Things I LoveTo-Do ListU.S. TravelWining/Dining

Big Trip/Big Apple/BIG Birthday

birthday 16

I’m guessing that you’ve figured out the what and the where.  As for what constitutes as a BIG birthday, 65 is definitely one.  If you follow this blog, you know we went to Greece (click for previous posts) for the hubby’s recent milestone birthday.  As for mine, the destination was a no-brainer especially since I love cold weather, great restaurants and shopping, with some theater thrown in because it’s part of what one does in NYC.

We flew American to NY and were really impressed with their new 321T plane which is used for transcontinental routes.  Wow — great plane, modern features, tons of leg room in the exit row, outlets and individual screens at each seat.  We got upgraded for our return (15K miles and $70 each); it was fabulous!

Bottom left is exit row en route to NY; other pix are the new business class seats.

It was a “no holds barred” kind of trip (within reason, of course) because a 65th birthday happens just once.  And when one is fortunate enough to have so much, it’s time to both partake and reflect.  The latter comes in a bit.

Loews Regency Hotel on Park and 61st got the where-to-stay nod after much debate (with myself and the internet).  To me this is a very central location for our plans; we had a terrific previous stay; and, the rate didn’t necessitate a second mortgage.  I chose three shows, all purchased in advance:  The Band’s Visit, My Fair Lady and Network (Bryan Cranston!).  Might I add that none of the NY tickets (all Orchestra seats) cost as much as what we paid for Dear Evan Hansen in Los Angeles.  Go figure that one out.

Hotel greetings; Network curtain call; The Band’s Visit; Still lit up in NYC

There’s a few places and restaurants where I’ve always wanted to go but never have on innumerable trips to NYC.  One is Peter Luger Steakhouse.  So many people have so many opinions about the “best steak” place to go, but one doesn’t stay in business for 130+ years with lousy food.  This was on my to-do list so that we high-tailed it to Brooklyn straight away after a fabulous performance of My Fair Lady.  Norbert Leo Butz as Alfred P. Doolittle is worth the price of admission, if only to see him perform “Get Me to the Church on Time.”

Steak, fries, lamb chops and a mountain of whipped cream

It’s also no surprise that where to dine for the actual birthday dinner was given a lot of thought.  Several months ago, I put a reminder in my calendar of the date when January reservations open up for Eleven Madison Park — notoriously difficult to book.  Three Michelin stars and consistently on the World’s Best list.  Parenthetically, if you click on that link, #15 is White Rabbit in Moscow.  Yikes.  We did not think it was so wonderful on our visit there in May.  So lists can certainly be in the eye of the beholder.

Nonetheless, EMP had availability for Jan 8 so with the hubby’s blessing, the booking was made (and pre-paid in full).  The experience was so extraordinary that I’m dedicating a separate post to it (to follow).  The night before was a return trip to Daniel — an absolute favorite and site of my perfect 60th.  The restaurant is consistently grand and Daniel Boulud was in the house.

Below is the custom menu delivered at the end of the night.  I’m always grateful for this so I don’t have to either take notes or try to remember what scrumptious dishes were served!  Inside the box is a small pastry to take with, just in case we needed another bite …

In the kitchen with Chef Boulud and with the wine director lower right.
Five years ago on my 60th.

We got to visit with family as well for Sunday brunch at Les Leopard des Artistes, close to Lincoln Center.  And we had a late night drink with a dear Houston friend who happened to be in NY.  Remarkably this is the second birthday in a row we’ve seen him (see post)!

Regular readers might remember Aunt Judy (blue coat) who traveled to India with us. Her husband, son, daughter & son-in-law made up a lovely group!
We met up with Houstonian Fred Zeidman (left) and his NY friend Gary to close the bar in the wee hours.
First visit to Russ & Daughters Cafe, Lower East Side, for transparent salmon, amazing latkes, egg cream, rugulah and clever wallpaper
Bergdorf’s shoe department, where the hubby’s “dogs” are in repose as I scoured the sales racks (sadly, nothing for me)

As for the reflection part,  I am indeed blessed.  A loving and devoted husband, adult children launched and flourishing in their respective careers, a successful business with loyal clients, seeing the world, two close sisters and great friends.  It’s a lot.  I am so grateful that I trusted my instincts to make the choices in life that resulted in all of this.  No doubt, some luck was involved as well.  But I wake up every day happy in wonderful surroundings.  So life at 65 is pretty, pretty good.


