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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Highline Keeps Rockin'

The Highline might just be the most rockin' neighborhood in NYC.

Fresh off the Bowie curated arts festival, the area has a new 700-person music venue owned and operated by the family behind the B.B. King Blues Club and Blue Note Jazz Club. The Highline Ballroom (431 West 16th Street, 212-414-5994) opened its doors on April 30th with a performance by rock legend Lou Reed and has been buzzing ever since.

According to its promoters, the venue is dedicated to bringing music fans intimate performances by a diverse group of artists. Next up is Jesse Malin who plays the Highline Ballroom on June 6th. Presented by John Varvatos and SPIN magazine, the concert benefits Free Arts NYC, an organization that brings the healing power of the arts to abused and at-risk children and their families.

You might not have heard of Malin but he's collaborated with some of the coolest rockers in the biz including Ryan Adams (who produced Malin's debut album) and Pete Yorn. But, the real rockstar nod-of-approval came from an artist who Malin counts as one of his biggest inspirations - Bruce Springsteen.

The story goes something like this:

Malin meets Springsteen at the "Light of Day" charity concert. Malin sends Springsteen his latest CD. Springsteen calls Malin and invites him to join his Christmas show. Malin assumes he will be singing a Springsteen cover. Instead, the mentor and his band learn 3 of Malin's songs and sings back-up for the young artist. Pretty cool, right?

The love continues with Malin's latest album "Glitter in the Gutter," which features a duet with The Boss called Broken Radio. Check out the music video.

For the New York born musician who sings and writes about the struggle and triumph of the Everyman, nothing could be more fitting than kicking off Malin's U.S. summer tour with a concert to benefit the underprivileged children of his home town.

To purchase tickets for the June 6th concert with special guest Radio 4, click here. VIP Tickets (seated with open bar) are $150 while General Admission (standing only) are $50.

To watch videos and sample music, click here.

For more information or to make a donation to Free Arts, click here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ciao Bella

Memorial Day is notorious for fickle weather but this past weekend, there was no disputing the fact that summer has finally arrived.

Glorious sun and temperatures in the high 80's made for a few hot days in the city. I found refuge by visiting Ciao Bella Gelato in Nolita (285 Mott Street). Hand-made in small batches, Ciao Bella has over 100 different flavors of gelato and sorbetti including Valrhona Chocolate, Hazelnut-Biscotti, Blackberry Cabernet and their award-winning Blood Orange. Seasonal blends are a real treat. Currently, Ciao Bella is offering two limited edition flavors: Chocolate Jalapeno and Coconut Almond Chip.

Founded in NY's Little Italy in 1983, Ciao Bella began with a few traditional family recipes from Torino and has grown to become one of the leading purveyors of artisanal ice cream in the U.S. Their gelato (Italian-style ice cream) has less fat and air by volume (denser) than regular ice cream. The sorbetti is 70-80% fruit, water and ice with no colorings or artificial ingredients as well as being dairy-free, fat-free and, in some cases, cholesterol-free.

As the dog days of New York summer fast approach, those of you without Hamptons houses better think of ways to get yourself to the beach. My advice? Be the house guest that brings the best gift and you'll get a return invitation.

Ciao Bella will ship customized assortments of gelato and sorbetti packed in dry ice via Fed-Ex Priority Overnight. You can choose from the 4, 6 or 8 pint options which range from $32.95 to $49.95 (exclusive of shipping). Perfect for dinner parties and summer BBQ's, Ciao Bella is a great gift for everyone in the house to enjoy. And, as a host, it's a simple and popular dessert to prepare. I like to use a very small scoop, mix and match flavors and colors in a chilled bowl, add fresh fruit, coconut or chocolate shavings and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Not all of Ciao Bella's flavors are available by the pint. Check their retail posts in Nolita, Upper East Side (27 East 92nd Street), Brooklyn (81 Washington Street) and Grand Central for a complete offering of products.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Lazy Hostess: Cocktails & Hors D'Oeuvres

As a hostess, I am self-admittedly a little on the lazy side. But, do you blame me for loving the party more than the prep?

