4 selfie skyline

Having lived in the US for my entire adult life, it’s amazing to me that I had never been to Chicago!  A total foodie city, it had been on my bucket list forever.  As in recent years, I found myself free for a few days after Christmas, as did my brother Luke.  “Want to go on a trip somewhere with me?”, I asked back at in November. “Sure” was the reply.  So then came the quest to find the perfect place for two siblings in their forties to spend a few days together.  “How about Chicago?”, I texted him one day.  His response was a resounding “yes!”.  Decision made! Both of us have worked in the restaurant business for most of our careers so far, so heading to a city chock full of amazing restaurants was perfect.  A couple of days later, a text to Kerry and Bart asking them if they wanted to come too, resulted in them booking within hours!

The advantage of traveling to Chicago in winter, is that it’s low season for hotels.  Book on Cyber Monday and you can snag a great deal for a luxury hotel for the same price as an average 3 Star.  The obsessive researcher that I am, after days of looking, I landed on The Hotel Gwen smack in the middle of the city, just north of the river and adjacent to the Magnificent Mile.  Newly renovated, the former Conrad Hotel is now part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection.  Named for the Sculptor whose work is a prominent feature in the lobby, the hotel is chic with an Art Deco flair found in the many details of its decor. We loved it.  Gorgeous heavenly beds and spa-like bathrooms, friendly staff, a great bar and even a curling ice and little chalet on the patio overlooking the city!  I love beautiful hotels.  I appreciate luxury.  And I especially do so when acquired for less than $150 a night!


So now for the main theme of our trip…..FOOD!  Luke and I arrived a day earlier than the others and after a good flight and a 40 minute Lyft ride to the hotel, we were ready for a bite to eat.  Across the street from the Gwen, was the famous Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab.  I had read about their excellent happy hour and as if by magic, we arrived on the dot at 2:00, the start of it.  Moscow Mules, Buffalo Cauliflower and a petit Shrimp Po’boy, fortified us.  We then had a nice walk around the area, realizing how much there was right outside our front door.  Great shopping and tons of restaurants albeit somewhat touristy.

The evening was the best part of our day and indeed one of the highlights of our trip.  An old friend of Luke’s, Scott Worsham, who along with his lovely wife Sari, owns two restaurants in Chicago and invited us to meet him at their newest place, Bar Biscay in West town, recently nominated for a 2019 Jean Banchet Award for Best New Restaurant. A sleek modern restaurant in a more residential neighborhood, Chef Johnny Anderes cooks food inspired by the “simple, direct approach of Basque cuisine and the classic rusticity of the French Countryside”.  My kind of food. We were in for such a treat.


Firstly, there is nothing like being reunited with an old friend, so to witness Scott and Luke catching up after so many years was a pleasure in itself.  To do so accompanied by a veritable journey through the menu and wine and drinks list was perfectly divine.  We started with Anchovy Toast, Razor Clams with Radish, Garlic butter and Toast, and Manchego Gougeres with Garlic Aioli washed down with a lovely white wine.  Then, on to Veal Sweetbreads with puréed parsnip and maple-espellette glaze, Cockles in sherry and paprika butter served with a crusty baguette, then I believe a salad.


On hearing that I planned to resume my tee-total life after the trip Scott declared that we must drink something good with our Braised Oxtail (that reminded Luke and I of our grandmother’s version), Confit Carrots, Tilefish and Chorizo stuffed Peppers.  A gorgeous Bordeaux was chosen. There are few things in life that make me happier than experiencing that perfect marriage of food, wine, atmosphere and the company of others.  A celebration of flavor, carefully crafted combinations and great banter.  The best part of which is that the owners and their SUPERB crew, are taking you on that ride, showing their exquisite artistry. Brilliant.  I know there are literally thousands of restaurants to choose from in this city but I instantly fell in love with this place.  I wish them all kinds of success as they certainly deserve it!  I can’t wait to go back and try their other restaurant, mfk, as well as coming back here!


