Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Top Five: Most Romantic Restaurants

There’s a saying that the way to a woman’s heart is through the door of a restaurant. While it must also be said that who you’re dining with is as key as where you’re dining, I’m no stranger to the exhilarating effects of a memorable meal.

A great restaurant offers the perfect backdrop for romance. Over the years, it’s been my good fortune to experience gastronomic delights a deux in some of the world’s most enchanting destinations. From Manhattan to Morro Bay, Bali to Vancouver and so many other exciting cities in between, I have enjoyed an array of fabulous restaurants across the globe. Here are my Top Five and the significant others who joined me in culinary flights of fancy:

Number 5 - La Boite en Bois, New York: Countryside French is served to perfection at this Upper West Side bistro, where I shared an affectionate evening with financial analyst Brooklynite Larry. A man of dizzying intellect and endless restaurant savvy, Larry broadened my culinary horizons – and had me truly smitten during our dinner at La Boite en Bois.

Rustic French Charm: NYC's La Boite en Bois

With an Italian Chef who honed his talents at London’s Le Coq D’Or and authentically French memorabilia on the walls, La Boite en Bois delivers fabulous French fare in a charmingly rustic setting.

Number 4 - Eiffel Tower, Las Vegas: A New Year’s Eve getaway with Match.com boyfriend SW included dinner at Chef J. Joho’s first-class French restaurant. Situated on the 11th floor of the Paris Hotel’s Eiffel Tower replica, this dining venue offers breathtaking views of the Vegas strip and an intimate Art Deco setting.

Paris, Sin City Style: Eiffel Tower restaurant in Las Vegas

Number 3 - Tony’s, St. Louis: This internationally renowned award-winning restaurant has been delighting diners for more than fifty years. Located in the heart of downtown St. Louis, Tony's was the setting for a romantic repast with my Illinois-based beau Steve. Service is truly an art here, where accommodating five-star staffers elegantly plate food at your table. Tony’s boasts an extensive wine cellar and melt-in-your-mouth signature dishes such as toasted ravioli, a local specialty.

Number 2 - Terrace In The Sky, New York: Tucked away in Harlem in a Columbia University residence Hall, this four-star restaurant set the stage for a magical evening with SW. Though foggy skies obscured Terrace’s 360 degree panoramic views, it nevertheless delivered a truly transporting experience -- and a sublime seasonal truffle dish that still conjures up a smile four years later.

Number 1 - The Belvedere, London: Nestled in London’s picturesque Holland Park minutes from High Street Kensington, my #1 most romantic restaurant dates back to the 17th century when it was part of a sprawling Jacobean mansion.

17th Century Elegance: The Belvedere in London's Holland Park

Surrounded by lush lawns and gardens, The Belvedere serves delicious modern European fare. It was here, in the restaurant’s upper dining area back in 1994 that I enjoyed a delightful dinner with my first love Mark (a.k.a Sparky). The restaurant made a lasting impression on Sparky for an artichoke appetizer so flavorful, he raved about it for years.

Some of the happiest moments I have spent with significant others have taken place over a good meal. When romance is on the menu, I've found the experience of dining with the object of my affections is always a memorable one.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunday Afternoon At The Spa

Yesterday, my friend Bobbi and I spent the afternoon at Great Jones Spa. Located in the heart of SoHo, Great Jones Spa (http://www.greatjonesspa.com/) offers an idyllic respite from the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple.

While Bobbi enjoyed a massage, I treated myself to a heavenly facial. During my 60-minute treatment with knowledgeable therapist Maria, I learned the soothing wonders of a honey-based mask and the unwinding power of a well-executed neck and shoulder massage. I emerged from my facial feeling refreshed and wishing I could go makeup-free for good.

Relaxation Haven: The Water Lounge at NYC's Great Jones Spa.

After our treatments, Bobbi and I met downstairs -- the spa has four levels -- in the water lounge. Boasting a three-story indoor waterfall, thermal hot tub and cold plunge pool, as well as a sauna and steam room, the lounge (a complimentary perk when booking a treatment of $100 or more) makes you feel miles away from stress of any kind. Skylights above enhance the relaxation effect.

While kicking back in the water lounge, Bobbi and I shared our thoughts on dating purely for fun (yea) and breast implants (nay), as well as the perils of examining a suitor’s Facebook and/or MySpace profiles. We also decided to make Spa Sundays a more regular tradition. Because you can never have too much pampering, or too much female bonding.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What It Means To Be A Pacesetter

For the last two years in a row, I have had the honor of being a Pacesetter for the American Cancer Society. A Pacesetter is a person who raises more than $2,500 for the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in October. In 2007, 115 Central Park Pacesetters raised more than $560,000 -- 20% of the $2.9 million raised.

Last week, the ACS hosted a reception for Pacesetters to share fundraising tips and stories about what inspires them to Make Strides every year.

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 2007: Me and my friends in Central Park.

For some, participating in the five-mile event is a rite of passage after surviving breast cancer. A five-year survivor spoke with pride about being one of the top 5 Pacesetters, while a three-year survivor said she is now proactive about taking care of her health, working for the first time ever with a nutritionist to maintain an cancer-fighting diet.

It’s a family affair for other Pacesetters. One man talked about the fundraising competition between him, his wife -- a one-year survivor -- and one of their daughters. Their other daughter has tested positive for the BRCA-2 gene, which means she has a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Many of the Pacesetters present, like me, Make Strides because breast cancer has taken someone they loved. One woman said she walks in memory of her grandmother, another spoke of honoring her late sister. I’ve been walking for more than a decade in memory of my beloved mom, who lost her battle with breast cancer at the age of 57.

The 2007 Memorial Wall at Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

Every year, I put my mom's name up here.

During the reception, ACS Regional Vice President Maureen Fitzgerald told a chilling tale of how the economic downturn is affecting cancer patients. She spoke of a woman who doesn’t eat on the days she goes for treatment -- because she can’t afford both food and the cab ride home.

As Maureen said, it’s during economic periods like this one that it’s more important than ever to support the American Cancer Society, and to continue working toward the day when cancer will be a thing of the past.

After she got sick, my mom told me that she believed there would be a cure for cancer in my lifetime. I want to do whatever I can to help make her prediction come true. Every dollar raised for the ACS counts, so click on the link to the right and help make a difference in the fight against cancer.

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer will take place on Sunday, October 19th. For more information about the walk, visit http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PAR/PAR_2_Making_Strides_Against_Breast_Cancer.asp.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Trials And Tribulations Of Texting

The other day, I overheard one of my colleagues talking about going back and forth with a guy for months to try and schedule a second date. She mentioned that nearly every communication has been via text message. I couldn’t help thinking how texting has become a poor substitute for conversations better suited to the telephone or speaking face to face.

