To Vegas With Love

Over the years, I’ve had many wonderful times in Las Vegas. Like everyone else, I was heartbroken about last Sunday’s tragic events. And a little unnerved because, during my recent visit a few weeks ago, I stayed right next door to Mandalay Bay. It was a sobering reminder of how fragile life is–and how important it is to live every day fully, as tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.

Vegas has always been a place about making the most of every moment, by experiencing the joys of good hospitality, great entertainment and fantastic food. I was fortunate to enjoy all three during my recent weekend getaway.

I had already been to Sin City with family, friends and significant others. This was the first big trip with my beloved dog Benji. And it couldn’t have been more perfect.

Our JetBlue flight was easy breezy, as both Benj and I slept for the duration. Upon arriving at the swanky Delano Hotel, our host for one night, I knew immediately this would be a much more relaxing stay than I’ve had at other Vegas properties.

Benji relaxing in our suite with his Delano welcome amenity: biscuits, a poop bag and leather toy

A non-gaming, non-smoking hotel, the Delano has an inviting boutique vibe that makes you forget you’re right on the Strip. Spacious accommodations, first class staff and pet-friendly amenities—including dog walking services and a pet relief area right in front—made for a perfect night (full hotel review coming soon in 25A Magazine!).

One of the major highlights—Rivea, the Delano’s Alain Ducasse rooftop restaurant on the 64th floor.

Rivea: the terrace view from 64 stories above

Joining me for a decadent multi-course dinner on the terrace was college friend Tiffany. Though we hadn’t seen each other in about twenty years, that time melted away as we talked about life, work, singlehood and getting through tough times. We talked for hours and didn’t want the night to end.

Tiff and me and my first-ever bubble tea

Friday, Benji and I moved to the Residence Inn across from the Convention Center. Part of a complex of three Marriott properties, the all-suite hotel is an ideal choice if you want to be off the Strip but still in a central, convenient location.

As soon as we arrived, I was treated to the warmth and home away from home atmosphere for which Marriott is known. I checked in with an upset stomach and having just caught my finger painfully in a door. The kind front desk agent offered Band Aids, first aid ointment and a handful of herbal tea packets.

Our spacious digs at the Residence Inn

We were upgraded to a penthouse suite—a spacious loft with a living room, eat-in, fully-equipped kitchen, loft bedroom and two full bathrooms. Plenty of room for Benji and me to roam around and kick back. The pool was modest but well maintained, and blissfully quiet compared to the loud, crowded scene at most Sin City resort pools.

The Residence Inn’s pool: a low-key haven of relaxation

Much like trips to Vegas with my parents back in the 80’s, this one afforded the opportunity to see some amazing entertainers.

Despite lip synching for most of her 90-minute set, Jennifer Lopez dazzled with flawless dancing and eye-popping costumes, performing most of her hits and an unexpectedly beautiful cover of Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.” My beloved Ricky Martin–the reason for my trip–blew the roof off of the Park Theater with incredible singing and dancing, playing an energetic mix of his signature pop tunes and soulful ballads.

All In: Ricky’s Vegas show was one of his best productions ever

For the last show of the weekend, I went old school with Tiffany (and Benji too!), visiting the Tropicana’s Laugh Factory to see Rich Little. At 78, the legendary comedian is just as hilarious as I remembered him to be when I saw him decades ago. And I had the pleasure of telling him so at a meet and greet afterward.

Rich Little and me

Definitely a memorable, exhilaratingly fun weekend from start to finish.

Sending so much love to everyone in this amazing city–and praying for healing.

 

Reuniting With A Dear Friend

Twenty two years ago, I embarked on a whirlwind three-week Contiki tour around Europe. The trip introduced me to two wonderful people who became cherished friends–Australians Sue and Dave. This week, I had the great pleasure of being reunited with Dave, for the first time since my last visit Down Under in 2009.

Way back when: Dave, me and Sue in Europe, May 1994.

As soon as I saw Dave, it felt like no time at all had passed. We picked up right where we left off–enjoying some beloved NYC haunts along the way.

Dave and me at the Gansevoort Hotel’s rooftop bar Plunge

We brunched outside at neighborhood eateries Beach Cafe and Five Napkin Burger, both of which I love even more now because they’re dog-friendly. My sweet Benji joined me and Dave, quietly taking in the scenery while we ate.