After a blissful slumber in our double queen bedded room with a view of the Magnificent Mile, and countlessly recalling the dishes we had sampled and how fabulous our evening was, we turned our thoughts to Kerry and Bart’s arrival.  We greeted them at the lovely bar in the hotel lobby and after checking in, we headed out to do what we felt was an obligatory food experience…the famous Chicago Deep Dish Pizza.  We found ourselves at Pizzeria Due, at the bar with beer and red wine, sampling their meatballs and garlic bread while the famous pizza was being prepared.  They take 45 minutes. Was this my favorite food experience of the trip? Probably not, but it was certainly fun to sit at the bar in this loud but cozy place and soak up the atmosphere along with the 5,000 calories that surely each slice contained.  The four of us split a medium size and couldn’t finish it!  It was certainly decadent; a very thick almost pastry-like crust filled with cheese, tomato sauce, sausage and pepperoni.  So, so heavy… tasty but now that I’ve done that, it’s checked off the list and I can continue on to other delicacies.


A walk was needed after that indulgence so we headed to the Navy Pier area.  On our way we truly understood why this place is called the Windy City!  Freezing wind means that warm coats, hats and gloves are essential.  We needed the walk and it was nice to see the lake and view the skyline.  Navy Pier had lots of shops, a tropical garden (?!), a big Ferris wheel and a Children’s Museum.  When we had seen enough we headed back to the sanctuary of the hotel bar to enjoy the delicious cocktails.


For dinner, we attempted to get into the Purple Pig but the hostess rather proudly told us that it was a 2.5 hour wait….thanks, but no thanks!  So we opted for Shaw’s Crab House for martinis, two dozen oysters and bowls of clam chowder in their more casual Oyster Bar. Perfect!


Just as I research hotels to death, I of course do the same for restaurants. I do not just go straight for the number one rated restaurants, give me a smaller, independently owned place over a large corporate franchise ANY day.  I had found out about Lula’s and was happy to get Scott and Sari’s endorsement for my choice.  Famous for their brunch for which they don’t take reservations, we hopped in a Lyft on Saturday morning for the 15 minute ride out to Logan Square.  Located on a wide avenue with grand houses, it was great to get out of the city centre into a neighborhood.  As expected, there was a wait, so we added our name to the list and checked out the local bookstore a few doors away.  We were greeted by a parking lot of strollers inside and the sound of music coming from a kids story time hour here.  Quite charming.  After a couple of purchases we headed back to Lula’s for Bloody Mary’s made from scratch and deemed “nice and clean” by our experts aka Bart and Luke.  We were seated shortly thereafter and proceeded to enjoy an outstanding brunch.  The key to success in most businesses is attention to detail.  This place has it in its drink ingredients, the art on the wall, the cool expert service and oh my, the food…..freshly made pastries followed by Royale sandwiches with the addition of bacon for the guys, a beautiful White Sweet Potato Hash for Kerry, and Smoked Lake Trout Scramble with the crispiest potatoes for me.   Sublime, we were all ridiculously happy with our choices. At the end I ordered a pot of tea, and even that was impeccably served, down to the server letting me know to please let it steep for three and a half minutes.


Our only downfall was our plan to visit the Institute of Art after this boozy brunch! Whilst a nap was likely in order, we battled on regardless! A quick breezy stop at the “Bean” revived us somewhat.  The only place which felt truly crowded and touristy during our trip. The Institute, however, was everything and more!  One could spend days there.  Bart and Luke opted for a shorter tour, ducking out to search for football viewing and beer….Kerry and I stayed on to enjoy the Contemporary wing which looked out on the skyline with its window frames mimicking the buildings.  Very cool.  Definitely need to go back. The Drag Docent was a fantastic addition to the experience!  We loved it all.




