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Let me tell you a tale of Mexico that has little to do with sun and sand, will never use the term all-inclusive, and has not a trace of guacamole or margaritas. This is the tale of Puebla, a colonial city about 75 miles outside of Mexico City.
Puebla, the fourth largest city in Mexico, is a city that is well-known by the avid traveler to Mexico. Its graffiti murals are local artistic expressions, it still hosts live bull fights, and its most famous ambassador is mole poblano (that heavenly mixture of chocolate and chilies). But to the tourist that only knows Cancun, Ixtapa and Los Cabos, Puebla is literally a whole new world. But this is why it is a must for anyone’s visit to Mexico.
Tiny colonial streets are flanked with candy stores, clothing shops and taco stands. Outdoor markets offer everything from candied peaches to peanuts to grasshoppers with chilies and garlic, and there are at least three indoor food markets that sell everything from chicken doused in mole to cemitas, which are fat sandwiches stuffed with meat, avocado and Oaxaca cheese.
Hotel options are limited, but that’s the beauty of Puebla. You will be hard pressed to find more than a few other Americans. La Purificadora is, in my opinion, one of the best luxury boutique hotels in the city. The hotel plays with the boundaries of indoor and outdoor, as much of the hotel is open air and is decorated with slate, stone and wood. Bright purple chairs in the lobby accent the subdued, natural tones.
Be sure to visit the terrace, which overlooks the San Francisco cathedral, and has an above-ground, all glass infinity pool. (The best views are at night, when the cathedral glows warmly. If you’re lucky, you’ll see fireworks bursting in the distance.) Order a cocktail and breathe in the balmy air. You’re in Puebla. No need to worry tonight; there’s always mañana.
One of the other great landmarks in Puebla is the Popocatépetl Volcano, an active volcano that lazily watches over the city. In the evenings it is easy to see the heavy cloud of smoke that hangs over the mouth of the volcano. As the sun sets behind the beast, it is even more magnificent.
Puebla is not for everyone. You won’t find tequila shots being handed out on the beach, there is no cOcO bOngO, and everyone’s t-shirt manages to stay dry. This is not America’s Mexico. And this is why we like it.
I know I’m not the first to say it…but what the hell is going on in Battery Park City? What is this magical land adjacent to New York’s financial center and across the West Side Highway? Why are people going there?
If it’s not painfully obvious, I am a Battery Park City neophyte. The area of Manhattan roped off by the Hudson River and the West Side Highway, from Warren Street down to Battery Park, is a 92-acre planned community of luxury high rises and, until recently, not much else. Today, however, passersby will find restaurants (including a Shake Shack), a movie theater, and not one, but two luxury hotels.
Everyone knows the Ritz-Carlton, Battery Park, but new to the ‘hood as of last year is the Conrad New York, a five-star hotel with modern suites and views of the city and the Hudson River. If you’re visiting NYC, this may be a great spot to rest your bones, as it is close to the bulk of the city’s major subway arteries. But if you’re a local, I highly recommend a stop to the restaurant and wine bar, Atrio.
Delicately touched with whites, creams and browns the restaurant gives off a chic, almost Miami feel, but the views are decidedly New York. I suggest ordering the Crispy Black Kale, which comes with Jersey Ricotta, Black Figs and Pine nuts. A plate of Charred Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan and Pine Nuts is another great option for the table to share. For your main course, I found the Hand Cut Pappardelle with Osso Bucco Ragout and Gaeta Olives over-the-top tasty, and gut-stuffing (but in the best way).
Prices are very reasonable, considering it is a hotel restaurant. Entrees do not go much above $30, so dinner for two will not be breaking the bank. Atrio also serves breakfast and lunch.
Stay tuned for our Springtime Report from the hotel’s Loopy Doopy Bar, a rooftop bar that opens in May.
The Conrad New York is at 102 North End Avenue.
Here’s one for all you love birds out there. If you are looking for an intimate cocktail bar that will impress your date from “out of town,” (or at least confirm for him or her that you are in fact a total hipster), you should hit up Orient Express in New York’s West Village.
Named after the passenger train, the Orient Express is detailed as such, with curved ceilings, dim lighting and cocktails themed after old rail services. I went for the Mata Hari: Bulleit bourbon, Pierde Almas Abadaan mescal, lemon juice, agave, ginger and aloe. It was tangy, it was citrusy, it was whiskey-y. Not too shabby. Ok I’ll stop.
