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.

 

 

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.

 

Dermaplane: The Muffin of Beauty Secrets

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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!

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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,

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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.

We had a hilarious night at the Drag show LIPS.

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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.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

Dating After 50.

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Most of my friends either became empty nesters this past year or will become one in the next year or two, which means CHANGE and in some cases, significant change. Some couples choose to downsize to smaller homes in less expensive towns, some move into the city, some get divorced, and others spend a lot of time talking about all of the above. These real estate/lifestyle decisions can have a huge impact on your circle of friends. Until your last child graduates from high school, your friends, for the most part, have probably been around since you met as nervous new parents in kindergarten. Of course, over the years, some fall by the wayside, but at least for me, my friends up until that point were those I met when my daily life was very different.

While I had a few friends who already lived in NYC, moving here left me without my regular circle of girls and couples too, which brings me to the concept of dating after 50. The title of this post refers to meeting new people and being open to doing so, which is not an easy thing to do at our age. Old friends know and love us, warts and all; not necessarily the case when you’re dating someone new. But after 50, it’s important to show your true self as you have little time to waste being someone you’re not. Since I moved, I’ve said yes to anyone who offered to “fix me up” with a new friend they thought I’d really hit it off with, and for the most part, these setups have gone well. And after a few “dates,” we’ve even moved on to include our husbands. My advice is to say yes to anyone who wants to introduce you, and have faith that the person has a very good reason to do so.

Tuesday’s 70-degree sunny day was a well-appreciated gift. I had plans with a new friend (see above) to meet at noon on Park and 19th. Our only objective was to walk south and find somewhere to eat lunch outside. We ended up at a favorite spot in the West Village, Via Carota. We were able to get a table outside, and we toasted the day with an Aperol Spritz. The food is also fabulous. IMG_8141

On the walk home, we stopped at the new outpost of il laboratorio del gelato a favorite of mine on the lower east side that recently opened on University, close to Union Square Park. The flavor profiles of the gelato are unique and so delicious.IMG_8143

On Friday night, Tom and I had tickets to see Romeo and Juliet at the NYC Ballet. I Texted Rex for a rec for pre-theater dinner and “he” suggested The Ribbon. While the food was totally decent – fresh oysters and excellent burgers, it was filled with loud, jumping toddlers. This happened to us on another Friday evening when we went to Hillstone. I’ve learned my empty nest lesson: do not go to popular American restaurants on Friday night before 9 pm. I love kids, but not when I’m out for dinner on a weekend. The ballet, by the way, was beautiful. I highly recommend it.

Saturday we met up with our daughter and her college roommate at Dante in the West Village. A NYC landmark since 1915, when it was a meeting house for Italian immigrants. It has been newly re-opened by an Australian family who has tried very hard to stick to the roots, while also adding a very Aussie spin. We enjoyed our meal – if you go, you must order the almond milk pancakes. I will think about that dish again and again until I return!

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Tom and I have been enjoying our new Movie Pass. We still can’t believe that you can pay $7.95 per month and you get to go to one movie of your choice every day. This weekend we squeezed in Phantom Thread and 15:17 to Paris (great story, terrible movie). If you love movies, and you haven’t signed up, do it!

We were happy to welcome friends from Rye Saturday night for cocktails in our apartment, and then we all walked over to Boqueria. You can make a large party reservation (6 or more) if you agree to the $49/pp family style tapas meal. It is so much food; we had to take the paella course to go (but we didn’t forgo the churros). The place was jammed with a great vibe, and if we had a slightly larger table it would have been even better.

We ended the week at brunch with some new friends (see above) at an old favorite, Minetta Tavern, which happens to be on the same block as Dante and has the same sort of history. It originally opened in 1937, and boasted Hemingway as a patron. Later on, in 2009, Keith McNally reopened the spot to serious fanfare – it was impossible to get a table. The buzz is now gone, but the place still packs them in, and you know you will have a great meal regardless of what you order.

Have fun. Be bold.