A Facebook comment by our friend Denise lead us to the lobby of the nearby Palmer House Hotel.  Wow!  So beautiful.  Well, most of it anyway.  The modern addition of escalators was a less than perfect choice despite its necessity?!  We thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere though and had yet another cocktail…




Dinner tonight was another Facebook comment suggestion by our friend Terry.  Bart had really wanted to have an authentic Italian dinner.  This we found at Quartino’s.  A huge two-story bustling restaurant a short walk from our hotel.  Yes, the food was fabulous, but the best part of this meal was watching Bart in his element, ordering up a storm, reviving his Italian and clearly taking a trip down memory lane from his time spent in a Italy.  This is what eating is all about.  The joy of the time, the place, the company and the tastes.  How it makes you feel, transcending you to a happy place.  We ate a ridiculous amount of food, without complaint! Antipasti to start followed by Broccolini, a delicious Arugula Salad with orange and hazelnuts, Beef Carpaccio, then Linguine with Clams, Gnocchi with Arugula Pesto, Braised Pork Shank…..AND a pizza!!!!  Pure gluttony.  One would think that there would be no room for dessert, but we bravely ordered some and loved our Tiramisu and had hysterics when Kerry bit into her cannoli and the icing sugar exploded over her, and Luke.  Oh and there was wine…of course.  What a great day!



Luke was determined to have a classic Chicago Hot Dog, and we achieved this the next day, at Portillo’s, an institution here.  It’s a large place with just counter service so as Bart and Luke ordered hot dogs and Italian Beef sandwiches, Kerry and I grabbed them goldfish bowl beers from the bar counter where the menu included Beer, Wine….and Mai Tai’s!?  Not sure about the story behind that…. We lovingly devoured our classic dogs; sliced onion, sliced tomato and a pickle with chili on the side.  The Italian Beef sandwiches were delicious too, as were the fries!  What a well oiled operation, we were in and out of there, happy as we could be, in about 40 minutes.  We grabbed a Lyft to head to the river for our Architecture Boat Tour.


Were we quite mad to do a boat tour in these temperatures?!  Quite possibly, but the tour was fantastic, and packed.  It was also luckily on the only sunny day of our trip.  Our guide was great (he’s a therapist when he’s not a tour guide) and we got a wonderful hour-long overview of the magnificent architectural styles that are represented here. The buildings towered above us, gleaming in the sunlight.  We absolutely loved it despite almost freezing to death.  It is such a beautiful city and seeing it from the canals was the perfect way to do so.


We returned to the hotel and the guys decided to go in search of a pub to watch football again.  Kerry and I opted for quiet time before the grand finale of our culinary adventure!  We met up with Scott and Sari at La Frontera, a Rick Bayless establishment serving traditional Mexican fare with modern interpretations.  Having visited Austin in September, Kerry and I had fallen in love with the authentic higher-end Mexican cuisine that we found there.  La Frontera was the first of several restaurants that Chef Bayless owns.  Naturally, we hit the bar first and while we didn’t go for their famous $30 Splurge Margarita, we all tried various other kinds.  I had a Mango Picante, followed by the Champagne Margarita.  The latter was served in an oversized champagne flute, topped off with Taittinger Champagne.  I kid you not.  Couldn’t let up on the decadence, not when this was the grand finale, right?


It’s funny, I’m usually a bit of a control freak when it comes to food ordering, but for most of this trip, other people took care of it.  And you know what?  It was great.  So fun to sit back and have things appear in front of you.  Scott commandeered the wine list, not only ordering a lovely Albarino which balanced with the food superbly, but also shots of Mezcal and a tomato juice concoction which arrived in separate champagne flutes.  More decadence!  A dozen oysters and their Ceviche Trio appeared.  I love ceviche and tasting three different kinds was a treat; the Classic Frontera included Hawaiian albacore, lime, tomatoes, olives, cilantro the green chile.  The Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche Verde was combined with avocado, cucumber, jicama, serrano and onions.  The Tuna Ceviche Tropical consisted of Hawaiian yellowfin tuna, fresh Mexican Papaya, spicy salsa roja, jicama and avocado.  Delightful.  We also enjoyed two-bite Tostadas de carnitas, Puebla-style chicken enchiladas and baked cheesy cauliflower.  So much fun to indulge in so many flavors and share that experience.  When two slices of their Chocolate Pecan Pie with Kahlua whipped cream appeared, our decadent repast was complete.  Good grief.  What a meal in a great, colorful and lively restaurant, oozing with flavors and fun!