Dave took this photo of me and Benji at Beach Café

Taking advantage of picture perfect weather, Dave and I also strolled around Central Park and the High Line, and did rooftop drinks at Meatpacking District hipster hotspot the Gansevoort Hotel. For dinner, we lingered at The Plaza’s Food Hall by Todd English (epic truffled lobster mac and cheese), savored the Greek delights of Gramercy bistro Barbounia and indulged in Italian fare at favorite UES Bottega restaurant (Tiramisu to die for).

Truffled lobster mac and cheese at The Plaza Hotel’s Food Hall. Yum!!!

Throughout the delicious meals and engaging local sights, Dave and I shared wonderful, soul-soothing conversations about life, love, loss, careers and travel. I was in awe when Dave told me about his post-tsunami volunteer work in Sri Lanka. And he listened with compassion as I confided what I have been through over the last year.

I’m a big believer in the saying that friends are the family we choose for ourselves. God has truly blessed me in my extended family–and I am so thankful Dave is a part of it.

Til next time, my dear friend.

A New Chapter Begins

Two of my favorite things about living in NYC are discovering new favorite places and rediscovering old ones. Thursday, I got to experience both during a night out in Midtown with my good friend Derek and his boyfriend Ricardo.

The evening began at 230 Fifth, a happening hotspot for many years now, attracting a good looking crowd to its expansive rooftop with dazzling city views. This time, since it was overcast, I parked myself near the spacious indoor bar, enjoying a Shirley Temple with vodka. There’s something about drinking an adult version of my favorite mocktail as a child that hits all the right notes.

Boozy Shirley Temple = cocktail bliss!

 

Speaking of hitting high notes, our dining destination, Raymi did so and then some. The Peruvian restaurant offers warm ambience, friendly service and fare that’s truly delicioso. We started off with pisco sours and canchita, roasted unpopped popcorn that is sinfully addictive. I also savored my entree, arroz con mariscos (rice with seafood).

Over dinner and drinks, Derek, Ricardo and I talked about their upcoming European getaway, work and my exciting new job–Marketing Executive for The Pierre Hotel.

The five-star luxury property has a long and storied history of 87 years. It’s a registered historic landmark and one of the only hotels left offering white gloved service and elevator operators. I couldn’t be more proud to   help tell the Pierre’s rich story–and more grateful for the support family and friends gave me throughout the five-month job search process.

During this time, I did something I’ve never done in my professional life–worked in retail.

Thanks to a referral from longtime dear friend and style maven Heidi, I joined her in becoming a Brand Ambassador at Banana Republic’s Rockefeller Center location. The brand’s flagship store, it has a deservedly strong reputation for both product selection (3 floors of BR fashion) and service. Being part of the team gave me a much needed anchor when I was feeling very low. And I have an even deeper appreciation now for what it takes to work in a customer service role. It’s harder than you might think and I admire people who make a career of it.

I can’t wait to return to hospitality, my true passion. Thank God for new beginnings.

Settling In Again

 

Time and again, I’m reminded how fortunate I am to have a large, loyal circle of friends both near and far. Last weekend, I had the pleasure of catching up with one of them, Lana.

Lana and me

Lana and I initially connected through Airbnb back in 2010, during my European Dating Blitz. Based in Paris, she last visited NYC in December 2013, so it was wonderful to see her again. We met up for a late afternoon brunch at The Smith’s East Village location. The popular bistro offers a hearty menu and friendly waitstaff.

Over a delicious meal (I had the truffled mushroom toast, yum), Lana and I talked about travel—she was just back from Brazil and Bolivia—and taking chances.

Lana was supportive of my decision to try living in L.A. last year, yet curious about why I left a city and a job that I love so much. Considering how difficult the move ended up being, it was surprisingly easy to make the leap. Choosing to return to NYC after only five months out West was harder.  I felt like I had failed somehow. And, as I mentioned in February, it’s taken some time for me to get my emotional bearings since coming back.

Thankfully, the comforts of being home and near loved ones has helped tremendously. I understand in much a more visceral way now why my mom said walking the streets of NYC gave her strength to weather life’s storms. I know this is where I belong and I am so grateful I found my way back to the Big Apple. As John Steinbeck once said–

“Once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.”

Amen.

 

 

 

 

A Mini MHC Reunion In NYC

One of my favorite things to do is play tourist in my hometown. Last weekend, I had the pleasure of doing just that. The occasion — a mini NYC Mount Holyoke reunion with my fellow class of ’95-ers.

