Six Places for Celeb Sightings in NYC, LA and Chicago

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Who doesn’t love a good celeb spotting? And from Palm Springs to Montauk, there’s been no shortage of beau monde action in our world these last few months. But now that all that breezy summer fun is pretty much behind us, where to go for that particular thrill of knowing that a movie star is breathing the same oxygen as you?

Look no further. Our savvy friends at Gilt City have come up with some great exclusive sporting, dining and primping deals, that might very well also include a little a-list eye candy.

 

US OPEN

The cheering section at America’s hottest tennis tournament has included everyone from Leo Dicaprio to Heidi Klum to Hugh Jackman, Ben Stiller, Gwen Stefani and Nicole Kidman. But they don’t come for the photo ops – they come for the season’s most exciting court action. And the stakes have never been higher, as fans wonder if #1 ranked Serena Williams will complete a calendar grand slam, or if Novak Djokovic can win a third major tournament title this year.

But you can check out all the thrills and excitement for less, when you buy US Open tickets for 40% off on GiltCity.com.  Do it fast – the tournament begins on August 31.

 

PURE BARRE

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You’ve kept up the bod all summer – why stop just because the calendar is turning to September? Carrie Dorr’s Pure Barre, of course, is still the hottest of all a-list fitness crazes, with devotees including Natalie Portman, Kelly Osbourne, Anna Kendrick, Zooey Deschanel and supermodel Erin Heatherton. But the method focuses on tiny isometric movements, so it’s effective for all shapes and sizes.

Gilt City is offering 5 and 10 packs of classes to Pure Barre Upper West Side (NYC) for 50% off, and 1 month of unlimited classes or a 10 pack of classes at Pure Barre Old Town (Chicago) for up to 64% off.

 

OSCAR BLANDI

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His salons at The Plaza hotel and on Madison Ave draw an endless parade a famous faces, including Jennifer Garner, Jessica Alba, Faith Hill, Jessica Biel and his veritable one-woman-PR-team Kelly Ripa. His namesake product line, as well, is de rigeur for Academy Awards stylists. Get yourself a red-carpet-worthy coiffure just in time to step out in those new autumn togs.

Try a single-process color, haircut, or highlights, along with a blowout from a senior stylist, or a keratin treatment, at the Oscar Blandi Salon for up to 47% off on GiltCity.com.

 

RAO’S LOS ANGELES

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The legendary East Harlem original is a regular haunt of Scorcese and Woody Allen – and you might even spot a Leo or a former President (i.e. Clinton) there. Fittingly, since opening in late 2013, the new but old-school-cool (dark woods, red leather banquettes) LA outpost has hosted the likes of Owen Wilson, Sharon Stone, Marisa Tomei and Drew Barrymore. It features the same sprawling wine list, expertly done classic cocktails and legendary homemade pastas. (Try the Beggar Purse ravioli with ricotta, pear, brown butter, dried cranberries and sage).

Enjoy a four-course dinner with Prosecco for two or four for 43% off on GiltCity.com.

 

THE DISTRICT BY HANNAH AN

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Upon its opening earlier this year, The District by Hannah An became an instant sensation, serving up life-altering signature Vietnamese dishes like Shaken Beef (Bo Luc Lac), District Wok Lobster and Coriander Crusted Lamb. The stunningly designed space (complete with wall garden and beautiful hanging pendant lamps) has since been populated by the likes of Richard Linklater, Patricia Arquette, Cameron Monaghan and Bella Thorne.

Indulge in brunch for two at 30% off on GiltCity.com.

The W New York – Downtown Staycation Guide

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Now that Conde Nast has made a home at One World Trade Center, there’s been a rush to bring FiDi’s formerly barren culinary offerings up to the particular tastes of fashion editrix sorts and Vanity Fair sophisticates. What this represents to everyone else is, the opportunity for a rather unique sort of staycation – especially now that summer travel flings are coming to an end, and we’ll all be chained to our desks for a few months.

Indeed, once the suits have all hopped the early Friday train back to Greenwich at each week’s end, the futuristically sexy W New York – Downtown offers up great weekend rates (request a corner room for the most awesome edifice views) so you can stay, as well as dine, in style. And to be sure, between the hip food hall Hudson Eats, the Francophile playland Le District, a new wave of Battery Park restaurants, and with L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Jose Garces’ Amada both soon-to-open at Brookfield Place, (way) Downtown has become one of the most buzzed about collective of foodie zip codes.

