Feb
19

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Take An Affordable Bite Out Of The Big Apple (i.e. Restaurant Week!!!)

‘Tis the winter of our discontent.

I think everyone here in the frigid Big Apple – where temperatures have barely topped 32 degrees this past month and have dropped as low as 4 degrees – shares this sentiment.

It has certainly been one weary, worrisome icy winter.  Quite an audacious start to a shiny new year – with little relief in sight. It fact, the temperature forecast takes us even further south … and I don’t mean to warmer climes. Yes, I know Boston has it far worse, poor things.  This is the one time that I don’t at all mind awarding Boston a win.  They are more then welcome to this particular “W” and all that mind blowing snow.

JLP Tequila 314I was ready to pack it all in – so tired of wearing everything I own to keep warm – and actually considering a repeat visit to Iceland which I toured last year around this time – recall?  The temperatures are actually higher in Reykjavik, hard as that is to believe, and I could enjoy the outdoors in their geothermal baths.  It’s equally as warm in the waters of Iceland’s famous “Blue Lagoon” as in the ocean defining South Beach, Miami and surely just as colorful.  Crazy, right?  Or perhaps I have been indoors too long?

But then I discovered something guaranteed to warm my heart and body which kept me from phoning Icelandic Airways. Much as I love to be on the move and experience the world, there is one thing that always keeps me loving my frozen Big Apple and that is literally taking a bite out of it….so I giddily and gladly welcome ……

RESTAURANT WEEK!!!!

YIPPEE!!! HOORAY!!!!! YAY!!!!

Couldn’t have arrived at a better time.  Just when we were all going stir crazy.

This is rapidly becoming my favorite time of year in NYC. It’s like Christmas for adults.

“Restaurant Week” 2015 in the Big Apple starts on Monday, February 16th and ends on Friday, March 6th. That means 3 solid weeks to delight in some wondrous meals at some of the most famous restaurants in New York, without destroying your savings account.

Click here and you will discover an amazing, alphabetical list of 323 participating NYC restaurants – I spotted 21 Club, LeCirque, Nobu and Cipriani’s – both downtown and midtown – on this year’s roster. I was stunned by this impressive list as so many of the restaurants added to this year’s “Restaurant Week” represent the world’s ultimate cathedrals of cuisine, our culinary churches, so to speak.   

21club5bpw-15-webThe deal is simple; each restaurant offers an affordable prix fixe lunch consisting of 3 courses at $25 and a prix fixe dinner for $38.  Now you must make reservations, and inform the establishment that you are there for the prix fixe menu offered during restaurant week.  Tax and tip are not included and I suggest asking the restaurant about their drinks policy as that can vary, depending on the eatery.

This is a rare opportunity to make the scene at some top NYC restaurants, and chase away those winter blues.  Take full advantage of this offer and enjoy as many restaurants as possible, this is one heck of a deal.  After you relish a fabulous meal at a landmark restaurant, there will be a spring in your step as well as in the air.

So “Bon Appetit”  ~  Good Food equals Good Mood!

What restaurants are you hoping to check out this year?  Share below!

By: Joanne Theodorou

p.s. the amazing sushi place we recently reviewed is on restaurant week, too!

||Photo Credit: 1, 2||

Feb
18

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UsedYorkCity Inspiration #20

1. Movies set in NYC are some of the best movies, right? I watched this one over the weekend though, and boy did I fall in love (yep, my favorite song from the film pictured ^^above^^.)

2. Figuring out ways to entertain yourself indoors this winter? This cookie swap sounds delicious and low maintenance. (via A Cup of Jo)

3. Looking for an indoor spot to meditate in NYC? This list has you covered. (via Urban Mindfulness)

4. The only thing getting me through this winter, unfrozen. p.s. best investment piece, ever. (via Amazon)

5. Whew! I know you all must have been just as concerned as when the sequel(s) were coming out as I was.  Well here ya go. (via International Business Times)

xx,

Jess

p.s. share what’s been inspiring you this week below!

