Belle of the Fall

October 7, 2013

Gettin' cozy at Lafayette

Gettin’ cozy at Lafayette

Well, Fall is in full swing, blogosphere, and i hope you have been out and about taking advantage of all it has to offer. I sure have been. Let’s take today’s post to talk about restaurants. Some new ones:

Lafayette

In the old China Brasserie space — or, for those of you who can really think back, the older Time Cafe and Fez space (if those walls could talk) — chef a la momento Andrew Carmellini of Locanda Verde and Dutch fame goes French…very French. The large space has been broken up to feel cozier, and there is a large outdoor seating area. If you’re lucky, you’ll score a banquette where you and your date can sidle up next to one another. Quelle romantique! There’s lots of white tile and candles and servers everywhere but they are still working out some kinks. (Our appetizers came out right away but then there was a super long gap before our entrees appeared. So much so that they ended up giving us each a glass of free wine to tie us over.)

Anyway, get to the food! The egg lafayette is like the most incredible deviled egg you have ever eaten. Try it, for sure, with a glass of champagne. Why not?! The pate maison was just so-so, although the large mason jar of cornichons was a nice touch. I decided to go with the duck, which was not a usual choice for me but it was a good one — it was juicy and tasty and cooked just right. For dessert we had a pear tatin for 2, which wasn’t the best I’ve ever had (Cafe Pompidou in Paris, FYI), but it was good and seemed like a perfect French ending. It’s definitely a scene at the moment, and that makes it fun.

DB Bistro Moderne

I had been to this Daniel Boulud restaurant years ago, and found it to be so-so. They just renovated and re-did the menu so we went back with some friends. I am still not blown away, but there were some highlights. (The menu is a bit confusing — there is a traditional and a nouveau area. Ask the server to explain.) The escargot spaetzle is pretty darn good, and isn’t something you’re going to make at home anytime soon. The pretzel rolls they set on the table are pretty darn good, too. And the wine selection is great. If you’re in midtown, it’s worth sitting at the bar and ordering a drink with some appetizers. It’s definitely hopping and the room is nice, but I’m still not sold of dropping $200 for a not-so-out-of-the-ordinary evening.

And then, on the west coast in San Francisco:

Central Kitchen

This is California Cuisine at its best — definitely worth doing the tasting menu and letting the chef go crazy. It’s all locally sourced and everyone there is too cool for school — but that’s just another night in the Mission. Open another fantastic bottle of wine, get lost in some conversation and just enjoy the tasty plates as they keep on coming.

Mikkeller

My friend wanted me to meet her here for some beer and small plates before I got on a plane back to the east coast, and as I was walking to meet her I thought she was trying to get me killed. Seriously! This bar is incredible, but it is in a sketchy area, pretty much in the Tenderloin. It’s a bizarre oasis in a sea of SROs. But get there early if you want a seat at the bar — the worker bees from Twitter, Facebook, and whatever other start up is nearby fill up the place fast. They let you try any beer you want, and they’ve got about 42 beers on tap from some of the best breweries around the world. And the food is no joke! Many were ordering the sausage sampler…we skipped that but did get some pickled veggies, figs with goat cheese and prosciutto, french fries…you can’t really go wrong.

That should wet your whistle…next time I’ve got some beauty recos, among other things.

Etc.

Doesn’t the weekend always go so fast?! Mentally preparing to get back to the grind…eye of the tiger! 🙂

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Unsung Standbys

August 17, 2013

There is always so much hype about the latest and greatest restaurants, but last week I went out with my husband to a neighborhood spot that has been around forever, sat in the garden on a lovely night, and it really got me thinking that so many of these old timers don’t get their just due. We were at East of Eighth on 23rd Street, and while I can’t say that you’ll be bowled over by the food, it’s quite good and the prices are kept fairly reasonable (this is Manhattan, after all). The entrees top out at $25, and that’s for a steak dinner. There is a large bar if you’re looking for a spot to drink, but the real attraction here is the back garden. Our waiter was incredibly nice and the service is efficient without anyone feeling rushed. They also do a nice brunch on the weekends. It shows up on Groupon every once in a while, and that makes it a deal you can’t pass up. Great location if you are headed to the movies next door!

