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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.

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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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photo (9)I know I’m not the first to say it…but what the hell is going on in Battery Park City? What is this magical land adjacent to New York’s financial center and across the West Side Highway? Why are people going there?

If it’s not painfully obvious, I am a Battery Park City neophyte. The area of Manhattan roped off by the Hudson River and the West Side Highway, from Warren Street down to Battery Park, is a 92-acre planned community of luxury high rises and, until recently, not much else. Today, however, passersby will find restaurants (including a Shake Shack), a movie theater, and not one, but two luxury hotels.

Everyone knows the Ritz-Carlton, Battery Park, but new to the ‘hood as of last year is the Conrad New York, a five-star hotel with modern suites and views of the city and the Hudson River. If you’re visiting NYC, this may be a great spot to rest your bones, as it is close to the bulk of the city’s major subway arteries. But if you’re a local, I highly recommend a stop to the restaurant and wine bar, Atrio.

Delicately touched with whites, creams and browns the restaurant gives off a chic, almost Miami feel, but the views are decidedly New York. I suggest ordering the Crispy Black Kale, which comes with Jersey Ricotta, Black Figs and Pine nuts. A plate of Charred Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan and Pine Nuts is another great option for the table to share. For your main course, I found the Hand Cut Pappardelle with Osso Bucco Ragout and Gaeta Olives over-the-top tasty, and gut-stuffing (but in the best way).

Prices are very reasonable, considering it is a hotel restaurant. Entrees do not go much above $30, so dinner for two will not be breaking the bank. Atrio also serves breakfast and lunch.

Stay tuned for our Springtime Report from the hotel’s Loopy Doopy Bar, a rooftop bar that opens in May.

The Conrad New York is at 102 North End Avenue.

smokinbone“A little Southeast Asian fermented funkiness and a whole helluva lot of smoke.” That’s who Fatty ‘Cue is, and that’s why I had to see what the hell they were talking about.

Very rarely (if ever) do you think of southern barbecue when you imagine Southeast Asia, but restaurant Fatty ‘Cue (of the Fatty Crab family) in the West Village is bringing you just that.

True to foodie scenes as of late, Fatty ‘Cue is a dimly lit restaurant in the West Village with waiters dressed in flannel and a bartender moving and shaking together ingredients that you never would have ever thought would meld, but somehow they just do. (Try the Smokin’ Bone: whiskey, smoked pineapple, lime, tabasco and chocolate bitters.)

The idea behind the menu is to share plates, but allow me to let you in on a little secret: these plates are huge. You really don’t need to share, but it’s definitely more fun if you do. The waiter will tell you that four to five plates are enough for a full meal but after two shared plates I was decidedly full. The additional plates we ordered put me over the top into “unbutton my pants and see you next month” mode. I guess you don’t have to clean your own plate, but that just seems like a horrible move; I’d rather roll myself out the door. Bikini season is still a healthy three months away.

friedbaconOrder yourself the lamb ribs, which come with a cincalok emulsion. They are succulent, tender and worth every fatty bite. Fatty ‘Cue is heralded for its 1/2 pound of deep fried bacon, served up with a sweet and spicy salsa verde. In my humble opinion it was definitely tasty, but the ratio of fat to meat left something to be desired. The green curry P.E.I. mussels are heaven-sent and I highly recommend dipping the generous slices of Texas toast into the broth. Finally, the smoked bobo chicken with red onion, cucumber and chili is good. Scratch that: very good, but I think that it’s worth being a tad more adventurous and going for the Isaan-style duck lab or the smoked brandt beef brisket.

Fatty ‘Cue is on Carmine Street in the West Village. There is also one in Williamsburg, but it is temporarily closed for renovations.

I read an article the other day that says if you slap the word ‘Brooklyn‘ on anything these days, people will buy it. Brooklyn, like it or not, is the new “it.” It was “it” for a while, actually, but now it is so “it” that the people who made it that way are probably hating it already – yeah, that’s you, hipsters. On a recent journey, I found myself in this trendy borough, specifically Boerum Hill. This is a neighborhood of Brooklyn that mixes one part hipster with one part family and results in cute boutiques, restaurants and bars tucked among ritzy brownstones. (Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens are three neighborhoods that are kind of twined together and sometimes are known as BoCoCa, but that’s a really stupid name, in my opinion.) To get here take the F or G train to Bergen Street or Carroll Street.