I promise you that with some savvy planning your guests will never know the difference. So, what's my secret for stylish and simple entertaining? I think the Beatles said it best - I get by with a little help from my friends...

When it comes to cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, let me make a few introductions. Only a click away, these special "friends" have always been there for me in times of event planning need.

For the most delicious hors d'oeuvres, order from The Perfect Bite Co. Their Pastry Kisses are made by hand in small batches with fresh ingredients. The signature kiss is the Blueberry Lemon Cream, an all-butter puff pastry filled with cream cheese, fresh lemon zest, vanilla bean and whole blueberries. Other favorites include the Caramelized Onion and Feta (shown, above left) as well as the Basil Pesto Gorgonzola.

The genius part of these hors d'oeuvres is that they come frozen with a disposable baking pan. All you do is pop a few trays into the oven throughout the night. Trays of 12 kisses are $11.95 and there is a 3 tray minimum. Other appetizers include cocktail pizzas, mushroom caps and crostini by the dozen. Delivery is by DHL overnight with dry ice and/or ice packs to ensure frozen food stays cool.

For dessert, Black Hound New York has incredible chocolate, cookies and cakes. Order a selection of the miniature cakes and display them on a three tiered cake stand. I love their signature mini Busy Bee Cake which consists of layers of chocolate butter cake, almond butter cake, and bittersweet chocolate mousse covered in marzipan and chocolate and decorated with adorable, edible marzipan almond bees. An order of six miniature cakes is $45 and will feed up to 12 guests. Delivery is next day air. Those of you in NYC can visit their hip little chocolate shop on Second Avenue to preview all their delectable treats.

I'm a late night shopper and there is something about buying my booze online that gives me a whole new kind of retail rush. Astor Wines and Spirits is one of the best liquor stores in New York and their web site features an extensive selection of amazing wine bargains from around the world. Orders made by noon will be delivered the next business day. Delivery is free with orders over $75.

Don't fuss over a full bar unless you have a bartender. Serving white and red wine, champagne and one spirit is more than enough. A signature cocktail such as a margarita or mojito in a pitcher is a great way to have your guests serve themselves. Crate and Barrel has some beautiful and inexpensive pitchers and glasses. The Ona is only $24.95. Use a few of these together to create a sleek service bar to hold mixers such as soda, tonic and fruit juice.

With all the time and effort you saved, you can spend it on the only thing that might still need some!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Behind The Red Rope

Movie night with friends sounds like a pretty simple party to plan. Rent flick. Buy popcorn. Gather friends.

It's another story if you are advertising executive turned filmmaker Eddie Shieh (photo right, shown with actor/director DB Woodside). Fresh off the festival circuit (screening at over 20 international festivals and counting), Shieh began fielding requests from friends who wanted to watch his debut short film, "No Menus Please," a drama/comedy about two immigrants competing to distribute restaurant menus in New York City.

While planning the screening, Shieh reached out to 5 other directors with internationally acclaimed short films and invited them to join. With one call to Ayler Young of Tribeca Cinemas, (home to the Tribeca Film Festival) "movie night" was transformed into the Red Rope Screening, an event to celebrate short films and promote social business networking among influencers in film, fashion, music and art.

On Wednesday night, despite the torrential downpour, 400 guests attended the inaugural Red Rope Screening presented by Adidas, who showcased student documentaries about the prominence of graffiti art in the sneakerhead community through their End-to-End Project. Other supporters included Foot Locker, Chopin Vodka, Shorts International and Saint Grace (one of my favorite brands for T-shirts and tanks).

Shieh hand-selected 5 incredible films to accompany his own including: A Nick in Time by BĂ© Garrett (2007 Official Selection at Sundance, Tribeca and Cannes); first by actor DB Woodside (who plays President Wayne Palmer on Fox's "24") and Nick Sivakumaran; Spread The Love by Matt Lilly; Mutual Love Life by Robert Peters (2000 Oscar short-listed film); and, Our Time Is Up by Rob Pearlstein (Oscar nominated for 2006 Best Live Action Short Film).