Feb
17

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A NY Minute With The Creators Of Love (Asterisk)

I hope all you darlings had a most fabulous Valentine’s Day weekend!  (Yes, V-Day will always take precedence over President’s Day on this blog…just saying;-)  Our day consisted of walks in the snow flurries, homemade(ish) Italian, and matinee tickets to…you guessed it. 50 Shades of Grey.  Which was so much more delightful than I ever expected…the only thing that would have made it better was having the sequel and the sequel to the sequel playing right after!

Speaking of love and sequels and the perfect Valentine’s experience…I have people to introduce you to on the blog today!  Bertha Leal and Victoria Colladoare are the genius behind a new web series, created and filmed (with an iPhone!) right here in NYC, Love (Asterisk).  Here’s what it’s about:

Love (Asterisk) is the story of two roommates, Robyn and Daniela, who live in New York City, have entry-level jobs and, as struggling 20-somethings, are trying to have it all. Their evolving friendship, combined with the actress’ chemistry and unmistakable comedic timing, unfolds through a series of growing pains, weird sex, professional hang-ups, and bad Tinder dates.

In order to meet New Yorkers’ general impatience of all things (i.e. our binge watching desires), they’ve made all 10 short-format episodes of the show available on Valentine’s Day (take that, 50 Shades!)

We were delighted to chat with Bertha and Victoria, getting all the juicy details about art, love, and dating in the Big Apple!

unnamed-11. What was the inspiration for creating Love (Asterisk)? Are any of the things we see based on real life…or is it all totally fictional?

Bertha: Vicky and I stayed up late one night obsessing over a text her ex had sent her. He’d written something like “I lobe you” and we went off on a tangent about how men send out all these weird signals. Of course, twenty minutes later he sent her another text that read “Love*”. It had been a typo. We laughed so hard at ourselves and how we’d over-analyzed to death this one minute detail and the idea for a web series started to take root. I hate admitting it but 90% of the show is our real life stories. Tragic! Haha…

Victoria: Um… I think the better question would be “Is anything in this web-series fictional?” Haha! The idea came from a text I received from my ex but that was just the catalyst. Bertha and I were both going through heartbreaks at the time and we began to trade stories.

After bouts of laughter, anger, tears, and endless jokes, we realized we couldn’t keep this to ourselves.  Other girls out there needed to know they are not alone in this.

2. Being an actress/producer in NYC is seriously living so many NYer’s dream! Can you give us a behind the scenes run down of what the creative process was like for making this web series?

Bertha: The creative process was more like let’s procrastinate as much as humanly possible process. A regular Sunday writing session would be to go to brunch, talk about our crazy nights, sit at our computers, come up with two sentences, watch Netflix, have lunch, sit at our computers, come up with two sentences, watch Netflix, have lunch, sit at our computers, come up with one sentence, have dinner, improvise the scene on our feet, and finally write all of it out. We didn’t push it when something was just not working.

Victoria: The creative process was really fun and organic! It was basically having tons of girl talk and then writing it down. I think one time we even recorded improved versions of scenes, played it back, and chose what worked. As for the actor/producer role, it was the biggest Buddhist lesson I’ve ever learned! You have to find balance and learn to wear one hat at a time. We did the whole thing on a $0 budget, so we had a lot of help from amazing friends that lent us equipment and their time.

We made it an artistic choice to film the whole project on an iPhone, not solely because of the budget, but also because of the nature of the show. It’s about our generation’s connection to our phones and how much it plays into our dating reality. So the iPhone fit perfectly!

3. After creating a series on love you must be quite the expert! Any dating tips or advice for those searching for love in NYC?

Bertha: I am not by any means an expert. I may, in fact, need a few more lessons in this thing called life.

But one thing I’ve learned for certain is: If it’s love you’re looking for, stay off Tinder!

Victoria: I second the “No Expert Here”, but during my short time here in NYC, I have learned a couple things.  Most importantly, remember that YOU are a prize! So no need to make huge characteristic changes. It takes too much effort and it’s better to be with someone who will love you just the way you are.