While Kerry and Bart decided that they had reached their limit, Scott suggested one last stop.  So where does one finish a decadent food tour of Chicago?  In a dive bar, of course! This is where it pays to be with a local, we would never have had this experience on our own.  Rossi’s is, I understand, a bit of an institution.  A full bar, no food, one bartender, cash only, a juke box and the walls are plastered with mementos showing its history.  It opens at 7 am.  Closes at 4 am, I believe.  Oh, if those walls could talk.  I nursed one drink and happily chatted with Sari while Luke and Scott talked away until we had all simply reached the point where we simply had to retire.  It was a really fun way to finish off another wonderful evening and yet another great experience.


It’s an understatement to say that this was a wonderful trip.  We had an absolute blast and can’t wait to go back.  To spend time with my brother, especially at this time in our lives, was a really lovely thing to be able to do.  Having Kerry and Bart along for the ride was the icing on the cake.  I realize that we saw just one side of this magnificent city, but boy did we love it.  Upon my return home, the boys and I watched Anthony Bourdain’s Chicago and saw a very different but fascinating side to the city.  I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface which means now I’m itching to return.  Good times, good eats, good company… my favorite way to end a year!  We’ll be back.



The Gwen, A Luxury Collection Hotel

Bar Biscay

Pizzeria Due

Shaw’s Crab House

Lula Cafe


Portillo’s Hot Dogs

La Frontera Grill






Showing up for 24 hours in Roanoke

“Call and Response” and “Every Shadow you Make”, Aimee Joyaux

I firmly believe in the philosophy that half of life is simply about showing up.

Our dear friend Aimee Joyaux, a brilliant artist, was selected to include two pieces of her work in the Homeward Bound exhibit at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, a juried show featuring only Virginia artists. The opening reception was on Friday night and what better reason than that to plan a quick jaunt to celebrate her, experience another city and enjoy great food, drinks and company.  Oh, and stay at the Hotel Roanoke.  A place I’d heard much about but had never been to.  Our party of 13 left for our destination at different times, our carload being the last, due to school pickup.  The drive down 460 was an easy one despite the 3 hour duration and as we approached Roanoke the sun was setting over the mountains.  Beautiful!  Upon arrival at the hotel,  we checked in to our lovely rooms on the Executive Level.  The advance party, Heather and Cherry, had stocked our room with wine so we were able to enjoy a quick glass before walking over to the Taubman.  On our way there we heard voices behind us and it was Alain’s son Daniel and his girlfriend Karin who had made the trip from D.C. to celebrate Aimee’s latest accolade of her amazing work.

Just seeing the Hotel Roanoke and experiencing the short stroll to the museum, I already knew that I loved this place!  The historic area is chock full of independently owned restaurants, shops and bars housed in historic and interesting buildings with a small town feel.  It was freezing outside so we happily entered the very warm museum, a thoroughly modern but not too imposing structure on the edge of the historic area.  Our tardiness meant that our time there was somewhat brief but we were thrilled to see Aimee’s pieces hanging in such a beautiful space.  Not only that, we got to see Ron Walton’s piece too!  Another Petersburg artist and owner of the Walton Gallery.  It was fascinating to see the different works of art, all by Virginia artists, all so distinctive and brilliant in their own way.  One of my favorite moments was when JV suddenly exclaimed to Kerry, “Mom, my favorite artist has work here!”  He had spotted the paintings by Richmond artist, Todd Hale, from a distance of about 50 feet and rushed over to admire them.  How many twelve year olds do you know like that?  Such a cool kid.


