7/29/10

AWESOME ALERT: Went to a Debate and a Party Broke Out

I was invited to attend an event sponsored by Lexus on Tuesday night at The Bowery Hotel through their Darker Side of Green campaign. That was all I knew. I keep getting invited to these events where I have no idea what to expect and I realize, I need to get in the game!

Anyway, to give you some background, a short while back, I won a "Lexus Dark Ride Card" through a giveaway from a great blog, Fantabulously Frugal. After receiving it I registered it online and was granted access to several discounts for higher-end retailers and was alerted that I'd receive a weekly digest email with additional opportunities. Sure enough, the next week, I received the invite to this event. It was described as a debate on "green issues" between Eric Bates, the executive editor of Rolling Stone, and Lord Christopher Monckton, moderated by Tracy Morgan. Libations provided by Patron and, lucky me, VIP entry.

I'm not one to snub the commoners, but VIP entry is pretty sweet. Once we figured out which entrance to actually be at, my friend Perry and I were lucky enough to be standing right by the entrance when Ewan McGregor, looking adorable in a black suit and white shoes, hopped out of his car and a few seconds later, Liev Schreiber walked through the velvet ropes. After catching our breath, we found the bar and ordered Patron Pomegranate drinks. I'm a sucker for anything pomegranate. 

The Bowery has a very laid back vibe. The indoor-outdoor setting was very natural yet still gave off a slightly Mediterranean vibe. The debate was held inside and the environmentalist in me was actually looking forward to what was going to be discussed. I don't know if you watch 30 Rock, but Tracy Morgan talks exactly like he does on the show (read: often difficult to understand). Unfortunately with the noise and the slurring, I couldn't hear much of what was being said, although I did see enough to know that the Lord is a creepy man with bug eyes who thinks there is no such thing as global warming. Also, Tracy Morgan isn't the best moderator if you want a serious pun-free debate.

From L to R: Lord Christoper Monckton, Tracy Morgan, Eric Bates

Tried as we did, unfortunately Ewan and Liev left right after the debate and we didn't get any face time, but Tracy was very sweet when we asked for a picture.

From L to R: Me, Tracy and Perry

In conclusion, I guess it's good I wasn't expecting anything serious because I would have been sorely disappointed. This was more of a promotional event for Lexus and their new hybrid model. However, if you find a way to get your hands on one of these cards, I would highly recommend it. The weekly emails are filled with "Be the first 5 people to respond and win ____" contests and other discounts and perks. Also, parties like this are a reason in themselves to get one. 


Fresh in the West Village

I've recently begun a love affair with the West Village. In my almost two years here I must admit that I've neglected this neighborhood, but I have recently given it my full attention and I utterly and faithfully can't get enough. So when the opportunity presented itself (cough, Twitter contest, cough) for me to visit Braeburn on Perry Street at Greenwich Street, I jumped. 

Braeburn is another restaurant to hop on the Twitter giveaway bandwagon and I think it's pretty much one of the smartest marketing tools ever. With so many wonderful eateries in this city, some find a way to stick out above the rest and Braeburn is one. Like Supper, Braeburn does the "First person to retweet this gets a free ____." Well, I retweeted and the next day my roommate retweeted as well. We both were offered any appetizer we wanted on Tuesday night. I'd heard their menu was fantastic from some Restaurant Week suggestions, but I wasn't prepared for the awesomeness I enjoyed. 

It was Tina's birthday and we had plans to meet up with other people later, so we arrived at Braeburn on the early side. Some could see this as bad timing, but I saw it as us getting the best service possible - we had 3 people waiting on us, all exceedingly sweet and wonderful. The dining room is decorated peacefully and clean with dark wood lining the sunflower yellow walls and a long pastoral painting hanging on the North side of the dining room. I could see this place being very romantic after the sun sets and the candles really glow. 


We were started off with pickled watermelon in mint oil. I'm an adventurous eater, but even I was a little scared at first. It sure looked pretty but the thought of watermelon, mint, oil and pickled all in one bite was a bit too much for me to imagine meshing. In the end, this daring creation was fabulous. So many flavor profiles all at once, it was like a refreshing summer picnic explosion in my mouth!

