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The Fancy Food Show is the arguably the best food event in the US every June. It’s fun to take your black officially FFS tote and load it up as you walk around tasting the treats and checking out the trends. There are foods from all over the world including cheeses from France, Italy and Greece that are flown in just for the show (since they do not have distribution). Needless to say, a lot of the products at the FFS are looking for stores to sell them so show attendees are often the first American foodies to ever try them! This is a real blessing and one of the main reason I attend the show. Every attendee is allowed to fill up the logo bag they are handed at check in but are not allowed to take more than that as all leftovers go to City Harvest. I’d now like to discuss a few of the favorite brands and trends that ai encountered at the show.I always have to head to the Gerrit J. Verburg Candy booth within the first hour of my visit to the Fancy Food Show because they have every retro candy that you could possibly dream of and I was thrilled when the team there gave me some Black Jack, my favorite childhood gum that I assumed was long as of production as well as the legendary Beeman and Clove gums, Gumbilees (which are my all time favorite gum drop) and classic licorice mix called Gustaf’s All Sort. They have one of the most colorful booths. You could easily spend an hour looking at the hundred or more types of packages candies here and they have some of the nicest people at the show in their sales force. If I was going to the electric chair, I would select five or six of their candies for my last meal–see and order many of their nostalgia candies at www.candystore.com/brands/gerrit-j-verburg!Not surprisingly, there were a lot of booths catering to the vegan and vegetarian set and the best veggie frozen entrees and appetizers in my book are Garden Lites. They always say that this line is about “veggies made great” and certainly everything I have ever tried by them had really lived up to all the publicity surrounding this line. Fancy Food Show guests got to taste their two newest items, Veggie Cakes and Frittatas. More specifically, everyone got to sample Spinach Egg White Frittata and Veggie Bacon, Potato & Egg Frittata and Broccoli Cheddar, Mushroom & 3 Cheese Egg White Frittata. It’s incredible that all of these items are gluten free, have five grams of protein and less than 90 calories. For more info on this ingenious line which combines healthy ingredients with great flavor, go to www.gardenlites.com.Every year I have to check out the Brownie Brittle booth because I am amazed at how much flavor is packed into this crunchy cookie snack and how low in calories it is. This year at the Fancy Food Show they heavily promoted the Blondie Brittle and had people posing with different props to celebrate including feather boas and brightly colored sunglasses. Other new products that the foodie crowd went wild for included Chocolate Almond Brownie Brittle (rich chocolate Brownie Brittle studded with chocolate chips and toasted almonds) and Thindulgent Cookies which are available in both Toasted Coconut and Caramel flavors and are filled with decadent creamy fudge. For more info, go to www.browniebrittle.com.One of the largest and most beautiful booths always belongs to Stonewall Kitchen. You probably see a lot of their products at William Sonoma stores but it features so many products that no store is big enough to stock. They have remarkable dips and jams and I thoroughly lost my mind over the Bacon Queso Dip and the Apple Blueberry Dip. I have yet to meet a food brand with more unusual dips, jams, jellies and spreads. I could have easily spent 90 minutes at this booth sampling everything but I was already full from the 20 booths I had visited previously. It was so great to get a sneak peak at their multitude of Christmas items including some great colorful boxed stacks of items in decorative boxes that do not need wrapping. For more info on this legendary brand, go to www.stonewallkitchen.com.Sugar Bowl Bakery is always a must-visit booth for me every year and I was thrilled to learn the story about this San Francisco area based business from a second generation member of the Li family who are the proprietors. The five Ly brothers came over from Viet Nam over 40 years ago and started the beloved Sugar Bowl Coffee Shop in 1984 which eventually evolved into the Sugar Bowl Bakery. This line is available both as a food service (to restaurants, coffee shops and cafeterias) and as a supermarket line. Sugar Bowl makes a lot of buttery American classics but the remarkable thing is that all items taste remarkably fresh even though they come wrapped in plastic. When you try them you will swear that they were baked that morning. The Madelines are one of their superstar products but the Elephant Ears (officially known as Petite Palmiers) are my favorite, especially since they are hard to get these days. I had their apple fritters for the first time at the Fancy Food Show and they blew me away. Former President Barack Obama is a fan and he told the story of the formation of the business as part of an immigrant success day in San Francisco about 10 years ago. All five Ly brothers are still “hands on” within the business. For more info, go to www.sugarbowlbakery.com.I am a longtime Jelly Belly fan so I had to go over and check out some of their classic and new products (many of which have a Harry Potter theme). I was dazzled by the new Wonder Woman, Toy Story 4 and Candy Cupcake items (the Candy Cupcakes taste like very fresh candy corn to me and are actually shaped like cupcakes). The new line called Recipe Mix is a collection that includes five new jellybean flavors–Blueberry Muffin, Chocolate Covered Banana, Lemon Meringue Pie, S’Mores and Peanut Butter & Jelly (which is actually peanut free). I did wander around this colorful and large booth trying new flavors and oohing and aahing at the amazing packaging and concepts. My favorite collection in the entire history of Jelly Belly is the Krispy Kreme collection (I still can’t get over the fact that they can make a jelly bean that tastes like a jelly doughnut.) For more info on this legendary brand which is available at supermarkets and mass merchandisers, go to www.jellybelly.com.I promised myself that I would check out some of the many healthy items at the show this year and I naturally gravitated towards Milkadamia’s decorative paper boxes–and I was blow away when I tasted it the Unsweetened Vanilla. Milkadamia uses pure raw macadamia nut oil and interestingly enough is owned by Jindilli Farms, the world’s largest producer of raw macadamia nut oil. This company doubled their sales in the past year and recently branched out to produce creamy macadamia butter. (I tried this at the booth and it was a big “wow” for me!) Milkadamia is infused with Omega-7 and they not only have the macadamia milk but creamers as well. For more info, go to www.milkadamia.com.Before I left the show, I had to check out the booth and annual happy hour given by Mingle Mocktails. I love non-alcoholics cocktails and it is an underserved field in the beverage world even though it has been growing a lot in the past ten years. I also love that this is a female-owned business. Mingle Mocktails are only 20 calories per glass and taste very natural; I fell head over heels for the new Blood Orange Elderflower flavor when I tried it. Other flavors are Blackberry Hisbiscus Bellini, Cranberry Cosmo, Moscow Mule and Cucumber Melon Mojito. This line is upscale yet approachable and available at 550 retail outlets including Stop & Shop, ShopRite, Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon. You can also order Mingle and find out more interesting info on this revolutionary line at www.minglemocktails.com.

