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Women’s Travel Fest Returns to New York March 6-8

Coinciding with the celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, Women’s Travel Fest returns to New York City with a terrific line-up of programming and networking opportunities. The seventh annual conference for women passionate about travel is set for March 6-8.

The Fest kicks off with a networking pre-party downtown at The DL, 95 Delancey Street, on Friday March 6 at 7pm.

The full line-up of seminars takes place over two days, on Saturday March 7 and Sunday March 8. Speakers from a wide array of travel-related disciplines will share their knowledge with attendees over the course of the Fest which takes place at the Angel Orensanz event space at 172 Norfolk Street, New York City.

Saturday programming begins at 10am with an introduction by Kelly Lewis, founder of the Women’s Travel Fest and Go! Girl Guides.

Other Saturday highlights include:  Products and apps to make travel easier, Travel mishaps and safety tips for solo travelers, and a session on overtourism.

The Saturday program concludes with a session on living the life you were made for, an inspirational program discussing travel as it relates to each attendee.

Networking continues into the early evening with an after-party on Saturday evening.

On Sunday, professional development scheduling includes photography sessions, discussions about travel options for any age, budget travel and the 2020 destinations most appropriate for female travelers.

More than 30 speakers at the Travel Fest include editors Nikki Vargas, Unearth Women and Meredith Carey and Lale Arikoglu, Conde Nast Traveler; bloggers Ciara Johnson, Hey Ciara! and Alexandra Jimenez, Travel Fashion Girl; writer Jenna Scatena and TV personality Mickela Mallozzi, host of PBS’s Barefeet with Mickela Mallozzi.

https://womenstravelfest.com/

Purchase tickets at https://womenstravelfest.com/product/weekend-pass-general-admissions/ For more information, http://womenstravelfest.com/schedule/.

You Still Have a Week to Surprise Your Valentine with a Great Dinner in New York City

Countdown to Valentine’s Day 2020.

Amore Italian-Style

Set in a beautiful brownstone on a tree-lined block, flower- and candle-bedecked Felidia has been a romantic favorite for diners for 38 years. For Valentine’s Day, Felidia is serving a four-course San Valentino Tasting Menu dinner at $158 per person with an optional Kaluga Caviar course. Complementing the specially designed heart-shaped ravioli (Cuore Matto) are over-the-top dishes like Wagyu beef bresaola and a Tutto Tonno platter comprised of Big Eye tuna tartare, carpaccio, avocado, burrata and Kaluga caviar. Guests will also receive a tasting of Felidia’s most coveted desserts and Italian delights.

Felidia Wagyu Beef

To be transported to Rome without buying a plane ticket, Lupa has a special $79 four-course Valentine’s Day menu that will inspire amore and oohs and ahhs. The meal begins with a choice of aphrodisiacal appetizers like broiled oysters, or carne crudo with truffle Fonduta and quail egg. More indulgent truffles can be added to the tonnarelli cacio pepe for the primo course followed by two shareable dishes, whole roasted red snapper or quail “love birds.” Red-for-romance strawberry tartufo is the perfect dessert.

Lupa Osyters

Spend Valentine’s Day in NYC’s historic Flower District at Feroce Ristorante in the Moxy Chelsea, named “Best New Italian Restaurant to Open Worldwide” by Italian food and wine magazine Gambero Rosso. Guests will enjoy  aphrodisiac-inspired specials like carpaccio di Capesante, scallops thinly sliced and served with taggiasca olives, cauliflower, and organic dill in a blood orange dressing; and saltimbocca di rana Pescatrice, roasted monkfish wrapped in prosciutto di Parma, aged for 24 months, served with zucchini and olive tapenade. The meal climaxes with a sinfully rich mousse al cioccolato e limponi, a heart-shaped chocolate mousse served with organic fresh raspberries.

Feroce Ristorante credit Will Engelmann

Fun with Names

Fish Cheeks has curated a bright seafood-centric menu with unapologetic heat to keep the sparks flowing. Spice things up with a choice of two set menus for two with favorites like the coconut crab curry, crab fried rice, and Manila clams with sweet basil. The “No Sleep” High West bourbon cocktail mixed with Mr. Blacks cold brew liqueur, cinnamon syrup and almond milk is the perfect finish (or start) to the evening.