Pickled Watermelon in Mint Oil

Braeburn has a reputation for serving some wonderfully creative cocktails. My roommate ordered the Gin 'n Juice - Bombay Sapphire gin, cucumber juice, elderflower and lime - while I opted for a glass of the Sparkling Apple Cider 'Antoinette' Duchee de Longuville (hey, the place is called Braeburn!). Both were very refreshing and I'd like to return to try more of their mixology creations.


Gin 'n Juice and Sparkling Apple Cider

After enjoying some fresh-out-of-the-oven herb rolls (I believe there was cheese or something else awesome in them), we began salivating for our appetizers. I settled on the Hand Cut Black Pepper Fettucine with blistered cherry tomato, preserved lemon and sheep's milk ricotta while my roommate ordered the Day Boat Sea Scallop with roasted cherry tomatoes, marjoram, toasted bread crumbs and black olive crust. I never knew fettucine could taste so amazing. Again with the many many flavors you're not sure will go together, but the combination of the pepper, the lemon and the ricotta (you can never, repeat, NEVER, go wrong when eating ricotta) left me speechless. The scallops were cooked to perfection, buttery in texture, and the bread crumbs added a nice crunch to the dish.


Hand Cut Black Pepper Fettucine

Day Boat Sea Scallop

After we finished eating, I don't think either one of us wanted to leave. The entrees were a bit pricey for a regular dinner out, but I would highly recommend this for special occasions (especially of the romantic kind). I'll definitely be bringing my parents here next time they come to town. 

If I had to sum up my entire experience at Braeburn in one word, it would have to be fresh (honestly, did you count how many times I used that word or one like it in this post?). The second word would be awesome. Gold star for you Braeburn, I will be back!

Braeburn on Urbanspoon

7/26/10

Thrift in Style

One of my favorite stores in this city is not a giant department store or a Soho boutique. It's not a chain discount retailer or a pop-up shop. It's Housing Works Thrift Stores.




Now wait a minute, you say. You're living in the shopping mecca of our country and you favor a thrift store above all else?! But you have to stop and pause a moment because the queen of finding good deals must be on to something. And in fact I am.

I wandered into the Yorkville outpost on 2nd Avenue and 90th Street shortly after I moved to the area and I cannot walk by without at least peeping in and doing a once over. You would hardly know this place was a thrift store. Clothes are neatly organized in racks according to pieces - dresses here, skirts on the bottom and blouses on the top, jeans in one section and blazers over there. Housing Works only accepts high quality donations. You will find many designer duds, some brand new with the original tags still on. They also have an amazing selection of books, jewelry, furniture and other household goods. The store is also exceedingly clean and lacks a certain mildewy scent which wafts through the Goodwill Store down the street.

In addition to the already ridiculous prices you might find on the racks, the stores have random flash sales - 25% off all clothing today only, 40% off all books (when paperbacks are already only $1 a pop), and my most recent favorite, All Pants $3. Yes, that means I bought 4 pairs - 1 Theory jeans, 1 Brooks Brother's capris and 2 Italian designer ankle pants - all for $12. It's ok to be jealous. I can't even count the number of items of clothing I've taken home from Housing Works, but one of my best finds was a new pair of Stuart Weitzman sandals for $35. Also, twice a year they hold a summer and a winter clearance sales where you can find runway styles from top designers at additional markdown prices. I find it best to go on a weekday so as to avoid the crowds.

The reason I write about this fabulous store today however is because of my earlier post-work-pre-gym pop-in. The Yorkville store currently has a full rack of amazing designer pieces (With their original tags! I'm not sure how they do it!) from the likes of Geren Ford, Miguelina, Betsey Johnson, Magaschoni, Ali Ro and Y Yigal. Most dresses were marked down to $90 and tops where anywhere from $35 to $60. Also, through the end of July, you will get an extra $25 off your entire purchase if you show an old Housing Works receipt. So buy a book for $1 and then use that receipt to scoop up the remainder of your summer wardrobe.



