21 March 2019

Subjective list of favorite places to eat in NYC

Tomorrow is my last day at Food & Wine, where I've been the digital editorial director for the past two-and-a-half-ish years. While I spent most of my career in fashion, I was also previously the executive editor at Epicurious. And I grew up in New York City. So I have some pretty specific thoughts and opinions on where I like to acquire and eat food in town. People always ask me where they should eat, and this is where I tell people I like to go (when people I don't like ask, I'll just give them any old internet list). This probably isn't a list of usual suspects, it's very my-taste. Also, it's random, but I think of it as the places I'll miss eating the most after I move to Hong Kong next week.

My go-to pizza place: On Seamless, I always order the pepperoni-jalapeno pizza from East Village Pizza. Once a year I'll get sit-down-restaurant pizza with some friends, usually it's somewhere like John's of Bleecker, Patsy's, or Grimaldi's, but these aren't the pizzas I crave. The pizza I crave is New York by-the-slice corner pizzeria pizza, with pepperoni and jalapenos.

My go-to neighborhood restaurant: Cafe Loup, RIP. Nothing else compares. If it ever re-opens, get the roquefort salad and bavette frites.

My go-to Chinese restaurant: My favorite American Chinese food spot for the past 15+ years is Sammy's Noodle Shop on Sixth Ave. I like everything, but when I want to feel especially weekend-y, I'll order the General Tso's Chicken or Fish and a noodle soup. They make a good hot and sour soup and a good sliced beef and peppers dish, too. If I feel like something a bit more regionally-focused, I'll have weekend lunch at Le Sia in the East Village. The lobster sticky rice at Congee Village is great, too (and available via Postmates).

Best steakhouse: Pretty sure I've already told everyone I know my opinion on this, but the Beatrice Inn is my favorite steak restaurant in New York City. I would go so far as to call it my favorite restaurant experience, overall, in New York City right now.

Best sit-down tacos: This is a tough one for New York. I know there are good spots at Chelsea Market and in Murray Hill and stuff, but in my neighborhood, I'll always choose Empellon Taqueria, which has never failed me.

Where I get my bagels: I probably eat the most bagels from Black Seed, because they have a kiosk in Hudson Eats, just downstairs from my office. On the weekends I'll swing by Murray's Bagels. I like a salt bagel with lox spread or egg salad. My parents like the whitefish from Murray's.

Favorite breakfast: If someone fancy is taking me to breakfast on an expense account, we'll go to Norma's in the Parker. It's very extra and one time I sat a table away from Hulk Hogan, who was a hero to me when I was a kid and became kind of an anti-hero to me after he took down Gawker using some billionaire's money. On my own, when I'm jet lagged, I'll head to Chinatown for rice rolls and Eggo-and-condensed-milk sandwiches from iM Star Cafe or pick up pork-and-thousand-year-old-egg congee and some fried bread from Big Wong.

Best work lunch spot: There's no good answer to this question.

Best seeing friends you don't see a lot dinner spot for a small group: I think, with groups, dietary restrictions and preferences is always the hardest thing to deal with, so I like to pick somewhere that has options—like Fig & Olive in Meatpacking or the new Standard Grill, which I tried a few weeks ago and think is pretty great. There are a lot of options on the menu that don't involve sauces or dairy or wheat, which is great for your dining companions who don't eat those things.

Best fun bar for grown-ups where you can sit down and actually have a conversation: My go-tos are Japanese-inspired bars, Moga on Houston and Katana Kitten. I also used to take a lot of drinks meetings at Cafe Loup, but RIP, see above.

Oh no, you're in midtown: Eat katsu curry at Katsuhama, I like the location on 47th and Fifth.

OK that's all I can think of right now, off the top of my head.

19 December 2018

My history with long train rides

I remembered last night that I've previously taken two long-form train trips, spanning states, provinces, countries, and days, that were some of the best journeys of my life—for completely different reasons.

In 2013, I joined Levi's on the brand's coast-to-coast #StationToStation adventure, where they commissioned an artist to curate a multi-city art-meets-music pop-up event series—with the entire crew, plus artists, musicians, and media, traveling between each city by train.

