Paris By Numbers

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Last winter I spent a week in Paris with my husband that I’d planned months in advance. Each meal was chosen with care, and we found ourselves running from one side of Paris to another like the proverbial chickens without heads, and it was cold and rainy. I vowed that the next time I returned, I would do it differently; I would use math. Since I’m a writer and not a STEM girl when I say math, I mean numbers; specifically arrondissement or “districts.” I culled together all of my favorite “eating, drinking, shopping and seeing” lists from over the years and created a Google document to use as a roadmap so that I wouldn’t miss something fabulous just around the corner (a dreaded fear). I have to say, it worked like a charm, and I will continue to build on it and take it with me when I return in May with my daughters for Mother’s Day, and their first trip to Paris.

The trip began with a semi-stalker moment. One of my favorite bloggers, Sara Lieberman, is a NYC expat living her dream in Paris and writing about it. Her newsletter, Overthinking It is fabulous and one I look forward to reading when it arrives in my inbox on a bi-weekly basis. Many of my past Google searches about all things Paris have her name on the by-line, and now I understand why – she is a FONT of knowledge. More on Sara and her many talents in next week’s blog. Sara suggested we meet for wine at La Cave du Paul Bert. I have to thank my friend Syd for the personal introduction!

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Me and Sara only a few hours after arriving in Paris (my justification for how I look in this picture).

This is a picture of the special ladies that shared my week. Kylie (on the left) was in Paris working on the branding of her frozen yogurt shops, California Bliss , which help to fund her non-profit Global Glow an incredible organization that helps young girls in 27 countries around the world (and my school in the Bronx, The Bronx Academy of Letters) to find their voice and tell their stories. And Lisa, Efrot and I were there to eat and shop and TALK. We all accomplished what we set out to do!

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We ate at L’ami Jean Bistrot Belhara Les Philosophes Cafe Charlot Bofinger Ellsworth and La Societe where we were joined by Candice Kumai, a food and wellness influencer with a HUGE following.  We had yummy margaritas at Candelaria the speakeasy in the non-descript taco shop (thank you Tori B for the great rec).

And we sang into the wee Paris hours at Aux Trois Mailletz a past favorite from Maria. We took advantage of the twice-yearly sales, where almost everything was 50% off, (see Google doc mentioned above for names) and spent our last day together combing the stalls of the Vanves Flea Market.

This buyer’s paradise has always been on my Paris To Do list, but I was never able to get there. I’m thrilled with all my purchases, especially my new coupe glassware that I’ll use to make my current cocktail, the French 75 (thank you Jacqueline) and my cool coasters, from 1924 that say Liberte*Egalite*Fraternite.

There is no place like NYC, but Paris is my happy place. Every time I leave, I can’t wait until I can return. A tout de suite!

Amusez-vous soyez audacieux!

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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.

 

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.

 

 

My Obsession With Holiday Gift Guides

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I think people either love or hate giving gifts. And it’s not about spending money, I think it’s more about the obligation of taking the time to really think about what someone might want (or need) that makes the task a burden. I’m the type of person who starts the holiday season with at least five gifts already purchased months ago when I found the ideal gift for so and so, which makes me the perfect person for the myriad holiday gift guides that are published starting in October. This year, the specificity amazed me. There was the gift guide for three-year-old girls, athletes, lovers of Disney, good food in Pittsburgh, geeks, getting organized (I think this says a little too much about the receiver), moms of babies, Apple users, for the friend who wants to start a podcast… these lists are like manna from heaven for the lover of gifting. The special people on my list are getting some very creative and off the grid gifts this year (more on that after the 25th). Whether you are a lover of gifting or an anti-gifter, I wish you all a very happy shopping experience this holiday season. And when in doubt, there is always The Worst Gifts to Give. 

My week was very food-focused, as I imagine yours was too. I was super organized and prepared heading into the week, and of course that means that everything would go wrong. Last Thanksgiving I had my turkey ubered to my apartment at 11:30 pm on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. That wasn’t going to happen to me this year as I picked the turkey up on Tuesday. However, my $400+ Amazon Fresh delivery with all my ingredients was delivered a day late and contained five items.

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That threw a bit of a monkey wrench into my cooking plans, but since I live in NYC, a city that never sleeps, where stores are open 24/7 I didn’t panic, and it all worked out just fine.

