1/31/11

AWESOME GIVEAWAY: Coffee and Tea Festival Admission

Some say you can't be a New Yorker without some sort of caffeine addiction. Well, I have managed two and half years without one, but I do like my coffee and my tea. So I'm planning on indulging in a little caffeine goodness over President's Day weekend at the annual Coffee and Tea Festival.


Featuring purveyors and fellow hot drink fiends from all over, this festival is sure to be a blast. Last year, I sampled all sorts of goodies, which was perfect for a blustery winter weekend. It was at this festival that I became obsessed with Harney & Sons teas and scooped up a bunch of samples to take home. The schedule also includes lectures, demos and classes that are included with your admission. I remember attending a tea-infused desserts session complete with good-portioned samples for all. Lastly, the first 1,000 to attend each day will receive a goodie bag!

The event runs Saturday-Sunday February 19-20 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at the 7West Event space located at 7 West 34th Street. You can buy your tickets here

Good news! I have three pairs of admission passes to giveaway to my lucky readers! You have four easy ways to enter and each comment counts as an entry. Make sure to include your email in your comments so that I can get a hold of you if you win:

1) REQUIRED - Follow this blog by clicking on the button on the right panel and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.

2) 
REQUIRED - Leave a comment below letting me know why you want to go to the Coffee and Tea Festival, who you will bring and how you heard about this contest.

3) Follow me on Twitter @yaelleah and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.

4) Tweet or blog about this event and let me know with a comment below with a link to your tweet or blog.

A winner will be chosen using Random.org on Friday 2/4. You have until Friday 2/4 at 12 p.m. EST to enter the contest. The winner must be able to attend the event on 12/19 or 12/20. Good luck!





The winners have been chosen! Congratulations Kika, Caroline and Colette! They were the 13th, 17th and 19th commenters and win two passes each to the NYC Coffee and Tea Festival. Hope you enjoy! Thanks to everyone else who entered!

1/25/11

AWESOME GIVEAWAY REPEAT: 2 Tickets to Lombardi!

It's time for a giveaway repeat! I know you're still waxing poetic about the Jets, but Broadway wants you to celebrate the Super Bowl regardless...at Lombardi! I know I'm excited for pigs in a blanket, chili and the ever amazing commercials (honestly, they're the main reason I watch). But Dan Lauria and Judith Light will get you in the spirit even more by portraying the gridiron's favorite family, Vince and Marie Lombardi. Who knows, after seeing the show, you might even start rooting for Green Bay.


Here's another reason to get excited for football - I'm giving away TWO pairs of tickets to see Lombardi on Broadway! The tickets must be picked up at the box office the day of the show. There are 4 easy ways to win and each comment counts as an entry. Please include your email in any comments so I know how to contact you if you are the winner.

1) REQUIRED - Follow this blog by clicking on the button on the right panel and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.

2) REQUIRED - Leave a comment below letting me know what you are most excited for on Superbowl Sunday.

3) Follow me on Twitter @yaelleah and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.

4) Tweet or blog about this event and let me know with a link to your tweet or blog in a comment below.

Two winners will be chosen using Random.org on Friday 1/28. You have until Friday 1/4 at 10 a.m. EST to enter the contest. Good luck!







The winners have been chosen! Congratulations Theo and Lisette! You were the 9th and 20th commenters and win 2 tix to see Lombardi. Hope you enjoy! Thanks to everyone else who entered!

1/20/11

Awesome In Las Vegas

While this event didn’t happen anywhere in or near New York, and while I know this blog is normally about all things awesome in New York, the following event was probably the most awesome experience I’ve ever had and will most likely ever have (although you never know). Therefore, I’m declaring it worthy of (lots of) space in this blog, of course, lots and lots of pictures.

It all started with Twitter. I enter a lot of Twitter contests, and honestly once I retweet or click a link and enter my name and email, I don’t really remember the contest. So when I received a text (I get my direct messages sent to me via text) saying “Hey there! You're the lucky winner of the tix to the NYE Jay-Z/Coldplay show at The Cosmopolitan in Vegas! Please DM us to accept prize.” I was not really sure what to think. Vegas? Like Las Vegas, Nevada Vegas? Jay-Z/Coldplay like the multi-platinum superstars Jay-Z/Coldplay? This can’t be real. But then it started to set in and I remembered entering this contest hosted by Travelocity, thinking there was a one in a million chance of winning. I believe I started jumping up and down in the middle of a Levi’s store at that point.