Fish Cheeks No Sleep Cocktail credit Andrew Bui

Boqueria wants you to have fun this Valentine’s Day with special Barcelona-inspired, romance-inducing tapas options. You can express your intentions by choosing “No Commitment,” an array of à la carte signature tapas, or the prix fixe “Classic Love Story,” Chef Marc Vidal’s selection of seasonal dishes and Spanish classics. “Three Little Words” will bring you an assortment of decadent favorites like hand-carved jamon Ibérico and croquetas de pollo y morcilla while “The Grand Gesture” notches things up with ostras con espuma de patat, a grilled oysters on the half shell with potato cream; and a tarta de chocolate con nueces y café, molten chocolate cake.

Boqueria

Palais by Perfect Pie will offer a menu of special sweet and savory dishes for Valentine’s Day with fun names like the “Whole Lotta Love,” Beau Soleil oysters with American sturgeon caviar and cucumber mignonette; and the” I’d Steak My Life On It,” roasted halibut steak with spinach and romantic roasted red pepper sauce followed by Don Giovanni’s tagliatelle with chanterelles, wild mushrooms and Italian white truffles. The tongue-in-cheek meal finishes on a sweet note with the signature dessert by former White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, a chocolate heart brimming with bon bons and cognac, served broken or whole, as requested.

Palais by Perfect Pie

Sweets for the Sweet

In celebration of Valentine’s Day Black Tap is rolling out the decadent Red Velvet Cake Shake, a red velvet cake batter shake with a vanilla frosted rim with red and white sprinkles topped with a slice of red velvet cake, whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle. Now that’s love.

Valentines Day Shake credit Black Tap

Intimate new East Village Bakeshop Red Gate Bakery has created swoon-worthy strawberry buttercream Oreos (an all-butter Oreo cookie made with black cocoa, sandwiched around sweet and tangy strawberry buttercream), the perfect finish to an evening of romance.

Red Gate Bakery credit Rachel Vanni

It’s All about the Drink

Cocktail bar and lounge, Ophelia, will be offering a Rose and Chocolates Soirée this Valentine’s Day. Tickets are required. A VIP pass includes a private table for two, a long stem rose, Champagne on arrival, a bottle of Moët & Chandon Champagne and chocolate truffles. If you want to go a little further, Ophelia has a “Proposal Package” which puts you in a private cove, covered in rose petals, and further ensures you’ll get the desired answer with a bottle of Dom Pérignon or Ace of Spades Champagne, two dozen long stem roses and a box of chocolate truffles, all orchestrated according to your personal wishes.

Ophelia

For sports-minded lovers, J. Bespoke offers a speakeasy vibe that addresses all interests. On Valentine’s Day, the cocktail lounge rejiggers its usual sports programming to show romantic sports movies all day. As you munch on fun bites like truffle fries and spicy honey pizza, you’ll sip the special cocktail of the evening, the Little Red Corvette, made with raspberry-infused vodka, fresh ginger, Aperol, fresh lime, mint leaves, jalapeno tincture, garnished with rose buds, while you watch romantic sports films like Bull Durham, Jerry Maguire, Love & Basketball, Fever Pitch and Rocky. Your date will be impressed – you enter through an unmarked brass door at the back of a coffee bar.

J. Bespoke Cocktail courtesy of J. Bespoke

Cantina Rooftop

makes sure your cocktails are served with a selection of aphrodisiacal dishes. For Valentine’s Day, Cantina will serve a special three-course meal with a pitcher of their signature margaritas or sangria for two. You’ll sip your tequila as you tuck into aphrodisiacal dishes like baked Blue Point oysters (ostiones al horno) with poblano rajas gratin and desserts like guava cheese cake with fresh fruit compote. You can keep the party spirit alive at Cantina’s after-dinner party with drink specials and music by DJ Javi.

Carnaval Maine Puts the Wonder Back in Winter

New York to Maine is a quick trip by air. Nonstop flights to Portland from JFK or LGA make this a deliciously fabulous weekend getaway.