Alexis Bittar is on Revolve!

Alexis Bittar is on Revolve!

Revolve

There are so many shopping sites it is hard to differentiate them, truly. Have you been to revolveclothing.com? They seem to have a lot of in demand brands and a nice selection. Plus, the differentiation point for me is free shipping and free returns, and they have it. (Note to Neiman Marcus: get on the bandwagon for free returns.) I may try it before September 13th, because until then you can get 25% off full price merchandise with the code PSWFALL25. You can only use it one time and there are a few restrictions, but you’re welcome!

Etc.

I forgot to water my plants before we left my house for the week a couple of weeks ago and now I just cannot get them back to the glorious state they were in. Ugh! I lost too many blooms. I had been doing a combo of plain water twice a week and water with Miracle Gro (which really works!) every few weeks and they were doing so well and really made my front porch beautiful. I guess I will give them a shot of Miracle Gro today and see if they improve. Now they’re just green with a few fuschia blooms here and there. I guess it could be worse.

Headed to the beach today — i thought it was supposed to be nice all weekend but now they are saying rain tomorrow. Guess that means errands for me!

Find Your Bliss

June 22, 2013

My favorite View

My favorite view

Yesterday I worked until about 3pm and then grabbed my beach bag to catch a couple of hours on the sand before I had to run errands (Target! Shop Rite!) and pick up the husband and kids from the bus station. It’s different at the beach this year, after going through the nightmare that was (and is) Hurricane Sandy. The beach is not as wide because the dunes were made larger, to fortify the town from whatever comes next. It feels more crowded because there aren’t as many cut-throughs in the dunes, so people tend to congregate near where they enter. But as I sat there in my beach chair, fully slathered in sunscreen and a magazine on my lap, looking out over the water, there was no place else I’d rather be. Even a couple of hours relaxes me and I managed to fall asleep for 15 minutes or so — the perfect cat nap.

Summer is definitely here, and it’s a relatively short season (my kids don’t finish school for another 3 days!), so if ever there was a time to get outside and find your happy place, this would be it.Even if you can only find an hour in a full weekend, do it! Your mind and body will feel the benefits all week.

Tasty

We were floundering a bit about where to go for dinner to celebrate our anniversary a few weeks back. We had a reservation at Union Square Cafe, but I was underwhelmed. (It’s an excellent restaurant, don’t get me wrong, I just wanted something new, someplace that felt more special.) Someone suggested Marea to us, and it struck a chord because I had heard good things but always dismissed it because it was Italian. I love Italian food, but $35 for a bowl of pasta gets to be a bit much. But when I went to the menu online, I saw that it was Italian but with a fish/seafood bent. Looked good, so we went. And it was great. The atmosphere is nice, very Central Park South if you know what I mean. (If you don’t, think about a nice hotel dining room anywhere in the world and you’re probably close.) It’s done in good taste but with a certain sterility about it. But you don’t go for the light fixtures. The food is the star here. We went for the 4 course $99 menu, which allows you to pick just about anything from the menu. Chef Michael White doesn’t disappoint. I started with a soft shell crab (in season!), then had a pasta with squid and a red sauce so divine I almost never want to have it again to preserve the memory. (Flavored with bone marrow, fyi.) The scallops were tasty, and I finished with a dessert I can’t remember but it was a suitable ending…even the glass of rose I had was standout. We lingered for 3 hours and didn’t feel rushed; the service was attentive but not overbearing. A perfect spot for a special occasion.

Etc.

I’m excited to get the grilled going! Tonight I am preparing a recipe from Bobby Flay for a grilled salmon with black bean sauce, and a mango and soba noodles side dish. Then I think we have to ride our bikes to the new Kohr Brothers frozen custard that opened nearby. It just isn’t summer without a vanilla cone and chocolate jimmies! (That’s sprinkles for all of you who need a translation.)

