What’s Your Favorite Restaurant?

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Last week, someone I just met asked me to name my favorite restaurant. They had heard that I dined out a lot and that I was slightly obsessed with food. It stopped me in my tracks. After an awkward pause, I had to confess that I didn’t have one. I started thinking about why I couldn’t come up with an answer to a seemingly straightforward question. And what I came up with is that I don’t have a favorite because I rarely return to the same place twice. That’s probably a combination of FOODFOMO and a never-ending amount of curiosity. But after Friday night’s reservation, my restaurant fickleness may be coming to an end.

Niche Niche is the newest initiative of the sprightly Ariel Arce. I’ve enjoyed many nights at her champagne bar, Air’s Champagne Parlor and have eaten in her basement izakaya,  Tokyo Record Bar a few times since it opened in July 2017. What I learned about Ariel is that the emphasis is always on the bubbles and fun and less on the food. But Niche Niche was billed as a dinner party. When I received an email inviting me to book before they opened up on RESY, I jumped at the chance. There were two nightly seatings at $40 per person with an additional wine pairing at $40 per person (you can’t do one without the other). Each night there is a “host,” a wine importer, that chooses the night’s wines. As Ariel welcomed us that night, she said: “Obviously none of you are New Yorkers because you’ve agreed to a dinner where you cannot make any choices about what you eat or drink.” Our host had a German catalog of wines, which probably drove the menu: Skate wing schnitzel with spaetzle and cabbage.

We had a reservation for the later seating at 8 pm. Tom and I were the oldest by decades. I’m pretty sure I saw a table of kids home for spring break. We are often on the older side due to the location (downtown) and the newness of the places we visit, but this was extreme. And when the dinner platter for two was placed on our table, I realized I was about to ruin a week of eating well and watching calories for fried fish with pasta. I was less than thrilled.

And then I read Frank Bruni’s article in the New York Times Sunday Review. And it all made sense. I’ve been eating out like a millennial or maybe even a GenZ’er. I need to let my 50-something flag fly. As Frank so wisely posits, “It’s not just sex and sleep that change as you age. It’s supper.” It’s not like I’m going to stop trying new places, but I’m going to slow down my RESY trigger finger and read a few more reviews before I book. And I’m going to allow myself to continue to return to the restaurants that have the potential to become my “favorite.” See my list below.

I’ve always wanted to speak French after studying in Paris in the summer of 1986. It’s taken this long to attempt that goal. I started a ten-week course on Tuesday at CouCou. It’s the cutest little school in a narrow three-floor building in Nolita. Learning a new language at 53 is not going to be easy. I even had homework – hopefully I don’t make a fool out of myself when I have to recite Chanson Automne in Tuesday’s class.

On Thursday night, I went with my son to see The Lehman Trilogy at the Park Avenue Armory. I didn’t let on that the play was over three hours long with two intermissions, but I was a little nervous he might leave before it ended. It was one of the most enjoyable and engaging theatrical experiences I’ve had in a long time. It’s a very limited run, but I encourage you to find tickets. It was that good. Hayden thought so too. We continued talking about it on Saturday at Yankee Stadium watching the Yankees lose to the worst team in baseball. But it was sunny and warm, so it wasn’t a complete disappointment.

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So the answer to what’s my favorite restaurant is never going to be just one. Here are a few that might make my list:

French: Le Coucou  Buvette

Italian: Carbone Lilia Via Carota

Pizza: Rubirosa Emily Roberta’s

Chinese: Wu’s Wonton King

Thai: Pinto Garden

Fast Casual: Mint Kitchen

Sushi Take Out: Ennju

Sushi: Sugarfish

Steak Frites: Raoul’s

Indian: Sahib

If you have a favorite, please let me know!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

A Refugee Camp Grows in Brooklyn

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Tom and I went to see The Jungle Friday night at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Dumbo. This original play, hot off the stages of London, is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.        St. Ann’s is known for physically transforming the theater to meet the needs of each play, as well as their ability to make the audience a part of the experience. For this play, a replica of an Afghan Cafe inside an actual refugee camp in Calais, France comes to life. You’ll sit side by side with the residents of the camp, and learn about their journey from war-torn countries to the promised land of the white cliffs of Dover. It is a play that everyone, everywhere should see. But, fair warning, it is not a pretty experience, and you aren’t going to have “fun.”

Before the show we ate at Gran Electrica, a mexican restaurant with a healthy slant. Of course, we chose the most unhealthy of dishes, pork belly tacos, and they were very good. They make a nice spicy marg, and the walk to St. Ann’s is about 4 minutes long, which is ideal when it’s 20 degrees outside.

