Go to the Guggenheim

Sometimes, I just need a good dose of art. And living in NYC, I have no excuse not to get one at a major cultural institution known round the world. A couple of Saturday's ago, I went to the Guggenheim for one of their Pay-As-You-Wish evenings. If you don't know about this promotion, you should definitely check it out. Every week, the museum, known for it's modern and contemporary collection and special exhibits and housed in one of the most unique Frank Lloyd Wright buildings I've ever seen, opens it's doors to the public from 5:45-7:45 p.m. While you still have to wait in line and get a ticket, you can hand the cashier anything from a $20, to a nickel, to zero and everything in between. Even on a cold, rainy evening, the museum drew quite the crowd, but as soon as the clock hit 5:45, the line practically dissolved. (Note to self: don't get there early next time!).

I handed the cashier $2, checked my coat (the Guggenheim is one of those check it or wear it institutions when it comes to coats) and headed up the spiral ramp. One thing I love about this museum is that you can completely go through everything in two hours and feel content and not rushed. The architecture of the building is also very innovative for an art museum.

The current exhibition is called "The Great Upheaval: Modern Art from the Guggenheim Collection 1910-1918." It is arranged chronologically and as you go up the ramp, each spiral encompasses another year. Prominent artists in this exhibit are mostly from Germany, Austria, France and Italy and include Franz Mark, Vasily Kandinsky (one of my favorites), Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Umberto Boccioni, among others. With more than 100 works spread throughout the exhibit, it provides an interactive and comparative view of the art world around the time preceding and during World War I.

A side exhibit, if you hadn't seen enough of him yet, "Kandinski at the Bauhaus, 1922-1933,"  showcases many of the artists geometrical and flat planed paintings from the time period in which he taught at the renowned German school of art.

Vasily Kandinsky, Decisive Rose (Entscheidendes Rosa), March 1932. Courtesy of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
So the next time you find yourself with an itch for culture and nothing to do in the pre-dinner hours on a Saturday, head over to the Upper East Side for some awesome art at the Guggenheim. Your brain and your wallet will thank you.


Tribeca: The Foodie Paradise

Ok, so all of NYC is the foodie paradise, but I have had some of the best meals I've ever had in Tribeca. And my Valentine's dinner was no exception.

Thanks to a Twitter contest run by Continental Airlines, I won a $150 gift certificate to Tribeca Grill, a part of Robert DeNiro's Myriad Restaurant Group that also includes Locanda Verde (where I was taken for my birthday dinner), Nobu (still on my list) and Corton. With Valentine's falling on a Monday, Mike and I decided to change things around a bit and made a reservation for Sunday night, allowing us to take our time and get more bang out of our gift certificate buck (the actual Valentine's Night prix-fixe was almost double what we ended up paying for our meal).

Since this was an evening for Mike and I to just enjoy, I didn't take any pictures, but I did want to write a little something to express how happy I was with this meal. The first thing I'll say is that the prices are VERY reasonable starting with the wine list through appetizers, entrees and desserts. The decor is laid back but warm and inviting. The restaurant operates on more of a casual and not-stuffy environment, which is refreshing when you compare it to similar Manhattan restaurants. We saw people in jeans and children coloring, but still felt right at home dressed up for a nicer meal. The service was impeccable. Our coats were checked as soon as we entered and out waiter (who fit right in with the seemingly average height-ed 6' waitstaff), was wonderful and friendly without being overbearing. 

Tribeca Grill courtesy of uppereastsidebaby.squarespace.com.

After flipping through a novel of a wine list (Tribeca Grill is known for their amazing wine list featuring the largest selection of Zinfandels in NYC and the largest Châteauneuf du Pape selection in the world), I decided we were celebrating and should order Champagne. Of course I could have picked a $1200 bottle, but I thought that would be a bit much. We settled on a bottle of Crémant de Limoux, Domaine Laurens, Brut n.v. ($40) and it was delicious! I love the way Champagne bubbles settle and pop on my tongue.

For appetizers, I ordered the Duck Confit Salad with Lola Rosa, Sundried Cherries & Honey Yogurt Vinaigrette ($12). This could have been a meal in itself. The duck was still on the bone, but was so juicy and tender. The salad contained the perfect amount of greens for a starter, and while the cranberries lent an excellent amount of tartness, the light dressing really finished it all off well. Mike had the Sautéed Jumbo Lump Crabcake with Cauliflower, Raisin & Tomato Chutney ($19), and it was the most amazing crab cake I've tried in a long time. I kept sneaking bites. The chutney underneath was tasty as well, and while Mike didn't care too much for the cauliflower, I had no problems finishing up the last bits, which tasted lightly of curry.