International TravelThings You Should KnowWining/Dining



We did it!  We made it to the Russian capital after lots of changes and Visa stuff (see previous).  After leaving Vilnius, we had a stopover in Riga prior to the flight to Moscow.  Travelers leaving the EU for Russian Federation countries go through a completely different checkpoint, with a very careful examination of one’s Visa.  Ours were in place and off we went.  By pre-arrangement, a car and driver greeted us at the Arrivals Hall for the short drive to the hotel.  By the way, greeters now hold up electronic devices showing one’s name (none of those old-fashioned signs requiring writing).

We were situated in the central part of “downtown” Moscow, minutes from Red Square, elegant shops, the historic Bolshoi Theater and other fine hotels.  Moscow is an ideal city for walking, with very wide boulevards.   Most of the major arteries require one to cross the street via underground tunnels as opposed to surface crosswalks.  You’d have to put a gun to my head to drive in Moscow, because the routes are extremely convoluted and the streets signs make no sense.  Other than that, it’s great!


I had purchased tickets to the Boshoi Ballet from home as I did not want to miss this iconic and historic landmark — founded in 1776.  It is absolutely pristine.  I have no idea what we saw — did not recognize the music or the story — but that was hardly the point; it was all about the experience.   What an impressive and beautiful facility.


We had a tour guide for the first morning — walking in Red Square and pointing out the various buildings and landmarks.  That was extremely helpful to get our bearings.  The timing was fortuitous as this was just days from the inaguration so some buildings (the Kremlin, etc) soon closed for the duration of our stay.


Below is a great view (left) Cathedral of Christ, followed by Church of All Saints, then (far right) St. Basil’s Cathedral (Red Square) — all historic and all visible from far away.

Day 2, we got confirmation of what we had hoped not to hear:  Nothing could be done about the incorrect exit date on our Russian Visas issued at home.  A series of mis-communications with the passport/visa agency (highly recommended to us) resulted in our Visas expiring after 5 days instead of the original plan to provide for our time in St. Petersburg.  The hotel GM tried with both the US and Russian authorities but to no avail.  I’m not sure what exactly happens if one overstays one’s exit date, but I wasn’t going to be the one to find out.  Stern warnings were heeded.

The hubby and I evaluated the situation – split the allotted time between two cities (separated by a four-hour train ride) or ..?  We decided to stay in Moscow and really see the city, then return to StP on a future trip.  All of you who have been to St.P and raved about it lest not think we “suffered” — I rerouted the remaining days on our trip to Paris. That’s a winning solution for sure.   It was a lot of moving about, paperwork and the like, but in the end one cannot speculate about what didn’t happen.  It’s all good.  And we think the magnificent Ritz Carlton Moscow personally felt a bit responsible for all the travails as we received upgrades and were showered with amazing service.Our time was spent trying restaurants, museums, shopping and walking — pretty much what one does in any European capital.  Along the way, we made a new friend in Jenny (below) who politely asked if we needed help as we pondered our map en route to dinner.  She spoke beautiful English and walked us to our destination while we chatted all the way.  We exchanged contact info, and she provided great travel tips while we were still in the city.  All I can say is, come visit us in LA so we can return the favor!

Some of the trip highlights:




And how about the frame shown below, found in our room the night before our departure.  How’s that for attention to detail?? Bravo.  And now it is on to Paris …