Smith Street, the main drag, is the perfect embodiment of everything Brooklyn has become today: hipsters, artisanal food and local wares. If you’re looking to become “Brooklyn,” (although, is that really something you want?) here are a few places to start.

IMG_0915Snack: Stinky Bklyn
Cheeseheads and beer guzzlers alike will love this shop. What’s not to like about artisanal cheeses, cured meats and obscure brews? The shop also sells those artsy pickles, breads and about a million other things that would look good on a vintage farm table. (That’s Brooklyn these days, folks.) Tip: Have the cheesemongers behind the counter slice off some of their favorites for you. Order a #1 (prosciutto, mozzarella and arugula with pesto sandwich) and sit at the table in the window.

Dine: Cafe Luluc
Although not the first choice for dinner, Cafe Luluc was a real gem to stumble upon. The plan was to eat at Battersby, a tiny, farm-to-table restaurant that doesn’t accept reservations (how Brooklyn). Unfortunately, this can result in a very long wait. A rumbling tummy means a cranky Meagan so Battersby will have to wait for another time. Cafe Luluc is a great alternative, though. It’s a tiny French bistro that looks like it was pulled straight out of the Marais. Dim lighting, red booths and a wall of French liquors. Tres French. Be sure to order the escargot and the Mussels Luluc. The hangar steak and pork chop make excellent entrees, as well. If you’re there on a Thursday, all bottles and glasses of wine are half price. The cafe is also cash only.

IMG_2147Drink: Char No 4
While the food at this restaurant smells and looks other worldly (in a good way) this is a fine place to sit at the bar and marvel at the entire wall of whiskeys (over 150, to be exact). Chat with bartender Kirsten about what pleases your palate and she’ll whip up a tasty cocktail. I had a New York Sour (bourbon and red wine). Okay, I had three. They were that good.

Shop: Smith + Butler; By Brooklyn
If you enjoy how the cast of Girls dresses then you will love Smith + Butler. It’s everything the Brooklyn youth are wearing. Save Khaki, Zoe Karssen, Winter Session. They’re all there, resting on wooden benches or in vintage milk crates. You can literally feel yourself growing an ironic mustache as you enter the shop.

By Brooklyn sells apartment wares, accessories and gifts all made by local artisans. It’s easy to get lost looking at the candles, dishes, flavored popcorns and more. Yours truly happened to pick up some slate coasters and a slate cutting board.

Gawd, Brooklyn. So dumb, right?…

…Okay, it’s true!! I’ve caught the Brooklyn bug. I just want to sit in my own vintage barn with a record player, sipping bourbon out of a mason jar! I just really want to be cool…

IMG_0901I try so hard to be a chic and sophisticated New York lady, but more often than not I wind up with stains on my wrinkled shirt and food in my hair. It’s just how it goes. I’ve accepted it and so should you.

Last night was the perfect embodiment of just that. I was on “the list” to attend the first anniversary party of STK Midtown. (It’s a steakhouse on Sixth Avenue and W 43rd Street that oozes sex appeal. Its tagline is “Not your daddy’s steakhouse,” in case you were wondering.) I walked in to neon blue and purple lights, white fixtures and waitresses all in little black dresses holding electric colored cocktails. (The party was 80s themed…I still don’t know why.)

It wasn’t exactly New York’s glitterati (Kris Humphries was scheduled to appear…), but the blazer I was wearing cost $30, so the crowd felt infinitely more sophisticated and sexy than I did. After a glass of white wine and a drink called The Fraggle Rock (Bulleit bourbon, root beer ice cube and bitters), I slipped out the door past a snaking line of stiletto-heeled vixens who would have leapt at my spot at the bar licking their chops, completely ridding themselves of proper party decorum.

Free of a crowd that was sending my neuroses spinning, I trekked the 15 blocks north to Le Parker Meridien to what I consider to be an equally luxurious, religious and comfortable experience: burgers and beer.

IMG_0904For those who don’t know, Le Parker Meridien is a luxury midtown hotel with a secret. In the lobby behind an expansive mauve curtain is a dingy burger hole aptly named The Burger Joint. It’s been around for quite some time, so I’m hardly the first to discover it, but if you have yet to go I seriously suggest you do. Now.

It’s cash only and you better know exactly what you want before you get to the front of the line. Cheeseburger, medium, the works. (The works equals pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mayo and mustard.) Fries also seriously help this equation, and you wash it all down with a frosty Sam Adams out of a plastic cup. It’s a burger joint inside a luxury hotel. Oh the irony! If that’s not New York trendy, then I don’t know what is.

