Scenes From The Washington Prom

Last night I attended the D.C. schmooze-fest also known as the White House Correspondents dinner. The hottest sighting was by far George Clooney. Also seen over cocktail chatter:

Actors - Terence Howard, James Denton, Lawrence Fishburne, Maura Tierney, Virginia Madsen, Kyle McLaughlin, Joe Pantoliano, Doris Roberts, Morgan Fairchild, Isaiah Washington, Fred Dalton, Ron Silver

Musicians - John Legend, Ludacris, American Idol's Ace Young

Politicians - Madeline Albright, Henry Kissenger, George Pataki

Correspondents - David Gregory, Rita Crosby, John McLaughlin

Opinion Leaders - Mort Zuckerman, Andrew Sullivan

Athletes - Olympian Joey Cheek, Tiki Barber, Steeler's quarterback Ben Roethlisberger

Supermodel - Kim Alexis

Game Show Host - Alex Trebek


A Little D.C. Action

As many of you know I'm in D.C. for the White House Correspondents Dinner, so what could be a better time to do a bit of blogging about finds in the nations capital.

Last night I had dinner at Hank's Oyster Bar. It's D.C.'s version of NY's Pearl Oyster Bar (not the same owner). Located in Dupont Circle, this year old fish shack is a gem. I was so happy to find that the special of the night was soft shell crab with just the smallest bit of a red-wine shallot puree on top. Um, YUM! I think it was the best soft shell I've ever had! Add the old bay shoestring fries on the the side for a true piece of heaven! The rest of the menu consists of items like small plates of fried oysters and Ipswich fried clams, a lobster roll and of course raw oysters. Hank's doesn't serve desert, but they do bring a small bowl of broken chunks of real chocolate with the bill. A perfect finish. Definitely make Hank's the first stop on your trip to D.C.!


Vacation Rentals

I just found this new site Vacation Rentals By Owner mentioned by a NY Times writer. It lists vacation rentals that are available directly through the owners. Listings include all sizes and locations around the world. A nice alternative to a hotel for longer stays.


Acme & The Backroom

First off, I heard Cher was at the Scissor Sisters show on Saturday - damn - how could I have missed her!

A couple of reviews from Saturday:

We had dinner at ACME, a NY institution over on the Bowery that serves Cajun food. I've wanted to go there since I moved to NY 10 years ago and I FINALLY made it there. I'm going back immediately! Really good Jambalya and Catfish! And the hurricanes got the night off to a fast start! Cheap, cheerful and delish!

After dinner we had drinks at Tim Robbin's speakeasy The Back Room. All mixed drinks at this bar are served in tea cups and the beer bottles come in paper bags. The room is very throwback with lots of deep wallpaper, red velvet sofas and chandelliers. I liked it a lot - GREAT music. Make sure you take the address with you when you go. This bar literally only has a small gate guarded by a bouncer - it's a bit hard to find if you don't know it. After you enter the gate and walk down the stairs you have to walk below the buildings to get into this hidden den. The crowd there got a bit UES after like 10:30, so I'd recommend a stop at this place early on in the night or on weeknights. A girl walked up to the bar and ordered a drink not on the menu (she asked for a naked martini - which by the way she explained to me was Grey Goose L'orange, white cranberry juice and craisins - yum, but like who has white cran and craisins behind a bar on the LES!) and expected the bartender to know what it was! At that point I knew it was time to move on.

Dead Battery = $50!

I just got my $50 gift certificate to the Apple store from the court case settlement over the dead batteries of early generation iPods. For those of you still waiting for yours, hang in there!


They Are Still Scissor Sisters!

I went with Suz to see the Scissor Sisters at Bowery Ballroom on Saturday night. This was a warm-up show for their appearance later in the week at Coachella. I’m happy to say the band was in top form with their usual energy. They played all of the old favorites like “Take Your Mama Out”, “Laura” and “Comfortably Numb”. The big dissapointment for me was that they passed over “Return To Oz”. They also previewed a bunch of their new material from their upcoming album (which I think drops at the end of July). Sadly, none of it really caught my attention. I guess I need to hear it a couple more times. I just hope they don’t have the sophmore jinx. The highlight of this show was definitely the finale “Filthy Gorgeous” – it was loud, super-high energy and nearly blinding!


