s still a work in progress, but at least you can now click on a specific category, or do a general search at the top of the blog. I hope you find it easier to navigate.
Last week’s blog on pizza was my most read blog EVER (times five!) Pizza will have to be a continuing feature at #emptynestnyc. I did have one of the best pizzas I had in a long time last week at Rubirosa if you go, get the vodka pie. I had friends in from Tokyo last week, and we celebrated an 18th birthday. This celebration was an all-day affair and included milkshakes at Black Tap,
shopping in Nolita on Prince Street between the Bowery and Lafayette; my favorite block in NYC for small boutique shopping. Make sure you include side streets like Mott and Mulberry off of Prince. An entire day could be spent winding up and down this neighborhood.
It’s the perfect place to celebrate a birthday with women. However, if you can book just for the show, I would skip the dinner. From there we took the birthday girl to sing karaoke at our favorite neighborhood spot Karaoke17. The night ended with birthday cake and french fries at L’Express a decent French brasserie that is open 24/7. It’s a great place to have in your late night repertoire.
Last Saturday, when it felt like spring might be here, Tom and I went out to Brooklyn for an unplanned brunch. We had a destination – Williamsburg, but no place in mind. We ended up at Fette Sau a bbq shack in an old auto body shop. It’s been open for over ten years, and it’s not surprising. Great food, indoor/outdoor dining, with a full bar. Afterwards, we walked over to Milkbar for birthday cake shakes and chocolate pretzel soft serve, and ended the afternoon shopping for junk at Mother of Junk.
On Sunday, our nest was FULL for Easter dinner with our kids and their friends. I made a delicious lamb shoulder that I bought at the butcher at Eataly and slowly roasted in the oven for seven hours, and served it with spinach pies I found at International Grocery.
Even though it’s April, it still feels like winter. I stand in my closet each morning, looking longingly at my cute skirts, and flats, wondering when I can put away the sweaters and turtlenecks, and drop all my boots off at Romano Cobbler.
Hopefully, next week’s blog will have some signs of springtime.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I’m laughing as I type in the title to this post because anyone who knows me knows I would never go to Paris without planning. However, I kept the scheduled activities to a minimum. Tom and I had an entire week to ourselves in Paris, and I wanted it to be as spontaneous as possible. We’d been to Paris before, both on our own, and together, which meant this time around our trip would be less about checking things off and more about going with the flow.
Of course, besides eating, shopping and drinking champagne (there was a lot of the latter), we filled our days with long walks to nowhere, which ended up including Montmartre, Luxembourg Garden, St. Germain des Pres, La Tour Eiffel, The Louis Vuitton Foundation, The Musee Rodin, Saint Chapelle, Le Marais (many times), Canal St. Martin, the Musee D’Orsay, and Conciergerie. We even had drinks at Hotel Costes with our friend Saniya, who was in town for work. I love being an ex-expat, as I find my chances of finding friends wherever I go increases ten-fold.
*One of our best nights ended with the late show of Le Crazy Horse. I loved it, but not as much as Tom. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it.
About shopping, it felt like the entire city of Paris was on sale. Every store window had a “Soldes” display. If you want to come to Paris to shop, come in January/February. In addition to returning to Tom’s favorite spot to buy his funky shirts, he’s become “famous” for at Coton Doux I discovered City Pharma (aka the French Fountain of Youth). I think I am the last person on earth to learn of its treasures as it was by FAR the most crowded of any establishment Tom and I entered all week! I left with a bag full of goodies.
I truly enjoyed our unintentional week away, but…if I had to do it all again, with a little more organization (sorry, I just can’t help myself), I would create lists by arrondissement of places of interest, so that when we went to the far reaches of Paris for dinner or lunch (which we often did), I would have an idea of what I could see or do while there. In my experience, many of the new hot places to eat are not necessarily located in the most central of locations.
One of the things I like most about traveling is the research I do leading up to a trip. Of course, I ask friends who’ve been many times which is a great resource, but I also love me some boots on the ground. For that, I go to my favorite bloggers. For Paris, I’ll always ask my friend Dina for food advice. This time around, she recommended Le 6 Paul Bert and also was a big help in making a few hard to get reservations. You can follow her at www.worldfooddina.com She’s a fellow Tokyo expat, who lived in Paris before moving to New York a few years ago. She also has excellent tips for eating in NYC and Tokyo. I also love Lindsey Tramuta who blogs at www.lostincheeseland.com and is the author of the new book The New Paris a fantastic source for all things Paris. And lastly, I love reading Sara Leiberman’s newsletter Overthinking It.
