New Year's Eve in New York City

There are plenty of options to toast the new decade in the city, mostly underground clubs. Many friends ask me where to spend this special New Year, and I have to say my choice would be Tavern on the Green. Yes, that sounds mighty touristy (which goes against our insider proposition), but there are three reasons for why I stick to my choice.
First, it's a beautiful venue in the winter. Every single branch is decked with lights during the holiday season, making it one of the most festive restaurants in town.
Second, it's in Central Park and you can watch the New Year's Eve fire works.
Third, and most importantly: this classic NYC staple will be extinct by January, and that will be our last chance to celebrate surrounded by this historic 3-room setting as we've known it for the last 30+ years.
Tickets, including buffet dinner and open bar start at $200. Organized by the expert party promoter Marc Biron. For tickets and more information click here.

If you still prefer the clubbing scene, i would suggest
1. The Top of the Standard Hotel (ex - Boom Boom Room). Tickets start at $250. Call 212-645-7600, or buy here.
2. Cipriani Wall Street, Kiss & Fly, Pink Elephant would be my other choices, For reservations and an extensive list of New Year's Eve parties at night clubs, go here.

May 2010 bring you much peace, prosperity, joy and love. Oh yes, and one more thing: wherever you decide to do it, please party like it's 2009!

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Coco de Mer sex shop opens in Nolita, in New York

By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, special contributor

Good news for those into a bit of classy kinkiness: risqué British boutique Coco de Mer now has an outpost in Nolita, where you can find all things erotica. Designer erotic bedroom toys, titillating accessories and lingerie. Well-curated library of erotic books, handcrafted leather pieces, flavoured massage oils and even a gold-plated vibrator! All very tastefully displayed.

Soon, they say they'll even offer 24-h delivery. Stay tuned.

Coco de Mer
236 Elizabeth St.
(E. Houston and Prince Sts.)
Transit: B/D/F/V to Broadway-Lafayette St.

Andrew Harper, famed hotel inspector, reviews New York hotels and restaurants

By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, special contributor


Andrew Harper is the famously anonymous hotel inspector who sells his independent reviews in a newsletter called The Hideaway Report. 

As Travel + Leisure magazine explains, "In his 30 years of traveling incognito with the mission of reporting the world’s finest hotels, resorts and restaurants in his members-only newsletter Hideaway Report, no one has ever guessed his identity. (...) 
The first issue of his advertisement-free Hideaway Report appeared in 1979 and grew by word of mouth. Today, tens of thousands of members pay $195 annually for a basic membership or $400 annually plus a $500 initiation fee to be part of the Premier Class, which offers upgrades and other perks to travelers."

He recently launched an edition on New York, which we were very eager to get our hands on.

The much-respected Harper travels incognito and always pays his own way, so that his opinions can always be counted on as unbiased.

Harper focussed the New York newsletter on the new and noteworthy hotels that everyone's been talking about: The Crosby Hotel, The Plaza and The Pierre, along with a few recently opened restaurants.  "I'm glad to report, although battered by the financial meltdown, the city has lost none of its incomparable gift for self-reinvention," Mr. Harper remarked.

He was concerned with making his voice heard amid all the noise: New York hotel reviews are on a million free websites, for example.  "So much has been written about the city and so many opinions are widely available," Mr. Harper said, "It forced us to work even harder to try and present some unique viewpoints."

I read the newsletter in full and, to sum it up, Harper loved the Plaza and the Crosby, loved Marea and Corton, yet disliked The Pierre, pictured above, of which he wrote:

The best feature of our moderately sized room was its 
side view of Central Park. Decorated with anodyne good 
taste, it provided a large desk fitted with the panoply of 
electronic gadgetry required by today's business traveler. 
(We formed the distinct impression that The Pierre is 
primarily targeting the business rather than the leisure 
market.) We found it offensively cheeseparing to be 
charged an extra $12.95 a night for Internet access, and 
from the painfully audible tantrums of a man in the 
adjacent room, we gathered that the hotel's fax machines 
don't always work flawlessly. It beggars belief that so much 
money could have been spent on renovation without 
ensuring better soundproofing. 
Overall, we found the service to be poorly drilled and 
off the mark. We requested a copy of The New York Times 
and received a Wall Street Journal instead. And a rather 
unappetizing Japanese breakfast (soup, grilled salmon and 
rice) was delivered to our room instead of the continental 
breakfast we had ordered. It took two more phone calls 
to obtain milk and sugar, and the hotel had no cream 
cheese for our toasted bagels. In New York! 
Since the Manhattan branch of London's Le Caprice 
restaurant had yet to open, we went out to dinner. On our 
return, we were surprised by the lively Mexican wedding- 
party music that the chambermaid had selected for our 
evening listening during the turndown service. The Pierre 
has a fitness center but no spa, which again ranks it behind 
other New York hotels in the same category (especially 
the Four Seasons and the Mandarin Oriental). Checking 
out the following day, we mentioned the soundproofing 
problem to the woman at the front desk, whose only 
response was, “New York is a noisy city.” 
If The Pierre lacks important amenities and a  
well-trained staff, its most serious shortcoming is an  
almost total absence of charm.

