New York has its own version of the palace of Versailles and it is called the Baccarat Hotel. If anything in the city can be called “exquisite, ” it is this luxury destination on 53rd Street. The first time I entered the intriguing vestibule, I was greeted by a charming gentleman who immediately had me turn my head towards the “vertical chandelier. ” He proudly told me that it was made up of 2016 Baccarat crystal glasses stacked on one another, lit up in ever-changing patterns. Lined with mirrors, this small hall seemed to extend infinitely in either direction, but the magnificent chandeliers above my head echoed upwards into eternity. And then the doorman recommended taking the elevator one flight up to see the lobby. This is where the real sensation presented itself. As the elevator doors opened, I found myself in one of a series of salons lined with crystals, glass, and statuettes. I was breathless, feeling more like I was in a museum with artfully placed display cases filled with shimmering antiques on loan from the French government. The windows themselves, which are also visible from the street, resemble the ribbed exterior of a crystal decanter. This comparison is probably no mistake: the “Baccarat” of Baccarat hotel is indeed the same Baccarat of the world-renowned crystal company. Under new management, the brand has been expanded to include luxury hotels. Though New York is their first, there are already plans to open locations in Morocco and Dubai. As I continued to explore the veritable palace, I found a smaller room with a ceiling that seemed to be covered in cracked glass. It offered an extra level of privacy and sophistication. Back in the main room, a long table stood covered in breathtaking globes made of roses and a fountain of wine bottles surrounded by multicolor flutes. Guests sat in chairs lined with fur, drinking out of crystal glasses. Continuing down the hall, there was a pristine bar room with blindingly white chairs and an outdoor balcony with elegant monochromatic seating. Despite the elegance and grandeur of the Baccarat, there is not one drop of pretension. Every staff member I met was extremely friendly, and the sentiment was one of whimsy rather than austerity. An alcove demonstrated this playful character with shelves holding pure white books each marked with a different year. Every one was blank, except for page numbers. I discovered that their purpose is so that guests can write secret messages to future visitors. All the writer needs to do is give the recipient the year and the page number. The hotel hopes to see many wedding proposals made this way. On the last shelf there is one red book, marked with “2015, ” the year the hotel was opened. One red item is a Baccarat trademark: Before exiting, I entertained myself by gliding through the rooms identifying the red jewel in each of the glittering chandeliers. It did not take me long to find an excuse to return to this sophisticated fairyland with my family. I chose my daughter's birthday to dazzle them. Only this time, we sat at the sixty-foot bar, ordered cocktails and champagne and a favorite, gougeres - scrumptious cheese filled puffs. After this, we headed downstairs to dine at the splendid Chevalier Restaurant.
At the heart of midtown, St. Regis New York asserts itself with a resplendent flourish. This hotel's stately facade and gleaming lobby are trumpeters of a legacy that began in 1904 with the inspiration of Colonel John Jacob Astor I - a man whose place in the elite high society of Gilded Age America has not been forgotten. Simply by stepping inside, St. Regis immediately declares itself a veritable symbol of luxury, elegance and historic status. Those who seek the royal treatment will find a haven in the 229-room hotel, which upholds exceptional service as a foremost column of its prestige. Its signature Butler Service promises constant personalized attention; butlers pack and unpack luggage, perform wake-up calls, press clothes, deliver items, and attend to any number of other tailored requests for their customers. Through its more than century-long history, the hotel has hosted celebrities of every era. Marilyn Monroe was one of the most glamorous to visit, while Marlene Dietrich, William Paley, and Salvador Dalí - with his wife and pet ocelot - lived at the hotel for extended periods. But St. Regis New York is not exclusively a nest of the rich and famous. The more common among us in search of an impressive site for weddings and other exceptional occasions may find the coveted taste of specialness in this establishment. Even I had the honor of walking down the aisle in their magnificent ballroom in 1980, when I was a bridesmaid for one of my dearest friends.
