Monthly Archives: February 2009

Married at the top of the Empire State Building

If you’ve ever seen “An Affair to Remember” or “Sleepless in Seattle” you are aware of the romantic notion of meeting at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. I, on the other hand, have only gone to the top of the Empire State Building once in my life and that was for a chorus trip to NYC in high school. I have never braved the lines or the weather to attempt it again. I am not one of those people who are afraid of hieghts, but I just don’t find myself doing many touristy things since I’ve been living in NYC for six years now. I actually avoid tourist areas like the plague. However, I do love the thought after seeing the romantic versions play out in the movies. A woman and a man whose love has been lost planning to find one another at 1,050 feet up. It is romantic – if you don’t get hit by a car on your way there (“An Affair to Remember”).

You can make it even more romantic and get MARRIED! The Empire State Building and are going to choose a lucky couple to get married at the top on Valentine’s Day! Couples can submit their applications here:

Pretty romantic and special…I still wouldn’t choose to fight the elements at that altitude…especially on my wedding day!

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The John Dory

The John Dory just got 2 stars from Frank Bruni. Maybe Frank should have awarded it 2 star fish instead as everything in this new restaurant screams “ocean-theme!”

April Bloomfield has created an ocean oasis much like she created a bar oasis in the Spotted Pig. The seafood at The John Dory is far from snobby – this is real seafood done the way you want it without thinking “seafood, table linens, expensive check!”

On West 16th Street and 10th Avenue, The John Dory is bringing the fare of the sea to the Meatpacking District. The small technicolor room is covered with playful seafood-shack memorabilia including giant mirrors framed with shells, nautical charts, trophy-size fish and enough colors to make you feel like you’ve just entered the yellow submarine. The open kitchen is separated from the dining room by a clear plastic bar filled with fishing lures. Dated rock-and-roll anthems blare over the speaker system just like the Spotted Pig. The full aquarium puts an aquatic glow throughout the entire restaurant.

This may not be the place to go if you’re looking to gently eat your de-shelled lobster with a fish fork. This place calls for seafood lovers who are looking for a good time in the ambiance of the deep blue sea!

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Valentine’s Day – romantic NYC restaurants

Trying to figure out where to dine for Valentine’s Day? One of these places is sure to please you and your special someone – enjoy candlelight, crackling fires, breathtaking views, and even romantic music. If you don’t have someone special to dine with, gather your single friends and go out and celebrate your singlehood! No one should be robbed of the opportunity to try some great pre-fix menus and experience fabulous service!

1. One if by Land, Two if by Sea:
Tucked away in a historic 18th-century carriage house in the West Village, this romantic restaurant has been the setting for countless cozy dinners since it opened in 1972. The crackling fireplace and the tinkling baby grand piano create a stunning scene for impressing your date.

2. Aureole:

Enjoy romance and award-winning cuisine at Aureole, a charming restaurant located in a brownstone on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The food is spectacular and the atmosphere is enchanting. A special “aphrodisiac tasting menu” is offered for Valentine’s Day.

3. The River Cafe: At The River Cafe, the breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline sets the romantic mood. Add delicious food and plenty of ambiance and you’ve got the perfect spot for a little canoodling. It’s well worth a trip to Brooklyn.

4. Daniel: For a special occasion to remember, it’s hard to go wrong at Daniel. Daniel is one of only five New York City restaurants deemed worthy of a four-star rating from The New York Times. If the award-winning French contemporary cuisine isn’t enough to put you in the mood for romance, the elegant neo classical dining room and the attentive service are sure to make you swoon.

5. La Grenouille: Visit La Grenouille for the ultimate in old-fashioned romance and classic French cuisine. Settle into a plush red banquette amid riotous bouquets of fresh flowers and golden sconces. Dine on foie gras, frog legs, and chocolate soufflé. The food is pricey but guaranteed to impress.

6. Top of the Tower: Dine at the top of the Beekman Tower Hotel and enjoy views of Manhattan from 26 stories up. This sophisticated, romantic dining spot offers prix-fixe dinner options priced at $45 and $65 per person.

7. The House: The House will wow you from the moment you first glance its beautifully restored 1854 carriage house location from afar. Choose from fireside dining on the parlor level, a table on the second floor with a view of Gramercy Park, or a cozy spot at the Chef’s Table in the wine cellar.

8. August: This lovely little West Village bistro achieves the perfect balance of chic and homey. Although space is small, the candlelit ambiance and deliciously eclectic menu more than make up for the tight squeeze. Best of all, the prices are reasonable. Just don’t forget to make a reservation or you may be waiting on the sidewalk for quite a while.

9. Sushi Yasuda: Earn the undying love of any sushi connoisseur at Sushi Yasuda, selected by Zagat Survey as the best Japanese/sushi restaurant in New York for two years running. Sushi Yasuda doesn’t offer the clichĂ©d romantic restaurant trappings, but the intimate ambiance and sleek blond wood interiors put the focus where it belongs — on the excellent food and on your fascinating date. Seats at the sushi bar are coveted, but ask for a table for maximum romance.

10. Silverleaf Tavern: This elegant restaurant in Murray Hill features an elaborate chandelier, plush leather booths and an amethyst bar. An innovative cocktail menu lets you sample intriguingly-named drinks like the Kama Sutra, the Stone Pole, and the Havana Kiss.