With that in mind, here is our two-day guide to the area’s current epicurean pleasures.

 

SATURDAY

BREAKFAST

BLACK SEED BAGEL AT HUDSON EATS

The exalted Montreal bagelry finds a home in Manhattan. Grab one of their hand-rolled creations with ricotta, apple and honey, or go savory with pickled belly lox cream cheese, onions and sprouts.

LUNCH

BLUE RIBBON SUSHI AT HUDSON EATS

Pull up to the cozy 16-seat counter, order up a Maki Combo 1 (tuna, yellowtail & California Inside Out) or the Temaki Honnin (homestyle hand rolls of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, white fish & kanikama) and make new Blue-Ribbon-fanatic friends.

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Image by Helene Dujardin

DINNER

BEAUBOURG AT LE DISTRICT

Le District’s cool, Gallic-chic dining flagship. Start with the frog legs fricassee (just because it’s fun to say), and follow with the navarin d’agneau, daurade tagine or tournedos rossini, paired with a sublime bottle of Hautes Côtes De Nuits, Aurélien Verdet, 2010

DRINKS

THE LIVING ROOM AT THE W NEW YORK DOWNTOWN

The W’s buzzy nightlife destination boasts top DJs and a cocktail menu by drinks wizard Eben Klemm – as well as a stunning wraparound terrace with the best Freedom Tower selfie ops. Go cocktail local, and order up a Water And Wall (tequila, mezcal and serrano syrup), a Washington (bourbon, lemon confit, bitters) or a Battery Park (vodka, ginger, cassis). Refuel with a late night blue crab dip and Korean BBQ wraps.

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SUNDAY

BREAKFAST

LA MAISON DU CHOCOLAT

Le exquisite Parisian chocolatier’s FiDI outpost. For a decadent Sunday morning breakfast, ask for a cup of full bodied Caracas hot chocolate, paired with a Macaron Ganache: Salvador with fresh raspberry, or L’Eclair Marron with rich aged rum chestnut cream topped with chestnut vermicelli.

BRUNCH

NORTH END GRILL

Ditch the brunch clichés at Danny Meyer’s buzzy Battery Park New American, and try the grilled clam pizza, the crab and spinach benedict, or the crispy duck leg with escarole salad and two sunny side up eggs.

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DRINKS

LAZY POINT

For one last seaside vibe, stroll up to Tribeca for cocktails at this new “urban beach house” themed bar. Do a couple of rounds of the Oaxaca Daiquiri with Montelobos Mezcal + lime + date + hellfire or the Bramble Rose with Hayman’s Gin + lemon + house made rose jam.

DINNER

LITTLE PARK

Pop over to the Andrew Carmellni’s newish Little Park, an elegant farm-focused charmer. Do a medley of starters from the vegetable menu, beetroot tartare, grilled romano beans with green curry, fried avocado squash, followed by farro spaghetti with peeky toe crab and Lancaster County chicken.

N.B.  Should you prefer a more spontaneous staycation, the W’s Living Room Bar & Terrace is offering a new cocktail called The Nightcap. Made with XO Cognac, Orange Peel Infused Maple Syrup and Dashes Orange Bitters, it comes garnished with a room key, for an overnight stay in a Wonderful Room at the hotel. The price? $299. Wake-up call included.

 

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Mondrian LA Does Stylish ‘Ceviche Project’ Dinner Series

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Once the beating heart of WeHo chic, the Mondrian Los Angeles has been on a prolonged mission to regain its Sunset Strip mojo, starting with a 2009 redesign by Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz. Last year exalted chef Brian Malarkey’s breezy cool Herringbone restaurant moved into the old Asia de Cuba space, subsequently drawing celebs like David Boreanaz, Christina Milian, Chris Wood, and Peyton List. And, finally this year, the colorful tequila bar Sayulita opened poolside.

Now come the obligatory pop-ups.