Things I LoveWining/Dining


I had the pleasure of recently experiencing not one but two NY icons done L.A. style. The first is the Broadway-Tony-award-record-breaking-smash-hit-musical Hamilton, which I was fortunate to see way back in October 2015. The second is the restaurant Jean-Georges, which the hubby and I have enjoyed on numerous occasions in NY and thus selected the new LA (Beverly Hills) outpost for our 31st anniversary dinner.  So, how did the west coast versions fare?
October 2015:  With daughter Hannah and Jonathan Groff (King George); Javier Munoz (took over for Lin-Manual Miranda on Broadway) and Tony-winner Daveed Diggs
It didn’t come as a surprise that Hamilton-LA is as terrific as the original.  Creator Lin-Manual Miranda as well as others responsible for the show were all present for opening night at the Pantages. Given Miranda’s well-known creative integrity, it follows that this cast, while providing their unique signatures, are marvelous. In particular, Michael Luwoye as Hamilton and Rory O’Malley as King George are stand-out’s.
It was a joy experiencing the show with the hubby and son, for whom this was their first time. The daughter and I have now seen it three times (twice in LA).  The takeaway is what an incredible service Miranda has done to generate so much interest in the story of our country’s founding. The audience was completely silent save for regular raucous cheering at the end of each number; i.e., so totally captivated not a single “shhhh” was necessary! That says a lot.  (The show runs through December).
While the Waldorf Astoria  and restaurant officially debuted late June, at the iconic intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards (next door to the Beverly Hilton), we decided to wait for the “dust to settle” before checking things out. 
Our last visit to the flagship Jean-Georges on Columbus Circle was an adventure — literally.  We happened to be visiting when Blizzard Jonah struck (Jan 2016), closing the entire city and environs.  Not to be daunted, we walked up 7th Avenue from our hotel to Central Park South (pictured below) to get to dinner.  I could have seriously used those cross-country skis.  It was quite something!   
8pm – the streets are virtually deserted!
Back to the dinner at hand, any comparison to the centerpiece of the J-G empire (nearly 40 in the US and abroad) is virtually silly as the experience is completely different.  It’s not even fair to compare one with three Michelin stars (not to mention a dress code) to one serving meals all day long in a more casual setting.  J-GBH is beautiful with excellent staff, but the menu — supervised by J-G to incorporate seasonal flavors — contains some ubiquitous choices (margarita pizza). The BH experience is much more akin to the more casual Nougatine, next to the flagship J-G, set in the bar area with a less serious albeit delicious menu.
Clockwise from top:   Entrance to the restaurant; simple tablesetting; wine case in the bar; our beverages (loved the CabFranc from a not-too-impressive wine list
IMHO (as the kids say, “in my humble opinion”), I think they would have been better served to pick a different name for the main downstairs restaurant so no Michelin-star experience would be anticipated.  That doesn’t mean we won’t go back for the hotel is gorgeous.  But save for Providence, LA will continue to be about LA food and will leave the serious dining to Napa, San Francisco and NYC.
The rooftop setting is a home-run with the pool, restaurant (Rooftop by J-G); view towards Westwood over the Beverly Hilton; pink-shirted Wolf Blitzer checking things out ..
Clockwise:  Monterrey calamari; corn with manchego, lime & chili (fabulous); skirt steak; lobster in coconut milk emulsion
Table-side prep of the salted caramel sundae was definitely a delicious treat!
Things I LoveU.S. TravelWining/Dining


Lucky me — back to the Big Apple again after last October’s visit (see previous post).  This time the hubby is in tow as the principal reason is a bat mitzvah celebration on his family’s side.  Of course I took the opportunity to schedule in a few fabulous meals and two Broadway shows plus an exhibit at the Met, all crammed in to four nights/three full days of non-stop action.
Never were the words “man plans and God laughs” more fitting than experiencing NYC’s second largest recorded snowfall, beginning the night before the event.  For much of the eastern seaboard, it became a series of plans changed, plans canceled, plans uncertain until the last minute, and everyone going with the flow.
Our original plan stayed in place for the first 24 hours: we checked into our hotel — The London on W. 54th.  A benefit of traveling to snowy cities are the reduced rates, plus this hotel’s location is superb for access to pretty much everything.
We landed in time to have dinner at the exquisite Le Bernardin, the flagship restaurant of Eric Ripert, garnering three Michelin stars, the 18th spot on the World’s Best List, and pretty much every other accolade out there.  The dining room is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.  Service was impeccable but never snobby, even when I altered the chef’s recommended preparation of a dish. The four-course tasting menu is practically a bargain compared with others in this caliber .. Per Se (east coast sister to The French Laundry) used to be there but has apparently slipped (see review) and is more than twice the cost. The nearly all-female sommelier staff (6 in all) were very knowledgeable with a neatly-edited list focused on certain varieties — heavy on white and red burgundies.  I asked what percentage of patrons bring in their own wine and the answer was: “None.  It is not allowed.”  It was a spectacular meal in all aspects.  No wonder it is the toughest reservation around.
Hamachi sushi
Seafood pasta with
shaved truffles
Beautiful salad with
Amazing white tuna
and waygu beef
Black walnut dessert


