March Madness Runs Into April

End-of-KOTO Street Dance in Telluride:  One of Many Mountain Celebrations to Mark the End-of-the-Season

KOTO Street Dance in Telluride: One of Many Mountain Celebrations to Mark the End-of-the-Season

Wow, what a month it has been. It’s been at least that long since I posted a story on this blog. So what have I been doing? Skiing, of course. Mostly teaching skiing actually, nearly every day up until our closing here in Telluride which took place this past Easter Sunday, April 4th. I’m just now beginning to feel alive again. I say almost since I’m still consuming above-average amounts of caffeine but I know more energetic days lie ahead.

I’m much better than I was earlier in the week when I logged endless hours on my couch, too tired to read but content to watch copious amounts of T.V. in between long stretches of sleep. (I think my cats registered more awake time than I these past days.)  And dare I take inventory of all my eating? I’ve been devouring the scalloped potatoes and chocolate left over from Easter, and by Tuesday afternoon I found myself whipping up a vanilla milkshake and sucking it down from the indented cushions of my couch faster than Oprah could say “We’ll be right back.” When I began to compulsively channel surf between Dancing with the Stars, CNN and Bravo, I worried that I might never feel normal again. But miraculously my cravings for sugar and fat diminished by Wednesday along with my desire to escape profoundly into the boob tube. Last night I even cracked a book, “Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette,” that I can’t wait to get back to tonight. (I find it impossible to read during ski season when evenings mean either falling asleep by 9 or partying until 11.)

I don’t know how so many people pack it up as soon as the mountain closes. They head to Moab, Mexico and the Islands or embark upon adventures such as a rafting trip on the Salt River. These people must be largely motivated by the thrill of switching out ski boots for flip flops. I guess I’m just a softy. I need to recharge.

Anyone that works in the hospitality industry can tell you that March can be insane in the mountains. As a ski instructor, you have to be ON all the time throughout the sunniest and stormiest days of spring break (which this year lasted most of March right up until Easter). It doesn’t matter if your knees are killing you, your quads burn beyond belief or if you don’t have an ounce of gas left in your tank, it’s our job to spread rainbows and sunshine and to make sure that everyone has the best experience ever.

And what a great end-of-season it was here in T-ride. The snow fell generously and often, right up until the end, interspersed with glorious days of warmth and sun. I taught mostly private ski lessons to a terrific array of clients, some of whom promise to be future guests on Travel Fun. I delighted in teaching Josie, a sweetheart of a thirteen-year old, a first-timer that I worked into almost a complete parallel by the end of two days. Her parents, Kevin and Corinna, own Antlers & Anglers, an exclusive service that arranges hunting and fishing trips to alluring destinations around the world. I’m looking forward to having her dad on the program to talk about big game hunting and more. Perhaps an unusual sort of topic for my show, but certainly very interesting nonetheless. I had a blast with twin six-year olds, Max and Carrie, for a week and through this family, I met novelist Martha McPhee. (I also skied with her son Jasper.) Martha has a new book, “Dear Money,” coming out in June. This work showcases the financial world of New York where Martha lives, so it might be a hoot to have her on Travel Fun to talk about the ins and outs of the Big Apple’s high rolling landscape. I’m sure she can provide a few good restaurant recommendations as well. Martha is the daughter of the prolific nonfiction writer John McPhee and the sister of novelist Jenny McPhee. She’s married to poet Mark Svenvold who, along with Martha and the rest of the crew, enjoyed doing a bunch of nice turns in Telluride during one of our best weeks of March.  (In case you’re wondering, Martha and I talked more about skiing than writing.)

My friend Kate Betts, renowned fashion and style editor, was also vacationing in T-ride during this time. We managed to work in a Travel Fun interview together which I’ll soon post here as a podcast. Kate is still a contributing writer for TIME Magazine but we mostly chatted about her recent project, a book about Michelle Obama, entitled “Everyday Icon:  Michelle Obama and The Power of Style.” “It’s really about why style matters,” Kate says.

