Jean-Georges Vongerichten opens a restaurant in The Mark hotel, in the Upper East Side

By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, special contributor

It's been a while, now, that the Upper East Side has been brushing off the dust and seeing the opening of great new places, from Gagosian's boutique to beautiful parfumeries. Now, it's Jean-Georges Vongerichten's turn. The überchef, of Jean-Georges and Perry Street fame, has just opened a restaurant in the recently-refurbished The Mark hotel. (To read more about the hotel and see pics and a video, click here).

He's named it, simply, The Mark Restaurant.

Here's how the Jean-Georges himself describes the new place:

"Ten years ago, I took Marja to the bar at The Mark Hotel for our second date. I’m back at the bar now—running it and the adjoining restaurant. All to impress Marja…
Kidding aside, here’s a glimpse of how I create a restaurant. I’m so excited about opening another place on the upper east side of Manhattan. The space is simply stunning, thanks to renowned designer Jacques Grange. It feels high-end and flush, with elegant touches like these columns of light.
Grange completely gutted the old restaurant so that the main dining room has a skylight ceiling and the bar flows seamlessly to the raw bar, lounge, dining room, and private dining room. Sliding partitions, built out of this gorgeous textured wood, open up the space, but can also be closed for private parties.
To help my diners to feel completely at home here, Grange chose chairs that are as beautiful as they are comfortable.I also chose to create a menu of comforting, everyday food to contrast the refined ambiance. I'm working with my team of chefs to reinvent and perfect the rustic, classic dishes from my childhood in France.Perhaps my favorite new dish, which will debut at the Mark, is my Croque M. It’s a cross between a croque monsieur and croque madame. The secret to my decadent version? I make a Mornay sauce with gruyere and comte, then spread it on slices of fresh pain de mie. I do a triple-decker version with Flying Pig Farm ham, comte, and gruyere, then broil it with a quail egg on top. Delicious.Of course, I’m still pushing the envelope with new creations as well. Here, I’ve made a buckwheat fettuccine (as tasty as Matsugen’s soba, but completely different in this treatment), and top it with clams, mussels, sweet shrimp, crab, and uni. With a little chile, the nuttiness of the buckwheat really comes out.For dessert, pastry chef Erik Hubert returns to his French roots too. He’ll make whole cakes, like this delicate vanilla and chocolate-citrus charlotte, and serve generous slices.
Pierre Schutz (on the left), who headed my kitchen at Vong and has been with me for decades, will be the chef de cuisine at the Mark.He already has the kitchen ready to go. We’re currently providing the room service for the hotel and putting the finishing touches on our restaurant menu."*

The Mark: 77th St East, 25, tel. (212) 744-4300,

 *Jean-Georges account of the restaurant was borrowed from the chef's personal blog, linked here.

Benvenuta Faustina at the Cooper Square Hotel

Now that the buzz has subsided a little bit, it’s time to check out Faustina, the much talked about 4-week takeover of ex-restaurant Table 8 in the Cooper Square Hotel. 

By coincidence (I live very close by) I was at the bar on the second floor of the hotel twice for drinks last week during the restaurant’s “friends & family” tasting/test week. The festive mood was in the air: both times a beautiful blonde with a huge scribble pad that held “the list” greeted me at the lobby, and gave ma a huge bright smile when I told her I was going upstairs and not to the restaurant. I haven’t made a reservation yet for the restaurant (I’m away in the Caribbean for a winter break), but have been informed that the wait is not terribly long, so please, I urge you to try it out! Table 8 was a huge disappointment and expectations are high for Scott Conant’s post-Scarpetta digs. The molto italiano menu looks buonissimo: lardo wrapped prawns in rosemary lentils, burrata in carozza, porcini ravioli, and torrone panna cotta… Mamma mia, I’m starving!
The hotel surely needs a jolt of cool visitors. I’m so glad. For the past year since it’s opening, it felt like such a wasted nice space. You will be, as I am, happy to hear that Conant’s people have started to organize events on the hotel’s amazing (and under-used) penthouse and will soon take over the bar menu on the second floor. Good! Because just last week the sweet bar waitress didn’t know what a Lagavulin was, and politely excused herself to ask for help with the bar tender when we asked for a glass of Cointreau. Please enter Contant’s team!
Faustina at the Cooper Square Hotel
25 Cooper Square, Bowery, at East 5th Street

The best of New York according to journalist Alexandra Forbes

My friend Diego is going to New York this weekend, and asked me for some tips. I did better, and decided to list them here, in a post. That way, others can make good use of the recommendations too!