Our big 20-year on campus reunion in May left us nostalgic for our alma mater, and newly appreciative of the sisterhood it provided. So, about fifteen of us alums, some local and many from out of state, enjoyed an action packed Saturday taking in some of the Big Apple’s best sights.

Our first stop — the Whitney Museum of American Art. Now located in a brand new building in the Meatpacking District after years in a much smaller venue on the Upper East Side, the Whitney offers a much greater wow factor now. In addition to featuring a better showcase for the likes of Pollock, Hopper and more contemporary artists, it boasts outdoor patios with fantastic views of the Hudson River. A must see for sure.

After strolling through Chelsea Market — and savoring the varied aromas of its many food purveyors — we made our way down to NoLita. First stop, The Daily, a cozy bar with a speakeasy vibe and robust cocktails (that change daily) with names like El Presidente.

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MHC women: (from left) Sara, me and Sara T.

For dinner, we enjoyed the rustic charms of the downstairs room at Peasant. Seated a long, distressed wood table by candlelight, we were well taken care of and well fed. The restaurant’s family style menu included three courses, all equally delicious.

As the food kept coming, I had the pleasure of catching up with classmates Sara T., Gretchen and my MHC bff, NYC-based Sara. We reminisced about our college days and the unnervingly swift passage of time since then.

After saying goodnight to the rest of the crew, Sara and I headed uptown to THE LCL: Bar & Kitchen at my work home, The Westin Grand Central. Over cosmos, we talked about relationships, travels and the importance of maintaining life balance, whether you’re a city dweller or country mouse.

Even in the frenetic pace that is life in NYC, finding that balance is doable. Especially when you’re fortunate to have great friends to do it with.

Weekend In Long Island

For as much as I adore my hometown, sometimes I need a break from the relentless hustle and bustle of NYC.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite places to unwind from city life is Long Island. I’m very fortunate to have several loved ones who are LI residents and last weekend, I had the pleasure of catching up with two of them.

Saturday, I headed out east to visit my cousin Carla. Our first stop–Verace, an airy Italian bistro located on Babylon’s charming main street. The friendly staff was in the Halloween spirit, dressed as nerds while serving delicious fare (eggplant caponata pasta and flounder oreganata for me, burrata ravioli for C).

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The gypsy and the owl: Me and Carla at Molto Vino

After dinner and changing into our own costumes, we headed over to wine bar Molto Vino. Bustling with spirited locals and a jovial waitstaff, it was the perfect spot for people watching (Marty McFly and a mobster were among the costumed characters) and enjoying a festive Halloween night.

Settling ourselves at the bar, Carla and I savored a few glasses of red sangria as we talked about milestone birthdays and winter travel plans. It was the perfect Halloween night–low key fun with one of my favorite family members.

On Sunday, I spent the afternoon with galpal Julie. Our destination–Bar Frites in Greenvale, which with its buzzy vibe and French charm, reminded me of NYC’s currently-closed Pastis.

We both treated ourselves to the decadence of a croque madame sandwich while having the kind of soul soothing conversation that reminds you what a blessing it is to have good friends.

One of the subjects that came up–the mental shift that accompanies entering your forties. With three decades of life and learning behind you, this is the era of being truly comfortable in your own skin, of fully embracing your choices without apology or explanation. I’m also discovering that it is a time for letting go of the past and focusing squarely on what’s right in front of you.

Like the saying goes, the present truly is a gift. Especially when you’re fortunate to have wonderful people to share it with.

An Epic Saturday

 

Last weekend, I enjoyed an action packed day in my beloved hometown.

It started at Bistro LeSteak on the Upper East Side with my dear friend Crystal. This eatery is a cozy slice of French charm, with charming decorative touches like Impressionist wall paintings and draped ceilings.

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Bistro Le Steak’s window seating is charming

Crystal and I settled into a table by the window. Over a delicious brunch (my first taste of eggs Benedict with crabcake. Yum!), we caught up on life, work, family and more.

With her incandescent smile and genuine warmth, Crystal is always like a dose of sunshine. She has a gift for making you see the beauty and fun of what’s right in front of you– as I rediscovered when we strolled through Central Park.

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Reconnecting with my inner child in Central Park

As we took a leisurely turn on the swings, I savored the lush surroundings and muted sounds that make the park such a haven for New Yorkers. It hit me how lucky I am to have this gem a short walk away.