Not too long ago, I found myself sitting next to a woman as she spoke of her anxiety that the guy she periodically hooks up with had given her an STD. She chose to confront him about it in a text message. After all, she reasoned, it would be far too forward to actually call him.

Speaking of STDs, I once dated a guy who asked me in a text message if I’d ever been tested for the HPV virus. While it eventually came out that this was his clumsy way of expressing concern about my risk for cancer, I told him I would have appreciated a phone call instead. Call me crazy but I don’t think questions about sexually transmitted diseases are really appropriate for texting.

A Hilarious Take On Texting:

For all of its conveniences, texting makes it too easy to throw verbal caution to the wind. I discovered this in a major way with a real estate attorney who had a penchant for sending racy messages like--

“I woke up this morning thinking of you, if you know what I mean.”

So much for leaving things to the imagination.

That’s the downside of texting -- etiquette often ends up taking a back seat to the instant gratification of typing on your phone’s keypad and hitting send. Some messages, especially when they’re being communicated in the early stages of dating, are best delivered in person.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Very Happy Hour at Houndstooth

Tonight, I had the pleasure of enjoying celebratory drinks with my good friend and colleague Caroline. The venue -- brand-new Houndstooth Pub located in NYC’s Garment District. The occasion? Landing a new client, the destination of Queensland (http://www.destinationqueensland.com/), home to the islands of Australia’s legendary Great Barrier Reef.

Breathtaking Natural Beauty: Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Ever since entering the world of travel PR four years ago, it’s been my dream to have a client Down Under. I’m a big believer that people need to know more about Australia and take the time to experience its many wonders. I fell under its spell during my first trip there back in 2001, to visit longtime friends in Sydney.

Immediately smitten, I ended up changing my departure date three times and returning for a five-month stint as a Sydney resident and freelance producer for Australia’s national public broadcaster, the ABC.

When I returned to the U.S., I was asked the same question over and over again -- is Australia really as amazing as everyone says it is? My answer was and remains a resounding yes. Rich in natural beauty and populated with genial people who have mastered the art of living well, the land of Oz has a charm unlike anywhere else.

As Caroline and I raised our glasses to my new Aussie adventure, we took in the scene at Houndstooth Pub (http://www.houndstoothpub.com/). Having opened its doors only yesterday, Houndstooth had an understandably small number of customers. But with a friendly staff, inviting mahogany walls and spacious size (6,800 square feet spanning a main bar and seating area upstairs, as well as two downstairs bars ideal for parties and more intimate gatherings), it’s easy to imagine a big crowd here once the word gets out.

On our way out, we chatted with Alan, recruiter by day and Houndstooth bouncer by night. Alan informed us his friend is the owner of Houndstooth and two other local bars, and promised he would keep Caroline and me in the loop about grand opening festivities. I’m looking forward to it. After all, as today’s exciting work development reminded me, new beginnings are always worth celebrating -- and doubly festive when you have wonderful friends to share them with.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Look At Fernando Mereilles' Blindness

The other night, I went to a Variety Magazine-sponsored screening of the new Julianne Moore drama “Blindness.” Based upon José Saramago’s Nobel Prize-winning novel, “Blindness” is about a sudden epidemic of sightlessness and what follows when the victims are quarantined and essentially left by the government to fend for themselves.

From the movie’s first frame, director Fernando Mereilles captures with searing honesty the panic of each character suddenly going blind. The chaos that ensues is uncomfortable to watch but impossible to look away from. There’s some relief at the end, but “Blindness” is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore in "Blindness"

Moore proves once again why she is one of the most gifted actresses of our time, delivering a raw, riveting performance as the only person immune to the virus. Witnessing its dehumanizing impact, her character takes charge when a villainous opportunist (Gael García Bernal) hatches a plan to extort an excruciating price for food rations. Moore is matched by affecting turns from a talented supporting cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover and Alice Braga.

After the screening, some of the cast stopped by for a Q&A with the audience.

Danny Glover (center), Mark Ruffalo (right) and an unidentified cast member
at Variety's special screening
I had the pleasure of exchanging smiles with the genteel Danny Glover, looking unusually thin, and Mark Ruffalo—yes, he’s even cuter in person. There's something about meeting celebrities right after seeing them perform that invariably makes me a little starstruck.

Coming up…a special evening for participants in the upcoming Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk and my Top 5 romantic restaurants of all-time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Opening The Vault: Part Eight

It's not very often that real-life romance kicks off in fairy tale fashion. I’ve been fortunate to experience this unusual twist a few times, most dramatically with my first love, California native Mark (a.k.a Sparky).

After meeting in the middle of an “NYPD Blue” shoot, Sparky and I were quickly in the throes of infatuation. Our initial days together were a whirlwind of intimate dinners, carriage rides in Central Park and talk of the future.

That first weekend ended with a diamond band from Sparky and a promise – that he would spend his upcoming vacation time with me.

Over the course of the next five weeks, we burned up the phone lines and Sparky made good on his word, booking a trip to London, where I was spending my junior year. During one of our conversations, I let him know my stance on sex – specifically, that I planned to wait until marriage to have it. Though he was taken aback by my revelation, Sparky didn’t waver when I asked him if he was still coming.

“Absolutely,” he said without missing a beat.

And so it was that, after a 12-hour journey from L.A., Sparky made his way to London to woo me like no other man had before. I now Open The Vault and take you back to the spring of 1994...

London, England
April 27, 1994

Dear Diary,

After our long cab ride from Heathrow, we finally arrived at the Regent’s Park Hilton. Up in Sparky’s room, I began unpacking his suitcase while he freshened up in the bathroom. When he poked his head out and saw what I was doing, he said --

“I should just propose to you right now.”

“Haven’t you already?” I replied with a smile, and he laughed, remembering that he had.

* * *

I treated Sparky and me to a show -- the haunting, dazzling “Phantom of The Opera.” Toward the end, I heard a sniffling sound coming from him and sure enough, he was crying.

After the lights came up, Sparky apologized for being so sentimental. I assured him he had nothing to be sorry about. Overcome with emotion, he looked at me and said with great urgency --

“There’s so much I want to share with you.”

* * *

Hand in hand, we walked to Trafalgar Square. There, with the majestic fountains behind us, right in one of London’s most sublime spots, we kissed -- over and over again. As Sparky remained standing, I sat on the edge of the fountain and rested my hands on his shoulders. Forget soap operas and novels, this was the real thing!!

London's Trafalgar Square: The perfect spot for romance

Next, we strolled into Covent Garden for dinner at one of my favorite Italian bistros, La Quercia D’Oro. The conversation flowed effortlessly, a surprise given that Sparky and I were still very much in the getting-to-know-each-other stage.

