There Are Many Places Where I Belong – One Of Them Is Not the Gym

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I love my new mug – a gift from my youngest daughter’s college roommates. It makes me laugh. I’m almost always early, so it really tells you just how much exercise I get. There are many places where I feel right at home – a library, almost any type of restaurant, cafe or gourmet market, a book store, a speakeasy, a bridge table, a NYC subway, and at the five-way crossing in Shibuya, but put me in a packed gym on a holiday Monday, and I look like a newly arrived alien from the planet Xena. I’m 53, so I don’t have any hope that will change. I’m failing terribly at my attempt to get my body in better shape, but I am killing it in my brain stretching and flexing attempt.  Last week I spent three mornings playing bridge at Honors Bridge Club. I’m obsessed and utterly hooked. But it’s all in pursuit of staving off dementia, so I don’t feel too guilty about spending countless hours playing with a deck of cards – can you say grand slam?

In addition to my card obsession, I have been looking for new ways to get my hygge  on – the only reason to live on the east coast in January. This recipe was from last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, and they had me at “one cast iron pan”. Side note, I love to cook and have for decades, but just purchased my FIRST cast iron pan when I moved to the city 18 months ago. I use it almost every night I cook. I bought Smithey at Food52, and I LOVE it. The recipe was for Stock-and-Cider-Brined Chicken Over Stuffing. I think mine looked exactly like the picture, and it was seriously delicious (and easy). I cook a lot for my city kids, but I’ve never received a text the next day from my son telling me how good the dinner was, until now. Make this, and if you don’t have the cast iron pan, buy one, you’ll thank me. img_4549

This week was filled with art because it’s the perfect thing to do when it’s cold and rainy. I spent a fabulous winter afternoon at the Guggenheim with an “old” friend immersed in the revolutionary art of Hilma af Klint. The story of this fierce turn of the 20th-century painter is pretty incredible. She was a fan of the spiritual occult, and not only is it evident in her forward facing artwork, but she also writes of having her art displayed in the future in a circular “temple.” How did she know?

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After making our way around the exhibit, we had craft cocktails at Jacques Bar in the Lowell Hotel.  It left me wanting to return to eat at Majorelle. The menu is expensive, but I like their economical $40 lunch in 40 minutes. Sounds like my kind of work out.

Friday night, Tom and I were in the mood for noodles and went to Hunan Slurp in the East Village. I’d been for lunch but wanted to return for dinner. I do love a noodle shop that takes reservations! NB, they don’t have a liquor license, but there is a store across the street. Tom ran out to stock up on large Sapporo beers, while I ordered. We loved it all, including the walk home via St. Marks. Not much has changed on the famed block since I was a freshman at NYU, and that is a good thing. It’s nice to see that not every downtown neighborhood has been gentrified.

 

 

There was a lot of talk this week about the weekend storm arriving on Saturday, and MB and I had plans. Initially, we thought it might be fun to get out of the city and find a fireplace, but the snow estimates made us change our plans and stay put. We started the day at the Outsider Art Fair at the Metropolitan Pavilion. I went last year and loved it. Outsider art is defined as art produced by self-taught artists who are not part of the artistic establishment. Many of the artists represented at the fair have mental illness, are autistic, were once incarcerated, or have other incredible life stories. The art represents their experience, and if I didn’t live in a 1600 square foot apartment that is already covered in art, I would have been a purchaser instead of an observer. Here are a few examples:

 

 

It was the perfect “snow is on the way” activity. Unfortunately, the snow never came, but that didn’t stop us from watching movies, ordering in, and pretending there was a foot outside.

Sunday was spent watching the Patriots do exactly what they always do, come from behind and win. As we are not Patriot fans, and we are pretty sick of them always landing on the right side of the scoreboard, we’ve decided to now become fans hoping this will be the end of their winning streak. Just kidding.

Monday reminded me that yes, it’s winter. It was f@#$%$#*& freezing! There was only one thing we wanted for lunch, and it was another bowl of steaming noodles. The closest spot was Bao Bao Cafe that claims to have the spiciest ramen in the city. Judging by the medium spicy, I’d say they might be right. The sign outside says, “If you hate someone, bring them here for ramen. Ours is the spiciest in the city.”

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Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

700,000 Hours

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That’s the average amount of time we get to spend on this planet. I don’t know about you, but that struck me as not that much. The day I read it, I was sitting on my couch going through the stack of magazines I hadn’t read since November, and I could almost hear the clock ticking. It made me think about how I spend (or waste) my time. I have no problem sitting on my couch on a rainy day with my head in two books, nine magazines, and the Sunday New York Times, and look up four hours later, surprised to see that the sun set long ago. Obviously, not everything I read is a good use of my time, but I almost always unearth nuggets of information that inform my life. The 700,000 hours came from an article about the first “wandering hotel” in the world 700,000 Heures. If I had the means, I would become a member today. With less than half of those hours already spent, I’d want to spend the rest of them traveling the world and staying in incomparable locations curated by a staff that aimed to “astonish” their guests.