In the midst of all this activity, I was asked to participate in a photo shoot for SKI Magazine, an undertaking that occupied nearly two day’s of my time both on the snow and in Bootdoctors, the Telluride sport specialist that is the focal point of this piece. Bootdoctors has gained great recognition for fixing people’s alignments (and their skiing!) by adjusting their equipment—mainly ski boots—to compensate for their own physiological imperfections. I was selected certainly not for my skiing prowess or on-camera presence but as a prime example of a knock-kneed woman. I shared the shoot with Don Hannah, longtime Telluride resident, fellow KOTO DJ, all around nice guy and brother to Daryl. Don was chosen to represent your average bow-legged man. This was no glamour shoot, especially since I was so caught up with my work that I hadn’t even thought about having a pedicure for the shots (and Internet footage!), many of which focused on an extensive custom boot-fitting for my feet. To think that my gnarly ski instructor feet are to appear rough-hewn and unpolished in a national magazine by next ski season— quel horreur! Don and I were also documented skiing our worst knock-kneed/bow-legged form on Telluride’s fine slopes. Don nailed my sentiments exactly when he said, “I’ve been reading SKI Magazine since I was a kid and now that I finally get to appear in it, I come across looking like a dork.” Oh well, Lindsey Vonn I am not.

So now it’s time to organize my personal space and to pick up my writer’s life. I’m on my tenth load of laundry this week and am chipping away at my e-mails. Fortunately it will be a slow transition since I have a couple of trips planned to Vail and Aspen before the month is out. You can read about some of my post- season adventures from last year at Skiing and Spa-Going:  Part One in Vail, Colorado and at Aspen Highlights. I’m looking forward to free skiing and not having to instruct or look out for anyone’s well-being but my own. I bet I’ll miss the silly chairlift games and heartwarming connections though.

This is indeed a funny life, trading off between ski instructing and writing. But as much as it’s a juggling act, I can’t imagine giving it up. There’s nothing like balancing out the mental with the physical, especially when you live inthe Rocky Mountains. I wonder what Marie Antoinette would think.

Note that April is full of end-of-the-season activities at Colorado’s top resorts. Aspen Mountain closes this Sunday, April 11 but will reopen the weekends of April 17-18 and 24-25. Beaver Creek closes this Sunday as well, however Vail’s spring fling kicks into high gear April 12 with their Spring Back to Vail.  Search the Internet for lots more great skiing and fun in Colorado through early May.  You’ll find some terrific bargains, too.  Be sure to pack your costumes and most colorful spring attire!

Skiing Bunnies, Mary Dawn and Michael, Hop on the Quad in T-ride on Easter Sunday

Skiing Bunnies, Mary Dawn and Michael, Hop on the Quad in T-ride on Easter Sunday


The Crowd Gathers at Gorronno's in Telluride for a Closing Day Concert by Drew Emmitt

The Crowd Gathers at Gorronno's in Telluride for a Closing Day Concert by Drew Emmitt

12 Nov 2009, 1:57pm
Girl Talk New York Restaurants:
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New York Splendor

Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

Serendipity and travel go together like food and wine.  It’s usually the chance encounters or haphazard discoveries that occur along the way that make the difference in your journey, even if that trip lasts only a short while.

This was my experience on a recent flash visit to New York City.  I was to spend just under thirty hours in this bustling metropolis, primarily focused on the more business aspects of my work.  There was little time for travel writing research per se, so I knew I’d have to catch a story on the fly.  My best bet for finding my travel highlight was lunch on the second day when my good friend, Jane (see Gallery Going with the Ladies from Larchmont), was to meet me before I headed out of town.

I counted on Jane—someone who seems to be in the know about just about everything most of the time—to provide the restaurant suggestion.  She proposed Tabla, a swanky Indian restaurant, convenient for us both.  We didn’t call ahead and when I arrived, they apologized that they were exceptionally closed that day for lunch.  The rain was falling in sheets outside and I practically begged for another recommendation close by.  I was informed that their sister property, Eleven Madison Park, was just next door.

“Isn’t that expensive?”  I couldn’t help blurting out, aware nonetheless that these sort of remarks are more than acceptable during these challenging times.

“They have a $28. prix fixe menu,” Kevin, the manager at Tabla, replied.

I made a quick calculation in my head, figuring the price of at least one glass of wine, a coffee, tax and gratuity.  I had just come from my publisher, St. Martin’s Press, located nearby in the Flat Iron Building and possessed more of a sense of optimism about the publishing world than I had in a while.  It felt right.