Back in my room at Commonwealth Hall, I lit some candles. As soon as Sparky touched me, I could feel my entire body respond. All we did was kiss, but it was a thousand times more passionate than anything I had experienced before.

After we said goodnight, I knocked on my floor mate Carine’s door to get her advice about whether I should spend any nights with Sparky at his hotel.

“If you want him to respect the decision you’ve made [to not have sex], then you have to respect it too,” she said.

* * *

Though I resolved to follow Carine's counsel, resisting temptation proved to be easier said than done….

London was only the beginning for me and Sparky. Not too long ago, he reminisced about our time together in England’s capital.

“The week we spent in London was the best time I ever shared with someone.”

Fourteen years later, I feel the same way. Even when there’s 3,000 miles of geography in the way, some loves never leave you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Saturday Night In The City

Saturday night, I had the pleasure of catching up with my good friend, fellow publicist and former TV news colleague Cyndee.

Over a few cocktails at Cyndee’s bachelorette pad in Murray Hill, she told me about schmoozing with the celebs at Fashion Week and her pleasant run-in with actor Jason Lewis (Smith from "Sex and The City") at a recent party.

Speaking of soirees, our destination for the evening was a “wifebeater” party at her friend’s swank two-bedroom apartment between Lexington and Park. From sweeping balcony views of the NYC skyline to dozens of 40-something men and women wearing wifebeater t-shirts, there was no shortage of jaw-dropping sights.

I managed to tear myself away from a plate of terra chips and guacamole so I could take in a full frontal view of the Empire State Building. Joining me were two of Cyndee’s friends, Mike and Greta. As one would expect when a group of single New Yorkers find themselves at a party with a fairly even guy-girl ratio, the conversation quickly veered from NYC’s unparalleled skyline to the perils of city dating.

Mike expressed his disdain for women who measure a man’s value by the size of his bank account, while Greta mentioned the alarming trend of husbands behaving like they’re still single. She’s considering a book with a title inspired by a line she’s heard more than once from NYC men—

“By the way, I’m married.”

I laughed heartily at this, grateful that (to my knowledge) it’s been at least ten years since I’ve been hit on by a married man.

Before heading home, Cyndee introduced me to her adorable British beau. There’s something about a guy with an accent. I’m no stranger to their charms, having dated three men of English descent. Perhaps it’s time for me to reconnect with the Anglophile in me…

Coming up…Opening The Vault to my most romantic week ever and a review of the new Julianne Moore flick “Blindness.”

Monday, September 22, 2008

Boeing, Boeing: Non-Stop Fun

Friday night, my friend Camilla and I went to see “Boeing, Boeing,” playwright Marc Camoletti’s madcap farce about an architect in Paris juggling three flight attendant fiancées at the same time. “Boeing, Boeing” debuted back in 1960 and it’s easy to see why this delightful romp became the Guinness Book of World Records most performed French play worldwide.

Greg Germann, best known for playing eccentric Richard Fish on “Ally McBeal,” is charming as playboy Bernard, while his three leading ladies also bring their comedic A-game. Gina Gershon adds sass and spunk to her portrayal of fiery Gabriella, Missi Pyle is a force of nature as tempestuous Gretchen and Kathryn Hahn is hilarious as flighty and amorous Gloria.

All Smiles: Christine Baranski (Berthe) and Kathryn Hahn (Gloria)
in "Boeing, Boeing"

But it is Mark Rylance and Christine Baranski, whose characters are charged with keeping the multiple fiancées from crossing paths, who garner the most laughs. Baranski’s comic timing is perfect as Berthe, Bernard’s beleaguered, caustic housekeeper. Rylance steals the show as Bernard’s high-strung, hapless best friend, Robert.

At one point, Robert considers the possibility of having his own harem of flight attendants. I couldn’t help thinking about a recent evening when I did some juggling of my own and, for the first time, double booked.

I went from drinks with one guy at a chic Champagne bar to dinner with another at an intimate Italian bistro in Hell’s Kitchen. While I wouldn’t make a habit of back to back dates, the intrigue of doing so reminded me that when it comes to being single, variety truly is the spice of life.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Outrageous First Dates: Verse Two

When I think of outrageous first dates, I invariably recall the two men who disrobed uninvited -- my ex’s best friend H and Travis, the hunky Australian I met during my stint as a Sydney resident six years ago.

A boat dealer who played rugby in his spare time and had the body to show for it, Travis came onto me while he was in town from Perth. We spent an evening together with mutual friends, eventually locking lips at a local pub. Back at our friends’ house, Travis excused himself while I curled up under a blanket on the couch. I was more than a little surprised when he slid in next to me -- completely naked.

When I informed Travis our attraction would go unconsummated, he didn’t seem to grasp why. After all, he reasoned, I was an American woman on holiday, why not? With a rationale like that, I could only respond one way. With uncontrollable laughter.
For Virginia native and blogger Kristen (http://www.bizchicksrule.com/), a first date in college with a Marine turned out to be anything but amusing. He showed up 45 minutes late, with 5 drunken Marines in tow. His friends proceeded to tell loud stories and tried to start fights with everyone.

“He called every day the next week going on and on about how great a time he had and when were we doing to do it again,” she says. "Um, never? Worst. Date. Ever.”

A blind date quickly turned into a disaster for Lizzie B. After a “trust test” at a bar, in which she was instructed to fall back with her eyes closed, Lizzie’s date took her to Chuck E. Cheese's for dinner to “test how fun” she was.

Chuck E. Cheese's: Great for kids..but not so much for a first date.

“He proceeded to order the 'family pack,' tell them our children were playing in the balls and then set up plates and cups for our imaginary offspring,” she says. “I would have fled if I had my own car.”

Hoboken resident Marah was surprised when the finance guy she connected with on Match.com showed up with two companions -- his pet ferrets Vinny and Daisy.

“This was wrong on so many levels I am not sure where to begin,” she says. “The date lasted about 30 minutes and included a [memorable] conversation about his root canal that week. Vinny and Daisy were getting cold, so he needed to take them back in.”

Like I’ve often said, the redeeming part of a bad date is it leaves you with a great story and a good laugh. I still chuckle when I remember Travis’ disbelief that an American girl would reject the advances of an Aussie rugby player. What can I say? There’s only so far I’m willing to go to promote international relations.

Coming up…sky-high fun at ”Boeing, Boeing” and the scene at a wifebeater t-shirt party.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

SATC DVD Launch Party: Part Two

As I mentioned yesterday, Warner Brothers threw a launch party for the “Sex and The City” DVD truly befitting Carrie & Co. From my spot on the media-filled pink carpet, I got the scoop on what’s next for some of the SATC cast.