This could be you! Okay, probably not. But dream big.

This could be you! Okay, probably not. But dream big.

All-inclusive resorts are both a blessing and curse, especially for someone like me who is equally obsessed with eating and staying in shape. It’s easy to let yourself lose control when anything you could possibly want to consume is laid out before you at absolutely no additional cost. Why, yes, I will have another hamburger. Ohhh sure, throw in another Daiquiri. I’m on vacation!

Suddenly you have returned home 10 pounds heavier and you figure it’s winter, so what does it really matter? And then another five pounds creep on and you’re bummed out. Sound familiar? Don’t lie.

This weekend I’m checking out the newly rebranded Paradisus Cancun, a luxury all-inclusive resort in Mexico. My willpower is being challenged, what with eight delicious restaurants, a complimentary fully stocked mini bar and a butler on hand to bring me drinks whenever I please. If you are headed to an all-inclusive resort at some point this winter, here are five helpful tips to keep in mind in order to maintain your bikini bod.

1. (Just One) Cheeseburger in Paradise
Just because you CAN eat everything doesn’t mean you have to. While it’s tempting to go back for plate after plate to try the salad and the sushi and the carving station and dessert, try to keep it to one plate. Also, eat fresh vegetables before you hit the hot stations. You’d be surprised how much veggies fill you up.

2. Don’t Be Cruel to a Heart That’s True
In the age of calorie counting and the Heart Association, most hotels are now putting healthy options on their menus. These are indicated with little symbols like Hearts or Leaves or whatever the hotel feels best represents good health. You’d be surprised at how tasty fresh sea bass with a side of asparagus can be.

3. Pour Some Sugar on Me (or don’t, actually)
Okay. Here is a big one. You are on vacation…at a resort where alcohol is served in unlimited quantities. You are going to want to drink, and you should. But do so with caution. Sugar is one of the major components in weight gain, so that margarita or pina colada is going to kill your diet – and also give you a wicked hangover. Stick to light beers or mixed drinks like vodka sodas, which have very few calories. Of course, it’s okay now and then to treat yourself to a yummy fruity drink with an umbrella in it. Everything in moderation.

4. Don’t Drink the Water (but actually drink all the water)
Drink as much water as you possibly can. This is true even when you are at home. Water keeps nutrients moving throughout the body, flushes out toxins and even keeps you full and prevents excess snacking. Besides, if you’re drinking alcohol in copious amounts you are going to want to stay hydrated.

5. Let’s Get Physical
Most all-inclusve resorts have physical activities built right into their inclusive program. Paradisus Cancun has a complimentary personal trainer, yoga classes, Pilates and more. Other resorts include water sports and other fitness classes. And, of course, it’s always free to use the gym. I’m not talking going crazy here. Just try and get your heart rate up about 20 minutes a day. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel.

I’m trying really hard to ‘wow’ you with a first post of 2013, but I’ve heard if you try to write well, you usually don’t. So in lieu of a creative lead and a really solid first paragraph, I’ll just tell you what I did on New Year’s Eve and hopefully it will inspire you to check out a truly untapped neck of the woods in New York City.

The area off the East Broadway stop in Manhattan is still a mystery to me. It’s part Chinatown, part Lower East Side, and both parts spooky. I think that’s why I like it so much. To close out 2012 I visited this part of town and have returned with three establishments that should be on your list for a a complete night out.

barThe Leadbelly: On Orchard Street just above Canal, you won’t find much. It’s a dark part of Chinatown where overstuffed black bags of garbage outnumber people and Chinese symbols rule the roost. The only (and I mean ONLY) storefront you could notice has a frosted window out front with The Leadbelly: Oysters and Liquor carved in cursive. If that’s not enough of a hook then you should probably stop reading right now. Inside you will find white washed wooden beams, exposed brick, a wall of vintage suitcases and records and a menu of fresh oysters, small bites and creative cocktails. Oldies music plays softly from the speakers while bartenders swirl whiskeys, vodkas and gins in silver shakers. If you visit during happy hour, which is until 8 p.m., select oysters are $1.

scotcheggThe Fat Radish: Directly across the street, at 17 Orchard Street, is sister restaurant The Fat Radish. This farm-to-table-style restaurant has a similar effect as The Leadbelly, in that diners enter and completely forget that the street outside looks like a set from Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. The menu runs the gamut from oysters and snacks to experimental vegetable dishes and free-range proteins. I highly recommend tucking into the scotch egg, which is a six-minute egg cooked in a sausage cradle and plated with cornichons and grain mustard. You should also check out the whole roasted local cauliflower and the Montauk Diver Scallops. Be sure to order a side of the sauteed Tuscan Kale with chili.