Ouch! :)

To buy an annual Andrew Harper membership, click here.

Union Square Holiday Market

If this holiday season you are running low on everything (time, patience and money) don’t fret. The Union Square Holiday Market might be the answer you were looking for. Condensed in one block and two rows of candy striped stands, this Christmas market features a vast array of original artists objects from soaps, jewelry, toys, to hats. All hand-made and unique, you’ll find the perfect one-of-a-kind gift without breaking the wallet.

We might be low in cash, but as long as spirits are high, we can still enjoy the season to be jolly. On the short video below I captured a little bit of the holiday groove happening at Union Square this week despite the cold.

Christmas Cheer on Union Square:

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More gifts: witty wristlet by Jessica Kagan Cushman (hush hush: 25% off for insiders)

I love to share good deals when I see them. There are so, so many sales going on right now, but our job here is to separate the wheat from the chaff . I was looking for objects that make personal gifts and have lasting appeal. And suddenly: bang! Or should I say bangles? When I fist saw Jessica Kagan Cushman’s bracelets at Barneys a few years ago I was immediately drawn to the creative approach of etching memorable idioms and phrases onto cuff like white and black resin bracelets that look like ebony and ivory (the sayings are much more original then the one I used on the opening phrase I assure you!)

And now, for insiders only, you get 25% off when you enter HOLIDAY25 at check out.

I can’t wait to see my friend’s face when she gets her “It wasn't me. It was my evil twin” bracelet (she’s a sweetheart really, she just gets a little carried away sometimes when the party is pumping). Thinking about that, I’m also considering the “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” as her gift. Anyways, you get the gist, there are plenty of catchy phrases, one for each of your bff’s. Oh, as for me, I couldn’t resist and chose the “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”. Nothing like a Shakespearean quote for Christmas, which, by the way, “is not a date children, it’s a state of mind” (since we are citing: that would be Mary Ellen Chase)

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Holiday Shopping: at AG in Soho give and receive instantly

Tis the season about giving right? And a lot of shopping, of course. So how about considering to “really” give, and I mean help someone, while you buy? I thought this perfect combo initiative deserved a post. At Adriano Goldschmied donate your old denim, any brand, and automatically get 20% off a new slick pair of jeans. The discount actually applies to your entire purchase, anything in the store you buy that day. I mean, how practical is that: it dilutes the spending guilt a little bit. I was there the other day because my friend swears by the fit of those jeans, so I wanted to try them on. They patiently described the different fits, found mine, dropped off my old jeans, got the discount, felt good, and even received a nice red nail polish as a gift. Through December 31st. Merry shopping, it feels jolly good to do it this way.

111 Greene Street, bet. Prince & Spring

212 680 0581

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Billy Reid on Bond: Holiday Party with The Civil Wars

If you are still looking for a distinctive outfit ideal for winter parties and outings, comfy enough but with an edge, something classically modern, a bit rock and roll, but not too much, (and all those contradictions in terms) in one beautifully finished and original piece, I have a suggestion: go to Billy Reid on Bond Street. The southerner designer brings the unexpected innovative characteristic to staple pieces, such as shirts, dresses and creative t-shirts.

The store could be the retail version of Freemans, with wooden old furniture, antique frames, sepia photos and a deer head adorning the wall.

Shop this Thursday during their holiday party, meet the designer and listen live to The Civil Wars, who recently had a song featured on Grey’s Anatomy. The sales team is very friendly and the whole atmosphere is inviting. No rsvp needed. Just stop by for quality shopping (they are on sale!), great design and good music.

54 Bond Street
212 598 9355
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Rodarte on the cheap: Target sells capsule collection this month only!

crédito: reprodução

By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, special contributor

Target is now doing the same as H&M: selling capsule collections of A-list designers. This month, nationwide Targets will have limited pieces by ultra cool brand Rodarte.

The sale starts December 20, but if I were you, I'd go on the first day, as I'm sure it'll sell out very fast.

