Tuesday, September 1, 2009

This too is ambience.

My friend who lives in Texas found this in a restaurant and sent a picture of the menu.

Now, I spend a lot of time arguing over how things I want to talk about count as ambience, but really, when they gave me this blog I just said, "Sonya's got cocktails, Bret has food, so just give me everything else about the dining experience."

If something makes you laugh, it is totally part of the dining experience. If I lived in Texas, I would definitely bring out of town guests to that restaurant to see "Pie as a vegetable." (Oh, who am I kidding? I would totally always get pie instead of vegetables. In fact, I would convert green beans, broccoli and potatoes into pie for a mere $2.85.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What? This *totally* counts as "ambience"

Thrillist, which always gets scoops before me, emailed this morning with news and pictures of Bianca's, opening August 25 at 550 W 38th St, near 11th Ave in Hell's Kitchen. (Which is really inside HeadQuarters men's club.)


The blood-red lounge space warms the cockles of my tiny, rockabilly heart. It looks like a 1940s boudoir -- but the boudoir of some "bad girl," not Kate Hepburn or Lana Turner. (Maybe the boudoir of a prostitute cut to look like Lana Turner...) That's an LA Confidential reference, so I can't get in trouble for saying "prostitute" on this blog, right?

Regulars I'm sure will note that we keep reporting on the success of the "breastaurant," which is one of the only restaurant genres doing noticeably well in this economy. And Hooters really can call itself a family restaurant when Robert's at the Penthouse Club and Bianca's in HeadQuarters feature actual nakedness.

For me, the most fun part of all this is how much fun restaurant reviewers seem to have writing about these places. Like Thrillist which opens with "They say a way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but who doesn't also heart boobs?" and ends with a description of the food: "... halibut slathered in asparagus and wild mushrooms, whose parents will be devastated that they exposed their caps for a bunch of fratty, middle-aged businessmen."

From Thrillist.com. (Readers with poetic souls may want to click the link, because Thrillist is offering access to whoever sends them the best haiku about food and boobs.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vivienne Westwood gives the best interviews

Vivienne Westwood was predictably spectacular when she appeared last Friday on Jonathan Ross’ BBC1 TV show to talk about climate change. She swept in wearing a gown made of 7 meters of lightweight silk duchess satin cinched with a belt, and Ross had to help her fling her train dramatically across the couch.
“This dress is really 7 metres of fabric,” she said of her ensemble. “It’s got a label on it, so there we are.”

During the course of the interview she and said the best-dressed people are over 70, clothes look better over time if you never wash them, and that people should wear tablecloths and towels and only spend money on things that are truly excellent, like Vivienne Westwood.


He had golden chains on his leather jacket

Rock and roll style and cheap, DIY-fashion are two trends that are still going strong as the recession continues. It's an easy project to combine those by decorating random shirts, pants or bags with motorcycle-inspired studs. New Yorkers can pick up studs, as well as buttons, rhinestones, ribbons and other DIY supplies at Daytona Trimming & Braid on 39th st. between 7th and 8th.




They come in silver and gold and can be found in all kinds of shapes like dots, stars, spikes and pyramids. They’re just a few dollars for a couple dozen, and they don’t require any special tools to apply. They have spiky ends on their backs, and you just push those through your material and bend them over with your hands or something hard. Knives and spoons work well for that.

In the window: LV’s dancing bags

Louis Vuitton on the corner of 5th Ave and 57th has updated its windows with animatronics that make bags spin around and glide through doors like model trains.

This logo-stamped mirror-finish monogram Speedy spins around on its axis, flashing at passersby.

Cupcakes and furniture

BoConcept, the interior design concept with 7 stores in New York, has decided to expand its purview a little bit by teaming its Chelsea store with Kyotofu, which makes Japanese-inspired pastries. The co-branded kiosk has a selection of coffees and full-sized and miniature versions of Kyotofu’s signature pastries.



Gift wrap made me do it

It can be such a let-down to spend a lot of time and money picking out the perfect gift and then get stuck having to wrap it up in fat Santas or cartoon chipmunks saying, “Happy birthday!”

Washi, traditional Japanese wrapping paper, makes presenting a gift as elegant and tasteful as whatever is inside. (Or more so. There’s no reason you can’t show up with a 6-pack of edible panties wrapped in fancy paper.)


Styles vary from cute and girly to bold and gilded to dramatically understated. How chic is that striped one on the end?


Rolls are available for $7-$16 at Kinokuniya Japanese bookstore on 6th Ave. between 40th and 41st, across from Bryant Park.

