Sunday, September 28, 2008

Happenings: The Musuem of Arts and Design Opens to the Public

The redesigned Museum of Arts and Design has finally opened on Columbus Circle. Admission was free yesterday and today from 10 to 6. As City Guy and I were in the neighborhood around 5 pm yesterday evening, we thought we'd try and stop in, but approaching the museum from the north, we could see there was a line snaked around the side of the building.When we asked the museum staff about the line, they told us the line was officially capped off and that we should come back at 10 am the next morning. No entry!What a scene! Here were some balloon insects entertaining the people in line and passersby. Kinda creepy but cool. The building is quite striking, with a concave front and these mother-of-pearl looking tiles on the facade. Yesterday, the building reflected the color of the overcast sky and its neighboring buildings. On the ground floor is the museum store, whose inventory anyone can see through the floor to ceiling glass windows. Lots of gorgeous home ware, like vases and tea sets and serving bowls, from what I could see. I'll have to keep this place in mind for buying gifts. Who knew how popular this opening would be? I had thought the buzz about the museum opening had been low, but I always forget how many culture fans are in this city, no matter how niche the event--not that a new museum opening is a niche event. I should have learned my lesson when I went to the MOMA the week it reopened a few years ago. It was not what a museum experience should be - people everywhere posing for pictures in front of paintings you're trying to appreciate. I think I'll pay the admissions fee and wait until the craziness dies down.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On My Mind: Fall's Schizo Weather

This Saturday, the 21st, was the official beginning of Fall. Like clockwork, the temperatures dropped into the 50's at night, girls have stopped wearing their summer dresses and open-toe shoes, it's getting dark at 5, and for the first time last week, I dug into my winter storage for sweaters and scarves.

Friday was freezing. Saturday was warm during the day but cold at night. Sunday was perfectly summery...people sitting out on sidewalks eating, playing chess...Yesterday was not that cold either. But these flip-flopping temperatures are enough to make me paranoid about catching a cold.

According to Accuweather's historical weather feature, the low temperatures have been in the 50's since Sept 17th (except for balmy Sunday night) but on Friday night, it was 52 degrees and on Saturday night, 51 degrees. And yes, I did feel the chill walking home from dinner!

It's not yet time to do the official closet switch over, as we do still have these 70-degree days in the forecast, but it's coming...maybe next weekend. I'll have to launder my pretty summer things one last time, take my dresses to the dry cleaner and do any mending before folding them away until next April or May. That's a New York thing too--limited closet space means only one season's wardrobe can be comfortably accommodated at one time--and I have a walk-in closet!

I will miss you, my summer wardrobe! If I still lived in LA, we wouldn't have to part. But we must make sacrifices to live in this city. At least, there are pretty winter coats and gloves to console me in your absence. Adieu!

Hunt For: The Perfect Winter Coat

If you count college, I have now spent nearly a decade of my life surviving Northeast winters. I come from the West originally, land of sunshine, so you can imagine how clueless I was about dressing for the cold when I was a freshman in college. My first winter coat was this ugly mustard yellow parka with down filling and a gray fur lining around the hood. It kept me warm but did nothing for me style wise.

Somewhere along the way I learned you don't have to look like Nanook the Eskimo to stay warm. My second major winter coat was a head to ankle black wool coat with a hood that fell down around the shoulders. Very warm. I thought it was a sexy coat at the time--picture Whitney Houston in the Bodyguard - but really I just looked like an Ewok.

Some Basic Tips
Anyhow, I learned a few things:
1. The coat doesn't have to come down to your ankles to keep you warm. That's what pants and tights are for.
2. It doesn't have to be bulky to keep you warm. That's what layers are for.
3. You don't need a hood. That's what hats and scarves are for.
3. It's not just for covering you up. It should make you feel stylish or attractive when you wear it so it should have so shape or flatter your figure. I hate those coats that make women look like wool columns with feet sticking out the bottom.
4. A coat is an investment - it's worth spending the extra money to get a good wool blend or lining that feels great against your skin.