After an hour listening to legendary DJ Stretch Armstrong, I finally found the newly minted director at the after-party. Shieh told me that the inspiration for the film literally arrived at his front door. During Shieh's advertising days (he was an award winning creative at Ogilvy & Mather, TBWA/Chiat/Day and BBDO), he used to order from the same Chinese restaurant when he got home late at night. Shieh began to notice the constant menu delivery in his building and to wonder about the life of his delivery guy.

There is talk of another short film by Shieh as well as a Red Rope Screening in the Fall. We promise to keep you posted on both. In the meantime, check out the schedule at Tribeca Cinemas for other interesting film and music events such as the Miguel Migs record release party on Sunday, May 20th.

For your own movie night, art show or cocktail party, call Tribeca Cinemas (54 Varick Street, 212-941-2001). All of their event spaces are pretty amazing. Tell Ayler we sent you....

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Writing On the Wall

Event designers always cringe at the thought of corporate signage clashing with their artistic vision.

If only all messaging was as beautiful as Blik, the award winning product line of surface graphics. With Prose, the company's newest offering, the writing is on the wall....literally.

You can submit your favorite poem, quote or phrase to be made into stickers in various sizes, colors and fonts. Blik will send you the self-adhesive decals to affix to any smooth, flat surface such as a wall, window, mirror, ceiling, tabletop or floor. Price is based on size and quantity of letters.

A great idea for party decor, these stickers are easy to apply as well as remove. You might chose to decorate a birthday party with energetic dancers by Keith Haring or a going-away party with delicate birds in flight. The geometric shapes by Charles and Ray Eames are some of my favorites.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Bowie Takes The High Line

This week in New York, the buzz is all Bowie.

As the inaugural curator of the H&M High Line Festival (May 9th -19th), David Bowie has become our city's personal guide to the coolest line-up of music, film, comedy and visual art performance. The artists that he has chosen to showcase are as eclectic as Bowie himself from Brit comedian Ricky Gervais ("The Office") to French electro-pop duo Air to visionary Ken Nordine, the 87-year old musician who has been performing his beatnik-style spoken "word jazz" since 1955. Arcade Fire, the Montreal based indie rock band, kicked off the 10-day arts festival with a killer performance at Radio City Music Hall on Wednesday night.

Buddha Bar with Ty KU, a new sake liqueur, played host to the festival's launch with a decadent after-party that followed their one-year anniversary celebration - a 250 person VIP dinner and auction (to benefit The Institute for Civic Leadership) for guests such as Kevin Spacey, Denise Rich, Marc Ecko, and Thom Felicia. Produced by my friends at Experiential Agency, Buddha Bar put on a spectacle of a show - a mix of performance art and acrobatics that descended from the vaulted ceiling - while revelers danced to soon-to-be-released tracks by legendary DJ Sam Popat, creator of the popular Buddha Bar compilations. Check out the NY Times video coverage of the event.

The goal of the annual festival, which continues through May 19th, is to highlight the particular taste of the artist curating it and to introduce New York to talented acts from around the world. Performances and events are being held at different venues near the High Line which runs through the Meatpacking, West Chelsea and Clinton/Hell's Kitchen. A portion of proceeds from ticket sales will go to benefit Friends of the High Line, an organization working with the City of New York to transform the 1930's elevated rail structure in a public space in 2008.

There are still some amazing events coming up. To buy tickets for shows including Polyphonic Spree and The Secret Machines, (photo below, left) visit the festival's web site Claude Cahun's photography exhibit will run from May 18th -20th (photo below, right) in the gardens of the General Theological Seminary (175 Ninth Avenue). Open to the public and free of charge, it is not to be missed.

After seeing the photographer's work in Paris, Bowie was fascinated and had the following to say:

"You could call her transgressive or you could call her a cross dressing Man Ray with surrealist tendencies. I find this work really quite mad, in the nicest way."

Which coming from Ziggy Stardust is truly the finest of compliments.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Say It With Flowers

Nothing says Spring more than a bouquet of fresh flowers. But, do you ever wonder what the flowers you send say about you?

