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About the Author: About the Author: Ruth J. Katz is a well-known shopping and service writer based in New York City. She has written about shopping for 25 years for New York magazine; covered the topic on-air at Fox-TV for several years as the Home Services expert; and had her own show on both the USA and Lifetime Cable networks. Katz wrote extensively for The New York Times as well, and contributed periodically to the New York Daily News. She is a passionate shopper, always looking for not merely a good buy, but the best buy, ferreting out a "steal" or discovering up-and-coming designers. She has written five books and is a former contributing editor to Hearst's Redbook, Classic Home, and Colonial Homes; she is currently a Contributing Editor of New York Home, Golf Connoisseur, The Modern Estate, and Promenade magazines. She is also the former Shopping Director for Davler Media's Manhattan Living.


City Shopping

When Sirio Ristorante opened in the late fall of 2012, under threat of torture (just kidding!), I was "forced" to do a road test of the menu and could not have asked for a better, cushier assignment: Everything was perfect, from the service, to the fine, seductive cuisine, to the pleasant surroundings.

To reiterate and recap a little of what I noted earlier:

In 1974, La Forêt, a swell boite in the Pierre Hotel, opened and was quickly embraced by the smart set. At that time, Italian-born Sirio Maccioni, today one of Gotham's most beloved restaurateurs, worked at the hotel and oversaw the La Forêt lounge, restaurant, and nightclub. He had arrived in the States some 13 years prior, after paying his professional dues in the hospitality profession in Europe. He landed at the legendary Wall Street eatery Delmonico's, and subsequently, at the celebrated Colony. It was not long after that that the revered impresario opened his own showcase, the much-loved Le Cirque, in the Mayfair Hotel. (It's worth noting that Maccioni helped launch the careers of many luminaries among the brightest stars in the current foodie firmament; among them, Jacques Torres and Daniel Boulud.)


The Maccioni Family. Photo: Melissa Hom

So, it was all the more gratifying for him to return to the Pierre, currently a Taj Hotel, to open yet another restaurant, adding to the Maccioni Group's prestigious holdings. (The space had previously housed a branch of London-based Le Caprice.)

Designed by the renowned architect Adam D. Tihany, it marks the eighth collaboration between the two legends, and it is likely safe to say that at this point Tihany knows precisely what it is that Maccioni needs and wants in a restaurant. And Sirio Ristorante is likely the epitome of that wish list: inviting, cozy, warm.


Newly ensconced executive chef Massimo Bebber, an avid cook from an early age, comes to the eatery with a solid CV. Armed with a degree from the Culinary Institute in Levico, Italy, Bebber worked in several prestigious restaurants in northern Italy before coming to New York to join a childhood friend, chef Denis Franceschini (currently owner of Bar Italia), who welcomed him into the Cipriani culinary family; from there he opened the successful restaurant Caravaggio in 2009 and most recently joined the Maccionis at Sirio.

I heartily recommend stopping by to sample the autumnal fare gracing the menu currently. But before dining, you must first sip a few splendid cocktails from the colorful and interesting drink menu: There is the Grumpy Conquistador, a combo of Don Julio Tequila, jalapeno, pineapple, and pomegranate. What can I say? Sip it cautiously, as these kinds of drinks leave a heady punch when imbibed as if they were harmless "umbrella" drinks. The Russian Roulette is also worth way more than a few sips, but again, don’t swig it down in one fell swoop, or you'll be sorry...it packs a punch, a good one! Organic cucumber, vodka, St. Germain liqueur, fresh cucumber, and a few other secret ingredients.


So much for drinking...and now to the main event: I adored the beet salad, Insalata di Barbabietole (pictured above), i.e., roasted baby yellow and red beets, with deliciously crunchy, candied walnuts, pistachios, goat cheese, and mache. I was torn between having the beets and the Buffalo mozzarella with the baby arugula and prosciutto, and truffled honey, but my colleague had it, so I got to taste it. Amen. Do not pass up an interim pasta course and I would strongly recommend a lamb ragout Bolognese with papardelle as well as the gnocchi, Gnocchetti al Profumo di Tartufo (pictured below; ricotta gnocchi with porcini mushroom purée, white truffle oil, and smothered under a canopy of airy, light Parmesan foam). 


Main courses will delight and satiate, especially the classic meats like the Costoletta di Vitello al Forno, the roasted grass-fed veal chop, served with fingerling potatoes, sautéed spinach, and veal jus; and the Agnello in Crosta, herb-crusted loin of lamb, plated with braised Swiss chard, cauliflower purée, and lamb truffle jus. Both these heady meals were sensational. But there is so much more on the menu — seafood, fowl, and of course, the famous Sirio cheeseburger. Clearly, you will not go hungry here and, in fact, you'll be asking the waiter to slow down before dessert, as it would be a shame to miss it, but you're likely to be full, so pace yourself.

The tiramisu is served with a slight twist — it's mocha!  And the expected tartufo is not loaded with a cherry-flavored ice cream or a spumoni-style gelato , with rather with a sophisticated pistachio ice cream; similarly, the torta al cioccolata has the Siro signature — it is prepared with chocolate mousse, apricot caramel, and surprising banana cake; and the bomboloni are also not to be missed:  served hot, they are enchanting little doughnuts filled with thick, mouth-watering vanilla custard, accompanied by a gravy-bowl of a dee-vine, warm chocolate sauce.

Go to the restaurant hungry and eat slowly; you'll dine regally and peacefully here, and moreover, you'll leave satisfied and charmed. 795 Fifth Ave. (61st St.), 212-940-8195; siriony.com

Posted on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 @ 12:59 PM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

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City Shopping

Nespresso, the coffee giant and worldwide pioneer in portioned coffee that has stormed these shores after so much success in Europe (where it is a household name), is increasing its footprint, albeit temporarily, in the Big Apple. As a way of marking and celebrating the tenth anniversary of the brand's AAA Sustainable Quality Program (in partnership with the Rainforest Alliance), the company is debuting today a pop-up Nespresso shop/boutique in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal. It will be open through this Friday, October 4th. Here, at this "experiential center," visitors will be able to immerse themselves in the company's bean-to-cup process, and also be able to savor Nespresso's 21 grand cru coffees.


An interactive element of the Nespresso pop-up boutique is the “What Grand Cru Are You?” digital installation. Upon answering a series of questions about taste preferences, a real-time algorithm immediately processes the answers to define a specific coffee recommendation for each participant, who will then be invited to savor his or her grand cru match. A large, single wall of glass measuring 18' x 4' provides space for up to six people to interact with the display simultaneously. Visitors will also be able to view the various machines and ask questions to learn which machine, at which price point, is right for them.


New Yorkers and tourists alike can enjoy and purchase Nespresso coffee while shopping for machines and their favorite capsules. This pop-up shop will be open daily from 7am to 6:30pm, with the exception of Thursday, when the shop closes at 4pm. 

And lest I sign off without complete honesty, a personal disclaimer: I am addicted to my Nespresso machine and only wish there were more decaf "flavors," so I could drink mroe all day long, without fear of tossing and turning all night long; but, I suspec, that will come in time. I am also quite partial to the non-decaf specialty flavors that debuted this year, the  Vanilio, Caramelito, and Ciocattino.  Ummm-ummm good!