Willie Garson (Stanford), wearing an $18 vintage suit bought in Pittsburgh with a custom-made shirt from London, shared his excitement about being in the middle of adopting a baby.

“I’m bored to tears with myself and ready to give it to child.”

Willie Garson (Stanford)

Calling the movie a gift, Willie told me he’s hoping a sequel will get Stanford a life partner. “Or,” he quipped, “taken care of by an older woman.”

Mario Cantone (Anthony) wants Brad Pitt to play his boyfriend in the SATC sequel. Mario was on a tear about the Republican presidential ticket, declaring he’ll put himself in quarantine if McCain gets elected.

Mario Cantone (Anthony) and Me

Kim Cattrall (Samantha)

Kim Cattrall, vamping it up in a low-cut Ferragamo ensemble, had a special message for SATC fans--

“Stick with us, there’s more.”

Cynthia Nixon, wearing Calvin Klein, told reporters her vision for an SATC sequel.

“I would love to see [the women] go off on some madcap adventure.”

Cynthia Nixon (Miranda)

Michael Patrick King

Writer and executive producer Michael Patrick King reflected on SATC’s fifth character -- New York City.

“The idea of the series is that when you come to New York, that’s when your life starts,” he said. “That’s when you form a family.”

I asked him what it was like to film the movie surrounded by crowds of fans.

“It was part history pageant, part theater and part movie set--like being at a rave with all of your friends.”

When asked about a sequel, Michael Patrick said he wants to deliver a good story -- a sentiment echoed by Sarah Jessica Parker.

"It has to be worthy of the audience," she said.

The final celeb to make it down the pink carpet, SJP dazzled in an Alexander McQueen dress and shoes and Fred Leighton jewels.

SJP working the media crowd

Look at those shoes!

At last, it was time to party. I joined fellow blogger Giuseppe Santamaria (http://www.cosmoguyonline.com/) inside the New York Public Library. The majestic lobby was all dressed in love for SATC, from cosmo-flavored cupcakes to soaring pink-hued floral arrangements. With cosmos in hand, Giuseppe and I took it all in…

All smiles: Giuseppe and I inside the SATC soiree

The pink-tinged scene

Carrie's Wedding Manolos: There's a waiting list to buy the $885
blue satin style made exclusively for the movie.

Cosmo-flavored cupcakes, courtesy of Crumbs Bakery. Delish!

The models wearing replicas of Carrie's non-wedding dress didn't stop smiling--
even though they were on stilts for four hours!

What a night. The “Sex and The City” DVD comes out on Tuesday. Published reports say the sequel is due out in the summer of 2010. The countdown begins!

Friday, September 19, 2008

SATC DVD Launch Party: Part One

Last night, Warner Brothers rolled out the Swarovski crystal-studded pink carpet for the “Sex and the City” DVD launch party. Held at the majestic New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue (site of Carrie & Big’s non-wedding), the swanky soiree began with celebrity arrivals under the media tent.

Lights, Camera, Action: Press Crews at the SATC DVD Party

Before the boldfaced names arrived, I found myself standing next to Giuseppe Santamaria, aka Cosmo Guy and one of my favorite bloggers (http://www.cosmoguyonline.com/). Giuseppe’s Sex and the City Movie Blog, launched in September '07, became the #1 go-to source for all things SATC and required daily reading for me as I staked out filming locations.

Bloggers In The City: Giuseppe and Me on the pink carpet

Toronto-based Giuseppe, who flew in just for the launch party and headed back this morning at 6am, is as fun in person as his online altar ego. We hit it off immediately, gushing about the movie (we’ve both seen it three times) and marveling at the spectacle before us, including models on stilts wearing replicas of Carrie’s Vivienne Westwood wedding dress.

Carrie wedding gown redux

In addition to the long line of TV crews and print journalists beside us, throngs of fans were standing by waiting for a glimpse of the glitterati. Around 8pm, the arrivals started. We spotted Evan Handler (Harry) and then Kim Cattrall’s adorable boyfriend, 28-year-old Canadian chef Alan Wyse, standing off to the side so Kim could walk the pink carpet solo…

Kim's cutie: Canadian chef Alan Wyse

Charlotte's hubby: Evan Handler (Harry)

Next up was adorable and charming Lynn Cohen (Magda), who graciously chatted at length with all of us at the end of the press line. She mentioned having initially met SATC writer and executive producer Michael Patrick King 25 years ago when they both acted in a local performance of “Hedda Gabler.”

Lynn told me her favorite SATC episode was “Anchors Away,” in season 5 when Carrie declares that she’s dating New York City. A native New Yorker herself, Lynn’s face lit up as she talked about being part of the SATC movie.

All Smiles: Lynn Cohen (Magda)

“Women get better with age,” she said, beaming when thunderous applause greeted the arrival of one of her co-stars was on the pink carpet.

“That must be [for] one of the babes,” she said.

Flashing us one last grin, Lynn headed into the party as Giuseppe and I settled in for more SATC celebrity hobnobbing.

Up next…SATC stars dish about the much-discussed sequel, and cosmo-flavored cupcakes and more at the DVD party.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Celine's Return To The Big Apple

The other night, I attended Celine Dion’s concert at Madison Square Garden – her first Big Apple performance in a decade.

Early on in the show, Celine expressed her delight about returning to MSG after such a long absence – and her gratitude about having her 81-year-old mother with her on tour. Celine’s observation resonated deeply with me, having attended her 1998 MSG show just a few days before losing my own mom. I felt comforted knowing that, like Celine, I still feel that my mother is very much a part of me.

With a handful of backup dancers and talented musicians, Celine made good use of the stage’s in-the-round setup. During her two-hour set, Celine hit many of the high notes of her ballad-heavy repertoire, belting out such hits as “Because You Loved Me,” “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” and the title track of her current album, “Taking Chances.” “The Prayer,” a duet with Andrea Bocelli, worked surprisingly well even though Bocelli appeared via pre-recorded video.

Celine belting it out at MSG.

Less effective was Celine’s mid-show take on a couple of Queen songs and 1960’s tunes. Given her robust catalog of hits, the covers seemed out of place. She fared better performing her own upbeat material, including a rousing rendition of “Love Can Move Mountains” that had most of us in the crowd on our feet.

Like she did ten years ago, Celine ended with her most successful hit. Following a few clips from “Titanic,” she emerged from the bottom of the stage in a billowing black gown to perform the movie’s signature song, “My Heart Will Go On.” Whether or not you’re a fan of schmaltz—and I most assuredly am—there’s no denying the ballad is a showstopper.

Though the concert fell flat at a few points, Celine still has the pipes and stage presence to deliver a great performance.