Best nightlife:

1 -  Rooftop of The Standard Hotel (a.k.a. Boom Boom Room)
2- The Box. Very tough to get in unless you know one of the owners or want to burn a grand on a table booking. Sexy, burlesque shows every half hour, best, wildest party in New York.

Hottest restaurants, where food is great but
vibe and people-watching are even bet

1 - Maialino, at the Gramercy Park Hotel
2- Breslin at The Ace Hotel
3- Minetta Tavern
4- The Standard Grill at the Standard Hotel

Top restaurants (not as hip as the ones above, but absolutely first-rate)

1 - Daniel, Upper East Side
2 - Eleven Madison Park
3- The Modern, at the MoMA
(Also love Le Bernardin, Jean-Georges but they're a bit déja vu...)

Best burger

1 - Daniel Boulud's DBGB, right near The Bowery Hotel
(For top-notch burgers minus the buzz and glam, go to JG Mellon in the Upper East Side)

Best hotel bars

1 - The Bowery Hotel bar
2- The Ace (actually, the bar is also the lounge of the hotel)

The Bowery, the most charming hotel in New York

By Alexandra Forbes, special contributor

The Lower East Side may have hotels high on the hipness level, like the Hotel on Rivington, or the Thompson LES (same owners 60 Thompson).

The Upper East may have the chicest hotels, like The Carlyle, where I've always stayed with my dad.

But after having tried at least 20 different hotels in Manhattan, there's just no other that equals The Bowery in charm and cool factor. Not to mention the irresistible retro-industrial décor.

Here's the view of my room, last time I stayed there:

Not only is it beautiful, but the Bowery has the coolest hotel bar in town. Which will never become a nightclub-disguised-as-bar like its competitor, the Gramercy Park Hotel, did to the Rose bar....

The Bowery's bar is for guests only. And their guests. And the very few people who show up anyways and don't mind standing all night, since only guests are given seats.

Here's the moorish-inspired, ultra-cosy lobby:

Enough said.

Party tonight at the launch of 1500 Gallery in Chelsea

Do you ever wonder why Brazil is so in vogue? 

Let the pictures tell you why. Don't miss the opening party of the 1500 Gallery in Chelsea. On february 11th this new gallery unveils its first exhibit, a group show entitled Brazilian, which will run Feb 11 - May 1. Taste a caipirinha drink on the house (the national lime drink) and mingle with the emerging Brazilian talent. Open to the public. For more information click here.

Get a true glimpse of the nation everyone's talking about: those photos are worth way more than a thousand words.

More from the gallery's press release:
"1500 Gallery specializes in Brazilian photography, and is the first art gallery in the world with this explicit focus. 1500 interprets the notion of "Brazilian photography" to comprise photography made by Brazilian photographers, as well as images bearing a conceptual or thematic relationship to Brazil.
1500 represents the work of 17 artists, both emerging and established: 6 of 1500's photographers are represented in the São Paulo Museum of Art's Collection of Photography. 1500's collection of images includes both contemporary and vintage photography."

Photogs include  Julio Bittencourt, Bruno Cals, João Castilho, Marc Dumas, Antonio Augusto Fontes,
Bina Fonyat (1945-1985), Edouard Fraipont, Garapa (collective), Christian Gaul, Murillo Meirelles, Gustavo Pellizzon and Eduardo Queiroga.

Manhattan Staycation - Escape Valentine's and stay in town

The inevitable Valentine Day’s pressure is on. It’s imminent, around you where ever you look, and you can’t run. But who said you can’t hide?

My favorite thing to do? Get away! An escape trip makes the best gift. If you can’t flee town, how about a staycation? You don’t have to make it a romantic immersion, but you should definitely take advantage of the Valentine’s special deals! Manhattan hotels are offering great packages for this upcoming weekend. Indulge yourself and take a break from routine, with or without your sweetheart.

The Plaza Hotel

The the “Unforgettable Valentine’s Day” package includes accommodations, a bottle of NV Louis Roederer Brut Premier champagne with fresh berries, an assortment of chocolates from Austrian confectioner Demel, breakfast in bed for two, and a couples’ massage at Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa. Rates start at $965 per night based on double occupancy. The package is available from Feb. 11 to 15t.

Hotel Gansevoort

Included in their special promotion are a dozen roses, chocolate-covered strawberries, a bottle of champagne - and the game Twister. Prices start at $615 per night.