Posted on Tuesday, October 01, 2013 @ 04:53 PM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

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City Shopping

Starting next week, coinciding with Gotham's famed Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, 27 ever-so-chic Upper West Side restaurants are stepping up to the plate (virtually and figuratively) and are offering their "Fashion Plate" deals on meals. The Lincoln Square Business Improvement District's successful dining promotionis back for the fourth year and the seventh seasonal Fashion Week, with a wide range of eateries participating, some with jaw-dropping, over-the-top menus -- places you've always wanted to try, but were hesitant. The event runs from September 5th to September 12th, for Fashion Week. The promotion expands each year and this season, Asiate at the Mandarin-Oriental joins the ranks of participants.

Rosa Mexicano NYC

Fashion Plate Prix Fixe is open to the public for lunch, dinner, and brunches during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Herewith a few examples of the deals to be had: Upper West Side staple Rosa Mexicano (above) is featuring a $25 prix-fixe lunch special as well a three-course dinner for only $38; The Smith is hosting a $27 three-course lunch with complimentary sparkling morning punch with any breakfast entree; and a special two-course, modern Italian weekend brunch is being offered at Lincoln Ristorante for $35.

There are also deals for Fashion Week staff at other, more affordable eateries where the crews working Fashion Week can get a delicious take-out meal to be eaten on the fly, with a deep discount. (That program is called Crew Cuts and it's for the staffs of Fashion Week, who survive for eight days on breathing mere air and eating take-out.) But Fashion Plate restaurants are open to all.

"We're always thrilled to welcome back our highly-anticipated Fashion Plate Prix Fixe and Crew Cuts programs to the Lincoln Square area as locals and visitors look forward to great deals on incredible meals," said Monica Blum, Lincoln Square Business Improvement District president. "Whether or not you have tickets to check out the runway, Fashion Plate Prix Fixe is a great way to dine at some of the city's best and favorite restaurants while celebrating and experiencing the ambiance of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in one of the city's most vibrant neighborhoods." The Lincoln Square BID has spearheaded the program since its inception. The non-profit business improvement district also promotes the area’s diverse business, educational opportunities, and cultural offerings through annual events such as the annual Winter’s Eve celebration, which is Gotham's largest holiday festival; Summer Concert Series at Richard Tucker Park; Tourist Information Ambassador Program, among others. Lincoln Square BID’s neighborhood area runs from Columbus Circle to 70th Street between Amsterdam and Central Park West.

Fashion Plate Prix Fixe is open to all (just snag yourself a reservation first, so you can be assured you get into your favorite places) for lunch, dinner, and brunches during Fashion Week.

Click here for the complete list of Fashion Plate participants.

Posted on Thursday, August 29, 2013 @ 10:18 AM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

Browse: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry


City Shopping

Starting this week, coinciding with Gotham's famed Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, 28 ever-so-chic Upper West Side restaurants are stepping up to the plate (virtually) and are offering their "Fashion Plate" deals on meals.  The Lincoln Square Business Improvement District's successful dining promotion, "Fashion Plate" is back this year, and there is a wide range of eateries participating, some with jaw-dropping, over-the-top menus -- places you've always wanted to try, but were hesitant. The event runs from the 7th to the 14th for Fashion Week. The promotion expands each season with American Table Café & Bar, Andanada 141, and Arpeggio Food & Wine being three of the latest additions to the list of participating restaurants.

Also new this season, a few of the participants are offering drink specials such as $5 Blackberry Bellinis at ’wichcraft (at David Rubenstein Atrium). There are also deals for Fashion Week staff, at other, more affordable eateries where the crews working Fashion Week can get a delicious take-out meal to be eaten on the fly, with a deep discount. (That program is called Crew Cuts and it's for the staffs of Fashion Week, who survive for eight days on breathing mere air and eating take-out.) But Fashion Plate restaurants are open to all.

"The Lincoln Square community loves playing host to visitors from around the city and the world -- and our restaurants are always eager to offer special deals. Whether you have tickets to watch the runway shows, Fashion Plate is a fun and tasty way to celebrate," noted Monica Blum, president of the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District, which has spearheaded this program since its inception.


Fashion Plate Prix Fixe is open to all (just get yourself a reservation first, so you can be assured you get into your favorite places) for lunch, dinner, and brunches during Fashion Week.  Some of New York City's newest hotspots, including Boulud Sud and The Leopard (in the old Café des Artistes spot; pictured above) are participating. Twenty-eight restaurants are offering outstanding menu options, for example: Upper West Side staple Atlantic Grill's three-course prix-fixe lunch and dinner for $25.00 and $38.00 respectively; A Voce's $33.00 three-course prix fixe lunch; The Smith is hosting a $27 three-course lunch and complimentary sparkling morning punch with any breakfast entree; and a special two-course, modern Italian brunch is being offered at Lincoln Ristorante (pictured below left) for $35. (For a complete list of participating restaurants, please see below.)

The Lincoln Square BID is also excited to bring back Lincoln Square Crew Cuts, designed to offer speedy and affordable dining/take-out options for the busy crews working on Fashion Week events. Discounts, such as 10% off breakfast, lunch and dinner, is being offered at 18 eateries in the Lincoln Square area, including Lincoln Square mainstays Alan’s Market Place, Breadsoul and Lincoln Cafés, Melissa's Gourmet Deli, ’wichcraft, Old John’s Luncheonette, P.J. Clarke’s at Lincoln Square and others from January17 through February 25, 2013. 

This is the fourth year and sixth season the Lincoln Square BID is supporting the event. The non-profit business improvement district also promotes the area’s diverse business, educational opportunities, and cultural offerings through annual events such as the annual Winter’s Eve celebration, which is Gotham's largest holiday festival; Summer Concert Series at Richard Tucker Park; Tourist Information Ambassador Program, among others.  Lincoln Square BID’s neighborhood area runs from Columbus Circle to 70th Street between Amsterdam and Central Park West.

Here is the complete list for the Fashion Plate participants:

A Voce
10 Columbus Circle
Time Warner Center, 3rd Floor
212.823.2523 / www.avocerestaurant.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch: $33
(Monday–Friday only) 

American Table Café & Bar (at Alice Tully Hall Lobby)
1941 Broadway at 65th Street
212.671.4200 / www.americantablecafeandbar.com
Two Course Prix Fixe Lunch, Dinner or Weekend Brunch Plus Snack: $20.00
Specialty Cocktail: $10 

Andanada 141
141 West 69th Street between Broadway & Columbus Avenue
646.692.8762 / www.andanada141.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Dinner or Weekend Brunch: $38.00
Late Night Special Sangria or Wine: $7 (Excluding Valentine’s Day)

Arpeggio Food & Wine (at Avery Fisher Hall)
Columbus Avenue at 64th Street
212.874.7000 / www.arpeggiofoodandwine.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Dinner: $45 (Excluding Valentine’s Day)

Atlantic Grill
49 West 64th Street between Broadway & Central Park West
212.787.4663 / www.atlanticgrill.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch: $25
Three Course Prix Fixe Dinner: $38
Haute Fashion Cocktail – Raspberry Vodka with cranberry juice and lemon juice: $14
(Monday-Friday only; excluding Valentine’s Day)

Bar Boulud
1900 Broadway between 63rd & 64th Streets
212.595.0303 / www.barboulud.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch: $29
(Monday-Friday only; excluding Valentine’s Day)

Bouchon Bakery
10 Columbus Circle
Time Warner Center, 3rd Floor
212.823.9366 / www.bouchonbakery.com
Two Course Prix Fixe Lunch, Dinner or Weekend Brunch: $25
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch, Dinner or Weekend Brunch: $29
Half Price Bottles of Wine 

Boulud Sud
20 West 64th Street between Broadway & Central Park West
212.595.1313 / www.bouludsud.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch: $29
(Monday-Friday only; excluding Valentine’s Day) 

