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Friday, March 30, 2007

Phanfare Your Photos

Call me a sentimental fool but I love photo albums.

From my best friend's wedding to our safari trip to Africa, I would spend hours arranging prints, gluing corners by hand and writing captions in pencil. Choosing an album to house all the images was just as much of a production. Would it be the Smythson leather or linen-covered from Kate's?

Now that everything has gone digital, it was easier than ever to capture memorable moments of birthday parties, baby showers and weekend trips to the Hamptons. But, I always cringed when I went to share them with others. The photo sharing sites were either covered with banner advertising or endlessly spammed all my friends after they signed up. And, did they really think I wanted to silkscreen my face on a T-shirt or have my dog's photo on a coffee mug?

Thankfully, I found a stylish alternative - Phanfare, an online photo and video site, creates and shares chic looking albums without any trace of advertising for a low fee that ranges from $6.95 per month to $54.95 per year.

Besides having a much cooler interface, some of my favorite features are:

  • Unlimited storage (protects your albums if you computer crashes)
  • Allows images up to 20MB and videos up to 10 minutes long
  • Allows guests to download full sized images from your album
  • Uploads music from iTunes for slide shows
  • Doesn't hijack your albums if you don't buy prints
  • Has advanced password systems so you can share only the albums you want (Girl's Weekend in Vegas doesn't need to be sent to your boss or your boyfriend!)
Now you can give your most precious memories the home they deserve.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It's Your Birthday - vol. 1

We're gonna party like it's your birthday. The only question is.......where?

Over the years, I have been bombarded with inquiries about every kind of event planning issue. Hands down, the number one request is about birthdays.

In New York, planning this celebration can be trickier than you think so each month I will give you a few of my top recommendations for different types of birthday bashes - complete with pricing and contact information.

Pass this along to friends, colleagues and family. Bookmark it. This is good insider scoop. (And, please feel free to leave a comment about your favorite birthday spots around the city.)

For the first installment, here are 3 great places to host a dinner party.

Dinner for 10: Barmarché (14 Spring Street, 212-219-2399)

Cozy and casual, Barmarché on Spring Street in Nolita has a great banquet style table at the back of the restaurant. It seats 10 around a big rectangle so its perfect for group conversation. Chef Linda Japngie will customize a prix fixe for your party or you can order a la carte of the regular menu. The bistro salad with pear, endive and blue cheese is amazing and they do a mean steak frites. You can bring in your own cake for a plating fee of $5 per guest but I highly recommend their desserts (and, yes I've tried them all). Owner is Chris Eddy from industry (food) which explains why everything is so damn good.

  • Customized Prix Fixe or A la Carte
  • Per person estimate: $50 and up (exclusive of alcohol, gratuity and tax
  • Credit cards (payment with multiple cards is allowed)
Contact: Minh, 212-219-2399 (or

Dinner for 16: Indochine (430 Lafayette Street, 212-505-5111)

I've celebrated countless birthdays at this iconic French Vietnamese restaurant (including two of my own). Indochine is eternally chic and the waitstaff is gorgeous. After 20 years, they know how to cater to the fashionable and the fabulous. They have had parties and dinners for Diane von Furstenberg, Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton and MAC Cosmetics among others.

Try the Indochine Martini made with pineapple and ginger infused vodka, fresh lime juice and triple sec. Best appetizers are the summer rolls either with king crab or chicken and shrimp. For entrees, the Spicy Chicken Breast with sweet potato crisps and the Steamed Chilean Sea Bass are loved by everyone.
  • Prix Fixe Menu
  • Per person: $55 (without wine) to $75 (with wine)
  • + 20% gratuity + tax
  • Credit cards (payment with multiple cards is allowed)
Contact: Reception 212-505-5111 (or via Web at

Private dinner for 20: Palma (28 Cornelia, 212-691-2223)

Dining in the private cottage at Palma will transport you to the countryside of Italy. This quaint and charming event space, located behind the restaurant, can accommodate up to 20 guests for dinner. The Italian/Provencal menu, comprised of fresh pasta, seafood and meat, changes seasonally so check back in April for an update. The husband and wife team who own Palma also run a catering company so they understand how to throw a party. Rental of the cottage includes dedicated waitstaff, fresh flowers and other elements of décor.
  • Prix Fixe Menu
  • Per person: begins at $90 (exclusive of alcohol, gratuity and tax)
  • Credit cards - maximum of 8
Contact: Terry, 212-691-2223

Service is really good at all of these restaurants but it wouldn't hurt to tell them that we sent you (wink, wink).

*all pricing and information is subject to change.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Notable Notecards

There is a Japanese proverb that says, One written word is worth a thousand pieces of gold.