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Wow, I had my first-ever POPSUGAR Play/Ground Experience this past weekend out on Pier 94 and while it was hard to take in the zillions of lifestyle brands, panels, photo ops and yoga classes, I did my best to cover a lot of ground. There were so many celeb guests that my head was reeling. Appearances were made by the likes of Mandy Moore, Chrissy Teigen, Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Alison Brie, Sasha Pieterse, Sydney Sweeney, Nico Tortorella and Issa Rae. Sponsors included Samsung Galaxy Watch Active, Kohl’s, CALIA By Carrie Underwood and Wendy’s (I have to say that the Berry Burst Chicken Breast Salad with Marzetti’s Raspberry Vinaigrette and Strawberry Lemonade were beyond my wildest expectations). I admit that I was just an observer at the yoga and fitness classes but thought it was lovely that free yoga mats were provided that will be a longtime useful memento of POPSUGAR Play/Ground. The toughest workout class seemed to be the one called Tone It Up given by cofounders Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott. Oops, I almost failed to mention that there was a special debut performance from the cast of Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill. You could adopt puppies as well. Talk about a lot of different things to hold your interest at an event–POPSUGAR Play/Ground certainly had them!Upon walking in–and located in dead center of Pier 94–were the coolest bunch of adult swings that I had ever seen making for the best photo op that I have had all month. I noticed most of the guests were a lot younger than me but I still got on a swing and put all my might into going back and forth and fast as possible. I am sure that some people thought that I had a few lose screws (and it’s probably true, LOL)!If you got tired from your workout or just walking around there was an adorable pink carpeting lounge area with very soft and large bean bag chairs! It was quite hard to get me out of those, they were so comfy. They were also the perfect place to chow down on your complimentary lunch from the Wendy’s truck or many of the great health snack handouts like Yasso and Daiya frozen desserts. I was totally captivated by Earthly Treats’ From The Ground Up Cauliflower Tortilla Chips. I ate two snack size bags and was excited to also be able to catch this brand the next day at the Fancy Food Show in the Javits Center.There were many fascinating beauty games and in all honesty, I was there primarily to play these games because I had heard how fun they were at last year’s Play/Ground. I got a big chuckle out of Nair’s ring toss done on mannequin legs. This was one of the harder games and I did not see many people actually get any of their three rings onto the legs! I had a blast-and-a-half at the Jill Stuart Beauty booth. Through the show’s app they offered free makeovers, a fabulous photo app with a giant prop version of their Lip Blossom lip color and 15 per cent off products (20 per cent if you spent $75 or more). But best of all, people who did a photo op and posted got a gorgeous lip palette with spectacular shades of berries and peach. I was very sad that I had to miss the press launch of this chic line last year, and this was my first chance to see and test Jill Stuart Beauty products. I think I am addicted now! Thankfully it is not a bad addiction, LOL! I was especially amazed by the Mix Blush Compacts which gives you an unheard of four colors in one medium sized silver metal compact. The Swarovski crystal on the lid is just icing on the cake. I was truly impressed with the pigments and how easily the colors blended together on my hand. The Body Milk and Body Jelly have divine floral scents and beautifully feminine cream and pink containers with a fancy art deco inspired silver knob on top. (For more info on this dazzling line, go to www.jillstuartbeautyusa.com.)I was flattered that the Foreo pr folks asked to meet with me and sit in on one of their face yoga classes. Chrissy Teigen led one on Sunday at 3 PM and it was a bug surprise. She looked like she was having a blast. For the first time ever, Foreo had all their products on sale for a remarkable 50 per cent off and everyone who did a photo op got a free Luna model in the color of their choice. Overall, it was one of the most exciting booths at POPSUGAR Play/Ground and I loved the way the stock of merchandise was kept in large pink lockers. It was great to see and touch every model of Foreo in every color they make! For more info on this incredible facial device, go to www.foreo.com. It’s incredible that such a small device can deep clean and tighten skin at the same time!I not only loved winning Kohl’s Cash from their cool crane machine pictured above but I was happy to see some of my blogger pals won shoes, jewelry and Levi’s tote bags as well. Kohl’s probably had the second or third biggest booth at POPSUGAR Play/Ground and not only was the game fun but there was live shopping of both beauty brands and clothing (including Popsugar’s own beauty brand sold at Kohl’s). There were outfits already coordinated that you could but at the event at a discount and just a lot of nice people around to help you decide what to buy for summer. I was lucky enough to go to Kohl’s fall preview recently and none of those items are allowed to be let out from under wraps yet except for Vera Wang’s legendary Simply Vera line. She has a remarkable collection for fall that is both practical and has her legendary “rocker chic” vibe–there are also some classic work pieces, her legendary graphic prints put on separates and feminine filmy blouses. Keep an eye out for the new collections coming on www.kohls.com.My favorite beverage at POPSUGAR Play/Ground was actually the popular beverage mix True Lemon which is really all lemon (nothing artificial is added). I was thrilled to be able to try their new Fruit Infusions–the flavors are Lemon Mint and Lemon Strawberry. Both are very natural tasting but the fresh taste of the mint blew me away–it really tastes like fresh peppermint sprigs are in your drink. Play/Ground guests were able to take home sample packs of True Lemon’s drink mixes plus buy product right at their booth at two for $5! Everyone also got dollar off coupons. I love True Lemon mixes simply because they make it easier to drink eight glasses of water per day. Regular water is just so boring! For more into on this revolutionary yet simple product line, go to www.truelemon.com.I can’t wait to go to next year’s POPSUGAR Play/Ground. Getting to pet the adoptable Lab mix pooches on the way out was the icing on the cake for me. I loved the panels (especially the one with Cynthia Rowley and her daughter Kit which discussed not only their businesses but their relationship with each other), the clothes shopping, the beauty booths, the games and last but not least, the camaraderie of all the women who attended. For more info on this wonderful female lifestyle fest that promotes self-empowerment and self-improvement, go to www.popsugarplayground.com.