The Levi's team started in NYC, but I joined them in Santa Fe and rode all the way to Los Angeles. In between we stopped in Winslow, Arizona, where Ed Ruscha's brother made us omelets and Jackson Browne sang his Winslow, Arizona, song.

Then Barstow, where Levi's booked out a massive drive-in theater in the middle of the desert, I saw Beck perform for the first time (wow), and a massive faux-UFO blew in overhead lighting up the sky at the end of the night.
There was a lot more to the trip that I'm not remembering right now—catching Linda Perry at an open mic in Pioneertown, driving down Route 66, a crochet museum at Joshua Tree National Park, and wrapping up the week ensconced in a suite at Chateau Marmont. But it was epic. And epic is an understatement in this case. I'll never forget the feeling of crossing the Southwestern part of the U.S. on a train with a dozen famous musicians, everyone and everything kitted out by Levi's; and I was lucky to make some lifelong friends on that trip, as well.

Then, in 2016, after leaving WWD and before joining Food & Wine, I rode the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff—and, for me, this trip was less emotionally epic (I had fewer *feelings* on this train ride), but mind-broadening and visually stunning in a way that only a luxury glass-domed cross-country journey through the Canadian Rockies can be.
This was also the first time I was introduced to the Fairmont Hotels in Canada, and wow, Fairmonts in Canada, especially the tranformed railroad hotels the chain operates throughout the Rockies, are some of my favorite properties in the world—especially the haunted one in Banff.

18 December 2018

I'm on a 30-hour train ride

The last time I tried to sleep on an overnight train was more than ten years ago—September 2008, when Tuomas, Chris, and I booked a "private triple cabin" on the 23:35 from Milan to Paris. We thought taking the train would make it easier to carry Tuomas' collection from the show (in Italy) to the showroom (in France). LOL on us. Our room on the train was minuscule—probably the same size as the Viewliner Roomette I'm in right now, but with three bunk tiers instead of just the two, and only a communal toilet in the hall.

I woke up at 6:30 this morning. It's my first day of real vacation—I have the next week-ish off, including Christmas—and I hadn't planned anything because I've been traveling a lot: the Celebrity Edge launch a couple of weeks ago straight into Art Basel in Miami, then back in New York for just a couple of days before heading out to Aspen for EMP Winter House. I hate wasting vacation days, though, and I'd just done a mini-staycation ahead of Thanksgiving, so over the past week I've been casually looking around for something to do, maybe just for a few days. I looked at quick trips to Asia, Dubai, Aswan—all too expensive because I was booking flights so last-minute. There was one point where I was thisclose to boarding a cruise to Antarctica for New Year's—but that fell through at the last minute, it's OK, everything happens for a reason.

But this morning when I woke up, the first thought that popped into my head was: I've never been to New Orleans. Fast forward eight hours and I'm boarding the Amtrak Crescent for the 30-hour train ride from New York's Penn Station to New Orleans' Union Terminal. Right this minute, I'm about to head to sleep—this time I'll probably really sleep, not like the Milan-to-Paris journey ten years ago when I was younger and could stay up all night looking out the window into the dark as we sped through Switzerland. I love train travel, especially long-distance—the longest train trip I'd been on before this one was a 15-hour trip up the East Coast from Savannah to New York a few years back (the fashion publicist in charge of booking was horrified I wanted to take the train rather than fly and almost refused my request to travel by land). In college, my New York friends who couldn't drive (like me) and I would take the Amtrak Vermonter the seven hours up to White River Junction, back and forth during school breaks. I love how long train rides hold the promise of endless hours of possibility—of doing nothing at all or something potentially really productive (I have two books with me along with the latest issue of the New Yorker—I had a moment today when I thought I might want to bring my laptop so I could bang out a book proposal while on board).

OK, that's all for now. More from New Orleans to come.

13 December 2018

Reasons I love Aspen

I'm in Aspen for the seventh time—I love it here. It's the quintessential (super rich, very fancy) small American town and if I had a bazillion dollars I could see myself living here, at least part of the year. Here's an incomplete and very random list of reasons I love Aspen, Colorado.