169 Bar: Before you hop back on the F train at East Broadway and head back uptown to the real world, make a pit stop at 169 Bar. Literally steps from the subway entrance, you can’t miss this bar that has potted palm trees out front. Inside the bar is glossed with a red and blue glow. Mismatched furniture, hanging lights, a pool table and a cage for gogo dancers are just a few of the quirky decorative touches. Try the Oyster Shooters – a shot glass with your choice of a tequila or vodka bloody mary and a fresh oyster at the bottom.

2012 has been an exciting year – one that has taken me to 11 countries and six domestic cities. Here are the top five posts that you all deemed the most worthy of reading throughout the year.  Allow me to get misty eyed and thank you for all the comments, “likes” and views this year. I look forward to more adventures in 2013 and cannot wait to share with all of you.

grand-oasis-cancun-21. the 90s are back in cancun

This journey from last January took us to Cancun of yesteryear, where girls strip down to the very bare minimum and beefcake dudes line up to drink tequila out of their belly buttons. It makes me smile that my readers found this to be the most popular post.

 

2. an affair with anthony bourdain

Not surprisingly, my encounter with my hero (and the hero of many of my readers, I’m sure) was worthy of your attention.

 

3. airport idiocy: top five pet peeves

We all have been to the airport, so we all know just how much of a hassle they can be. Plus, everyone likes reading complaint pieces where they get to say, “oh yes, that is soooo true!”

 

delposto4. five overrated restaurants in nyc

I don my snark cap and tell you that those restaurants with the $$$$ rating just aren’t that worth it.

 

5. summer of fun 2012

Every summer I make a list of the top 50 things in New York that I would love do between Memorial Day and Labor Day. You all came along on that journey with me this summer. I hope you were able to create some memories of your own!

 

Like what you have read this year? Follow me on Twitter at @tripptravelogue, or “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/trippintravelogue. Thanks everyone and Happy New Year!!

china1A fluorescent Chinese menu blinks up on a wall behind a window flecked with dirty rain spots and grime. A tiny slit behind the register reveals from the kitchen little more than familiar smells of soy sauce, salt and mysterious meats. It’s not what you think – but nowadays, few things in New York are.

This is Mission Chinese Food, an outpost of the San Francisco phenomenon that has taken the City by the Bay by storm and since has moved East to surprise New Yorkers, a breed that puts Chinese takeout above church.

But this ain’t your mama’s Chinese takeout restaurant. Sure, it looks like that from the outside, what with its basement location and dingy exterior – but that’s supposed to be “cool”. Once you’re accepted into the fold, you are led to a back room, past an open kitchen where today’s youthful culinary elite are chopping and plating with inked arms and piercings. The dining room is washed in a red glow, making it look more like a concubine’s office than a restaurant, while a scarlet paper dragon twists along the ceiling.

china2And then it comes time to order. You won’t find eggrolls or wontons at this particular joint. The signature dish at Mission Chinese Food is its thrice-cooked bacon. Typically a signature dish never really lives up to the hype, but rest assured: it most certainly does. The taut pieces of bacon give off a smoky, almost jerky-esque flavor (we’ll call it haute jerky, if that helps you), and the meat rests on chewy rice pancakes that absorb the chili spices and bacon juice. (If you can manage to not eat the whole dish, save the leftovers for breakfast and cook with fried eggs.)

Then the menu gives way to old classics like buckwheat noodles with cilantro and seafood, and dishes more palatable to the epicurean hipster, like Kung Pao Pastrami and Stir-Fried Pork Jowl and Radishes.

The wait is long, even on a Sunday night – usually an average of an hour and a half, but with a plethora of bars in the vicinity, it’s not too bad of a situation. Dishes max at a reasonable $13 (save for the Veal Breast a la Orange, which is a hefty $24), and the portions are meant to be shared.

I think I’ve said all I can say on this eatery. You can read my elegant prose again and again or you can get yourself down to Orchard and Rivington and check it out for yourself.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter at @tripptravelogue!