Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams

People often ask me* how I keep things in perspective while constantly voyaging from to one exotic locale to another. For example, just this month, I traveled to Albany, Syracuse AND Lakeville, CT. I guess I would have to credit my strict Quaker upbringing and solid Midwestern values for keeping me grounded. Or since I’m neither Quaker nor from the Midwest, it’s probably just the boxed wine.

In any case, here are some snaps from my latest trip, during which I visited some of the hottest spots in upstate New York and northwest Connecticut.

Stop 1: The Fountain Restaurant, Albany, NY

Like its legendary counterparts, Raffles in Singapore and Harry’s in Paris, The Fountain is known for its impeccable service, gourmet fare (try the nachos made with Doritos!) and classic cocktails. The Miller Lite draft rivals that of the finest watering holes under Port Authority. If you’re lucky, you will spot a celebrity – maybe jazz great Skip Parsons, former Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, or even my mom. The bar seats tend to fill up with people who sat down in 1987 and haven’t gotten up since, so get there early to snag a prime spot, possibly one near the jukebox that plays Tom Petty all night.


Stop 2: Private Residence, Jamesville, NY

After a quick ride on the New York State Thruway, a journey that took me past rust-belt-chic vistas of abandoned factories and crumbling infrastructure, my next stop was Jamesville, just outside Syracuse. There I visited a 19th century private residence that is home to many priceless works of art, including this one, by a 7-year-old artist known only as “Phoebe.”


Critics, most notably me, have hailed this evocative mixed-media installation as “terrifying,” and “like something out of a Post-Trumpian nightmare.” It’s clear that this emerging artist has a lot to say and I look forward to seeing her work in the Whitney one day.

Stop 3: Scotch ‘N Sirloin, DeWitt, NY


This delightful throwback pays homage to a simpler time, when Jimmy Carter was in the White House, Gloria Gaynor was on the radio and VD was just a punchline on a Very Special Episode of Good Times. Ensconce yourself in an overstuffed red pleather booth and order a White Zinfandel. Savor the crisp iceberg lettuce and tangy ranch dressing at the over-chilled salad bar. Admire the dark wood-paneling seasoned with forty years of nicotine stains and cigarette smoke. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a faint whiff of Old Spice and Harvey’s Bristol Cream as the Ghost of Divorcés Past glides by, clanging his gold chain and asking you to help him put the “lay” in malaise. Yes, dinner at the Scotch ‘N Sirloin is truly a journey to a classier, much more glamorous era.

Stop 4: A Random Lake, Lakeville, CT

Next on the list is this marina on a random lake in the aptly named hamlet of Lakeville, CT. These luxury vessels can seat up to two people and are eco-friendly, fueled by an alternative energy known as “paddling.” Amenities include life jackets (not pictured).


Stop 5: Hotel room, Lakeville, CT

Finally, I never travel without a healthy organic snack, and this trip was no exception. I found these artisanal crackers at a gourmet market called CVS (pronounced, I believe, “CIV-iss”) in Millerton, NY. Made with real cheez, these paleo-friendly tidbits pack a zesty crunch and are high in sodium. You can find them at specialty stores, gas stations and vending machines pretty much anywhere.


Well, there you have it: highlights from my whirlwind tour across two states. I hope you enjoyed it!

*Literally no one has ever asked me that.

And now for some Shameless Self-Promotion

My latest opus from Matador:

Border Run! 6 Awesome International Cities Only a Quick Flight from the East Coast

Many thanks to my favorite Canadaphile, Allison, for the tips on Toronto.

And! I’m huge in Japan. Huge!

6 Mistakes a Traveler Tends to Commit in New York

This was reprinted on Japanese website Tabi Labo and the Google translation is amazing. My favorite line is “If you absolutely want to go to Staten Island, let’s do that.” Let’s indeed.

As always, thanks for indulging my nonsense. Drop a line or share if you like it.



12.7 Minutes

As part of research into a recent article, I ventured into …shudder… nature.

Here’s my story.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017. 5:24 PM

Heading north on Central Park West. I haven’t been above 86th Street in six months. This is uncharted territory, and I don’t know what I will find. I only hope I get a cell signal.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017. 5:41 PM

I’ve reached the 103rd Street entrance to Central Park and am about to step in. I see people throwing balls and lying on blankets. They will probably be the last humans I encounter for awhile.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017. 5:43 PM

Here I am, at the entrance to the park’s legendary North Woods. The path looks safe so far, but in this harsh environment, things can spiral out of control quickly. I must keep a vigilant watch for threats.


Wednesday May 31, 2017. 5:46 PM

Not even three minutes later, I encounter this odd creature. Look at its giant beak and unnerving webbed feet. Why is its head green? What is it looking at? I back away slowly, avoiding eye contact.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017. 5:47 PM

Phew. Made it past without incident.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017. 5:48 PM

Not long after, I come across this venerated waterfall. The water cascades from a height of four feet, showing Mother Nature’s awesome power… and her wrath.


