Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Extravanganza

The significance of Thanksgiving didn't really hit me until my second year here.

It is now my favourite American holiday and is for me a celebration of love for my adopted family: the dear friends I have made along the way here without whom I wouldn't have enjoyed, and wouldn't continue to enjoy, my time in New York.

This year's Thanksgiving weekend was probably the best one for me so far. On TG day itself (Thursday), I joined LJ to go and share a lavish breakfast at BG and LE's place in Battery Park. After hours of fun with them and plenty of Mimosas, it is a small miracle that I made it to my friend's KM by 4pm for a full traditional TG dinner cooked by her lovely parents, along with our friend CS. I somehow managed to have two servings of the delicious turkey, along with all the sides (green bean casserole, stuffing, mash potatoes amongst others) ... and dessert!

Although I was clearly busy and doing double duty on Thanksgiving day, I really wanted to throw my own dinner party as well and invited a bunch of friends to mine on Saturday, thinking (quite rightly) that at least we'd all have Friday to rest and fast.

Eight of my close friends could make it and thankfully they all volunteered to bring a dish which left me in charge of just cooking a couple of roast chickens and providing the venue in the form of my apartment - a lot less stressful than cooking an entire feast for 9 by myself! My guests included all my friends from TG breakfast and dinner of course, as well as a few more friends who were otherwise engaged with out-of-town family gatherings on the day itself.

Hosting house parties in New York apartments is something of a logistical nightmare due to size constraints (especially with such tiny kitchens) and something most people (including me) normally shy away from. But I am fortunate to have a good sized apartment and while we were definitely cozy, it was still comfortable. Somehow all of our disparate dishes made a beautiful meal together. We drank more wine than could possibly be imagined. And we danced and laughed late into the night.

If Thanksgiving is about being thankful, then I feel that I have my fair share to be thankful for with my friends alone ...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Florida Detour

I went on a bit of cross-country jaunt across the US last week. I was attending a work-related conference in Phoenix Arizona for the first part of the week but instead of flying straight back to NYC on Thursday (as was originally planned), I made a "small detour" (2 flights and 6 hours later) to Treasure Island for the weekend, a small beach community 45 minutes away from Tampa airport on the West coast of Florida.

My lovely friend FM moved there from New York about 6 months ago (I have document her endlessly fun goodbye parties before) and although I had promised to visit her, last weekend was the only conceivable time I could do it and also happened to be the one when our mutual and much, much beloved friends LJ and NS were visiting her, promising it to be a very merry time indeed.

I must first say that I didn't see much of Phoenix, a city that I expected very little of because it is new and has spread at an incredible pace in the past 50 years or so to become a very large and quite soulless suburban landscape (or so I have been told). The conference was in Scottsdale, an upper middle class neighbourhood in town (seemingly strewn with shopping malls) and most of my time was confined within the four walls of our rather luxurious hotel. We did however get time one day to drive the 2.5 hours it takes to get to the beautiful Sedona valley and its amazing red mountains towering high over the otherwise desert landscape.

But back to the fun Florida part. I didn't expect Treasure Island to be quite so beautiful but rows upon rows of pastel colored houses and the clear blue sea and powder white sand reminded me very much of being in the Keys. TI is primarily a retirement community but it somehow added to its charm. It's very laid back and the night scene, if you are a young and single, is non-existent. Which is probably why I liked it so much.

We spent our days on a motor boat rented from "Frenchy's" (the irony of that did not go unnoticed and was the butt of many jokes), roaming the open sea and adjacent canals, spotting dolphins, with music blaring out of our iPod speakers (the highly danceable Florida's "Club can't handle me" was our theme tune for the weekend - I still can't get it out of my head!) and drinking from mini-Chardonnay bottles (right in front of the sticker on the boat saying "Don't drink & drive" of course). The other part was spent lazily lying on the beach while a sand castle building competition was going on much to our amusement, or cooking a lavish and calorie-ladden breakfast for each other.