Jamie Takes On Parly

Set your DVR's Jamie Oliver fans, TLC will be airing Jamie's School Dinners beginning May 1 @7pm with 4 episodes on Mondays through May. This series documents Jamie's quest to make school lunches healthy.


I have a new favorite song - "Crazy" by Gnarles Barkley. This song is SICK! It's not yet available in the U.S. but is huge right now in London. Listen to Capital Radio online and you will surely here it (they are playing it like every hour). I'll keep you posted on the U.S. release date.

Free Brunch

I just read that Xing, a newly revamped Chinese in Hell's Kitchen, is giving away free brunch to the first 50 people through the door beginning at 11am on both this Saturday and Sunday.


Stalking Tatum

A special thanks to Gawker Stalker for posting my Tatum O'Neil sighting from last night!


Our pre-theater dinner last night was at Whym, a new restaurant in Hell's Kitchen owned by the same people as Eatery. It's a sleek dining room serving comfort food. To start we had the onion and spinach tart with gorgonzola and pistachio. YUM - definitely try this one. Also had "the wedge" which are wedges of iceberg lettuce with thick cut bacon and blue cheese dressing. Nothing special there, but nice choice to welcome the warm weather. For an entree, I tried the wasabi pea crusted tuna served over an edamame puree. It was good - the teriyaki sauce under the puree made the dish (the tuna actually would've been a bit bland without it). Mark had the strip steak with roquefort cheese and peppercorn onion rings and enjoyed it as well. Overall, a thumbs up and I will definitely return.

Three Days of Rain

After a long wait, last night I finally got to see Three Days of Rain starring Julia Roberts, Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper. Surprisingly, I didn't love it. I had trouble connecting with the characters and storyline. Basically, it's the story a brother & sister and their childhood friend who all meet in New York to divide the legacy of their late fathers, who were partners in a renowned architecture firm. The three search for clues that might explain what had gone on between their fathers, and the women in their lives, decades before. The story then shifts to that earlier time, with the same three actors portraying the previous generation.

The main thing everyone wants to know of course is how Julia was. I'd say first off surreal . Sitting about 6 inches from her made it difficult for me to concetrate on the dialogue being delivered. And yes, she is definitely as gorgeous in person. It was crazy to see her fall into some of her signature Julia expressions. And my is she all legs! Her acting, though, was not as strong as I would've expected. When she first entered the stage she seemed very nervous, shredding a tissue in her hand, speaking a little shaky, and stuttering over a couple of lines. After she settled in, she did really get into character though. Paul Rudd's performance was much better in the second act than the first. In fact, I liked the second act better which usually isn't the case for most shows. Bradley Cooper may just have outshined the big star with his performance.

Finally, I need to mention the set. It was a run down NY loft apartment. Really liked it visually. However, yes indeed, it did rain - pour actually - so those of us sitting up close did get wet. It was bad enough that they gave some people who were seated in the wettest areas (the right side of the stage) a plastic tarp to cover up with since they do an entire scene with the rain pouring down!

Overall, would I recommend it? Why not? When do you ever have the opportunity to see Julia Roberts perform live. I'm sure she will only get better as the run progresses. And of course it can only strengthen her film acting abililities. Tonight is the opening night so I'll be curious to see what the real critics say. Last night the audience seemed very underwhelmed, in fact only about 3 people gave them a standing ovation.

Lastly, don't even attempt to get her autograph. Outside the theater following the show it was TOTAL chaos.


Awake And Sing!

Not sure how I missed this one but Mark Ruffalo and Lauren Ambrose are starring in Clifford Odet's 1935 breakout play Awake And Sing!. The play, which opened last night, is about a lower-middle-class, three-generation Jewish family living in a Bronx apartment during the Depression. The show runs through June 11th and tickets are $86.25 - $51.25.


Thank You Eater!

A big thanks to Eater for posting my venting about the birthday fiasco!

Hotel Valley Ho

Scottsdale, AZ gets even hipper.

First The James Hotel appeared on the scene, finally giving the hip young crowd a place to stay in the land of retirement.