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

 

 

istanbul_mosqueJust back from Istanbul, and I have to say that exploring somewhere new is just good for your psyche. Not that this is a newsflash for anyone, but it was a good reminder for me. Just the small act of finding your way around a strange place and showing yourself how self-sufficient and resilient you can be gives us each a lot of faith in ourselves. I liked Turkey and the artifacts were really something to see — we think the rest of Europe is old, but when you are standing below ground in a 3rd century cistern, or turning the corner to see Moses’ staff from the parting of the Red Sea, you begin to have a whole other understanding of antiquities. The plunder from war was very good to the Ottoman Empire — and they have the emeralds and diamonds to show for it!

My son fell in love with this yogurt drink that they guzzle like Coke: Ayran. (I’m happy to report that we found some here in NYC at a Turkish restaurant on 14th Street.) We had lots of kebabs and these huge overstuffed potatoes called kumpir, We stayed in the Beyoglu area and that definitely felt like the place to be — lots of people out til all hours and just a palpable sense of energy, particularly on Istikial Street. Our favorite restaurant there was probably Konak Kebob, and head to Mado for dessert. It really is amazing how many different versions of baklava there are.

On the Bosphorous you definitely want to have a fish sandwich over the Galata Bridge in Eminonu. They catch it in the river. fry it up on a boat and hand it off to you to eat at a little wooden table, lemon juice optional, all for about $3. (And when the young men come around trying to sell you handwipes, buy them! Your hands will smell fishy.) Nearby is the Spice Market, which I liked better than the Grand Bazaar. Definitely worth a walk through if only for the spectacle of the colors and variety of spices. Further up the river is the Assk Cafe, which is a nice spot in a more quiet, exclusive area.

If you head up that way, the Hotel Les Ottomans has one of the nicest spas I’ve ever been to and if you want to experience a Turkish hammam, this is the place to do it in style. Go for the hour-long Citrus Remedy, where you get exfoliated, cleaned, massaged and moisturized, plus you get full use of the facilities, including the meditation room and steam room with salt inhalation. The ice exfoliation was particularly…reviving!

We took a nice boat ride on the river up to the Black Sea and headed over to the Asian side, where we had a tasty lunch of fresh fish kebabs and then took a bus down through a bunch of small towns. We got off in Kanlica to sample the yogurt.

Of course there’s the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and the Aya Sophia, and a little off the beaten path is the Istanbul Modern art museum, which had some interesting pieces and a hip vibe. (If you’re not Turkish, don’t be fooled by the “Free Thursdays” promotion — it’s only for the Turks.)

We finished up our trip with a traditional Turkish breakfast at Namli Gurme Karakoy, sitting outside near the Bosphorous, drinking Turkish tea and sopping up cream and honey with some Turkish bread.

All that’s left to say is “tesekkur ederim,” which means thank you and took us about half of our vacation to master. Someone gave us the tip that it’s like saying “tea sugar and a dream” really quickly, all together, so I pass that on to all of you.

Dry Me

Like most things in life, until you actually try something it’s hard to appreciate or understand it. Add towels to that list. I had heard of pestamels and seen people using them, usually as scarves and usually by people who some would refer to as “earthy.” They are thin towels, usually with tassels on the end, sometimes with stripes woven in. We are familiar with our western ways where bigger is better, and an absorbent towel translates to thick and cozy. But the beauty of a pestamel is that it’s super absorbent but never heavy, and it dries quickly. This makes them perfect for beach towels and as a regular towel in the summer. I was amazed how well it worked on my hair, getting most of the water out in no time flat. Like anything, there’s better quality pestamels. Jennifer’s Hammam in Istanbul carries particularly nice hand woven ones, and you can choose from cotton or bamboo. Definitely worth having a few around for the summer. And yes, in a pinch they can double as scarves, wraps…even a tablecloth!

Etc.

Slowly but surely we are getting over the time difference. Our first few days back we were all up around 5am and then ready to crash by 9pm, always fun…Finally the weather seems to have taken a turn for the better. Let’s hope it stays. I, for one, am sick of wearing socks!