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KLa Goulue has been called a “neighborhood gem” numerous times on Yelp and that is an understatement in my eyes. They serve up classic French cuisine with care and flair–and there are a few American classics like locally sourced fish thrown in for good measure. Overall, they have the most solid “Gaelic grub” on the Upper East Side. Portions are generous and freshness is the biggest priority.As we go to press, La Goulue has gotten in their enormous white asparagus. This is a seasonal veggie that I have only encountered in German restaurants in the past as it is considered a traditional food there and there are even festivals based around this amazing flavorful white spears! La Goulue executive chef Antoine Camin prepares it simply by sauteeing with pesto and piperade, which seems to be a lovely mixture of microgreens and chopped yellow and red tomatoes. He drizzles the asparagus with EVOO and balsamic at the end of preparation. This is remarkably flavorful and healthy. Did I fail to mention how well presented this dish is? But then again every dish at La Goulue looks like a work of art.Duck lovers come into La Goulue to seek out their beautiful duck breast over spaetzle. This is definitely in the top five most commonly ordered dishes and they get it to the exact temperature that you want it. Duck lovers will also like that La Goulue also has a legendary Duck Terrine Country Style with porcini, duck liver and toast.

The sides are simple but special. The mixed mushrooms aka Mushrooms Persillade include sauteed shitake and oyster mushrooms sprinkled with a few different fresh herbs including parsley and sage. You will also love their garlic tinged sautéed spinach which is served in a little cast iron bowl to keep it hot–the spinach tastes like it was picked within the past hour.

The beef tenderloin served au poivre is remarkably tender; no steak knife is needed. You have a choice of regular or truffle fries to go with your meat. The tenderloin is a large portion; I would say that it tops eight ounces. The steak in French restaurants just always tastes special to me–their meat always seems even more tender than steakhouses and I wonder if there is a secret to that. Perhaps it is tenderized with a mallet before it hits the grill. (You also have the option of ordering your tenderloin two ways on one plate–with peppercorn sauce and with foie gras and truffle sauce.) Whatever the trick is to making the tenderloin great, I don’t really care. This is simply some of the most tender and juicy steak that you will find anywhere in town!

You cannot pass on any French eaterie that has remarkably authentic desserts. La Goulue’s Ile Flottante features a homemade meringue and vanilla custard topped with fresh apricots, Vermont Creme Fraiche and apricot sauce. The sweet meringue against the not-so-sweet fresh apricot is a truly beautiful pairing and its such a pretty dessert that you will feel guilty sticking your fork in it.