Facebook is so hot right now, says J.C. Penney

Women’s Wear Daily reports that J.C. Penney Co. Inc. is gearing up for back-to-school by launching a website for teenagers and a page on Facebook. According to executive vice president and chief marketing officer Mike Boylson, the move is part of the company’s plan to get deeper into digital media this year.
In a classic, “You’re a great girl, but …” moment to traditional media, he explained the strategy by saying: “Traditional media is still important, but each year they are losing their effectiveness and costs are going up so we are evolving from broadcasting to narrow casting, which is much more targeted.”

That sound you hear is a million print journalists crying over their lost ad pages.

[Women's Wear Daily]

Tie one on

A lot of guys don’t start having to wear ties regularly until they grow up and get jobs at places with dress codes. They probably know how to put one on, but a lot of them don’t know what to do with it once they’ve taken it off. Ties like to hang flat so their insides don’t lose their shape, so it’s not a good idea to store them in a roll in your sock drawer. Besides, you don’t want your head to smell like feet. To protect and store ties, you need an old-school tie rack so they can hang flat.

This one is a good option because it won’t take up a lot of room at the end of your closet. The ties go inside the arms and drape over the side so they won’t slide off. If you hang the ties with their ends towards the back, you’ll be able to slide out the one you want without disturbing the others.

This one spins.
It seems like an inefficient use of space, but it’s a neat toy.

If you’re a fancy guy who owns many leather-bound books, something like this might be more your style:

That one has the benefit of also being able to be used for belts, so your artfully distressed, reclaimed-leather ceinture doesn't start to look scruffy. But belts can be difficult because when you get them all properly stored, the next one you want is inevitably at the back of the belt hook. This belt-holder co-opts three-ring-binder technology to store belts on big clicky circles, so you can open them wherever you want to retrieve the desired one.

Above items sourced from The Container Store

Monday, July 13, 2009

Store Sidekicks: Swatches The Boston Terrier, At Mood

This is Store Sidekicks, a new end-of-the-week feature where we profile the fuzzy wuzzy creatures that inhabit shops across the city. If you'd like to nominate your favorite store animal, drop us a line at


Swatches the super-friendly Boston Terrier is an enthusiastic greeter at the Project Runway-featured Mood Fabrics on 37th. Boston Terriers are known for being intelligent and loving the company of humans, and Swatches’ super puppy brain has keyed him into the prime people-meeting areas of the store. Most days he can be found by the front of the store near the cash registers or the store entrance, wherever there are more customers talking about how cute he is. Swatches prefers back rubs to tummy rubs, and he likes to eat chewing gum, which is hilarious.

Coloring book chic

Designer Berber Soepboer created her “Colour-In” dress with the idea of making clothing that would be partly designed by the person wearing it. The dresses were made for an exhibition about a textile factory, but the Colour-In dress’ flattering cut, graphic pattern and playful, coloring book aesthetic attracted enough attention that it was put into production. The black and white dress comes with textile markers for coloring in the pattern to create a unique garment that is customized for each wearer.


The Colour-In dress is available by special order for 238 Euros or $333 at http://berbersoepboer.nl.

Street Scenes: India at Kinokuniya.

Today's Street Scenes subject is India, shot at Kinokuniya on 5th Ave. between 40th and 41st. Feel free to vote on whether you like or dislike her outfit below. Your choices are 'Perfection!,' 'So close,' 'I feel strangely ambivalent about it,' or 'Who did this to you?'


India is wearing a blazer and shirt by H&M, shorts by Target, shoes by DV Dolce Vita and a bag from Foley & Corinna. Her favorite store is The Reformation.

This is India at Kinokuniya. What do you think of her outfit?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

If Landmarks likes it, then you should put a ring around it

Lately I've been writing a lot about restaurants in Landmark-protected buildings. Historical sites are fantastic for restaurants, because they come equipped with a natural sense of history and ambience that is really difficult, and expensive, to fake. The down side to that, however, is that the Landmarks Protection and Preservation Commission is extremely dedicated to keeping these spaces as they are, and they can be tough about letting restaurateurs change things like lighting and fixtures.

New York Magazine's design editor, Wendy Goodman, discovered that the Ace Hotel in New York found a clever way to get around the problem by installing hanging lamps that ring the space's columns without actually touching them.

From Nymag.com

While we're on the subject of Landmarks, another benefit to landmark status is that your insurance is required to replace everything exactly as it was in case of a fire or other emergency. Without Landmark status, an insurer can, and probably will, argue that there is no need to replace a 19th-century tin roof with another tin roof, when something modern and cheaper would do just as well.