Wednesday May 31, 2017. 5:50 PM

A few feet later, I find the remains of this large beast. There is no way of knowing how it died or how long it’s been here. I step quickly past, pondering the epic battle that must have felled this leviathan.


Wednesday May 31, 2017. 5:53 PM

I’m near the end of my journey. But first, I must make my way through this tunnel. It mocks me with its gaping maw, each stone a tooth that could chomp me like so many blades of grass in the mouth of a cow.


“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

I stop to think of my loved ones and wonder what to order from Seamless later.

But I can’t stall forever, so I take a deep breath and step into the abyss.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017. 5:53 PM

I made it out alive! I can’t really talk about what happened in the tunnel, but suffice it to say I will sleep with the lights on going forward.

In the distance, I see civilization. From here it’s just a short trek to 96th Street and a waiting Uber.


It was a test of my will and mettle, but I’ve emerged from this expedition stronger than I ever could have imagined. I feel like there’s nothing I can’t handle now! I’ve looked my deepest fears in the eye and punched them in the face.

Wait – what the hell is that? Oh my god… tell my cat I love her. I —


Note: The account cuts off here. It was found on a bar stool at Fred’s, so it’s unclear what happened to the author. However, the bartender reports a large amount of Rosé missing so it’s possible she may turn up.

NYC Tourist Mistakes

I recently had another article published on Matador Network. Here’s the unedited version with all the snark that God intended.

The 6 Biggest Mistakes Tourists Make When Visiting New York City

A true misanthrope would argue that the biggest mistake a tourist can make visiting NYC is coming in the first place, but that’s not nice and I want to dispel the myth that all New Yorkers are A-holes. I can personally attest to the fact that New Yorkers are much nicer than people in other Northeast U.S. metro areas – I’m looking at you, Boston – but we have a lot on our minds and are probably already late for something (thanks, MTA!). So here are a few tips to avoid our wrath and make the most of your visit to the greatest city in the world.


Chrysler? I don’t even know ‘er!

Mistake: Getting in the way

First, the bad news. You’re probably in our way. We get it. You’re here on vacation and you have all day to embrace the aromas and ambiance of Midtown. You want to admire the Christmas windows at Saks or Bergdorf’s, or maybe take a selfie in the middle of Seventh Avenue. Hey, we were all tourists once. All we ask is that you move a little faster, step to the side when you decide to stop suddenly, and for the love of God, don’t walk more than two abreast on the sidewalk. (Yes, I just said “abreast.”) As mentioned above, New Yorkers are always in a hurry, whether it’s to close a billion-dollar deal, or more likely, get to El Azteca before $5 frozen margarita happy hour ends. So we implore you to move over and let us get on with our business.


Worth knocking over a bitch for

Mistake: Never leaving tourist areas

Of course you wouldn’t go to Paris for the first time without checking out the Eiffel Tower, nor would I expect you to come to NYC without braving Times Square’s Menacing Elmos or taking a selfie on top of the Empire State Building. Yes, the new Freedom Tower is spectacular and the view from the Brooklyn Bridge is unparalleled. But if you limit yourself to the areas clogged with fellow tourists, you’re missing out on some of the city’s untapped magic.

Walk two or three blocks west from Times Square and you’ll find tons of bars, restaurants, and cafes on Ninth and Tenth Avenues that are reasonably priced and not crowded . For example, if you’re in the mood for meat, try Hallo Berlin for beer and sausages or Ariana for authentic Afghan kebabs and friendly service. Or if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the city and dreaming of the beach, try Réunion for great Happy Hour specials and a laid-back surfer vibe. Regroup before dinner with a late-afternoon espresso or glass of wine at Tartina.

Take the 2, 3, B or C train to 110 Street for the lesser known but still beautiful north part of Central Park, which even has a swimming pool that becomes an ice skating rink in the winter. From there it’s just a short walk to Morningside Park and St. John the Divine Cathedral, one of the five largest church buildings in the world.

If you feel up to risking an outer borough, take the N or R train to Astoria (Queens), where you’ll find  Aliada, one of the neighborhoods many renowned Greek restaurants, and Bohemian Hall, NYC’s oldest beer garden. If you like history, pastoral surroundings and dead people, take the R to 25th Street in Brooklyn for Green-Wood Cemetery, the permanent resting place of composer Leonard Bernstein, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and a veritable Who’s Who of important historical figures.


Who all have a kick-ass view

The Bronx of course has the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Garden and Arthur Avenue – NYC’s “real” Little Italy, all of which are subway accessible. If you really want to go to Staten Island, well okay. (Are you sure?) You can take the Staten Island ferry for free while getting unbelievable views of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. The forgotten borough is also home to the Staten Island Yankees, the Bronx Bombers’ minor league affiliate, where you can see a baseball game with a great view at a fraction of the cost of Yankee Stadium.