Phoenix or Bust

February 27, 2013

Horseback riding -- fun for the whole family.

Horseback riding — fun for the whole family.

Just back from the warm and dry (and did I say warm?) world of sunny Arizona…when we got off the plane I think my whole family realized how sick and tired we were of the cold. If you need a getaway, the Phoenix area has a bunch to do with kids, starting with baseball and spring training! We went to a Cactus League game in Surprise (Rangers vs. Royals) and while the tickets aren’t cheap, for $40 a seat we were right behind the Kansas City dugout, had our chances at a few foul balls and our son managed to snag some autographs.

If you were talking to my children, they would far and away recommend Crackerjax in Scottsdale, which has bumper boats, 3 miniature golf courses, batting cages, a driving range and 2 different sized go karts. You can pay by the ride or for a 4 hour block of unlimited fun — on Tuesdays it’s only $15 a person. It’s right down the road from Scottsdale’s Kierland Commons, where you can get a little shopping in and have lunch at the Cheesecake Factory.

Horseback riding seemed to be the far and away favorite activity of the trip. We went to Ponderosa Stables and a group of about 10 of us took a lovely afternoon ride for about an hour. The horses were very friendly and seemed to know the terrain well, so everyone from my 5 year old daughter to my parents were able to ride along relatively easily. The cowboys were incredibly nice and it really allows you to get out and enjoy the desert terrain in its un-strip malled state, which is getting rarer and rarer there as the population explodes.

My son wanted to try the Elephant Bar, which is a chain that we don’t have back east, but we never had time. We did go to La Grande Orange Grocery in downtown Phoenix, which by day is a general store and a counter service restaurant. The food is local, fresh and organic and you can choose anything from a chick pea wrap to sushi or a host of salads. Really something for everyone, at reasonable prices. At night it turns into a full service restaurant with wood burning ovens for pizza. Use the valet service (it’s free) as it gets difficult to park.

Speaking of pizza, we had to try Pizzeria Bianco, which for years now has been voted the best pizza in the country. Yes, in the whole U.S. Apparently the lines to get in can get ridiculous (it’s a small place), but we went for a late lunch on a weekday and it wasn’t too bad. Everything they use is homemade, from the dough to the cheese to the basil that the chef grows in his garden. It’s definitely delish and worth a try, if you don’t have to wait 4 hours. It’s a little hard to find even with Google maps so leave a little extra time.

The Heard Museum, where I hadn’t been in many years, had a lot of different activities for the kids, with different crafts. If you want to learn about the plight of the Indians in the west, this is the place to go. It’s a bit on the high side to get in (adults are $18) but you can save $1 per person if you have AAA. (It’s something!) The main gift store has ridiculously high end items, but there is a separate store across the way that has mostly books but some other items that are much more reasonable.

It’s close enough for most people that you can do a long weekend in Phoenix, and there is certainly enough to fill several days of activities. Sometimes the nicest thing is to grab a margarita and just sit outside in the sunshine.

Etc.

It’s amazing how quickly you lose your vacation zen when it’s back to reality…but what can you do. That’s why it’s always good to have something else planned that you can look forward to, because it all goes so fast.

The days are getting longer here in the northeast, which is nice. A few more weeks and we should be on our way to spring!!

Flu-rious

January 12, 2013

I’m not sure why I’m making a bad joke about the flu in this headline, except to say that I hope you all have gotten your flu shots. And if you haven’t, right about now would be a good time to go. It is no joke this year.  I spend a lot of time washing my hands and even when I’m not I think about all the ways germs can be transmitted…subway poll, handrail, door handle, money. Ah! The possibilities are endless. And I don’t even have OCD! Not even close. It’s just the thought of the flu knocking me on my ass — or worse knocking out one of my kids — for 10 days or more is a nightmare. If any of you out there reading this are sick, I am so sorry. Drink lots of fluids, get lots of rest, and thank goodness you can’t transmit germs through a blog. As far as I know…

