Bizcation Madness

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I first heard of the word Bizcation from my friend Doug who loves to mashup words to make new fun ones, like FRAPPS (free apps) and FREFILLS (free refills). It means, when your husband goes on a business trip, you go along for a vacation; hence the mashup. Tom had to be in London for a few nights, and so thanks to Norwegian Air and their very favorable ticket prices, I went along too.

Having friends in London is such a bonus because I hardly had to plan anything. I had a few thoughts floating in my head about how I wanted to spend the time, but really, I was in a fabulous city (at a very interesting time) hanging out with old friends, so what could be bad?

I purchased timed tickets to visit the newly opened Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries at Westminster Abbey as my sister had recently visited and said it was great. I was a little early and so spent some time in the abbey’s gift shop. As church gift shops go, this one is excellent.

The galleries are high above the abbey and provide a lofty view from which to gaze down upon the church (I snuck a picture and got in trouble regardless).

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But it’s not just the view that is spectacular; it’s chock a block with ancient royal artifacts, and a few new ones as well – including William and Kate’s marriage license! On a side note, do you ever use the face smacking emoji when texting? My youngest daughter is quite fond of it, and seeing this in the abbey made me think of its origin.

 

 

I was meeting my friend Efrot for lunch, and when I arrived at the location, I was confused. I was jetlagged, and I’d taken a sleeping pill on the plane, but I was pretty sure she said we were going for Thai, and this pub was the farthest from Thai I could imagine. But Efrot is all about authentic so in I went. Once inside The Churchill Arms, it felt very pubby with lots of Churchill memorabilia scattered here and there. I sat at the bar and ordered a drink and asked if I was in the right place. The barkeep pointed to the back and said that’s where the Thai happened. Sure enough, when Efrot arrived we went to the back, and there were a host of Thai ladies cooking up delicious home cooked Thai food. I’d add it to your London itinerary.

p.s. Churchill’s grandparents used to frequent the pub, and it’s been around since 1750. In the spring I hear it’s covered in gorgeous flowers.

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I refuse to take buses in NYC because they never come and they are slower than a tourist on a crowded theater district street holding a map in one hand, and a camera in the other. But the buses are brilliant in London! It’s the cheapest, and most time efficient way to sightsee – jump on a double-decker, wrangle a front row seat and see the city. I spent Wednesday morning on Bus 11, which took me past Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament, straight into the city of London, passing St. Paul’s Cathedral. Another thing I loved about both the buses and the tube in London was that I could flash my contactless credit card (the one with the little waves on the back), when going through the wicket, and I never needed to purchase a ticket. So easy! After my bus ride, I returned to the neighborhood where I was staying, Sloane Square, and walked around the Saatchi Gallery for an hour. Saatchi is very contemporary and prides itself on showing artists that are unseen or those that are rarely exhibited in the UK.

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The Saatchi also has an excellent gift shop. I particularly liked the very British greeting card section.

 

 

I met my friend Nita for lunch at a London favorite, Colbert. No matter what time of day or night, Colbert is packed, so book ahead. Nita and I met while playing bridge in NYC at Honors Bridge Club, and it was a treat to see her in London. She splits her time between both cities. After lunch, I was reconnecting with Efrot at the Dior Exhibit at the V&A. The V&A is a snazzy way to say the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Dior exhibit was completely sold out, but Efort had a membership, and we were allowed to enter. What I found in London is that all the museums are free, but if you buy a membership you get access to the special exhibits. I think a city that opens it’s museums to the public for free is one that is fully vested in the importance of culture. The Dior show was exquisite. It’s incredible to think that Christian Dior was only at the helm of his fashion house for ten years, and yet created a lasting legacy. He’s known for his “new look” silhouette, which he said was inspired by an upside down flower. One of the rooms in the exhibit shows his dress patterns upside down.

 

 

I know it’s going to seem a bit excessive to mention yet another fabulous gift shop, but the V&A is by far the best museum shop ever. I went crazy buying costume jewelry for mere pounds. I bet no one will be able to tell!

Wednesday night I finally made it to the Chiltern Firehouse for dinner. It’s been on my list since it opened in 2013. It’s an André Balazs hotel and restaurant. André is all about the vibe, and he hits a home run with this very hip spot in Marylebone. From the moment you arrive, you know you are going to have a very cool night. And unlike some of his other locations (Sunset Beach in Shelter Island), the food is very, very good. My phone was charging and I didn’t get it back in time to take any fun dinner pictures, but I did manage a snap of my dessert. It looks like a hot mess, but it was insanely delicious rice pudding.