The all-white blossoms towered
in the center of the room
The Met visit included taking in the Costume Institute’s exhibit featuring international style/fashion icon Jacqueline de Ribes.  The hubby was about as interested in this as having a tooth extraction, but he makes an effort to be a willing participant for which I am grateful. What’s unique and special about this woman is her attention to detail — a dying art. Few women have the time, means and interest to concern themselves with always appearing “just so.” We live in an era of people getting on airplanes in flip-flops and tank tops. It’s not so much about the designer clothing, but rather the caring about one’s appearance which seems to be sadly diminished.  Enough said …
The gowns are timeless and look fresh
today as they did 30 years ago
The gown which she is shown wearing to a costume ball was on display
Not part of the exhibit but I was inspired to shoe shop after … Bergdorf’s still had their post-Christmas sale going on!
Friday afternoon was when the plans for Saturday and Sunday began to change so rapidly it was hard to keep up.  The bat mitzvah scheduled for Saturday late afternoon with evening party got moved to Sunday.   We made a beeline for the box office at Lincoln Center to change our Sunday matinée tickets (The King and I) to Saturday evening, plus change our nearby dinner reservation as well. So far, so good.  We informed the hotel we would be staying through Sunday instead of spending one night in Westchester and coming back to the city for a night.  No problem there.
We LOVED the hilarious Something Rotten  (second time for me) and departed the theater to a light dusting of snow as predicted late Friday evening.
Saturday morning was something entirely different as the snow was really coming down.  Nonetheless, the hubby hightailed it down to the box office to get matinée tickets (phenomenal seats!) for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (again a repeat for me) —  as even in a snowstorm Hamilton is impossible.  Not 90 minutes later as we showed up at the theater we were informed our show — and all of Broadway — was cancelled due to the weather. In fact, the entire city was shutting down save for the hotels and the restaurants within the hotels.  Hello Jonas, the blizzard of 2016.  Frankly I don’t see why so many folks had to be hugely disappointed. In some cases the tickets are next to impossible to get; people traveled long distances for special occasions that they may never have again.  The actors were already in place; you could hear people cheering as they exited the stage doors to go home. Couldn’t the productions just have a big slumber party if folks connected with the shows couldn’t access their normal means for getting home???
Snow piled up in Times Square with the
 die-hards still trying to get tix before alerted to the closings
Why the smirk?  Because in the hubby’s
native Ohio, two feet of snow is called “spring.”
Fortunately our dinner that evening at Nougatine was spared (cannot say the same for the hotel’s umbrella which the wind literally dismantled). This is the more casual companion eatery to Jean-Georges at Columbus Circle.  Even that was all upside down as the casual side was overwhelmed in order to accommodate hotel guests (the restaurant is in Trump International Hotel, but you-know-who had nothing to do with this!) so we were seated in the formal dining room with our choice of menus. Anything goes in the face of a blizzard..
One of my favorite
shots … perhaps the
driver needed to make a hasty retreat.
Below as we’re walking
down Central Park South back to the hotel.  I would have killed for those cross-country skis.
we had a great time with the hubby’s family, most of whom live in the northeast or Florida so these visits are regrettably less frequent. Congrats to Lauren, the bat mitvah girl, and her family. It’s not easy undoing and redoing an event for which the planning begins more than a year in advance.
With the hubby’s cousins Andrew, Nancy (mom of Lauren) and David Stone.
Below are the beautiful grounds of Elmwood Country Club in Westchester County
As for the experience of being in the “center of the storm,” we actually thought it was quite an adventure … Shout out to JetBlue for getting us home on time Monday even with all the clean up!
Things I LoveU.S. TravelWining/Dining


Most every parent I know says the same thing:   The older your kids are, the harder it is to carve out time with them.   They move out (God willing); they have a significant other; many go on to have their own children.  So it was music to my ears when daughter Hannah proposed we plan a fall trip to NY for essentially a Broadway binge. 