This fall, one of my goals was to find another winter coat. So I scoured the Internet and stores around town for some finds. I'm not a slave to fashion, but I also wanted to find a coat that was fashion forward in some ways...not just like every other boring coat.

When To Start Looking
The fall lines start coming in in August, so by now, the hottest coats are sold out or near sold out, but the department store coat sections are still well-stocked. If you wait until December, the selections will be decimated and only gigantic sizes remaining....but truth be told, the first winter I moved back to NYC, I made the mistake of waiting until November to look for a coat, and I did manage to find one I there's hope.

Where to Look and How Much
Department stores are a good one-stop shop for coats. Bloomingdales has some good staples -like Burberry, Cole Haan, Searle, and the great Canadian brands, Soia & Kyo and Mackage. The good coats are around $800-1000. Saks has a great selection too. That's where I bought my last two coats.

If you have a couple thousand to spend, you could go to Bergdorf's or any of the designer boutiques. Rick Owens, Jill Sander, Aquasqutum (pictured above) and Stella McCartney had some great coats this season, but priced at $1600-$3000, they were more than I wanted to spend.

On Sunday, walking around Soho, I noticed stores like Anthropologie and other small boutiques, like Ina or Purdy Girl had cute coats in the $300-$500 range.

Certain brands are known for their coats, so it can also be easier to go straight to the source: Searle and Burberry have stores in town with really extensive selections.

I have done the thing where I buy a coat for under $200 and I like it for maybe a couple months - but then the stiffness of the material or the trendiness or the lack of warmth - something makes it so I don't wear it for more than one season. But if that's what you need, there are coats galore at BR, Club Monaco, etc....

Use the Power of the Internet

Traipsing around town for a coat is exhausting. But now that we have the Internet, you can do a lot of your homework beforehand. I created a "lookbook" of jpgs of coats from different designer and shopping sites to get a sense of the silhouettes and styles I was most attracted to.

So Did I Find It?
Yes! I found my perfect coat at Nanette Lepore--feminine, unique, classic, yet girly. It was my first choice among "lookbook" images, so all I had to do was go in and try it on. Luckily, they still had one coat left in my size. The entire transaction from the time entered the store to payment took maybe 5 minutes. Yay! I'm glad this hunt was more successful than my hunt for a lamp...

Hunt For: The Perfect Lamp

One of the greatest benefits of living in NYC is knowing that if you look hard enough, you'll find the perfect [whatever it is you're looking for]. This past week, that item was a lamp. More specifically, a light that:
  • Could light an entire room - so at least 200 watts of light
  • Look good doing it (i.e., well-designed, contemporary, modern, clean lines)
  • Wouldn't break the bank - less than $1000
Where to Look and How Much?
I did a lot of online research. The following sites seem to be the most reputable among the designer lighting companies:
I also looked online at:
I went to the following stores, which my research on Apartment Therapy informed me had the best selection:
  • Lee's Studio (photo above)-- great selection and helpful staff
  • Lightforms (in Chelsea)--the guy working there on Saturday was really rude
And because I was in the neighborhood, I also stopped at:
  • Home Depot--no fancy designer lamps here
  • West Elm--knock offs of designer lamps, but nothing I'd want in my home
I called these other reputable NYC lighting stores:
I meant to go to the following but didn't make it:
The lamps I liked were quite expensive - around $600 and up for one 100-watt floor lamp, and I would need two to provide 200 watts - that puts me at $1200! Halogens top out at 250-300 watts and are pretty ugly, but there was one I liked--an Estiluz 300-watt halogen--only problem - it's $800!

At first, I looked only at floor lamps, but I started thinking of getting a table lamp instead b/c they're cheaper. I had my eye on one that looked good online -- the George Kovacs Mercury Table Lamp (Ball) and called around town to see if I could see it in person. But no one in NYC had this particular lamp on display. The nice guy at The Lighting Center actually told me to try Home Depot b/c they were one of the largest Kovacs dealers in the city. So I went to Home Depot. Boy am I glad I saw it in person b/c it was much larger and uglier in person.