When I got home and started Google-ing, I discovered that this was quite possibly one of the coolest things I could ever have won. Not only would I get to bring a guest to stay for three nights over New Year’s Eve (and grand opening) weekend at the brand spanking new Cosmopolitan Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, but we would get a gala dinner at the restaurant of our choice, invites to the preview party at the Marquee nightclub (featuring Florence + The Machine), invites to an invitation-only NYE party featuring a concert by Jay-Z and Coldplay, brunch on New Year’s Day and then a New Year’s Day BBQ and pool party featuring gospel singer Mavis Staples. Holy. Cow. Baloney.

Of course I was going.

My boyfriend Mike and I arrived in Las Vegas to find colder weather than we left behind in NYC (go figure), but we were warmed up right away upon entering the lobby of the hotel and being welcomed with a glass of Champagne at the check-in desk. After determining that our room wasn’t quite ready for us, we were upgraded to a one-bedroom suite with a terrace on the 30th floor. Here are some pictures of the amazing room (which was probably bigger than my entire 2-bedroom apartment).

From the living room
From the bedroom
The entire room from the terrace
The shower room with a gigantic tub
Loved the sink area. I could get used to that.
The fully stocked, most premium mini-fridge I've ever seen
Chilling on the terrace
Nighttime view from the terrace
The wristband made from old guitar strings we wore to get in to VIP events
All of our NYE collateral including holographic tickets to the concert
The décor of the entire hotel is amazing. I think Mike commented at one point that they must have hired the most amazing architects and designers they could find to make this place come together. From the electronic and mood-changing “wallpaper” in the lobby, to the three-story Chandelier Bar, to the whimsical and innovative light fixtures everywhere, it really is a sight to be seen. In walking around the hotel, you could spot the tourists who were just passing through to take it all in.

After getting settled in the room, admiring the view and calling everyone we knew to tell them about all the amazing things that had happened so far, we ventured out for a walk and to grab some dinner at the Planet Hollywood shops across the street. Riding the elevator back up, four rather large men in suits enter and then I see a tall, sort of shaggy and vaguely familiar guy walk to the back and stand next to Mike. I look at him and I look at Mike and then I realized “oh my God, that’s John Mayer!” So that was pretty awesome.

We changed into nicer clothes and rode the elevator back downstairs for the Marquee preview party. I’m not much of a club kind of girl, so I’d only heard of those places where scantily-clad girls dance in cages and on the bars. Well this was one of those places, yet it still retained class if you could imagine. We were treated to a beer, Champagne and well-drink open bar and after grabbing our drinks, we walked around the club and just tried to absorb it all. British sensation Florence + The Machine began their set at about midnight and played an energetic and fun hour-long set. Through a coworker I had heard of them before, but after seeing a live performance, I’m hooked. YouTube them now – you won’t be sorry.

A sign in Marquee. Nope, we definitely weren't.
Florence + The Machine
Florence + The Machine
The next day Mike’s friend Kasra drove in from California with his girlfriend Nina and we all went to In-N-Out for lunch. I cannot tell you how happy this made me. A California girl has to have her In-N-Out.


After wandering around the property some more and trying my hand at penny-slots, we figured a nap in our oh-so-comfortable-with-super-soft-sheets bed was in order. We had reservations at the NYC-transplant Blue Ribbon Sushi at 7:30 and we were both very excited for whatever a gala dinner was. We were seated in the back, semi-romantic section of the restaurant, handed warm towels to wash our hands with and an extravagant menu. Take a look and tell me if you think it looks like you would have choices to make.


We decided on what we would choose and were then informed that there were no choices to be made, as we would be receiving everything. Jaws drop.

First they brought out a little appetizer of King Crab and Champagne Dashi (complete with edible gold flakes on top!), and while it was interesting, it wasn’t my favorite. Next, we were served bowls of Wild Mushroom Miso Soup in which we were each able to mix in as much miso paste as to our liking, and a sharable salad of seasonal lettuce, Asian pears, cranberries and poppy seed dressing. After that, a giant platter of super-fresh and delicious sushi and sashimi was put on our table and we were in heaven as sushi has always been our favorite date food.