  1. The manageable, walk-able size of town.
  2. Hickory House Barbecue (get the ribs)
  3. The shopping (all the usual luxury suspects)
  4. Speaking of shopping, there's an Aviator Nation here, they make my favorite sweatpants in the world.
  5. The relaxed outdoor recreation culture
  6. You don't need to dress up, pretty much ever. 
  7. The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is the best food festival in America.
  8. The luxury condos and all the marble and dark wood furniture.
  9. The luxury hotels and hotel dining. I love a good hotel lobby bar and this place has them in spades.
  10. Great restaurants everywhere
  11. The oxygen bar at the St. Regis is one of my favorite places, having those tubes stuck up my nose and lounging in a pile of faux fur blankets makes me feel like Edina from AbFab.
  12. The air
  13. All the people I've ever met who live here full-time are A+++++ humans.

09 December 2018

My Interpol driver

On Thursday morning a black car picked me up from Celebrity Cruises terminal 25 in Fort Lauderdale to drive me to the Four Seasons Miami on Brickell. The driver was a cheerful, chatty, friendly older man who told me he'd been specially requested, that he'd driven from Palm Beach just to pick me up. He asked me what I do for a living, and when I told him I work at Food & Wine, he seemed confused—he said he's usually only assigned to drive moguls and politicians because he has the highest level of security clearance, because he worked for Interpol for nearly 20 years.

We had a pretty normal conversation after that, at least for the next 20 minutes. We talked about restaurants and travel—Italy, China, Canada—and he told me some great stories from when he worked in government, how he used to travel ahead on security detail and how, in training, they'd be given specific instructions on how to speak, behave, and even order food in cities around the world.

And then, all of a sudden, he started to tell me about myself. He sort of glanced at me in the rear view mirror and casually said, "See, I'm just doing this police thing on you." Profiling, I guess? He instantly knew that I'm single, don't have kids, travel a lot, and don't keep a lot of close relationships. It was... weird. But also not weird at the same time, because it was all true. He told me long stories about how he spent decades traveling for work and how it impacted him and his family. As we pulled up to the hotel, I gave him the bottle of Veuve I'd gotten on board the cruise ship. And when he got my suitcase out of the trunk of the car, he hugged me and looked me in the eye. And the last thing he said to me was: "Don't be afraid of love."

26 November 2018

I'm a fan of weeknighting

I love early 6 p.m. Monday night dinners out with old friends—it's perfect: the no-pressure reservation, the uncrowded dining room, the weeknight-ness of the entire adventure. Sharon and I have been friends since the print / newspaper days—and tonight we met at Ilili and ordered duck shawarma, kofta, dandelion, hummus, and fattoush (no romaine, though!). Then we went to 7-Eleven to buy lottery tickets because Susan Miller says it's the luckiest day of the year.

25 November 2018

5 Best Sensitive-Oily-Aging Skincare Products I Swear By

I have slightly sensitive dry, aging skin that gets oily and shiny throughout the day in the T-zone. I'm prone to small but long-lasting breakouts around the sides of my nose and also the area between the corners of my mouth and my jawline. I deal with seasonal redness and flakiness around my cheeks and nostrils. My skin also eats makeup—eye makeup disappears throughout the day and I have medium-large pores around the center of my face. It's taken a lot of experimentation and trying new products over the years, but this winter is the happiest I've ever been with my skincare and makeup routine in decades. Decades! Here's are the exact skincare and makeup products I've been obsessed with and have repeatedly purchased for my sensitive combination aging skin:

Glossier Milk Jelly Cleanser: It's a little like Cetaphil, but way better, and rose-scented. I'd guesstimate I've purchased upwards of 30 of these over the years—so many that the Glossier consumer marketing team reached out to me and asked if I'd give them feedback on the product... you know, since I've used so much of it. Milky Jelly Cleanser is super-gentle and super-effective, it removes all my makeup, helps keep any oiliness in check without stripping the skin, never leaves me feeling irritated, and I've noticed a significant drop in rash / eczema / breakouts since I've started using it. Over the past few years, I have lapsed and tried other hyped cleansing products, but I always regret it and repent by ordering more Milky Jelly Cleanser. My only feedback to Team Glossier would be: I need this in both a TSA-friendly travel size as well as a mega-giant jumbo bottle size for home.

