Sunday, July 15, 2007

My very own NYC dining out guide

I have been to so many restaurants and bars since I’ve been here that I feel compelled (and justified) to publish my own reviews and recommendations.

These are not all the places I’ve been to … just the ones I have something to say about.

I’ll start with Soho, the West Village and the Meat Packing district and will post about other areas later …

* Café Noir - Grant & Thompson
Bustling tiny tapas restaurant with a great atmosphere. I recommend the pitchers of excellent Sangria but take no responsibility for your actions after consuming a couple of them – they are lethal.
* Balthazar – Spring Street, between Broadway and Crosby
The place to see and be seen. Don’t be put off by the hour long wait for brunch (spend it browsing the great MoMa shop across the street), you will feel like you’re in Paris once you’re inside (minus the rude waiters). The place is decorated like a bistro with huge mirrors and tables crammed too close to each other. The food is excellent – I would recommend the eggs Benedict (best I’ve had in the city so far) and a glass of champagne. New Yorkers really know how to brunch.
* Jane - West Houston, corner of Thompson
Another great brunch spot in the Village. No queues, great food and they didn’t mind Joe & I staying & chatting over many glasses of champagne for over 3 hours (there’s a recurring theme here I fear). I recommend the enormous French Toast, drenched in maple syrup. Yum!
* Garage - 7th Avenue and Grove Street
Quite odd looking – like a large pub with a fireplace. But they have live Jazz and make the best Espresso Martini in the city! Don’t go for the food though. Just sit at one of the stools lining the oval bar and enjoy the music and the cocktails.
* Tea and Sympathy - Greenwich Avenue, corner of Jane Street
Fantastic for nostalgic Brits. A tiny little tea shop with an eclectic décor where you can get your fix of cream tea, cucumber finger sandwiches, beans on toast and Shepherd’s pie. The owners have started a petition to nickname the area “Little Britain”. I hear it’s catching on.
* Jerry’s - Prince Street between Mercer & Greene
I’ve loved Jerry’s ever since my first visit to NYC almost 10 years ago. It’s an upscale diner, complete with leather banquettes and excellent eggs benedict. Unfortunately, over the years (going there has been a ritual of mine every single time I’ve visited the city), the quality of the food has gone down hill but I still love the atmosphere and it will always hold a special place in my heart as my very first New York institution.
* Slane - Mac Dougal Street, between Bleecker and W3rd
A very nice, laid-back bar where the bartenders learn and remember your name. For dinner, pop into Ciao next door for some simple, great Italian food. Sit at one of the tables outside and soak in the atmosphere of this bustling corner of the West Village.
* Hotel Gansevoort – 9th Avenue at 13th Street
One of the coolest place in the city – great rooftop bar where you can drink until 4am (and then you can catch a limo home, long story …). The restaurant, Ono, is wonderful – think Japanese fusion - and “Garden of Ono”, the downstairs bar is also fantastic ... landscaped Japanese gardens, a compelling water-feature (just remember not to put your handbag on the ledge, another long story …) and eye-wateringly expensive drinks ... the perfect NYC night out.
* Pastis – 9th Avenue, corner of Little 12th Street
Another “see and be seen” place, where celebrities hang out (although I haven’t seen any myself). Good food, but nothing to shout home about. It’s more about sitting outside, watching the world go by.
* Soho House – 9th Avenue, corner of 13th Street
Apparently, I should feel privileged to have been to Soho House, the New York offshoot of the famous London members only club. I had a really wonderful evening there but it was more to do with the company than with the food. Still, they have a smoking room complete with a pool table (very cool and almost unheard of in New York), as well as a small cinema and rooftop swimming pool. All you need to get in is someone with a membership! Easier said than done ...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Living in America

I’ve been watching some old “Sex and the City” episodes thanks to HBO on demand and a hangover and just texted my gbf exclaiming how much our lives were like the series. The fun, the trials, the cocktails, the no-cooking under any circumstances policy, the reliable friends, the unreliable men … and the fear of leaving the city, even for one day, for god forbid, the suburbs …

I only ever realise that I live in America when I leave the city and the experience invariably terrifies me. The big houses with a front porch, the white picket fences, the 2.1 children, the patriotic flags, the SUVs … quiet suburbia disturbs me.
The thing is I am really a country girl at heart, I love nothing more than spending a weekend in my parents’ country house in the middle of nowhere, going on mushroom picking expeditions or just walking in the forest. But I can never take it for too long and need the vibrancy and energy of a big city to feel truly alive. I need madness around me to distract me.

Of course, having watched “Sicko”, the latest Michael Moore documentary doesn’t help with my reservations about America. I was horrified by how brainwashed this country really is.
Moore, as usual, over-simplified how great things are in France, the UK and Canada but the message was clear – it’s a fucked up country, ruled by blind capitalism and Bush really is the dumbest man alive.
It made me realise that I would never, ever, live outside of Manhattan and that I want to grow old back in Europe. Of course, I am part of the lucky few with a good medical insurance policy but even that might not be enough and I don't feel comfortable living in a country with such inequality.
As usual, Moore's documentary leaves me wanting to take action and change things ... but what can I do apart from trying to convince a few thousand people to march in the streets, french style?!