Us with our sushi
Next came the main courses (as if we hadn’t already been served enough food for a substantial meal). Three to be exact. And they were full-sized. Awesome doesn’t even begin to sum them all up however. First there was a Miso Lobster – a full Maine Lobster with the meat already out of the shell, stuffed back in and mixed with miso butter to a perfect flaky consitency that melted in your mouth. We made pretty good work of that dish. There was also the Fried Chicken “Blue Ribbon Style” that had an excellent crisp, tangy outside and juicy inside served with wasabi honey. Last, there was a rather large bowl of Oxtail Fried Rice complete with bone marrow, daikon and scallion. Stuffed as we were, we took home most of the chicken and fried rice but we were totally satiated.

Mike with the main courses
But wait, there’s more! Dessert was pretty much the gold flake of the entire meal – an ooey gooey God-send of Ginger Bread Pudding with creamy ginger ice cream and caramel sauce. After deciding that it was safe to walk and not topple over, we decided to take a digesting break in the room before heading to the concert.

All dolled up
After getting through a pretty intense check-in table, we walked into the Chelsea Ballroom at the hotel and I'm pretty sure our jaws dropped again. Mike read somewhere that this party cost $25M to put on and I'd believe it. With VIP sections and big, burly men in black suits lining the perimeter, a gaggle of disco balls adorning the ceiling (seriously, there must have been at least 50 of all different sizes), a sparkly dance floor and bars everywhere you looked, it was like a dream. I may have pinched myself.

Chelsea ballroom complete with sparkly dance floor and disco ball display
The event was premium top-shelf open bar (did you expect anything less), with sponsors like Tequila Avion (yes, from Entourage). I was a big fan of the Dutch Punch complete with ginger liqueur, one of my new faves. Dom Pérignon was flowing left and right as well. 


Special drinks
The lights began to dim and the fog started rolling off the stage about 11 p.m. Then we saw Chris Martin and heard Coldplay's music begin to play and out of nowhere the dance floor was jam-packed. I loved that all the lights turned a nice shade of chartreuse when the song "Yellow" played and I couldn't help swaying to "Strawberry Swing." At one point Chris Martin commented on how he doesn't think he's ever played for a crowd so nicely dressed (the event was black-tie).

Coldplay
"and it was all yellow..."
The crowd with the VIP/Celebrity section in the back
Coldplay
Coldplay
Minutes before the countdown, Jay-Z came out to sing with Coldplay (apparently he's pretty good friend's with Chris Martin - who knew?) and the crowd went wild! There was confetti everywhere. When they finally did the countdown, it almost felt like no one cared because everyone wanted to get back to this epic concert unfolding in front of them.

Jay-Z and Coldplay
Jay-Z
Jay-Z
I'll admit that I was actually surprised to have recognized most of the songs Jay-Z sang. I know Mike was most excited for his performance, but I really enjoyed it as well. He's a great entertainer as well as a performer, interacting with the crowd, calling people out and generally making sure people had a good time. After all, it was an invite only party for him and about 2,500 of his closest celebrity and VIP friends, oh and Mike and me.

At one point, Jay-Z was singing a song that features Kanye West and when that part of the song came, boom!, there was Kanye West in the flesh! I think it took people a while to recognize him as he was in a jean jacket, bandana and sunglasses amongst a room full of dudes in penguin suits and women in ball gowns. This was the first big surprise of the night.

Kanye West appears as a surprise guest performer
A little later, as Jay-Z was singing "99 Problems," I noticed the same shaggy guy from the elevator the night before playing guitar. It's none other than John Mayer! He didn't sing, but looked pretty bad-ass up on stage accompanying a hip-hop legend.

Jay-Z with John Mayer in the background
A few songs later, after bringing showgirls on stage to serve Champagne, Jay-Z starts the song "Young Forever" and who waltzes onto the stage but...Beyonce! At this point it was like the reverse of yelling "Fire!" The entire party ran as close to the stage as possible like a giant magnet was attracting them. Girls were crying and guys were going insane. She looked beautiful and her voice is absolutely gorgeous. I had an inkling she would be at the party as Jay-Z's wife (as well as Gweneth Paltrow, Chris Martin's wife), but I didn't really think she'd perform. I guess when you're Beyonce though, you can't escape the stage.

Beyonce singing "Young Forever"
Then when it seemed like the concert was supposed to wrap up, Jay-Z says he wants to give the people what they want. In an impromptu coercion, he brought Chris Martin back on stage to play piano while Beyonce sang "Halo."