BTW, prices for the Kovacs lamp were as follows:
  • - $149.90
  • - $132.44 (but I hear they have bad customer service)
  • All Modern Lighting - $138.60
  • Lee's Studio - $149.90
  • Home Depot - $168.00
  • Lighting Center - $154.00
So Lee's Studio had the best prices in town, but it pays to call around, as different companies have different negotiated discounts with different manufacturers. Can you believe the price Home Depot was charging?! If the lamp were good-looking in person, I would have ordered from Lee's for the peace of mind even though online vendors Bellacor and All Modern Lighting quoted cheaper prices.

So Did I find it?
Anyhow, I haven't found the perfect lamp yet. So far, the lamps I like are more than I want to spend and have less wattage than I'd prefer, and with the economy being what it is, I'm beginning to question the wisdom of spending a thousand dollars on lighting. I do have my eye on a few lamps at Gracious Home, so there's still hope. If that doesn't work out, I might have to break down and buy one of those $20 Staples torchieres. Don't worry - we're not sitting in the dark, though it's dimmer here at night than it used to be.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Great Find: Perry Street

I love Jean Georges Vongerichten. He's my favorite celebrity chef and my lunch today at Perry Street confirms for me yet again that he is a culinary genius. I had a bit of a hard time finding the place. It's called Perry Street, but the entrance to the restaurant is actually on West Street, not Perry Street, in the 176 Perry Street building designed by Richard Meier, so if you don't notice the etching on the glass door you may miss it. But what's new? I always get lost in the West Village.

My friend from LA and I were the first ones for a noon reservation. The space is gorgeous--minimalist, open, relaxed and luxurious. I loved the wooden tables and white leather chairs and banquettes. A great combination. The restaurant was designed by Thomas Juul-Hansen, who reportedly designed Jean-Georges' own home. With the $24 prix-fixe lunch you get to pick any two items off the menu and you get dessert. That's a great deal for a three-course lunch at a place like Perry Street!

We started off with an amuse bouche of strawberry soup with cucumber foam--so refreshing! I had the cream of tomato soup, which came with this lovely chili sauce and a slice of sourdough with fresh cheddar and basil sprinkled on top, and the roasted chicken sandwich with avocado and chipotle-lime mayo. I don't usually go for chicken sandwiches at five-star restaurants, but the server recommended it, so I took a chance. It was so delicious. The chicken had a little bit of skin on it, preserving its juiciness, and the sauce and the avocado and lettuce were a perfect compliment. My friend had the sauteed shrimp and crab salad--both very tasty from the bites I had. For dessert, we both had the molten chocolate cake--didn't blow my mind, but done well nonetheless.

The meal made us happy. The space made us happy. We lingered for a couple hours, could actually hear each other talking, and didn't feel rushed. And being all the way out there on the Westside Highway made it feel like we weren't in NYC at all...which sometimes can be a good thing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Great Find: Sasabune

One of my favorite restaurants in LA was Sasabune. Any in-the-know Angeleno knows that Sasabune's hand-picked daily fish selection, the "trust me" chef's omakase, the heavenly combination of fish on a warm bed of rice, the no california rolls rule, the perfect sauces and garnishes and homemade soy sauce equals unrivaled sushi pleasure.

This little Upper East side gem flies under the radar--perhaps b/c it's located way east on 1st Avenue or because there's no celebrity chef draw (I've eaten at Morimoto and Nobu and still think Sasabune is better)--and has been open since the end of 2006. It's a shame it took me this long to eat here, but I'm glad I finally did. What an amazing meal.

Happenings: MotorExpo at World Financial Center

I like auto shows, but sometimes I wish I could clear away the soccer mom vehicles and budget compacts and just bask in the presence of the luxury vehicles. I guess other people felt this way too b/c the MotorExpo is just that: an auto show with only luxury brands, like Mercedes, Jaguar, Audi, Bentley, and Maserati. On Sunday night, City Guy and I stumbled upon the show the night before it opened. It's open until Friday, if you want to see these babies up close. One thing I want to know is how they get all these cars up to the second floor?