Housing Works is a non-profit organization that is committed to ending homelessness and AIDS. The stores are run by volunteers and the organization provides quality services for those in need across the city and beyond. So even when you feel your wallet cringing when you can't decide between four dresses, you can still feel good knowing your money is going towards a good cause. Face it, it's a win-win-win.

You can check out their website to find a store near you and check out their online auctions and future sale announcements. Happy shopping!

Frolicking in Flatiron

Everyone knows Madison Square Park for Shake Shack, but I've fallen in love with its beauty on a summer's eve. It was my boyfriend's birthday last week and we had a bit of photo fun after dinner at Primehouse. I have a thing for sunset lighting :)


I love open space anywhere on this island.


The sheer fact that this building was built when 
Teddy Roosevelt was President astounds me.


You can never not know the time in MSP.


The Empire State Building will always 
steal some attention.


Having some fun with the public art.


More fun. In a past life maybe they were cousins?

Let it be known that, without even a dime, you can find awesome in this city simply by walking around and occasionally looking up. I'd love to hear where you find it. Leave a comment and let me know.

7/22/10

3-Course Dining

There are two weeks of the year I love the most in this city, not only because my birthday happens to fall in between the two of them, but because it is Restaurant Week in New York City.

For two weeks, more than 200 of NYC's top dining establishments offer special 3-course lunch and dinner menus at an attractive price - $35 for dinner and $24.07 for lunch. I have had the pleasure of participating in 2 dinners and one lunch, and I must say that my palate is more than satiated.

It started last week with dinner at Fig and Olive in the Meatpacking District. The urban Mediterranean vibe that echoes throughout the restaurant transposed itself right to the plate. We were able to taste not one, but three different olive oils to go with our bread, which was a memorable feature. We started with the steak tartare, which I had never had before but definitely will again, and the zucchini carpacchio. The portions were good-sized and very tasty. I had the Tuscan style cod with root vegetables for my entree and again, the portion was quite large, which is surprising because I've often experienced smaller sized meals for special menu deals. For dessert we split the strawberry shortbread cookies and the chocolate pot de creme. The cookies disappeared in about two seconds and I'm ashamed to say we couldn't quite finish the chocolate, it was very heavy. The service was attentive and fun, they even brought us each a glass of dessert wine when they realized they forgot to bring spoons for our dessert. I would return here when I'm in the mood for a  trendy dinner in the future.

Yesterday was my boyfriend Mike's birthday. This guy could eat so I wanted to take him somewhere he wouldn't leave hungry. Enter Primehouse in the Flatiron district. When we walked into the main dining room, I was almost taken aback by the decor. The tall marble walls, black and white geometric patterned floors and fabrics and lit-up wine display cases truly make a statement. The food did as well. Mike started with the pork belly appetizer. I know pork belly has been all the rage on menus lately, but I had yet to taste it. I did, and I can't say my life wouldn't be complete without it (I'm not one for lots of fat staring me in the face), but it was tasty. I had the gazpacho with crab meat and it was very refreshing with a poblano pepper kick. We both had the NY Strip Steak entree. Honestly, the best way to make the most out of Restaurant Week is to order a steak. The NY Strip is generally $45 on the regular dinner menu, so you've  already got more than your money's worth. For dessert, I ordered the strawberry shortcake (it seems to be a theme) and Mike got this amazing chocolatey/smores/cinnamon creation that I ended up eating half of. Hey, he's lactose intolerant! What I thought was the sweetest though, was when the waitress brought out an additional birthday dessert - warm doughnuts with three squirt bottles of chocolate, strawberry and caramel sauce for dipping, all with a candle. I would definitely recommend this place for birthdays after that.

Then there was lunch today. In retrospect, I should have planned my schedule better as some coworkers and I made reservations at the historic Delmonico's for a nice steak lunch. It's rare that I eat red meat, but yes, I did have steak two days in a row, but it was damn delicious. Restaurant Week is a great idea for lunch, not only because it's cheaper, but because it's more of a treat. How often do you eat a 3-course lunch? Most of us all ordered the same items - Snap Pea and Corn Soup with Crab, Steak Frites and Chocolate Peanut Butter Mouse. The one thing I will say is that their version of medium rare is my version of the cow is still mooing. I did have to send it back, but the service was polite and returned my steak cooked perfectly. The dessert was heavenly as well, although I went back to my office in a bit of a food coma. Let's just say I'll be eating a salad for dinner tonight.