This twenty-three story building was constructed in 1905 under the name of Hotel Gotham and bankrupted three years thereafter. Blame has been given to its close proximity to the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church who obstructed the sale of liquor. Fortunately for the Peninsula New York, as it was renamed upon reopening in 1988, the laws were subsequently reinterpreted. Drinks flow freely in the Peninsula's Bar at Clement and its rooftop bar Salon de Ning. During lunch hours, the restaurant Clement draws throngs of midtown professionals in addition to hotel guests. Its sleek gray and brown decor, enhanced by clusters of diversely shaped wall mirrors and vast windows overlooking Fifth Avenue, conveys an airy, polished feel. It is confidently understated. The Peninsula lobby, on the other hand, takes a much more sensational approach. The entering visitor faces a broad carpeted staircase that ascends with stately symmetry at center before splitting into left and right branches. On the day I walked in, the stairs were flanked with two magnificent, exceptionally tall arrangements of flowers. Marble walls adorned by Corinthian pilasters as well as a glittering chandelier overhead lend this lobby the feel of a grand ballroom.
Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, which opened in the late summer of 2014, pairs ease with elegance as a welcome addition to 51st Street. “We live in a very fast-paced world. ” In midtown Manhattan, these words resonate. But spoken by Aldo Sohm, seated at a table in his eponymous wine bar, they seem incongruous. “The idea is basically that when you walk in here, you walk into my living room. To me, it’s always important that you be in a place where you feel comfortable. ”Sohm continues his role as wine director at Le Bernardin, the four-star restaurant located across the 6½ Avenue pedestrian plaza. At the wine bar, however, he and Le Bernardin’s co-owners, Maguy Le Coze and Eric Ripert, have created a setting distinct from the formal restaurants in Manhattan, in its simplicity and lack of pretense. To be clear, it shares the elegance and attention to quality of its neighbors. But upon entering, an open arrangement of sofas beckons patrons to sit down. Sohm has noticed guests who arrived separately conversing across tables - sometimes even discussing their choice in wine. And wine is the focus at Aldo Sohm. Eric Ripert, Le Bernardin’s acclaimed chef, oversees the food menu; so, whether wine accompanies lunch, dinner, or a snack, it promises to impress. Guests can order bites to complement a glass of wine, like a grilled foie gras “lollipop” or a warm skewer of baby beets. Shareables include a whole baked cauliflower and a plate of Murray’s cheese with a Maison Kayser baguette. Sohm emphasizes the flexibility of the experience. If not in the lounge area, there are tall square tables for seating. The thick oak “sommelier table” incorporated into the bar seats guests on both sides, ensuring that no one is excluded from conversation. Sohm chose these arrangements intentionally. The wine bar endeavors to be unpretentious, relaxing and fun. Evoking this sensation, the architectural firm Bentel & Bentel incorporated clean lines and bold color in designing the interior. Sohm and his co-owners deliberated considerably in choosing the art in their “living room. ” Ample shelves extend to the double height ceiling, featuring artifacts meaningful to Sohm. Having grown up in Austria, Sohm points out, “I like things very very clean, very European. I like colors on top of it. ” A stack of Interior Design magazines becomes a design object itself as a cube of rainbow spines. The curves of miniature Panton S-chairs, each a different color, mirror the charred wood molds of the delicately hand-blown Zalto glasses in which each wine is served. Sohm is the brand ambassador for Zalto, an Austrian-based glassware manufacturer. To learn more about the varied wine offerings, visitors can reserve the tasting room. Aerial photographs of wine growing regions flank the eight-person table, allowing the sommelier to incorporate a visual element and story of provenance to the tasting. Sohm - once designated the “Best World Sommelier” by the Worldwide Sommelier Association - maintains humility despite his accomplishments. He wants the wine bar to be just as down to earth; an antidote to a demanding day, it exudes precision and sophistication.