I placed a call to Jane and made it a go.  A wave of excitement hit me as I realized I was about to experience the restaurant in New York that I really wanted to go to some day.  I had read a review of Eleven Madison Park in The New York Times a few months ago, one of the last written by Frank Bruni, their renowned restaurant critic, who bestowed four-stars upon this beloved New York dining establishment.  His description of this superior dining establishment was so vivid that I easily imagined myself seated in the restaurant enjoying a superlative meal with a glass or two of wine.

Jane and I were escorted to a corner banquette that furnished wide-angle views of the restaurant’s stately, high-ceilinged dining room.  “It’s a quintessential New York restaurant,” Jane remarked, referring most certainly to the dramatic tone set by this vast space and its decorative architectural embellishments, all representative of Art Deco design.  “We brought our friends from California here when they came to New York and they loved it.”

We took turns observing the details that make any dining or lodging experience stand out.  Jane pointed out the embossed decoration of leaves (representing the four seasons, not too unlike those of the Four Seasons), the trademark of the restaurant, on the butter.  I commented on the salt served as a side to the butter and made a mental note to ask about its provenance (but never did, sorry).  Of course we opted for the $28. prix fixe, one appetizer, one entrée menu and then selected a half bottle of chablis from the $28. page of the wine list that included two bottles, two half bottles and a few glasses, all at the $28. price.  The manager explained that these prices were introduced a year ago and are here to stay, at least for now.  “Oh, a woman must have designed that,” Jane quipped, an insightful remark lost on the manager that I didn’t comprehend until about ten seconds later.

We laughed and chatted, vainly attempting to encapsulate the essential of our current lives into a two-hour lunch.  Our attention hardly waned, however, from our table and the entire room.  A flourish of amuse bouches (mini-apps), which included heirloom tomato marshmallows and black pepper sablés topped with foie gras and cranberry gelée, wooed us from the get-go.  And we practically swooned over the savory gougères and mini olive ficelles and baguettes that had been served up both warm and imperceptibly.

Snippets of our table side critique continued in between volleys about our very different lives, hers in New York, mine in Colorado.  Our commentaries about each other’s activities intermingled with our impressions of our appetizers (Heirloom Beets with Lynnhaven Farms Chèvre Frais for Jane; Red Endive with Buffalo Mozzarrella, Basil and Persimmon for me).   All had been exquisitely plated.  Our entrées (Ricotta Gnocchi with Artichokes, Taggiasca Olives and Bacon for Jane; Seared Scallop with Celery, Meyer Lemon and Black Truffles for me) continued to provide a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.  For me, the utensils were far too small, especially in proportion to the over-sized plates.  For Jane, they were just right.  “Must be a European thing,” I commented.  “In France at least, the utensils are large and weighty.”

The end of our lunch neared, our broad plates were swept away and a most refined dessert cart was wheeled before us.  No gloppy confections here.  Instead we marveled at an array of stream-lined sweets that would be the envy of Paris’s most sophisticated pâtisserie.  Sadly we declined this great temptation since we had surely surpassed our calorie count and budget by now.

We wrapped up our visit over rich coffee, served with hot, steamy milk.  I was waiting expectedly for a little tray of sweets to be placed before us, just like in fine French restaurants.  (Eleven Madison Park is a Relais & Châteaux after all.)  Nothing came but I thought that maybe it was best not to overdo, keeping totally within the spirit of this sleek establishment.  It’s O.K. to feel totally satisfied yet wanting a little more.

I felt this way about Jane as well when we bid each other goodbye as I ducked into a cab outside of Eleven Madison Park.  I took solace in knowing that she’d be a best friend for life and that we had shared such an exceptional moment together.  Maybe next time we’ll try Tabla.

Eleven Madison Park, 11 Madison Avenue at 24th Street, 212-889-0905,

Tabla, 11 Madison Avenue at 25th Street, 212-889-0667,

9 Sep 2008, 12:00pm
New York Travel:
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Riding the Rails Along the Hudson

All Aboard to View the Hudson River!

All Aboard to View the Hudson River!

I haven’t traveled many Amtrak routes in my life, but I have taken one of the most scenic—the one that stretches along the Hudson River in upstate New York—many times over.  The two and a half-hour ride from Albany, New York to New York City first held me in rapt attention when I was about eight years old.  This was the occasion of my first trip to New York City, a landmark moment I experienced with my mother.  We boarded in Albany, just across the river from Troy, the town where I grew up.