Here are some snaps of our winter week in Paris. I’m sure people questioned our decision to go in winter, but Paris is beautiful any time of year, and there is nowhere more romantic to celebrate Valentine’s Day!
Merci beaucoup to D’anna for making the week possible.
Friday afternoon, Tom texted and asked, “What are we up to this weekend?” My response: “What are we NOT up to is the question.” I do try to pack as much as possible into non-football watching weekends. After work on Friday, we had a quiet dinner in front of a wood burning fireplace in Tribeca at a place I’ve mentioned in the blog before, Tiny’s. Romantic it was, but the food was just meh, and I don’t love eating ok meals in a city where you don’t have to do that. We finished off the night watching Get Out. I’ve wanted to see this movie for a while, but I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to scary movies. I got over my fear and was absolutely riveted. I totally get why Daniel Kaluuya was nominated for an Academy Award.
Saturday started early at Soho House for brunch with friends. We aren’t members, but it was lovely to be invited. They have a gorgeous spread in a beautiful room – I highly recommend it if you have the opportunity to go. It was a warmish day in NYC, so we decided to walk the Highline up to Jacob Javits on 34th. The Highline is beautiful no matter what time of year, and they always have new art installations. Walking north from 14th is like fast-forwarding through time. You start in the Meatpacking District where landmark buildings have been faithfully restored, and then you smack right into the dystopian future of Hudson Yards.
Our destination was the New York Times Travel Show at Jacob Javits. I’m travel obsessed and always in search of the next best thing. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it at the travel show, but I did find these guys from the DR.
We did a quick walk through the convention and decided it was time to leave, and eat again. The sun was out, and I immediately thought picnic. Back down in our Gramercy neighborhood, I grabbed a sandwich “to go” at Daily Provisions The line was obscene. I try only to go there mid-week when the lines are manageable, but their sandwiches are so good, and I was craving the Milanese. If you go and plan on bringing your sandwich to a picnic (Union Square Park is two blocks away), I would suggest you ask them to cut your sandwich and make sure to bring extra napkins. They are delicious but messy.
I was very excited about our Saturday night plans. I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to go to the Metrograph for some time, but couldn’t find a movie I felt both Tom and I would enjoy. The Metrograph is a very unique place to see old films. You feel like you’ve entered a theater you might find back in the ’20’s in New York City. You can eat dinner before or after a show, upstairs in The Commissary and then have a coffee in the lobby lounge before you go inside. And the candy selections are unparalleled!
The movie I chose was called Savage Grace. I’d never heard of the movie, but it starred Juliane Moore and a very young Eddy Redmayne, so that was good enough for me. After a very nice meal, we arrived to find a full house as it was the 10th anniversary of the film, and the director, producers, and cinematographer were all in attendance for a post film Q&A. I had no idea that was a part of the $15 ticket, so it was an extra special treat. I probably should have read the movie synopsis beforehand, but let’s just say it DEFINITELY wasn’t a boring film. And finding out afterward that it was a true story sort of blew our minds. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. I’m thinking of buying the book for a deeper dive.
Sunday was a rainy day, and we could have easily stayed in PJ’s and watched more movies, but I had promised a friend who just opened a new restaurant on the Lower East Side that we would come for brunch and try his food. It’s called Brigitte, and it is a sweet little French restaurant on the fringes of the LES. It’s French, but not fussy and the staff couldn’t have been friendlier. We enjoyed our meal and will return and try dinner next time. No matter how many times I go to the Lower East Side, I can never figure out where I am. Navigation is not a skill I have, yet you’d think after going many times, I’d figure it out. Nope, it kicks my butt every time. For example, the restaurant was literally around the corner from both my son’s apartment and the Metrograph from the night before, and I had no idea until after I arrived. C’est la vie. I look forward to spending more time in that part of the city as it’s a treasure trove of discoveries. I see many spring weekends in my future getting happily lost.
One last note, a highlight of my week was a literal fireside chat with a friend in the lobby bar of The Marlton Hotel. Several hours passed, as did glasses of wine and a large plate of very good french fries, before I realized it was time to go home and make dinner. It’s a fabulous place to spend an afternoon with a friend, or with their free wireless access.
