Saturday, December 21, 2013

New Year's Eve in NYC: Where to Book Your Table

In no particular order, here are nine varied NYC New Year’s Eve experiences -- from uptown to midtown to downtown -- that appeal to me. Some are intimate and small, others more formal, Michelin-starred, and a bit bigger. And, for variety, there are a couple of swank hipster dining and drinking venues. Make your reservations now!

Nick &Toni's Cafe: For something cozy and a bit more down-to-earth, the Manhattan outpost of the Hamptons favorite will offer festive a la carte specials in addition to the regular seasonal menu. Starting with an amuse bouche of deviled quail egg with caviar, the special menu features grilled quail with greenmarket pumpkin agrodulce, grilled veal chop with braised cavolo nero, and a New Year’s Champagne mousse tart with Valrhona pearls and blood orange. 100 West 67th Street, (212) 496-4000

Mulberry Project: This New Year's Eve, Mulberry Project is having a blowout bash with a variety of party options. Celebrate from 9pm-2am with a $65 open bar or class it up and opt for the $85 open Champagne bar. The team at Mulberry Project has also crafted a delicious prix fixe dinner menu featuring pork tenderloin, crispy calamari, fried Brussels sprouts and their special Mulberry mac and cheese for just $45. Table reservations require the purchase of the prix fixe dinner and drink package ($110-$130). Drink and dance into the wee hours, as DJ Justin Dean spins the latest hits all night long. 149 Mulberry Street, (646) 448-4536

Hecho en Dumbo: Brooklyn’s pop-up Mexican restaurant, now located in Manhattan, will feature an unlimited antojitos (“little whims”) dinner with a variety of toppings on house-made corn tortillas, sopes, and tostadas. Along with a Champagne toast at midnight, guests will enjoy mariachi bands and DJ sets from Heroes of the Galeon Trade starting at 10pm. Two price options are featured: dinner for $75 per person, or dinner inclusive of a premium open bar for $175. 354 Bowery, 212-243-7073

Juni: Chef Shaun Hergatt invites you spend New Year’s Eve at his recently opened fine-dining restaurant, Juni, with a five-course tasting menu for $165. A wine pairing option is available for an additional $75. Menu highlights include foie gras with citrus glaze and pain d’epices as well as oxtail with sunchoke and black spice. For the first seating, guests can reserve a table between 5:30-6:45pm which includes your choice of a specialty cocktail. For the second seating, between 9pm and 10pm, guests receive a Champagne toast at midnight. All diners receive a small parting gift bag. Dress code is cocktail attire or optional black tie. 12 East 31st Street, 212-995-8599

Lincoln Ristorante: Chef Johnathan Benno’s lauded Italian restaurant at Lincoln Center offers a special $95 “Buona Fine e Buon Inizio” (good order and good start) prix fixe menu for New Year’s Eve. Both white and black truffles are included in dishes such as Tajarin con Tartufo Bianco: tajarin pasta, chicken sugo, castelmagno cheese, and Alba white truffle; and Capesante e Cotechino: scallop, spiced Umbrian pork sausage, lentils, and black truffle. At the end of the night, guests will greet the New Year with a special Franciacorta toast. 142 West 65th Street, (212) 359-6500

Smorgas Chef West Village:  The restaurant’s annual New Year’s Eve dinner is a double occasion this year, as it is also Smorgas Chef’s 10th anniversary. Get ready with your party hat: you can expect a few surprises.  The first seating at 6pm includes a three-course dinner and a welcome glass of Champagne for $65. The second seating at 8:30pm includes a four-course dinner, a Champagne toast, party favors and the ball dropping screening for $110. 283 West 12th Street, (212) 243-7073

Oceana: The Michelin-starred seafood restaurant will be serving a full a la carte dinner menu as well as Executive Chef Ben Pollinger’s New Year’s Eve specials from 5-11pm. Highlights include East Coast oysters with black truffle Gla├žage; Hawaiian walu sashimi with Satsuma mandarins, Thai basil sauce, and coriander; seared turbot and poached lobster with sauce Americaine and asparagus; and seared sturgeon with caviar sauce and roast cauliflower in an herb emulsion. 120 West 49th Street, (212) 759-5941

Beauty and Essex: The ultra-creative "small plates" mecca will be hosting two seatings on December 31.  The regular a la carte menu will be served for parties seated prior to 9pm, perfect for those who wish to ring in the New Year elsewhere. Guests seated beginning at 9pm will be offered a family-style meal for $140 per person and a complimentary Champagne toast at midnight.  The dress code for the evening is "festival" black tie with cocktail attire the look for woman and suit and tie required for men. Rumor has it that a DJ will help you enjoy your party favors even more here. 146 Essex Street, (212) 614-0146

Hospoda: New Year’s Eve marks a very special occasion for Hospoda, the New American beer-Inspired restaurant on the Upper East Side: it’s also Executive Chef Rene Stein’s birthday and the beginning of the restaurant’s third anniversary. To celebrate these milestones while ringing in 2014, Hospoda will display culinary artistry at its finest, offering a 14-course tasting menu that allows guests to experience each of the four seasons through sight, sound, smell and taste; beverage pairings for each course will also invoke the four seasons. Chef Stein will devote a major portion of the evening to preparing courses in front of the diners, transforming a section of the dining room into an interactive kitchen set.  Only 40 seats for the $200 prix fixe event are available. 321 East 73rd Street, 212-861-1038

Friday, December 20, 2013

Snapshots of New York City's 2013 Holiday Windows: Now through January 6 (Some End Earlier)

It’s well-known that Manhattan’s department store windows shine when it comes to creativity and glitz for Christmas. Here’s a list of what the big deals are this year. 
Barneys New York – Certainly the wildest of the windows, with a behind-the-curtains video fairyland, light shows, live models, and an interactive window-video game set, Barneys in collaboration with Jay Z have outdone themselves.  Through January 3. 660 Madison Avenue at 61st Street.