Ever since that initial train trip, I have been transfixed by the beauty of this route, one that cuts through predominantly unspoiled countryside where development is sparse and wildlife is plenty.  It’s always a good idea to board early so you can claim one of the window seats on the Hudson side since business and leisure travelers appear decidedly smitten with the views as well.  Then—no matter what the season—you’ll witness some of our country’s most resplendent scenery unfold before you.

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Gallery Going with the Ladies from Larchmont

I met my friend Jane fresh out of college when we worked at the Pucker Safrai art gallery together in Boston.  In addition to being incredibly smart, creative and witty, Jane’s always very up-to-the-minute with everything from the latest cooking utensil to this season’s hottest nail color.  (That happens to be Opi’s Moon over Mumbai—a sort of lavender grey—one of those small, yet necessary tidbits I learned when she teased me about my freshly applied ruby red, aptly named After Sex.  I thought that shade would be fun and fresh with my summer togs, but what’s a mountain girl to know anyway?)  So when Jane told me about a planned excursion to Neue Galerie, one of Manhattan’s more recent additions to the arts scene that showcases German and Austrian art, I jumped at the chance to go along.

Our outing was to include Jane’s friend, another very snappy gal from Larchmont, her mother-in-law and Jane’s daughter, a lovely young lady in her mid teens that I later discovered had clearly adopted her mother’s interest in the arts.  Both Jane and her friend looked particularly chic in stylish dresses that would have also worked well for a sophisticated garden party.  (Jane aptly dubbed her cream-colored linen shift very Frieda Callo.)  Standing there in my well cut jean bermudas and colorful, clingy top, I was almost sorry I hadn’t taken it up a notch.  Thank goodness I wore my beautiful, glass beads.

“You look very mountain-like, MB,” Jane observed without an ounce of snootiness.  She tossed me a purple pashmina.  “Here, that’s perfect.  Just the right touch of namasté.  You’ll need it for the museum.”

I had grown accustomed to a life without air conditioning in Colorado and was constantly amazed that the A.C. was cranked so high in other parts of the country.

We chatted excitedly the whole drive into the city.  I learned that women in Larchmont were very possessive about sharing their babysitters’ names and numbers, a seemingly disconcerting matter for Jane and her friend.

“That’s how it is with French women and their recipes,” I explained.  “Most only do a few signature dishes and they don’t like to share their recipes for fear that their spécialités might show up at someone else’s dinner party.”

We all scoffed at that.  “Yes, I was even convinced at one point that one of my former sisters-in-law would deliberately leave out an ingredient or two so that her recipe could not be duplicated.  I would make these cakes that would be total flops,” I trailed off.

Entrance to Galerie Neue

Entrance to Neue Galerie

We laughed and commiserated about about some of the more tedious aspects of life until we pulled up in front of a handsome mansion on the upper east side.  By now we were starved, so we decided to lunch first and look later.  Entering the Café Sabarsky at Neue Galerie was like stepping into  a fine dining room in Vienna.  Dark wood paneling, wooden floors, floral-covered velvet banquettes, little marble café tables and heavy draperies wrapped us in an Old World warmth that we soon realized was more important than ever with the A.C.-induced Arctic chill that blasted us as soon as we walked in the door.  We settled in and began to order coffees and lunch.

Café Sabarsky

The five of us almost hurried through our selections of goulash soup, smoked trout, Weiner Schnitzel and salads in anticipation of the desserts to follow.  (We had already scoped out gorgeous cakes and tortes on the long, marble sideboard on the other side of the room upon entering.)   A rich assortment of treats was later served up with more coffee and in my case, hot chocolate, the perfect accompaniment to an Apfelstrudel on a cold winter’s day.  (Instead of complaining any more about the frosty air, I decided to make it a good excuse for being extra decadent.)

Grand Staircase

Grand Staircase

Finally we were ready to stroll through the exhibition rooms.  We delighted separately, all together and sometimes one-on-one in viewing the many fine works on display here from original furnishings to superbly crafted jewelry.  I paused at great length in front of a glittering painting by Gustav Klimt.  Clearly some of the finest examples of Austrian-German creativity were prominently featured within this nearly six-year old museum.  Neue Galerie is a small gem whose jewel box-like interior is as alluring as the goods inside.  Our hearts had been warmed by all the beauty we took in within this elegant space; our bodies were glad to meet the hot summer air outside.