Audi:Aston Martin:

This NY Moment: Lehman Brothers Bankrupt

On my way to dinner last night, I passed the Lehman Brothers building in midtown. The entire street opposite the building was lined with media truck and bystanders snapping pictures with their cell phones and mourning the loss of one of this country's oldest banks. It actually felt like walking through a scene of an accident. When you look at this massive, modern building, it's hard not to think about how the mighty have fallen.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Great Find: Gotham Magazine

I have no idea why I get Gotham Magazine mailed to me every month. I don't recall subscribing (it's $70 a year!), but I have noticed a lot of Gotham Magazines in our mail room, so maybe it's a zip code thing--is 10006 a posh zip? It's certainly no 10013 (Tribeca) which Gotham Magazine spotlight's this month in it's Cracking the Code column, but hey, I'm not complaining.

Anyhow, in the past, I flipped through the many pages of society photos and quickly threw the magazine into the recycling bin, but today, for some reason, something clicked. I devoured this month's issue from cover-to-cover in one sitting.

Here are some highlights:
  • the annual Gotham 100 best dressed list--filled with fashion editors, society moms, actors, music moguls, and designers
  • interviews with Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl gives me the same fashion-candy high that Sex and the City once did--love that show!) and Rachel Zoe, whose new reality show I love
  • some cool NY people & places that were new to me: Eleanor Ylvisaker of Ernest Sewn (jeans), R&Y Augousti (home design & handbags), Archivia Books (art books), Argosy Books (rare books), Hudson River Park tennis courts, Ililii (Mediterranean restaurant) and Jeffrey NY (according to NY Mag, a cooler version of Bergdorf's)
  • comparison chart of the best in NYC chocolate: Chocolate Bar, Cafe Charbonnel, Jacques Torres, La Maison du Chocolat and another article on the benefits of chocolate with high cocoa content (look for cocoa from Columbia, Ecuador, & Venezuela)
  • events to take note of: Bicycle for a Day is September 20, the new Museum of Arts & Design at Columbus Circle is opening September 27, and Japan C, an 11-week exhibition of all things Japanese is ongoing
And I'm just sharing half the things I jotted down for future reference! Has the editorial gotten better? Or is it just the Fall Fashion issue? We'll see what's October's issue looks like, but this one was a real pleasure to read. Life in NYC seems so much cooler when you're seeing it through the eyes of the Gotham editors.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On My Mind: 9-11 Seven Years Later

Coming home tonight, this is the view I saw.A nice crowd--among them quite a number of photographers with tripods--was milling about in the pedestrian mall outside the Rector Street 1-line stop, admiring the lights, which for me, have been a yearly treat since

It's hard for me to believe it's been seven years since the towers came down, just as it's hard for me to believe it's been five years since I moved here. On my first trip to New York in 1994, I remember being captivated by the beauty of the those buildings. I still look at pictures of the twin towers from that trip and can't believe I was lucky enough to have seen them with my own eyes. What's so very moving about these memorial lights is that, in a way, they're just as majestic and imposing as the Twin Towers were.

In that majesty, even someone like me, who wasn't in NYC on September 11, 2001 to observe the streets and the business suits coated in ashes herself, can understand what an grand act of destruction occurred that day. Those who attacked us must have felt the same sense of majesty I had felt, a sense of majesty that perhaps extended to New York City at large, and at the same time they were moved by it's beauty, they wanted to destroy it, like a sad miserable outcast child seeks to destroy some other kid's shiny new toy.

I think about City Guy, who lived here, within blocks of the Twin Towers, and could not go home for weeks afterward because the fall of the Towers had knocked out the electricity in the area and the air was so filled with particulate matter that the government was afraid for people's health.

Then, after they let residents return to the area, people like City Guy lived for years amidst health warnings and the financial devastation of the Financial District. Five years ago, businesses left standing after the attack were closing, people were moving, and at night, the streets were empty. Those who stayed behind were living in a ghost town.