The Apple Tartin Servie Chause is another work of art–the soft warm apple apple slices not overly sweet, the crust underneath is just the right firmness and the sauce created from baked apple drippings and caramel is poured on top. Did I forget to mention the divine Vermont creme fraiche? If you like apple desserts, you have not lived until you have tried this amazing tart. It is easily large enough for two to share.The wait staff is super knowledgeable on each dish and are super attentive to individual dietary needs. They are quick to make recommendations if you tell them what your general food preferences are, especially if you are vegan or vegetarian. You might think of French cuisine as being meat-based but there are numerous great options including the aforementioned asparagus, at least a half dozen types of fish and couscous based dishes that bring in a Moroccan flavor. You will adore the way you are made to feel like family when you get a hearty greeting at the door–and friendly goodbyes from at least three staff members on the way out. La Goulue has been in business for 46 years and have clientele that have been coming since it’s inception. It is presently at 29 East 61st but for the majority of its tenure it was right on Madison a few streets away. Coming to La Goulue feels like a warm hug from a French aunt–it’s got a classic bistro feeling with brown leather banquettes, wood framed large mirrors and brown wood paneling. There are the de rigeur brass railings around the back of the booth that every true French bistro must have. La Goulue iswarm and cozy and perfect to visit after shopping at Barney’s nearby. I only have nice things to say about La Goulue. It just does not disappoint in any regard–food, ambiance, portion size or staff. They’ve got a winning formula for sure! Reservations are recommended but not mandatory. To make a reservation and to peruse the remarkable menu, go to www.lagouluerestaurant.com. Dress is both business and business casual and families are welcome.

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I was lucky enough to go to a press dinner at Osteria 57 and sample their wonderful Italian vegetarian and pescatarian fare. The location is dreamy–you cannot beat a rustic main floor West Village eatery with dim lighting in an old brownstone for ambiance! Owner Emanuele Nigro was raised in Milan and brings over some of the same ingredients he loved when he was living there, including local lemons and assorted wines that are created by friends who own vineyards in different parts of “The Boot.” Nigro has made Osteria 57 a success with the success of wine expert colleague Alessio Morosin and Executive Chef Riccardo Orfino. So let me tell you what a few of my favorite dishes were because I greatly appreciated the freshness and authenticity of all the ingredients. First of all, I was blown away by the Yes Prosecco that Morosin selected for us. If you go to their website www.yesprosecco.com you will see that it’s a spirit “all about the party”–and you will love the disco ball on the label. It fruity and light and perfect to have before a hearty meal. Osteria 57’s dishes are hearty even though they only serve fish and vegetables–as many regulars there say, “there is no way you will ever miss the meat eating here!”I just about live for fried zucchini blossoms and they do the very best version of this Northern Italian appetizer here–that is because the batter is extra light, creating a beautiful crispy golden crunch when you bite into one. Topped with dill and lemon zest taken from Positano area grown lemons, there is a fresh flavor combo that cannot be beaten. I like that it is considered “finger food” and that the chef comes out and encourages you to pick it up.For those who love Tuscan Vegetable Soup and its many variations, the version at Osteria 57 totally rocks. There are assorted Italian beans, green onions, zucchini and greens including lots of whole basil. There are a couple of interesting root vegetables that I was not familiar with but I thoroughly enjoyed their crunch. The soup is light and non-dairy and just gives you a warm feeling inside.They use a lot of artichokes at Osteria 57 and that is fine with me because I cannot get enough of them. The artichoke salad with pea puree, fresh mint and Parmigiano Reggiano is light with a cheesy kick. The pea puree adds a beautiful sweetness against the homemade balsamic vinaigrette. As you can tell from the photo above, it’s served in the most artistic way with a little couscous on the side. I found the pool of beautiful bright green pea puree totally fascinating; I almost did not want to dig into it!The grilled peaches with mizuna salad (topped with stracciatella) is remarkable. You cannot believe the freshness of the cheese or the natural sweetness of the grilled peaches–the grilling really brings put that sweetness and the grill marks are just so pretty. All the cheeses at Osteria 57 taste like they were made on the premises that day and I don’t think that is far from what really happens.The house’s most famous pasta is their homemade extra large tubular pasta with the chef’s grandma’s homemade tomato sauce simply known as Paccheri Pomodoro E Burrata. The remarkable sauce is made with a big variety of organic tomatoes including plum tomatoes and while it is not a chunky marinara, it is rich and satisfying. I was fascinated by the fact it was so, so red–not the orange-red we commonly associate with tomato sauce here in traditional NYC Italian restaurants.Branzino is the most popular fish served at Osteria 57 and it is simply grilled with a brushing of olive oil with skin left on one side. It is a generous portion of close to a half pound and its simple preparation really makes the flavor shine through. The fish is flown in overnight from Italy just like many of the other ingredients used here.You cannot leave without trying the rhubarb and strawberry tart with vanilla gelato and basil. The tart is actually more like a soft buttery Danish and dusted with confectioners sugar. The gelato here is non-dairy and has an interesting natural vanilla taste and unique grainy texture. This is strictly a “don’t miss” especially if you enjoy unusual and not-to-sweet desserts.Osteria 57 is moderately priced and the pace of the restaurant is slow and luxurious. You will never feel rushed even if it is crowded. The clientele is very mixed but it is a very romantic setting for “date night.” Reservations are recommended but not mandatory. For more info, go to www.osteria57.com. They also offer cooking classes!

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It might be challenging to pick out a Father’s Day gift and we have to say that there is never anything wrong with asking Dad what he really wants. If you are someone who insists on surprising your father, be sure to keep in mind what he really likes (maybe discuss good gift ideas with Mom, an aunt or uncle or your siblings, especially if you want to buy something unusual. Remember that taking Dad out to dinner or cooking him one of his favorite meals at home always work! Remember that on Father’s Day what Dad wants more than anything else is to spend quality time with his family! Here are some easy and quick Father’s Day gifts, most even affordable to young kids.