I think dating is the best way to get to know the city. So my advice is to take the pressure off of trying to make the date work and focus instead on making some memories in this gem of a place.

4. Okay–worst date ever. And go!

Bertha: I was running 15 minutes late to meet this guy for a drink. After I apologized profusely he grabbed my waist and whispered “It’s okay, let’s just hope you’re worth it.” I should have bolted right then and there because the night only went from bad to worse. He inadvertently called me a prude after I voiced my discomfort with the unsolicited grab (I’d never met him before! Oh yeah I forgot to mention, we met online. First red flag…) and insisted I have another beer when I was so clearly ready to go. I wish the story ended there. Unfortunately, it went on long enough for him to call me an abrasive New Yorker and to relentlessly try to kiss me. He was a real Prince Charming. Needless to say, we never spoke after that. Lesson learned: when it’s time to go, leave!

Victoria: Well, this one is a twofer. I had the brilliant idea of setting up back to back dates on a Saturday… Worst idea ever! The first guy was a not a very nice person. He mentioned that homeless people should just get over it and get a job, kept telling horror stories about his ex, and to top it off, he was a Communist.  As a daughter of Cubans, I knew that wasn’t going to go over well back in Miami. I decided to give it a chance anyway in an attempt to not be “close-minded” but we really had nothing in common. I was hoping date number 2 would go smoother. I mean after date number 1 one it could only go up, right? Wrong! This guy was just fake listening to me, which made me fake listen to him. I wanted to say “We’re clearly not into each other… Can we go? I have some Netflix to catch up on” but I felt that would have been rude… Maybe I was the bad date?! (Gasp!)

5. Let’s talk about fun date places! What’s your favorite spot for:
Dinner date?

Bertha: I love this restaurant Ramen Thukpa in the West Village. It’s tiny, unassuming, and the food is out-of-control delicious!

Victoria: I do love me some restaurants, but honestly, there’s nothing like cooking pasta together at home. And you can always head to Columbus Circle afterwards for some ice cream and an incredible view.

Casual weekend date?

Bertha: Brunch followed by museum hopping.

Victoria: A free ride on the Staten Island Ferry. If you’re feeling bold, there is a cute little Cuban restaurant called “Besame Mucho” near the port on the Staten Island side.

Iconic NYC date?

Bertha: Eating ice cream while watching the sun set from The Highline. Classic!

Victoria: Heading down to The Blue Note for a night of good jazz and getting all googly eyed. Although most of us are on a budget…so Smalls Jazz Club will do the trick with a cheap cover and great jazz.

And most importantly…top 3 Netflix films to watch on a date?

Bertha: Annie Hall, You’ve Got Mail, Rocky (Gotta give the fellas a break from time to time from all the mush!)

Victoria: A Bronx Tale, any Kevin Hart stand up show, and a good classic like Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Now head over to their YouTube channel and get your binge watching on!  Enjoy!

And while you’re at it…why don’t you share YOUR funniest date moment in the comments below!  Don’t be embarrassed, just sign your name Christian Grey;-)
Feb
13

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5 NYC Dates That Don’t Scream “Valentine’s Day!!!”

Is it me or do date nights get a lot more pressure come February?  (Thanks V-Day!)  But what a great opportunity to show your significant other that Hallmark and high restaurant prices don’t scare you…oh no!  Au contraire!  You are armed with date nights to wow even the most cynical “I hate Valentine’s Day” people out there!

Here’s 5 dates the hubby and I loved, and are pretty positive you will, too!

mamma-mia1. Mamma Mia on Broadway

This has long been my all time favorite musical, so I was stoked to finally take Mr. P to the theater to see it!  It’s really the perfect anti-Valentine’s Day Broadway show, because these two lovers decide in the end that they don’t need marriage to prove their adoration and love to one another…just a few show tunes and a trek around the world!  You’ll be out of your seat high-kicking and singing along by the end, promise!