Now enter Hotel Valley Ho. Originally a hideaway for the Hollywood elite built in the 1950's, the hotel's redesign highlights it's mid-century style and features 194 guestrooms with glass walls opening onto private patios and balconies.

Ammenities include flat screen tv's, high speed wireless internet, Terrazzo tiled baths with oversized tubs and showers behind a translucent wall, 24-hour room service, the VH Spa, and a bar with cabanas surround the pool. An outpost of Trader Vic's turns out Polynesian eats.


West Village Neighborhood Notes

Marc Murphy of Landmarc fame is opening a new seafood restaurant called Ditch Plains in the old Yumcha space on Bedford & Downing.

Blind Tiger Alehouse is reopening in the old Figa space at the corner of Bleecker & Jones.

Chanto, a Japanes restaurant chain, just opened their first U.S. outpost in the old Moomba space on 7th Ave South & Charles.

European Discount Carriers

I've found 2 websites that can help you identify which discount airlines fly between cities, both foreign and domestic. Check out flycheapo.com (which also has a news section listing sales, etc.) and whichbudget.com.


Extra Virgin

On to happier subjects. The birthday dinner ended up being moved to Extra Virgin on W. 4th. I can't say enough about how GREAT this place is!

First off - the management and service was OUTSTANDING - attending to all of our need with a smile. They gave us our own alcove area of the restaurant (table for 9) and 2 waitresses.

(our waitress - she was new there and fab!)

The food was served in a timely manner and DELICIOUS! The favorite appetizer hands-down was the french fries with a gorgonzola fondue dipping sauce. It was so good I had dreams about it last night! I think the favorite choice of entree for the table was the non-traditionally prepared braised short rib shephard's pie. YUM!

I had the simply grilled halibut served over a bed of spinach, and tomato carpaccio with olive oil and LOVED IT! Light and tasty for something so tasty! A few others tried the monkfish in a lobster bisque with pearl onions and a crawfish. Down at the other end of the table they tried the hanger steak, chicken and the snapper (although I can't remember how they were prepared). The only complaint was that DEC would've like a little more of the cauliflower puree on his snapper (although he still really liked it), but other than that everyone was happy with their choices.

Extra Virgin has a very W. Village feel - cozy with lots of exposed brick. Tables line the sidewalk for warm weather dining as well. I can't wait to go back and try brunch! Check this place out for sure! Cheers to Extra Virgin!

Oh, and finally I'll say Happy Birthday to me!

Please Boycott Pre:Post

Sorry for no posting yesterday. There was a small crisis yesterday that I had to deal with all day. Pre-Post (note: there will NEVER be a link to them on here again!), where I was SUPPOSED to have my birthday dinner, suddenly decided they were no longer open on Monday's and didn't bother to let me know! I called to reconfirm yesterday and they were like "oh, we aren't open on Mondays and never had been". Um, ok. "So you mean to tell me I went there, saw the space and saw the reservation in the book with my phone number, yet no one bothered to call and let me know this", I said. "We're not open on Monday's" is again all they could say. I asked the manager to call me back but of course no one bothered to do that either! Bastards! Please join me in the boycott of this establishment. My intentions for this blog were only to talk about good things, but this horrific mess-up cannot be overlooked. Hopefully Eater will put them on their deathwatch soon!


Another Fav Heads South

My favorite wine bar Turks & Frogs is expanding into TriBeCa on Monday. Their new space will be located at 458 Greenwich St, between Watts and Desbrosses . Rumour has it they will be letting patrons go down into the wine cellar to select their own wines. Also, there is going to be hookah smoking.


Demon Days Live

Last night I caught the Gorillaz at Apollo Theater performing their Demon Days cd live. LOVED IT! The show began with 2 puppets of the band up in the balcony box talking to the crowd. After their banter the curtain went up, revealing a FULL orchestra and backup singers plus the band behind the “band”. The album was played in it’s entirety straight through with guests (including Nenah Cherry, De La Soul, Ike Turner, Shawn Ryder and Dennis Hopper) appearing on stage during the songs that they had collaborated on. At one point a children’s choir came out and joined in. The energy at this show was fantastic, as was the sound quality. Damon Albarn, the brains behind the band, came out to the front of the stage to perform the encore. Videos of the Gorillaz were shown on screens above the stage. Interestingly, the video didn’t add much to the show. I had been expecting something similar to the performance they had set up with Madonna at the Grammy’s, but it didn’t happen. The band plays again tonight and if you can grab a ticket (they released more this morning), I’d highly recommend checking them out!