While on the topic of food, I wanted to let my readers know that I finally found a place in Curry Hill with a fabulous Indian lunch buffet (for $12.95 I might add). Thank you, Lisa, for the rec – it is now on my continual to-go list.

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Tuesday before Thanksgiving I arranged a little fun for the cousins, aunts, and uncles that wouldn’t be together for Thanksgiving at Amsterdam Billiards. I reserved two beer pong tables, and all of the well-educated college students and graduates in our group showed off all they learned in college. It’s not a cheap night out, but I was very pleased not to have a sticky floor in my apartment.

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Did you watch the parade? I did. It’s such a strange tradition, but I wouldn’t miss it. My kids were thrilled when it was over, and we could watch football.

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Holiday windows at ABC Home. They change daily.

The new addition to Union Square – a chocolate and gelato shop with real chocolate waterfalls.

I managed to squeeze in a Broadway show this weekend, and it was fabulous. I highly recommend seeing To Kill A Mockingbird. Jeff Daniels is great, but the actress who plays Scout is the real star. It’s sad that the play is still so relevant today.

The holiday week ended with a “framily” Thanksgiving dinner. For me, there is nothing better than sharing a meal with people you love in a gorgeous setting with dim lights and candles! Thanks, MB.

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Time to start addressing the holiday cards that have been sitting underneath my cocktail table for weeks…

Have fun…be bold.

 

 

 

Up Your Spontaneity Quotient

In this Sunday’s NY Times (aka my activity bible), I read an article in the travel section entitled How To Up The Spontaneity Quotient On Your Next Trip. This spoke to me because truth be told I am a planner and have been guilty of overplanning. But I am always looking for the middle ground, the happy medium between not missing out on the “must do, eat, see” things, and finding that hidden local place that you’ll think about for years to come. Reading the article also made me think about my everyday life in NYC. I subscribe to oodles of websites and receive emails all day every day informing me of the “next best everything,” and these emails inform my decisions. But I also spend time wandering unknown neighborhoods snapping pictures of places I want to return to the next time I’m nearby. I am going to make it a goal of mine to consciously practice deliberate spontaneity by going on more “missions” and talking to more people I don’t know.

Monday I had lunch at Pastaio di Eataly, the new restaurant addition to the flagship Eataly on 23rd Street. I’m a fan of eating at the bar, and this is one long bar that curves around a butcher block where fresh pasta is made. It’s like watching art. Everything was fabulous.

Have you been to the Museum of the City of New York? I’d never been, but after my visit last week I will return. I went to see an exhibit called Rebel Women. It was fascinating! Turns out there were female badasses all the way back to the early 1800’s. The museum has a fabulous gift shop that changes 1/3 of their offerings with every exhibit. I spent just as much time in the shop as in the museum, and I managed to cross off a few Christmas gifts on my list. Walking from the museum on 5th Avenue and 103rd, I found the end of Park Avenue at 96th street. It stopped me in my tracks.

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I love my book club. It was started about a year ago when I moved back to the city, and a friend and I decided to start one. I’ve always found community when sitting with a glass of wine in my hand and a book as the basis of discussion. Our book club is a day time event, and the host changes every month. If you host, you pick the book and you serve what you like. This month, the book was a controversial choice, Undone. The host chose it because she is good friends with the author, John Colapinto and he agreed to join us (hence the change to evening) for a glass of wine and a spirited discussion. John is a well-known established non-fiction writer, and this book was a diversion from his typical subject matter. I felt a little sorry for him as we discussed the book for an hour before he arrived – it was almost like he was thrown to the wine-soaked wolves. Without turning this blog into a book review, I’ll say that John’s a great writer and I kept turning the pages. You might want to read for your self…

I just want to say again how I, along with every other NYC resident and transit employee was NOT READY for this.

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I know there are a million poke spots in NYC, but I will walk way out of my way to eat here. If you find yourself in Chelsea, check out Wisefish Poke.

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Saturday night we booked a table with friends at the Cafe Carlyle a classic NYC institution. The last time Tom and I had been, Bobby Short was alive and tickling the ivories. Bemelman’s Bar was packed, and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. There was a ton of glam, vat-sized martinis, and the show was great.