Café Fiorello
1900 Broadway between 63rd & 64th Streets
212.595.5330 / www.cafefiorello.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch: $27.95

Café Luxembourg
200 West 70th Street between West End & Amsterdam Avenues
212.873.7411 / www.cafeluxembourg.com
Three Item Breakfast : $14
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch: $29 

Ed’s Chowder House
44 West 63rd Street between Broadway & Columbus Avenue
212.956.1288 / www.chinagrillmgt.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch or Weekend Brunch: $25
Three Course Prix Fixe Dinner: $35 (Excluding Valentine’s Day)

Gabriel’s Bar & Restaurant


11 West 60th Street between Broadway & Columbus Avenue
212.956.4600 / www.gabrielsbarandrest.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch: $25
(Excluding Valentine’s Day) 

Jalapeño
187 Columbus Avenue between 68th & 69th Streets
212.877.7800 / www.jalapenonyc.com
Two Course Prix Fixe Lunch or Dinner: $19.95
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch or Dinner: $21.95 

La Boite En Bois
75 West 68th Street between Columbus Avenue & Central Park West
212.874.2705 / www.laboitenyc.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch: $26.50

Lansky’s
235 Columbus Avenue between 70th & 71st Streets
212.787.0400 / www.lanskysnyc.com
Two Course Prix Fixe Lunch or Dinner: $19.95
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch or Dinner: $21.95 

The Leopard at des Artistes
1 West 67th Street between Columbus Ave & Central Park West
212.787.8767 / www.theleopardnyc.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Dinner: $38 (Excluding Valentine’s Day)
Weekend Brunch: $25 

Lincoln Ristorante
142 West 65th Street between Broadway & Amsterdam Avenue
212.359.6500 / www.lincolnristorante.com
Two Course Prix Fixe Lunch or Weekend Brunch: $35
(Wednesday-Sunday only) 

Loi
208 West 70th Street between Amsterdam & West End Avenues
212.875.8600 / www.loirestaurant.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Dinner: $40 (Excluding Valentine’s Day)

Luce Restaurant & Enoteca
2014 Broadway between 68th & 69th Streets
212.724.1400 / www.lucenyc.com
Two Course Prix Fixe Lunch: $19 

Nanoosh
2012 Broadway between 68th & 69th Streets
212.362.7922 / www.nanoosh.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch or Dinner: $14.95 

Nick & Toni’s Café
100 West 67th Street between Broadway & Columbus Avenue
212.496.4000 / www.nickandtoniscafe.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Dinner: $35 (Excluding Valentine’s Day)

Nougatine at Jean-Georges
1 Central Park West at Trump International Hotel & Tower
212.299.3900 / www.jean-georges.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch: $32 (Monday –Sunday only)
Three Course Prix Fixe Dinner: $38 (Sunday–Friday only) (Excluding Valentine’s Day)

Porter House New York
10 Columbus Circle
Time Warner Center, 4th Floor
212.823.9500 / www.porterhousenewyork.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch: $25 

Rosa Mexicano
61 Columbus Avenue at 62nd Street
212.977.7700 / www.rosamexicano.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch: $25
Three Course Prix Fixe Dinner: $38
Add a Rosalita ‘Skinny’ Margarita: $3.50 (Excludes Valentine’s Day) 

Sapphire Indian Cuisine
1845 Broadway between 60th & 61st Streets
212.245.4444 / www.sapphireny.com
Prix Fixe Lunch Buffet: $15.95 

Shun Lee West
43 West 65th Street between Columbus Avenue & Central Park West
212.595.8895 / www.shunleewest.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch: $25 

The Smith
1900 Broadway between 63rd & 64th Streets
212.496.5700 / www.thesmithnyc.com
Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch: $27
Complimentary Sparkling Morning Punch with any Breakfast Entree (Monday–Friday only)

’wichcraft (at David Rubenstein Atrium)
61 West 62nd Street between Broadway & Columbus Avenue
212.780.0577 / www.wichcraftnyc.com
Blackberry Bellini: $5

Posted on Saturday, February 09, 2013 @ 09:49 AM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

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I have tried every single portable coffee mug known to man, or at least I think I have. Every time I find a new one at a trade show, or an editors' event, I try it. I often take a mug outside with me, for when I am walking the doggie and for when we go to the dog park. I have yet to find a mug that doesn’t leak. I bend over, the dogs knock the thing over, I shove it into the doggie's carry-all, and so invariably, somehow it leaks and gets coffee all over everything, including me.

So imagine my shock when I tried Lifetime Brands' Cuisinart Easy Clean Thermal Mug. IT WORKS!!! It really works. There is not a tiny leak, making it just acceptable. No, there are no leaks. Turn it upside down, and it doesn’t leak. Put it on its side, and it doesn't leak.

Oh, yes, the literature with the mug says it is both spill- and leak-resistant, so I was a little skeptical. Because "resistant" doesn't mean "proof." For my money, they could say it's spill-proof and leak-proof, but I guess they don’t want to go out on a legal limb. But, the thing that makes this mug different form all the ones we've tried, is, not surprisingly, the drink spout: It doesn’t slide, or flip, or have a lame drink control switch. It has a sort of pop-up button that almost feels like a vacuum kinda' thing. There is a simple center push button that makes it easy to open and close (it clicks so you know it's been activated, or that it's closed), and when it's closed, it's really leak-proof. Plus, you can drink from anywhere on the lid, which is more convenient when traveling, walking, or driving. The body of the mug is made of double-walled stainless steel so hot drinks stay hot and cold drinks stay cold. And the lid has two parts that you can take apart, so you can clean this mug easily and completely; I do it in the dishwasher. Another good thing about it? It's a mere $19.99. Trust me, you'll swear by this mug for your travels.

Posted on Thursday, November 08, 2012 @ 10:41 AM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

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City Shopping

Quite some time ago I wrote about SodaStream and Soda Club, the world's largest manufacturer, distributor, and marketer of home carbonation systems, and how useful and practical a SodaStream machine would be in your home for the Xmas holidays. Well, it would be all the more useful in your home, on your patio, on your boat, at your picnic, and so on, in summertime, too—and it still qualifies right now as summertime—when we are all drinking way more liquids and when we are very conscious of hydrating.

I have been virtually attached to my Soda Stream machine like glue all summer, given that I am (as I may have mentioned) post-op, and supposed to drink plenty of liquids anyhow.  My Soda Stream machine is chugging out liter upon liter.  And this year, I am soooo happy as two of my favorite brands with wonderful drink flavors have now become part of the Soda Stream family: Crystal Light and Country Time.

Country Time now has a naturally sweetened lemonade as well as its original lemonade, and a combo of iced tea and lemonade called Half & Half, which is really one of my all-time beverages of choice.  How great to be able to make it myself with my Soda Stream machine! And to have it fizzy! My other beloved year-round drink is Crystal Light's Peach Iced Tea and that flavor, too, is now available from Soda Stream, as is the new Crystal Light Fruit Punch.  (And a few more Crystal Light flavors are coming into the fold down the road.)  But I wouldn’t want to slight any of the other flavors on the regular menu from Soda Stream, flavors I have favored over the years:  the wonderfully exotic ones, like Apple Mango, Black Currant & Pear, and Pink Grapefruit.

If those are not compelling enough reasons to scotch the cans and bottles of sodas and switch to a Soda Steam make-your-own-carbonated-beverages system, consider the following:

**460 billion beverage cans and bottles are manufactured worldwide each year

**Recycling rates hover just under 25% nationwide

**141 billion beverage cans and bottles go to landfill each year

**It takes over 400 years for a plastic bottle to begin decomposing

And dare I remind you, you will save a ton of money, too!