Here’s a look at some of my best hours this week:

 

I love it when fellow city friends introduce me to their favorite places in their neighborhoods. I have to thank MB for showing me William Poll, the Upper East Side’s tiny gourmet food store. It’s the type of place that I would have walked right by, but I am so happy I know exists. Need delicious appetizers for a dinner party? Dips for days? Soups in cute little containers? Stop in, but bring your $$$$.

 

This week I went back to yoga. I’m not sure why I stopped. I always feel better when I’m walking out of the studio than when I walk in.  I go to, Yogamaya. It’s bare bones and totally yoga focused with minimal ohms and scattered skylights with a view of rooftops and watertowers.

A 2-hour winter walk in Central Park. It doesn’t matter your path, where you start or end, the park has so many gifts to give, in any season, at any time of the day or night. It was an exhilirating way to start the year. Marybeth and I kept walking until noon because we both had started intermittent fasting and the lunch bell wasn’t going to ring for us until noon. But, it was worth the wait. We had the juciest burgers (without a bun, over a tossed salad) at JG Melon a New York institution that’s still got it.

I went to my first drop-in supervised bridge play at Honors Bridge Club. Two hours of supervised shuffle and deal – $20 and it includes breakfast. Those were two very well spent hours. I could literally feel the synapses in my brain firing on all cylinders. You don’t have to be a member to attend.

I’ve mentioned Silver Mirror before – my favorite place for derma planing! But it gets another mention because they just opened a new location in my neighborhood! What could be better than your favorite face shaving facialist now located within a five minute walk?

Speaking of what could be better…I have to say one of the best things about living in my apartment is having an AMC Movie Theater around the block. When January roles around, it becomes my go to destination. And with assigned seats I leave my apartment 3 minutes before the credits role. This weekend I saw Vice and Green Book, two movies that on the surface seem so different, and yet they both make you feel equally bad about being an American, granted in different decades.

Saturday night I finally made it to Ichiran, one of the best ramen shops in Japan, now in NYC. Considering there are over 50,000 ramen shops in Japan, that says a lot. I’m a huge ramen aficionado, after living in Japan for 6 years, I feel I have an educated palate. When I first moved back from Japan, I tried many ramen shops in NYC looking for something that felt like Tokyo, but they all fell short for various reasons. But I was holding out for Ichiran. Arriving on Saturday night at 6pm, we found a line, which was a good sign. We waited for about 20 minutes and then were seated at conjoining booths.

 

All I’ll say is that its a unique experience – don’t go with a group, it’s actually better to eat here alone. The menu is limited to one type of ramen – what? And two bowls with two draft beers cost $73. Yes, I said $73. If you eat at Ichiran in Tokyo, you won’t pay more than $10 a bowl. But, was it good? Yes, it was very very good. But still.

After I was completely stuffed with noodles, I went to see The Cher Show on Broadway. If you, like me, grew up watching Sonny and Cher on the Sonny and Cher Show, if you thought Chastity was the cutest baby of all time, and if you lived in the same apartment building as Cher and Rob Camiletti when you were in college (oh, that was just me) then you will want to get tickets to this show. If not, then I suggest you get tickets to The Ferryman.

One last tidbit…brunch at Cafe Cluny in the West Village. It’s not new, it’s not hot, but it’s very very good. You’ll walk in and feel the vibe immediately. The food is delicious and I highly recommend ordering a drink called the Cluny. They don’t take reservations on the weekends, but it’s worth the wait.

So, what are you going to do with your hours this week? I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve…stay tuned.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

Life Swap

 

With Tom starting a new job this past fall, a big Christmas vacation was not in the cards for us this holiday season, but that didn’t stop us from getting away for a few days. Our solution: a family life swap! My brother Scott and his young family live on the inter-coastal in Boca Raton, and we live in a 1650 square foot loft in Gramercy. It was the perfect exchange. The pictures above show Scott entering our apartment building, and Tom sticking his head through the front door peephole of Scott’s Spanish Colonial home.

