Wrap Up Some Awesome: The 2014 Holiday Gift Guide

Listen up awesome peeps. Chanukah starts this week. Christmas is next week. And your friends and family don't want lame gifts. If you're stuck on what to buy the awesome people in your life, I now present to you the 2014 Awesome in New York Gift Guide!

Photo credit: Ninja
This first one is a bit of a splurge. Blenders have become the new luxe item to complete your kitchen and I'm here to tell you that not all blenders are created equal. The Nutri Ninja Blender 13-Piece System With Auto-iQ is my new favorite gadget/toy/workhorse, you name it. What I love so much about it is the versatility in that it comes with not only the 72 oz blender pitcher, but also a food processing bowl and 3 sizes of cups (18, 24 and 32 oz) that you can blend your smoothies in and take to go. I can't tell you how handy this is for those crazy mornings when you are running for the subway. Another feature I love about this system is that it's pre-programmed to know exactly how long and at what speed your smoothie/dough/dressing/sauce should be blended.  (Price: $249.99 - which is quite the deal when you compare it to that other coveted blender brand).

Next, we have something for the sweet-tooth in your life. Lindt Chocolates has been one of my favorite chocolatiers since I first had one of their white chocolate truffles left on my hotel pillow when I was a pre-teen. We go WAY back. This year, both of their Manhattan locations (692 5th Avenue and 665 5th Avenue) are selling 4 different Big Apple-themed gifts so that you can share your love of everything chocolate and NYC. The options include: your choice of 75 different Lindor truffles in an elegant paper gift bag, designed with the New York skyline and a snap top ($25), NYC gift box filled with assorted Milk, White and Dark Lindor truffles ($12), customizeable NYC gift box filled with 30 LINDOR truffles in assorted flavors ($22), and the New York Swiss Luxury Selection of elegant European-style pralines ($18).

Photo credit: Sparkly Soul
For the fitness fiend in your life, Sparkly Soul will make the perfect addition to her workout wardrobe. I have been using these no-slip grip headbands for years and recommend them to everyone as they are great for everything from yoga to spin and bootcamp to running. They come in endless fun sparkly colors and two sizes, thick or thin. Today only (12/15), use the code HOLIDAY for free shipping off orders over $25 and to get 15% off your entire order. At that deal, you might as well get one for yourself! (Price: $15-$17)

Photo credit: TheaterMania.com
They say experiences are better than gifts anyhow right? For someone who has everything, but loves the Broadway lights, I'd recommend you pick up a pair of tickets to see Cabaret. Emma Stone recently joined the beautiful cast including the amazing Alan Cumming, Danny Burstein, Linda Emond, and Bill Heck. Boy can that girl sing. In fact, the chemistry of the entire cast is one I witness rarely. Orchestra tickets will have you seated not in traditional theater seats but cabaret tables (with waiter service!), but balcony seats will still provide you with a great view. (Price: $25 with HipTix to $182)

Warning: by now you are probably sick and tired of hearing me rave about ClassPass--the online service that let's you book unlimited premium fitness classes all around the city--but it's just that awesome. Gift a membership to your best friend who's short on time but loves versatility in her workout. Added bonus, you can join together and be on the same team at Swerve and have a post-workout juice date. (Price: $99/month)

Photo credit: World Vision
For the do-gooders on your list, treat them to something while also giving back. Proceeds from all products featured on the World Vision gift catalog will help children and families in need all over the world. Our favorites include the Royal Silk Scarf ($95) woven by villagers in Vietnam and the Silver Vines Cuff ($85) designed by artisans in India. Bonus, some of the money you spend on these gifts is tax deductible. (Price: varies)

Disclaimer: Ninja and Lindt provided me with product samples in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.


Getting My Shop On at the Carlton Hotel

Remember that Made in the USA trunk show I told you about a while back. Well, it was the other night, and I went! It was honestly one of the better shopping events I've been to in a long time. To start, there's nothing better than a holiday event when it's [pretty] snowing outside and you get to gawk at a beautifully decorated tree in the lobby of a classy NYC hotel.

The entrance of The Carlton from the front door
Their tree

The event featured shops and designers hawking beautifully made goods, all crafted in the good ole' US of A. I fell in love with all of the bags at catrinka (ALL OF THE BAGS), which works with women all over the world to design totes, clutches, and satchels with textiles native to their region. What a great mission. I also checked out papabubble who were sampling their holiday assortments of custom candy. Check out the watermelon, salt, chili if you get the chance!

catrinka's table (sorry for the blurry photo!)