Posted on Monday, August 20, 2012 @ 03:51 PM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

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City Shopping

I have been a house-captive for a while, napping on the sofa and snoozing in bed....the result of having become, a few weeks ago, a bionic woman with a new knee. One thing that is always at my side is my Tervis drinking glass, with its plastic lid (with an easy-slide opening) with just enough room for me to insert a straw for quick access. It is particularly convenient, simple to use, and practical for my purposes—keeps hot things hot and cold things cold, and when sealed shut, I don’t have any concern that the lid will leak if I knock it over.  And if I am using it with a straw, the opening is still small—so if I do accidentally hit it and it turns over,  I'm not worried that there will be a mess on the carpet. (I wouldn’t dream of keeping a drinking glass with no lid by my side--I'm pretty sleepy at times, and reach for the glass with a less than radar-targeted vision!--any more than I would keep a glass next to me that is made out of actual, breakable glass.)

 

I have used Tervis products for years, but these days I find myself truly relying on them. So I did a little more research on the company and discovered that Tervis drinkware has had been made in America since 1946 by a family-owned and -operated company. (Created by two engineers—one G. Howlett Davis and the other a Frank Cotter—who chose an amalgam of their names for the company title; today that company employs a staff of 700!!) The duo discovered the natural insulating powers of air to create a permanently sealed, double-walled tumbler and the result was Tervis drinkware, manufactured from a high grade of a resin or plastic. It indestructible...not to mention, safe for use near the pool, or for outdoor use at picnics, etc.

Tervis drinkware comes with a lifetime guarantee, even if you've long thrown out the receipt.  If it says Tervis on the bottom, the company will honor the product and replace it if it's disappointed you in its performance. But chances are, it will not disappoint:  It's virtually unbreakable, and is freezer- and microwave-safe. Also, the combos of design, color, and size make for countless choices; the company says, in fact, that it sells thousands of designs—and the company also does many specialty, customized items, with corporate logos and proprietary pictures, etc.....so you may well have gotten a Tervis tumbler (and not even realized it), with a giveaway from a corporation—there are licenses with Disney, Star Wars, NASCAR, Hello Kitty, and with just about every professional sports team you can think of, from the NFL and the NBA to the NHL.  The sizes are variable (from 10 ounces to 24 ounces), and there are even coffee cups and water bottles, the newest item in the Tervis family.

While you can certainly shop on line, there is also extesnive Tervis inventory at over 5,000 retailers, including biggies like Bed, Bath & Beyond and department stores like Macy's. (Prices can range from about $12.00 to $20.00 for the water bottle.)

 

Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2012 @ 08:33 PM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

Browse: Favorite Finds | Eat, Drink, and Be Merry


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Some years ago, I had the delightful pleasure of sipping a glass of something (stronger than iced tea) in the bucolic and serene garden-bar of the exquisite Baur au Lac Hotel's La Terrasse bar in the hotel's verdant, tranquil garden, Le Jardin, far from the proverbial madding crowd. You'd never know that beyond the gated perimeter, there is a cosmopolitan din and bustle, because in this tranquil enclave there is nothing but harmony -- not to mention fine food and delicious potions, many of them highly creative alcoholic indulgences.

However, as of this past weekend, and running throughout the summer -- well, at least until August 6th -- there is also some delicious eye candy in the form of astonishing sculptures dotting that Kelly-green grass. Curated by Gigi Kracht, the wife of sixth-generation hotelier-owner Andrea Kracht, the show was assembled with the well-knolwn, local Galerie Gmurzynska and features the works of renowned artists, including Fernando Botero, Alexander Calder, Robert Indiana, Joan Miro, and Kenny Scharf, among the roster. There are now 16 more reasons to spend a few Euros in the café-bar and relax for a spell with the Kracht family and their extended staff-family, who are without doubt, the ne plus ultra in the fine art of Swiss hospitality. Culture, cuisine, and curious-people-watching await you.

"Art in the Park" has been a Zurich institution since 2006 and usually debuts a week prior to Art Basel, which opened last evening, so this is, indeed, a Big Weekend locally...and if you are there, take advantage of this embarrassment of riches in the world of fine art, topping it off with a libation with a fancy umbrella in it as you sit under the cossetting, oversize, white umbrellas in the garden.

Posted on Friday, June 15, 2012 @ 11:52 AM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

Browse: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry | Art


City Shopping

Now that the warmer weather has finally decided to settle in (what a wacky winter: hot, cold, hot cold, hot), there could not be a better time to hie thee up to the 35th floor of the lovely Mandarin Oriental Hotel at Columbus Circle and enjoy something cool and soothing in the beautiful sky bar just past the main desk, in the lobby's virtual rotunda. The lounge has a commanding view of Central Park and a bird's-eye vista straight down Central Park South -- and if you look out the smaller south windows, you see the hubbub of downtown, as well. It's a calm, airy aerie and one of the best bars in town. It's my favorite neighborhood watering hole; in fact, it's really my favorite spot for a drink, neighborhood or no neighborhood. But lucky me, it's near my office and the perfect place to meet for a leisurely afternoon cup of tea or a drink at the witching hour. 


The view cannot be beat, the service is stellar, and the bill of fare to accompany that drink is flawless. I always meet out-of-town friends there for a cuppa' or a fancy cocktail. On a recent outing, I celebrated birthdays with friends and it could not have been a more pleasant afternoon. I cannot recommend heartily enough the Cantonese vegetable spring rolls, the Thai beef and chicken satays, and the chicken lollipops; the latter are just adorable to look at and even more toothsome to eat...they have a tamarind glaze that will please any palate, and if you choose to indulge in the accompanying blue cheese dressing, you'll salivate for more after the first bite. We also had the Vietnamese rice pancakes and they, too, were dee-lish. In fact, everything I have ever eaten there is superb. 

The chairs are comfy and you'll feel as if you could truly lounge in the lounge. It's especially enjoyable in the afternoon, for the tea service with a selection of scrumptious, traditional sandwiches, petite gateaux, and the Mandarin's signature ginger scones, served up with sinfully rich Devon cream and homemade marmalade. If you are not a drinker, then opt for some of the Mandarin's mouthwatering non-alcoholic beverages, such as the Pomme Royale (apple cider, pear nectar with a cinnamon sugar), the Emperor’s Punch (lychee and blood orange juice with sour mix), and the Half Circle (pomegranate and pineapple juices with Sprite).

The bar is open weekends until 2 a.m., so it is also an ideal stopping off point after theater, or after a meal elsewhere. The combo of the view, the service, the wonderful drinks, and the vitals makes for a splendid experience. Whether you're imbibing the best Champagne or a simple Coke, you'll drink in the luxury of the site and the wealth of the menu's treats as you revel in the perfect service. A winning combo.

Posted on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 @ 03:40 PM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback

Browse: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry


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A few weeks ago when the thermometer plunged for several days on end (not spring-like as it is now -- you may want to start brewing iced coffee today -- but trust me: although I'm no meteorologist, it's going to get bitter again before winter finishes with us), I found myself starting the day off with a tasty cappuccino. Then it was a hot cocoa, then it was another steamy coffee....and so it went all day. A lot more coffee than I usually drink. With the holiday season over, I was looking for something hot and festive to drink....and I found myself digging into my files to see what the literature from the Barista Prima Coffeehouse K-Cups portion packs, which I often use, had to say about recipes and interesting concoctions for keeping warm.