I hear they also serve food at this place, but I was really just there for the drinks. The bartenders wear button downs and old-timey vests that liken them to old railroad employees (how appropriate), and couples canoodle in dark corners pretending to be anywhere but here.
Be prepared to spend upwards of $11 on cocktails, which seems to be a trend when bars are billing themselves as the “best” in the city. I can’t say for sure whether or not this bar is actually numero uno, but the drinks were pretty damn good.
Orient Express is on W 11th between Greenwich and Washington.
“A little Southeast Asian fermented funkiness and a whole helluva lot of smoke.” That’s who Fatty ‘Cue is, and that’s why I had to see what the hell they were talking about.
Very rarely (if ever) do you think of southern barbecue when you imagine Southeast Asia, but restaurant Fatty ‘Cue (of the Fatty Crab family) in the West Village is bringing you just that.
True to foodie scenes as of late, Fatty ‘Cue is a dimly lit restaurant in the West Village with waiters dressed in flannel and a bartender moving and shaking together ingredients that you never would have ever thought would meld, but somehow they just do. (Try the Smokin’ Bone: whiskey, smoked pineapple, lime, tabasco and chocolate bitters.)
The idea behind the menu is to share plates, but allow me to let you in on a little secret: these plates are huge. You really don’t need to share, but it’s definitely more fun if you do. The waiter will tell you that four to five plates are enough for a full meal but after two shared plates I was decidedly full. The additional plates we ordered put me over the top into “unbutton my pants and see you next month” mode. I guess you don’t have to clean your own plate, but that just seems like a horrible move; I’d rather roll myself out the door. Bikini season is still a healthy three months away.
Order yourself the lamb ribs, which come with a cincalok emulsion. They are succulent, tender and worth every fatty bite. Fatty ‘Cue is heralded for its 1/2 pound of deep fried bacon, served up with a sweet and spicy salsa verde. In my humble opinion it was definitely tasty, but the ratio of fat to meat left something to be desired. The green curry P.E.I. mussels are heaven-sent and I highly recommend dipping the generous slices of Texas toast into the broth. Finally, the smoked bobo chicken with red onion, cucumber and chili is good. Scratch that: very good, but I think that it’s worth being a tad more adventurous and going for the Isaan-style duck lab or the smoked brandt beef brisket.
Fatty ‘Cue is on Carmine Street in the West Village. There is also one in Williamsburg, but it is temporarily closed for renovations.
I try so hard to be a chic and sophisticated New York lady, but more often than not I wind up with stains on my wrinkled shirt and food in my hair. It’s just how it goes. I’ve accepted it and so should you.
Last night was the perfect embodiment of just that. I was on “the list” to attend the first anniversary party of STK Midtown. (It’s a steakhouse on Sixth Avenue and W 43rd Street that oozes sex appeal. Its tagline is “Not your daddy’s steakhouse,” in case you were wondering.) I walked in to neon blue and purple lights, white fixtures and waitresses all in little black dresses holding electric colored cocktails. (The party was 80s themed…I still don’t know why.)
It wasn’t exactly New York’s glitterati (Kris Humphries was scheduled to appear…), but the blazer I was wearing cost $30, so the crowd felt infinitely more sophisticated and sexy than I did. After a glass of white wine and a drink called The Fraggle Rock (Bulleit bourbon, root beer ice cube and bitters), I slipped out the door past a snaking line of stiletto-heeled vixens who would have leapt at my spot at the bar licking their chops, completely ridding themselves of proper party decorum.
Free of a crowd that was sending my neuroses spinning, I trekked the 15 blocks north to Le Parker Meridien to what I consider to be an equally luxurious, religious and comfortable experience: burgers and beer.
For those who don’t know, Le Parker Meridien is a luxury midtown hotel with a secret. In the lobby behind an expansive mauve curtain is a dingy burger hole aptly named The Burger Joint. It’s been around for quite some time, so I’m hardly the first to discover it, but if you have yet to go I seriously suggest you do. Now.
It’s cash only and you better know exactly what you want before you get to the front of the line. Cheeseburger, medium, the works. (The works equals pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mayo and mustard.) Fries also seriously help this equation, and you wash it all down with a frosty Sam Adams out of a plastic cup. It’s a burger joint inside a luxury hotel. Oh the irony! If that’s not New York trendy, then I don’t know what is.