While the lineups at Radio City Music Hall have changed dramatically over the years, the "Showplace of the Nation" has long been at the center of the city's entertainment scene. Opened to the public in 1932, the Art Deco building, with almost six thousand seats, was initially intended to "house high-class variety entertainment. " However, the space was later converted to a movie hall, with films accompanied by stage shows. This lasted until 1979 when, for a variety of reasons, Radio City began transitioning into a concert hall. Besides consistently booking some of music's hottest stars, Radio City has also hosted numerous award shows, including The Grammys and The Tony Awards and is the home to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes, a tradition that commenced in 1933.
Saar, which translates to “the essence of something, ” has a double meaning for Pastry Chef Surbhi Sahni. It represents the essence of Indian food, as well as the essence of her relationship with her husband, Chef Hemant Mathur. Although Surbhi has been in the industry with Hemant for years, the two have not worked together on a daily basis since their days at their Michelin-starred restaurants, Devi and Tulsi, both of which are now closed. Saar represents their fresh start while also staying true to their culture and roots. When Surbhi and Hemant met in 2000, Hemant was teaching Indian cooking classes at New York University as he was getting ready to open Tamarind on Park Avenue. Surbhi joined the opening team at Tamarind, designing the tearoom and promoting quick lunches. He went on to operate five different spaces, including Sahib, Haldi, Chote Nawab, Malai Marke, and Chola, while Surbhi helped manage events. During that time, she also launched Bittersweet NYC, a pastry business focusing on wedding cakes and Indian style desserts for larger corporate events. Surbhi’s relationship with cooking is unlike the typical love story of most chefs. Her experience in the kitchen started at the age of ten in New Delhi as more of a responsibility and chore when her mother’s health declined. She explained to members of the Manhattan Sideways team, “It was not something I could ever imagine myself doing for the rest of my life. I wanted to do art and write and paint or sing and dance - every other activity in the world but cook. ” Notwithstanding these sentiments, Surbhi was encouraged by her father to take a job in hotel management in New Delhi. She was part of the Sheraton Group’s revolutionary all-female kitchen and restaurant at a time when there were only approximately twenty female chefs in all of New Delhi. At age twenty-five, however, Surbhi chose to move to the United States to pursue her Masters in Anthropology and Food at New York University. Despite never getting to study writing and painting at university, these endeavors have always been an integral part of Surbhi’s life. Her father is an accomplished artist exhibiting in both India and the US. Today, she is proud of her own teenage daughter, Soumyaa. "She is the true artist of the family. " When entering the dining room on 51st Street, Surbhi’s artistic aptitude is obvious. The modern space is both clean and dramatic, with natural light and bright pops of color. Saar was a particularly exciting project for her, as she was given free rein in its design. In a mere five months, she turned what she described as a dingy, confused room into an open, tasteful dining space. Saar has also allowed Surbhi and Hemant to completely reinvent their menu. They focus on regional food, staying authentic to the specific flavors of each area. For example, Surbhi told us that the Turbuj Pachadi - a tomato and watermelon salad with a fennel and ginger dressing - is a Rajasthani staple, as watermelon is a fruit that is readily available there, and is usually consumed with freshly baked bread. She has also made an effort to challenge conventional conceptions of Indian cuisine. The Mango Coconut Soup is a light and sweet palate opener, proving that Indian food is not always too spicy or a combination of too many flavors. She believes that Indian food is actually very demarcated in the way flavors are put together. “Just how in Japanese food they have many different layers of flavors they add as they’re cooking, we do the same with Indian food. ” While cooking can serve as a creative outlet, Surbhi still tries to write and paint whenever she can. In ending our conversation, Surbhi emphasized the importance of food’s role in building a community - something she looks forward to creating on West 51st Street.