Sure enough, there were ideas...big ones. Keurig K-Cups come in countless varieties from diverse manufacturers. The Barista Prima Coffeehouse products are particularly fine, rich Arabica blends, which range from medium-dark roasts to very dark roasts. They are robust, bold, and intensely flavored; there are four blends -- Colombian, House, Italian, and French -- and they hit delightful flavor notes from fruity to smoky to bittersweet-chocolate-y.

Barista Prima offers a few recipes for fine brews to keep you toasty, and to share with company as well. They are all developed by Francesco Sanapo, the official barista of Barista Prima. His Caffé Rouge won the Best Signature Coffee Drink award in the 2009 Italian Barista Championship. Not bad. Here is a fabulous recipe for a dee-vine drink to keep you and your company warm when the mercury dips. (Serves five)

Caffé Rouge

You'll need:

- 3.5 oz. small red beets

- pinch of salt

- 1/2 cup heavy cream (divide into two 1/4 portions)

- 1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar

- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla

- 4 oz. (1/2 cup) ricotta cheese

- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

- 1/4 cup milk

- 1 Barista Prima Coffeehouse French Roast K-Cup portion pack

1. Peel beets and trim ends.(If using larger beets, cut into 3/4" pieces. Place beets in a steamer and sprinkle lightly with just a pinch of salt.)

2. Steam beets over simmering water for 35-45 minutes, until very soft. Chill beets in the refrigerator at least one hour.

3. To make Chantilly cream: Combine 1/4 cup cream, confectioner's sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl. Whip until lightly thickened, but before any soft peaks form. Chill until ready to use.

4. Combine cooked beets, ricotta cheese, granulated sugar, milk, and remaining 1/4 cup cream in a blender. Purée until completely smooth; you should be able to pour it easily. Add more milk and cream in equal measure, if mixture is too thick to pour.

5. Set out five 6-ounce glasses. Pour 1/4 cup beet-cream mixture into each glass. Spoon in two tablespoons of the Chantilly cream in the center of each glass.

6. Brew Barista Prima Coffeehouse French Roast K-Cup portion pack into a Pyrex measuring cup.

7. Very slowly pour about 3 tablespoons coffee into the middle of each cream dollop.

Ummm...ummm...good!

Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2012 @ 04:45 PM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

Browse: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry


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Turkey day is less than 24 hours away and right now you're probably frantically fighting crowds at the supermarket, admonishing yourself for not having performed this onerous shopping task yesterday or the day before. Well, I did it yesterday, and it still doesn't mean that I didn't have to get up at el-crack-o of dawn today to beat the hordes at my local Fairway. But, it's a done deal. Now all I have to do is write this and then I can start the baking process.

Last March I suggested that you should have gotten for Christmas a wonderful Wüsthof carving set for performing the slicing chores on the bird at your  holiday meals; even though it was a tad too late for Thanksgiving and Christmas, there was still plenty of time to purchase the Cadillac of carving sets, the Wüsthof Grand Prix duo (below), to help out with the Easter ham, or -- mirabile dictu! -- the turducken. (Yes, people actually do take the time to make the celebrated deboned chicken that gets stuffed into the deboned duck, and then all of that fowl gets blasted into the deboned turkey. All I can say is, the one time I had it, I was glad that someone else engineered all that deboning and stuffing.)

Well, now it's time to get some wonderfully functional and quite handsome knives, not for carving The Big Bird, but for each, individual place-setting. (I am assuming you took my advice and bought yourself a highly functional Wüsthof carving set from Williams-Sonoma, as I instructed, so you don't need that this year.) So, now hie thee to the store and secure a set or two of Wüsthof's individual steak knives (four in a set), which are obviously not just for steak. They will glide right through the generous slices of turkey your guests will be fighting over. (And if you're like my Thanksgiving hosts, you'll be offering more to cut, like the additional -- unnecessary, but oh-so-delicious -- brisket, which is also served at my Thanksgiving meal.) This good-looking set is called the Grand Prix II Four Piece Steak Knife Set (pictured below; love those neat red handles), and it retails for a suggested $149.95. (Just for the record: Grand Prix II premium cutlery is expertly forged from a single piece of high carbon steel that resists staining and maintains its sharp edge longer, and this set of knives has superior balance, heft, and weight.)

So, happy eating, happy cutting, and happy day after...especially if you are going to stay up all night to take advantage of all the middle-of-the-night specials and sales.  Report back to us, if you do.  We'll be sleeping off the turkey tryptophan.

Posted on Wednesday, November 23, 2011 @ 12:08 PM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

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Starting this week, coinciding with Gotham's famed Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, 21 ever-so-chic Upper West Side restaurants are offering their "Fashion Plate" deals on meals.  There is a wide range of eateries participating, some with jaw-dropping, over-the-top menus -- places you've always wanted to try, but were hesitant. There are also deals for Fashion Week staff, and other, more affordable eateries where the crews working Fashion Week can get a delicious take-out meal to be eaten on the fly, with a deep discount. (That program is called Crew Cuts and it's for the staff of Fashion Week, who survive for eight days on air and take-out.) But Fashion Plate restaurants are open to all.

"The Lincoln Square community loves playing host to visitors from around the city and the world -- and our restaurants are always eager to offer special deals. Whether you have tickets to watch the runway shows,  Fashion Plate is a fun and tasty way to celebrate," noted Monica Blum, president of the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District, which has spearheaded this program since its inception.

Fashion Plate Prix Fixe is open to all (just get yourself a reservation first, so you can be assured you get into your favorite places) for lunch, dinner, and brunches during Fashion Week.  Some of New York City's newest hotspots, including Boulud Sud and The Leopard (in the old Café des Artistes spot) are participating. Many restaurants are offering outstanding menu options, such as Atlantic Grill's three-course prix-fixe lunch and dinner, for $24.07 and $35.00 respectively;  A Voce's $29.00 three-course prix fixe lunch. I wrote up A Voce's ice creams, sorbets, and gelatos this summer, after having had a wonderful meal there, so I can vouch for the cuisine -- top notch! 

Here is the complete list for the Fashion Plate participants:

A Voce

10 Columbus Circle, 3rd Floor

Time Warner Center

212.823.2523

www.avocerestaurant.com

Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch - $29.00

 

Atlantic Grill

49 West 64th Street just east of Broadway

212.787.4663

www.atlanticgrill.com 

Three Course Prix Fixe - Lunch - $24.07 | Dinner - $35.00 (Not available on Saturday or Sunday)
 

Bar Boulud

1900 Broadway between 63rd and 64th Streets

212.595.0303

www.barboulud.com 

Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch - $29.00

(Monday - Friday only)


Boulud Sud

20 West 64th Street between Broadway and Central Park West

212.595.1313 

www.bouludsud.com

Two Course Prix Fixe Lunch - $29.00 (Monday - Friday only)
 

Café Fiorello

1900 Broadway between 63rd & 64th Streets

212.595.5330 

www.cafefiorello.com 

"Fashionistas Piattro Quadro" Four Course Prix Fixe Lunch & Dessert - $25.00 (Monday - Friday Only)

Three Course Prix Fixe Dinner - $35.00

 

Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola and Great Performances

Time Warner Center, 5th Floor

Broadway at 60th Street

212.258.9595 

www.jalc.org/dccc

Three Course Prix Fixe Dinner - $36.00

Three Course Prix Fixe Dinner Plus Featured Cocktail - $42.00

 