Henri Bendel – If you love illustrator Al Hirschfeld, you’ll love Henri Bendel's windows on display through January 2.  All the classic celebs are there: look for Liza Minnelli, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Carol Channing among others. 712 Fifth Ave., btw 55th and 56th sts.

Bergdorf Goodman – Save this one for last as the breakdown date is January 6.  Bergdorf’s doesn’t disappoint with its always-glam windows, this year’s showing the holidays of the year, done up in icy and fashionable renditions.  754 Fifth Ave., btw 57th and 58th sts.

Bloomingdales – Catch this one soon, as it ends on New Year’s Day. Bloomie’s windows depict shopping around the globe, with music from each country along with recognizable icons.  1000 Third Avenue at 59th Street.


Lord & Taylor – Ending even sooner and the soonest of all of the displays, on December 29, Lord & Taylor's holiday windows remain the most traditional with scenes from vintage New York City.  424 Fifth Avenue, btw 38th and 39th sts.
Lord and Taylor

Macy's – The story of a boy’s dreams on Christmas Eve, Macy's windows also feature an interactive display where you create the movement in the background and break icicles.  151 W. 34th St., at Seventh Avenue. Ends January 2.

Saks Fifth AvenueThrough January 2, enjoy the 3-D light show on the Saks Fifth Avenue building as well as the story of the SFA Yeti, a fluffy white creature that creates holiday snow for delighted New Yorkers.  611 Fifth Ave., btw 51st and 52nd sts.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pack Smart with this Doctor-in-a-Bag


As I pack for my next out-of-the-country trip, I find myself spending considerable time trying to anticipate every medical item I would need should I be stuck on a desert island with no access to doctors, food, or a phone. I just discovered something that can help make your travels easier, and you can keep it stocked year-round with all your possible first-aid needs.  For the low price of $14.99 (for the women’s version) or $11.99 (for men), you can get a set of zippered bags, with appropriate labels to help you organize and find everything you need. Each bag also includes a list of what's most important to pack for "women's needs," "teeth, throat, ears, eyes, nose," "bites, stings, rashes," and "tummy troubles." Restock each one as necessary, and throw them in your suitcase. Think of this Doc-in-a-Bag as a stuff sack for medications.  

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Lights and Cannoli Tour: Brooklyn's Finest Lights Display

Christmas Lights and Cannoli tour
I wanted to share one of my favorite holiday happenings around New York -- this one's actually in Brooklyn. You have to check out Tony Muia's Christmas Lights and Cannoli tour, a 3 1/2 hour experience that takes you to Dyker Heights, the Italian-American section of Brooklyn, affectionately known as
Christmas Lights and Cannoli Tour
“Dyker Lights” every December. Here you’ll see over-the-top Christmas decorations that even a department store holiday-window “dresser” couldn’t imagine. Think 15-foot-tall animated Santa’s, animatronic figures, life-sized Nativity Scenes and millions of lights. And the cannoli part? You can’t go to Brooklyn without a stop at an authentic neighborhood pastry shop for dessert and hot chocolate. You’ll even be entertained on the bus with a multimedia presentation of vintage Christmas variety specials with Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and more.  Three or four busses leave nightly through December 31 (excluding December 24 and 25) from Union Square.  For more information,

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Miami Weekend with Art Basel

Were you wondering what to get your hard-to-buy-for family members and friends for the holidays? You'll have lots of choices of innovative, sometimes shocking, and distinctive pieces from the international offerings at the 2013 edition of Art Basel, now happening in Miami through December 8. It's not too late to grab a flight and spend the weekend perusing and shopping at one of the most exciting art shows in the world.

Art Basel 2013
You can plan your breaks on beautiful Miami Beach on a beach towel or at a table at Big Pink on Collins Avenue and watch the stream of visitors, enjoy dining experiences that range from stone crabs at Joe's to innovative, South American and Asian influenced creations by Chef Todd Erickson at Haven, or Andrew Carmellini's Miami Beach outpost of his successful NYC restaurant, The Dutch. Or go strictly local and head to Calle Ocho for a Cuban sandwich that puts the ones in Havana to shame.

Architecture and design fans will love walking along South Beach in the Art Deco capital of the country -- start at the Art Deco Welcome Center at 10th Street and Ocean Drive and take the Miami Design Preservation League's Art Deco Walking Tour, it's well worth it.

While rooms are harder to score during this time, consider staying over on Brickell Key at the gorgeous Mandarin Oriental. With its wonderful service, spectacular views across the water, indulgent spa, oasis beach club, and lovely Azul restaurant, it'll give you some serenity time away from South Beach and the crowds at Art Basel.

For more information about Art Basel,

Here are some of the more unusual art pieces that you'll see.

Art Basel 2013

Art Basel 2013

Art Basel 2013
Art Basel 2013