But by far my favorite table was the Pennsylvania-based shop basin and main, who had a long table of knit and crochet wear (socks, hats, sweaters, hand warmers, etc), handmade ornaments, vintage candle holders, and jewelry. To say that I was obsessed with everything at this table is an understatement. If I hadn't already done most of my holiday shopping, I could have bought items for almost everyone on my list there. But that didn't stop me from buying a super cute crocheted hat by mimi's hooks ($25) for myself :)

basin and main had the table with the lights
My new hat!
While we were shopping, singer Lisa Puccio Kobin and keyboardist Clare Cooper serenaded us with holiday music.

This even was a brand marketers dream. There were endless sponsors, which I of course loved because...freebies! The holiday flavored tic tacs were a big hit, as was the Elderflower Lemonade by Belvoir. I was also a big fan of the peppermint SO Delicious bar.

Before I left, I had to go upstairs and check out the Caravan Stylist Studio as I have an appointment to go back next week for "glam services" including hair, make-up and nail art. Will keep you posted!

While there I also got an amazing gift bag filled with samples from Simple Skincare, Tic Tacs, Cottonelle, Bullet, Zoya, bigsexyhair, and nextissue.

All of the shops I mentioned have online stores so be sure to check them out if you are still on the look out for gifts. Happy shopping!


Homemade Pasta for Your Pre-Theater Prix-Fixe

Anyone who has ever tried to find a delicious, non-chain, affordable restaurant in the Theater District for a pre-show meal knows that this isn't always an easy feat. Ninth avenue has some great options but storefronts change seemingly every week so you don't always know what to trust. Olive Garden is a definite NO. And Restaurant Row has become so overrun with tourists that you'd rather just avoid it altogether.

I was recently invited to try the newly-opened Torino Italian (1700 Broadway, entrance on 53rd Street) for my own pre-show meal (we saw Side Show...highly recommended!!), and it did not disappoint. A contemporary Italian trattoria open for a few months now, Torino is the vision of David Sasson, known for opening both Marseille in Hell’s Kitchen, Barbounia in Flatiron, and the new Pavilion restaurant in Union Square. At the helm is Consulting Chef Carlo Bigi, a Torino native who most recently worked at Il Principe at the Hugo Hotel and Sant Ambroeus.

Walking in, I was instantly intrigued by the decor. Unique chandeliers and light fixtures bounced ambiance off of curving wooden shelves lined with wine bottles. That said, the tables are arranged in a way that makes it very easy to plop a fellow diner on the head if you are carrying a large bag/coat (with my pack mule tendencies, that seems to ALWAYS be me). So just be weary of that.

For dinner, we started with two appetizers: Meatball Crostini served in a cast iron pan ($9) and the Insalata Torino with kale, ricotta salata, fennel, olives, and cherry tomatoes ($15). The meatballs were pretty perfect, and I loved how they were served, with plenty of melted parmesan and crispy bread to scoop everything up with. The salad was super refreshing. I recently learned from my boyfriend's Italian family that fennel has a special palate cleansing place on in a meal so it fit right into this delicious salad.  

Meatball Crostini ($9)
Insalata Torino ($15)

For the main course, I opted for a classic. Cacio e Pepe ($16) is one of my favorite ways to have homemade pasta prepared as you can really taste the quality of the noodles without having to fight through a heavy sauce. This version was perhaps a little heavier than I would have liked (more like an alfredo sauce), but I enjoyed every last bite of the al dente pasta. My friend had one of our waiter's favorites, the Lasagna di Melanzane ($19) with eggplant, tomato and provola. Talk about decadent! This dish came out steaming hot--and remained that way throughout most of the meal due to the insulation of the serving dish--and had a great balance of richness (cheese) and flavor (tomato).

Cacio e Pepe ($16)

Lasanga di Melanzane ($19)

We had to run to our show so didn't get to sample dessert (although honestly I was so full, that was likely a good thing). However, if you leave a little bit more time and room, try their newly launched prix-fixe menu:

Lunch: 11am-4pm (includes 2 courses for $24 or 3 for $29)

  • Insalata Torino (Kale, ricotta salata, fennel, olives & cherry tomatoes)
  • Meatball Crostini (veal & beef, tomato sauce, parmesan & toasted ciabatta)
  • Soup of the day
  • Oven Roasted Rosemary Chicken (lemon caramelized stuffed with rosemary, spring vegetables)
  • Fusilli Pesto (string beans, potatoes, toasted pine nuts)
  • Salmone Scozzese (asparagus, mache farro salad, pickled red onions)
  • Choice of dessert from the regular menu

Dinner: 3 courses for $39

  • Insalata Torino (Kale, ricotta salata, fennel, olives & cherry tomatoes)
  • Meatball Crostini (veal & beef, tomato sauce, parmesan & toasted ciabatta)
  • Crispy artichoke
  • Hanger Steak (sautéed broccoli rabe, polenta & pepperoncino)
  • Oven Roasted Rosemary Chicken (lemon caramelized stuffed with rosemary, spring vegetables)
  • Fusilli Pesto (string beans, potatoes, toasted pine nuts)
  • Salmone Scozzese (asparagus, mache farro salad, pickled red onions)
  • Choice of dessert from the regular menu

For reservations call 212-757-2233 or visit torinoitalian.com.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary dinner for 2 in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.