7/21/10

Paradou it!

I've heard it said that it would be impossible to ever try every single one of the city's restaurants even if you ate out 4 meals a day; there are just too many. Now that's heavy competition.

One of the things I love most about New York is the originality that abounds. A restaurant must be creative if it wants to get people in the door. This was the case with my Supper outing a couple of days ago, and this is the case with a little French bistro called Paradou in the West Village. Paradou is super creative in that I have never even been there and I'm already hooked.

 It all started with a Grub Street posting I came across. The owners of the establishment had been advertising that after 9 years of running their business, they were in need of some honest to goodness feedback from the people who really mattered, their customers. For those who email their comments in, a $20 coupon will come their way. 

So I decided I had to check out the restaurant's website. Since I'm a sucker for contests, the first thing I noticed was "Sign up for our newsletter and enter our weekly drawing to win a $100 gift certificate." So of course I sign up. The next nice surprise was an email in my inbox thanking me for signing up and offering me a  complimentary glass of wine. But that's not all! On the restaurant's Yelp page, it lists a "Free Wine Mondays" special - just mention "Wall Street" when making your dinner reservation for a Monday night and you get a free bottle of wine with your meal. At this rate I'm going to have a feast on the house! 

But you know if it's good, I'll go back. And so will others. That's why they are smart cookies in my book. 

So if you're looking for a new cute little French place to call your own, I'd definitely check it out.  

Paradou on Urbanspoon

Wine Dreams

I was waiting to post about New York Vintners until I attended another class and then I could go through the whole kit and caboodle of how wonderful the experience was, the wines we tasted and the foods we ate. But no, you need to act now and fast.

One of my all-time favorite ways to spend a weekend afternoon in this city so far is taking a 2-hour wine class at the wine store turned event space with a full kitchen, New York Vintners. Today Groupon is offering a choice of one class for only $25, that's half off!!

You won't be sorry after taking this class. In fact you will be smarter, more apt to figure out a complex restaurant wine list, and, if you're lucky, perhaps slightly more inebriated than when you woke up that morning. It's all for the better, I promise you.

Classes I highly recommend are Wines 101, Sake and Mediterranean Flavors, and Biodynamic and Organic Wines. Check it out now and buy one or two (or three!) before it's too late and you're kicking yourself.

7/20/10

Supper Time

Before the Hollywood festivities of last night, I had the pleasure of visiting a gem of an East Village restaurant. Through, Twitter, I have been privy to (and the winner of) many a contest. I recently started following @suppernyc, the twitter account of Supper Restaurant on 2nd Street and Ave. A. It turns out, every weekday at 2 p.m., the restaurant, and their sister establishments @lilfrankies at noon and @frankrestaurant at 1 p.m. do a twitter food giveaway. The first follower to retweet the posted message wins the entree of the day.

Just my luck (which is good if you were curious), I won the Grilled Polenta entree. The catch is that you have to either have it delivered or pick it up that day during a specific time period. Since the delivery area is limited to the E. Village, I figured I would swing by on the way to the premiere.

Even with my two years in the city, I'm ashamed to say I haven't truly explored the East Village, but I am working on it! Walking east on 2nd Street, I saw the cutest boutiques and some wonderful happy hour deals. What I found when I walked into Supper though, was perhaps the most fantastic. Several rustic outdoor tables greet you at first and then you walk inside to what reminds me of a log cabin with a bit of an edge - almost an rural chic feel, if such a thing exists (if it doesn't, I just created it).  After telling the hostess that I was there because of the Twitter contest, she presented me with a glass of house red while I waited for my entree. I took a seat at the large wooden bar, checked in on Foursquare (have to spread the online love!), and began to drool over the rest of the menu I looked over.

Supper offers a different risotto for every day of the week - could this be a more perfect place for me?! The most appealing, although I'm not sure if it is more of a dessert than an actual dinner, is Monday's Vanilla Bean and Mascarpone. I better clear my upcoming Monday schedules!