Coming up…the scoop on the “Sex and the City” DVD launch party and more outrageous first date tales.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Art of Seduction

Much like letter writing and fructose-free food, the art of seduction seems to be a scarce commodity these days. A recent date’s clumsy attempt to hasten the level of intimacy between us got me to thinking about the increasing gap between romance and sex.

As we were kissing, he pressed himself against me and murmured--

“Come on, just the tip.”

Though I tried not to, I couldn’t help laughing as I turned down his artless request.

Years ago, my college dormmate Eduardo was just as brazen, albeit with more finesse, in his equally unsuccessful attempt to seduce me.

We had spent a few hours in his room, mildly flirting and engaging in conversation that included a rather lengthy tangent about all of the women Eduardo had deflowered in his Spanish hometown. He spoke with pride about the notches on his belt, and I couldn’t help wondering if he thought I would be next.

That question was answered when I returned after a brief trip to the bathroom. In the five minutes that I had been gone, Eduardo had transformed his tiny dorm room into a love den, complete with candlelight and pulsating Julio Iglesias ballads playing on his stereo. Beckoning me toward him, he sat me down and asked--

“Me-lee-ssa…will you give me your virginity?”

Eduardo had clearly anticipated a welcoming response to bragging about his past conquests. I happily informed him this wasn’t exactly my idea of foreplay.

The antics of both Eduardo and my recent date reinforced my feeling that, even in the post-“Sex and the City” age, sex is a much more inviting prospect when there’s at least some romance attached to it. Maybe I’m a traditionalist but I think a little innuendo goes a long way, both in and out of the bedroom. After all, isn’t that why there’s a TBS version of SATC?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Catching Up With A Long-Distance Friend

This week, I’m having the pleasure of hosting my longtime friend Camilla, who's in town from Nicaragua, where she works for the Norwegian embassy.

Camilla and I became fast friends back in 1993, when we lived on the same floor during my junior year in London. Last night, over Japanese food at Ko Sushi and then a bottle of wine on my roof deck, we talked about old boyfriends, new political horizons for the U.S., and the power of a woman’s maternal instinct.

Camilla is the mother of two beautiful little girls. I had the pleasure of meeting them both when I flew to Oslo last summer for Camilla’s much-anticipated wedding to their dad, her partner of ten years, Daniel.

A Midsummer Night's Dream: Camilla and Daniel on their wedding day

The theme of Camilla and Daniel’s nuptials was a Midsummer Night’s Dream and, some rain notwithstanding, that’s exactly what the fairy tale affair felt like. From a ceremony in an intimate, candlelit church to Camilla’s stunning Shakespearean-style gown and bouquet of wildflowers, the wedding was one of the most memorable and moving I’ve ever been to.

Celebrating with the bride

During the reception, family and friends paid tribute to Camilla and Daniel in a series of anecdote-filled speeches--nine speeches to be exact! The bride made me smile when she recalled a day in Cambridge years ago, when the two of us got stuck while punting along the canal and Daniel rescued us.

As Camilla and Daniel look forward to celebrating their 12th year together, I remain inspired by their example of enduring love – and happy that my friendship with Camilla continues regardless of how many time zones are between us.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Dinner Cruise Around Manhattan

Last night, Morty--one of my best friends—and I boarded World Yacht for a four-hour dinner cruise around Manhattan.

I booked us a window seat, the perfect spot for taking in the Big Apple’s beautiful skyline and bridges, along with Olafur Eliasson’s Waterfalls installation dotting various points along the Hudson River.

Our view aboard World Yacht's dinner cruise

With colorful cocktails in hand (Blue Martini for me, Expresso Martini for Morty), we made a toast to our friendship and settled in for some laughs and reflecting on sex, romance and following your bliss.

When we weren’t talking, we were savoring every bite of our three-course meal, which began with a brie cheese-filled pastry. Then, it was onto an appetizer of crabcake with aioli sauce, tasty entrees of veal ossobuco and fried eggplant with white bean ragu, and a chocolate ganache with vanilla ice cream. Morty opted for a fruit salad, and I tried not to hold his healthy dessert choice against him.

At one point, we got onto the subject of makeout songs from the 90’s. I mentioned some of my personal favorites for close encounters -- including Jade’s “I Wanna Love You Down” and Silk’s “Freak Me.”

Speaking of music, I was itching to cut a rug with Morty—the only man I’ve ever known who can keep up with me on the dance floor. The DJ informed us he wouldn’t start cranking it up until after a patriotic medley in honor of Lady Liberty. Morty and I headed upstairs to the top deck to take in a moonlit view of her.

As “God Bless the USA” played over the loudspeaker, I smiled, remembering how much my late, beloved mom loved this country, and feeling a surge of patriotic love myself.

Finally, it was time to get our groove on. The DJ made it easy with a string of past and present hits like “I Will Survive,” “Billie Jean” and Rihanna’s “Please Don’t Stop The Music.” I could feel all eyes on Morty and me while we shook our respective bootys.

After we disembarked, a fellow passenger stopped us to say how much she enjoyed our dancing, while a crew member observed how much fun we obviously had.

All smiles during our cruise: Morty and Me

It is impossible not to have fun with Morty. He is one of the most engaging, witty and all-around fabulous people on planet earth. Our cruise excursion made me thankful all over again that he’s a part of my life.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Saturday Night Date

Last night, I my first date in two months with H. Over the past year, H and I have drifted in and out of each other’s lives, primarily because he’s my ex’s best friend. Fortunately, we were able to put that little wrinkle aside and have a delightful evening.

Our date began with a movie in Times Square, “Righteous Kill.” Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino rise above the occasionally weak script to deliver an entertaining, edgy thriller with a clever twist at the end. It’s worth the price of admission just to see these two acting powerhouses on the big screen together.

Huddled close under an umbrella, H and I ambled over to Hell’s Kitchen for dinner at Delta Grill, a laidback eatery that serves up a taste of New Orleans, with Big Easy staples like Po Boys, Chicken Gumbo and Beignets. While H indulged in shrimp creole, I opted for crab-stuffed tuna, saving room for an exhilarating dessert indulgence, bananas foster. Flaming bananas drenched in syrup topped with vanilla ice cream -- heaven on a plate and even better when shared.

Our last stop of the night was neighborhood bar Social, to watch USC’s football team crush Ohio State. Though I’m not exactly a gridiron girl, it was easy to get caught up in the fever of being surrounded by men cheering at the TV -- especially since one of them had his arm affectionately draped me the entire time.

Coming up…opening the vault to a week of romance in England’s capital and Celine Dion’s return to the Big Apple.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Top Five: Best Kisses of All Time

From epic love to a brief fling, all romantic chemistry begins with a kiss. Countless songs and poems have been written about the simple pleasure of a good kiss, a pleasure I’ve been fortunate to experience many, many times over the course of the 20+ years I’ve been dating.