Having said all this, who wants to bet I will end up with 2.1 children in a big house with a front porch living in Irvington, Upstate New York when I finally grow up? If I do, can someone please remind me of this post?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sex And The City

I had a slightly surreal experience today. I was working late and bumped into my boss’ boss (our Senior VP) on my way out of the office. She lives around the corner from me so we took the subway home together.

After some chitchatting, she mentioned that she had signed up to a couple of days earlier. I admitted to her that I did the same thing too!
Now, one does not expect to discuss the upheavals of dating in the city with one’s big boss … but that’s exactly what we did, exchanging horror stories during our 30 minutes ride. She’s forty-something, obviously very successful, intelligent, attractive with a wide circle of friends and interests – in summary, she’s a catch!
But finding Mr Right (or even Mr Right Now) is an elusive quest, especially in New York it seems.

I have yet to meet any of the guys who have got in touch with me through I’m not sure I actually really want to. I signed up on a whim rather than with a purpose – so much of my life is facilitated by the Internet that I thought I could at least try to meet people that way too!

But it has been an interesting experience already. I find reading people’s profiles fascinating and hilarious at the same time … from the 30 years old cute widower, who didn’t bother writing about himself and instead stated that he was looking for older women with big breasts (I guess that’s one way to cope with grief)… to the guy who emailed me saying “It must be nice to be the kind of woman who enters a room and turns every heads” (nice try, not like you’ve emailed that same line to every women on this site!) … to the 5’4 “lovingly cuddly” geek who thought it was a good idea to admit to a love of computer games & sci-fi books …Oh, and of course, there was the freak who posted an intense, very long love letter to his future wife, littered with complicated and poetical words he clearly didn’t know the meaning of!

Anyway, I’ll stay on for the entertainment value if anything. I’ve realised that dating in your thirties is harder because we have more expectations and more baggage than in our twenties. We know what we want and what we don’t want. We have mostly achieved our ambitions, built a great network of friends and traveled all over the world … We don't need someone to define us anymore but we start looking at everyone we meet and think “is he/she the one?” and “can he/she fit into my busy life and add to it?”. We tend to forget about just having fun and taking things slowly.
In New York, it's like a race with too many contenders - apparently, there are 185,000 more single women than single men in the city so the grass always seems greener on the other side ... for men!

I have to say, the more I watch “Sex & the City”, the more I realise how realistic it really is and how we all have a bit of Carrie/Samantha/Charlotte/Miranda inside of us … only wish we had the same wardrobe too …

Monday, July 9, 2007

Spirits ...

It seems that there are 2 types of people in Manhattan: the ones worshiping at the alter of alcohol & parties and the ones worshiping at the alter of "spirituality" ... be it God, Buddha, or some unknown mystical figures.

A lot of people I have met either go to Church on a regular basis or consider themselves "spiritual" in some way. Is it the product of living in a city that's so fast-moving, so overwhelming and so centered on the material things? Is it the transient nature of the city that makes people here feel more lonely and compels them to believe in a greater force?

You probably know, of course, which camp I fall under ... As my friend Larry hysterically puts it "I do believe in spirits (vodka & tequila mainly), just not in the spiritual".
It is striking how differently people try to fill the emotional void in their lives. While I would never judge anyone based on their beliefs (I wish I had some sometimes!), I do find it hard to take someone who practices nude yoga as a form of spiritual enlightenment seriously ... And I have met a couple of people who do!

Each to their own I guess. Amen.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

I learnt a new skill ...

What is a girl to do when borrowing her gay best friend's mobile phone for 48 hours?
Generally organise his life, pretend to be him (as no one knows I have his phone) ... and partake in a bit of gay text messaging!
I'm getting very good at it but he's scared that I'm going to be sending random exes to his house without his knowledge (I have so far resisted the extremely strong temptation!) so I'm just going to have to give the phone back :-(

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Dada, dadadam ...

I went on a yatch sailing around Manhattan today. The sun was shining, I managed not to be sick when the Hudson got choppy and really enjoyed it.
I'd never seen Manhattan from that perspective before and it made me realise what a small island it really it. When you're in the city, it feels so large and the distances much greater. That's how I am justifying spending half of my salary on taxis anyway ... But from the water, it really just looks like a tiny piece of land, crammed full of skyscrapers ... concentrated craziness. I also realised how different the areas around Manhattan are - very middle America - and that I would never live outside of the city.

I generally got up to no good with my friend on the boat, drinking Chardonnay out of plastic cups and making inappropriate comments. They played Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" and we thought it would be a good idea to change the lyrics so it would reflect our "Sex & the City" lifestyle a little better ... I hope to god that not many people heard us although singing it all afternoon may have ruined the odds ...