Her timing was good — the hubby is totally preoccupied in October with the seasons:  end of taxes, college football and baseball playoffs.  He probably won’t even notice we’re gone. November is out as he and I will be out of the country for 10 days (blogs to follow of course).  So from this evolved a way to spend time together, view fall foliage, and make a considerable contribution to the Great White Way (aka Broadway).

But hold on a minute.  She is very gainfully employed and making a good living.  No reasonable person would consider me and the hubby stingy in the parental category, but there are limits.  So her willingness to contribute $$ in a meaningful way was a big factor in the planning and further sealed her status as an adult.

A couple of giddy travelers taking a one-and-done selfie 
and our view shown below

Hannah furnished the list of her top choices (all of the marquees are above) and I procured the tickets. Hamilton was obviously the hardest to get — not fabulous seats but we were happy just to be in.  And was it ever worth it.  I knew little about the show except for obviously it is about Alexander Hamilton (other than Benjamin Franklin, Hamilton may be the most important American who was not a President), but who would think that nearly three hours of rap music centered on American history would be so wonderful.  It was downright joyous to see school kids outside the stage door mobbing the show’s stars. Whatever it takes to spurn interest in our country’s history works for me. Fun Home has terrific acting and clever staging; Something Rotten is hugely entertaining and hilarious a la Mel Brooks (and should have won the Tony over Fun Home but I didn’t get a vote); An American in Paris has a score that makes me swoon along with the most beautiful dancing. Finding Neverland had me crying at the end.  But the Curious Incident was just mind-boggling.  The young star is phenomenal in an extraordinary role (his Broadway debut).  Again the tears fell (and fell) … 

Stage door post performance with (from top):  Brian D’Arcy James, John Cariani, Tony winner Christian Borle
Upper:  Hannah edging her way to Finding Neverland star Matthew Morrison in the huge throng; Bottom:  From Curious Incident Keren Dukes and remarkable lead Tyler Lea


Top to bottom:  Jonathan Groff, Javier Munoz and Daveed Diggs.  Diggs mobbed by the kids at left.

A couple of exceptional meals: Untitled, restaurateur extraordinaire Danny Meyer’s latest outpost at the new Whitney Museum of American Art, and Jams, from NY-based/California-style chef Jonathan Waxman.  Both restaurants are open spaces with lots of interesting sights — Untitled is the ground floor of the museum and completely glass-enclosed; Jams was jammin’ (I apparently coined that phrase — the hostess had never heard it used before) at nearly 10pm for our late-night/post theater supper.  For the best pizza, go to John’s Pizzeria on W. 44th …

Clockwise, from upper left: black bass; roasted cauliflower; chicken salad;
cheese offerings and sticky toffee pudding
Clockwise from upper left:   Pancakes with salmon & caviar on corn pudding (insane);
burrata with proscuitto; roasted vegetables; signature roast chicken with tarragon sauce


L-R: Barnard student Sofia and her mom (my long-time friend) Julie Shuer; Hannah and me atop the Whitney


The new Whitney is in the ultra-happening Meatpacking district of Manhattan. Lots of residential construction going on in the area, plus high-end shopping and restaurants.  What I especially loved about the Museum are the views — whether taking the glass-enclosed indoor stairs facing the Hudson River or the outdoor stairs with panoramic views — the sights are endless.  Of course, that doesn’t even take into consideration the art:  enormous installations on white walls, to me very similar albeit a good bit larger than the LA’s new Broad (see my last post).  Directly outside the structure one can either take an elevator or stairs to the High Line, which originates at that point and goes north 1.45 miles with lots of interesting things along the way or to just stop for a bit.  I loved my first visit to both and fully intend a return trip.