Onto entrees, I had a very hard time deciding. Finally trying to get in my Omega-3s, I settled on the Roasted Red Snapper with Chanterelle, Bacon & Swiss Chard Risotto ($29). To be honest though, it was probably the word "risotto" that sold me, and maybe the word "bacon." This turned out to be a brilliant dish. One would think that fish and rice would just be mush and mush, but between the super crispy skin of the fish and the crackle-in-your-mouth bits of bacon, it contained a great textural mix. The giant mushrooms were a lot of fun and I still got some fiber out of the swiss chard. It was also a huge dish, and I ended up taking about half of it home for lunch the next day. Mike ordered the Grilled Filet of Beef witGarlic Whipped Potatoes, Sautéed Spinach & Crispy Onion Rings ($35), and I think it was the perfect dish for him. The meat was super tender and was complemented nicely with the crispy onion rings. When they say garlic whipped potatoes, they really mean garlic, and some of that rubs off into the spinach, but we are both huge garlic lovers, so this was great. 

Just about everything on the dessert menu looked delicious, but since it was Valentine's Day and we're (well at least I am) corny, we had to pick something with some chocolate, so we picked the Banana Tart with Malted Milk Chocolate Pecan Ice Cream ($9). Also, throw in the fact that we're dorks and wanted the bill to come out to exactly $150, we ordered up a hot chocolate ($5) as well. The hot chocolate was creamy and came with two biscotti cookies for us to dip and share. The banana tart was different from most desserts I've had as they weren't afraid to go for it with the bananas. I love bananas so I was totally great with this, but if you're not a banana fan, this isn't the dessert for you. It was decadent without being overly sweet and the ice cream with the malted flavor was a nice touch.

I would highly recommend Tribeca Grill for both special occasion dinners and for a regular night out. I hear they also serve an excellent brunch that is meant just as much for locals as it is for the guests staying in the Greenwich Hotel above.

Tribeca Grill on Urbanspoon


Bead On

When I was younger, I used to love when my mom would take me to the bead store. I would pick out beads mostly all sparkly, pink or labeled with a "Y" (or a combination of the three). While my tastes have evolved to be a bit less flamboyant, I rediscovered an old passion for making jewelry at the Brooklyn Bead Box last weekend. 

Venturing out to Cobble Hill on the F-train (an adventure in itself), I found the little shop and was instantly welcomed by the warm staff. Through a $20 voucher purchase from Lifebooker, I had signed up for the "Crimping Class" (normally $35). I was told we would be making floating-bead necklaces, given a bead tray and asked to pick out beads with small holes. With small-holes being the only constraint, I went wild in a sea of colors, materials and sizes of beads. I eventually settled on three ruby jade teardrop-shaped beads, called briolettes, and some turquoise and clear quartz spheres. The other ladies in my class included a graphic designer, who cleverly made the best out of losing an earring by placing a large bead from the other earring as the centerpiece of her necklace, and a woman who worked in finance at The Economist. I'm sure the shop gets people from all walks of life in for their classes, and that makes it fun.

Our class teacher taught us how to use the crimper tools and we were off! Crimping is actually a very relaxing process, and in less than an hour not only are you refreshed, but you have a personal piece of jewelry to show for it! Here's my finished product. You can see that I've come a long way since I was a kid - no sparkles or "Y"-labeled beads, although I couldn't resist the pink!

If this looks like something you would want to do, you're in luck! Scoop St. is selling $60 vouchers today for only $25. You can spend $35 of the $60 on a class and have $25 left over to buy beads! The beads on my necklace alone cost about $11 (with a 10% discount), so today's deal is a great price. I might buy two because I want to go for both the Earrings I and the Hoops Earrings classes. And if you're not a member of Scoop St. yet and you use my link to purchase, you'll get an additional $5 off your voucher! Happy beading!


AWESOME GIVEAWAY: 2 Tickets to How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

New York's a business town, that we all know. But if you're a window washer, how do you rise to the top with the aid of a self-help book? It will be interesting, that's for sure. There's bound to be a little romance action in there as well if Harry...ahem...Daniel Radcliffe has anything to say about it. 