Indeed, chef Octavio Olivas busily prepared dishes for opening night of his new pop-up supper club concept, The Ceviche Project, at the Mondrian’s perpetually sexy Skybar. The menu included five courses of petit yet delectable raw seafood and ceviche inventions, dessert and very easy-to-imbibe DeLeón Tequila cocktail pairings. First course: deliciously fresh oysters on the half shell and The White Unicorn (a drink, not a hallucination).

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Olivas was kind enough to give us all a few notes before each dish. “Just pick it up and go for it,” he said of course number two, the Royal Hamachi, a tostada-like hors d’oeuvre topped with watermelon-yuzu sorbet. Heeding his advice, we tossed our forks aside and used our hands.

Fashionable Mondrian onlookers served as a pretty backdrop – sipping fancy cocktails and snapping “aren’t-I-beautiful?” selfies beside the glowing blue pool – as the night, and its guests, started to buzz with the introduction of course and cocktail number four, or was it three? Oh, who’s counting…

As for table favorites: the Indigo Montoya tipple was just the right amount of tart and spicy, and the Maine Lobster Salpicón, served in a shallow broth of fermented coconut milk, practically melted in your mouth.

Conversation drifted from Tinseltown to Tinder as glasses clinked and rocks rattled; but, alas, no one fulfilled the old Skybar tradition and actually ended the night in the pool. Maybe next time? There will be two more Ceviche Project dinners, held on September 24 and October 22. Swimsuits optional.

Ceviche Project tickets can be purchased at nightout.com.

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Chic Brunch For The Foodie On A Budget in NYC, LA & Chicago This Weekend…Exclusively From BlackBook and Gilt City

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Brunch is essentially a contemporary invention, and so as a concept, it’s always been ripe for reinvention. First Bagatelle turned it into daytime clubbing. Now clever chefs are moving it on from all those tired old menu items and giving midday-weekend chic brunch dining genuine culinary cred – especially in New York, Chicago and LA.

With that in mind, here are some of our fave special brunch offers for this weekend in those same cities, brought to you with a little help from our friends at Gilt City.

 

LOS ANGELES

BACARO

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There’s another Venice in Los Angeles. Indeed, the alluring NYC export Bacaro brings all the romance and mystery of the Serenely Beautiful City to Union Street. Thus, brunch here is Venetian style, with such delectable “cicchetti” (Venetian tapas, essentially) options as homemade focaccia with mint pesto & olive tapenade, creamy goat cheese polenta with lamb ragu and the build-your-own omelette. Wash it down with a strawberry bellini or sparkling sangria.

Savor bottomless brunch and one take-home bottle of Bacaro L.A.’s Kronfli Bros sauce for $49 (22% off) on GiltCity.com.

 

NEW YORK

BEAUTY & ESSEX

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Since opening in 2010, Beauty & Essex (pictured above) has drawn a steady parade of the beautiful peeps, from LiLo to Kristen Stewart and Ashley Olsen. But the LES nightlife hotspot also heats up by day, for Gilt City’s glamorously titled Brunch & Chandon on Saturdays. Amidst the luxurious leather banquettes and glittering chandeliers, drink bubbly and indulge in Red Velvet Waffles, tomato panzanella and the “Juicy Lucy” Sausage Biscuit.

Sip Chandon Brut during a $70 four-course brunch for two- at 40% off.

 

CHICAGO

PRESIDIO

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In perpetually hip Bucktown, sleek new cocktail lounge and resto Presidio brings Northern Cali (note the SF-referencing name) to the Midwest. Here, your brunch might include lobster benedict, chili-braised pork collar hash with green garlic aioli or Thai fried shrimp and coconut grits. If you’re more of a lunch-brunch person, try The Royale Burger, which was named one of the “21 Hottest Burgers in Chicago” by Eater.

On GiltCity.com, you can enjoy 37% off brunch for two at Presidio for $39.

NELLCOTE

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Over in the cool culinary hotbed of West Randolph, the award-winning Nellcote brings the wood-fired goods, like their signature breakfast pizza, which comes topped with d.o.p. fontina, mozzarella, arugula and a sunny-side up egg. Another Americana classic is given a twist: their exclusive breakfast sandwich is served on a Portuguese muffin with eggs, Canadian bacon and American cheese.

Brunch for two at Nellcôte is now available for $39 (47% off) on Gilt City.