Neue Galerie New York, 1048 Fifth Avenue, 212-628-6200,

Café Sabarsky is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and for lots of tea, coffee and drinks in between) everyday but Wednesday; 212-288-0665.

6 Sep 2008, 4:18pm
French Life Girl Talk New York Restaurants Travel:
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Franco-American Girl Talk

I was to top off my time in the West Village with my dear friend Michèle, another single woman and une vraie franco-américaine, raised by a French mother and an American father.  Plus she has lived almost equal time in Paris and New York, so she clearly has a handle on both worlds.  For us to meet in New York was a particular treat since she had always been one of my friends from Paris.  I was relying upon her more and more for updates on la vie parisienne.

We tucked ourselves into the corner banquette at Alexandra, another one of the West Village’s charming little restaurants on Hudson Street.  After ordering salads, soupe à l’oignon gratinée and a couple of French Chardonnays, we jumped right in to one of our favorite subjects:  zee French.

“So how are the French doing these days?”  I asked.

“They’re still complaining a lot, but they do continue to enjoy a nice quality of life,” she replied.

“It sounds as though not much has changed since when I lived there.”

Our conversation soon shifted to French men, a far more interesting subject.

“I hope they’re still very charming and that they have remained as attentive as ever toward their women,” I said.

“French men do know how to flirt,” Michèle replied.  “But there’s often nothing behind it.”

“Flirting does make life more fun,” I added.  “I miss that about France.  I don’t think there’s enough flirting here in the U.S.   I always enjoy a titillating exchange.”

“Well I guess men on both sides of the Atlantic still know how to whip out the charm to seduce,” Michèle added.

I pondered this last comment for a while, replaying certain recent encounters in my head.  

“And do French men continue to maintain mistresses?”  I asked, changing the subject just enough so as not to delve headfirst into my own litany of love relationships.  At least not right away.  “People always ask me about that here in America.  I think that’s something that fascinates Americans about the French.”

“That is still more of a reality than a myth,” Michèle answered reflectively.  “I think it’s class specific.  It’s more open and accepted in the haute bourgeoisie.  Many French people live separate lives and are very frank about it.  I know a lot of people that do this.”

“I guess in America people go ahead and split up despite the financial and emotional consequences,” I ventured.  “In France, people live it out until they sort it out.”

We continued chatting about the differences between the French and Americans, a big frame of reference for us both.

“So what else is new?”

“You’ve heard the French are crazy about Carla Bruni, right?”  Michèle asked.

“Oh yes, I know.  I’m not that much out of the loop.”

Alexandra, After the Girls Were Gone

Alexandra, After the Girls Were Gone


Alexandra, 455 Hudson Street, 212-255-3838,

Happy, Joyous and Gay in the West Village

It’s always rather electrifying for me to arrive in New York and I’m forever amazed by what I can take in in a short amount of time.  This visit revolved around the West Village, the area west of 6th Avenue between 14th Street and Houston.  And even better, I got to experience much of it with gay men.  My friend, John, was my host most of the time, a more than willing party for showing me the highlights of the area where he lives and works.  

I already was liking the Big Apple a good deal when I picked up a bouquet of sunflowers for John at D’Agostino’s for less than $8.  (The same would have cost about $20. back in Telluride.  Oh, the joys of being in a big city!)  It was also lovely to spend a balmy evening dining outside at Malatesta, a bustling trattoria filled mostly with locals.  

Authentic Food and Ambiance at Malatesta

Authentic Food and Ambiance at Malatesta

We feasted on excellent plates of homemade pasta with John’s roommate Dan, another handsome single gay man, and talked a lot about the theater and the wonderful qualities of this charming part of New York.  

“Yeah, gay men know how to gentrify neighborhoods and dress well,” Dan admitted.  “In fact, we’re all about window dressing.”

Although the really “in” neighborhood for gays in New York is now Hell’s Kitchen, the West Village has remained gay enough to still boast a large number of excellent shops, restaurants and cafés.  And its low-key feel attracts people—including many celebs that have taken up residence here—in search of more authentic experiences at not-so staggering prices.