Celebrations of the winter season have been popular for more than a century. Chasing the Northern Lights in Scandinavia and visiting Santa Claus headquarters in Finland are joined in North America in Quebec City, the world’s snow capital, where the first major winter carnival made its debut in 1894. And now in the US.

Courtesy VisitPortland.com

In the 1920s, thousands of visitors flocked to Portland, Maine to enjoy a winter spectacle of ice castles, sculptures, sled dogs, ski jumping and other outdoor festivities. A century later, from January 30-February 1 Carnaval Maine brought the party back Down Maine for a two-day, 100-year commemoration on the city’s Eastern Promenade, all covered with snow, a fitting start to the state’s 2020 winter season.

Courtesy VisitPortland.com

Following in the tradition of Quebec’s Winter Carnival, the Maine Bicentennial Snow Ball celebrated the century’s inaugural winter festival which marked the beginning of the one-month winter celebration. This year is also the 200th year of Maine’s statehood, making the celebration a true milestone.

Train Transport at Carnaval Maine Courtesy VisitPortland.com

If you missed the 2020 Carnaval Maine, you can count on next year to continue this newly rebooted tradition. The reception by the crowds certainly ensured that. Throughout the event, other commemorative events including arrival from the city’s Old Port by a vintage steam locomotive (provided by the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad) were popular tickets. Taking passengers on a coastal ride, a decked-out conductor in his caboose looked like he had come straight from the Polar Express as part of this historic rail car procession. The train traveled along the coast to a snowy hillside area and a towering 600-foot inflatable “igloo” on Cutter Street.

The Hill Courtesy of VisitPortland.com

In partnership with Sunday River Resort in Newry, Maine, Carnaval Maine created a hill active with USASA (United States Amateur Snowboard Association) National Qualifying Rail Jam competitors. Crowds cheered spins, jumps, and flips down rail outcroppings and over ramps. Talented skiers and snowboarders of varying ages accumulated points, showing off talents that could potentially lead to national championships and future Olympic appearances.

Food Igloo Courtesy VisitPortland.com

The igloo was a centerpiece of the festival, with an Aurora Borealis-style alternating light show projected on it, adding to the polar effect. But it was inside that the more tangible “northern lights” occurred. Food and drink were key at this city dubbed one of the country’s newest culinary capitals by Bon Appetit. “Bites & Brews” foodie-oriented events brought Portland’s award-winning chefs and craft brewers together with spirits and dishes from James Beard fave Allagash Brewing Company along with Luke’s Lobster, Rising Tide, Shipyard Brewing Company, Holy Donut, UNION, Maine Beer Company, Urban Farm Fermentory, Noble BBQ and Central Provisions, so many of my Maine favorites happily together in one warm spot.

Noble Barbeque courtesy VisitPortland.com

Central Provisions, my go-to whenever I visit Portland, had one of the most delicious ale-and-food pairings, with Rising Tide Brewing’s Mountainside IPA paired with smoked gouda bratwurst, Brussels sprouts, sauerkraut and Mountainside mustard on rye crostini. I also loved Urban Farm Fermentory and Noble BBQ’s combo, semi-sweet mead and burnt-end chili with corn bread. And how about this for a fabulous Shipyard Brewing Company & Holy Donut dessert pairing, Smashed Blueberry (a hybrid between a Porter and a Scotch ale) with a dark chocolate sea salt donut.

Evenings saw other Rail Jam events and light-covered trees surrounded by people clustered around outdoor fire pits enjoying warming nightcaps of hot chocolate, coffee and other beverages. Befitting Portland’s burgeoning art community, art installations, illumination shows and professional ice sculptors were beautiful additions to the schedule.

Courtesy VisitPortland.com

While Portland’s event does not have the comparable size and history of Quebec’s famous cold-weather festivities, Maine’s first year was an ambitious and exciting reinvention of the early 1900’s version.

Give Your Sweetie a Valentine’s Day Gift for the Two of You with a Kripalu Retreat

Here’s a Valentine’s Day gift that’s an easy drive or train ride from New York City

Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in the beautiful Berkshires has a couples-centric gift for Valentine’s Day. Their special R&R Relationships Retreat from February 9-14 offers a schedule of daily workshops designed to strengthen your ties to the people you care about most.  Throughout the week, you’ll learn effective ways to mindfully communicate and engage with loved ones; experience yoga and movement classes focused on how to better listen to your body; explore tools and practices for self-love, self-care, and self-compassion; and connect with nature on guided snowshoeing excursions.