The Ferrara Candy Company is most famous for SweeTarts, NERDS and Black Forest Gummy Bears (which has been voted #1 gummy bear product in the world by numerous professional food organizations). Why not put Dad a box of his favorite candies? We are madly in love with their new organic version of Black Forest Gummy Bears (the flavors taste so natural)! Also new from the Ferrara Candy Company are Sour Big Chewy NERDS, SweeTARTS Berries & Cherries and SweeTARTS Ropes Bites. Its easy to put together a box of great goodies for Dad like the one we put together in the above photo with a simple trip to Target or Walmart (you can also order all this candy on Amazon).

I have written about Ekster wallets in the last. They have a tracking card with RFID technology meaning you have protection from getting the personal information on your credit and ATM cards being taken. The latest wallet is called the Ekster 3.0 and it was just released on June 4th. It’s the world’s first voice-activated smart wallet, and it’s available in three chic colors: Merlot Red, Juniper Green and Blush Beige. It’s also the only solar-powered wallet in the world. Beautiful leather, compact size and the quick card access feature makes this a must-have that will turn heads everywhere, giving the owner that extra wow factor. The coolest thing is that it is impossible to lose, so Dad never has to worry about where his wallet went (there will be a special app to track it on his phone). The credit card slot pops up James Bond style, too! The Ekster 3.0 tracking card can interact with Google Home and Amazon Alexa. To order, go to wwww.ekster.com.

For the dad that can’t resist a good watch, a membership to the world’s largest watch club Watch Gang is the ultimate Father’s Day gift. Dad will get a new watch to KEEP monthly and will really build up his collection. No matter your dad’s style or your budget there are three tiers to choose from featuring watches from both famous and indie brands. A big perk is that by gifting a membership, dad will also have the chance to win a Rolex and Tag each week! The lowest ties of membership is $29.99 but no matter what tier you decide on, Dad will get plenty of bang for the buck. For more info, go to www.watchclub.com.

So you and your siblings really want to chip in and splurge for an unforgettable travel experience for Dad–well, for the active dad, Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach has curated an adrenaline pumping vacation called the Thrillist package, including a daring exploration of Oahu by land, sea and air. Each day of the package has been perfectly planned with thrill-seeking activities to foster quality bonding time while experiencing the natural wonders of the island. Price is $989/night accommodating two guests for a minimum of four nights and is worth every penny according to adventurous people we know who have taken this trip. For more info, go to www.alohilaniresort.com.

If you want to find a crowd-pleasing and reasonably priced Father’s Day gift, Santa Margherita is the way to go–not only is it vegan and sparkling (not all rosé is), it also offers a versatile drinking experience with its floral fragrances, lifted by white fruits and delicate traces of red berries. It’s the perfect sparkling varietal to enjoy during the warm months of summer! It’s available at any big box store that sells alcohol (including Target) as well as most local liquor stores. Santa Margherita Rose is imported from Italy and a 750 ml bottle retails for $25. For more info, go to www.santamargheritausa.com.

Honeywell’s QuietSet Tower Fan been called the “best tower fan in the under $75 category for a medium sized room” and I can see why! I am personally using one of these to cool my 600-square-foot alcove studio co-op and it actually does a better job than my air conditioning unit. I have yet to see my first Con Edison bill since using this unit but I would make a bet that the Honeywell QuietSet Tower Fan uses less than half the energy of a window AC unit. I love that it’s so quiet because nothing interrupts sleeping more during the summer months than a loud fan! Features include a digital thermostat and a built-in timer that can be set anywhere from one to eight hours. Price is an easy-on-the-wallet $65! It is lightweight and measures 40″ X 10″ X 40″–order this as well as other Honeywell fans, air purifiers and heaters at https://www.honeywellpluggedin.com/.

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Serendipity 3 is a New York legend for many reasons. It was put on the map of “go to” places back in the 50s when Andy Warhol and his gang of “on the way up” artists hung out there regularly (the future art superstar was said to just about live on the Lemon Box Pie). Movie stars including Marilyn Monroe could also be spotted in the unique mix of clientele. Serendipity 3 was truly a place where many different worlds collided and it is still like that if you can believe it!The Serendipity 3 atmosphere is as unique as the remarkable sundaes and underrated savory fare served there. It has not changed much since 1954 and the staff likes to say that “everything is for sale.” We don’t think you can buy an actual table but the Tiffany and faux Tiffany lamps are certainly up for grabs–and we hear that a few society types have purchased them! The gift shop alone makes Serendipity 3 worth visiting. It’s a bastion of kitsch and cuteness–besides being able to buy packets of their Frozen Hot Chocolate Mix, you can get phone cases shaped like popsicles, tea pots shaped like cats and candy shaped like pizza slices.Thanks to brand manager and publicist Joe Calderone, Serendipity 3 is in the Guinness Book Of World Records for its $1000 Golden Opulence Sundae–the most expensive in the world. Joe says that a few of these are ordered every week and that the most ever ordered at one time was seven. Apparently a Saudi oil magnate ordered one for everyone at his table and he paid in cash! The 23k gold leaf is what makes it so pricey–along with truffles made with the world’s most expensive chocolate (the TV segment that I saw about a decade ago of Paris Hilton eating a Golden Opulence sundae with a friend still sticks in my memory).Serendipity stays new and exciting by offering the most unique sundae “specials” that are offered for only a period of a few months at $19.95 each (and are big enough to serve two to four people). Above is the Unicorn, a sundae that was made available starting in March. The minute that I saw a photo of it on the internet I knew that I had to try it! It features moist yellow cake dyed every color of the rainbow and then dusted with edible glitter, vanilla buttercream icing, sour gummy laces, and then topped with Serendipity brand strawberry ice cream, fresh strawberry sauce, whipped cream, multicolored sprinkles and a tiny cone.