Ed's Chowder House at the Empire Hotel

44 West 63rd Street between Broadway and Columbus Avenue

212.956.1288 

www.chinagrillmgt.com

Three Course Prix Fixe - Lunch - $24.00 | Dinner - $35.00 (excluding Saturday)

 

Gabriel's Bar & Restaurant

11 West 60th Street just west of Broadway

212.956.4600

www.gabrielsbarandrest.com 

Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch - $24.07 (closed Sunday)

 

Il Violino

180 Columbus Avenue at 68th Street

212.873.2500

www.ilviolinonyc.com 

Prix Fixe Lunch $19.00 | Dinner $35.00

 

Jalapeno

185 Columbus Avenue between 68th and 69th Streets

212.877.7800

www.jalapenonyc.com 

Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch - $20.11

 

The Leopard at des Artistes

1 West 67th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue

212.787.8767

www.theleopardnyc.com 

Special Prix Fixe Lunch and Weekend Brunch - $30.00

 

Lansky's

235 Columbus Avenue between 70th and 71st Streets

212.787.0400

www.lanskysnyc.com 

Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch - $20.11

 

Luce Restaurant & Enoteca

2014 Broadway between 68th and 69th Streets

212.724.1400

www.lucenyc.com 

Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch or Dinner - $35.99
 

Nick and Toni's Café

100 West 67th Street between Broadway and Columbus Avenue

212.496.4000

www.nickandtoniscafe.com 

Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch - $25.00

 

Picholine

35 West 64th Street between Broadway and Central Park West

212.724.8585

www.picholinenyc.com 

Three Course Prix Fixe Menu (5:00-6:30pm)- $78

Four Course Tasting Menu (6:30pm - Close) - $92

 

Porter House New York

10 Columbus Circle, 4th Floor

Time Warner Center

212.823.9500

www.porterhousenewyork.com 

Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch - $24.00

 

Rosa Mexicano

61 Columbus Avenue at 62nd Street

212.977.7700

www.rosamexicano.com 

Three Course Prix Fixe
Lunch - $24.07| Dinner - $35.00

(not valid on Saturday)

 

Sapphire Indian Cuisine

1845 Broadway between 60th and 61st Streets

212.245.4444 

www.sapphireny.com 

Lunch Buffet - $15.95

 

Shun Lee West

43 West 65th Street just east of Broadway

212.595.8895 

www.shunleewest.com

Prix Fixe lunch - $24.08

 

Sushi a-go-go

1900 Broadway between 63rd and 64th Streets

212.724.7340 

www.sushiagogonyc.om 

Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch - $20.11

 

Telepan

72 West 69th Street just east of Columbus Avenue

212.580.4300

www.telepan-ny.com 

Three Course Prix Fixe Lunch - $25.00 (Wednesday - Friday only)

Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2011 @ 12:13 PM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback

Browse: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry


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If you are enjoying the season's Jersey tomatoes along with mozzarella di bufala and basil fresh from the garden, not to mention if you're drooling over summer's seductive vegetables -- grilled to perfection -- and savoring aromatic bruschetta dripping with oil, then you definitely need to stock up on O & Co's amazing oils -- and vinegars, too.  This company is young (14 years), compared to the age of the trees in the vineyards from which it hand-selects and "edits" its olives (not to mention, its other raw ingredients), but in that time, it's risen to the top of the heap.

This Provence-based purveyor offers a wide selection of exquisite olive oils from Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Croatia, Morocco, and Portugal. Additionally, there are vinegars, tapenades and spreads, luxurious truffle products, sauces, pastas, seasonings, and sweets -- things like olive chutney with lemon; Morello cherry preserve; porcini mushroom cream with truffle; artichoke tournure; leek and acacia honey; and those amazing olive oils.

These are not your mother's olive oils, but perhaps we could say that they are your grandmother's, and her grandmother's. These are not for the faint of heart or faint of pocketbook -- some of the most prized retail in the neighborhood of $50, which is, in truth, the going rate for a fine olive oil product -- and in this instance, the product is more than worth the price.  "Delicious" doesn't do the oil justice. (Fear not there are also olive oil products in the $15 range.)

One product line worth singling out is the Rameaux D'Or Collection of fine olive oils, which are "guaranteed" to transform the average cook into a fine chef.  (It doesn't hurt that even the packaging is tempting.) Produced with the olives from a small jewel of an orchard, a stone's throw from Florence (and where the trees average 70 years of age), the oil is intense, grassy, and zesty, with a long finish. Harvested just about a year ago, the Galiga e Vetrice from this collection is $48 for 16.8 fl. oz. O & Co's best-selling olive oil is basil-infused, aptly named Huile d'Olive au Basilic, and it's prepared according to a 16th-century process.  The one liter can is $58, and the small 3.3. fl. oz can is $13. (Obviously, production is limited.)

Also worth pointing out are the balsamic vinegars, produced in limited editions, as well. The Gold Balsamic Vinegar from Modena is the perfect component to pair with the Galiga e Vetrice. This is made with the best quality grapes from Modena and Reggio Emilia. It's slowly refined in wooden casks, until it reaches that perfect balance between sweet and tart. It's almost sinful to put it in your salad dressing, as it's so flavorsome you might even want to drizzle it on ice cream.  There is also a fig balsamic, a white balsamic with oregano, and a cherry balsamic, among the many in the line.

And these products are all perfect for gift-giving -- welcome house presents, too, if you're going to be freeloading over Labor Day Weekend. You'll definitely be invited back if you bring one of O & Co's gorgeous gift sets!

Posted on Monday, August 22, 2011 @ 01:27 PM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

Browse: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry


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Austin Katz here, once again, for my annual doggie blog stint as guest canine scribe; I've given the boss two weeks off.

So, I want to tell you about a wonderful place to go to eat dinner, or lunch, or have snacks; I'd say, "or drinks," but I'm not human and I rarely meet friends for drinks (at least not the kind my mom wrote about last week). The name of the restaurant is San Rocco on West 24th Street, and it has a lovely outdoor dining area where I and my canine confrères are allowed to dine.

We get our very own menu with so many delicacies on it, I hardly know what to select. But then, I don’t have to make choices, as the nice people at San Rocco graciously bring me the whole shebang: Greenies, Mother Hubbard's savory treats, Happy Hips for my health and to tickle my taste buds... and way more. And the best part of it is that it's all free, except the delicious grilled chicken.

So, here's the deal about this restaurant: When Milan-based Rocco Arena, the CEO of the Arena Group in Italy, decided he wanted to open a restaurant in New York City, he prayed to Saint Rocco...and guess who answered him? The very same. So, Rocco named the restaurant for the saint (not himself), and while my favorite saint is Francis of Assisi (like that would be hard to guess), I have to think that this Rocco guy is pretty potent, 'cause Rocco got his restaurant. And we all got a terrific place for an afternoon aperitivo the Italian way -- meaning linger, sip, dine, and delight.

There are some very mouthwatering things for humans, too, on the menu here. When you're ready to eat, chef Alan Bravaccini (who has many stars to his name from his gastronomic efforts in London and elsewhere around the world) will tempt your palate with his extraordinary culinary skills. He is partial to pasta, but everything here is exceptional -- and is made in the traditional fashion, but with a slightly modern twist...so don’t expect the ordinary. Among the many offerings are calamari su crema di zucchini; filetto di ricciola; tagliolini all'astice, and for dessert, the Nutella cheesecake.

See you there.  I will be under the table, looking for scraps.

San Rocco, 39 W. 24 St., 212-255-4655.

Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2011 @ 03:05 PM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

Browse: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry


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These days -- especially these steamy days -- it seems every fourth e-mail I open has a cocktail menu: Suggestions for drinks to sip here or there or everywhere; drinks to savor at waterside cafes; drinks to sample at hot new restaurants; drinks on rooftop terraces; and on and on.  Today's e-mails had a long list of fun drinks to make, inspired from by the legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train. Last month, it was drinks galore in New York magazine, and a week before that it was a page of cocktails in The New York Times.

In the interest of research, I've pulled together a few drink suggestions (and dare I say I had to test-drive a few!) from the Barclay Bar at the InterContinental New York Barclay, where I had the not-unpleasant experience a month or so ago to nurse a Sidecar -- and it was just delicious. Then I discovered that the hotel is staging the "Decades Cocktail Hour," every night from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., when a series of ab-fab cocktails are a mere $8.00.

The Barclay Bar in NYC offers special drink nights

The 1920s is represented with that Sidecar (above), evocative of the Jazz Age -- and a very refreshing beverage, indeed. It's the Monday night special, along with the 1930s French 75. Tuesdays bring the 1940s and Bellinis, as well as the 1950s Harvey Wallbanger. The Vodka Martini reigns on Wednesday nights when the 1960s are feted; Thursday nights, it's the Caipirinha (I sure got a taste for this when I was in South America), representative of the 1970s. Friday night, the 1980s and the 1990s are celebrated with the Tequila Sunrise and the Cosmopolitan. (I remember the '90s and those Cosmopolitans!) 

Five original video installations will be displayed nightly, which will serve as kinetic portraits of each decade, showcasing the highlights of those particular eras. Drawing from troves of stunning archival footage, filmmaker Cary Kehayan has assembled unique and mesmeric love letters to a rich history of the century. For each period, there is a classic playlist, styled by an internationally known music consultant, Music Styling. The spirit of the decade will ring with authenticity.

Great summertime drinks include the Negroni

While you are it -- exploring nearly a century of interesting drinks -- there is one drink that you might want to make at home, that is not on the Barclay's hit list: the Negroni (above), an apéritif that is more or less one of Italy's signature cocktails, and  is named for Count Camillo Negroni. It is said -- apocryphally or as gospel -- that the Count asked his favorite barkeep to make his usual drink, the Americano, a little stronger, and the result was the Negroni. When created properly, the Negroni is made with equal parts of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. It's another great thirst-quencher for the season.

Cheers! Salute!

Posted on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 @ 05:29 PM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

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Two years ago when Lev Ekster was polishing his resume, anticipating graduation from New York Law School, he realized that the prospects for employment were, shall we say, on the grim side, even for an honors student like himself.  So, what would you do at least for the foreseeable year or so, if your law school thing looked like it was on shaky ground in an anemic job market?  Why, you'd look for something to do in the interim, something to keep you busy while the economy retooled.  The thing you'd light upon would be to start a mobile cupcake bakery-in a traveling truck.  Yeah, that's the obvious answer.

Ekster scouted out cupcakes, bakers, frostings, and filings (a dirty job, but somebody had to do it), not to mention, he scouted out trucks, too.  And ultimately he found a terrific, talented team of bakers and staff, all with impressive culinary training.  Within a year, the Cupcake Stop  had a thriving business and loyal followers.  And soon it had another peripatetic van, i.e., another "store"...and then a less mobile outpost in the Limelight's mini-mall....and NOW, it has an honest-to-goodness, bricks-and-mortar retail location.

But, for the bakery's 15,000 followers on Twitter, there's nothing like the "real deal," the cupcakes from the truck.  And even the menu has expanded.  Not content with the classic chocolates, vanillas, red velvets, and so on, Ekster's flavors (a few dozen of them) include savory and sweet things like French toast (and even French toast with bacon), cranberry cream, strawberry lemonade, and even apple pie a la mode. The menu has even been fattened up, to include flaky, buttery croissants; mini cheese cakes; brownies and blondies; and biscotti, among the tantalizing mix.

So, this year instead of getting the traditional box of chocolates for Valentine's Day to give to your sweetie, why not get a box of cupcakes?  The shop is at 70 Greenwich Street (just off Seventh Avenue), and the trucks' itineraries are posted on the Web site.  Tickle your palate with something wonderfully sweet and slightly different.  These are the tastiest cupcakes you'll ever eat and worth every calorie.

 

Posted on Wednesday, February 09, 2011 @ 01:55 PM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback

Browse: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry | Favorite Finds


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On my first trip to the United Kingdom, too many years ago to count, I remember shopping in the popular Waite Rose supermarket and buying Peek Frean biscuits because the packaging carried the intriguing and exotic Royal Warrant.  I had no idea then what a Royal Warrant was--and we sure didn't have them on package goods at my local Shop Rite.  The cello warp bore a coat of arms, or some such important-looking thing, along with the message that these biscuits or the biscuit-maker/bakery was "By appointment to Her Majesty the Queen."  And I thought, "Heck, that ought to mean something."

And indeed, it does.  These warrants do not come lightly; handpicked purveyors of goods and services are selectively granted the right to display that warrant, and it is usually bestowed by one of perhaps three people in the royal household.  I have since learned what a Royal Warrant is and since then have also made dozens of trips to London and other parts of England, Wales, and Scotland, and as a sort of fun game, am always on the lookout to see which master shoemaker, piano-builder, perfumer, or grocer is anointed with that privilege, accorded the honor to display and boast that Royal Warrant. 

One such warrant-holder is the chocolatier Charbonnel and Walker which happily for us has come stateside, with a shop on the eighth floor of Saks Fifth Avenue. And since it is holiday time, there are plenty of reasons to pick up some of the company's charming, round boxes of truffles (the newest flavor, Champagne, in the round pink boxes, is a SURE hit!), or one of the handsomely packaged Christmas hampers, as the Brits call them (we'd say gift baskets), for hostess presents, or to just indulge in a few bits of chocolate, for a little treat after a hard day of shopping.

The company was established in 1975, when Edward VII (then Prince of Wales), cajoled a certain Mme. Charbonnel to leave the French chocolatier Maison Boissier to join a Mr. Walker in London, where the two could ply their skills extraordinaire, and open a fine confectionery.  The original shop was housed on New Bond Street and it has, in essence, remained in that spot since--located today in the prestigious Royal Arcade on Old Bond Street, in the shadow of the original footprint.

Charbonnel and Walker has been known since that time for its fine handmade chocolates with a silky and flavorful courverture, sumptuous flavors, mouthwatering bonbons, and its beautiful packaging.  (The line has some charming boxes for upcoming Valentine's Day and the spring season...tiered trays that swivel in and out of stunning oval containers, bedecked in colorful, gay ribbons and so on.)  But, you don't buy chocolates for the packaging alone.  Charbonnel and Walker produces some truly fine products--chocolate sauces, rose and violet creams, chocolate bars, fancy truffles, delectable nibbles, and cocoas, among the extensive line.  The best thing is that there is a little café on Saks' eighth floor where you can sit down and rest during your holiday shopping marathon and savor some tasty hot chocolate or feast on to-slaver-for pastries.  And while you're resting, compile a list of the hostess gifts you need between now and the new year (include a few boxes of treats for yourself), and cross a few names off your shopping list, knowing you're giving the lucky recipients a universally beloved present.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, by appointment of Ruth and occasional substitute scribe, Austin Katz.