Our pasta dishes at Malatesta rang in at $12.50 each; we all enjoyed fresh salads, such as a pear, arugula and parmesan starter, for well under $10.  (I can still remember the light olive oil and lemon vinaigrette that dressed my salad.)  After perusing the menus at a good number of restaurants in the Village, I ascertained that these prices for excellent cuisine were more the norm than not, but be sure to bring cash since most establishments don’t take credit cards.  Note also that many offer al fresco dining and are open for brunch on weekends.

A Cool Hotspot in the West Village

A Cool Hotspot in the West Village

We reluctantly left the Old World-styled décor of this open and airy restaurant to seek out desert at Eskimix, a newly opened frozen yogurt shop, one of the hottest places in the Village right now.  Its pastel-colored, Hello Kitty-like look contrasted greatly with the warm interior where we had just spent the last couple of hours, yet we were all eager to concoct our own special creation from the list of frozen yogurts and toppings proposed.  I averted the fruit-topped dairy free tofu blend and dove right in to a S’mores Sensation, a rich mixture of sweet yogurt topped with milk chocolate chunks, marshmallow and graham crackers.  My vacation was not off to a good start, but what the heck.  And yes, there is a hint of Pinkberry in the air.

A Yummy Creation

The three of us decided to walk it off by doing a little tour of the neighborhood.  By now the streets were quite animated and the people-watching was topnotch.  We enjoyed browsing on Bleecker Street, pushing our noses against the windows of Marc Jacobs, Coach, Ralph Lauren, Cynthia Rowley and Bonpoint.  I was especially taken with the boudoir-like interior of Juicy Couture, a shop I was glad to pass in front of at such a late hour when I knew I could do no damage.  Strolling down a quaint street such as Bleecker, makes you understand why this part of New York is referred to as the Village.

We turned in for the night and upon seeing the face cream and neatly folded T-shirt and boxer shorts that Dan had laid out for me, I was even more grateful to be staying with such an attentive pair of men.  (My luggage didn’t show up until the next morning and needless-to-say, I don’t pack much in my carryon but my laptop, a good book and some important papers.)

Inside Out of the Kitchen

Inside Out of the Kitchen!

I was to meet Roy, another very interesting gay man, at Out of the Kitchen! the next morning for breakfast.  (The gay emphasis is important here, I think, since it denotes a certain level of sophistication and style—often along with a great sense of humor—that I find very attractive.  Plus aren’t gay guys a girl’s best friend anyway?)  

We sat outside and chatted about many of the beautiful things in life over fluffy omelets, roasted potatoes and delicious, whole grain toast.  John was working that shift at the restaurant, so he was able to join in on our conversation, dropping a word or two about certain Broadway shows or other forms of attraction in the city.  

Outside Out of the Kitchen

Outside Out of the Kitchen!

I scooted off from this meeting to check out the shops and beauty salons at Christopher Street, another great street in the West Village.  I decided to have a pedicure at Salon de Oasis.  The French grammar mistake in the name instantly tipped me off that this was not a high-end establishment, but the Avalon Salon & Day Spa across the street was fully booked.  I couldn’t help noticing that the two men seated next to me looked particularly metrosexual.  We chatted and before long I learned that they, too, were gay.  They actually live in Hell’s Kitchen but come down to the West Village every Saturday for breakfast and fun.  Both love skiing and Paris, so we all became fast friends.  Armed with a few other addresses of places to check out, I bid them à bientôt in Telluride.

It was beginning to rain, so I was happy to seek refuge next door at McNulty’s Tea & Coffee Co., Inc., purveyors of rare teas and choice coffees, established in 1895.  Big burlap bags of coffee greeted me along with a delicious aroma of coffee and tea that had permeated the wooden floors and shelves of this little shop for over a century.  I thought about picking up some special teas and coffees here for my friend, Jane, that I’d be visiting in Larchmont for the next couple of days but I decided that cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery would make more of a hit with her children instead.

By now it was raining quite hard, so it seemed like this would be the best time to go to this renowned bakery made famous by “Sex and the City.”  We had stopped by here last night and although Dan really craved a cupcake, we didn’t feel it was worth the estimated forty-five minute wait required.  As I approached Magnolia’s on the corner of Bleecker and 11th, I could tell from a distance that there was only a handful of people braving the foul weather for a piece or more of their sugary baked goods.  