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Cream & Pesto Linguine with Shrimp

Last night, I cooked dinner for MM and another couple of our friends. The girl who was coming to dinner doesn’t like tomatoes very much…that caused quite an issue considering most of our recipes are centered around pomodoro. So, I did some research, found this recipe for Cream & Pesto Linguine with Shrimp, and pulled it off pretty well! The empty pan told me so…

1 pound fresh linguine

1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp,
peeled and deveined – I prefer no tails
2 tablespoons Herbs of Provence
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup pesto
1/2 cup reserved pasta
cooking water
2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Set a large 1-gallon stock pot of water to a boil and add the kosher salt. Place the linguine in the pot and stir the pot until the water returns to a boil. Cook the pasta – since it’s fresh it should only take about 3 minutes.
While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. Set a 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil to the pan. Once the butter has melted, season the shrimp with 1 tablespoon of the Herbs of Provence and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and add the shrimp to the pan. Sear the shrimp until pink, about 1 minute, then turn over and cook for another minute. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside. Add the onions and saute until softened and lightly caramelized, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cream, pesto, remaining tablespoon of Herbs of Provence, remaining teaspoon of the salt to the pan and bring to a boil. Cook the sauce until the cream is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Return the shrimp, linguine and the reserved cooking water to the pan and cook, tossing to incorporate for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and add the parsley and parmesan cheese and toss to blend. Serve immediately.

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Pete’s Tavern

Saturday night, MM and I went to a triple birthday party at Naked Lunch. I have reviewed this place previously, and this time I was even more unimpressed. Our company was good, but the place was so hot and smelled like sweat. Ugh…A couple of us were happy to relocate to someplace more comfortable and easy to share a drink and chat. What’s better than Pete’s on Irving and 18th Street?

Pete’s is an institution in NYC – its been open since 1864. The bartenders are the kind that shake your hand when they meet you or see you again. They remember drinks and loyal customers better than any I have seen. The atmosphere is more sports lounge/bar food than posh lounge, but the crowd is very diverse. Probably being right near Gramercy Park lends it to a more upscale Ivy League crowd.

We were able to meet a couple others, share a drink, and enjoy ourselves till we were ready to head home…with plenty of air and no awful smell.

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Russian & Turkish Baths…on East 10th Street???

Serving New Yorkers since 1892, the Russian & Turkish baths is a place to experience. Built by Jewish immigrants, it is still located between First Avenue and Avenue A. The newly renovated facilities are attracting a glorious clientele who prefer to pay as they go, or want a membership.

You don’t have to feel rushed to make massage appointment because you can simply sign up when you get there. Extra services including Swedish/Russian Massage, Platza Oak Leaf, Dead Sea Salt Scrub, Black Mud Treatment and Soap Wash are available for a reasonable price. Some mornings are reserved for single sex bathing, so make sure to check the scheduler before going. The restaurant serves a regular Russian food at sensible prices. The service is nice yet unsophisticated.

It’s a stress free zone designed to let you chill out and get some peace of mind. They’ll give you a robe, some slippers and all the towels you want. You’ll be in for a new old world pleasure of being totally relaxed and clean.

Some people may think this place is bare minimum and certainly nothing like those fancy spas, but then again deciding to go to a spa is an indulgence in today’s world – stopping in at the Russian & Turkish Baths is much like an easy and economical “keeper upper.”

The bathhouse a unique New York experience. It is probably be very close to what New Yorkers experienced 100 years ago, which makes it quite fascinating. After all, we could all use some relaxation and pampering without the cost, right?

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Reservations Made Easier

In the past few months, quite a few things have changed along with the economy. As a result, people are watching their wallets much more carefully, which creates an atmosphere of anxiety, uncertainty, nervousness, and…an easier time making reservations at Manhattan restaurants???

That’s right. You can now call those stuffy restaurants that used to boast about their “one month in advance” reservation requirement, and you will likely be treated nicer and be helped to find a way to dine at their establishment. In recent years, calling any restaurant with a celebrity chef, a raving Frank Bruni review, or 3 to 4 stars was pure torture – they wouldn’t answer the phone for reservations except for certain odd hours of the day (if they answered at all), they would act skepticle about the possibility of an open table when you did call within those hours, they would require a month in advance for reservations (earlier – not allowed, later – fully booked), they would charge you for cancelling within a week…basically they would make you feel as though you should kiss THEIR feet for allowing you to dine at their restaurant and spend your money for their salaries.

Times have changed…the tables have turned…the patrons run the show now.

The previously unaccessible restaurants are now VERY accessible and much more enjoyable. The service is polite and thankful for your business. Reservations are easy to make – someone answers the phone, and they actually help you to get a reservation. When you eat at one of these top notch Manhattan restaurants, the food is not the only shining star anymore – the whole package makes it worth now. The untouchable are now struggling to stay on top with people cutting back on their indulgences – such as fine dining. These restaurants have to pay their rents, and that is not easy when they’re not thwarting off customers.

I feel for the restaurant industry – I don’t want to see it struggle. The fantastic restaurant culture is one of my favorite things about NYC. I do appreciate this one side affect, however. The service industry is finally beginning to get back to providing good service…

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Super Bowl Champions!

Being from the ‘burgh, Sunday’s game was one of the most thrilling games I have watched in a long time. It was full of emotions – happy, sad, nervous, thrilled, exhausted…but it was all worth it in the end! Seeing my little yellow-panted men out there (I feel like they are mini people because I have only ever seen them from a distance at Heinz Field or on the tv screen – I know they are actually giants, but I like them being cute and mini) made me so happy and full of nostalgia.

They played fantastically – full of exciting moments and all the way to the end. Just like coach Tomlin said “Steelers football is 60 minutes!”
Go Steelers! I can’t wait for next season…

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