If you do feel like venturing out and risking the germs, we went to Mission Chinese, the restaurant on the Lower East Side by the guy from San Fran that has been on everybody’s 10 best of the year list. If you’ve heard about it, you know there’s a keg of Pabst Blue Ribbon which you can partake in while you wait for your table, assuming you’re over 21. (My 8 year old son tried to partake, but failed miserably. Go figure.) And wait for a table you will…we went for lunch right about when it opened at 12 noon and we were told the wait was 90 minutes. In the end it was closer to 2 hours. But we were off work that day and hanging out so we took the kids to Economy Candy around the corner to kill some time. (If you haven’t been there, it’s worth a trip even just to browse at all the candy from your youth that you forgot about.) The good news is you can leave your cell number and they will call you. The bad news is that even when they call you and you rush back, you’ll still wait about 30 minutes more.

The place is small and, well, I won’t sugar coat it, it’s kind of a dump. (“It’s ironic hipster” is how my husband tried to justify it.) The people who work there are perfectly nice. The schtick is spicy and the food is very good. We had the Kung Pao Pastrami (my son loved it) as well as the Cumin Lamb (which my daughter couldn’t get enough of). So two thumbs up on the food, the prices are relatively gentle, but I honestly don’t know if I can say it’s worth the wait. They do take out so that might be the best way to do it next time. Although Zac Efron was there a few days after we were…can’t get that at home!

s1226760-main-heroHead Hydration

I may have mentioned last post that I cut a lot of my hair off, both because I was looking for a change and my hair seemed damaged and was acting strangely. It definitely feels healthier, and I’ve added Argan Oil Hair Serum into my routine. Made by Josie Maran (I bought it at Sephora) a little dab’ll do ya. I just take a small squirt and work it through my towel-dried hair. It doesn’t really do anything style-wise, but it does seem to keep my hair better conditioned and softer. It’s very lightweight and doesn’t make anything greasy, also a bonus. I don’t blow dry my hair and a lot of products have to be put on dry hair, so this is good for me because I can shower, get dressed, put on my makeup and this hair oil and I’m out the door. All natural too!

Etc.

The Golden Globes are on Sunday and I am looking forward to Amy Poehler and Tina Fey hosting, as well as a possible Ben Affleck win for Best Director where he can stick it to the Academy for snubbing him. (Don’t those voters like a good comeback story? So Hollywood!)

We’ve got birthday parties, touch football games, a massage and a family dinner at Sushi Samba…sounds like a good one to me. Hope you’ve got something great planned for the weekend!

The NoMad Hotel

If you are a foodie — and these days, aren’t we all? — conventional wisdom goes something like this: NEVER order the roast chicken in a high end restaurant. It’s safe, boring and frankly something you should be making at home. I have a friend who actually apologizes to the waiter if he orders the chicken. Fur reals. So imagine my surprise when I started hearing about this new restaurant, NoMad, and everyone said: “You have to order the roast chicken!”

The restaurant itself is in the (relatively) new NoMad hotel, which is on an unfashionable but burgeoning strip of Broadway in the high 20s. The restaurant is run by the team from Eleven Madison Park, and since over there they got rid of the lower-priced $79 four course menu, meaning you can’t get out of there for less than $500 per duo, the NoMad may be the closest any of us get to tasting their fine culinary offerings.
So, as a belated birthday celebration my husband and I headed over, and he was slightly annoyed that I was insistent on ordering the roast chicken, because it’s for 2, so someone at your table has to also get it. We started with a tomato and nectarine salad, with almonds and ricotta salata that was a nice light beginning. Which was good because then the chicken came. They bring it out in its pan in all its roasted glory, with some beautiful herbs peeking out of its tail. Then they take it backstage and carve it. (My husband and I were very skeptical that it wasn’t the same beautiful bird they were bringing out to every table to show off. So we asked our server. He said it is a fresh bird every time, but he did admit that it may not be your exact bird. Scandalous! ha ha)

It comes out as a perfectly placed piece of the juiciest part of the chicken on your plate, with wheatberries and corn and 2 kinds of sauces that are just the tastiest. But the real thing that makes this a must-try is that underneath the skin of the chicken, they put foie gras and black truffles. Yes, that’s right, I said foie gras and truffles. That is the secret to this sublime dish. And in the middle of your table they will put a mixture of all of the dark meat from the chicken and corn and some other tastiness.