There was never any doubt that a great dinner was going to be part of our itinerary.  We were also joined by another of tonight’s honored artists, a friend of Aimee’s, Alyssa Salomon. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from in Roanoke and we had secured a reservation at Lucky, a restaurant that describes themselves as French Country and American Comfort. Heather had pooled her contacts in the city to find this gem.  Definitely my kind of place!  We were seated at 2 big tables by the entrance which essentially gave us a space all to ourselves.  We were then treated to one of the best servers ever, Lauren, who we initially assumed was the owner.  She looked amazing and wouldn’t have been out of place at a cocktail party but more importantly than that, she knew the menu inside and out.  Not only the food but the craft cocktails.  Tonight’s special cocktail was Rumming with the Devil which included two types of Rum, Apricot, Five-spice and a concoction that apparently involved overnight fermentation of some ingredients in a coke bottle… I ordered one and it was certainly interesting!  Not my favorite drink ever but fun to experience and as tonight was all about art, we appreciated the artistry and creative process that went into it. We ordered a Bread Plate, Mussels, Duck Pate and a Cheese Board to accompany our drinks and loved it all.  The bread was accompanied with divine roasted garlic olive oil, goat cheese, nicoise olive tapenade and Basque olives.  The PEI mussels were suitably garlic laden, the duck pate was divinely smooth and luxurious with baguette, sweet onion chutney, pickled red onions and Dijon.  The cheese board was perfect.  Four types of cheese with an onion jam, candied walnuts, olives, drizzles of honey and baguette slices.

Cocktails and appetizers demolished, we moved on to wine and a variety of entrees.  Buttermilk fried chicken for all three boys and Heather, Gnocchi with Kale and Pesto for Kerry, gorgeous salads with Goat Cheese and Beets for Chana and Cherry, and I opted for two small plates.  Roasted Marrow bones with Charred Lemon and Fava Bean Hummus along with four Roasted Oysters with lemon, garlic and scallion breadcrumbs.  All delicious!  Along with top notch service in a delightful space, we had a fabulous experience.

Ben and JV have a new passion for playing pool and had discovered that there was a table in the pub at the Hotel Roanoke.  They begged us to see if they could go and play after dinner.  So, we began the 10 minute stroll back to the hotel trying to explain why it might not be possible for them to play as it was late on a Friday night and kids might not be allowed in the pub. However, upon our arrival there, a quick chat with the bartender confirmed that it was fine for them to play.  And so began a hilarious couple of hours that involved martinis and more wine for us ladies and several rounds of pool with a group of ACC football referees in town for a conference.  The refs were all hanging out by the pool table and when they saw the boys starting to play, quickly became their tutors and ultimately competitors.  They could not have been nicer and we all had a blast chatting away and playing pool. Until 1 am.  I know, kids and their Moms should really go to bed a lot earlier than that but life is for living and this was a fun experience all round.  Not an everyday occurrence despite the fact that my kids spent the first decade or so of their lives living above our pub.

Staying on the Executive Level gave us access to a lounge with refreshments.  In the morning this included a breakfast that provided us with much needed delicious sustenance after our late night; sausages, scrambled eggs, fruit, pastries, yoghurt and all the caffeinated beverages that we needed.  The lounge was overseen by a woman who was ALL business!  We got a 5 minute warning when breakfast was over and we were in no way going to question her.  I highly recommend upgrading to this level as the services included provided excellent added value.

Feeling a little more alive, we showered, packed and then sat in the gorgeous lobby, chatting and relaxing while JV and Ben enjoyed the pool table once again, but this time all to themselves and in the light of day.  The Hotel Roanoke is definitely my kind of hotel.  Upscale but not stuffy, traditional but with modern touches.  For example, the furnishings in the lobby were mostly traditional in their colors but modern in their lines.  I’m no interior design expert but I noticed the details and really appreciated them.

With what felt like the fiftieth game of pool completed, we headed out to explore.  We went into the delightful city market, weaved through the stands and shops of Market Street, chatting with vendors along the way.  You get a genuine feeling that keeping business local here is serious business.  I love that.  We purchased gorgeous locally made soaps, had hysterics in the kitchen store at all the fun quotes on napkins and tea towels, tasted delicious baked goods, bought great jewelry in a store that imported African and Asian crafts, marveled at all the Virginia products being sold in Eli’s, drooled over furniture at Shabby Love…the list goes on.