A few blog entries ago, I mentioned that this emptynester was about to embark on a search for a full-time job and that there may be some funny tales to tell along the way. With the amazing help of Anne Finnegan of Prep Your Path who was able to take bits and pieces of my life for the past thirty years and tell a story, I was able to set forth on the path to employment. I was sort of hoping there would be a few anecdotes, otherwise, it would mean that all I did was send my resume out into the ether without ever hearing back. Well, this week I got a match on a job I applied for on Angel List a site for start-ups looking to fill positions. I decided to go the start-up route because if I’m going to go back to work, I want to be surrounded by young people where we can have FUN. I haven’t been on a job interview since 1988 when a movie cost $3.50, Prozac was first introduced and Wrigley Field finally got lights. I may have been a bit rusty. But, after 45 minutes of questions, none of which I didn’t have an answer for (Tom says talking is one of my strong points), the interview ended with the question, Can you take criticism from a millennial? My answer? With four millennial children, it happens on a regular basis. No problem.
The rest of the week I focused on non-work related activities which not surprisingly included eating with friends and this week I was lucky to see many old Tokyo friends who happened to be in New York. There was a delicious lunch at Loring Place Dan Kluger’s newish spot (former chef at ABC Kitchen). It was my second time eating his food, and I enjoyed it just as much. Another fabulous lunch was at Atla which is gourmet Mexican. The dining room is very modern filled with light in a great spot in Noho for people watching. The only issue I had was that I made a reservation for 12:30 and breakfast ran until 1 when lunch began. If I wanted to order from the lunch menu, I had to wait until 1. So if you book for lunch make sure it’s from 1 pm. It really was delicious!
On Tuesday night Tom and I had tickets to a cabaret night at Feinstein’s 54 Below to see one of our son’s elementary school friend’s show. Jen Damiano is a Tony-nominated Broadway actress who has had a prolific career, and she’s only 26! It was fun to hear her tell her life story through song. It’s just amazing to see kids we knew when they were young out there in the world following their dreams. I highly recommend the venue as well. Intimate, but not too small right in the heart of the theater district.
Have you used the Arro app? It makes paying for NYC taxis as easy as uber. Download the app and enter your information. Then, next time you are in a cab, look on the screen that plays the annoying clips, and you’ll find the “pay and pair” number and enter it into your app, and it will automatically charge your app. You can also use it to hire taxis without surge pricing, but I haven’t gotten there yet.
A new must-visit restaurant opened in my neighborhood called Atoboy . Don’t get it confused with the very hot cocktail bar on the lower east side with the same name. This is the restaurant in Nomad. It’s Korean, but not BBQ. When you walk inside it feels a bit dystopian, but that just lets the food tell the story. And it’s a very delicious story. The menu consists of three sections of six small plates. You choose any three for $42. We were a party of four and so we ordered four different plates from each section and shared. EVERYTHING was awesome. It’s hard to get a reservation so book now for next month.
A new hotel has opened in my neighborhood that allows for multiple guests for a reasonable rate. It also has a great communal space and a very interesting restaurant. This summer my niece is getting married in Brooklyn, and I’ll recommend the hotel for out of town guests. Check out this bunk room in The Freehand Hotel. Super cool and convenient!
The Michelangelo exhibit at the MET has been on my to-do list since it opened, and Tom and I finally made it there this week. The exhibit was so crowded it was sort of hard to enjoy, however, it’s hard not to stare in awe. One of the first pieces you encounter is a small sculpture of an archer that he carved from a single block of marble…when he was a teenager! I don’t know about your kids when they were teens, but I’d say he was quite the overachiever. And the exhibit also has its own Sistine Chapel. Tom and I both have visited in Rome, but not together. I was lucky enough to see it with my kids. Tom was with Joey Petrosinelli back in 1988. So here we are together, faking it until we hopefully see it one day together.
We were starving after seeing so many priceless works of art, so we stopped for lunch and a glass of champagne at the Petrie Court Cafe which overlooks Central Park. The food is ok, but the view is fabulous and walking on cement can be tough on the lower back. After lunch, we walked through the park entering at 79th with a brief stop at the Belvedere Castle and before long we popped out on Central Park West. I look forward to spring when that walk will be in full bloom.
We had dinner with friends in from Westchester at Shuka a new Mediterranean restaurant on the border of Soho and the West Village on MacDougal. Schwarma and kebabs, tagine and vegetable hummus. Spicy tequila drinks. Great vibe, reasonable. Fun.
And the weekend ended in Bushwick at one of my favorite places for Brunch with a group, Win Son a delicious spot for Taiwanese food. Reserve one of the round tables in the window with the lazy susan. Order one of everything.
That’s all for today. I’ve been inside my apartment writing and editing, and the sun is almost about to set. I have to get outside before it does!