For more landmark restaurants, see also:
The Oak Room

Friday, May 1, 2009

Eye Candy: Dune

I have some pictures of Michael Getter's soon-to-open Nantucket restaurant, Dune, and the place looks pretty chill and sandy. They sent one picture in particular, which shows the custom stone bar top. Stone is always cool when it works out, because every piece is unique and has its own shapes and colors. They got pretty excited about this piece for the restaurant, because as soon as they looked at it they saw a pattern in the stone that looked like Nantucket island.

For reference, this is a map of Nantucket:

The bar top is naturally patterned Brazilian quartzite fabricated by GerrityStone.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Eye Candy: This blog post brought to you by the letters "O" and "A"

I loved fireworks when I was 5 or 6. Then I became cool and they were "so lame" until I turned 21, which is when I figured out that one of the great gourmet pairings of the world is the marriage of fireworks and beer. Honestly, when else can you say, "Ooo" and "Aaaa" without a trace of irony?

I'm embarrassed to admit I said that out loud just now, even though I'm in my plain beige cubicle and there are neither fireworks nor beer within 100 feet. All I actually did was open a press release from a British company called Limlip that makes fiber optic chandeliers. They look like this:




This is like Laser Floyd.

I was going to write about "A properly orchestrated lighting schematic is essential to the deployment of blah blah ambience blah." But I'm easily distracted by brightly colored glowing things. I'm also fairly certain that those chandeliers would do truly amazing things to any women who happened to be wearing sequined dresses while sitting under them.

They also do plain crystal chandeliers that don't glow or anything. They just look like this:

Look! It's space!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bobo's stuffed cat freaks out fashion bloggers

Bobo hosted the presentation (sort of a low-cost alternative to a runway show where fashion people walk around the clothes instead of seeing them on catwalk parade) for fashion designers Alison Lewis and Ashley Granata last night.

During the fashion show, a few bloggers from fashionista.com saw Bobo's stuffed bobcat for the first time and vaguely freaked out. Bobo's stuffed bobcat hangs from the ceiling and wears a pink tutu and pearls "like it was Audrey Hepburn," say the fashion bloggers. They thought he was dressed up for the fashion event, but really those are just his everyday clothes.

As far as hanging preserved animals from the ceiling, the Bobo cat may rival the Trader Vic's fish for this year's most terrifying decor award.

(I don't have pictures, but they do.)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hawaiian Tropic Zone plans renovations

Hawaiian Tropic Zone, the suntan-theme Times Square restaurant with waitresses in bikinis and a menu by David Burke, announced today that it would be launching a $500,000 renovation after serving 1,000,000 customers.

The renovation is under direction of architect Robert Parnes of Tobin & Parnes Design Enterprises. The plan is to consolidate the 200-seat restaurant on the second floor of the building, vacating the street-level space to free up 3,100 square feet for a new retail tenant.

The restaurant will be closing for renovations February 8, so there are a few days left if you need to get in there before it reopens on May 1.

If you visit the website, you can see photos of the "table concierges" and read about their "guilty pleasures," "pet peeves" and favorite celebrities. Unfortunately there's no page for Burke, so we don't get to find out his feelings on rude people or guys who have dirty nails. Maybe he could borrow Melanie's leopard print bikini.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Restaurants of the future

TheWit Hotel is under construction in Chicago, and they're shooting for an opening in May, coinciding with the National Restaurant Association Restaurant Hotel-Motel Show. That sounds like pretty good timing, given that the NRA show tends to consume every hotel in Chicago over that weekend. In fact, over on the Knot wedding-planning boards, the NRA show is the bane of every Chicago bride who wants to wed that weekend, because she had nowhere to put any of her guests.

Anyway, the hotel will include three restaurants by Atlanta-based restaurant development and management firm, Concentrics Restaurants. We've picked up some renderings from their PR department.

State and Lake: State and Lake will be an artisanal American restaurant on the ground floor of the hotel, overseen by chef Bradley Manchester, previously with Hotel ZaZa in Houston as well as ENVY Steakhouse and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Cibo Matto: "Crazy Food" will do modern Italian, also under chef Todd Stein. Situated on the second floor of the hotel, Cibo Matto will feature a 10-foot glass salumi and cheese display, a 4,000 bottle wine vault and a Chef’s Table in the kitchen, as well as a 30-foot fresco on the ceiling by acclaimed artist and Chicago native, Todd Murphy, who has been collected by celebrities such as Sting and Elton John. This one might open by the end of the summer; ceiling frescoes are time-intensive projects.

Stein will also oversee Roof, a 7,000-square-foot destination serving small plates and artisanal cocktails atop the 27th floor of the hotel, featuring both indoor and outdoor spaces open year-round.