WISE OWL DRINKERY AND COOKHOUSE

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Nearby in the West Loop, chef Mark Hill helms the kitchen at the comfy cool Wise Owl Drinkery and Cookhouse. The brunch menu is all about banishing your weekday stresses – to wit, the buttermilk pancakes, short rib sandwiches and bacon & egg chowder, all made from scratch and from locally sourced ingredients. But since this is a “drinkery,” it’s all best paired with a cold sangria or signature bloody mary made with (seriously) shrimp and charcuterie. Or grab a brew in Wise Owl’s lovely beer garden.

Brunch for 2 at Wise Owl Drinkery & Cookhouse is $29 (40% off) on GiltCity.com.

Burning Man too Hippy-dippy for You? Then the Elements Festival May Be the Trippy Bacchanalia You’re Looking For

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While obviously the weeklong bacchanalia of Burning Man appeals to many of a certain mindset, the reality of lugging 7 days worth of all the things needed to keep oneself alive (you know, like water) into the desert – it being a place that’s really hot and shade free last time we checked – keeps us firmly planted in NYC. But where to let our arts, music, and sustainable living flags fly, while also getting our summer freak on and watching something burn? Look no further than this weekend’s Elements Arts and Music Festival, presented by the demented party people at BangOn!.

Coming this Saturday, August 22, to the very Mad Max backdrop of South Red Hook Grain Elevator (best venue name ever), Elements will combine underground electronic music, art installations, fire performances (the aforementioned burning stuff), all on five stages, and combined with a nod to sustainability in the form of solar cell phone chargers and biodegradable cups, which can double as food if you’re wasted enough.

Here are ten freaky Elements amazements that will help you get your BangOn! on this weekend.

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  1. They’re promising something called a model drunk-tank. Surely alone worth the ticket price.
  2. Sets by amazing electronic artists you’ve barely heard of like Shpongle, XXYYXX, Paper Diamond, Amtrac, Anna Lunoe, and Liquid Stranger – but will be excitedly Tweeting about on Monday. Actually, you should know Liquid Stranger.
  3. Five themed stages named Fire, Water, Earth, Air and Surprise. Is Surprise the fifth element? Will Milla Jovovich be a part of it? Hmm.
  4. Death defying aerial performances! Yeah, you pretended not to care when your parents took you to Vegas – but now you can drunkenly oooh and ahhh.
  5. A 25-foot moving space ship. As opposed to your run of the mill stationary space ship.
  6. Stuff to buy! Art, clothes, food from food trucks. BYO glowsticks.
  7. Adult bouncy castle. Kind of an oxymoron, but just go with it.
  8. A big ass grain elevator.
  9. You’ll be in Red Hook on the water on a beautiful summer night.
  10. And finally, tickets are cheaper than dinner in Williamsburg.

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A Wine Chat With Experimental Cocktail Club’s Romee de Goriainoff

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Whilst flitting about the City of Light in the autumn of 2007, we caught whispers of what was purported to be a genuine cocktail bar, furtively tucked away in the not particularly trendy 2nd arrondissement. Bewildered, we set out to see if it was true. And indeed, behind a discreet door along the Rue Saint-Saveur, we found ourselves in an intimate but somewhat baroquely adorned space—with not the slightest whiff of Bordeaux or Sancerre filling the air.

We had entered the rather ostentatiously monikered Experimental Cocktail Club. We ordered up some “experimental” drinks; they were transcendent. France, it seemed, would never be the same again.

Now, it must be emphatically stated that previously, cocktails in Paris essentially meant shelling out $28 per at the Bar du Plaza Athenee or the Hotel Meurice’s Fontainebleau, and hoping that the lavish price tag would at least include a Catherine Deneuve or Karl Lagerfeld sighting. So ECC’s approachable prices and nouveau conceptualizing were somewhat of a revelation.

Soon partners Romee De Goriainoff, Olivier Bon, Pierre-Charles Cros and Xavier Padovani were opening outposts in London and NYC…but alas, just as the surrounding “cocktail culture” had begun its irreversible slide into self-parody. For Frenchmen, surely, there was only one thing to do: open a wine bar.