Photo by: Meryl Pearlstein

If the weather cooperates, you can join in on a walking meditation through the forest on the center’s grounds where you’ll learn how to be at peace with yourself and hopefully translate that experience to your significant other. I found it to be an incredibly insightful hike.  Regardless, you’ll take away a healthier outlook on your relationship while enjoying healthful dining and learning healthful habits.

Forest Bathing - Photo By: Meryl Pearlstein

If the timing isn’t right, you can also book a retreat for the two of you to any of Kripalu’s more than 700 programs a year. They’ll also customize a program to meet your needs with yoga, massage, dance, hiking, canoeing (in warmer weather), and sightseeing in the area. Here are a couple of others in February perfect for couples, Partner Yoga for Couples – (February 14-17) or Loving Like You Mean It: Emotional Mindfulness to Transform Relationships – (February 14-17).

Yoga Studio - Photo By: Meryl Pearlstein

Kripalu is one of my favorites, and it’s been around for 40 years catering to yogis like me who enjoy exploring yoga, mindfulness, outdoor activities and having an extensive menu of indulgent spa and wellness treatments at any time of the year.

Cooking Lessons - Photo By: Meryl Pearlstein

The all-vegetarian and vegan food choices are pretty wonderful, too, and there are cooking classes to teach you how to make the recipes on your own. The morning’s silent breakfast is a fascinating opportunity for self-contemplation or couples’ contemplation.

57 Interlaken Rd, Stockbridge, MA 01262, (866) 200-5203

Legendary Dishes Enjoyed by Former Presidents are Presented in a Special Menu for Presidents’ Day

For one night only, February 22, Blackbarn restaurant pays homage to Presidents’ Day with a special menu befitting presidents past.

Chef Owner John Doherty - Photo By Meryl Pearlstein

The creation of chef-owner John Doherty, the presidential meal is the stuff of food legends. Chef Doherty reprises some of the dishes that he created for dignitaries while executive chef at the Waldorf=Astoria in what he’s labelled the World Leader Menu. The dinner is an exceptional experience, served at Blackbarn’s exclusive Chef’s Table in full view of the restaurant’s open kitchen.

Photo By: Meryl Pearlstein

The five-course meal is curated from dishes that had been served to Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, George W. Bush,  Bill Clinton and other world leaders, updated for today’s diners with Blackburn’s farm-to-table spin.

Enhanced with wines selected exclusively for the dinner, the meal begins with a consommé and ravioli of wild mushrooms and truffles, a rich (and very pretty) presentation that is perfect for a chilly February evening. The sommelier suggests a pairing with Rojac Malvazja, a local variant of malvasia, from the Istrian peninsula in Slovenia. I can visualize the original 1988 inspiration for this mushroom-based dish, the former Chairman of the Soviet Union of Socialist Republics’ Mikhail Gorbachev and picture him smiling with appreciation along with his hosts President Ronald Regan and President Elect George H. Bush.

Seared Maine Diver Sea Scallops Photo by Meryl Pearlstein

Two strikingly different main courses follow, a seared Maine diver sea scallop set atop a pillow of potato mousseline and graced with a smidge of Oscetra caviar. The somewhat briny taste of the scallops blends beautifully with a California grenache blanc, recommended by the wine team. Both were a favorite of President Clinton.

Rack of Lamb in Rosemary - Photo by Meryl Pearlstein

The second entrée, a gift for any meat lover, is a lovely rack of lamb in rosemary jus, served with a medley of salsify, lemon and tomato and an eggplant terrine, paired, if you wish, with a spectacular red wine, a deep-hued Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany. The dignitaries who had previously enjoyed this dish were President George H Bush, James Baker, General Brent Scowcroft (the National Security Advisor under Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. Bush) and Prime Minister John Major of the United Kingdom.

Presidential Dessert - Photo By Meryl Pearlstein

A cheese course precedes dessert, a small portion of triple-cream Brillat-Saverin with a dollop of fig jam and a garden salad as perfect now as it had been in 1985 when it delighted the six leaders of the free world during the 40th anniversary of the United Nations.