Torino on Urbanspoon


Join Argo for a ChariTEA event in Flatiron

Nothing beats a warm cup of tea on a cold day and our friends at Argo Tea want to make sure you have your fill! All company-owned cafes will be hosting host special holiday fundraising events benefiting Habitat for Humanity with live music, passed drinks and treats on Wednesday 12/17 from 7 - 9pm. The Flatiron location (949 Broadway) will be hosting a flagship event featuring tea cocktails and exclusive giveaways. Tickets are $20 and all proceeds go to a good cause!

In addition, Argo will donate a portion of net proceeds from its seasonal signature drink (White FrosTea Chocolate -- rich white chocolate, mint and white tea and steamed milk) to Habitat for Humanity. Other winter specials include: 
  • Snowflake White Tea – heavenly blend of white tea, apple, sweet pink pepper, and seasonal spices
  • Winter Spice – featuring orange flowers, cassia, cocoa shells, orange peel and almonds  

Argo is offering special gift sets for all the tea lovers in your life.


Real Broadway Magic

I saw a magical show the other night. No, literally there was magic in it. Lots and lots of mind-defying magic! The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible opened it's six-week engagement at the Marriott Marquis Theatre (1535 Broadway) last week as part of a 30-city U.S. tour.

Photo courtesy of The Illusionists
This show is way more than simple pick-a-card-any-card tricks (though you will be shocked at just what these illusionists can do with a simple--or not so simple--deck of cards). The show’s seven stars, each a master in their own field, are Yu Ho-Jin (The Manipulator), Dan Sperry (The Anti-Conjuror), Jeff Hobson (The Trickster), Andrew Basso (The Escapologist), Kevin James (The Inventor), Aaron Crow (The Warrior), and Adam Trent (The Futurist).

Each has his own unique personality, whether flamboyant and sparkly, creepy and "alternative," mad scientist, or boy-next-door, but all are unequivocally skilled. There was tons of audience participation, so if going on stage is something that scares you, I wouldn't advocate sitting on the aisles. When the woman behind us got picked for a particularly freaky trick, I couldn't help but laugh along with her friends and feel like I knew her. She was a really good sport.

My favorite was probably Basso who recreated Houdini's water-torture chamber trick, making my heart pound incredibly hard as he was lowered into a locked vault filled with water with his hands in cuffs. Talk about something that your mother wouldn't want you doing!

Tickets start at $67 for performances through January 4 and are available here. Although some pyrotechnics are used, this show would be great for older kids!


Because Everyone Needs A Light-Up DIY Ornament...

RadioShack is getting into the holiday spirit and wants to invite you to a workshop experience at at their 1565 Broadway on Saturday 12/13 from 10am - 10pm. In conjunction with littleBits--an open source library of electronic modules that snap together with tiny magnets and make music and light (for kids of all ages!)--they will be offering complimentary drinks and holiday treats, while also giving you a hands-on tutorial on how to build your very own littleBits holiday ornaments!

The first 100 attendees will walk away with a special RadioShack stocking stuffer, as well as be entered into a raffle to win a variety of holiday items.

  • What: ​RadioShack + littleBits Customer Holiday Workshop
  • When: Saturday 12/13, 10 am - 10pm
  • Where: RadioShack 1565 Broadway (7th Avenue @ 47th Street)


Bust Our Your Wallet for this Holiday Craftacular

Holiday shopping season is in full swing and we're here to remind you that nobody wants that awful smelling pine candle you've been storing in your coat closet with re-gifting plans in 2014. Instead, why don't you head on over to the BUST Magazine Holiday Craftacular happening this Saturday and Sunday at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint.

BUST, the magazine "for women with something to get off their chests," designed the event to include over 200 vendors selling handmade crafts, delicious foods, gorgeous vintage finds and more. There will be a DJ and free goodie bags for the first 300 attendees. Make-and-take craft workshops and artist demonstrations will spark your creativity and give you the chance to make a gift for yourself or someone else. Wrap your gifts in style at the wrapping paper station, handcraft a card for someone special, and don't miss the Ugly Sweater Selfie Booth.

Last, but certainly not least, there will be a cat cafe. A CAT CAFE! Take a little break from shopping with adorable, adoptable cats and a nice cup of tea all while benefiting a number of great animal rescue organizations.

Tickets are $3 and available at the door.


  • When: Saturday, December 6 + Sunday December 7 (11am - 7pm)
  • Where: Brooklyn Expo Center (79 Franklin St, Brooklyn, NY 11222)
  • How much?: $3