Burger Bliss: 5 Napkin’s New Addition

 

 

In the crowded landscape of burger joints in the Big Apple, Five Napkin Burger is one of the best. So I was excited when 5N recently opened a second location — right around the corner from me.

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5N’s asiago turkey burger is delish

Like its sister restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen, the Upper East Side 5N offers a low-lit bistro vibe, friendly wait staff and a mouthwatering menu of options for burger aficionados. During my first visit, I grabbed a high table near the bar and enjoyed the asiago turkey burger, delicious and as plentiful in size as its beef counterpart. Their cocktail menu is equally robust. I enjoyed the Velvet Mule, a refreshing variation on the Moscow mule.

Signature drinks were also on the menu during my second visit to 5N, with galpal Ayesha. She tried the Breakaway Mai Tai while I savored a Rum Swizzle Punch, both from the Caribbean-inspired drink menu section, and which immediately made me think about relaxing on an island somewhere.

Served in a tiki glass, the Rum Swizzle Punch is a taste of the Caribbean

Speaking of travels, we talked about upcoming vacations (I’ve got 3 getaways planned for 2016), fighting the holiday battle of the bulge and job changes. The new year will bring an new dimension to work, with the addition of the Sheraton Grand Chicago to my marketing manager job. So excited for this–and the promise of a fresh start that always accompanies turning the calendar page.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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.

Foodie Bliss At Urban Space Vanderbilt

One of the best parts about living in NYC is the seemingly endless parade of new eateries. Last week, my dear friend (and fellow foodie) Stacy and I paid a visit to Urban Space near Grand Central.

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Urban Space: a selection of culinary delights near Grand Central

The newly-opened food hall brings together more than 20 chef-driven restaurants. From crepes and seafood to Asian fare, Mexican food and a variety of desserts, there’s something for every palette here. Stacy enjoyed pork buns from Hong Kong Street Cart while I savored one of the signature items from No. 7 Veggie — “total vegetarian chaos and destruction.” Don’t let the name fool you. This heavenly concoction will go down as the best veggie burger I have ever had. The tasty burger is taken to a whole other level of deliciousness—surrounded by smashed avocado, cheese, pickled beets, griddled Onions, and No. 7 Steak Sauce. My only regret is not trying No. 7 Veggie’s other popular item, broccoli tacos. Next time.

Urban Space’s laidback, communal vibe extends throughout the experience. The staff at Maiden Lane welcomed us to enjoy some of their offerings as we munched on our dishes from other vendors. Over a few glasses of Rose and grilled octopus with garlic, we had a soul-soothing conversation about recent highs (Stacy’s meet and greet with, ahem, Coldplay’s Chris Martin) and lows (my recent, painful impass with a family member).

As always, Stacy offered words of wisdom and encouragement that made all the difference. And she reminded me that when it comes to facing life’s trials and tribulations, there is no greater comfort than that of a cherished friend.

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.

French Flavored Fun In Times Square

There’s no better way to start the weekend than catching up with a dear friend.

Last Friday, I did just that with that with galpal Stacy. Stacy and I connected four years ago on Twitter over our love for Ricky Martin. We have since enjoyed many epic nights out in NYC — we’re also both foodies — and this one was right up there.

We met up at Café Un Deux Trois, a delightful slice of French charm located just off of Times Square.

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Café Un Deux Trois: magnifique!

The attentive, friendly service and yummy fare didn’t disappoint. It was truly a shared experience, as we split a crisp bottle of wine and perfect escargot, then each had sauteed Dorade with vegetables. For dessert–a heavenly duo of chocolate crepes and (a longtime tradition for us) creme brulee. Delicieux.

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Dessert perfection: Creme Brulee

Over dinner, we talked about work, the increasingly swift passage of time and travels both recent and upcoming. Along with a potential December getaway overseas, we’re planning a weekend jaunt for this fall. Because as much as we’re both New York City gals, sometimes you need a break from all the hustle and bustle. And it’s a lot more fun when you have fantastic friends to do it with.

Pure Joy: U2 & Disney’s Aladdin

One of my favorite things about living in NYC is being able to experience the world’s best entertainment. My dear friend Sara and I recently enjoyed two memorable nights of music and theater.

We joined a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden for one of U2’s eight shows there. The beloved Irish rockers delivered on the Innocence + Experience theme of their current tour, taking the audience on a powerful journey during their 2.5 hour set.

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U2 rocked Madison Square Garden

U2 played on two stages and a suspended cage that served as both another stage and projector. Throughout the show, a series of images flashed–from a rendering of teenage Bono writing a song for his future wife to family photos and shooting stars in “Iris,” a moving tribute to his late mom. The setlist covered tracks from their current album Songs of Innocence alongside classic hits including “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Desire,” “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Beautiful Day.”