Being in no hurry, I poked around Biography Bookshop Inc., located caddy corner to Magnolia’s.  Here I was particularly intrigued by one title:  “Greenwich Village:  A Guide to America’s Legendary Left Bank,” by Judith Stonehill.  Hmmmm, I thought.  What I had seen so far did possess some of the same qualities as Paris’s Left Bank.  The book included “four walking tours with maps to explore Greenwich Village with the artists, writers, bohemians and blithe spirits who congregate here.”  This neighborhood appeared increasingly more interesting to me as each minute passed.  I put down the book though knowing that I’d be leaving the city by the end of the day.

Pastel-Colored Temptations at Magnolia Bakery

Pastel-Colored Temptations at Magnolia Bakery

Inside Magnolia, the rich smell of butter and sugar clung to the heavy, humid air.  Towering layer cakes beneath large, glass domes garnered most of my attention, but I soon moved on to the cupcakes set out primly in the far corner of this old-fashioned looking cake shop.  I asked for a dozen and was promptly told “to serve myself.”  I hovered for a while in front of their multifarious assortment, deliberating between chocolate with vanilla frosting, chocolate with chocolate frosting, vanilla/vanilla—well, you get the idea—until I heard a sigh behind me that seemed to indicate you’d better hustle along.  I made a point of picking out some of the Red Velvets, a cocoa-charged confection that John had talked about at great length the night before.  (A southern specialty, these are made with cocoa powder and red apple cider vinegar that actually burns off during the baking process.  Some red food coloring is also added.)  Cupcakes are priced at $2.50 a piece; $3.00 for the Red Velvets.

Accustomed to the finishing touches offered at even your most basic boulangerie, I was expecting my boxes to be done up with ribbon, or at the very least, string.  A few pieces of tape was the best they could manage.  Upon tasting them later, I was still not very impressed, since I found the cakes to be a little too dense for my liking.  (In all fairness, however, I read afterward that their cupcakes should never be put in the fridge and unfortunately ours had been.)  Nevertheless all this made me wonder if the tourists that line up outside of Berthillon, Paris’s most celebrated ice cream shop, esteem that their treats are worth the fuss or not.

I made my way back toward Hudson Street where I had begun the day.  Another downpour forced me to seek refuge at Petite Abeille, an adorable restaurant offering Belgian specialties including waffles and mussels and lesser known dishes such as Waterzooi (fish stew) and stoemp (mashed potatoes, carrots and onions cooked in bacon fat).  I sat at one of the little tables draped in blue-and-white checked tablecloths, sipped a Bellini, anticipated my lunchtime meeting with a good friend and reflected upon all the wonderful times I enjoyed in Belgium, beginning at the age of sixteen when I did an exchange with a Belgian girl by the name of Chantal.  Yes, I’ll admit that for my first few years of speaking French, my accent was undeniably Belgian yet also full of warmth and whimsy, just like this little restaurant, just like the West Village I had come to know in less than twenty-four hours.  

Malatesta, 649 Washington Street, 212-741-1207

Eskimix, Bleecker and Grove, 212-206-6828,

Out of the Kitchen!, 420 Hudson Street, 212-242-0399,

Salon de Oasis, 107 Christopher Street, 212-337-9812

Avalon Salon & Day Spa, 112 Christopher Street, 212-337-1966,

McNulty’s Tea & Coffee Co., Inc., 109 Christopher Street, 212-242-5351;

Biography Bookshop Inc., 400 Bleecker St. (@11th Street), 212-807-8655;

Magnolia Bakery, 401 Bleecker Street, 212-462-2572,

Petite Abeille, 466 Hudson Street, 212-741-6479,

Hotel Suggestion

Jane Hotel, 113 Jane Street, 212-924-6700;

On an Even More Personal Note

Memories of my dear brother Phil accompanied me throughout the researching and writing of this story.  It has been almost fifteen years to this day that he passed all too soon.  He was one of John’s best friends.  I am grateful to John for his friendship and for his help in keeping Phil’s memory alive.

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    This blog is a personal blog written and edited by Maribeth Clemente. This blog sometimes accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation. The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post may not always be identified as paid or sponsored content. The owner of this blog is sometimes compensated to provide opinion on products, services, Web sites and various other topics. Even though the owner of this blog receives compensation for certain posts or advertisements, she always gives her honest opinions, findings, beliefs or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blogger's own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question. This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.
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