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Thursday was my last full day in the city, and I started with a walk through Carnaby Street. Carnaby “Street” is actually 14 pedestrianized streets, so it makes for the perfect shopping trip. The stores skew young, my daughters would have had a field day, but I managed to buy one unique piece that I’ll either wear out or never wear once. We’ll see. Thankfully the stores are fun and inexpensive.

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From there I met my friend Stephanie at Nopi Yotam Ottonlenghi’s vegetable-focused restaurant. I’m a big fan – I heard him speak at the 92nd Street Y and I own and use all of his cookbooks. Next time I return, I want to try his new place, Rovi.

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After lunch, we dashed down to the Tate Modern to meet other friends we knew from our Japan days and to see the Bonnard exhibit. We spent the entire time in the rooftop lounge talking and catching up; we never made it to the exhibit. The walk from the museum back to the Westminster station along the South Bank of the river was fantastic. It’s a thriving cultural scene, with so much to see and do – until next time!

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Dinner Thursday was at Berner’s Tavern in Fitzrovia. This was a suggestion from my young friend Hilary, and it didn’t disappoint. It could be the most beautiful dining room in London.

Friday came around so quickly – I wasn’t ready to leave! I had one last stop before the airport, and that was meeting my friend Syd who lives in New York but was on the tail end of her Euro vacation with her husband Rob. They were stopping off for 24 hours to visit her British cousins. I was so happy to join and meet everyone. The lunch spot she chose, Le Petite Maison was delicious and posh – the perfect combination. And then it was a mad dash to the airport on the Gatwick Express.

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Saturday morning, back in NYC we had timed tickets to climb the much talked about Vessel at Hudson Yards. It was a very windy day, and they cut off the climb at level three making the entire experience very anti-climb-atic! We went into the mall to get warm thinking we’d bop around Mercado, but it was closed. It doesn’t open until 5 pm. What???

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I have to agree with the recent New Yorker article. There is no reason to go to Hudson Yards. I felt like I was in a ritzy Dubai mall. Not NYC at all. I’ll reserve final judgment until the Shed opens. There still may be some hope yet.

Sunday was a gorgeous day in NYC, and before attending an aca-awesome event at Carnegie Hall, Tom and I walked around Central Park with our faces up to the sun. We even ate dirty water dogs – something we do on a very rare occasion. It felt so good to be outside with the rest of the urban dwellers who dwell in tiny spaces all winter long. On our walk home, we found a plane parked in the theater district (on it’s way to JFK to become a cocktail bar).

 

 

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

New Monkey Suit Seen In NYC

IMG_5339Could this $139 coat from Amazon spell the end of the de riguer Canada Goose on the slushy streets of NYC? Will I no longer feel like I’m surrounded by an army of high-priced soldiers? The creative and bold fashion statements seen during all other seasons in the city are scarce in February. But, hope springs eternal! There is a new kid in town – and it’s priced for the masses. Due to this post last spring in New York Magazine, they are everywhere this winter, and they come in lots of great looking colors. And I’ve heard they are super warm. Function and form for less than $150. I love it!

I was in the Bronx this week visiting The Bronx Academy of Letters the public school that  I’ve been on the board of for many years. I finally got to go for lunch at La Morada. If you want an authentic Mexican meal, I highly recommend the trip. Everything about the place feels like you are walking into a local spot in Mexico City. We ordered several dishes and shared. If you go, don’t leave without ordering one of their seven different mole dishes.

Continuing on the topic of good food, a new Israeli place opened a few minutes walk from Union Square called Mint Kitchen. It’s the same format as a SweetGreens where you place your order, and they call you when it’s ready – so an excellent option for a quick, reasonable, delicious meal. I ordered the Kibbutz salad with a side order of green falafel, and it was incredible. I want to return for the falafel-crusted salmon that looked divine.

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And on a last foodie note, Sugarfish has opened its second spot in NYC – this one in Soho. Heres hoping the lines at the original (on my block) get a bit smaller due to the new location.

I was back at the Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library this week as I’ve decided to try once again to find an agent for my middle-grade novel. I do my best work within these hallowed walls. They also have an incredible gift shop (I love a great gift shop, especially at institutions such as this.)

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Speaking of books, I think I might need to buy this one. I saw it on the “Just Released” table at Barnes and Noble. Seems timely and necessary.