While we were doing things like going to Delray Beach, walking the Atlantic Avenue strip, eating at 50 Ocean  and Taverna Opa renting a lux pontoon boat at Waterstone Resort watching the Orange Bowl (live at Hard Rock Stadium ), and playing golf at The Club at Ibis,

 

they were doing things like eating at The Corner Bistro Chip Sushi Seki Minetta Tavern Il Mulino   Joe’s Pizza  Do  Black Tap  Mr. Chow  Sugarfish  Cozy Soup and Burger  Prince Street Pizza  and going to see the Rangers play at the Garden and Mean Girls on Broadway, buying hard to get Paul George PlayStation sneakers at The Fight Club  visiting the 911 Museum, and shopping at The Oculus.

Most of the things I write about are “empty nester” focused, but Scott has a 13 -year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son. Before they arrived, I created a list of fun places in my neighborhood and further afield in the city. They took the list and ran with it, adding new ones of their own.

 

We crossed paths in NYC for 10 minutes after we arrived home, and before they left. I have to say the kids looked completely wiped!!! Scott and Danielle made the most of 4 nights in NYC – even I was impressed! I’m sure they needed a vacation from their vacation. It was a really interesting experience because unlike Airbnb we both left our homes intact – food in the refrigerator, clothes in the closets, cars in the driveway, and holiday gifts waiting in the kitchen! It was fabulous. I highly recommend it.

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I’m very excited to say that the best gift I received this Christmas was an upgrade to my blog! There are so many changes I’ve wanted to make, but the technology was above my pay grade. My oldest son, who works at Apple gave me the gift of his time creating specifications, and the hiring of a WordPress expert on Fiverr He is going to manage the process for me so stay tuned for a new “look and feel” for 2019!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

The Perfect Holiday Cocktail

IMG_3718I was in Napa last week for the annual Tokyo Tomodachi gift exchange. Each year, a group of friends who met in Tokyo many years ago re-enact a holiday tradition that was started by a group of expats in Tokyo circa early 2000s where great friends dress up, eat a decadent meal, drink many cocktails and fight over an expensive trinket. I look forward to this exchange every year, and it really has nothing to do with the gift. I don’t see these women often, but our connection to one another was formed in the perfect kind of petri dish – we had no extended family, we lived in a very foreign land, earthquakes were a regular occurrence, and we all shared an adventurous and curious spirit. Our time together last week was a whirlwind of fun, and the best gift I could have given myself for Christmas. We cheer each other on and give big hugs when needed. We learn from each other, and I always return home with a list of things I need to read, see, buy or eat. I think a part of the magic is that we are not in each other’s daily lives and so we never take one another for granted. We appreciate every minute together.

Okay, getting back to the title of this post… the perfect holiday cocktail (besides the mix of old friends, great food and bottles of Napa wine), it’s called a Paperplane, and I’m a huge fan. Hilary, the Napanista made it for me last week. Equal parts Bourbon, Aperol, Nonino Amaro, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Shake over ice. Many of these will be quaffed on Christmas Eve at my apartment.

Before I get to the “all things good in Napa” part of this post, I need to tell you about a new play that just opened at St. Ann’s Warehouse on Sunday. It’s called The Jungle, and the reviews are fabulous. I have tickets in January, and I can’t wait. You should go too. Also, Oklahoma (from the same St. Ann’s Warehouse) is coming to Broadway, and the tickets went on pre-sale today. The show was so fun, and I know it will be a big deal. Get tickets for this too!

Napa:

Sleeping in a home surrounded by grapevines is divine. These were the views I had with my morning coffee.

 

We had two full days in Napa and did some serious wine tasting. First up: Okapi Wines. Kim is awesome. You need to meet her and drink her wine.

 

 

Next up: Kenzo Estate a very special place for our Tokyo group. The wine is mostly distributed in Japan, so it’s hard to experience unless you visit the estate. The attention to detail in everything they do is very Japanese, right down to the etching of the names of each wine on the glasses.

 

 

Dinner that night was at Miminashi – are you sensing a Japanese theme? The food was divine – Japanese but with a twist. I loved everything, but I’ll be thinking about that macaroni salad they serve as an amuse bouche. I need the recipe. Put this place on your Napa list. The dessert is just as good as the meal so leave room.

On the second day, our crew became a peloton (I recently learned the definition, and I’m excited to use it in my first sentence) on our rented ebikes. We started in Napa and powered our way to Yountville along the highway next to the train tracks – the views were breathtaking, but we were going so fast it would have been dangerous to take pictures. Thankfully this ride took place BEFORE the wine.

 

 

Lunch was at the new Restoration Hardware restaurant in Yountville. I’ve been to the one in NYC, and I thought it was nice. The one in Yountville will blow you away. The food is better, and the experience is more authentic. I also learned that antique wheat threshers can be art. Now I want one.

 

We dropped off the bikes and ubered to Robert Sinskey Vineyards where there was a table waiting for us in a cave surrounded by library wines, and more food. Somehow we powered through it. Their wine tasting pamphlet “Gluttons Only” was aptly named.