It Cosmetics Confidence in a Cream: I started using Confidence in a Cream because I had been using Charlotte Tilbury's Magic Cream for a while and was looking for a less expensive alternative. Now I love Confidence in a Cream and I don't think I'd go back—even if I won the lottery or something. I use Confidence in a Cream as a day cream—it's great under makeup and I don't need a primer on top of it—it's light but rich enough to last all day. I've probably gone through a dozen jars of this stuff and tbh what I like most about it is that it's uncomplicated, doesn't irritate my skin, looks smooth and great under foundation, and I feel like, over time, very gradually, it's improved the appearance of my skin—i.e. I definitely notice a difference when I stop using it and think I want to experiment with something new.

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel for Sensitive Skin: Ask any of my friends or relatives— I've been evangelizing the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta peels for years. But instead of daily (because I have this irrational fear of my skin becoming dependent on acids), I use them once or twice a week to exfoliate, clean up and tighten my pores, and, subsequently, help my other skincare work / absorb better. The pads are especially useful for travel—they're individually packed and are the best thing to use as soon as you hop off a long flight and check into a hotel—very refreshing.

Sweat sessions at Shape House: OK, Shape House is not technically a beauty product—it's a 55-minute infrared wrap joint that just landed in New York City from Los Angeles earlier this year—and I'm obsessed. Far Infrared treatments are clinically proven to have all sorts of positive health benefits—and while, sure, it would be nice to lose weight from all these sweat sessions I've been booking this fall and winter, if that happens it will come with time. For me, the most immediate result of sweat sessions at Shape House is that my skin has been looking great. I think it's probably the result of just, you know, a very straightforward correlation of sweating things out of my pores on a regular basis, which thereby pushes bad gunk out of my pores. Other side effects of sweating at Shape House: I feel deeply relaxed and somehow simultaneously energized after each session and it's so nice to lie perfectly still for an hour several times a week tucked into a toasty blanket while it's blustery and cold outside.
It Cosmetics CC+ Illumination with SPF 50+: I'd been using the normal non-illuminating version of this CC cream / foundation for a year before I mustered up the courage to try the illuminating version—I was worried it would make me look shiny, sweaty, or sparkly. But then I watched a Pixiwoo beauty tutorial where they used it and it looked so good, I had to try it—and the rest is history, I've never looked back. I love that this foundation looks like skin, has good coverage but is also sheer-ish. It stays all day, is illuminating, so I don't feel like I get a gray cast from it (which sometimes happens to me with matte-r foundations), and it photographs and videos beautifully. I set it with a translucent powder from Rimmel (I was using Charlotte Tilbury powder, which I love, but honestly it's $45 and that's a lot for a tiny pan of pressed powder) and then dust a little MAC Studio Fix on top as well. I also have this feeling that the CC+ cream makes me look... younger?

The 6 Best Hotels I Stayed in This Year

There's nothing I love more than the feeling of freedom that comes along with arriving solo at an airport in a foreign country. Travel is one of my greatest loves—maybe it's because I grew up in New York, and as much as this city has to offer, it can also feel stifling and claustrophobic (like, I never get to see the sky) after too many weeks on the ground—and this year I was lucky enough to do my fair share of country-hopping, mostly for work, but oftentimes with a few extra days tacked on pre- and post- for personal exploration. Here are the 6 best hotels I got to stay in this year—they're all fantastic and memorable for different reasons.

Waldorf Astoria Beijing: The perfect city-center location for a long shopping or sightseeing weekend in town, the Waldorf Astoria is one of the most beautiful city hotels in Beijing—and, for sure, one of the most luxurious. I used my Hilton status to upgrade to a suite and it was so nice, I just about wanted to move in. The food and spa in the hotel are also spectacular—make sure to grab a casual lunch in Peacock Alley, and breakfast in the main restaurant shouldn't be missed.

The Grand Hyatt Xi'an: Situated in the high-tech district in Xi'an, this new-in-2018 high-rise luxury property-meets-convention-center is a nature-design-inspired breath of fresh air—and a sea of calm in the middle of an ultra-modern city. The restaurants are all uniquely themed and excellent—especially the pan-Asian barbecue restaurant Maple House, a must-visit destination for a long, leisurely dinner.