In need of a snack, we headed to the well known Roanoke Weiner Stand for hotdogs.  What a cool place, simple concept, great service, lunch for 4 under $20.  You can even get a $2 can of Bud or Bud Light if you so desired.  I did not.


After enjoying our hotdogs, we headed back to the hotel to enjoy the lobby for just a little bit longer and yes, the boys played pool…again!  We decided to end our stay with a quick drive up the mountain to the Star monument where you can enjoy an amazing view over the city and valley.  Much to JV’s horror, when we reached the iconic landmark, Kerry recalled her last visit to it.  Back in her college days, she and her then boyfriend had a date there and she decided to declare her love for him in grand style, by shouting it from the mountaintop!

Just being up in the mountains feeds my soul.  Give me them over the beach any day. Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to climb them, but I love being surrounded by the majesty of them.  There are few places in the world that I have found more lovely than the mountains of Virginia.  I hadn’t explored this part of them before and it was a real treat.  I could quite easily live in Roanoke.  Beautiful scenery, great food, support of small businesses, a fabulous art museum and the essential requirement for any place I might even consider living in…an airport.  Can’t wait to go back.  We left the Star, winding our way back down the mountain and headed back along 460 on a lovely evening, happy to have experienced a terrific 24 hours in Roanoke.  Thanks, Aimee!

Like I said at the beginning, all kinds of things can happen in life when you simply show up.


Ending the year on just the right note

We had 3 objectives for this last day of 2016:  Oysters for lunch (again), seeing The Great Comet at the Imperial Theater, and going to Eataly to pick up a variety of delicious bites to enjoy at “home” for New Year’s Eve.  Mission accomplished.

We finally gave up our cab habit and took the Metro to 28th Street and headed to the John Dory Oyster Bar by the Ace Hotel.  A really great classic but funky bar/restaurant with all bar or high-top style seating.  You know they are serious when the oyster bar is the same size as the actual bar.  We were the second party to be seated for what I’m sure will be a long day and night.  Happy hour prices were available for a number of items including: their Cocktail of the Day, a Honeysuckle Daquiri which is made of rum, honey and lime, Prosecco by the glass and Oysters for $2 a piece, a bargain in NYC.  Kerry, our craft cocktail fan, naturally chose the daiquiri, as did Cherry.  Robin and I went for prosecco and we all shared 2 dozen divine oysters served with a jalapeño cilantro mignonette and horseradish mixed with a lemon olive oil.  A delightful twist on the classic condiments.  We then split Haddock fritters with Curried Mayo, Sea Bass Ceviche, Char Pate sliders, Kedgeree and Chorizo stuffed Squid served with white beans accompanied by a New York State Gruner which was a lovely complement to our dishes.  Another great lunch!  Cherry channeled my grandmother and declared that she would pay….just what Apple always did when she particularly enjoyed lunch with family and friends.  Always a nice gesture and much appreciated.


As it was a sunny day and we knew that traffic anywhere near Times Square would be totally nuts, we opted to walk the 17 blocks to the Imperial Theater.  All was well until we hit 42nd and came across multiple barriers and dozens of police officers.  Thinking we had given ourselves plenty of time, we panicked a little when they diverted us to 8th Street.  All the way, all four of were silently feeling completely relieved that we weren’t going to see the New Year in out on these streets.  It was only 1:45 and it was already packed!  Our theater tickets gained us access to 45th Street and we were happily in our seats in time for the show.

We had a few minutes to simply gasp at the stage set-up, seating and set design.  Red velvet curtains adorned the walls with period pictures hanging from them.  There is no conventional stage, instead a series of walkways, stairs and a sunken pit in the area where traditionally an orchestra would be.  Instead, it was much smaller and contained a piano, Pierre’s office and a couple of stools for other musicians and occasional actors.  There is no real distinction between the audience, the musicians and the actors and performers, which made it one of the most fantastic productions any of us had ever seen.