For dessert we had the milk and honey, which is essentially ice cream, caramel and all kinds of different flaky and crunchy things, and a coconut plate with some chocolate and other sweet treats. Both good. But really, the evening was all about the chicken. And how often can you say that?

It’s hard to get a res but if you go on the earlier or later side and make it at least a couple of weeks prior, you should get yourself a spot. It’s a cozy (albeit dark) room, and there aren’t too many tables, but the good news is you’ll feel comfortable when you get in.

Eat, Then Shop

After you’ve sated yourself at NoMad, check out Maison Kitsune, a French shop in the hotel with all kinds of precious things to look at, and maybe buy if you don’t get sticker shock. They carry a lot of Aesop, which is a beauty line I used to buy at Barneys but haven’t gotten in a while. At the Maison I picked up a large tube of their Geranium Leaf Body Scrub, which smells delicious in a natural, non-cloying way and used once a week keeps your skin soft. ($35)

You Gotta Laugh

Here’s a little something to give you a chuckle in the nasty campaign:

9 Things I Say to My Toddler that I wish I Could Say to Political Candidates

Sales!

This weekend J. Crew will give you 25% off with the code STYLE25…and it’s Friends and Family over at Bloomingdales.com which means 20% off just about everything, and better yet they will give you free shipping on everything til Monday. Just use the code FRIENDS12…and over at The Gap you can get 30% all regular-priced styles with the code GCSTYLE. You’re welcome.

Etc.

A Favs shout out to Bill in Pennsylvania who recently subscribed to our  blog after making and enjoying last post’s baked oatmeal. Welcome!

The air is finally turning more fall-like, even though I keep dressing my kids like it’s still summer. It’s all fun and games til somebody gets sick. I’m having a girls’ weekend with my daughter this weekend and we had a good ‘ol time at Bloomingdale’s today and finished off the evening at The Smith on 3rd Avenue. Always a crowd pleaser — but definitely make a res. It was packed.

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

Dry Me

August 18, 2012

The winner!

Today let’s talk towels. I never really think about towels, and I bet you don’t either, but when you have a good towel, you can really tell the difference. Here are my requirements for a fab toweling off experience:

It has to be absorbent! Don’t you hate when you have to go over things a few times to really get dry? That’s a sign of bad fibers — probably synthetic. Next, please.

It has to stand up to multiple washings! No one wants faded towels or ones with pulls, and since  you use a towel every dang day, unless you’re Pigpen, that’s a lot of washing machine time.

It has to be soft! Since you do use it daily, and sometimes many times per day, you want it to feel good against your skin. Only cotton will do!!

It needs to come in good colors! It’s 2012 Mr. Manufacturer, and people don’t have bathrooms in the colors that were prevalent in the ’60s and ’70s (avocado green, anyone?)…wake up and smell the shower gel, only modern, muted beautiful shades will do.

I recently threw my dilemma out to my towel guy Tom at Bloomingdale’s, and he told me that the store gives him one of every towel to take home and try out, so that he can give advice to customers like me who clearly overthink these things. (Ha! Those were my words, not Tom’s.) He recommended 2 kinds of towels to me, and I bought both to try, but only one came out the winner…

Runner Up: In second place, I put Calvin Klein towels. I got a bunch for our wedding — which is over 10 years ago already — and I originally picked them just for their colors, which were the most modern at the time. They have held up well.

And the winner is…WATERWORKS! Tom did recommend these, and he did not steer me wrong. They stand up well to all my criteria and they have been a welcome addition to our household. We’ve been using them for the past year and I highly recommend these towels.I’m partial to the Perennial style (pictured) which is 100% Turkish Combed Cotton.