Hôtel Plaza Athénée

Their special packages between run between 11- 16 February, including Valentine's Day breakfast in bed, La Perla gift bags and more. Packages start at $825.

The Peninsula New York

The Romance Package goes from the 12th until the 14rh February 2010. Prices start at $825 per night.

The Pierre

Book the two-night Valentine's Day package 12 - 14 February, and get dinner for two at Le Caprice (exclusive of alcohol), a bottle of champagne, a special creation from The Pierre’s pastry chef delivered right to your room and breakfast in bed. A suite with a view of the city starts at $1,100 per night, with a two-night minimum.

Mandarin Oriental New York

This top of the Time Warner jewel is offering a complimentary night after a two-night stay 13 - 16 February. Also, from 12 - 14 February 2010, the hotel's award-winning Spa at Mandarin Oriental is featuring the Midnight Magic Over Manhattan spa experience. For $1,750, plus tax and gratuity, get exclusive access to the VIP Spa Suite, with stunning city views, two-hour Signature Spa Therapies for two and lobster, caviar and champagne service.

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PPR: Post Party Report! Haiti Relief and BrazilFoundation

Mary J. Blige and Wyclef Jean

This week’s fundraiser parties that happened back to back, (Monday and Tuesday nights in Manhattan) were a huge success! My feet still hurt from dancing. The pain is fine when the memories are good. The Top of the Standard Hotel rocked with Wyclef Jean’s performance, and it almost came down when May J. Blige joined him for an impromptu duo singing session. Rock legend Patty Smith and J-Z were in the house, and of course, lots of beautiful people with good intentions. All proceeds went towards Haiti relief organizations. I attempted a video clip just so you get the idea:

BrazilFoundation’s night at the Norwood was smaller in scale, but absolutely sweltering with supporters dancing to the drums spectacle presented by the Manhattan Samba crew. Tickets were completely sold out, and the spirits pre-snow storm were high. As if we had any doubt that a Brazilian party could be anything but boiling, no matter how negative temperatures are outside.

Leona Forman, founder of BrazilFoundation sways to the samba beat

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On the Top of The Standard Hotel for Haiti Help

Boom-Boom, Bon-Bon, On Top of the Standard Hotel... 

No matter how you it is officially called, one thing is undeniable: the penthouse club of The Standard is the best in town, au concurs. And with that truth, it is also the toughest rope to cross (see report on Eater.)
The few times I have made it upstairs I was usually with a friend of mine (the connected kind who knows the right people), or: the human way, I had my name on the list. 

And even in those instances there are always minutes spent outside before you are allowed into the funky elevators fitted with Marco Brambilla’s video artwork. Last time as I was walking in, Mick Jagger was walking out. And the time before that Valentino passed me on his way out. So, there you the proof that this is the hottest place in town and that I am not exaggerating. My conclusion: my entrance timing sucks. But once upstairs, the floor to ceiling double height windows take your breath away, and the DJ (last Saturday Jamal was spinning), is so good that I always overstay because I can’t stop dancing. And just before I give you today’s good news, let me just tell you that I have no words to describe the bathroom. It’s like your own private club in there (see the photo below).

The news I’ve been meaning to share with you is that if you are good, meaning, really good by donating $250 to Haiti Hope Help & Relief, you get access to this Manhattan nightlife mecca this upcoming Monday night. How can we resist the high of making a donation, taking the elevator to the 18th floor and feeling closer to heaven? See you there. Go here for tickets.

BrazilFoundation imports Rio carnival to one of New York's most exclusive private clubs

Freezing February. Feels like we are in the midst of winter, still a while to go to reach mildly high temperatures. At this point don’t you wish you were heading south, someplace exotic, say… Rio, where they just happen to be celebrating carnival in a week?

It might be tricky to head all the way to South America, but if you take the trip to downtown Manhattan on February 9th, you will get a carnival experience as good as it gets. BrazilFoundation is hosting a carnival party at the Norwood, a New York super exclusive private club. You might not be able to do the samba just right, but live drummers and a free wine glass per guest will certainly warm you up enough for some hip swaying. Brazilians guarantee that you’ll get into the right rhythm after a couple sips of caipirinha.

Insider tip: there will only be 150 guests allowed to attend this great party organized by a wonderful foundation for a worthy cause! There will be NO SALES AT THE DOOR of this at his classy private townhouse club. Tickets are going fast, so I urge you to secure your place in the sun. Well, not really the sun, but pretty close: it will be "muito" hot in there.

No reason to sweat while you dance like a true Brazilian. Tickets are fully tax deductible. Get them here.

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