A handwritten card may seem to be an antiquated way to correspond in these digital times but, there is still something special about sending and receiving a note on beautiful paper.

Stationery conveys more than just the written speaks to the spirit of the sender. I have at least 10 boxes of stationery rotating at all times to reflect my ever-changing moods.

These days I am crazy about Winged Wheel, a fine paper and custom printing company from Japan (of course!) that has been creating incredible products since 1918. My new favorite card (which accurately reflects my recent multi-tasking spirit) is embossed with a 3-dimensional impression of a deep red octopus with twisted tentacles decorated with tiny delicate white dots. The cards are printed on cotton paper, considered to be the world's highest quality, and have hand painted borders.

Other notecard designs include traditional Japanese motifs such as a ladybug, peach, swallow and butterfly. A set of 6 cream cards with matching envelopes lined in a coordinating color is $18 and available at Kate's Paperie.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Movers and Shakers

I never paid much attention to Salt and Pepper.

To be honest, I found them quite boring. Yet, somehow, they were invited to every single dinner party. Not only did they seemed make it around the table - passed from guest to guest - they were even called out by name. They may be social but they seriously lacked a sense of style.

Until now. I've discovered some fresh, new looks for Salt and Pepper that will get the whole party talking.

My favorite salt and pepper shakers are the Jonathan Adler ceramic fish ($48) that are decorated with bold geometric patterns. At two inches tall, these little fish are playful and fun. They come in white or chartreuse (what a chic color!).

At the MOMA Store, I stumbled upon these adorable porcelain Hug Shakers by Alberto Mantilla ($25). The charming characters (who remind me of Casper the Friendly Ghost) affectionately hug each other when not in use.

Also, at the MOMA, these modernist stainless steel shakers are a real conversation piece. Called Wobble ($28), they have a weighted base that keeps them balanced as they "wobble" on the table and prevents them from actually falling over.

And, finally, if you prefer a grinder, these stainless steel cylinders by Crate and Barrel ($19.95 each) are beautiful with clean, smooth lines. No old fashioned grinder to turn...all you have to do is press down on the top with your thumb like clicking a pen for perfectly ground sea salt and peppercorns. Standing only 5.5 inches tall with a 1 inch diameter, these are compact and perfect for meals away from the table.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Lazy Hostess: Audiostiles

Scrolling through someone's iPod library is a little like rifling through their are bound to find something unexpected.

As a professional event planner, you would assume that I have an extensive collection of music neatly organized into lists for every occasion but it is quite the opposite.

While I have worked with the best DJ's in the business for all my clients, my personal music library is a bit of a mess and obviously neglected. What few mixes I have are limited to chilling out at home or kickboxing at the gym.

Ironically, I have DJ's Coleman Feltes and Ursula 1000 on speed dial but still no music for my Saturday night dinner party. So, like any New Yorker, I decide to order in...

Audiostiles is an amazing music styling company that creates playlists and compilations for any type of event. The founders are music aficionados who have worked in A&R at music labels and their team of programmers are made up of industry insiders who have worked as DJ's and in radio.

Not only can they create the perfect party mix, they can give your iPod a total make-over by keeping your collection current and introducing you to new artists. The whole process is simple and easy.

1) First you fill out a questionnaire about your music needs (occasion), personal taste and how much music is needed.

2) You give them your shipping address and iTunes account info.

3) They send you a container for your iPod which you send back to them.

4) They download all the music into programmed playlists and send your freshly loaded iPod back to you in 3-5 days (not including shipping time).

Customized music is $50 per hour ($15 for actual music costs billed to your iTunes account and $35 for their styling fees)

Preprogrammed mixes are $35 per hour ($15 in music costs and $20 in fees). One of my favorites is "Guess Who is Coming To Dinner" - that features music from Zero 7, Everything But the Girl and Bebel Gilberto.

Now I have a music library with lists for every entertaining occasion from cocktail parties to 80's night to Sunday brunch with the parents. Everything is perfectly arranged....just please stay away from my dresser.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Tucked Inn

They say that after 10 years of living here, you can finally call yourself a New Yorker. I guess it means that you you are tough enough to make it on the mean streets of Manhattan. Ironically, when I hit that marker, all I felt was proud to be Canadian.

Over the years, I've assembled quite the crew of Canucks in NYC - all of whom have endured the same ribbing from our American friends about ice hockey, South Park ("Blame Canada"), Celine Dion and the cottage (no, it is nothing like the Hamptons).

So, imagine my excitement when my good friend Lyman Carter (with Jeffrey Jah of Lotus and Double Seven, culinary partner chef Daniel Boulud and David Lopez), finally opened his ode to Canada called The Inn LW12, a gastro-pub inspired by summers in North Hatley at his family's lake house mixed with a little bit of Brit.