Hotel Basico & Playa del Carmen

What can I say about Hotel Basico except that it was everything I had hoped for and more! The minute you walk through the entrance you understand why this place is winning all kinds of design awards. The theme of the design is "recycled products". This is evident in everything from the reception area floors lined with tire treds, the vertical blinds in the rooms made from recycled rubber, the daybeds on the roof made from truck flatbeds and the roof-top pools made from old oil drums.

We were warmly welcomed upon our arrival by the manager Alejandro and shown to our room called Alejandra (the rooms are all women's names instead of numbers). Light and airy, the room is white and concrete with floor to ceiling windows on the whole side facing the street. All of this induces a beach feel (thankfully, minus the typical hideous floral linens you find in most beach resorts). The king-sized bed (the most comfortable hotel bed I've slept in!), covered in the softest white linens, is positioned in the center as the focal point of the room. The shower is located in the corner in a large tub with an invigorating waterfall shower head.

Lots of kitchy design elements are incorporated under the bed - green flippers sitting waiting to be used, a white leather lined storage drawer with mirrored front, the mini-bar, a pull-out rubber reading table and mini stools. The design continues up the walls and around the room with art work consisting of a large rubber innertube to take to the beach, a neon sign and a saw handle used as the bathroom door handle.

Two of our days were spent up at the rooftop pool. There are only 3 daybeds on the roof so you've gotta get up there early to claim one. It was worth it though as the breeze up there helped to keep us cool in the scorching 90 degree heat.

Our pool boy Jacques couldn't have been more attentive to our needs (ALWAYS with a smile!), serving up perfecto margaritas and fish tacos that definitely rivaled Deborah's.

The food at the hotel was without a doubt the best we had in Playa. The restaurant was usually empty which was sad because people are REALLY missing out - especially if you are a fish-lover.

The other one of our days (the first, actually) was spent at Mamitas Beach Club (we only did this once because spending the day on the roof of Basico felt much more exclusive and expensive). Mamitas is large and extremely crowded. The hotel gave us a pass for 2 chairs and a palapa. We ended up paying a small fee to upgrade to the better chairs with more of a covering and more space around them. Smart move! The club was very typical for Mexico - mediocre food and booze served by an attentive staff and located on a beautiful beach.

Playa del Carmen is a small town about an hour south of Cancun. We liked it, however if you are looking for quiet, exotic or remote, this is definitely NOT the place for you. All of the action there takes place up and down Quinta Avenida (5th Ave.), a pedestrian-only street filled with restaurants, bars and stores. VERY touristy (at times way too much so for us)! A few restaurants I would recommend (provided you can deal with the mariachi bands that overrun the entire town at night, disturbing your meal and killing your hearing!): Carboncitos (for the best $1 tradional pork tacos) and Yaxche (for upscale traditional Mayan food).

The pool bar at Hotel Deseo (which is owned by the Basico people) is fun at night - daybeds by the pool with live dj and films shown on the wall (think South Beach without the beautiful people to keep you interested). Other than that, most of the bars we tried just felt a little too spring-breaky.

All that said, I highly recommend a trip to Basico before it is discovered. The hotel itself, the staff and the service are all top notch for a VERY reasonable price. It's great for a quick 3 or 4 day break from the winter doldrums. Would we return? We couldn't decide. Maybe we just need some time to let it all sink in. Playa just wasn't for us, but the hotel certainly was and well worth the trip, so we are torn. Why not decide for yourself?!?!?!


Madonna Confession Tour

Madge hits MSG with her new show on June 28th & 29th. Tickets online through Ticketmaster next Monday at 9am!

Calvin Klein Sale

A little something to tie you over:

Calvin Klein Sample Sale
260 Fifth Avenue (28th & 29th)
Now through Saturday Apr 8th

There's No Sun In NY Today!

I'm back and tanner than ever after an amazing trip! Full review and some pics will be posted tomorrow!