SLS Baha Mar: I visited the SLS in Baha Mar when it first opened—and I still tell people, today, how incredible the rooms and the property are. Each hotel in the Baha Mar collection has its own unique vibe and characteristics, so I'd recommend checking them all out before you decide which one suits your personality and travel needs best. I loved the quiet and low-key luxury of the SLS.

JW Marriott Austin: I've been to SXSW Interactive several times as a speaker and mentor, and the JW Marriott is, hands-down my Austin hotel favorite (I've also stayed at two other properties in town and they're great—but the JW is one of the only hotels in the city center that doesn't have all the roads around it shut down during the festival—this is key for getting in and out of town to and from the airport as well as to further-afield restaurant reservations). To me, the JW brand is the quintessential luxury business traveler hotel—great executive lounges, polished-but-not-too-familiar service, fancy-but-not-too-fancy everything, good spas, good dining options. I've stayed at a few around the country / the world and it's a brand I feel like I can always trust.

The Temple House Chengdu: To me, the Temple House in Chengdu is the only place to stay in Chengdu—the location, smack dab in the center of the city in a semi-tranquil oasis of lowrises and attached to some of the best shopping and dining areas in town, is unbeatable. The rooms are also ultra-chic, quiet, and beautiful, and the in-house restaurant and facilities (that swimming pool!) are excellent. The staff are also some of the best in the business and you'll want to be best friends with all of them.

Surfrider Malibu: I stayed at the Surfrider Malibu back before it was even the Surfrider Malibu—years ago, it was a small apartment complex and I used to rent a place on Airbnb from a surfer who kept a studio there. Since its transformation into a boutique hotel, it's my go-to spot in L.A. (besides Chateau Marmont, which is just the hands-down ultimate in-town hotel). For a non-driver, the Surfrider's location right across the street from the Malibu Pier and just a 10-minute walk from Malibu Country Mart can't be beat. It's also next door to Casa Escobar, a really great Mexican restaurant where I happily eat 30 percent of all my meals when I'm in the neighborhood, and the Malibu outpost of Aviator Nation, my favorite sweatpants store on Earth. Make sure to check out the private guests-only bar-restaurant on the roof deck of the Surfrider—great food, great views.

23 November 2018

Things I've accomplished

I've officially been on staycation for five days now and I've accomplished... not that much? I have managed to spend some quality catch-up time with friends, though, so that's something. And I got my brother to help me bring a bunch of stuff down to Goodwill this afternoon—he spent the whole time lecturing me about how I should just find someone to sell my clothes online for me, instead, but really I'd much prefer the tax write-off.

Today (Black Friday) I wrote a story, went out for sushi at Sugarfish, then a coffee at Think, and then a chair massage at the spa down the street.

Here's what I bought online this week:

  • Simone Rocha cardigan (versatile)
  • Comme des Garcons dress (not on sale)
  • L.L. Bean fleece vest (not on sale)
  • Cath Kidston alpaca print dress, for work (alpacas!)

Ended the day sharing a bottle of 2017 Raats Chenin Blanc (a gift from Luvo Ntezo) with my brother and my sister-in-law.

19 November 2018

Staycation To-Do List

Currently on my first staycation in... years? I have three days off, then Thanksgiving with the family, then one day off, then the weekend. So many days, lots of things I'm hoping to get to that I don't usually have time for, including but not limited to:
  1. Actually going to the gym
  2. Cleaning my apartment and hauling a huge clothing drop-off to Housing Works
  3. Recycling a bunch of electronics
  4. Figuring out my shoe storage situation
  5. Visiting my friend Rachel's new-ish shop The Goods Mart for the first time
  6. Having lunch with freelance friends
  7. Going for infrared wraps as often as possible
  8. Making a YouTube video of something
  9. Try to launch something tiny on Shopify, just to see how the platform works
  10. Catching up on all the writing I need to do that I can't get done in the office
  11. Drinking coffees in coffee shops
I did have momentary cabin fever panic over the weekend and tried to book a weekend trip up to New Hampshire, but with it being one of the busiest travel weekends in the calendar year, no go. It's all for the better, I think, staying in town over the four-day weekend. New York is glorious in the winter when it's quiet.