Located at 7 Ninth Avenue in a rustic townhouse from 1860, The Inn LW12 is a cool spot in the otherwise frenzied Meatpacking. Hang out in the Tap Room with a pint of draught beer (ours really is better) and an order of poutine, a Quebecoise specialty of fries, cheese curds and gravy. Or, reserve a table upstairs in the cozy Canoe Club for a dinner of Guinness braised beef with parsnip mash or smoked trout with leek veloute.

But, if you are a true'll pass by The Inn LW12 after midnight for a little tuck before bed. The Tuck Menu, named after the British/Canadian slang term for "snack" (that any camp-goer will nostalgically remember), is the best late night nosh around.

Try the Eggs Cocotte with spinach and mushrooms, grilled lamb burger or the sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream (my favorite). Tuck is served 5 nights a week from Tuesday to Saturday from midnight to 3AM in both the Tap Room and Canoe Club.

Can't get a reservation? Try asking for Phil - The Inn Keeper. He has a wicked sense of humor and if you can impress him with some random Canadian factoid, he might just let you in.

All you Yankees better start studying up on your Strange Brew.

The Inn LW12 7 Ninth Avenue 212-206-0300

Friday, March 16, 2007

Extraordinary Eva

During a time when women did not go to dinner parties without escorts, Eva Zeisel was crossing continents in search of creative independance. And, at 100 years old, the world renowned designer is still a force of nature.

Best known for her organic, modernist ceramics, Eva was awarded the prestigious Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement. Her work is featured in the permanent collections of the Met, MOMA and the Victoria and Albert in London among others. But, you don't have to go to the museum to enjoy her art...just head to Crate and Barrel.

Eva was the first person to design an all-white Modernist dinner service in the U.S. Although the originals are now collector's items, Crate Barrel reissued a sampling of her 1952 timeless tabletop designs.

The Classic Century Dinnerware Collection is filled with sculptural pieces from oval dinner plates to teardrop platters (my favorite). A 5-piece serving set including platter, footed bowl, creamer and sugar bowl with lid is only $147.95.

Who knew your tea pot could have such a pedigreed past?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Scented Love

For years I have had a love affair with Diptyque candles.......

The minimalist white box and chic Parisien address on boulevard Saint Germain was the epitome of good taste. Those in-the-know would instantly recognize the subtle scent of Baies wafting through a party or the freshness of Tilleul in a powder room. Diptyque was always fashionable, yet a bottle of Veuve Clicquot.

But, lately I've had a bit of a wandering eye (or should I say nose?)

First it was the Etro candle in the dark maroon and gold embossed box that I got for Christmas. Misto Bosco was a bright red candle scented with tangy and sweet wild berries and a hint of crushed pine needles with a gold engraved cover.

Then, for my birthday, my friend Barbara gave me the most amazing Gingerlily candle by Molton Brown in a thick frosted amber glass holder. Not only was the candle gorgeous, but the packaging was unbelievable. The rich, textured paper box had a metallic sheen and a grosgrain ribbon pull with another ribbon inside holding the candle in place.

Slowly but surely I was being lured to the dark side. But, my fall from grace did not happen until I received a mysterious black box sealed with a satin ribbon and a cluster of blood red roses, branches and dark berries. Inside I found a candle scented with exotic Japanese incense, balsam, and musk in a jeweled-toned burgandy glass. No card. Just a crest and the words Aedes De Venustas embossed in gold.

I went out in search of Aedes De Venustas (Latin for "Temple of Beauty") and found myself at 9 Christopher Street at a seductive little shop selling rare perfume and home fragrances from old world brands such as Santa Maria Novella and Carthusia to modern yet exclusive brands like Ulrich Lang and Agraria. So many beautiful things to choose from. It was enough to make me blush.

At that moment, I realized that Diptyque may have been my first love, but I just wasn't ready to settle down.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Lazy Hostess

It's no wonder that Martha Stewart gets hate mail.

How many New Yorkers do you know that own a blow torch just for crème brûlée? Or, prefer to stay at home on a Saturday night to hand-glue Swarovski crystals to homemade Christmas ornaments?

I mean....seriously? Who has the time?

Don't get me wrong....we all love Martha. In fact, the whole D-I-Y posse including Katie Brown and Rachel Ray should be applauded. It's really not as easy as they make it look!

But, don't fret! You can still be a sophisticated hostess without having any fancy kitchen tools or hours to spend on intricate arts and crafts. We all live jammed-packed lives but it doesn't mean that our entertaining has to suffer.

The Lazy Hostess will be a monthly post with easy tips and resources for those who want the gourmet experience for their guests but rather not chop their own crudité. I'll include event planning short-cuts, access to my favorite local shops and the best of the Web that can deliver right to your door. Easy breezy...