Do you like pho? I am a huge fan. I love it because it’s a big bowl of noodles, and yet it eats healthier than ramen. This past week I had lunch at Sai gon dep a new restaurant that just opened by the chef of Hanoi House. I went during the soft opening when the menu was limited, but I thoroughly enjoyed their chicken-based pho and spring rolls. I look forward to returning and trying the rest of the menu. It is the perfect antidote to a cold winter’s day and might rival a bowl of chicken soup if you are suffering from a cold.

 

My youngest daughter is days away from returning to college for her second semester of sophomore year, and so we have made it a point to do as much as possible together before she leaves. We had a great afternoon wandering around the meatpacking district, shopping at Story, a retail store that “takes the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery and sells things like a store.” They completely reinvent themselves from design to merchandise every four to eight weeks, highlighting new trends. I dare anyone to leave without purchasing something. We had a late lunch at Restoration Hardware in their rooftop restaurant. I’ve written about this spot before, and I said it was meh, however, if you go with a Generation Z young adult, it looks more impressive through their eyes. I took her to the new Camp on 5th avenue, because even though she’s 19, and Camp is really for humans under the age of 10, I knew she would love it. It’s hard to describe, but if you have a young child in your life, you need to go and make sure you try the edible bubbles.

We also passed by the new Starbucks Roastery Reserve, which is unlike any other Starbucks. It is on my short list to return. We found this gorgeous creature in the window as we walked by.

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Saturday night we returned to Brooklyn (yes, twice in one weekend) to meet friends for dinner at Frankies Spuntino. The last time I was there, it was a tiny hall of a restaurant with a fabulous garden. The tiny spot still exists (for walk-ins), but the reservations are now seated down the block in the old Prime Meats location. It’s a beautiful space, and the menu is the same as I remember. We enjoyed our meal, despite the significant flooding in the kitchen. They kept calm and carried on.

From there we went to “the” spot to sing karaoke in Brooklyn, The Old Carriage Inn in Park Slope. Judging by the talent in the crowd, and the wait to sing a song (2 hours) I’d say it is definitely the place to go. Just make sure you get there early if you want to sing. We stayed for a few beers and sang along with the ringers.

On Tuesday, when Annie leaves for school, our apartment will return to empty nest status…at least for a month or two – having her home this past month has been a gift.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

53 Free in NYC

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If you had an entire weekend to yourself in NYC what would you do? Would you camp out on your couch, become very intimately involved with Seamless or Caviar and go through the new and noteworthy on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu? Would you go to as many movies as you could squeeze into three days? Would you pick an area of the city you were unfamiliar with and get to know it like a local? This past weekend, I was alone in the city and all of my family members who live here were a plane ride away having their own fabulous time – so even better – it was a guilt-free weekend alone.

At first I didn’t want to plan anything – I just wanted to see where the weekend would take me. And then a friend said I MUST see What The Constitution Means To Me. I went online and bought the last ticket for sale for Friday night – first row, middle seat for less than $100. It started at 8, so I had plenty of time to pre-game with a movie. I saw First Man, and despite starring two of my favorite actors, it was BORING. I should have listened to my friend Linda. It was also unbelievable. The simultaneous global broadcast of the tin can spaceship landing on the moon? Come on, I barely get cell service in the subway in 2018. There was time before the show to eat dinner and I chose Frank a tiny red sauce Italian on Second Avenue between 5th and 6th. I grabbed the last seat at the bar and enjoyed a hearty bowl of rigatoni ragu with a dollop of ricotta cheese and a glass of cabernet.

The play – oh the play. I loved every minute. It’s basically a one-woman show written by the star about her time as a 15-year-old Constitutional debater as she travelled around the country to win prize money to go to college. I know, right? Sounds like a snooze fest. But it is NOT. Go before it closes, which is soon.  This was my most excellent seat:

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A few days before the weekend my step-father Marc texted me and told me to go see a play written by an old friend of his that was going to be a part of the Fringe Festival  I had never been to the festival before, and the name sort of made me uneasy (I’m not a fan of interactive theater), but Marc said to go and I didn’t have a good reason not to attend. And the tickets were $22. The show was held in a garage with four rows of plastic backyard seats. It was called The Church of St. Luke in the Fields I enjoyed it as it was about two dysfunctional generation Z kids being dysfunctional – a subject I am familiar with, but is luckily in my past, so it’s fun to watch!

 

The festival was held on Hudson and Charles close to the West Side highway and the next movie I wanted to see was on Second Avenue. It was the perfect temperature so I walked across town, taking pictures of anything that looked interesting so I can return at a later time. I love discovering new places in unknown areas.