To finish, you’ll enjoy a dreamy chocolate caramel tarte adorned with gold leaf amid a raspberry coulis, also connected to the United Nations, as it had been served to President George W. Bush after his address to the United Nations Assembly in 1997. The pièce de résistance, a vintage port from the Douro Valley, is suggested to accompany.

It’s NYC Must-See Week (in addition to NYC Restaurant Week and NYC Broadway Week)

There’s no such thing as the January or February Blues in New York City. New York City’s Must-See Week really isn’t a week — it’s a couple of weeks with exciting programs, all happening at once and offering 2 for 1 tickets for dining, theater and iconic NYC activities. Must-See Week lasts through February 10, giving you at least a week to figure out everything you want to do and connect with your friends. Think 2-for-1 tickets to attractions, museums, tours and more. Now that you’ve made all your Restaurant Week reservations, here’s the next bit of planning that you need to do. Better still, combine these with a dinner reservation or a theater ticket — it’s Broadway Week, too, and tickets at 21 shows including Beetlejuice, Dear Evan Hansen and To Kill a Mockingbird are two-for-one. But, hurry, theater tickets, in particular, are selling quickly.

Bethesda Fountain Central Park NYC

Thanks to NYC&Co. you can overcome your FOGO (Fear of Going out when it’s cold) at least through the first week of February. This is something that will actually give you a case of FOMO (Fear of Missing out), so don’t wait. Do it all. Get your calendar ready.  Pretend you’re a tourist here. Or, if you are a tourist here, revel in the fact that these wonderful programs exist. And INDULGE.

Here are some of the wonderful attractions offering BOGO options this winter:

Mrs. Maisels Marvelous Tour of NYC - photo by Meryl Pearlstein

On Location Tours is offering all of their TV and movie tours at half price.  Their newest and, in my opinion, one of their best is the Mrs. Maisel’s Marvelous Tour of New York City. Led by an actress in perfect 50s Midge Maisel hair, attire and makeup, the tour takes you through the city to visit quite a number of locations seen in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Do you remember where Midge joined in the protest against the new highway in the park? Or where Joel and his buddy Archie commiserated at the bar? Yes, you’ll head to Washington Square Park and then to nearby Old Town Bar and have a drink there, or you can grab a pint at McSorley’s where Midge went after her date at the art gallery. You’ll also visit the diner where Joel proposed to Midge and they danced in the street — it’s in the West Village. I don’t want to spoil all the surprises, but you’ll see actual TV footage to show you the scene as you pass the filming location. You’ll spend a wonderful two a half hours by bus and walking, covering the areas where the Maisels and the Weissmans lived.  The tour is offered Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at noon. Dress warmly in your 50s colorful best and be prepared to walk. Wear a cool hat, and you’ll fit right in!

https://www.nycgo.com/must-see-week/browse/on-location-tours

New York City Photo Safaris

To prepare for your Mrs. Maisel tour, you might want to sign up first with New York City Photo Safaris. Covering the city from Times Square to Central Park, from the Brooklyn Bridge to Battery Park, the safaris are designed for those who want to learn how to capture the essence of the Big Apple. On these tours, led by photography professionals, you’ll get hands-on instruction to help you sharpen your photography skills, whether you use an iPhone or a DSLR. Bring whatever camera you use and be prepared to view the city from a different perspective. When you’re done, you can sign up for a one-on-one tutorial in Lightroom or Photoshop.

https://www.nycgo.com/must-see-week/browse/new-york-city-photo-safari

Central Park Zoo

Would you rather spend your day communing with nature? Animal lovers will get a chance to visit The Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo and the New York Aquarium for half price. I didn’t get to see the snow monkeys in Japan, but you can see them in Manhattan! Enter password MXW20 at the website below.

https://tickets.wcs.org/affiliate/password.

To add to these, a CityPASS for NYC, might just be the admission ticket to help you cover the truly iconic NYC bases in one discounted package. Don’t be shy — be a tourist. You know haven’t been to these in a long time.

CITYPASS Admission includes:

  • The Empire State Building
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum
  • Ferry access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Planning a trip to NYC?