One last word on towels: do not pay full price! Bloomingdale’s and other department stores have home sales at least twice a year, and the towels are usually 40% off, which makes them much more affordable.

Happy drying!

West Village Comfort Food

I recently had a lovely dinner with my friend Kitty here from San Francisco, and her friend Barbara. There’s always a little bit of pressure picking a place because Kitty is a foodie. I had wanted to go to Tremont in the West Village for a while, so I decided to book it for us, and it did not disappoint. It’s the perfect restaurant for the West Village, and just what you want for an adult dinner where you want good food and wine with the ability to layer in good conversation. We had a lovely table by the front window and the scallops were terrific. (We sat next to Annette Bening and her daughter and they seemed incredibly normal and I have to applaud Ms. Bening because I don’t think she’s had a stitch of work done to her face, which seems unheard of in an actress these days.)

Anyway if you want a truly nice night out with friends and family, this is a good spot. It’s not too large, and the staff is friendly, And there are some cozy booths in the back. There is one, I think it’s table #2, that Barbara was already checking out for her next time back. (Tremont is located at 51 Bank Street, NYC)

Etc.

I was able to get to the beach for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon and it was gorgeous. I love when I read and fall asleep, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. The sound of the waves just puts me out. Today there’s some rain but we have friends coming for the weekend with wine so I am sure that will be fun!

 

Summer Book Club

August 5, 2012

Well, it’s happened again. It’s August already and I have a whole long list of books that I wanted to read on the beach. So I’ve got less than a month to make it happen! I did read Joan Didion’s Blue Nights, which was great writing but incredibly depressing and thus all wrong for summer reading (note to self: never select anything about a child’s death over the summer, especially non-fiction). Then my sister got me hooked on the crack that is the 50 Shades trilogy, which is so poorly written and empty and wrong and yet you cannot stop — the literary equivalent of bad potato chips. (Funny story:  I was in Three Lives bookstore in the West Village recently, which if you’re in NYC you must stop by and browse — it’s the most perfect little independent bookstore — and I was teasing them for carrying the 50 Shades books. And the owner said, “That paid all of April’s rent! Once that happened, I was like, ‘I’m on board!'”)

So what’s on my August reading list? I’m all about paperbacks:

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron — I had read excerpts of this in various magazines, but with her recent passing, I was reminded that I wanted to read the whole book. It’s like sage advice on aging from your mother, if your mother were a famous writer and film director who was married three times and had lots of famous friends and a fabulous life in NYC. Funny women are often overlooked for the male comedians, so I like to read a good funny female book, which brings me to the next entry on the list…

Bossypants by Tina Fey — I was waiting for this to come out in paperback, and now it has. The excerpt I read in The New Yorker about what she wishes she could tell her daughter Alice about the internet was hysterical. As a 30 Rock fan, I am excited to read her other musings.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan — I need some good fiction too, and this Pulitzer prize winner should do the trick. I’ve heard an awful lot about it, especially the chapter that’s written in Powerpoint, so let’s hope it lives up to the hype. She’s a fellow U Penn grad so we have to support one another!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak — This one was given to me to read by my mother. I believe technically it’s a Young Adult book, but in the Hunger Games tradition, it’s a story for all ages set in 1939, Nazi Germany.

I also want to read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, but it is only in hard back so it may have to wait…

That should keep me going til Labor Day.

A Cappuccino and a Laugh

Jerry Seinfeld started a new internet series called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. I had high hopes for it, but after watching the first two installments, I wasn’t bowled over. But there were some gem moments and with each episode being less than 15 minutes, it’s not a major time investment. Check it out at comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com (go figure). I thought the Larry David one was the best so far.

H&M Home

Apparently H&M Home is about to hit stateside, which means you can get some cheap accessories for your home. It’s good for all the extra knick knacks you need to make your room that much more designed.