We’ve all heard the rumors about Chinese massage parlors. I’m sure you, yourself, have even contributed to the stereotypes. I’m not above the occasional (and obvious) “happy ending” joke. But after last night I may have to place a moratorium on all off-color massage parlor jokes. Why? Keisy.
Okay. Why Keisy? Keisy Oriental Nature Center sits on E 9th Street between Second and Third avenues, on that little strip that is dotted with shabu-shabu and sushi restaurants. A fluorescent sign with red lettering and a sandwich board out front advertising $45 for a one-hour massage is all the pomp that this place affords itself.
Let me get this out of the way: this is not a spa. The massage parlor is up a flight of stairs in a sparsely decorated space that looks more like a row of office cubicles than a place for deep relaxation. But do not be fooled. What you are about to experience is transcendental.
One of the masseurs takes you to a room and leaves to you strip down to your skivvies and lie face down on the massage table under a (very clean) sheet. Then, without ceremony, a stereotypical soothing voice or a hint of aromatherapy, he or she essentially goes to town on your muscles. I had muscles worked that I didn’t even know I had.
I’m not going to lie to you. Parts of this experience were some of the most excruciating pain I have ever felt (you should also know that I have the back of a 90-year-old cripple), but afterward I felt like an overly tenderized piece of meat…but in a good way! These people know what they are doing and they leave no stone unturned. Forehead, ears, shoulders, back, legs, arms, feet, hands and even your nose. It’s all rubbed, massaged, unclenched and stretched out.
You will leave Keisy in a dopey state of bliss, and for just $45 your wallet won’t feel any lighter. It’s a win-win.
Want to make it a win-win-win and keep the health flowing? Head just across the street to Hasaki for a light sushi dinner. The quality is unbelievably fresh and with the green tea flowing, this is just the meal to keep your organs and muscles smiling all night long.
Longest, widest, biggest, best. No – this isn’t an ad for RedTube (don’t even pretend you don’t know what that is). This is Dubai in a nutshell – an ever-changing city smack dab in the middle of the desert that loves its oil almost as much as it loves its superlatives.
There is a lot you can say about Dubai. I stayed at the JW Marriott Marquis, the tallest hotel in the world. I went to the top of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, which is adjacent to the biggest mall in the world, The Dubai Mall. There is also something like the world’s biggest aquarium, the world’s widest structure, the world’s longest unmanned metro line…The list of Dubai’s superlatives is a superlative in itself.
For me, however, the best thing you can do in Dubai is to take a break from the frenzy and the glitz and get outside of the city for something truly unique.
“Dune bashing” is a great way to see a side of the world that you truly cannot get anywhere else, and I am told it is a way that the local youth like to spend their time. Several companies offer dune bashing tours, where you are taken out in jeeps with professionals who literally cruise the sand dunes. The topsy-turvy feeling gets old kind of quickly (at least, it did for me what with motion sickness and the fact that I’m not really one for thrills and spills), but the moments when you get out of the jeep for a photo op will leave you with that, “oh my god I’m in Dubai” feeling. Rolling tan dunes span as far as the eye can see, until you happen upon local bedouin communities. It’s quiet. It’s empty. It’s that little thrill we all need when trying something new.
Check out Desert Safari Dubai, which offers late afternoon dune bashing tours, followed by a bedouin-style dinner out in the middle of the desert. The dinners include entertainment, barbecued meats, salads, shisha smoking and yes, there is a cash bar.
Hello from Dubai! After a 12-hour flight (and one of the best airplane experiences I’ve ever had), I am finally in the United Arab Emirates. Instead of regaling you with tales of the journey, which would undoubtedly be told with a haughty tone, I’ll just let my pictures speak for themselves.
The journey began at John F. Kennedy International Airport in the Emirates Lounge with a breakfast of Greek yogurt, an egg white omelet and a “detox juice” made of carrot, apple and ginger.
Settled into Business Class aboard the Emirates’ A380 plane. A380 planes are double deckers, with Business and First Class on the top level and Economy on the bottom.
Before takeoff, Business and First Class passengers are given a welcome drink and a Bvlgari amenity kit. Champagne! Bvlgari! It’s the life.
Emirates caters to my shameless Friends obsession. After takeoff, scroll through the expansive media library. There are enough hours of entertainment to take you around the world…twice.