I went to see Colette with Keira Knightley. I loved the movie and all its surprises! If you watch Poldark you won’t believe what Demelza gets up to! Leaving the theater, I stopped at Mimi Cheng’s for some of the best dumplings I’ve had in the city. It’s a small spot, you order at the counter and sit down. They have 1 type of beer and 1 type of wine, but you don’t come here to drink.

It was Saturday night at 7:30 and I was headed….home! I had a long night ahead of me to fulfill my binge watching. I sat on the couch with a bag of goldfish and a nice bottle of Chardonnay and watched Won’t You Be My Neighbor (loved), The Romanoffs (different, yet entertaining), The Cable Girls (you want to turn it off, but you can’t), and the most recent episode of A Million Little Things (I haven’t made up my mind about this one yet).

Sunday was pretty cold in the city, so I went to Nordstrom’s Rack on 14th and stocked up on gloves and hats. Last year I waited too long, and there was nothing left. Then I went to Whole Foods and bought ingredients to make homemade pea soup. I made enough to feed a large family, so thankfully NYC daughter returned from Florida in time to join me.

On another note, something HUGE happened this weekend – one of my dearest friends in the world became a Grandma! That’s the next step after becoming an empty nester – the next generation arrives. She couldn’t be sweeter! I can’t wait to visit and see her for myself. I so look forward to this next phase – but not yet kids!

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I also got to catch up on my NY Times – I had a pile since Tuesday. I unearthed some great nuggets (as always in the NYTimes) including the return of Tefaf the European Fine Art Fair to the Park Avenue Armory. I went to the spring event and it is the best art festival I’ve ever attended. The quality of art is unparalleled and diverse, there is a champagne bar cart, they serve oysters and sushi, and everyone is very dressed up. The tickets are on the expensive side for general admission $55, however it is so worth it.

I also read about a new website called Locality.city where you put in your address, and it tells you so much about your apartment, your building and the neighborhood you live in.

And a few extras… last week I went to check out Corso Como a new department store from Italy in the newly refurbished Seaport area. I swear I don’t know who is shopping there – when I went it was empty, but the prices are crazy high, and the products are just crazy. Check out this couch for sale:

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I also went for drinks and apps at the new-ish Restoration Hardware Rooftop. It’s beautiful, but look closely, and all the greenery (and there are tons of trees and hedges around each table) are fake. It reminded me that I was eating in a furniture store. The prices are very high and the food is decent. Maybe I might enjoy it more in the middle of winter when I need to pretend that everything is green.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

You Can’t Go Home Again…

because you might find they sold it off and made it into condos.

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This was Open House NYC Weekend a three-day event “providing broad audiences with unparalleled access to the extraordinary architecture of New York.” Sites ranged from the UN to the Woolworth Building to the Montauk Club where Tom and I were married in 1990. We were living in Park Slope at the time and walked by the building twice a day to and from the subway. One day we knocked on the door and asked if we could come in. What we found was a little bit of magic. The club was originally built as a private men’s club in 1891, and pretty much nothing had changed since then. We fell in love with it on the spot. But we’d never been back. Until today.

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The front door knocker at the Montauk Club

As I stood in line with the other visitors, I took out the small framed photo I brought with me to confirm which balcony was the scene of our famous wedding kiss. I was very excited to recreate it. It was pretty strange going inside; the room where we took the wedding pictures in front of the fireplace remained intact –

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and yet the room where we had the cocktail hour was cut in half by renovations in the mid-90’s when they moved rooms around after selling most of the club to a developer to make into condos. The main staircase still goes up to the floor where we had the reception, but if you continue up to the third floor, you hit a wall and a faux rail. It was sad to see what the membership agreed to do to save a small part of the original club. Tom and I tried hard to retrace our steps and find the brownstone we lived in – to no avail. It was in 1989, and we only lived in Park Slope for one year and never returned.

Friday night we took the NYC Ferry from East 34th street over to DUMBO during sunset

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to see Oklahoma at St. Ann’s Warehouse one of my favorite theaters to see an Off-Broadway show. They had completely changed the theater to look like a farm circa 1900 – the first row was picnic tables – and they served chili and cornbread at the intermission. If you see a show here, come early and sit in the lobby and have a drink or a snack at Bar Jolie (provided by Vinegar Hill House). The show was jam-packed with celebs including James Franco (check out Tom’s selfie – two rows back in the mustache), Katie Couric and every veteran of Law and Order SVU.

Saturday night we went out for dinner with friends in the West Village. I love Chinese food, but I don’t usually go on the weekend nights because of the fluorescent lights and the fast service. However, that’s not the case at Hao Noodle and Tea. They have excellent, authentic food, a full bar, and a nice atmosphere.

Have I mentioned I’m so excited that fall is here? Busy week ahead!

Have fun. Be bold.