The latest special sundae is the ultra-colorful and feminine “Whipped Cream–The Sundae” in honor of American Ballet Theater’s Whipped Cream now running. Some of the dancers were actually invited over to test it out last month and loved it. This beautiful frozen delight consists of Serendipity’s own Vanilla Vogue ice cream (which you can actually buy by the pint at 7-11 and mainstream chain supermarkets like Shop-Rite), hot fudge sauce, coconut “cloud” cake, whipped cream, coconut flakes and candy shapes including stars and flowers. The plastic ballerina dressed all in pink and plopped on top is not edible, though–it’s for the guest to take home as a souvenir.I recently dined at Serendipity after not being there for a few years and was quickly reminded how good the savory food was! Their classic cheeseburger served with steak fries is a staple and known for being consistently good. The menu is extremely diverse and ranges anywhere from classic breakfast fare like omelets and toast to great pasta dishes to Shepherd’s Pie (which becomes increasingly hard to find in the city).I want to add that there is a secret about Serendipity’s savory fare that has not leaked out before–they serve some rockin’ filet mignon but it is always on the “specials” menu (your server will automatically tell you if it is available). The filet mignon skewers with mushrooms, red pepper and cubed pineapple is remarkable and it comes with a large portion of field greens and a tangy orange ginger dressing. I will be going back again for this!Aside from the food, I just adore the comforting feeling that I get from a visit to Serendipity. It is one of those classic New York places that has nothing else similar to it. Serendipity has not changed much over the years and it is not shocking to hear that four generations of a family have dined there. It is eternally chic without being pretentious. Even when it is crowded, no one rushes you out and all the unique antiques and bric-a-brac keeps your interest. After eating, you always want to go scope out the entire upper and lower floors for unique “finds” and it’s hard not to spend at least 15 minutes scouring the legendary gift shop for fun gift items. Serendipity 3 remained in the hands of original owner Stephen Bruce until just two years ago and the present owner plans on keeping it run the same way, which is great news! It is located at 225 East 60th Street, just a stone’s throw from Bloomingdale’s and the upstairs private room has been used for many fetes from birthday parties to record release parties over the years. I remember going to a party upstairs for R&B girl group 3LW and meeting actor Robert Iler who played A.J. Soprano at it! For more information, go to www.serendipity3.com. Reservations are recommended but not necessary and dress is casual.

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Fogo De Chao Brazilian Steakhouse at 60 West 53rd Street (almost directly across the street from MOMA) is the kind of place where you check your diet at the door and just “go for it”! There are so many experiences offered to guests here for one set “per person” price of about $67. It is a classic Brazilian “churrasco” experience with unlimited meats coming around to all the tables and cut right there with guests removing their cut with personal tongs. There are 13 cuts of meat in this carnivore-fantasy-turned-reality including Picanha (the prime part of the top sirloin), Filet Mignon, Alcatra (top sirloin with special Brazilian seasoning), Fraldinha (bottom sirloin), Beef Ancho (beef ribs), Medalhoes Bacon (bacon wrapped steak), Cordeiro (fresh leg of lamb or lamb chops), Lombo (parmesan-encrusted pork loin filets), Costela de Porco (cured center cut pork chops), Linguica (seasoned and slow roasted sausage) and Franco (bacon wrapped chicken breast and legs).But if that is not enough, dinner comes with classic Brazilian cheeses rolls there is a remarkably diverse salad bar that you will find yourself going up to several times. There are a solid 50 items with some of my favorites being caprese (mozzarella, tomato and basil), fava beans with a simple lemon and EVOO dressing), assorted cheeses, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted and dried peppers, steamed asparagus, cold rice salads, fresh fruit including watermelon slices, a lovely assortment of wild mixed greens and dressings and so much more. The salad bar includes a special assortment of hot sides on a separate table against the back wall that includes homemade rice and beans and curry chicken soup.In case you’re curious, here was my first dish from the salad bar. This was actually enough food to fill me up (along with a couple of the cheese rolls), but I had to continue my feasting and start eating the meats that came to my table. The cold grilled cauliflower simply knocked my Crocs off! Oh, poor me, having to stuff myself like this! Sometimes one has to just make room in the name of culinary ecstasy, LOL! I fell in love with the unique assortment of homemade soft drinks including a mint lemonade and a new watermelon juice based drink sweetened with condensed milk. They also have a special natural cherry flavored carbonated ginger drink that is imported directly from Brazil and was a special treat for this ginger ale and ginger beer maniac. There is a huge wine list and many signature cocktails available if you prefer alcohol including the legendary Brazilian drink known as caprinha which they have in a deluxe fresh strawberry version. If you are a connoisseur of wine cellars, be sure to check out the unique and super modern ceiling-to-floor upper level glass cases featuring about 1000 bottles of wine!What cut of meat did I enjoy the most? It was hard to pick favorites even though I tried about seven types but I would have to go with the Picanha (pictured above) not just because of have juicy it it, but because it is a Brazilian legend you cannot get every day and is seasoned with sea salt and garlic, which I adore. I really appreciated each cut of meat’s unique Brazilian seasoning and was intrigued by the fact that the parmesan encrusted pork loin filet was so darn juicy. I liked the way the servers were so careful to give you the temperature of meat that you wanted and after one or two rounds, they remembered if you were a “medium rare” or “medium well” person. The service at Fogo De Chao is very customized and friendly and if you have not guessed already, there is no waiting. You start eating the minute you get there not only because of the salad bar that comes with the meal but because there are seven or eight meat servers on the floor at any given moment.It might be shocking to learn that my dining partner Gail and I were still able to share one of Fogo’s new desserts after our chow-down worthy of accolades from Henry VIII, but we had the new Creme De Coconut Cake topped with homemade vanilla bean gelato served in an individual Creme Brulee dish. I loved that the cake was so moist due to being made with condensed milk and so chock full of fresh shredded coconut. Other beautiful desserts include classic New York Cheesecake, Key Lime Pie, Papaya Cream, Molten Chocolate Cake, Tres Leches Cake, Creme Brulee and Chocolate Layer Cake. The atmosphere at Fogo De Chao is casual yet elegant. The ultra large bilevel dining room features a lot of earth tones mixed with large modern light fixtures. The bar area is included in the upstairs section and sprawls out in the summer to include pretty outdoor tables. Many people who work in midtown come over for the incredible $5 drink and Brazilian snack deals and enjoy people watching. For more info on this very unique eatery, go to www.fogo.com. There is a special deal going on right now where you get a bonus $25 gift card when you purchase one for $125 (details are on the site). Needless to say, Fogo De Chao is a real crowd pleaser–vegetarian and vegans will adore the numerous choices at the salad bar while steak lovers will adore the numerous meats coming around about every 60 seconds. The super fun part is that each diner gets a round card that is green on one side and red on the other, and you can put the red side up when you just get too full or want to take a break from your feasting for a few minutes. Reservations are recommended but not necessary, dress is somewhere between casual and business casual and Fogo is a great choice for large parties and special occasions. Children are welcome. Phone number is 212-969-9980 (reservations can be made both on the Fogo site and via phone).