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I’m incredibly excited for the week ahead as I’ll be spending it with my very good friend Napanista. She’s in town from Napa with her family for spring break, and we have a ton of fun things planned. Starting with Sunday brunch at Union Square Cafe and dinner Monday night at Tokyo Record Bar. I am thrilled that they’ll be joining me at the Chefs Tasting benefit for Bronx Letters Wednesday night, with host Eric Ripert, honoring the life of Anthony Bourdain. A few tickets are still available here.

And on a final note, just wanted to recommend one book and one movie. I read a lot and watch a lot, but don’t endorse a lot. These should be at the top of your lists.

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.

 

 

Summer Statistics

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Photo Cred: Libhop

It’s not the end of summer; it’s the beginning of fall.

I haven’t written in a few weeks, because on top of travel, this is my BUSY season, as my “real” job is helping high school seniors with their college application essays. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t squeeze in some serious summer emptynestering.

Tom and I shuttled up to Boston for a welcome home party in Hingham. Friends of ours from Tokyo had just returned home from a seven month around the world trip with their two teenage boys (yes, I said teenage boys) and I was so excited to hear all about the journey. Maria will be a guest on my blog this fall talking about the experience. I especially liked the fact that there was some serious macrame pool cover-up action at the party.

The following week we spent two nights in Philly moving our daughter back to college. The more time I spend in Philly, the more time I like it. It has an edge that second cities don’t often have, and a long list of varying neighborhoods. Not to mention it is a food lovers city. The first night we ate at Vedge. The website calls it “a vegetable restaurant” and it exceeded expectations. The food is both delicious and gorgeous. And it has a great vibe at the bar too.

The second night, we returned to one of our favorites, Zahav a modern Israeli restaurant that never disappoints. Pita and hummus for days…They take reservations 60 days in advance, and you’ll need to do that if you want to eat here.IMG_3425

The next day we scoured the thrift shops in search of just the right eclectic touch for Annie’s new room. We had a lot to choose from at The Strange and Unusual.

Despite the selection of stuffed game, they had a nice array of antique mirrors, which was on our list. I fell in love with the neighborhood. Next time I’m back, I’m going to canvas it some more. We stopped for a small bite at The Famous 4th Street Delicatessen. When the check comes, it arrives with a bag of warm homemade chocolate chip cookies.

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And then finally, we celebrated the end of summer in Nantucket with a Tokyo friends reunion where we played games, told stories, swam in the ocean, rode the bull, watched for shooting stars, and genuinely enjoyed being together.

A few of my favorite finds this summer:

Silver Mirror Facial Bar  – my new go to spot for my favorite dermaplaning treatment! Right now it’s on the UES, but they are opening a new location in Flatiron – yeah!

Stretch’d  OMG. This place is on my block! I go once a week for the quickie, and walk out an inch taller, and able to twist my neck all the way to my shoulders. They also sell great products with CBD oil!

It’s hard to believe that summer is really over when you are sweating bullets on the subway in 91-degree weather, but sweater weather will be here soon, and in my opinion, there is no better season in NYC. I think I’m going to make my Fall To Do list right now.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

I Do.

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One of the things I love about living in NYC is that at some point, friends who live far and wide arrive for one reason or another (this week it was a Haiku event, college tours and a 50th birthday). These short, but oh so sweet meetups are the best excuse for dining out and drinking on weekdays. And this week was no exception. There was a dinner at Nur which is always a dining experience. The chef is Israeli, and the dishes are exotic. They use ingredients that I’ve never heard of, so it makes eating here an adventure. Make sure to book ahead (way ahead). Moving from the Middle East to the Far East, our group had a delicious meal at Atoboy a newish Korean restaurant from an adorable young Korean couple who are about to open another restaurant, Atomix this spring. This is the perfect place to go with a group (they max out at 6), but the menu is divided into three sections, and each person chooses one from each group. Go with six people, and you can order one of everything on the menu and share.

Thursday happy hour found me at Mari Vanna an authentic Russian restaurant across the street from my apartment. You can sit at the bar and enjoy their blinis and caviar for $14 (it’s much more expensive at dinner). They also make a mean lychee martini.

Friday night, Tom and I went to see Carousel on Broadway. The opening is still a week away, but the theater was packed and on their feet for the curtain calls. Jessie Mueller (Beautiful, Waitress) and Joshua Henry (Aaron Burr in the first US tour of Hamilton) are superb. The dancing is just as good as the singing, and the young girl who plays their daughter is also a soloist in the New York City ballet, and this is her Broadway debut. That being said, the show is incredibly sexist, and I found it unsettling. When Billy Bigelow dies, I wanted to scream “Yes! You’re better off without him!” I know this show has been revived many times on Broadway, but in today’s #metoo world, it just doesn’t hold up; in fact, it’s insulting.