Rodarte was founded in 2005 by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy (pictured above) in Pasadena, CA. They soon became the darlings of magazine editors and their pieces started to pop up in editorials in Vogue, W, etc. Currently, their collections are sold at Colette (Paris), Bergdorf Goodman, Jeffrey and Barneys (in New York).

They have pieces in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan and Fashion Institute of Technology museums.

The good news is you don't have to wait until December 20 to get your hands on a budget Rodart piece. This weekend, they'll be on offer at the entrance of the Highline park in the Meatpacking district, in a Target pop-up store:



I wouldn't miss this for the world! But if you must, here's how to get to the Target in Brooklyn:

Google map showing how to get to the Target store in Brooklyn

Pop them up and the people shall pop in!

Pop-up shops are spurting all over town. Perfect, because it’s just that time of the year where we “need” to shop, and are always on the look-out for fresh ideas. In SoHo we have The Limited (which might be upgraded from pop-up to perm in January) and my favorite: Phaidon bookshop. The English art coffee table book publisher opened its first store in London this year and set up shop on Wooster Street in October for the holiday season (rumors here too that they might be here to stay, depending on how it goes).

And lucky us, I just found out that they are having a party tonight, all books will be 20% off from 6pm until 9pm. Drinks and signing "I Know How to Cook" with adapter and translator Clotilde Dusoulier. TONIGHT! (there's nothing more dangerous to my wallet then booze & browse, but still, i need to do Christmas shopping eventually, why not take advantage of the discount and festive atmosphere?)

Walking in there, I knew I could count on finding gorgeous imagery in super high quality paper,beautifully bound. Illustration books make perfect gifts for all types.

And talking about searching for “the” gift, what I really enjoyed at the store where the silver prints of photographers such as established lens masters: Elliott Erwitt, Nan Goldin and Jeff Wall. All signed and numbered! Worth a visit.

100 Wooster Street
212 925 1900

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Danny Meyer's The Modern, at the MoMA: as good as it gets

By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, special contributor

I'm not a fan of staying in Midtown when I am in New York, but... I realize that's where most people like to stay. I get the question "where should I go for dinner?" all the time, and usually my answer includes The Modern, Danny Meyer's restaurant at the MoMA.

Can't go wrong! First, it faces MoMA's sculpture garden:

For those who don't know Meyer, he owns perennial successes like Eleven Madison Park and Gramercy Tavern.

The Modern is actually a two-in-one. The first half is a bar that serves food, louder and darker:

I prefer the other half, more serene, more space between tables, better view.

This is what I had at my last lunch:

a delicious salmon and dill amuse:

Then the nicely-priced prix fixe at US$ 48:

Oh-so-delicate sea bass:

Rosy and tender veal with watercress:

A pannacota-like dessert with candied bananas:

Then a baba in Grand Marnier instead of rum, and a nicely citrussy sabayon:

Stellar mignardises capped the meal:

And just as I thought lunch couldn't get any better, we got these beautiful chocolate bonbons:

The Modern: 9 West 53rd, near Fifth Ave., tel. (212) 333-1220

Ava Lounge and Salon de Ning: two bars with great views in Midtown

By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, special contributor

The author of this blog, my friend Karin Dauch, lives Downtown, close to many of the places I loooove in New York: DBGB, Bowery Hotel, Gemma, Babbo, etc - the list goes on. And she often says - and rightly so! - why the heck would anyone go hang out in Midtown?!

But... I gotta say there are some places that are worth a visit. During the warm months, I like the vibe at the Ava Lounge, pictured above, at the Dream hotel. I'd heard the hotel was broke, but so far, from what I see, they're still open for business. Anyways, the ultrarich owner, Vikram Chatwal, isn't likely to run out of funds anytime soon..

I also like walking by the iconic new Hearst HQ, by starchitect Norman Foster:

Another bar in Midtown with great views? The Salon de Ning, at the rooftop of the hotel Peninsula, only a block or two away.

The Surrey is unveiled!

Just steps away from the also renovated The Mark, another classic hotel underwent major reconstruction and opened its doors last Thursday, November 12th . The Surrey is an Upper East Side traditional and mimics its posh neighborhood with a new town house inspired rooftop garden. Elegantly dressed and champagne glass holding guests were able to take in for the first time the lobby, Spa and a Suite on the 14th floor.

Here is a first hand video I made while strutting the neoclassical surroundings of The Surrey, which features the award-winning Café Boulud restaurant from acclaimed chef Daniel Boulud, and a five treatment room spa.

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Midtown old and new: La Grenouille and Casa Lever

This week I had a couple of meetings in midtown (why else on Earth would you otherwise want to go there. Ok, maybe Rockefeller Center if you are visiting, that’s it.)

