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.

 

 

I’m blaming everything on menopause. It’s just easier that way.

I was the one who thought I’d never go through menopause. Of course, I knew I would one day stop ovulating, but I had a feeling all those ugly symptoms my friends would bemoan about were not going to affect me. Every time a girlfriend would grab paper within her reach and create a makeshift fan, inside I shook my head and said: “that’s never happening to me.” Why I thought this was true, I have no idea. I just did.

Have you heard the saying “when man plans, God laughs?” Here’s a variation on the theme, “When middle-aged women plan, Mother Nature laughs.” And right now she’s bent over holding her sides guffawing. All of a sudden, and I mean all of a sudden, I no longer have a waist or an internal thermometer, my teenage acne has returned, I’m disoriented on occasion, and all I want to do is drink wine. I blame in all on menopause.

But here’s the exciting part; I don’t care. On some level, of course I’m not happy that my pants are tight, or I spend the night kicking off covers, and my doctors cringe when I tell them how much and how often I drink rose, but I’m letting some of the worrying go. And that says a lot because one of the best things I do is worry.

One thing that hasn’t changed is my energy, and Tom and I have been busy! We spent a fabulous 48 hours in Quoque, which if you didn’t know Quogue Is Not The Fucking Hamptons It’s our annual pilgrimage to our friends from Tokyo who now live on the West Coast. One of the highlights was a sea to table meal on the beach. IMG_1361

And seeing this a few feet from land.

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Making the rounds of seaside spots, we spent one night on Hen Island a magical place off the coast of Westchester that no one knows exists. My brother and sister-in-law have a family hideout where you spend most of your time bobbing in the bay, watching the sunset and digging for clams. It’s a complete off the grid opportunity – no running water or electricity – rustic and remote.

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We returned home, showered, and had a night in our bed before taking off on the next adventure, item #10 on my Summer To Do List – Glamping on Governor’s Island at Collective Retreats. The forecast improved over the course of the day, and we took the 1pm ferry to the island. Waiting for us in the ferry terminal on the city side was a rep from the company that checked us in and gave us braided bracelets that showed that we were guests of the retreat. Five minutes later, we were on the relatively empty island and were so excited to have Island Oyster mostly to ourselves. We’d been before on a weekend, and it was a madhouse. IMG_1426

We took our time and had a delicious lunch with lots of cold beverages. Walking over to the Collective Retreat area of the island (it’s a long walk, and there is no other way to get there than by walking – bring a wheelie bag), the weather looked like it was about to take a turn for the nasty. IMG_1435

But we were optimistic because it looked like this on the island.

We found our cabin and were so excited to settle in for an afternoon nap and some reading. Within 15 minutes, this happened.

We were evacuated, along with everyone on the island. They refunded our money, and we’re going to try again next summer. On another note, an Italian resort company known for restoring old buildings and making them into cool resorts just bought a huge piece of the island and will be opening in 2020 as a resort spa. I can’t imagine a better view from the pool. It’s on my Summer 2020 To Do List.

I started lifting weights recently – gasp…Tom has been begging me every other day for a year, and I finally said yes. I’ve been eight times, and I don’t hate it. But sometimes it leaves me a little stiff, and the other day I saw a great ad in a cab for a new spot called Strech’d. It’s a place you go where someone stretches you out. I went for the quickie session (25 minutes), and I came out feeling like I could twist and turn and bend much better than when I went in. It’s about half the price of a massage, and you leave without feeling like a greased watermelon. I bought a packet of five, and I’m looking forward to my next visit.

I have a friend that I’ve known for a long time, but we haven’t spent a lot of time together. But whenever we get together, we have a plan and a destination, and it’s always enlightening. This past Wednesday it was a guided tour of the UN. The last time I was at the UN I was in 3rd grade. Our tour guide, a beautiful journalist from Brazil that speaks three languages fluently and was very well versed in all things UN said they never get visitors from NY – everyone is always from somewhere else. The one hour tour costs $20 and is extremely interesting. I highly recommend it! Here I am pretending to be a delegate.

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I’m writing this blog from the Kimpton Hotel in Charlotte, NC. Tom and I are here to celebrate the 50th birthday of a very good friend who is one of the strongest women I know. It’s a priviledge to be here to celebrate another year of Rachel.

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Charlotte is a pretty happening city. Our hotel is a short walk from the Panther’s stadium (we had tickets to see them play the Dolphins last night, but my handbag was too big, so they turned us away), but fortunately, our hotel has a hopping rooftop bar with awesome views.