I’m typing this blog as I wait for Amazon Fresh to deliver all my Thanksgiving needs (they are now officially 3 hours and 20 minutes past the deadline and say they won’t deliver) but my refrigerator is spotless and mostly empty, waiting for the arrival. My kids fly and train into the coop tonight, but I have reserved a very fun double bunk room for the four of them at the Freehand Hotel (a five-minute walk from the apartment), so there will be no dirty towels left on the floor of my guest bathroom. I think they are pretty excited to bunk up together too.

I wish you all a very festive feast, and hopefully, there won’t be too much discussion around your table about politics and climate change, because those will only ruin your appetite. Take a break from the negativity for a bit and enjoy all the good things that bring you and the people you share your meal with together.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

Free Falling

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Fall is my favorite season by far and the absolute best for long walks in the city, which lead to discoveries, which lead to unknown adventures, opportunities, and knowledge. This week I went on a 2 1/2 hour Ayn Rand walking tour with Fred Cookinham at In Depth Walking Tours (aptly named, by the way). Even if you aren’t a fan of Ayn’s (Fred definitely is) this tour takes you back to NYC in the 1940’s and 50’s starting at the Waldorf Astoria and ending at The Daily News building with lots of Grand Central in between. I left the tour, which was arranged by the Ex-Expats of New York organization (if you are an ex-expat and would like to join, send me a message), with a much better understanding of the beginning of the railroads in NYC and how much of a game changer it was for the city.

After the tour, the starving group went to Ethos Gallery 51 a delicious Greek restaurant with a strange name, but a very reasonable prix fixe lunch (and unlimited wine for $14.95). It’s not a place I would travel to eat, but if you are visiting the UN or are all the way east in the 50’s it’s a great option.

Another awesome thing about fall is that it’s not too hot in my apartment to keep the oven on for long periods of time, which brings slow, low cooking back into the Sunday repertoire. Speaking of cooking yummy things, I went to hear Yotam Ottolenghi and Deb Perelman talk about food at the 92nd Street Y this week, and I’m so excited to start using his new cookbook Simple. I love a Yotam meal, but he’s known for his long list of foreign ingredients and many steps. I like the design of the new book, and the recipes look mouthwatering.

Have you spent any time in Koreatown? It’s only a few blocks around Herald Square and feels like you’ve teleported to Seoul. I have my favorites from food shopping to scrubs to BBQ, but this week my son took me to a Japanese Izakaya down a flight of narrow steps into a basement that felt very much like I was back in Tokyo. It’s called Mew, and they have a very inexpensive, yet authentically delicious lunch set.

I went to see LIfespan of a Fact this week starring Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones and Bobby Canavale. It’s a new, very timely, funny play that runs 90 minutes with no intermission. I was home before 9. That’s my kind of mid-week show. It’s at Studio 54, which is on the edge of the theater district and limits restaurant choices within walking distance to the theater. A new place I’ve been twice and like is Gloria. The limited menu has fish and vegetables done with a few unexpected twists and a cool atmostphere that feels more like it could be in Flatiron or the East Village.

I’m a fan of sample sales and I received an email about a Reformation sample sale on Friday in Soho at 260 Sample Sales. If you like sample sales too, you can sign up for email notifications. I didn’t buy anything, but I love the thrill of the hunt. Speaking of hunts, I had 90 minutes in Soho before I had to meet a group of ex-Tokyo girls for lunch and I took advantage of my iPods and comfortable boots, and walked up and down the tiny streets from Prince south to Canal. I realized that when I go to Soho I usually stay within certain streets and there is just so much more to discover – I was limiting myself! I’m slightly obsesessed with a store I found that makes action sized figures out of your loved ones. Wouldn’t that be THE creative holiday gift this year? It’s called Doob 3d. You need to check it out.

Friday night after a very fun teacher appreciation party for the extremely well deserving teachers and staff at the school I work with at the Bronx Academy of Letters I went home, Tom and I ordered in Shake Shack and we binged the new BBC show on Netflix The Bodyguard. It’s easy to binge as there is only one season with six episodes. The opening five minutes of the first episode is the most intense of any show I’ve ever watched. Enough said.

Getting out my Le Creuset Dutch Oven today for Sunday dinner – two birdies returning to the nest.

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.