From top left:  View of the Statue of Liberty from the museum, looking down on the High Line
and different views as we walked along

It was great fun having lunch with my newish friend David Patrick Columbia who is the brainchild behind the New York Social Diary, a daily must-read for me.  We dined and talked at length at Michael’s on W. 55th where David has an ideal table for meeting and greeting — essential to his profession.  GM Steve Milligan is key to running a hectic lunchtime crowd, whether Michael is there or not…

NY cousin David Stone joined us for pre-theater dinner at Scarlatta

Hannah is already looking forward to part deux of The Girls Take Manhattan with another list of shows.  I couldn’t be more thrilled that my kid still wants to spend quality time with her mommy … 

International TravelWining/Dining


Dear Teri 


At the end of a recent three-week European vacation, London was the last stop after winding up nine glorious days spent in Croatia.  The most efficient way (and least number of flights) to get home from Dubrovnik is to go either Frankfurt or London, then get a non-stop to LAX.   But I couldn’t find any reason to not stay over in London for at least a couple of nights, so that was the plan.  
After arriving into Gatwick, I was most pleased with the car service Hummingbird, found online.   I always love coming out of baggage claim and seeing someone holding a sign with my name … plus this method was less than a cab and far more enjoyable than dragging the bags on the train.  I was so impressed I immediately booked the service to take us to Heathrow for our imminent departure.
A last-minute hotel change was employed prior to leaving Dubrovnik.  I’m clearly all for five-star hotels, but it seemed rather a waste given the short amount of time we could enjoy our accommodations in London.  I cancelled the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park (small room, inside view) for a points+cash Executive room at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House on Park Lane — half the cost plus access to the beautiful lounge for breakfast and snacks all day long.  One cannot beat this location even if the hotel is a bit on the “older” side.  It worked out quite well.   A side note is that I thought very expensive luxury cars were ubiquitous in Beverly Hills until I walked the streets of Mayfair and Belgravia.  Oh, my …
The hubby was only kidding!  But we did go to London on the original
honeymoon … BTW, best cheesecake ever.
First stop was exchanging currency.  One must understand that living/traveling with a financial professional means one doesn’t accomplish this just anywhere (i.e., must be no commission and a better rate than the previous place(s) checked). Of all places, we were sent to a post office/mini-mart that fit the bill.  Next stop was shopping because this is London and the end of the trip.  Small purchases — a scarf plus the best walking shoes ever — which saved my feet after a couple of hours of literally pounding the pavement.  Hard to believe that we have a “go-to” restaurant in London, but we discovered Orsini back in 2007.  We wouldn’t miss it for the most delicious and authentic Italian well located across from the Victoria & Albert Museum.  


Westies worldwide are irresistible ..


The evening was a double treat with a performance of the just-opened play, The Audience, starring Kristin Scott Thomas (Helen Mirren starred on Broadway and won the Tony). This is an expansion of the wonderful movie, The Queen, in which Queen Elizabeth has a weekly “audience” (conversation) with her Prime Minister.  The movie featured only Tony Blair, while the play has all 12 PM’s that have served during her reign. Timing is EVERYTHING:  This was the day after the U.K. elections so Peter Morgan’s script literally had to be rewritten the day of this performance for the act when David Cameron is on stage.  After all, he was not expected to win and his surprise and significant victory was well stated on stage with lots of knowing reaction from the audience.  If you enjoyed the movie, you will love the play — complete with a couple of the Queen’s beloved corgis making an appearance onstage.




For the proverbial “last supper,” I booked L’Atelier Joel Robouchon after the show — a short walk from the theater. In the U.S., one would need to go to Las Vegas or NYC (soon to open at the new Ground Zero building) to experience this amazing food.  It was perfect.  Alas, no pix as I forgot the camera but the atmosphere wasn’t conducive for photos.  We had excellent seats at the counter with the kitchen in full view.  For a place with quite serious food, the staff was so friendly and helpful.  And after the hubby paid the chef a compliment, he promptly “organized” our last courses with his compliments — a variety of cheese followed by three desserts!  As if I hadn’t already contemplated walking across the Atlantic after so many incredible meals in the past weeks, this nearly sealed the deal.


Of course no trip is complete without one “ooopsie,” and that was waking up on the final day to an email that our flight home was cancelled.  No worries, American had rebooked us on British just two hours later.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that our window seats — just one per row on each side — had become two (way) inside seats.  I don’t want to seem spoiled, but I had planned on an uninterrupted rest and instead had to climb over the outside seat. These were still Biz Class with all the benefits, but I can only think the layout must have been engineered by a contortionist.


So what are the final thoughts?  It is an extreme privilege to see the world and then come home safely to loved ones with the memories and stories.  As always, my last task is packing up all the hotel toiletries and shipping them to Operation Gratitude for inclusion in care packages to our troops around this glorious world.