We’ve been enjoying the Southern Hospitality and the southern sized portions!

Sweet potato pancakes, a pimento cheese omelet and fried green tomatoes with faro, kale, and cauliflower.

Looking forward to the celebration tonight!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

Hot Sweaty Mess

Summer in the city is comprised of many short jaunts from one air conditioned venue to another, intermingled with cold showers. It hasn’t stopped me from getting out, and doing interesting and delicious things, but I have to admit my steps are down and my Arro, Uber, and Lyft payments are way up. I tell myself the fall is coming, and this too shall pass, but until then I”m going to keep eating Kakegori (photo below) and drinking very cold rose (I have been to the Rose Mansion twice this summer.)

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I’ll admit that I’ve thumbed my nose at vegans. I’m an “everything in moderation” girl, and that applies to food as well. But my sister (a vegan) recently made a reservation at Avant Garden and if this is vegan, I’m a convert. It was honestly one of the best meals I’ve had this year. I have no idea how they do it. It’s magic. You don’t miss anything!

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One of the best things about living in Flatiron is the farmer’s market that comes to Union Square four times a week (M,W,F,S). I try to buy things just at their peak and then do something with them. Below was my take on an apricot tart. It was gone by the following day.

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Friends from Tokyo who now live in Australia who this past spring won a Tony for Once on This Island, have invested in a new show and Tom and I went to see it on Broadway. It is a very fun night! I recommend it for all ages (well, maybe late teens as there is a song called “I Slept With Your Mom”).

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Lucky us, we snagged a table at Danny Meyer’s newest hotspot, Manhatta. It’s way downtown in FiDi (rhymes with RyeGuy) on the 60th floor and from the moment we walked in I felt like I was at the reincarnation of Windows on the World (in it’s heyday). The views are unparalleled and every table has one. The big difference being the service, which is extremely friendly and not stuffy or formal. The $75 prix fix (service included)    3 course meal is a bargain considering there is lobster, steak and soufflé to choose from.  This is the perfect place to go to celebrate something big.

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It’s college application season, which means I’m working, a lot. Somehow teenagers all seem to send their essays at the exact same time even though I’ve been sending reminder emails for days. I was happy to be invited back this week to the  Anything Goes With Kim Berns radio show. You can listen to the link (August 2nd) if you have a student who is applying to college this fall – I give good tips! And if you are interested in having me help out, you can reach me on my website: ExpatEssay. (You don’t need to be an expat to use my services.)

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And lastly, the week ended with a 21st celebration for my daughter Sophie up on our roof with 50 of her closest friends. We served tacos from Otto’s Tacos and lots of margaritas and Tecate. Oh what a night!

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Food For Thought

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I didn’t know Tony Bourdain personally, but since 2013, I spent a good deal of time talking about him, as he was the Patron Saint of Bronx Academy of Letters a small school in the Bronx where I’ve spent the past five years volunteering on their Advisory Board. Tony, as everyone called him at BAL, was the source of our fundraising. Each year, he’d gather the best chefs in NYC to come and cook for the lucky attendees of our “Food for Thought” Chef Tasting. Our school was even featured in one of his No Reservations episodes about the Bronx, which Vulture named as one of his 15 best shows.

Tony was a big fan of BAL, and each year as he spoke at our benefit, he would credit his teachers for his love of reading and writing. He knew how important a good education was for future success. Yesterday, there was mention of Tony’s love and support for our school on social media and sites like cnn.com. Yesterday, online donations to our school came in all day in Tony’s name. It is a real tribute to how much people loved him.

This week, with everything that happened, I found myself drinking and eating more than I usually would. I have a feeling I wasn’t alone. Here are some highlights:

Rooftop cocktails at Broken Shaker and almost everything on the menu at Simon and the Whale in Gramercy.

Pizza from a Roberta’s alum, Negroni slushies, and bocce at Bocce inside Union Square Park!

A spicy Merguez sausage sandwich stuffed pita at Cafe Mogador on Saint Mark’s.

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Brunch at Pilot in Brooklyn on Pier 6 with lobster rolls, home fries with caviar and lots of rose – thanks Jacqueline and Dan for the rec.

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And then linner which included hot dogs, fries and more rose at Island Oyster due to a happy ferry mishap (mishaps when you are an empty nester turn into spontaneous fun!)

Getting into the white jeans tomorrow might be a problem.

Have fun. Be bold.