But the amazing thing is people like City Guy loved this city so much they hung on. People like City Guy stuck around and rebuilt the area and now, it's thriving again. No one could have predicted FiDi would become a place where so many young couples would think to raise their families. Today, there are strollers and toddlers everywhere. Schools have had to start waiting lists.

Today, I guess it finally dawned on me why it would be hard for City Guy to say good-bye to this city. Whenever I talk about how much I hate New York or miss LA, City Guy is thinking about how much he loves this city, how much he's been through with this City. I really get that now.

People eventually came back. And others, like me, moved to New York City, even when people back home asked "Aren't you worried about another terrorist attack?" because this is where you live out your dreams.

This City never let fear get the best of it, and when I see the rest of the country--people living in States and cities that have never even been to New York--use 9-11 as an excuse for their fearmongering and war cries, I get very sad. More killing, more death is not in the spirit of 9-11. And certainly not in the spirit of the heroic firefighters, police officers and rescue workers who perished that day. They were New Yorkers, and they were fearless, and I find great inspiration and hope in knowing that.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Stuff I've Learned: It's worth your while to be "Fashion Week"-literate

We're five days into the Fashion Week, my friends, and yet again, I find myself obsessing over clothes I cannot afford. Like this amazing ruffled gown in today's Carolina Herrera collection! Oh, the beauty! And the pain!

Why do I spend hours on or NYT or WWD flipping through slide after slide? I'm not one of these girls who lives and breathe fashion, who can rattle off the names of the hottest designers and provide critiques of their past four collections (if that many had been had) without blinking an eye, who'd rather forego food and utilities than a pair of Louboutin short, someone who actually gets invited to Fashion Week! So why is it that twice a year, I can't help but get a little crazy?

The thing is I, like many New Yorkers, didn't give a crap for many years. So what changed? A combination of circumstances:
  1. I stopped being a grad student and started earning money, which meant I could afford to buy some of the clothes, or at least the clothes inspired by the clothes, I see in Fashion Week. And when you're in the work force, dressing well is an easy way to communicate that you're a> conscientious, b> someone who's got it together. And let's face it, when someone comes to work in a beautiful outfit, you can't help but pay attention to said person, even if you're crazy jealous.
  2. As a continuation of point #1, I know it's a cliche, but in this town (more so than LA), people care more about what you wear. There's no hiding in your car! In NYC, from the moment you step out of your apartment, you're on display, and that means hundreds of times a day people are sizing you up, just based on your appearance. Sound unfair? Tough! It's NY. So, you can either be one of those people who learns not to care (good for you--you're more well-adjusted than most), or you can start thinking more seriously about what you're putting on in the morning...or the evening.
  3. Even if you can't afford Gucci & Prada, the fact is with the fashion industry being as diverse as it is today (read: H&M, UniQlo and Target on the low end all the way up through Club Monaco & BR, department store labels and beyond) come Spring 2009, you WILL find something in your price range that meets standards of fashion as defined by this week's Fashion Week. So you should do your homework. This doesn't mean you should be slavishly devoted to trends; just informed.
  4. It's darn fun. This is art, people, and it's just like us New Yorkers to embrace any form it's in, whether silk, satin, cotton, leather, feathered or fur. In fact, don't just stop with New York. The party continues to Europe! Miss Fashion, in fact, favors Paris and Milan's fashion weeks.
  5. Some people are turned off by the pieces that seem impractical--the "I would never wear that" phenomenon. But one thing to realize is what looks "crazy" this year is often what the general public is wearing a couple years out. Also, designers aren't stupid- they know their customers probably won't buy their most outlandish outfits--not even the Richie Nicole Ritchies. They tone down their runway pieces for retail production, so don't let that stop you from appreciating their art.
  6. And finally, after a while, with your sense of fashion honed through successive fashion weeks, chances are you'll make styling choices that will help you "pass" more easily for a New Yorker.
All this is just my way of saying fashion's one of this cities greatest pleasures, so don't be intimidated. Whatever her financial circumstances, a girl can dream.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Things I Love About New York: Parisian Sweets

This week was filled with unexpected Parisian treats, to my delight. Earlier in the week, I met a friend, let's call him Freelancing Fella, at Georgia's Bake Shop on Broadway between 89th and 90th and had a wonderful "Parisian" breakfast of cappuccino and a cheese danish. Freelancing Fella had a chocolate brioche, which looked so amazing I'll definitely have to go back and try it. Wish I took pictures!