CvUxhW5eTaVRI5aP3PyxbF-GwfHelUf0qwZNU3rTkOs2. Love/Sick

The show that will have you remembering all the reasons you love love (despite the title)!  Love/Sick is a one act, nine-play cycle about love and loss…with a side of lust thrown in for good measure!  Each play has its own arc and tells the story of a couple at a crossroads in their relationship. Since each relationship is more advanced than the previous relationship, a larger arc emerges and the individual plays work together to create a satisfying whole – one that chronicles the lifecycle of a typical relationship, from meeting through divorce…and afterwards.  The singing telegram one was my favorite:-)

1572185803. Window Shop For Each Other

NYC is the best place to live when you have a shopping itch, because all those stores!  We both pick something that we are “hypothetically” shopping for that day (him: usually watches) (me: usually shoes), and head to our respective stores together.  We give each other a solid amount of time to try on watches and shoes, and ohh and ahh at how good the other looks, snapping a few photos with our phones of course.  At the end, we guess which one they would pick if they had the funds, and you tell which you would pick!  It’s a fun way to pass an afternoon together, and also a great way to get an idea of your boo’s style and ultimate wish list for when he/she hits that big birthday or earns a promotion or has a bad day…you know, something worthy of a big ticket item;-)

IMG_21984. Turkish Coffee

On quick dates, we love checking out new and different coffee shops together.  There’s a lovely place in Hell’s Kitchen called Kahve which serves traditional Turkish coffee in teeny tiny cups.  Not only is it really cute to cuddle together in a booth, but after the coffee is gone, legend goes you can pour the cup upside down and read your future based on where the coffee stains go.  (Maybe you have to be Turkish in order for this to really work, but it’s a fun game, none the less…just google how to do it and impress your boo!;-)

1454a93f378eb0b834d576357bab406a5. Read + Discuss Together

At one point in the very beginning of our relationship, the hubs and I had our own book club with just the two of us in it (aww!)  His first book was on global warming and mine was a David Sedaris classic…needless to say, we didn’t make it past the first 2 months.  However, we’ve since learned that we can appreciate smaller little tastes of things…we’ll send each other articles that we find interesting throughout the day and discuss them over dinner, and lately have been saying our goodnights over Pablo Neruda’s Love Poems.  Gotta love a short and sweet sonnet.

Share your fun date night ideas below!

||Photo Credit: 1, 2||

Feb
12

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UYC’s Book Club: Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion

It seemed only appropriate to choose a book featuring NYC love stories for the month of February.  Until we got to reading the book and realized…only one was an actual love story, the rest were…well, they were what love stories often are: unrequited, reckless, and heartbreaking.  

I know, I know, this all sounds quite terrible and you’re probably like “why would you recommend this, especially around Valentine’s Day?!”, but I promise, it’s a pleasant read, filled with historical bits from World War II living that were pretty enlightening (like, I had no idea German POW’s worked on American plantations during this time?!), and out of the ten stories told by ten different authors, you’re bound to really enjoy most.  The one I found most powerful was “I’ll Walk Alone” by Erika Robuck.

“I lift my face to the constellations on the ceiling. I’m breathing better up here. The air stirs more freely. I walk towards the stairs where the young lovers sat, but they are gone. Of all the difficulty of this day so far, their disappearance is what threatens to unmoor me.”

All the stories took place on a single day right after the end of the war.  What I appreciated most with this read is how each story had a small cameo, linking it into the next, often times so tiny you have to reread to catch them.  In this huge city of ours, it’s so true how energies and lives merge in such unexpected ways that mostly go unrecognized, but can have substantial impact.  And with Grand Central playing backdrop to these intertwining lives, it’s easy to imagine a similar anthology being written in 2015, following the lives and loves of modern day New Yorkers.  Project, anyone?

unnamedThis seemed to be a universal hit among the book club members, discussing over seafood soup at Grand Central’s legendary Oyster Bar. Have you read the book?  Let’s discuss below!

p.s. For March’s NYC read, we’ll be gobbling up Spiced: A Pastry Chef’s True Stories of Trails by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, and What Really Goes on in the Kitchen.  Grab your copy and join the discussion on the blog on March 26th!