Eat & Tell with Annette Tomei
Seems like everyone I know is in a perpetual state of schedule overload – in constant motion with Blackberries blazing! My friends’ careers are as diverse as their personalities… from freelance artists to restaurant professionals, corporate executives and business owners – married, single, parents, and/or pet owners – actively engaged in life at all times.
We all love a good party, but… as you might imagine, getting these people together in one place at one time can be a nearly impossible. That said, one friend decided to throw himself a birthday party anyway. Being the creative people-person and social diva, my boy didn’t just plan a fabulous cocktail party or make reservations at the hottest new spot; he planned a whole day of it.
Here’s what went down:
10 days before: An eclectic group of fun loving NYC food fanatics receive an e-vite… a whole day’s itinerary starting with brunch, moving its way through a number of festive stops in popular neighborhoods, cocktails, appetizers, tasting menus, ending at a new late night spot for more cocktails and tasty nibbles. Casually RSVP only for what you are interested in… the only firm RSVP’s need be for two restaurants that need the numbers in advance. The birthday boy and his wing man guarantee to be at every stop!
A day before: Reminder email and last minute time changes.
The Big Day: It’s a crystal blue, warm breezy Saturday morning. Lucky us!
12:30 p.m. Brunch at Harry’s Café (1 Hanover Square, www.harrysnyc.com)
Surprise! Amazing brunch in the Wall Street area – and at a steakhouse! All you can drink champagne cocktails (yummy blood orange mimosas and even yummier champagne with ruby red grapefruit, sugar, and a touch of bitters). Fluffy spiced waffles with berries and vanilla bean-flecked yogurt and the best eggs benedict on earth, period – made with house-smoked “Canadian bacon” chops.
1:45 p.m. Brief pit stop en route for a little snuggle with my sweet niece, Thalia the Beautiful.
2:00 p.m. Short but always enjoyable visit to our friends at Ditch Plains (29 Bedford Street at Downing, www.ditch-plains.com). Breakfast, lunch and dinner served all day into the wee hours of the night. Best part, the wines are all priced at retail! No stale “by the glass” program – half bottles for less! Getting cravings right now for their rosemary and bacon mussels, the curry mussels, and the white anchovy salad. To top it all off… desserts are served with your very own can of whipped cream! Try to behave.
4:00 p.m. After a leisurely, wine soaked walk through SOHO, NoLita, and some of the Lower East Side (much window shopping, flirting, and dog petting along the way), next stop was Inoteca (98 Rivington at Ludlow, www.inotecanyc.com). This is one of my favorite spots to settle in with a good book, a great glass of wine and the kind of tasty treats that whisk me away to a piazza in Roma without having to spring for plane fare. (Also great place for small crowds of hungry friends.) Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo Colline Novaresi “Il Mimo” rosé made from the nebbiolo grape… smells like super ripe strawberries, crisp but supple and languorous (like a spring afternoon in Roma). As far as food goes, never had something I didn’t like. Try everything – all small bites and things to share.
5:15 p.m. Heard rumor that the best mojitos in NYC could be found just up the street from Inoteca. Next stop absolute must… Paladar (161 Ludlow Street, www.paladarrestaurant.com). The tiny room was filling up and they were 2 deep at the bar (good sign). The mugs stuffed full with freshly cut sugar cane swizzlers was the next sign… rumors are absolutely TRUE. Happy Birthday revelers were very pleased with their discovery.
5:45 p.m. Unplanned stop that was the next best find of the day… Tree (190 First Ave near E. 12th Street, www.treenyc.com). Only a couple of months old and already setting their roots firmly in the hearts of East Village foodies. Have all my favorites… ice cold champagne, reasonably priced sauternes, classic salad of frissee with bacon lardons and poached egg, lemony tuna tartare and perfectly seared foie gras… all served in a comfy garden dining area by friendly, professional people (gasp)… True love!
6:30 p.m. A short stroll down First Avenue to meet up with the “evening shift” of this traveling gastronomic celebration. Next stop: Knife + Fork for a specially prepared tasting menu (108 E. 4th Street between First and Second, www.knife-fork-nyc.com). Love the staff here for being so gracious when our reservation for 6 became a gang of 10 tipsy chefs and sommeliers. Love the chef even more for rising to the occasion and creating a fun, exciting menu worthy of the pampered palates who enjoyed every bite (especially torchon of foie gras with fresh passion fruit and tangerine crème brulee – even sounds sexy, no?)
10:00 p.m. Though the birthday boy and the hardcore party crew could have probably used a bottle of Tums, some chamomile tea, and crisp sheets at this point, real party was just getting started. Entourage left the comforts of the East Village for uptown to visit some downtown friends’ new digs. Landmarc, the Tribeca favorite (and place where some of revelers originally met) recently opened an uptown outpost in the gastronomic Mecca – the Time Warner Building. Auspicious neighbors include Thomas Keller’s Per Se and Bouchon (10 Columbus Circle – 3rd Floor). Same amazing Landmarc menu, same amazing wine program, same late night hours (special entrance on W 60th Street), new HUGE space and breakfast for the early birds. With the late night hours and old friends behind the bar, this was the spot for catching up with those who are on the service end of the plate and glass on Saturday nights. Sadly, this is where I roll back downtown (and across a bridge)… Hate to confess, but am much more of a daytime Diva these days!
1. Select a specific area of town… preferably one that has a nice mix of activities, restaurants, and watering holes. If that’s not a possibility, choose a route that goes from the furthest from home and gets closer as the night goes on.
2. Give your friends plenty of notice and send a reminder a day or two before the big day.
3. Make reservations in advance for major meals. Honor those reservations. Be extremely gracious and generous to all accommodating service people. (Do not forget to tip like a diva in the glare of the paparazzi spotlight).
4. Get at least one friend to commit to sticking it out for the long haul… ideally, this will be a responsible friend that will have your best interests in mind! Give this person a set of keys to your home and vehicle, if necessary.
5. This should go without saying, and in NYC it isn’t as much of a problem, but here it goes… If a motor vehicle is absolutely necessary, try to make arrangements for a party bus, car service, or at very least, a designated driver. You’re not Paris Hilton… real divas don’t drink and drive!
6. Dress the part… be as sassy as you like, strap on those sexy stilettos… just make sure you have your flip flops tucked discreetly in your bag for later – that’s what a hobo is for! (You might want to let your friends in on this secret as well).
7. Pace yourself. A couple of glasses of champagne with brunch is one thing… a striptease on the lunch table and a hangover by dinner is quite another, darling. Don’t forget that water is a lovely beverage also!
8. Since people will likely be coming and going along the way, handle money matters in a timely fashion… and split by what they had so nobody feels “stuck”… that’s bad juju for a celebration.
9. Be open to interesting diversions along the way, but stick to the itinerary as much as possible… you wouldn’t want to miss the hottie that might be waiting for you at the next stop.
10. Spend at least a little quality time with everyone who joins your group… they are all there to see you – make sure to spread a little sunshine in everyone’s day! Relax. Have Fun. Be Happy… it’s all about you!
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