Whether you are professing your undying love, sending your condolences, begging for forgiveness or thanking your hostess, the gift of flowers can be wonderfully emotive.

Yet, your heartfelt message may be inadvertently misunderstood if you send a scrawny arrangement covered in cheap plastic wrap from 1-800-Flowers. In this case, your gift may not effectively assuage the anger of a scorned lover nor console a wounded friend.

This communication breakdown can be easily remedied by finding a florist with impeccable taste that understands not only your personal style but your relationship needs.

With Mother's Day just around the corner (and what relationship could be more important than Mom), I reached out to one of my favorite florists, Elizabeth Ryan, (411 East 9th Street, 212-995-1111) who has done events for everyone from Paris Hilton to the Dalai Lama. She shares the following advice.

Try to give general characteristics of the recipient (preppy, modern, bohemian) and then, if possible, move on to more personal details (loves the beach, from the British countryside). A good florist should be able to interpret all the information he/she is given and create something that will appeal to the person's personality and style as well as convey the right message.

For Mother's Day, Elizabeth recommends a mixed spring arrangement (shown above), including a combination of any of the following flowers that are now in season: lilacs, peonies (her favorite and mine), roses, sweat peas, tulips, vibernum, lysianthus. Prices start at $65 with $15 delivery in Manhattan. Mother's Day orders will be sent on Saturday.

Another incredible floral designer is L'Olivier Floral Atelier (19 East 76th Street, 212-774-7676) who has another location downtown on 14th Street. They have a beautiful tulip arrangement in a rectangular vase for $150 which makes a strong visual statement (photo top center).

Finally, VSF (which stands for Very Special Flowers located on 204 West 10th Street, 212-206-7236) is popular with the fashion crowd. I especially like their tightly packed arrangements with Vandella roses, mini calla lilies and snowball hydrangeas all in creams and whites (shown above). The tone on tone is fresh and elegant. A great choice for anyone who appreciates the understated look.

It seems as though a talented florist can work wonders on all of your personal relationships by eloquently telling the people in your life just how your feel. Now, if only your therapist could understand.....

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Cinco De Mayo

Everyone loves to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Yet, ask those same people about the origins of the holiday and you will be surprised how little they know.

After sending out invitations to my little fiesta, I was amused at the responses I received from my (highly educated) friends.

How do they celebrate the holiday in Spain? It's Mexican...

Would I be hanging a skeleton on the door? It's not the Day the Dead...

What day is it on? Cinco de Mayo is the 5th of May in Spanish...duh!

For those of you that care, Cinco de Mayo is a national holiday in Mexico that celebrates the victory of Mexican forces over the French occupation in the Battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862.

For the rest of you, it's just a night to party and drink a lot of tequila. Here is what you need to know:

Tequila is made from the blue agave plant and was first produced in the early 1800's in Western Mexico. It is considered North America's first indigenous distilled spirit. There are 3 major categories:

Blanco or Silver:
Clean and transparent with strong flavor of the blue agave. Bottled right after distillation.

Pale color with mellow flavor. Blanco aged in white oak casks for 2 months to 1 year.

Amber color with woody rich flavor. Aged for more than 1 year in oak barrels.

I'm serving two types of Milagro tequila for my party. Silver for those who want to have margaritas and mojitos. Select Barrel Reserve Anejo, which is aged for three years, for connoisseurs who prefer their tequila over ice with nothing more than a squeeze of lime.

To try something new, head down to La Esquina (203 Lafayette Street, 646-613-7100), one of my favorite Mexican restaurants which has an incredible tequila menu with over 100 choices as well as some super premium selections such as Patron Gran Platinum ($48/glass) and Don Julio "1942" ($44/glass). Their waitstaff is very knowledgeable so ask them for recommendations. Order the Tequila Flights, tastings of three, which will introduce you to new flavors and combinations.

So, unless you just returned from Spring Break, please retire the shot glass. With so many premium choices of tequila these days, growing up has never been more fun!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!