Beyonce and Chris Martin performing "Halo"
Jay-Z sang a few more songs and really got the crowd going for "Empire State of Mind." How cool would it have been if Alicia Keys popped out from behind the curtain? Alas, she was elsewhere and they used a recorded vocal track, but there's something about that song that just makes me feel amazing. 


I alluded to the fact that this was a star-studded event, and while we saw Mark Wahlberg, James Marsden, Aziz Ansari, Gayle King and Gail Simmons, we found out after that this event with its guest list could have easily been mistaken for a Golden Globes after-party. According to a couple of different websites, here's who I found out were there: Timothy Olyphant, Cheryl Hines, BJ Novak,  Forest Whittaker, Pauly Shore, Shiri Appleby, Aaron Paul, Wilmer Valderrama, Cameron Diaz, Alex Rodriguez, Gwenyth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez, Mark Antony, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jessica Szohr, Rashida Jones, Taraji P. Henson, Olivia Munn, Haylie Duff, Channing Tatum, Jared Followill, Whitney Port, Jeremy Piven, Bonnie Somerville, Christina Milian, Mark Salling, Emmy Rossum, Kristin Davis, Giada De Laurentiis, Lance Bass, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Mel B, Kirsten Dunst, Brandy, Armie Hammer, Teri Polo, Garrett Hedlund, Ellen Pompeo, and Blake Lively. Phew!

Here are a couple of blurry celeb pictures I managed to snag:

Gail Simmons from Top Chef
Oprah's best friend Gayle King
Overall, this was the most extravagant and crazy NYE I've ever had and I still can't believe we were there! I felt like part of the "in" club - hell, I was in the "in" club - and I liked it!

Dessert table at the NYE party
So pumped up after the crazy party
Nina and I chilling in the Chandelier Bar post-NYE concert
Ah, you thought my epic blog post was over did you? Well guess again!

The next morning we somehow managed to wake up with enough time to make it to brunch at the Wicked Spoon. And boy am I glad we didn't miss this. You want to talk about epic? This was the most epic brunch ever. Not only was it the most innovative buffet I've ever seen, but all of the food choices were fresh, constantly replenished and often served to you by a worker from behind the counter. I ate the most amazing truffled potatoes ever and was super bowled over by the Eggs Benedict, fresh berries and butternut squash ravioli. They had a giant dessert station as well complete with a full gelato bar. Everything was so pretty and we found a resurgence of the gold flakes on numerous desserts.

My first plateful at The Wicket Spoon Buffet
My dessert plate at The Wicked Spoon Buffet
While recovering from yet another food coma, we decided to chill out on the balcony. Even though the weather in Vegas was colder than it was in NYC the entire time we were there (read: 30s), the sun had this way of streaming onto our terrace so that you really were fine in a t-shirt. We saw them setting up for the afternoon pool party and BBQ down below, and after listening to Gospel singer Mavis Staples perform, we decided to go down and check it out.

View of the pool area from our terrace
I'm pretty sure this was the coolest pool area I've ever seen. With all sorts of plush seating arrangements, brightly colored blue and yellow decorations, in-pool chaise lounges, views up and down the Strip, a fully stocked bar, cozy cabanas (with plasma TVs), pool tables and TVs, this was again the place to be. We were all still stuffed from breakfast, so we didn't get to enjoy the full BBQ going on, but we did help ourselves to Veuve Clicquot, Mighty Leaf teas, creamy hot chocolate and some Bailey's and coffee to warm up with. They were also passing out warm blankets and had the heaters cranked on high.

Mike and I hanging by one of the pools
Chair in the bushes!
Pool area with the marquee
While it's a new hotel and we did experience some kinks in service (we accidentally got charged for about 20 different things from the mini-fridge even though we didn't touch anything; the maid called us at 8 a.m. to pick up the laundry even though we never requested laundry service; the wait for a concierge was often way too long), I trust that The Cosmopolitan will work everything out because the place really sells itself. They really went all out for this Grand Opening Weekend as well, sending up gifts to the room such as Moleskine notebooks, Zagat celebration guides and Cire Treudon candles and matches. 

Some gifts from the hotel
Sunrise from the terrace as we left for the airport
With a wide variety of classy, yet affordable dining options, amazing artwork everywhere and a true understanding of what a unique resort experience should be, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is truly a work of art and I can't wait to go back.A huge thank you to Travelocity for holding this contest and for picking me for this awesome experience!!