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying brings previews February 26th at the Al Hirschfeld Theater (45th St. and 8th Ave.) Starring Radcliffe of Harry Potter Fame as J. Pierrepont Finch as well as the Emmy Award-winning John Larroquette as J.B. Biggely. The voice of Anderson Cooper will also make an appearance as the show's narrator. After seeing this show put on by my high school some years ago, I'm excited for this spunky and fun Broadway revival.

All my readers are in luck! I'm giving away a pair of tickets to see How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying 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 your best tip for climbing the business ladder.

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.

One winner will be chosen using Random.org on Friday 2/25. You have until Friday 2/25 at 12 p.m. EST to enter the contest. Good luck!

UPDATE 2/24: Want a 5th chance to win tickets? For an extra entry, leave any comment on the photo here: bit.ly/htPp7W and then comment on this post letting me know you did so. If you already commented on the photo before today, just leave a comment below saying so and you'll get another entry. Good luck! Thanks!!

With a record number of entries in this giveaway, I'd like to extend a hearty congratulations to Jessica! She was the 37th commenter and wins 2 tickets to see How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying! Her tip for getting ahead - don't be a pushover! Very apt advice indeed! Thank you to everyone for entering! And don't forget to vote for me please if you haven't already. Thanks! 


A Night for the Twitterati and Facebook Elite

If I could pick any invention of my lifetime and crown it the best, I would pick social media. Seriously, how boring would your life be without it? And yea, I know, my life sort of revolves around it. So when you throw social media a party, it better be an awesome one, complete with free drinks. With Thrillist having a proven reputation for throwing a kickin' party, it was a no-brainer that they co-sponsored the closing party for Social Media Week last Friday. 

Anyone could RSVP through Thrillist's email invite, but I scored a pair of VIP passes through a promotion sponsored by Meebo, the Internet's newest check-in gadget. The party was held at midtown's newest club, District 36, swanky yet chill with easily accessible bars and a friendly feel. The open bar was sponsored by Macallan's, and though I'm not usually a scotch drinker, whatever they were mixing up with a splash of grenadine and soda tasted amazing. The Korilla BBQ truck was also passing out kimchi tacos which were tasty but definitely spicy and not the neatest thing to eat on the dance floor. Social media made an appearance as well, with everyone being asked to tweet, check-in and blog about the event.

Since I was with friends who weren't cool enough to be sporting green VIP wristbands, I spent the majority of time on the lower level, which was just as well because it was very easy to get drinks and they thankfully didn't overpack the place. However, just because I could, I took a trip upstairs to see what was so cool about being a VIP. Truthfully nothing. It was like a can of sardines in the VIP section and though they had some seating, it was hot and sweaty and there was no place to dance...gasp!

View of the dance floor from the VIP section
A Thrillist party wouldn't be complete with out a "celebrity" appearance, and thought I still don't know who he is (sorry), Chiddy Bang performed and even rapped about Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook, which got the social media geek-filled crowd hyped up. 

Chiddy Bang
Overall, the party was a fun way to close a week full of all that is social media. So tell me, when's the next Thrillist party and can they just keep my name on the list indefinitely?

It's Boro Time

Move over Time Out New York, there's a new 'zine in Astoria-town. Launched late last year, BORO Magazine is a free publication dedicated to providing the latest news and happenings in our favorite part of Queens (because you know, there's more to Astoria than just the beer garden after all).

Filled with restaurant reviews, stories about interesting Astorians and interviews with small business owners, the magazine also provides great resources for those both new and veteran to the area including a map listing all stores and restaurants mentioned in the issue, great promotions and coupons (I found one for a free yoga class and one for a free glass of wine in the February issue!) and updates on upcoming events. Small enough to fit in your pocket and concise enough to flip through in one subway ride, BORO is a spunky little publication with a lot of heart (and I have to throw a plug in there for my friend Rebecca who is an amazing staff writer!).

Hurry over to BORO's website before the end of the month to enter their pick-up line contest. Leave your best pick-up line in the comments of this post and you'll be entered to win $100 to a bar in Astoria. I submitted "If you were a booger I’d pick you first." Can you beat that?


An Awesome Choice

Sometimes I wonder, does any other city in the world have as many amazing food tastings as we do? And then I stop wondering...NO, OF COURSE NOT! I'm super exciting for one of the kings of food tastings coming up on Tuesday March 29 at the Park Avenue Armory - Choice Eats! Put on yearly by the Village Voice, this festival of the palate will feature more than 50 Gotham restaurants serving food representing more than 35 nations!