Amidst all the suitors I’ve locked lips with, there are a few whose kisses lingered long after their exit -- kisses that still conjure up a nostalgic smile whenever I think of them. Without further ado, I bring you my Top Five Kisses of All Time…

Number 5 - Under the Stars at Sea: A star-filled sky and the upper deck of a Royal Caribbean ship served as the backdrop for kissing my cruise beau Jimmy.

A perfect place for moonlit kisses:
the top deck of Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas

A handsome Andre Agassi lookalike with a heart of gold, Jimmy and his kisses transported me for three heavenly hours that night and led to a three-month romance that reminded me good guys do exist.

Number 4 - A Kiss Four Years In the Making: For most of my high school years, I had a crush on tall and lanky classmate Jay. After he and a good friend of mine broke up, after he got past his feelings for her best friend, the timing was finally right for us. Curled up on a couch with Jay watching the series finale of “Cheers,” I could literally hear his heart pounding as he worked up the nerve to cross the line from friends to something more. Amazingly, the kiss more than lived up to the four years of foreplay that preceded it.

Number 3 - Rekindling An Old Flame: About a year after ending our fiery, passionate romance, Illinois-born Steve and I found ourselves sitting across from each other at Guastavino’s restaurant. An architectural masterpiece nestled under the Queensboro Bridge with high, vaulted ceilings, Guastavino’s was the perfect setting for rediscovering the palpable attraction between us.

Number 2 - Romance Down Under: For as long as I can remember, I dreamed about having a romantic moment on the beach. Adorable Aussie Jason made that fantasy a reality during an affectionate sunset stroll across Perth’s famous Cottesloe Beach. As I sat beside him on a rock overlooking the water, Jason turned my face toward him and we kissed.

Number 1 - The Kiss of True Love: Is there anything better than the excitement of a first kiss? That excitement was tinged with something more when I shared my first kiss with California native Mark (a.k.a Sparky) during a moonlit Carriage Ride in Central Park. It’s a kiss that still makes me weak in the knees when I remember it.

Like I’ve said before, a good kiss makes you feel like a teenager again. Who needs the fountain of youth?

Friday, September 12, 2008

By The Numbers: College Edition

Tonight, I had the pleasure of catching up with my former colleague Danielle and her delightful co-worker Tim. Over drinks at Dive 75 on the Upper West Side, we talked about post-breakup reconnecting with friends, revisiting old flames and memories of college sweethearts.

Both in their twenties, Danielle and Tim also mentioned some of the local bars they visited during their underage years, which got me to thinking about my own days as a college student. Both Mount Holyoke and my junior year in London delivered a healthy dose of memorable experiences with the opposite sex. Here's a look back at my college years - By The Numbers.

Number of romantic distractions during my junior year abroad: 5
Number of students at U-Mass dated: 2
Number of U-Mass boyfriends who happened to be an elementary school classmate: 1
Number of long-distance relationships: 1
Number of professional mountain bikers (with a body like Lance Armstrong) dated: 1
Number of cars crashed in anticipation of a date with said mountain biker: 1

I was doing triple the speed limit in a 25 mph zone the night I crashed my Nissan Sentra on the way to seeing Dave, my sexy, sweet mountain biker beau. Though the car didn’t make it, I was very fortunate to walk away unscathed…and straight into Dave’s arms. Later, he comforted me with a delicious plate of pesto pasta -- and an equally delectable serving of his intoxicating kisses.

Dave was one of the highlights of my senior year -- and a much-needed distraction from my long-distance love in California.

Coming up…my personal pantheon of best kisses and the allure of May-December romances.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Standing Up For A Cure With Dave Matthews

The only thing better than a good concert is a good concert for a great cause. Last night, I had the pleasure of experiencing the latter at the Dave Matthews Band’s Stand Up For Cure show benefitting lung cancer research.

The night began with an engaging 45-minute set by Indie pop singer Ingrid Michaelson, including her hit “The Way I Am” and new single “Be Ok.” Next, Julia Roberts briefly took the stage at Madison Square Garden, looking sassy in jeans, an Obama t-shirt and her signature cascade of auburn curls.

"I cannot tell you how excited I am to be in the greatest city in the world,” she said, “to introduce one of the greatest bands of the world!"

Stand Up For A Cure Concert: DMB Rocks MSG

And with that, Dave and co. blazed through an electrifying 2.5 hour set. Along with hits like “Don’t Drink The Water,” “Number 41” and “Crash,” DMB dazzled with lengthy instrumental riffs that demonstrated why they’re one of the best and most enduring modern rock bands on the scene today.

Noticeably absent from the performance – sax player and founding DMB member LeRoi Moore, who died in August at age 46. Dave movingly told the crowd this was the band’s first MSG show without Moore and how much he is missed. Flecktones saxophonist Jeff Coffin did a great job filling in.

The evening’s other poignant moment came when Dave revealed he was just 10 years old when he lost his father to lung cancer.

"One day, we hopefully won't need to have events like this," he said.

DMB ended the night with a rousing, extended version of their signature hit, “Ants Marching,” that had me on my feet and smiling from ear to ear. This was my third DMB concert, and I’m looking forward to many more.

Visit DMB online at http://www.davematthewsband.com/. For more information about Stand Up For A Cure, log on to http://www.sufac.org/.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Remembering Mom

Today marks the tenth anniversary of my mother’s passing. She died one week before her 58th birthday, after a lengthy battle with breast cancer.

Mom was initially diagnosed in 1987. Though she went into remission for nine years, she didn’t take time or her health for granted, continuing to live each day with a zest that never left her.

Mom meant so much to so many. She was an adored wife (by my late father, whom she adored right back), a cherished friend, and a beloved sister and aunt. She took great pride in every one of these roles and with good reason. As I said in my eulogy, you could always count on her for honest, wise advice that made you believe you could survive anything.

I learned so much from my mother -- especially about the importance of fully inhabiting the present and not borrowing trouble from the future. Have all the fun you possibly can, she told me and my sister in her goodbye letter to us, it’s all we take with us when we go.

To that end, I’m heading to a Dave Matthews benefit concert for cancer research. Mom loved music, one of many passions (along with living in New York and snacking on Mallomars) that I’m so lucky to have inherited from her. Tonight, I’ll be celebrating her and the comfort of knowing that, no matter how much time passes, she will always be a part of me.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Opening The Vault: Part Seven

Every September, I’m always somewhat wistful when that first chill hits the air, signifying the start of fall. The change of season always finds me thinking of new beginnings--like the one that accompanied the arrival of spring years ago when I met my first love.