Sprinkled throughout were messages of social activism, filtered through the lens of the heartfelt reflection that comes with getting older. Bono spoke with gratitude for fan support of U2’s Red campaign against AIDS, also expressing thanks for the band’s longevity.

For the encore, they ended with “Where The Streets Have No Name” and a version of “One” that had everyone happily obliging Bono’s request to–

“Sing yourselves home.”

No doubt about it—U2 is still one of the greatest rock bands of our time.

Just a few days after being wowed by U2, Sara and I headed to the New Amsterdam Theater to see Aladdin. The stage version of Disney’s beloved 1994 animated film delivers plenty of laughs, heart and romance.

Dazzling choreography, colorful sets and rapid fire costume changes (337 costumes in total!) vividly bring the classic story to life. Aladdin features new songs penned for the show in addition to iconic numbers from the movie. Aladdin and Jasmin’s magic carpet ride to “A Whole New World” is spectacularly recreated.

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James Monroe Iglehart dazzles as the genie (Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann/AladdinTheMusical.com)

Adam Jacobs is easy to like as Aladdin, Courtney Reed less so—her portrayal of Jasmine comes off as more bratty than spunky. Jonathan Freeman, who voiced villainous Jafar in the movie, reprises his role with panache. He’s almost upstaged by Don Darryl Rivera, a fireball of wicked energy as snarky sidekick Iago. But Aladdin’s biggest star is Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart. With his infectiously charming portrayal of the genie, Iglehart brings down the house, truly making this iconic role his own.

Aladdin is pure joy – an Arabian Night that’s enjoyable from start to final curtain call.

Summer Nights In NYC

One of the best parts of living in New York is stumbling upon someplace wonderful where you least expect it–especially when it comes to culinary delights.

Back in April, a Google search led me to Il Punto. And a few weeks ago, my cousin Alexandra and I returned to this gem of a restaurant. It didn’t disappoint.

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Il Punto: an Italian gem in Hell’s Kitchen (photo courtesy: ilpuntoristorante.com)

Located on the corner of Ninth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, Il Punto is an inviting bistro with delicious pasta and seafood dishes and a host who exemplifies Italian charm. We were well taken care of by both him and the wait staff this second time too.

Alexandra and I split a bottle of Collio Sauvignon Blanc, which we were introduced to during our April visit.

After a complimentary amuse bouche, we savored our entrees, capped off by panna cotta for dessert and a complimentary round of limoncello. It was a truly epic night, with nearly six (!) hours of soul soothing conversation and laughter made even more enjoyable by the setting.

A very different but equally engaging venue provided the backdrop for Thursday’s night out with gal pal Lauren. We met up at Skylight Modern in Chelsea for Travel +Leisure‘s party celebrating its annual World’s Best Awards.

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The scene at T+L’s World’s Best Awards party

The swanky soiree featured a fashionable crowd, on-site sand artist and award winners dressed in authentic attire representing various destinations. In addition to signature cocktails, the menu included passed hors d’oeuvres (empanadas, mini grilled cheese, caprese sticks, tuna tartar) and food stations (paella, lobster rolls, fried clam sandwiches, crab cakes). Delish.

While savoring both the menu and the people watching, Lauren and I caught up on summer travels, work and home makeover projects.

Two fantastic nights on the town with two of my favorite ladies. Summer in NYC simply doesn’t get any better than that.

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.

Catching Up With A Dear Friend

Friday, I headed out to New Jersey for a night out with my Ohio-based friend Marilyn, her daughter Karen and son in law Russ. Marilyn was in town for her grandson’s high school graduation, so we were celebrating.

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Marilyn and me

We went to dinner at Ursino, a fabulous restaurant located on the campus of Kean University. Featuring a farm to table menu and picture perfect views of fountains and greenery, Ursino is a truly delightful experience. Both the food and service are fantastic.

Over a delicious meal (kale salad, halibut and angel food cake, yum!), we talked about European travel, how romantic relationships develop and city versus suburban life.

As the evening progressed, I couldn’t help thinking about how much has changed for me since I last saw Marilyn in September.

At the time, I was very much at a crossroads, considering a move out of New York and feeling pretty down. Now, I can’t imagine leaving my beloved hometown — and it has given me so much since I recommitted to staying here.

Work remains a tremendous joy, as I enjoy juggling three hotels and my new title of Complex Marketing Manager. Family and friends nearby continue to nourish my spirit. And I’m nearing the completion of my home makeover. With summer officially here, it truly feels like a new season on several fronts.

Aren’t new beginnings just wonderful?

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