Scrolling through the list of restaurants, I'm flabbergasted as to how I'm supposed to fit that much deliciousness into my digestive system in only one night. At this point, I'm most excited about sampling food from the following vendors I've never had the pleasure of eating before: The Taim Mobile, Del Posto, Cascabel Taqueria, Dirt Candy, Northern Spy Food Co, Porchetta. And of course some of my already-faves will be there as well: Luke's Lobster, The Meatball Shop and This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef. Libation specialists will also be on hand with custom beer, wine and spirits pairings.

Tickets are on sale through the Choice Eats website. General admission are currently priced at $35 but it's a special price, so I'm sure it will go up to $45 soon. If you'd like to partake in the VIP hour from 5:30-6:30, tickets are currently $70, and in addition to receiving early entrance, you'll get complimentary beverages, a VIP gift bag ($100 value), entertainment and access to the VIP room. The organizers are pulling out the stops for those waiting outside to get in this year as well. Calling it "Choice Streets," a food truck will be parked outside the entrance of the event sampling the top truck food from across the city.

Holler if you'll be there. You definitely won't want to miss this night!


Cocoa Loko

Let's just get to the point. The hot chocolate at City Bakery might as well be crack (or that banned drink referenced in the title of this post). It's the definition of awesome and it's addicting.

For some reason that I'm kicking myself for, I'd never been to the rather large bakery just north of Union Square. Upon entering, my nostrils were besieged by the aromas of fresh baked [insert something chocolate-y and amazing] and I surrendered to the sweet gluttony of everything on display.

I didn't just aimlessly wander into this temple of sugar, but rather I was on a mission. It's February, and that can only mean one thing - the Hot Chocolate Festival at City Bakery is in full swing. On the day I was there, Caramel Hot Chocolate was the flavor of the day, which seems pretty tame when you look at some of the other daily flavors

In addition to my steaming cup of thick, frothy goodness (with a signature homemade marshmallow to boot!), I indulged in a peanut butter cookie. Even though I so didn't need it, this cookie will go down in the history of peanut butter cookies I've ever eaten as the one of the best I've ever tasted. Thick and gooey with just the right amount of crisp on the outside, at only 75 cents, you've got to try one when you go for your cocoa. 

Time to be concise. You. City Bakery. Hot Chocolate. Peanut Butter Cookie. ASAP. Got it?

City Bakery on Urbanspoon


A Neue Experience

I'm constantly amazed by the selection of museums in this city. It's easily to get overwhelmed in the Metropolitan Museum, and though I love it there, I've been making a conscious effort to get to know all of the smaller, more specialized institutions scattered across a relatively small patch of land.

The Neue Galerie is one of those museums that I've walked by several times and didn't even know how to pronounce it correctly (it's German so "noy-yah" instead of "new" as I was saying). After being alerted to the museum's First Fridays program, when the museum opens up to the public for free from 6-8 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, I decided to give it a go and start my weekend off with some culture.

Another awesome thing about smaller art museums in the city is that they all seem to inhabit remarkably interesting buildings. The Neue Galerie is housed in a Beaux-Arts style mansion built in 1914 and last inhabited by Grace Wilson Vanderbilt in the 1950s. After serving as the offices of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, it was purchased by Serge Sabarsky, an art dealer, and Ronald Lauder, of Estee Lauder, in 1994 and restored to its original state. Celebrating its ten year anniversary this year, the museum opened as a center for German and Austrian art in 2001. Walking into the building, I like to imagine myself living in a mansion like that and what it must have been like. The architects who restored the Neue Galerie took great pains to keep everything original, even converting the dining room into a fully-functioning restaurant, Cafe Sabarsky, that packed quite the crowd on Friday night.

Sadly, after arriving and checking my coat, I learned that the museum was in installation and only had two rooms open for viewing of their permanent collection. However, I thankfully arrived right when a curator-led tour began and I learned a lot of interesting factoids. The main artists featured are from the early 1900's Germany and Austria -- including Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimpt and Oskar Kokoschka. Schiele has this thing for bony fingers which is quite disturbing, but did some really interesting landscapes. Klimpt's infamous paintinPortrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (infamous because it was stolen by the Nazi's, restituted to it's proper heirs, but then sold to the museum in 2006), is beautiful and on display with sculptures it was presented alongside with a hundred years ago. The gallery also displays three gorgeous clocks made with precious materials and intricate decoration.

After leaving the museum, my friends and I decided to make it a theme night and had dinner at Heidelberg on 2nd Avenue. Between the bratwurst, sauerkraut, spaetzle and mug of beer, dinner was delicious and a definite new experience. I would highly recommend combining the two activities for a date-night or casual friends outing. 