And thus was born the heroically marqueed La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in Saint Germain in 2012, followed by another in London’s Seven Dials (Covent Garden) in December 2013…and, most recently, a third at the nexus of NYC’s Soho and NoLIta.

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By Romee’s measure, so many so-called wine bars were, in fact, poseurs—just restaurants decked with a fancy but inaccurate codification. La Compagnie, however, is the genuine article; the NYC branch has all the insouciant cool of bar a vin in the Marais, without the intimidation factor of Parisian sommeliers. And, well, the clientele is as easy on the eyes as the wines are on the palate.

We caught up with de Goriainoff before he hopped yet another flight back to Paris, to discuss the pleasures and the vagaries of the culture of the grape.

 

What made you turn from cocktail bars to wine bars?

The reason we opened La Compagnie is that we were frustrated with wine bars in general. Too many are actually really just restaurants. Wine is at the center of the experience at La Compagnie—it’s very much like a bar.

Why open a wine bar in NYC now?

Well, America is the fastest growing wine market in the world. And there are now so many cocktail bars in NYC, we see that people are coming back to wine.

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La Compagnie feels very Parisian. What makes this outpost endemic to New York?

So many sommeliers in Paris are so full of themselves that they make you feel embarrassed about wine. There’s a little less snobbery about wine in New York; clients here understand that it’s the job of the sommelier to guide them. Also, we find that in the US a lot more women are interested in wine; it has a more macho image in France.

You have a good selection of American wines on offer. Do you favor any particular regions? Or is it more about individual producers?

The way I see it, in the last fifteen to twenty years in the US, people are talking less and less about the grapes, and more about the producers and the terroir. And the wines being produced in the US are getting better and better; naturally, this is making Americans more interested in wine.

Are there any current wine trends in Europe or America you could point to?

There is major trend in Europe now for natural wines, with no additives. But I think what you’re going to see in the overall, are more places serving great wine in a much more low key environment.

SOMMELIER FABIEN SUQUET’S CURRENT WINE RECOMMENDATIONS

WHITES

PESSAC LEOGNAN La Croix Carbonnieux 2010 Chateau Carbonnieux, Bordeaux-France

CHABLIS 1ER CRU Fourchaume – L’Homme Mort 2012 Domaine Jolly & Fils, Burgundy-France

KALTERERSEE VIGNETI DELLE DOLIMITI Classico Römigberg 2012 Alois Lageder, Trentino Alto Adige-Italy

REDS

ARBOIS Pinot Noir 2011 Domaine de la Pinte, Jura-France

COTES DU ROUSSILLON VILLAGES Le Fruit du Hasard 2012 Domaine du Possible, Languedoc Roussillon-France

SANTA BARBARA Pinot Noir 2012 Au Bon Climat, California-USA

BEKAA VALLEY Les Breteches 2011 Chateau Kefraya, Lebanon

SPARKLING

CREMANT D’ALSACE Brut Nature No Vintage Dirler Cade, Alsace-France

Where to Dance In NYC This Weekend Aug. 14

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The weekend is finally here! And since summer is sadly coming to an end, there’s no excuse not to go out and dance in NYC while the days are long and the air is hot. Here are three places you need to go this weekend in New York:

What: Electro-pop duo Chromeo takes over Bounce Boat with a live DJ set

When: Friday, Aug. 14, 2015; boarding at 9pm

Where: Pier 36, 299 South St, New York, NY

Why:  As we roll into peak outdoor dance festival season, there is no better group to keep you rockin’ with their signature high-octane, funky, old school beats. Besides, who can complain about a Friday night ragger on a 210 ft. mega-yacht with 1,000 chemically-powered partygoers?

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What:  Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano at Sexy by Nature at Governors Island (after party at Pacha, NYC)

When: Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015; 4pm-12am

Where: Governors Island

Why: These boys have been thrilling Ibiza this summer with massively popular sets at David Guetta’s F*ck Me I’m Famous Party at Pacha as well as their own rotating appearances at Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel. The real deal.

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What:  Blasterjaxx’s Maxximize on Air at Governors Island’s Open Air NY

When: Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015; 5pm

Where: Governors Island

Why: Why not power through and head back to Governors Island’s Beach Club for more open-air merriment as this event makes its first landing in America.  Who cares about Mondays anyhow?