What seems like their signature dinner option is called the "Simple Supper." From Mondays through Wednesdays from 4-7 p.m. you can get an appetizer and an entree for $15.95. You can add on a glass of wine or beer to that for just another $4. Their weekend brunch menu also looked very appealing; the Molly's French Toast with fresh fruit raspberry butter, toasted pecans and real maple syrup was highly recommended.

In my haste to make it to the premiere, I know that I did not do my dish justice since I had to eat it on the subway. I didn't even get a chance to take a picture. However, I will take my sweet time describing it here. The polenta was among the lightest and most flavorful I've ever had, topped with fennel shavings and pieces of fresh Parmigiano cheese. It was accompanied by mouth watering Prosciutto di Parma and a small container of aged Balsalmic vinegar and olive oil. The crunchy-on-the-outside-but-soft-on-the-inside Italian bread that came with the meal was perfect for sopping up the extra oil and vinegar. With each bite, the subway car practically melted away and I felt like I was sitting outdoors at a table next to an Italian farmhouse, just watching the cows in the meadow and the sun setting over the hills. Needless to say, I didn't want the dish to end!

So what are you waiting for? Follow these restaurants on Twitter today and tomorrow you could have a wonderful supper waiting for you! Keep in mind you can only win these giveaways once every 30 days, but you can bet that I'll be first in line in a month.



Supper on Urbanspoon

AWESOME ALERT: Hollywood on 54th Street

I did something very L.A. tonight. I know in a blog about New York, this would be quite the contrarian thing to say, but it’s true.

Thanks to the Young Members Circle at the Museum of the City of New York and a generous soul at Paramount Pictures, I was invited to a screening of the new Steve Carell and Paul Rudd movie, Dinner for Schmucks. At least that was what I was told. Turns out, it’s the PREMIERE of the movie! Having never been to a movie premiere before, even after spending the first 17 years of my life in SoCal (you know it’s been a while since I’ve lived there because I call it SoCal), I truly did not know what to expect. Do I get to walk the red carpet? Do I get to meet all the stars? What about free popcorn? Well, no there is a side entrance for non-stars, no, but I did get pretty close to Michael Scott himself and actually, yes it was quite tasty.

Steve Carell with the paparazzi



Christine enjoying the free popcorn


My guest, Christine, and I marveled at the ornate setting of the historical Ziegfeld Theater while munching on popcorn and waiting for the film to begin. The crowd buzzed when Steve Carell in a sharp blue blazer entered the theater, Paul Rudd with a rather robust beard caused quite the stir as he took his seat and flashes popped when Zach Galifianakis, who cleans up rather nice, greeted fans already seated. The film’s director Jay Roach (think Meet the Parents and Austin Powers) introduced the film saying that it contains the work of “perhaps 16 to 20 of the world’s funniest people.” (Um, excuse me, but when has a movie EVER been introduced to me by its director in person!?).

Inside of the Ziegfeld Theater



Christine and I before the movie


The movie was highly entertaining, and in fact I’d recommend you all go out and see it. Steve Carell fulfilled his typecast but wonderful “schmuck” of a character and Paul Rudd was his charming self, but perhaps the most comical part of the evening, was the fact that I was not even expecting it. That’s the beauty of life in this city. Opportunity is in fact everywhere, and I love running into it.



Dinner for Schmucks opens everywhere July 30.

A Knack for New York


New York is a complex city. Complex in so many ways that you start to doubt how complex it really is. Some become frustrated and leave before ever getting the chance to really experience it. Some come and go, all the while knowing magic exists here. Some never leave, maybe not even knowing how they got here in the first place, but staying all the same. After two years, I can attest to the magic.

Have you ever done something so amazing that you have no words to describe it? No words except for that one.

Awesome.

It says so much without saying much at all. Maybe it’s the New York magic, but I seem to having a knack. A knack for finding awesome.

Whether you just moved into your 5th floor walk-up, or you’re on your 78th monthly Metrocard, do yourself a favor. Check back, read about my experiences, find and share your own awesome in this city. It only flourishes by being passed along.