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I was thrilled to be able to attend the recent Obagi Skinclusion event at Lightbox Studios in the Garment District. A lunch time panel was held to discuss the acceptance of diversity in the beauty business as well as society as a whole and guests were urged to take surveys online to discover their own biases before before attending. Questions were about preferences on skin color, body size, gender and more. The panel included noted young actress Pyrinka Chopra Jonas (who was accompanying her hubby into town for his appearance on SNL for his brothers but who had even more promotional appearances set up for herself since she is at the peak of her career), Dr. Elizabeth L. Haines of Project Implicit, Obagi president Jamie Castle, Josipa Palac of the International Cultural Diversity Organization and Montclair based dermatologist Jeanine B. Downie. They discussed stereotypes and how people can learn to embrace the differences among us. Pyrinka–who is the official Skinclusion ambassador–shared personal tales about her family closeness as well as beauty tips. She personally uses an Obagi Professional line of products but keeps it simple. She is a big lover of Vitamin C cleanser, serum, moisturizer and sunscreen (Obagi has several superstar products in their Vitamin Professional C line that are often sold out). The Obagi Professional Vitamin C line is doctor formulated and a little bit of their products go a very long way. Vitamin C concentrate has been proven to be one of the greatest defenses against free radical damage. Obagi’s data researchers have proven that 88 per cent of people who have used Professional C Serum even just once experienced a more luminous glow.Obagi is literally putting their money where money where their mouth is by donating a dollar to the International Cultural Diversity anytime anyone takes social action online by tagging their posts #SKINCLUSION, up to $150,000—so everyone, please start tagging away! When the crowd at the Skinclusion press event (pictured above) heard of this generosity they broke out in wild applause.The Skinclusion event concluded with an hour of guests visiting skin analyzing stations and getting their own Obagi prescription for great skin. It was great to see so many of my favorite Obagi products in one place and be able to test them one after the other. I discovered some new ones that I love and was thrilled to learn that Obagi’s New Clinical line has been launched at Sephora–that is going to give the public a lot of opportunity to test products that help with uneven skintone, dark circles and fine lines. Obagi Clinical Line products contain the aforementioned Vitamin C as well as the cutting edge ingredients Kinetin+ Complex which mimics the building blocks in plants and Arbutin derived from the Bearberry plant. For more info on this and other Obagi lines, simply go to www.obagi.com.

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There’s always something to do in New York City, no matter the weather. This is especially true for the spring and summer months, when people are itching to get out of their thick winter jackets and finally bask in some warmth outdoors. Public parks still remain the default getaway for many New Yorkers — there are so many to choose from, after all — but new dining and bar concepts promise to be an exciting alternative for the days when there are just too many people in Central Park. With this in mind, New York is no stranger to fantastic rooftop dining options that offer stunning views and great food, taking full advantage of the city that never sleeps. Rooftop bars provide an urban escape that feels like you’re in the metropolis but outside it at the same time.