The restaurant has outdoor seating in the summer (and a nice amount of seating inside) and has a great neighborhood feel--appropriately Parisian, I guess. Apparently, Tuesday was the first day back to school for some schools, b/c there were a bunch of UWS housewives buzzing about their chickadees.
Saturday, Miss Fashion and I indulged our sweet tooths...first with brunch at Sarabeth's at the Whitney. We had no wait! Can you believe it? The full Sarabeth's menu for no wait! Those of you who have tried the other two locations of Sarabeth's know how long the wait is for brunch--at least an hour on weekends. But here, you just tell the museum guards that you're going to the restaurant and they let you down the stairs to where the restaurant is located, and b/c it's sort of "hidden" in the basement of the museum, it's managed to fly under the radar of the brunch hordes.Miss Fashion had the pumpkin waffles b/c she goes weak in the knees for anything pumpkin: And I had their famous lemon ricotta pancakes--so lemony, moist and delicious!After some shopping on Madison Avenue, we escaped the rain by going to the UES location of Le Maison du Chocolate. This location, unlike the Rock Center location, has a large cafe space in the back. Check out the selection. I hear their macarons are shipped fresh from Paris:Hot chocolate hit the spot during the storm...Miss Fashion had her favorite, the marzipan & pistachio log, which she seemed to savor forkful by forkful. Between bites, she kept mumbling something about the amazing texture : )...and how thrilled was I with my caramel macaron with chocolate filling. It was perfectly chewy and moist in the middle - so good!:Then, today, on the way home from a class at the Institute of Culinary Education, I finally stopped into Madeleine Patisserie on 23rd between 6th and 7th Ave, whose macaron fame earned them a place on my "must visit" list a while back. Walking in, I was curious --how would their macarons stack up against the one I had the day before at Le Maison? They did not disappoint! I brought home their Fleur del sel Caramel, Chocolate, Lavender and Rose flavors for City Guy and I. Here are some pictures of their dozens of macaron flavors. So good!!! Exactly what I look for in a macaron--fresh, crisp meringue on outside, not crumbly, then chewy with a good spread of moist ganache. For $2 a piece, they're cheaper than the Le Maison ones and bigger too. Even better than the macarons at Financier, I think. Aren't they pretty? So let's just say I've been a little obsessed with macarons since my trip to Laduree in Paris. But now that I have Madeleine & Le Maison, I pine no more! Signing off now...still on a sugar high...

Great Find: Michael's Consignment Closet

I braved the storm on Saturday......and followed Miss Fashion to Michael's Consignment Closet on Madison between 79th & 80th. I usually don't have the patience to dig and find the gems at secondhand stores, but this one was so much fun. It's the perfect size - only two small floors, and every item in the store is hand-selected by the staff for their designer pedigree and style. Prada, , D&G, Stella Mccartney, Pucci, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, DVF, Burberry, Marni, Dries vanNorten...the list goes on. There are clothes, shoes, hats, even bridal gowns, and they're all "gently used" so you don't feel like you're shopping at Goodwill. It's actually like going through some Upper East Side girl's amazing closet. There are a ton of Chanel suits--I guess from all the rich old ladies who live up the block! But really, the stuff at Michael's is really fashionable.

Some of the items are only one or two seasons old and they cost a fraction of their original price, so if you're a fashionista on a budget, you're going to love this place. Cool, huh? Only in NY would you have enough fashionistas cleaning out their closet to keep a store like this stocked...although Miss Fashion swears she's not ready to part with any of her treasures.