After your main meal (and a good nap) head to the back of the plane where the Business Class bar serves up a selection of canapes…
Twelve hours later arrive in Dubai refreshed and ready to take on this futuristic, Jetson-esque hub of the world! Dubai, here I come!
A row of bright cardigans hangs underneath a shelf lined with bowler hats and fedoras, while bowties sit neatly on a table next to shiny black Oxfords. No, it’s not Holden Caulfield’s boarding school dorm room, but you aren’t far off. This is Briar Vintage, a fashion shop selling “menswear, collectibles and oddities” that range from the 1800s through the 1960s.
On a recent trip to Philadelphia, I was taking a stroll through the Old City neighborhood. I hadn’t been to Philly in a long time and I wanted some sort of traditional experience without having to touch the Liberty Bell or suck down a cheesesteak. (Even summaries on Philly’s cliches have become cliche.) Briar Vintage was just the ticket.
Entering the store is like stumbling into Doc Brown’s wet dream (flux capacitor not included). Briar deems itself an expert collector of pieces ranging from an 1880 morning jacket and a frock coat from 1903 to a baseball jersey from 1947 and a 1953 wool letterman sweater. There are also Native American blankets from the 1930s and World War II battleship stationary.
But perhaps the most curious (and interesting) piece in the store is the manager himself, David. David is an enigma. Full body tats peeked out from under his mint condition 1930s gray suit, and I swear his round, frameless lenses got misty as he went off on a diatribe about the anachronisms in the Mad Men wardrobe. The man is a walking encyclopedia on everything from cufflinks and natty neckties to war boots and suit cases. If you have a minute (or 10) to spare, it’s worth engaging him in a fashion history lesson.
If you’re a sucker for vintage fashions, or just like taking a peek into the past, Briar Vintage should be a stop on your Philadelphia itinerary. It’s even possible to book personal shopping experiences to help you find exactly what you are looking for.
Briar Vintage is at 62 North 3rd Street.
I’m trying really hard to ‘wow’ you with a first post of 2013, but I’ve heard if you try to write well, you usually don’t. So in lieu of a creative lead and a really solid first paragraph, I’ll just tell you what I did on New Year’s Eve and hopefully it will inspire you to check out a truly untapped neck of the woods in New York City.
The area off the East Broadway stop in Manhattan is still a mystery to me. It’s part Chinatown, part Lower East Side, and both parts spooky. I think that’s why I like it so much. To close out 2012 I visited this part of town and have returned with three establishments that should be on your list for a a complete night out.
The Leadbelly: On Orchard Street just above Canal, you won’t find much. It’s a dark part of Chinatown where overstuffed black bags of garbage outnumber people and Chinese symbols rule the roost. The only (and I mean ONLY) storefront you could notice has a frosted window out front with The Leadbelly: Oysters and Liquor carved in cursive. If that’s not enough of a hook then you should probably stop reading right now. Inside you will find white washed wooden beams, exposed brick, a wall of vintage suitcases and records and a menu of fresh oysters, small bites and creative cocktails. Oldies music plays softly from the speakers while bartenders swirl whiskeys, vodkas and gins in silver shakers. If you visit during happy hour, which is until 8 p.m., select oysters are $1.
The Fat Radish: Directly across the street, at 17 Orchard Street, is sister restaurant The Fat Radish. This farm-to-table-style restaurant has a similar effect as The Leadbelly, in that diners enter and completely forget that the street outside looks like a set from Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. The menu runs the gamut from oysters and snacks to experimental vegetable dishes and free-range proteins. I highly recommend tucking into the scotch egg, which is a six-minute egg cooked in a sausage cradle and plated with cornichons and grain mustard. You should also check out the whole roasted local cauliflower and the Montauk Diver Scallops. Be sure to order a side of the sauteed Tuscan Kale with chili.
169 Bar: Before you hop back on the F train at East Broadway and head back uptown to the real world, make a pit stop at 169 Bar. Literally steps from the subway entrance, you can’t miss this bar that has potted palm trees out front. Inside the bar is glossed with a red and blue glow. Mismatched furniture, hanging lights, a pool table and a cage for gogo dancers are just a few of the quirky decorative touches. Try the Oyster Shooters – a shot glass with your choice of a tequila or vodka bloody mary and a fresh oyster at the bottom.