William S. Paley, the creator of CBS, inaugurated the Paley Center for Media in 1975. An iconic figure in the radio and television industries, Paley sought to create a space where visitors could access a massive archive of past and present television and radio shows. Formerly known as The Museum of Broadcasting and later, The Museum of Television and Radio, the Paley Center houses a collection of almost 150, 000 programs, encompassing over 100 years of television and radio history. The Center is an historical record unlike any other and offers a unique and engaging way of understanding our past and present. The Paley Center is a wonderful place to spend a quiet afternoon, unearthing a treasure trove of veritable hidden gems, or - in my daughter's case, some twenty years ago - it was the perfect venue for a birthday party. My husband and I had so much fun introducing about a dozen ten year olds to some of our favorite shows from the 1960s and early 70s
“I’ve never seen Central Park look so small, ” our photographer, Tom, exclaimed when we reached the sixty-fifth floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. We were gazing out at a dazzling view, seen by the fortunate visitors who ascend the elevators to the Rainbow Room, a dining destination since the mid 1930s that has recently re-opened after a five year “facelift. ” For the time being, the public is invited for brunch on Sundays and dinner on Mondays, with the rest of the week reserved for private events. When the Manhattan Sideways team arrived, the late afternoon sun was streaming through the windows, and it became immediately apparent why the restaurant is known as the “Rainbow” Room. From the crystal "curtains" on the windows to the glass balustrades on the railings, each element turns the rays of light into beguiling dancing rainbows - and the ultimate glittering piece is found in the center of the ceiling where the spectacular crystal chandelier hangs. Above the fixture is a circlet of bulbs referred to as "the globe" that can change color and alter the quality of light emitted from the chandelier in order to match different party themes. If looking up was not enough to wow each of us, the marketing team giving us the grand tour then directed our eyes down to the other centerpiece of the room: the rotating dance floor. We were happy to learn that just as much dancing happens today as in the 1930s. We were told that in the weeks since the Rainbow Room unveiled its new look, guests have been eagerly stepping onto the gently spinning disk each night. The two women guiding us through the space agree that this is part of the allure of the Rainbow Room, as it is one of the few places in the city where patrons can dance in ways they are unable to in a nightclub. When I asked the ladies if they had had the chance to try out the dance floor, one of them grinned and admitted that yes, indeed she had. She described the exciting, dizzying feeling of stepping off in between songs to return to her table. I did not have the pleasure of experiencing the dance floor some twenty plus years ago, but I do remember an enchanting evening when I listened to my childhood idol, Leslie Gore, sing some of her classic songs from the 60s including, "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows! "The Rainbow Room is not the only dining establishment on the sixty-fifth floor. Down the hall, past the covered seating area called “the gallery, " SixtyFive was bathed in the light of the sunset. The bar has an excellent after-work vibe with a direct view of the Empire State Building. It also has a new balcony where outdoor seating is available and allows for some of Manhattan's most breathtaking and majestic views. "I am thrilled to be part of an iconic reopening, a part of New York history, " Molly Cohen, the beverage director, declared. While spending time with us, sharing the joy of traveling up sixty-five floors to her job every evening, she explained that she was in charge of creating the exciting cocktail list, broken down in the menu as either “classic” or “contemporary. ” Molly said that her goal is to pay homage to the traditional drinks (since modern mixology "began at the Rainbow Room") and to keep everything simple but imaginative. She is not a fan of being “fussy for the sake of being fussy, ” and prefers uncomplicated drinks that are very well thought-out. She continued by saying that she is equally proud of her wine list. "It is easy to create an excellent cocktail, but harder to please wine drinkers. " Molly encourages people to think of SixtyFive as a great place to return to for a night with friends or business associates, not just as a location for special occasions. She believes that there is a magical quality about the Rainbow Room and SixtyFive: “It’s hard to have a bad time. ”While sitting by the windows, peering out over New York, sipping on cocktails, and sampling some of the new, incredible food items rolling out that evening, we had the pleasure of speaking to Keith Douglas. As the managing director, he told us that he has been a central player during the renovation. He shared the story of bringing up pieces of the old dance floor and finding confetti and newspaper clippings from the 1940s. As he is planning the future of the Rainbow Room, he says he keeps remembering those hidden memories. He thinks about how in eighty years time, another crazy managing director could pull up the floor, see his name, and ask, “Who’s Keith Douglas? ”