Why pick this musical?  Well, mostly because it has a Petersburg connection.  The choreographer, Sam Pinkleton, grew up in Hopewell and then attended the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School (ARGS) for High School, with a concentration in theater.  His mother, Kimberly Ann Calos, is a well known business woman and community activist in Petersburg and for a while, I worked for her.  My own son, Rory, just started at ARGS this year in the Literary Arts program.  Kim recently attended the Opening Night and when we found out we were coming up here this week, it seemed perfectly obvious that we must see the production!  And are we glad we did.  It’s a real source of pride that we got to witness firsthand the mesmerizing results of a local boy’s talents.

I am no theater expert despite enjoying attending shows and plays.  However, it doesn’t take an expert to know when something is as good as this show is. It is truly an ensemble piece in every sense, with the set design, lighting, music, choreography, and of course the amazing performers all playing equal parts to make a mind blowing whole experience.  The show is based on just a few pages of War and Peace but never seeks to deeply delve into history, instead just exploring the relationships between several characters.  It’s funny, shocking, vibrant, colorful, sexy, edgy, poignant, sad and beautiful all at the same time.  Oh, did I mention that Josh Groban is in it?  He’s amazing and what a treat to hear his voice in the same room.  Oh, and the performers dance around the entire theater, meaning that even the back upper rows on the Mezzanine feel a part of the extravaganza.  When the first act was over and the lights came up signaling the intermission, we all just looked at each other and said “wow”.  Robin was seated next to the Executive Producer of a TV show from LA and she had seen 8 shows in 4 days and declared this to be the best one.  When Robin confessed that it was her first Broadway show, she responded by saying that she had certainly chosen well.  The second act while less exuberant, was no less powerful. Beautiful singing with some very powerful solos and duets.  We simply didn’t want it to end.  Bravo and Encore!

Leaving the theater was a challenge, but thankfully we were heading in the opposite direction to all the Times Square revelers.  We fought through the crowds and found ourselves the right metro to Downtown.  We headed straight to Eataly knowing that if we dared stop home, we might not come out again.

Eataly, just like Chelsea Market, was just as heavenly as I had imagined.  It even has a wine bar.  We should probably have made dinner reservations at some fabulous restaurant this evening, however, we were all perfectly happy to buy some delicious hors d’oeuvres, nice wine and curl up on the sofas in our PJs.  Having worked in the restaurant business for the bulk of my adult life, I spent years in a row working on New Year’s Eve.  For many of them, it didn’t really feel like work as it was a lot of fun and it was great being at the place where people wanted to be on this big night and quite frankly a real honor.  Having said that, every year, I fantasized about spending New Year’s Eve in my pajamas on the sofa by the fire with a bottle of great champagne.  After selling the restaurant, I did just that…except I also extended an invitation to about 25 friends too, who also happily donned their PJs.

Back to Eataly….gorgeous breads, every cheese imaginable, fresh pastas, beautiful meats and fish, pastries galore….heaven on earth.  I loved it, of course.  We stocked up on Duck Rillettes, Irish Smoked Salmon, cheese, prosciutto, salami, mortadella, huge cooked shrimp and a variety of dainty sweet treats.

Back at the apartment we took took off our shoes, poured vodka and tonics and sat for a bit, just relaxing.  I then put together our mini banquet and we happily and heartily indulged ourselves.  Everything was terrific.  We did start to wonder if we would make it until midnight after such a big day, but we rallied and managed, opening a bottle of nice Cava to start the proceedings and ultimately watch the ball drop on TV.  Funnily enough, Robin’s mom celebrates her birthday on New Year’s Eve and Kerry’s Mom on New Year’s Day so each called them on the right side of midnight.



Despite the late hour, I felt the need to finish this before sleeping and therefore to bring this year to an end.  I started 2016 alone, waking up in Quebec City after a fabulous few days spent there and in Montreal.  The trip was not only a springboard for moving on with my life in a great way but it also lit the spark for this blog which took me until October to start when I went to Peru.  As I reflect on this year, I feel really really fortunate. It’s been a year of true personal growth.  A lot of good stuff happened.  Some tough stuff happened too. To be ending this year in the great city of New York in a beautiful apartment with wonderful company is the icing on the cake.  I have started and ended the year wandering around a city with my camera, soaking up the atmosphere and culture and of course eating great food.  The very things I love best in life. Lucky me.  Cheers to an amazing 2017!