 

Guess what was next? More wine! Our last stop was at The Prisoner Wine Company, which gets a lot of play on Instagram and is very popular with millennials. I was sort of obsessed with their sexy rose and shipped some home. The question will be whether I wait until summer returns to drink it – not likely.

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Our final meal together that night was at Angele in Napa in a small private room. We dressed up…heels, fur, jewels, the works and kicked off the night with the giving of omiyage. The Japanese love bringing small gifts to friends when traveling and we do the same when we see each other.

 

The evening ended back at Hilary’s house where gifts were exchanged and fought over, all in good fun, of course.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

EmptynestNYC Fall Preview!

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What are you watching? Where are you eating? What Broadway show do I have to get tickets to? What about fun fall festivals? 

Do you have any of these questions? If so, I’ve got answers! I love a good fall preview so I thought I’d share all the things I’m so excited about BEFORE I actually do them!

Let’s start with TV…fire up the DVR!

Season premiere dates of my regular favorites that need no explanation:

Grey’s 9/27

Poldark 9/30 

Will and Grace 10/4

The Man in the High Castle 10/5

Madam Secretary 10/7

House of Cards 11/2

               New Shows I’m interested in:

The Romanoffs 10/12 – Stories of people around the world who believe they are descendants of the Russian royal family.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 10/26 – Supernatural television series based on the comic book series of the same name. Starring Kiernan Shipka from Mad Men.

Maniac  09/21 – Mini-series starring Emma Stone, Jonah Hill, Justin Theroux and Sally Field

A Million Little Things 09/26 – A group of friends from Boston who bonded under unexpected circumstances. Some have achieved success, others are struggling in their careers and relationships, but all of them feel stuck in life.

Single Parents 9/26 – Single parents as they lean on each other to help raise their 7-year-old kids and maintain some kind of personal lives outside of parenthood.

And Now the Big Screen

#1 A Star is Born – I don’t care if it’s the 5th remake. Bring on Bradley Cooper and Lady GaGa

Green Book (Viggo Mortensen)

Bohemian Rhapsody (Rami Malek)

The Old Man and the Gun (the last film with Robert Redford)

Beautiful Boy (Timothee Chalamet)

First Man (Ryan Gosling)

I see a theme emerging…

Books I Want On My Kindle

Becoming (Michelle Obama)

Transcription (Kate Atkinson)

Melmoth (Sarah Perry)

Nine Perfect Strangers (Liane Moriarity)

Lake Success (Gary Shteyngart)

 

Broadway Bound

Tickets I’ve secured: 

The Cher Show

Be More Chill (off Broadway and on Broadway)

The Lehman Trilogy

The Lifespan of a Fact

To Kill A Mockingbird

Ticket’s I’ve yet to buy, but are on my To Do List:

True West with Ethan Hawke

Burn This (Adam Driver and Keri Russell)

I’m Hungry…Where I’ll Be Eating This Fall

Misi (New place in Domino Park by owners of Lilia – already impossible to get in)

Pisellino – Same owners of Via Carota, I Sodi and Buvette

Zauo – Fish for your dinner from a wooden boat in a moat below. You can grill it, tempura fry it or sushi it. I’ve been in Japan. You literally can’t get fresher fish.

Leonti – Famed Philadelphia Chef Adam Leonti’s first NYC spot – Pasta and homemade breads

La Rossa in Soho – Roman style pizza sold by slice and weight

Japan Village (Eataly but for Japanese Food in Industry City)

It’s A Gorgeous Fall Day – What Should I Do?

Why not go to a festival?

San Gennaro in Little Italy until September 23rd. One of the best festivals in town.

Atlantic Antic 9/23 in Brooklyn 

Tribeca TV Festival 9/20-23

Food Film Festival 10/19-22 (all proceeds from Ticket Sales go to the Bronx Academy of Letters in Anthony Bourdain’s name)

Other Fun Fall Activities

The Color Factory 9/13 – 9/30 

Pink: The History of Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color at FIT Museum (until Jan 5th) 

NYC Ballet Fall Season 9/18-10/14 (I’m going on 9/28)

The Vendy Awards on Governor’s Island 9/22 (street vendor awards)

Halloween parade in the West Village 10/31

Open House New York, 10/12–14 that marks your chance to see the inner workings of structures sometimes off-limits. Unusual places like La Guardia’s Marine Air Terminal and the super-futuristic looking Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant have been part of past programs.

Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again at the Whitney Museum

Exhibition covering the origins, music and influence of the Velvet Underground, due in the West Village in October

Would love to hear what you’re up to! What am I missing?

Have fun. Be bold.