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Weekend brunch was at Left Bank a recommendation from a friend. It’s far west Soho, in a really cute neighborhood that I don’t often find myself. The restaurant had a great vibe, warm, and inviting, and I wanted to order one of everything on the menu. Their brunch offerings go outside the norm, with choices like sweet or savory Dutch Baby (see below), and pot roast, eggs, and potato latkes. I will return.

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Saturday night Tom and I sat in a candlelit place of worship watching as two young, fresh people said I do. I adore everything about weddings. The pomp, the circumstance, the toasts, the overflowing champagne, and of course the love. There is no other event in life where the star of the show is love.

As I write the last few sentences of this blog, the sun is streaming through my windows (reminding me to call the cleaner). It’s been a long and cold winter, but with daylight savings today, I can almost feel spring in the air. It makes me want to start making a list of all the outdoor cafes and rooftops bars I need to visit!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

The City Never Sleeps Better Slip You An Ambien

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I didn’t get a ton of sleep this week, but I can’t blame it on NYC. I often wonder why mother nature thought that when women become a certain age, they no longer need sleep. Why she felt we need to roll around in bed at 2 am worrying about problems that are unsolvable, making to-do lists, or writing novels we can’t remember in the morning escapes me. Now, when I pass by my tightly made bed during the day, I stare it down like it’s an enemy I’ll have to battle later on.

Sleepless nights didn’t find me lounging around on the couch. It was week 9 in the job search, and so far I’ve applied to ten jobs, had two interviews, and have heard nothing since. Last night I had dinner with a millennial, and after explaining my thoughts on age bias in the workforce, her advice was to lop off anything on my resume that had a 1 in front of it, as in 1988.  Week 10 will find my job applications with a newly improved resume – nothing before 2000. I’ll keep you posted on my little bias experiment.

It was a delicious week. I had a fantastic lunch at Mamman which isn’t new to NYC, but new to my neighborhood. I envision many re-writes of my novel taking place at one of their communal farmhouse tables. I am addicted to the stuffed pita at Miznon. I asked the adorable Israeli cashier which pita was her favorite and she said without hesitation it was the folded cheeseburger. She was not wrong. They serve their pitas with the most giant shishito pepper I’ve ever eaten. I’m going back soon for the roast beef, her number two pick.

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I went to a super fun birthday dinner at Macao. The perfect place to celebrate with a big group. Great plates for sharing, an intimate, yet warm and friendly room, and if you’re lucky, a jazzy band that’s just the right amount of entertainment.

I’ve mentioned Play by Play before – it’s my seat filler club. This week I was fortunate to get an orchestra center seat to see The Parisian Woman for $4.50.

Tom and I got a reservation at Pasquale Jones the super hot pizza spot in Nolita, and we loved it. Welcoming space, friendly staff, and a great pie.

Dinner, Saturday night at Houseman, wasn’t boring. We were showered with broken glass on three different occasions. I found this almost statistically impossible, but it happened. We were picking glass out of our laps, clearing it from our table and once we had to get up from our seats so the busboy could wipe them down. I think they need to invest in stronger glassware and should also consider the concept of comping. In the end, they sent us dessert wine that no one wanted. I hate it when restaurants don’t understand hospitality. I wanted to love the place, the food was super yummy and creative, and I walked away thinking, meh. Not to mention, the bartender was cranky. I’m not a fan of cranky bartenders.

When I moved into my neighborhood eight months ago, I noticed a karaoke bar on 17th street. I tucked its existence away for future reference, and the future was last night. I’m terrible at karaoke, but I’m married to someone who kills it, and some of my best Tokyo nights were spent at Fiesta in Roppongi.  Karaoke One7 is the perfect combination of karaoke and bar. They have private rooms in the back, and every once in a while, the front door opens, and a small van pulls up with a group that would snake through the bar to their private cave. But the bar is for those who want to sing among strangers. For $2 a song (or $20 to cut to the front of the line), you can lead the disparate crew to the tune of your choice. It’s fascinating how music and booze can make the fastest of friends.

So excited for the Oscars tonight!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

Can you take criticism from a millennial?

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This is a piece from the David Hockney exhibit at the Met, which I have to admit I enjoyed more than the Michelangelo. Hockney is my official new favorite living artist. It’s a “to do list” must.

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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

Have fun. Be bold.