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IMG_2418I wouldn’t call myself a “girl about town.” I’m usually the last to know about the next “it” spot. By the time I get to whatever it is, it’s already been boarded up or has been deemed “old news”. But not this time, my friends. No, not this time.

Last Friday, Wylie Dufresne (of wd50 fame on the Lower East Side) debuted a brand-new restaurant in the East Village, Alder. A tiny spot with just 56 seats, Alder turns to the design school of late: minimalist with loads of slate, earth tones and exposed wood. A cocktail menu embraces hot hipster classics, like Pimm’s and rye which are mixed weirdly with things like horseradish and oolong. But it all seems to work. (Try the Dr. Dave’s ‘Scrip Pad: rye, yuzu, amaro and smoked maple.)

Alder is about pub-grub with a twist (it wouldn’t be Wylie Dufresne without that twist). This includes a New York take on old favorites from around the world, “turning them into something distinctly American,” says their website.

IMG_2419So anyway, back to being on top of the scene. I was able to snag a table for Saturday night (after an hour-and-a-half wait, mind you). The menu isn’t too long and the waiters are very helpful in recommending what to order.

You must start with the Pub Cheese and the “Pigs in a Blanket.” The Pub Cheese is a smear of cheese infused with red wine so that it is literally purple. It is festooned with pistachio-fig brittle and served with Martin’s potato chips. The Pigs in a Blanket are chinese sausages wrapped in flaky pastry with a side of Japanese mustard and sweet chili sauce.

From there, you should order the foie gras terrine, which is served with poached apple cartreuse yogurt and an english muffin. For me, the piece de resistance is the fried quail, which is tender and moist and served with banana curry, chinese broccoli and pickled turmeric. The Rye Pasta is also delicious (think pasta that tastes similar to rye bread and is flecked with bits of tender pastrami). Finally, try the pork rib, which has saffron spaetzle and green apple-celery root hash.

The wait will be long for the next few weeks as this restaurant is literally the newest on the scene, but with restaurants embracing modern technology (they will text you when your table is ready), feel free to wander elsewhere for a pre-dinner cocktail.

Last tip: Budget wisely. Six dishes, all of sharing proportion, and two cocktails run around $150. Alder is on Second Avenue between East 9th and 10th streets.

303342_10101805959818849_409763547_nLet me tell you a tale of Mexico that has little to do with sun and sand, will never use the term all-inclusive, and has not a trace of guacamole or margaritas. This is the tale of Puebla, a colonial city about 75 miles outside of Mexico City.

Puebla, the fourth largest city in Mexico, is a city that is well-known by the avid traveler to Mexico. Its graffiti murals are local artistic expressions, it still hosts live bull fights, and its most famous ambassador is mole poblano (that heavenly mixture of chocolate and chilies). But to the tourist that only knows Cancun, Ixtapa and Los Cabos, Puebla is literally a whole new world. But this is why it is a must for anyone’s visit to Mexico.

Tiny colonial streets are flanked with candy stores, clothing shops and taco stands. Outdoor markets offer everything from candied peaches to peanuts to grasshoppers with chilies and garlic, and there are at least three indoor food markets that sell everything from chicken doused in mole to cemitas, which are fat sandwiches stuffed with meat, avocado and Oaxaca cheese.

733870_10101805959215059_1481572626_nHotel options are limited, but that’s the beauty of Puebla. You will be hard pressed to find more than a few other Americans. La Purificadora is, in my opinion, one of the best luxury boutique hotels in the city. The hotel plays with the boundaries of indoor and outdoor, as much of the hotel is open air and is decorated with slate, stone and wood. Bright purple chairs in the lobby accent the subdued, natural tones.

Be sure to visit the terrace, which overlooks the San Francisco cathedral, and has an above-ground, all glass infinity pool. (The best views are at night, when the cathedral glows warmly. If you’re lucky, you’ll see fireworks bursting in the distance.) Order a cocktail and breathe in the balmy air. You’re in Puebla. No need to worry tonight; there’s always mañana.

One of the other great landmarks in Puebla is the Popocatépetl Volcano, an active volcano that lazily watches over the city. In the evenings it is easy to see the heavy cloud of smoke that hangs over the mouth of the volcano. As the sun sets behind the beast, it is even more magnificent.

Puebla is not for everyone. You won’t find tequila shots being handed out on the beach, there is no cOcO bOngO, and everyone’s t-shirt manages to stay dry. This is not America’s Mexico. And this is why we like it.

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