And what a city for this trend to thrive in! New Yorkers are known for pushing higher and higher, wanting experiences that match their great taste. Indeed, an article on Yoreevo points out the sheer amount of buildings over six stories high that were built in NYC between 2010 and 2015 alone. In fact there are now close to 14,000 buildings over six stories high, with more construction underway, the Big Apple’s skyline will only get more cluttered as the years go by. Many of these are likely to be even taller, making the city’s unique concrete jungle a prime location for experiences that, quite literally, rise to the top.(Image credit: Arlo Soho)

Alice in Wonderland, but up in the sky

One such gem within the city is Arlo Soho, the newest offering from Arlo Hotels, a Scandinavian-style hotel with a rooftop bar and restaurant right in the middle of the trendy Soho neighborhood. This rooftop restaurant, called Arlo Blooms during this season, presents guests with a lush greenhouse escape that looks straight out of a fairytale.(Image credit: @takemyhearteverywhere on Instagram)

Arlo Blooms presents the best of both worlds, combining a luxe dining experience within the setting of an eco-friendly and Instagram-worthy rooftop garden. Guests who want a truly green experience can book one of Arlo Blooms’ Tiny Jungle Greenhouses, which are replete with string lights and hanging plants. Whether you’re watching the sunset stream in from your private greenhouse or outside in the main courtyard, the masterminds behind Arlo Blooms have made sure that you don’t have to travel far to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Come for the views, stay for the food… and drinks

Those familiar with the Arlo brand know that it doesn’t disappoint. Downstairs, the Arlo Lobby Bar is a prime destination for some great cocktails, which take their cue from NYC’s iconic subway. Rest assured, though, that you’re not missing out if you stay up at the rooftop gardens of Arlo Blooms. The drinks list is just as whimsical as the space itself, with cocktails using herbal ingredients in exciting combinations. Look out for drinks that feature rosemary syrup or a Negroni that’s served in a plant pot — little additions that prove that details definitely make a difference.
(Image credit: @fomofeed on Instagram)

In addition, the food critics at Time Out promise that the restaurant’s food doesn’t disappoint, providing a full dining experience worthy of a visit. The menu features green, earthy dishes that are healthier than what you’d usually get on a night out. Expect soups, dips, and flatbread made with fresh produce. The Green Goddess Soup is a house favorite — a verdant mix of cucumber, yogurt, romanesco, homemade granola, and a bit of chili oil for a little kick.

Eco-conscious guests can also rest easy knowing that the rooftop garden was designed with environmental impact in mind. Faux flowers, chosen for their longevity, are strewn across the restaurant’s botanical garden, while each Tiny Jungle Greenhouse features live plants that are known for purifying the air and removing toxins. Food and drinks range from $16 to $30, while the Tiny Jungle Greenhouse experience requires a minimum spend of $300. Seats are otherwise given on a first-come, first-serve basis.

(Image credit for feature image: insta-stalker.com)

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I can’t think of a more ideal location for an outlet mall than in front of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in St. George. Empire Outlets will be giving Woodbury Commons in upstate New York a run for their money with over two dozen stores including Gap Outlet, Nordstrom Rack, H&M, Francesca’s, Polo and more. There are over 30 Food opportunities from high end restaurants to outdoor stands with some of the best “food on the go” in all of the five boroughs. The Outlets have been about seven years in the making and are actually about more than just shopping and eating. There are going to be 1200 jobs available once all the stores are complete and 1250 parking spaces for both shoppers and commuters who want to leave their cars in a safe underground garage and take the ferry to Manhattan. Empire Outlets are set to become Staten Island’s biggest employer, breathing new life into its economy.I was lucky enough to attend the ribbon cutting and opening party on May 15th. About 400 developers, press, store executives, media and their families gathered in the center of the promenade with a gorgeous view of Manhattan in the background. Everyone learned about the story behind the development of Empire Outlets. City councilmen and people who worked on this project from start to finish talked about the process from the groundbreaking a few years ago to the choosing of then stores and the layout of the property. The final speaker was Joseph Ferrara, president of BFC Partners, the developer who was really the mastermind behind the building of Empire Outlets. He oversaw the incredibly modern 340,000 square foot, $304 million space. As we go to press, a new slip for the Staten Island Ferry is being built even closer to the stores!The evening’s festivities included a private party in an all glass store space with a view of the Hudson that has not yet been claimed yet. There was a cookie bar just outside the doors that was in honor of National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day–there were about eight different variations of chocolate chip cookies to grab at including a delicious cookie cream sandwich. Everyone was handed gift bags that included white Empire Outlets logo sunglasses and a keychain that included a mini pair of black Jockey underwear. I spent my time grabbing some of the delicious catering and then shopping at the Gap Outlet, Francesca’s, Crocs, Columbia Sporting Goods, Brooks Brothers and Walgreen’s. H&M is the first store that you see when you get off the ferry and it is not open yet but will make an ideal anchor store. It should be opening around July 4th when Nordstrom Rack opens. Restaurants and food chains include Krispy Kreme, Starbuck’s, Nathan’s, Mamoun, Wetzel’s Pretzels, Rice, Wasbi and Artichoke Pizza.For more info, go to www.empireoutletsnyc.com. It only takes 25 minutes to get there from Whitehall Street in Manhattan and of course the ferry is free, which makes a trip there even more appealing.

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