FM's gorgeous house was the perfect base for us, minutes away from beach, coffee (I learned to love 7/11's) and the infamous Captain Kosmako's restaurant/club. We ventured there on Saturday night and it was actually like stepping back into the 70s, from the decor, to the ambiance, the food and the clientele. But we loved everything about it - especially the fact that we were the youngest patrons by about 30 years! We danced the night away with these amazing, full of life, retirees. My family gatherings in France always include many generations and so I know how to dance (but probably quite atrociously) to most things. A skill that came in rather handy that night as LJ and I twirled around the dance floor and salsa danced without a care in the world.

The weekend I just had may seem like one in many - it is and that is very much a key component to my happiness. I love New York dearly and feel like I have mastered it as much as one really can - which is not very much. But nothing makes me happier than going away from it and coming back. I realize very much that my time here, and this moment in time in my life, is precious and probably counted. Surely no one can be afforded such unbridled fun for very long! So I want to carry on making the most of it, for as long as I possibly can ...

Friday, November 12, 2010


I'm a creature of habit and although I love going to new places, when I am feeling even just a little tired or lazy, I lose my sense of adventure and love nothing more than going back to my favourite haunts.

Tonight was one of those nights when after a long and stressful week at work, I was meant to meet up with a couple of girlfriends for drinks and nibbles Uptown and suggested we go to High Life, a comfy and well tried/tested place for us. But KM wanted to try something new and a quick search on prompted us to give Cava, a wine bar on 80th & Amsterdam, a try. When we got there we found out it was closed for a private party but another drinking establishment caught our eyes pretty much immediately with the words "wine restaurant" prominently displayed on the awning. You can't really go wrong with these two words combined together.

So that's how we ended up stumbling completely by chance upon Tolani - the aforementioned wine restaurant - which only opened barely a month ago. And boy were we not disappointed. Beautiful setting in a very New York wine bar kind of way - cozy and warm with exposed brick walls and rustic wood details, candle lights dancing throughout the dining room, cool music but not too loud, plush and comfy leather seats at the bar and an enticing and eclectic menu with a paired down but carefully edited wine list. It was love at first sight (or sip I guess) and we knew straight away that we would be back, over and over again. We shared a bread basket, cold meats and cheeses and I also had a great zucchini and white anchovies salad - but next time, when I am hungrier, I will give the amazing sounding peri peri grilled shrimps on a bed of saffron rice a try, which is pretty much all my favourite things ever, combined into one dish.

The service was discreet but attentive and friendly and the South African manager giving us an extra glass of wine (we were on our 3rd bottle by then so I guess he knew we were going to be good customers!) and a complimentary "out of this world, better than sex" bread and butter pudding type dessert sealed the deal.

Go. Now.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Limelight Marketplace

The Limelight Marketplace, a converted 19th century Episcopalian Church in Chelsea on 20th & 6th, opened up a few months ago - interestingly it had also been a trendy but drug filled nightclub throughout the 80s and 90s . I didn't get a chance to check it out until last weekend however when the massive queues to get into Eataly, where we had intended to go, put me and my lovely friend SM (visiting from London) off and we headed there instead.

I didn't know exactly what to expect but it was a much posher affair that I had envisioned. A very modern space, with glossy white surfaces and strategically placed mirrors throughout was created while respecting the building's architectural integrity. There is certainly no mistaking that you are in fact in a church.

The maze of tiny shops sell an eclectic mix of gourmet food items (including delicious ice creams and a small but perfectly formed selection of cheeses), high end gadgets, arts and crafts, and upscale furniture amongst many other treasures.

A few restaurants will soon open as well, including a cozy wine bar on the top floor affording a great view of the shopping arcade below and the much anticipated Manhattan outpost of Grimaldi's, the famous Brooklyn pizza joint.

I know where I will be doing my Christmas shopping from this year!