The schedule of First Fridays is on the Neue Galerie website. For March, the museum will be fully open and attendees will get to tour the latest exhibition Birth of the Modern: Style and Identity in Vienna 1900. I plan to go back and see what the rest of the museum has to offer. Have you been to the Neue Galerie? What do you think? 


AWESOME SAVINGS: $10 off Tickets to the NY Wine Expo

Vino, vino everywhere! That's what you can expect to find at this year's upcoming New York Wine Expo. To be held this month at the Jakob K. Javits Convention Center from Friday the 25th through Sunday the 27th, the expo offers consumers the chance to taste more than 600 wines produced by about 170 winemakers from around the world. In addition to the grand tasting, the expo will offer seminars like "Taste Wine Like A Pro: Learn the Secrets Behind How to Taste Wine Through a Blind Tasting" from 6-7 p.m. on Friday and "Wine Spectator Presents The ABCs of Argentina" from 3-4 p.m. on Saturday.

The consumer show will run from 6-10 p.m. on Friday and from 2-6 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are available online. Using promo code "AWESOME,"Awesome in New York readers can save $10 on Friday Grand Tasting tickets until 2/18. If you're a wine lover or have always wanted the perfect venue to explore a worldly palate, you definitely don't want to miss this event!

Sushi Omakase Style

If I was stranded on a desert island and had to pick one food to eat forever, it would probably be sushi. It's just so good. And New York City offers unlimited options for planning a raw-fish dinner. In my neighborhood, I usually head over to Chinatown East for their fresh, $1 a piece sushi option or for a nicer meal, my boyfriend and I will make a reservation at the Gramercy gem, Azuki Sushi for an affordable meal with free hot sake. 

I love trying new places as well. So when the lifestyle site Daily Candy offered a Tasting Menu for four at Haru Gramercy for $60, I gathered three girlfriends and we had a Wednesday night outing. Ever since taking a sake class at New York Vintners, I can't get enough of the rice-based brew and I love sharing my knowledge with friends. I started with a flight which included four sakes -- Reiko, Nigori, Karatumba and Suishin. If you've never tried Nigori, it's basically unfiltered sake so it has a cloudy appearance but is full of flavor. I'd highly recommend. One of my friends ordered a sake cocktail called the Momotini. With sake and peach puree, this drink is a little awkward to order, but luscious and relaxing to enjoy.

Sake Flight
The Momotini
The meal was served omakase style, basically Japanese for chef's choice. We started with sushi fish tacos. Served with lime, these tacos were a nice fusion dish that brought back wonderful memories of family vacations to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico while fulfilling my desire for excellent texture and succulent flavors.

Sushi Fish Tacos
Next, our server brought out a platter of different appetizers -- Crispy Calamari with spicy peanut sauce, Grilled Spicy Garlic Shrimp marinated in hot chili sauce, Tuna Tataki seared with avocado salad and spicy soy vinaigrette, and Shrimp Spring Rolls. With four of everything, we didn't have to fight over any of the food and still were able to try a bunch of different things. The shrimp were delicious, served with soba noodles. The avocado served with the tuna was perfectly ripe, just the way I like it and the tuna was so fresh, it could have been swimming yesterday. The calamari was light, unlike typical fried and breaded calamari. I think the pieces could have been coated in panko instead of batter. The spring rolls were full of flavor and I was happy to have some veggies with this meal.

Appetizer Platter
After clearing our appetizer plate, our server brought out this beautiful and colorful platter of sushi. With a mix of traditional tuna and salmon sushi pieces, we also got two unique rolls. The first was the Kiss of Fire Roll -- with super white tuna, salmon, jalapeño peppers and wasabi tobiko wrapped around crunchy spicy tuna and more jalapeños. This was definitely spicy, but super innovative, again bringing in the element of fusion. The second roll, although I don't remember what it was called, was filled with crab and topped with two different kinds of roe. This was a nice compliment to the other roll as it calmed the spice.

Sushi Platter
Not to end the night without a New York moment, we spotted Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern sitting alone at the sushi bar clad in a neon orange winter hat and surely eating something exotic.

Celebrity Spotting: Andrew Zimmern at the sushi bar
For $15 a person, this meal was a spectacular deal. The quality of the food was top notch and the service was attentive and personable. With several locations throughout the city and in Boston and Philadelphia, it's nice to know that an excellent sushi meal is just around the corner. Have you been to Haru? What do you think?

Haru on Urbanspoon