As I recently mentioned (http://melissa-singlegalinthecity.blogspot.com/2008/08/opening-vault-part-six.html), my first date with California native and “NYPD Blue” sound editor Mark (a.k.a. Sparky) delivered the unanticipated bombshell that he was divorced with a child. Since I was only 20 at the time, I responded to the news by deciding to have fun with him while he was in town and nothing more. Fate, however, had other plans for us.

I now Open The Vault and take you back to 1994...

March 23, 1994
New York City

Dear Diary,

While I was very intrigued with Sparky, his divorced dad status made me more than a little wary. I quickly shrugged it off, though, because the chemistry between us felt so effortless...
Upon exiting the restaurant, Sparky turned to me and asked--

“Can I put my arm around you?”

“Sure,” I said, charmed by his tentativeness, and so we strolled with his arm around my waist. During a cab ride uptown, he sat thisclose to me. I could feel the attraction between us intensifying.

It turned out the nightclub I’d chosen was closed. We then ended up at a very different destination--the Plaza Hotel.

As always, there were several horse-drawn carriages nearby. We climbed into one and went for a heavenly ride through Central Park.

Sparky was holding me as we reflected upon what a wonderful time we were both having. Suddenly, the words stopped. I turned my face away from the night sky and toward Sparky, and we kissed. It was a kiss like none I’d ever experienced before, one that ignited every part of me.

* * *

After the carriage ride, Sparky and I sat on the steps of the fountain in front of the Plaza. We couldn’t stop talking. It was like we were trying to tell each other as much about ourselves as possible.

Sparky spoke about how much he wants to share his life with someone, a sentiment that both excited and intimidated me given the 16-year age difference between us.

It was getting late so, hand in hand, we walked back to my building. Sparky asked me what I was doing the following night. Upon informing him that I had plans with my cousin, he declared--

“I don’t care - I’ll take her out too. I just want to spend every minute with you that I can.”

How could I say no to that?
* * *

Sparky and I packed quite a bit into those first couple of days together -- from strawberries and whipped cream at NYC’s posh Regency Hotel to a second moonlit carriage ride through Central Park. And before the weekend was over, much to my great surprise, there was a ring on my finger…

Coming up…Sparky’s transatlantic grand gesture and standing up to cancer at a Dave Matthews concert.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Renewing Old Flames

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of watching my aunt and uncle celebrate their 25th anniversary by renewing their wedding vows. The ceremony was doubly moving given their history together – teenage sweethearts who married young, divorced after three years, then found their way back to one another.

As I watched them promise to always be there for each other, I couldn’t help thinking about second chances in love, and about some of the old flames that I’ve revisited over the years.

Brooklyn-born financial analyst Larry set a standard that few other suitors have been able to match in terms of both courting and smarts. His dizzying intellect captivated me (and had me consulting a dictionary on more than one occasion despite my background as an English major), while his insistence upon making an event out of every evening we shared took us on a regular tour of NYC’s most romantic restaurants.

It took two breakups—precipitated mostly by a 16-year age difference that found us at different places in our lives—for me to walk away from this teddy bear of a guy. We nevertheless kept in touch, and nearly a decade later, rekindled the sparks between us. Unfortunately, timing was once again our foe, as I was on the rebound from another relationship.

Southern Illinois native Steve and I first crossed paths as I was wrapping up my Midwestern stint as a local TV reporter. The intoxicating chemistry between us led me to change my return flight to New York three times. A true romantic with the soul of a poet, Steve reawakened my heart after a long, lonely year and a half of being alone and trying to come to terms with my mother’s death.

Geography, among other things, got in the way and we called it quits after a few months—until finding our way back to each other the following year. Though part-time paramours is all that fate ultimately had in mind for us, I’m glad we didn’t let that stand in the way of trying again. We remain good friends and Steve is now happily married.

Though reconciling with Larry and Steve didn’t culminate in happily ever after, my aunt and uncle are living proof of the joy that can come from revisiting old flames. After all, love is always worth the gamble.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Outrageous First Dates: Verse One

Since discovering the opposite sex nearly two decades ago, I’ve had my fair share of memorable first dates -- from the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous. When it comes to the latter, I can’t help chuckling about some of the characters I’ve spent an evening with.

There was the NYC restaurateur who asked me if I wanted to hear about his broken engagement. In an effort to be polite, I hesitantly said yes--and then nothing more, as my date subjected me to a 30-minute retrospective of where he and his ex went wrong.

Then there was the Match.com guy who couldn’t seem to decide whether he was projecting too far into the past or the future. He remarked how cute our nicknames would sound together if we became a couple -- an observation that seemed a bit odd considering that it followed a lengthy exposition about his sex life with a previous girlfriend.

No roundup of outrageous first dates would be complete without mentioning my encounter with H, an ex’s best friend. Though said encounter wasn’t actually a date per se -- I had invited H to a singles party at my place -- it quickly became apparent he interpreted it as such.

After the soiree ended and it was just the two of us in the living room, I excused myself to go to the bathroom. When I returned, I found H stretched out across my bed (covers turned down, candles lit) naked as a jaybird. The unexpected dorsal view of a 6”3 guy was enough to shake me out of my slightly tipsy state. I made it clear that his little seduction routine wasn’t going anywhere, and instructed him to get dressed and go.

Funnily enough, though the outcome was exactly the same, this wasn’t my first experience of such forward first date behavior.

Stay tuned for more about that particular episode…and many more outrageous first date stories, including some from a few brave souls who’ve shared their own sordid tales with me.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Friday Night at Bella Blu

Right next to Lumi, the upscale duplex restaurant where Charlotte’s water breaks in SATC, resides a more casual but equally delightful Italian bistro - Bella Blu. That’s where my good friend Leila and I grabbed a bite last night.

With the restaurant’s whimsical décor surrounding us, we caught up for the first time in over a month. I brought Leila up to date on matters of the heart, from my unexpected date with an ex’s best friend to an exhilarating evening with a former male colleague whose kisses left me weak in the knees. Leila spoke of her annual visit to her native London, and the greater ease of finding generously cut clothes on the other side of the pond.

We also gave a collective thumbs down to Japanese eateries that overprice and underdeliver -- such as London’s Morimoto and Megu in NYC’s financial district. Thankfully, the Big Apple is rife with restaurants serving up sushi and sensible prices (Ko is my personal favorite).

Bella Blu didn’t disappoint either, as Leila enjoyed veal with porcini mushrooms and I savored pan seared chicken with grilled vegetables. We topped off our meal by sharing a buffalo cheesecake with cinnamon ice cream that immediately entered my pantheon of all-time favorite desserts. Lighter than its Italian ricotta cousin, this cheesecake was heaven on a plate.