Because its much more fun to be the Belle of the Ball than Betty Crocker......

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Sweet Life

To say that I have a sweet tooth is probably an understatement. On a subconscious level, a love for chocolate may be a prerequisite to being in my inner circle of friends. The only thing more pleasurable that indulging yourself is spreading the love....

Gourmet chocolate and other confections make great gifts for all sorts of occasions from weddings to birthdays to housewarmings. Here are two of my favorites:

Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland (620 Fifth Avenue - 1-800-554-0924) has delicious truffles in tiny boxes of two ($6.25) and four ($11.95). The boxes and ribbons come in a variety of colors to match your event decor. Perfect for wedding favors or on place settings for Easter brunch.

Chocolate Bar NYC (48 8th Avenue - 212-367-7181) was created by Alison Nelson and is truly a candy store for grown-ups. In addition to truffles and bon bons, they have retro chocolate bars with unique flavors such as Salty Pretzel and Malted Milk. But, the melt in your mouth Caramels take top prize for most original present. An assorted box ($35) features pecan nougat, chocolate mint, mocha, nougat strip and classic caramel.

Cautionary note: Accepting chocolate from strangers can be dangerous. Anyone that attempts to give you a box of Ferrero Rocher should be reported immediately!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Sammy and Friends

Last night, I drank dirty martinis with The Rat Pack....

Vanity Fair, Ports 1961 and the Accompanied Literary Society hosted a party to celebrate the launch of, "Photo by Sammy Davis, Jr.," a book of previously unpublished images by the legendary entertainer.

The Ports 1961 showroom was transformed into a cocktail lounge at The Sands casino in Vegas and featured an installation of personal photos taken by Davis over the course of his tremendous career and life.

Only his closest friends and family knew that the talented singer, dancer and actor had a passion for photography. And, it was Davis' inner circle - Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, May Britt, Jerry Lewis, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Paul Newman - that he captured in their most private, candid and revealing moments.

But, the night revealed more about the photographer than his subjects. During a Q&A with Burt Boyar, (Davis' longtime friend and author of the book), we learned about Davis' struggle as an African American entertainer during a racially divided time .

Boyar said that, "Sammy's camera often served as a shield to gain access to places he couldn't because of his color." Despite his fame and success, the A-list insider always felt like an outsider.

In true Vegas style, the sentimental tribute to Sammy Davis, Jr. ended with a stellar performance by another ground-breaking entertainer - Adam Dugas of The Citizen's Band, a Cabaret-inspired collective of singers, dancers and actors who use their art to comment on political and social issues.

Photography by Sammy Davis, Jr.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Call Me

In my industry, every social occasion is an opportunity to sign new business. You have as much of a chance to make an impression on a potential client at a cocktail party as in a boardroom. As a result, "working the room" can sometimes feel like a military mission of reconnaissance. And, the intel? A stack of business cards exchanged and collected over the course of a night of networking.

But, what about those nights when you connected with someone special? Somehow, giving that cute boy your corporate card doesn't seem to convey the right message. And, do you really want to begin a flirtation on a work email? If only you had something that fit with your personal style and attitude.....

What about a calling card? (and I don't mean AT & T)

I discovered a design studio on Wall Street called Mr. Boddington's Studio that takes its inspiration from old world values. They offer custom made calling cards - those indispensible tools of etiquette that first appeared in 15th century China and later in aristocratic 17th century Europe.

Calling cards, or visiting cards, were an essential accessory to upper-middle class ladies and gentlemen back in the day. They served as announcements of VIP arrivals to prospective hosts as well as tangible evidence of social and business meetings. And, the cards spoke volumes about the person who used them. From engraved ornaments to fantastic coats of arms, calling cards left a lasting and distinct impression of one's identity.

Mr. Boddington's Studio will take a personal commission and create letterpressed or flat printed cards using Somerset or Hahnmuhle paper (pricing estimated at $200 for 400 flat or $400 for 400 letterpressed).

With such beautiful and original cards, maybe that special someone from last night will actually call (in 2-3 business days, of course).

photography below by Richard Jopson

Friday, March 2, 2007

A Memorable Moment

I love parties. But, not for the reasons you may think.

The invitation, the venue, the music, the decor, the flowers, the food.....All of those wonderful details (that have been painstakingly orchestrated) do not make a great event - they simply set the stage. And, with every event, the stage is different.

What makes an event memorable is what happens on that stage. Parties give us unique opportunities to create memories with family, friends or even with strangers.

This photo taken by Ben Watts reminds me of why I love parties. It is from an editorial in
Style & Entertaining (New York Times, Spring 2004) and it captures beautifully what I know was a memorable moment.