The classic:

La Grenouille

Not only its building is legendary (The Petite Prince was written there by Saint Exupéry), but the restaurant itself. La Grenouille literally represents the piece de résistance of the classic French cuisine restaurants founded in the 60’s that are all long gone by now (La Cote Basque, Lutece, La Caravelle). This French frog is becoming a legend itself. It is run by proprietor/chef and flower arranger Charles Masson Jr who took over the business from his father and the restaurant’s founder Monsieur Charles Masson Sr. You feel the history in its classy and charming atmosphere, and taste it in it’s traditional cuisine. Dishes are unmistakably French, such as terrine de campagne and the paillar de poulet. I had the chicken liver crepes, that melted in my mouth and a light tasty sole with mustard sauce. The staff is absolutely comme il faut: as polite and agreeable as can be. Delightful food, fantastic service, and comfortable ambiance seems to be the recipe to success of this old-school which stands the test of time. The insider tip here is to have lunch upstairs where jackets are not required, the prix-fixe menu - which changes everyday day - costs $30, and the fire place, high ceilings in this two-tiered atelier with skylight will transport you to a bygone era. This place is truly an oasis of composed beauty and delectable food in the grey chaotic sea of Midtown office buildings. And the high fashion industry power houses who are frequent customers seem to agree. Walk-ins welcome.

3 E. 52nd St., near Fifth Ave.


The new:

Casa Lever

When I heard that Sant Ambroeus’s owner Dimitri Pauli opened a new restaurant in Midtown three weeks ago I had to check it out immediately. I have to plead guilty to my impartiality here. I believe Sant Ambroues, albeit pricey, brings the most authentic northern Italian food to us, Manhattanites. As a holder of an Italian passport (as well as two other citizenships), I have had my share of tryouts in the search for genuine cuccina italiana in New York City. The simpler it is, the better; and also the most challenging. The décor has a groovy seventies air to it, maybe that’s because of the glass chandeliers, and the several Andy Warhol’s hanging around (they belong to the Lever House collection). Even though I find the retro atmosphere a little bit distracting, it somehow works. Casa Lever is attracting crowds after work for the typical Italian “aperitivo”, a post-work happy-hour cocktail drink with the mandatory appetizer size nibbles. “This is not a Sant Ambroeus because there’s no gelateria or patisserie, this is: a restaurant, “ explained Dimitri when I asked him why he didn’t keep the name of the family tradition. And a good restaurant it is indeed. I tried the tuna tartar and the pappardelle with boar ragu from the $37 prix fixe lunch menu. My husband, the "true" Italian and real tester, approved the Milanese (breaded veal) and we both exclaimed a delightful “mamma mia” when we tried the ricotta pumpkin pie.

390 Park Avenue at 53rd St.

212 888-2700

ZUCCA & RICOTTA graham crust, pumpkin cheesecake, cinnamon crumbles

The Waldorf Astoria hotel: not quite what it used to be....

By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, special contributor

Photos: The Waldorf Astoria

I'd driven by it a million times but never actually entered the famed Waldorf Astoria. And then I did. A friend was staying there and invited me for a visit.

Dressed-down guests, nametag-wearing guests, elevator music, an air of cheesiness and a dated look, despite the grand entrance with mosaic floors and triple-height ceilings. Not what I had expected!

Once we took the elevator and walked the never ending hallways to her room, I immediately felt part of a scene in The Shining. Eery...

Lombardi's, in Nolita: New York's first pizzeria

By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, special contributor

Sure, we all love Per Se, Daniel et. al, but once in a while, who doesn't love to just forget about all the fancy stuff and have a good, honest, cheap meal?

New York has no shortage of great pizza joints - Motorino comes to mind - but Lombardi’s was the first in all of the U.S.. The pioneer. It was founded in 1905. And you know what? It's great, in a simple, humble, casual kinda way.

Great, huge caesar salad.

Perfect pizza.

Friendly prices.

And an ancient oven: oldie but goodie!

Lombardi’s: 32 Spring St., tel. (212) 941-7994

Kid-friendly program in New York? The Central Park Zoo!

Urso polar no zoológico do Central Park

By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, special contributor

Yeah, yeah, I know: this blog might seem too cool to be covering something so mundane as a zoo. But hey - most of us do have kids and do have to bring them with us to New York once in a while, right? So think no more: just go to the zoo in Central Park. It's blissfully close to everything in the UES and Midtown, and though small, will keep the wee ones entertained for a good 2 or 3 hours. They even have a polar bear and a few tigers! Err... leopards, I mean. The zoo is located on the East Side, at around 66th Street. More detailed info on the official website.
Leopardo no zoológico do Central Park