The parade of gastronomic delights to be had---and doubly enjoyed with good friends-- in NYC continues!

Friday, September 5, 2008

My YouTube Encore

I recently had the opportunity to revisit my TV background by participating in a video shoot for a client, The Westin New York at Times Square (http://www.westinny.com/).

To celebrate The Westin’s upcoming sixth birthday, The Westin has just launched a contest inviting kids and teens to pen an original birthday tune. The prize—a trip for four to celebrate New Year’s Eve at The Westin, complete with Champagne and dinner at Shula’s Steak House.

Having spent two years as a news reporter, I was thrilled to be on camera again. Though I wouldn’t quit my current day job as a travel publicist, a small part of me will always have the TV bug. How fortunate I am to be able to satisfy that bug every now and then..

You can check out my YouTube/Westin NY clip at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNcMESD2hf0 . For more details about the contest, visit http://www.westinny.com/birthday

A footnote -- The Westin NY video marks my second YouTube appearance. My first was a dance onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise unexpectedly caught on video by my cute partner’s friend (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HF4VfiSYdpo). Good times.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

By The Numbers: Back To School Edition

This week’s over-hyped and underwhelming premiere of The CW’s 90210 remake got me feeling nostalgic for more than just the original Peach Pit gang. I found myself thinking about high school, about those heady days when dating was a new frontier delivering equal parts excitement and insecurity.

With a nod to Brenda, Kelly and co, then, I bring you a special high school edition of By The Numbers…

Number of friends whose boyfriend I had a crush on: 1
Number of years in longest preamble to first kiss with a high school crush: 4
Number of parties that included a game of spin the bottle: 1
Number of would-be suitors who engaged in creepy behavior (e.g., calling from a pay phone across the street, mentioning the view into my bedroom window): 1
Number of boyfriends permitted to join me on my bed for a chaste embrace: 2
Number of times said encounters were interrupted by my dad opening my bedroom door: 1
Number of men vying for my attention at the prom: 2

It’s hard to believe the longings and lessons of adolescence happened two decades ago. Though the stakes of dating are higher now, I’m happy to say that I’ve managed to hold onto (most of) the hopefulness I had about romance during my high school days. And I’m still amazed at the delirious high that accompanies the simple pleasure of a first kiss. Who needs to be a teenager to feel young?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Accademia di Vino: A Divine Dining Experience

Last night, I caught up with my good friend and Delaware native Shane over a decadent three-course meal at Upper East Side hotspot Accademia di Vino (http://www.accademiadivino.com).

Accademia di Vino, the latest incarnation of a cavernous underground space that has housed various restaurants over the years (including the bistro where I celebrated my Sweet 16), opened last year to sold out seatings. Refashioned as a swanky wine cellar with arched room dividers, Accademia has more than 500 bottles—just the right amount of variety for discerning oenophiles like Shane and me.

After selecting two different white wines (Sauvignon Blanc for Shane, Gavi di gavi for me), we savored a pair of tasting plates that served seven kinds of cheese and four varieties of Italian meat. Over an equally satisfying entrée — seared tuna in a pesto-drenched vegetable & herb ragu — Shane and I talked about this year’s historic presidential election, the merits of Australian and New Zealand wines, and the distinctive charm of New Orleans. Also on our conversational menu, the high’s and low’s of life in the TV news business.

A talented photographer, Shane and I got to know each other during my days as an on-air reporter at the Dover bureau of Maryland-based CBS affiliate WBOC. His brilliant camera work brought my words to life on screen, while his friendship helped make my stint in small town USA a much more enjoyable one.

At dinner, we kvetched about the unpredictable hours that go along with a TV news gig, and lauded the unusual experiences that it affords you. For an upcoming segment, Shane will be participating in a Survivor-esque boot camp that includes no showering for a week. I recalled a less rustic activity from my reporting days -- soaring over a field at sunset in a go cart powered by an electric parachute.

We capped off our meal with olive oil pound cake and a dollop of fresh Mascarpone cheese. As we toasted with our Limoncello aperitifs, I smiled at my good fortune of living in a city that offers such fantastic dining experiences – and of having such a wonderful friend to share it with.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Timing Is Everything

My colleague Li recently shared with me the tale of how he met his fiancée. The two dated briefly in college, remained in touch intermittently and now, 15 years later, are finally tying the knot. His story got me to thinking about timing and the idea that everything happens for a reason.

Four years ago, my first experience of speed dating resulted in a brief romance with British-born R. Being with R taught me the important lessons of paying attention to irreconcilable differences early on, and of not lingering in a relationship simply because you’re afraid to hurt someone. The five months I spent with him also led to something of a much longer duration – my career in public relations. A publicist himself, R acquainted me with the PR world. Four years later, I’m still smitten with it.

About a decade before meeting R, I connected with California native Mark during a location shoot for “NYPD Blue.” Over the course of many years and many encounters, I learned a lot about relationships from him but the biggest takeaway of all was a simple one—when you’re really in love, you feel it without hesitation and beyond measure. Mark also served the important purpose of introducing me to a gastronomic delight whose longevity in my life has surpassed that of any man—sushi. For that alone, I am forever in his debt.

Perhaps the greatest example I’ve experienced of fate’s purposeful agenda was the New Year’s Eve that wasn’t back in 2002. My high school sweetheart Hogan was supposed to come in from Toronto. Confusion about bus and train options from T.O. to New York ended up derailing his plans. Hogan ended up going to a party that night where he met the lovely woman who later became his wife.

Yes, at the risk of sounding like Sex and The City’s Charlotte, it bears repeating--everything really does happen for a reason.

Monday, September 1, 2008

August: Osage County: A Tony-Winning Treat

Friday night, one of my best friends, Morty, and I went to see August: Osage County. After the curtain went up, it didn’t take long for us to realize why Tracey Letts’ tale of a dysfunctional family in suburban Oklahoma walked away with five Tony Awards, including Best Play, and a Pulitzer Prize.

The three-hour three-act play moves along swiftly, thanks to brilliant direction from Tony winner Anna D. Shapiro, razor sharp dialogue and riveting performances from August’s talented ensemble cast. Estelle Parsons is brilliant as hard-bitten matriarch Violet Weston, while Amy Morton holds her own as Violet's uptight, demanding daughter Barbara.

August centers around the family drama that unfolds after patriarch Beverly (Michael McGuire) disappears. Morton is excruciatingly incisive in portraying how the ties that bind can lead to disappointment and despair--and yet still bring you right back to where you started.

August will be adapted for the big screen, with playwright Letts already confirmed to write the screenplay. I’m sure the movie will be great, but this show’s crackle and pop are tailor made for the stage. Don’t miss it.

For tickets and more info, visit http://www.augustonbroadway.com/.