Lounging Around

We went to a very good restaurant last night, Labrador Lounge. (3581 Route 35 North, Normandy Beach) It’s got an extensive menu and a hippie vibe, and the food is tasty. If you find yourself in Ocean County, NJ, make a reservation (it gets packed) and indulge in dinner. Some standouts were the lobster mac and cheese, the jersey blue salad with grilled peaches and vidalia onions, the tuna, shrimp and mango ceviche served with tortilla chips, grilled corn and the sesame-encrusted tuna. My kids loved the sushi. And for dessert the bread pudding was tasty. There were so many good things on the menu we probably over-ordered, but that’s a good problem to have.

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The humidity is really starting to get to me, I must say. The air is just oppressive. I wanted to go for a walk this morning but it was too hot so I will wait for the air conditioned gym tomorrow.

I bought lobsters and for the first time I am going to attempt to grill them for dinner. Lobsters, tater tots and zucchini. And probably an Angry Orchard hard cider, which has become our unofficial drink for this summer.

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend!

I feel like I have a lot to get to this week, but maybe that’s what happens when you actually get a few days off to stop and smell the…Daterra coffee from Irving Farms. Seriously good coffee. We had dinner at the lovely (and tasty) Blue Hill one night, and the after dinner coffee was so good we asked where it came from. A few days later I hit their small shop on 7th avenue, right below 14th street. (They also have a main store over on Irving Place.) only drawback is that Daterra doesn’t come in decaf. You can also order it online here — it’s $14 for a 12 ounce bag ‘o beans. And by the way, Blue Hill is great for a special occasion — it’s a cozy vibe with a market menu utilizing the very best of what’s being grown right now. You may remember the Obamas went here on their date night to NYC a couple of years ago. They picked a good place. (Blue Hill is at 75 Washington Place)

We hit Zampa Wine Bar the other night, which I also really liked. In addition to an extensive wine list, the food is truly tasty. The crostini is a must – the tuna with hot pepper oil for sure. There are all sorts of small plates. On the large plates, the lasagna doesn’t disappoint. I like that you can order a little or a lot, depending on how hungry you are, and share with your dining partner or a whole table. Small tastes of everything add up a to a much more satisfying meal. It’s a much more modern way of eating, and perfect for a neighborhood joint. It’s comfy/cozy, which means that you should make a reservation. (306 West 13th Street)

Let’s just finish out the week with another new place that I had been wanted to try for a long time: The Dutch. For those of you who follow this type of thing, The Dutch comes to us from Andrew Carmellini, the chef who also brought us the hot spot Locanda Verde in Tribeca. Because these hot spots tend to attract a see and be scene kind of crowd, and they are almost impossible to get into, I tend to want to ignore them, but then they go and wind up on the New York Times‘ list of best new restaurants of the year and I feel like I must go and check them out! So we went with some friends and I have to say it was truly worth the hype. The space is larger than I thought it would be, but broken up into different rooms so it doesn’t feel cavernous. The mini oyster sandwiches are a good place to start, and the eggplant dip makes a nice accompaniment. One thing I liked about the menu was that I didn’t feel like I could get a lot of the choices other places — it felt special. The black cod with sticky rice was delish. Others at the table had the peking duck, the cod and the roasted chicken, which were all satisfying. Desserts are generous and definitely split-able. The devil’s food cake with black pepper boiled icing was amazing, as well as the Dutch apple pie a la mode. A good time to be had by all! (131 Sullivan Street)

I’d say that’s a pretty tasty post this week, no?

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Did you watch the Academy Awards? Can anyone produce that show in a way that makes it more entertaining? I don’t know…at one point there was a montage of old movies and I felt like I had seen the montage a thousand times before and I found myself wondering what in the world the purpose of including it was. And Billy Crystal, while at times funny, just seemed so old school. I did love Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech. It’s not easy to be self-deprecating but confident, and heartfelt without seeming forced or schmaltzy, but she deftly managed it like the pro she is. I think they need to cut the awards given back to just the ones people really care about, get a good host, put in a little more entertainment and call it a day at 2 hours. Amen.