The collection of boutiques located inside the Plaza Hotel presents exclusive products, from jewelry and handbags to specialty foods, offering hotel patrons the opportunity to shop without ever having to leave the building. My best discovery, however, was the high-end children's clothing store, Couture Kids, where I was able to engage in conversation with co-owner Diane Parisella. Although only open a month when I was there in December, 2014, Diane was excited to say that she felt they were off to a good start. When asked about her background, Diane laughed and said that she has worked in "basically every store in Manhattan on a street in the 50s," dealing with wholesale for a long time before switching back to retail. "I missed the more direct contact with the public." Well, there is no doubt that she is getting plenty of that at Couture Kids, where parents generally come in with their children in tow. She adores the little ones, but as Diane said "it can sometimes be interesting giving fashion advice to a two-year old."
Being located inside the mini mall works well for Couture Kids, and Diane has found the support of the PR and marketing team at the Plaza to be a great help. When I commented on the rather upscale labels that she had on the little hangers against the wall, Diane explained that she deliberately does not have the brands that Bergdorf Goodman's has nearby. Rather, she focuses on clothes and accessories from Fendi, Versace, Cavalli, and Petit Bateau. Initially, Diane and her partner only offered the fashionable clothes for newborn to six years, but due to demand they quickly expanded to include larger sizes. Among the items I took note of were a Fendi jacket with real fur, as well a matching diaper bag and stroller from this exclusive designer. Diane smiled when I expressed my astonishment, and said, "Yes, I, actually have sold out of some of these pieces of merchandise and have had to reorder." And when I commented on foreigners being her best customer, she, too, said how surprised she was by the number of shoppers from the immediate area. "I thought it would be all tourists, but most of my customers live on Park Avenue."
Beautifully decorated for the holiday season, Bistro Vendome was still abuzz with chatter when the Manhattan Sideways team stopped by at the tail end of lunch hour to meet with the delightful owner, Virginie Petiteau. Although she and her husband Pascal, who is the executive chef, hail from Brittany, France, they met in New York, where they both worked at Jubilee, a French restaurant on First Avenue. After fifteen years there, Virginie said they felt ready to open their own place. She told us that it was great to already have a base of customers in the area that knew and supported them when they opened Bistro Vendome in 2010. And she was pleased to tell us that they have maintained a loyal clientele ever since. As Virginie put it: "Some people who come here saw me when I was pregnant, and now my daughter is fourteen. "Pascal started working at high-end French restaurants in France at an early age. After coming to New York, he decided to focus on more casual French food. In 2014, he was inducted as Master Chef in Mątres Cuisiniers de France, a prestigious organization aiming "to preserve and spread the French culinary arts, encourage training in cuisine, and assist professional development. " An unusual occurrence continued to happen as we resumed our walking on 58th, as so many other businesses told us that they eat at Bistro Vendome on a regular basis because the food was as traditionally French as one could hope for in Manhattan.
Trendy, immense, packed at any hour and serving intriguing Pan-Asian food, Tao has been a sensation on 58th since opening its doors in 2000. Stepping inside, one cannot help but immediately feel transported to a different world. The interior design is exceptionally meticulous with beautiful calligraphy scrolls adorning the high ceilings, and a sixteen foot massive Buddha sculpture taking center stage down below. Despite the frenetic atmosphere, I have found Tao to be a fun restaurant to dine with friends and to enjoy an excellent meal.