And you get to ride on these adorable orange boats!

Mistake: Expecting to get anywhere on the subway

Okay so you’ve decided to venture outside of Times Square. Depending on the time of day and where you’re going, traffic is probably terrible so you’ve decided to take the subway. Which is like deciding to get punched in the stomach instead of getting punched in the face. In theory, you can efficiently travel all over the five boroughs with one $2.75 swipe of your MetroCard, but I think that only happened once, to one person, in 2006.

According to NYC’s Public Advocate, 75,000 trains were delayed in 2016, up from 65,000 in 2015. Anecdotal evidence (my commute) indicates this is true. Just last month, four subway lines were shut down for 12 hours because of “signal problems,” ruining the day for hundreds of thousands of commuters. You’d think that North America’s largest transit system would be held together by something other than duct tape and paper clips.


But at least it’s clean

And if it’s a weekend, any pretense of a “schedule” or “route” disappears completely. You think you’re on your way, then you hear the dreaded words, “Because of construction…” Just one example of a recent weekend service change:


Go home, MTA, you’re drunk

So what’s the solution? Well, there’s always CitiBike. Or just take the cab. What you lose in time and money, you’ll save in sanity.

Mistake: Paying full price for drinks

After all that aggravation, you’re going to need a drink. A glass of wine or a top shelf martini in Manhattan could run you between $13 and $35. That’s not a typo. You’re perfectly welcome to shell out that kind of cash, and if so, please invite me out with you. But if you want to avoid paying more for one Pinot Grigio than some people (i.e. me) would pay for an entire bottle, you must embrace happy hour.

The best way to find a good happy hour is to just walk around – bars and restaurants usually have chalkboards out front listing their drink specials. The greatest day of my life was discovering the TGIF’s next to Grand Central Terminal had $4 wine until 8 pm. And no, I am not embarrassed to admit patronizing a soulless chain restaurant, because $4 wine is $4 wine. (Sadly, this location closed in 2015.)


Worst day everrrrrrrr

If you don’t feel like leaving your hotel without a plan, check out, which lets you plug in your neighborhood, the time of day and day of the week and tells you where you can find drink specials. Even better, this “Happy Hours” app (unfortunately only available for IOS) will do the same thing on your mobile phone based on your location.

Mistake: The TKTS booth

According to the Broadway League, the 2015-2016 season was its highest-grossing of all time, taking in a total of nearly $1.4 billion, with attendance surpassing 13.3 million people. In the past, if you wanted to get in on that hot Broadway action, you would have to order tickets ahead of time and pay full price (anywhere from $69 to $199 and more, depending on the show) or wait on line at the TKTS booth for same-day seats. The problem with TKTS, aside from the wait, is they have a limited selection of shows, the seats aren’t always that great and the discounts definitely aren’t the best available.


Never pay full price to watch grown men crawl around in glued-on fur

If you’re super flexible about which show you want to see and don’t care where your seats are, a better option is the TodayTix app. They used to only offer tickets for same-day shows or within one week, but they’ve recently upped the timeframe to 30 days. While you can’t choose your seats, you can pick your price level (orchestra, mezzanine or balcony) and they promise not to sell obstructed views. At first it seemed a little shady to meet their red-jacketed rep in front of the theater to pick up my tickets, but the process went smoothly and I’ve been able to see popular shows such as Wicked and Fiddler on the Roof for very reasonable prices.

Mistake: Waiting on a two-hour line for anything

Okay, full disclosure: this one is optional, because New Yorkers love to wait on line. I don’t know if it’s self-loathing or just a desire to relive the glory days of the Soviet Union, but my fellow Upper West Siders will wait for anything, whether it’s to get into Trader Joe’s on 72nd Street to buy organic seaweed snacks or outside Good Enough to Eat on a Sunday morning in a blizzard just to get scrambled eggs. I don’t understand it, because there is a perfectly good French Roast up the street with great food and no lines and you can be in and out before you even get to the front of the line at Good Enough.

My point is, I won’t begrudge you waiting on line if you want to pass as a local, but if you want to actually eat a meal in a reasonable amount of time, because it’s 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon and you’re hungover, there is always a better option out there. Whatever the overrated restaurant you’re waiting for, google “alternatives to [name of overrated restaurant]” and you’ll find something. Or just cross the street. It’s NYC for God’s sake, there are good brunch restaurants every three feet.

When it comes to food fads – your Cronuts, Ramen Burgers, scoops of raw cookie dough, you’re going to have to use your own judgment here. I personally wouldn’t wait to get out a burning building, but if you absolutely need that Levain chocolate chip cookie to impress your Insta followers, you do you. Remember: pain is inevitable, waiting on line is optional.