The Met, Martinis and Lower Manhattan

Thursday was a huge day despite not checking out of our hotel until about 11:30!  Robin was first up just after dawn and ventured out for a walk and then read in the lobby while the rest of us continued to sleep.  When we awoke, we were greeted by a text message from her asking if we would like cappuccinos.  Yes please!  (Tea for me). We  had a leisurely morning enjoying some people-watching from our floor to ceiling windows including being able to see into a dance studio directly across the street from us.  Breakfast came in the form of a bacon, cheese and egg croissant, a Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Sandwich, fresh fruit and grapefruit soda from the deli just around the corner.  A perfect breakfast for counteracting our tequila fueled evening.

When we were finally ready, we decided to take a taxi to The Met as it was a rainy day.  Upon our arrival there,  we discovered that everyone else had the same idea and the line snaked around the side of the building.  We almost decided to head off elsewhere but then decided to tough it out for 45 minutes in the pouring rain and we were glad we did.

Our primary interest in going was to see the Costume Institute’s current exhibit, Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion, a wonderful display of classic pieces from all the iconic designers from over the years.  A real feast for the eyes and amazing to see the detailed artistry of the clothing.

After all the beautiful clothes we stopped by to see some of the Impressionists, along with a gazillion other people.

Our final stop was an exhibit called “Beyond Caravaggio” a fabulous display of the works of artist  Valentin de Boulogne, the greatest French follower of Caravaggio’s who had never had his work in a solo exhibit.

In need of sustenance, we headed to the giant cafeteria in search of food and wine.  Mini bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, Gouda and Apple sandwiches on a Nut and Raisin bread, Chicken Salad and chips did the trick.

Getting out of the Met is a challenge, it’s like a never ending maze but we finally did it and hopped into a taxi.  Our driver was an amiable Russian Jew who was ready to chat. As we made the journey down Fifth Avenue he told us about his 30 years here in what he described as “the greatest country in the world”.  He was excited about the upcoming Trump presidency and did not hold back with his feelings about Hillary Clinton.  He then discussed 9/11 and shared some very powerful photos of that day, taken by himself and his passenger.  He says he has never been able to work again on that date and stays home in a mini depression refusing to watch any coverage of it.  We talked about where we were that day when it happened.  I was at home, 5 months pregnant with Rory, wondering what kind of world I was bringing a child in to.

After hearing his account of that day, I rolled down the window and enjoyed the lights, sights and sounds of this most famous Avenue, soaking up the energy of the traffic, shoppers and marveling at the dwindling light.  As we got out of the taxi, the sky was finally starting to clear and the setting sun cast a warm glow over the skyscrapers.


It was then declared that it was time for a martini which we enjoyed in our hotel bar before retrieving our luggage.  Kerry and Robin had classic dirty vodka martinis and Cherry and I went with the bartenders recommendation of  vodka with a dash of sweet vermouth.  So good.


Next up was a taxi ride down to the Financial District to our new home for the next 4 nights, Keju and Marc’s gorgeous apartment.  Keju welcomed us with prosecco and snacks and we got to meet our charge for the next few days, Ling Chao.  After enjoying our bubbly, we headed down to South Street Seaport to Barbulu for a fantastic Italian dinner.  Charcuterie and cheese with a Sauvignon Blanc to start, then pasta dishes that included bolognese, Gorgonzola and walnut, Scallops and asparagus with a white wine butter sauce and a shrimp and arugula dish.  All amazing, and we switched to a lovely Sangiovese to accompany them.  Two tiramisu and some coffee rendered us completely full.  We finished off our evening by walking around the neighborhood then went up to the rooftop terrace of the apartment building to see the city lights.  Beautiful!  Back at the apartment, Keju shared some Canadian Ice Wine that his friends had given him, we chatted some more then all collapsed into a carb coma.  A great day.