 

Posted on Wednesday, December 22, 2010 @ 03:23 PM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

Browse: Favorite Finds | Eat, Drink, and Be Merry


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Just in time for Cyber Monday, comes The Foundary, a flash-sale site, featuring high-end home furnishings--things like picture frames, luxurious doggie beds, beautiful leather journals, cookware and appliances, carpets and rugs, and even oddball services like LobsterGrams.  (If anyone is reading who wants to send me a birthday present, a LobsterGram is a really nice idea!  Along with the butler to do the cooking, serving, and tidying up.)

The site just launched, so it is leading with some really neat sales.  Founded by seasoned retailers who say they have combed the depths of the retail markets to find the best, the latest, the newest, and the neatest, so expect to nail some good deals here.  As with all flash-sale sites, the offerings are good for a few days only, and when the merchandise is depleted, that is the end of it.  Finito.  If you're a fan of other sale sites and follow the fashion sites--places like RueLaLa , Ideeli and Haute Look--then this site is for you.  Sale deals can be as much as 70% off retail.  Many sites, such as Gilt Group  ask that a "member" refer you to "get into the site," but the notion of membership is a sort of silly one, with just about all these sites:  No site is going to turn you away because a friend didn't refer you!

So, testing the waters of The Foundary, last week, I stocked up on Austin's doggie's Xmas gifts--for him and for him to give to his canine pals--with treats from the adorable Polka Dog Bakery, all exceptionally well-priced, nicely packaged, tasty (so far as I can tell, since Austin is the arbiter).  The Naughty and Nice cookies look adorable, too!  Coming up soon will be a sale on rival dog-stuff manufacturer, Harry Barker, and for the felines among you, Molly Meow will be on board with a sale soon, also.

Currently there are sales for snow globes, carpets-and just in time for Thanksgiving-fabulous cutlery and carving knives from Top Chef.  There have been sales from companies like Jura Capresso, featuring its ultra-luxe espresso/coffee/cappuccino makers (yeah, if that same person is reading, I could use one of these, too!), and it is not uncommon to find names like Dyson, Le Cruset, Nancy Koltes (linens to slaver over), and Riedel Crystal offering their upmarket brands at "good" prices.  Whether they are overstocks or returned orders from the likes of Gump's, who cares.  They are yours for the plucking.

Most sales start at 11 a.m. and last for three days, with the clock ticking on the side of the site...should the merchandise be exhausted sooner, then that is that, alas.  After traipsing around and exhausting yourself on Black Friday, it will really be a pleasure to sit and point and click on Cyber Monday.

 

Posted on Tuesday, November 23, 2010 @ 11:36 AM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

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City Shopping

For those among the horsey set, this week and last were among the biggest on the annual calendar of equine events: The World Equestrian Games are currently taking place in Lexington, Kentucky, arguably the most verdant city in the country. In addition to rolling hills and bourbon, horses reign here and hosting the Games is an honor that has heretofore never been bestowed upon an American City. Last weekend we enjoyed watching a few of the competitions on TV and would highly recommend this couch potato pastime...dressage, endurance, driving, jumping, reining, vaulting...it's all thrilling and heart-stopping to view. The only thing better than seeing it on the tube would be being there in person.

So, in an effort to get a little sniff of those Kentucky fields, we cracked open a special box of deliciously "deadly" Woodford Reserve bourbon balls (oooh-la-la!), poured a tiny shot of Pappy Van Winkle's Reserve Bourbon, and began to pore over a few beautiful books from the Bluegrass state.

First up is the Horse Lover's Guide to Kentucky (256 pages, $19.95, Eclipse Press) by Patti Nickell who provides the ultimate, essential tour of the horsey capital of the world. Nickell (O.K., in all fairness, we must admit that we personally know this esteemed travel writer...full disclosure complete) explores the cultural and historical importance of the horse to the commonwealth. She takes readers into the most famous farms of the state (and that is one tour you do not want to miss), explores historic racetracks, and delivers a virtual roadmap to the state -- she even includes wonderful places to dine and spend an overnight or two.

To further appreciate the Crayola colors of the state, John Carloftis' Beautiful Gardens of Kentucky (322 pages, $50.00, Canal Hose Publishers) is a coffee-table must. Carloftis is a prolific and sought-after landscape and garden designer, native Kentuckian, and the recipient of a garden-design award from the Museum of the City of New York. He divides his time between Kentucky and Gotham and has designed gardens for the likes of boldface names like Julianne Moore, Mike Myers, and Edward Norton, among others. His work has been featured in countless periodicals and he is the author of several other garden books.

In these pages are gardens galore -- manicured, English, rambling, tidy and trim, and wild and untamed. There are gardens embellished with shells, rocks, faux animals, statuary, gazebos, pergolas, and just about everything you can think of, maybe even a mercury ball or two. Savor the lush and florid florals as you turn the pages, rife with Technicolor photos of these vibrant landscapes that will take your breath away.

Lastly, if you don’t have those bourbon balls and that Pappy to delight in, you will most likely think you do when you amble through Keeneland Entertains (256 pages, $39.95, Keeneland Association/Eclipse Press), by Fran Taylor, the Executive Director of the Keeneland Foundation.  The Keeneland Association is uniquely positioned in the equine universe, as it is the global leader in both Thoroughbred horse auctions and racing; Keeneland oversees and stages world-class Thoroughbred horse-racing twice a year at its first-class horse park and race track.

This lavish book features -- nay (neigh, did you say?), truly venerates -- the other side of horse-racing. In these pages, it's not the sales and the race statistics that predominate, but rather, it's the graceful and lavish lifestyle that has grown up around the equine sports. Southern hospitality reigns (or dare we say reins?) here. From casual tailgate parties to black tie galas, Keeneland Entertains does not disappoint. There are tip lists, menus, recipes (for food and drink, of course), ideas for goody bags, inspiration for setting elegant and interesting tablescapes, lists of oft-forgotten, but necessary items, say, for a tailgate picnic (like jumper cables and a fire extinguisher), countless photos of real-life people at chic soirees and casual buffets, all enjoying the feasts and finery of the occasions. (And just as an aside, speaking of finery, but having nothing whatsoever to do with the book, Keeneland has a remarkable gift shop  -- vending all things horsey, including its own Hermès scarf design, honoring the Keeneland organization in glorious color and pattern.)

You'll relish every leaf of each of these three volumes and feel as if you’ve been transported to the Blue Grass.  Giddy-yap, giddy-yap.

Posted on Monday, October 04, 2010 @ 02:26 PM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

Browse: Fun Stuff | Eat, Drink, and Be Merry


City Shopping

 

 

It's got a really cute name, Bobble, to go with its really cute design, which is from the fertile pen and mind of that genius of modern everything, industrial designer Karim Rashid.  It's a stylish water bottle with a smart patented filter built into it, a filter that removes chlorine and organic contaminants from municipal tap water.  It more or less replicates the experience of drinking purchased, clean, bottled water.

 

And since we spend over $15 billion a year to buy water, it's sure going to save us all a little bit of moolah, not to mention space in landfills.  It's made from recycled plastic and is free of BPA and PVC...in other words, stuff you don't want your water bottle made of.  Given the heat waves we have been experiencing these past weeks, nobody, not even a camel, is likely to leave the house without toting a bottle of hydration.

 

The Bobble comes in a half dozen snappy colors - Kelly green, poppy red, lemon yellow, turquoise, magenta, and sedate black.  The carbon filter is good for about 40 gallons of water and it's suggested that it be replaced every two months or so; to clean it, soak in boiling water.  It sells for $9.95 and is available on line, and at Bed Bath & Beyond  and Barnes and Noble.

Posted on Tuesday, August 03, 2010 @ 04:47 PM | 0 replies Start the Discussion

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