After saying goodbye to Crystal, I headed down to Union Square, where I met up with LA-based galpal and blogger Tess. Over cocktails and appetizers at The Coffee Shop restaurant, we talked about why Westin rocks as a hotel brand — yes, I’m an employee but I legitimately love it. And how there’s no city in the world like New York.

Two All-time NYC Favorites

I recently had the pleasure of catching up with two friends I hadn’t seen in awhile–over dinner at two of my favorite NYC restaurants.

First, I enjoyed a night out in the neighborhood with gal pal Lisa. We headed to Ko Sushi, a cozy Japanese eatery on the UES that never disappoints (best shumai dumplings ever and yummy sushi rolls).

An accomplished magazine editor and travel writer, Lisa shares my lifelong passion for NYC and I always love hearing about her latest adventures in and out of our hometown. We also talked about the profound blessing of being happy in our respective careers and never taking it for granted.

My good Stacy and I reconnected over drinks and appetizers at Pershing Square. This laidback bistro and bar right across from Grand Central serves up delicious bistro fare in a comfortable setting ideal for conversation.

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Pershing Square Cafe (photo courtesy: pershingsquare.com)

We had plenty to talk about — from memorable concerts and developments at work to the soul soothing joys of travel.

As Stacy shared her recent jaunt to London, I felt a wave of nostalgia for my other favorite city–the only place I love as much as NYC.

Well, almost as much.

An Evening In Times Square

When it comes to Times Square, I’m one of those rare New Yorkers who actually likes it. Between working in the Crossroads of the World and being a Broadway aficionado, I appreciate it as an apex of hustle and bustle — and great dining if you know where to go.

During a recent girls night out with my work BFF Lisa, we headed to two of my favorite Times Square spots. First stop —The Lambs Club, a cozy bar and restaurant at the Chatwal Hotel that is equal parts swanky and boutique-style charm.

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The Lambs Club’s upstairs bar. Love the NYC-themed light fixtures! (photo courtesy: Facebook.com/TheLambsClub)

Over cocktails and a tasty plate of hot mixed nuts, we talked about old friends, new beginnings and taking chances. Then, it was off to Café Un Deux Trois, a delightful French bistro that never disappoints. I departed from my usual picks here, enjoying the pâté starter and a perfectly cooked salmon burger.

It was a short stroll from dinner to the Sondheim Theater for Beautiful: the Carole King musical. Beautiful is a richly entertaining journey through King’s life and work. Packed with 25 pop hits like “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “So Far Away” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” it’s also a fascinating look at the stories behind these classic songs, soulfully performed by the cast. Catch Beautiful before it closes in September.

A Week of Dining and Redecorating Adventures

When it comes to dining in the Big Apple, my late, wise mom used to say–

“If you want good French food, go to France. If you want good Italian food, go to Italy. If you want good everything, come to New York.”

This week, I was reminded of just how true this is as I had the pleasure of eating out five times (a personal record, I think). Four of those meals were at three favorites: my beloved Beach Cafe, La Fonda Del Sol and Hill Country Barbecue.

The fifth brought me one of the great foodie joys of being a New Yorker — discovering a fantastic new restaurant right at your doorstep.

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Jean Claude II is utterly delightful (photo courtesy: jeanclaudenyc.com)

Tuesday night, my friend Colin and I enjoyed dinner at Jean Claude II, a cozy, charming little French bistro on the UES that I’ve walked past many times. Perfect for quiet conversation, the restaurant also offers warm, attentive service and fabulous food. The escargot, sautéed skate and chocolate mousse are all magnifique.

An effervescent force of nature, Colin and I met through work a few years ago — the company he worked for was producing a photo shoot at The Westin New York Grand Central. But he was already acquainted with me–

“Are you the single gal?” he asked, a reference to my dating blog, SingleGalNYC.com.

We immediately hit it off, as he blew me away with his creativity and extraordinary talent for completely transforming a space.

I am having the great good fortune of tapping into Colin’s expertise as I continue my big home makeover project. After dinner, we spent hours going over every nook and cranny of my place. Thanks to Colin’s suggestions, I have moved some furniture around so my living room already feels like it has been infused with new energy and breathing space.

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The buffet and table pictured here are showcased so much more in this new configuration!

The same could be said of my perspective on other areas of life. I’ve never felt readier or more excited for the fresh start afforded by a new year. Those feelings only grow with each change I make to my abode.

Green accent wall, here I come!

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