How to Brunch Your Way Around the Big Apple
Sex and the City may have originally brought it fame, but the exalted event dubbed "brunch" has continued to be a metropolitan mainstay. More than ever, our vacations are planned around our meals—museums, shows, shoppes, and even hotel locations accommodate where we plan to eat during our vacations. As budget travelers, there is nothing like getting the most bang for your buck while elevating your experience, especially for the most important meal of the weekend. We've rounded up five places that let you brunch your way around the world without ever leaving New York City.
Just around the corner from the West Village's bustling Bleecker Street stems a curious French-inspired gastroteque by the name of Buvette. Known for its wine collection and small plate style, Buvette serves up a brilliant brunch complete with les oeufs "any style," classic croque monsieur, and an array of fresh and flakey patisseries. In the summertime, request a spot in the back garden patio, but for chilly afternoons, cozy up by the front window for top-notch people watching that rivals Paris itself.
Brunch small plates range from $7-$10; 42 Grove Street; ilovebuvette.com
Café Mogador has been in business since 1983, a rarity in the cut throat New York City restaurant scene. After thirty years strong (and around 1,560 brunch weekends!), this Saint Marks Street hot spot is worth the wait, as its line admittedly queues quickly. Classic western mains meet Middle Eastern musts creating egg dishes with hummus, harissa, tabouli, and haloumi. The Village Voice still praises Café Mogador as the "Best Moroccan" among other Mediterranean restaurants, and its brunch offerings definitely have something to do with that adoration.
Try the housemade merguez sausage for $5; 101 Saint Marks Place; cafemogador.com
Cleverly named after its two Viennese expat owners, Eduard Frauneder and Wolfgang Ban, Alphabet City's Edi & the Wolf puts a new wrinkle in an already saturated scene, raising the bar for brunch. While the prices land around typical New York City fare, many choices are sharable, such as the schnitzel and the spätzle that boasts a mound of wild mushrooms, brussel sprouts, and fava beans. Don't miss out on this New York Magazine deemed famous brunch cocktail: Rhubarb Strawberry Mary, made with the Austrian-produced white wine Grüner Veltliner.
Prix fixe includes an entree, kaffe, juice, and croissant for $18; 102 Avenue C; ediandthewolf.com
Ask any local and they would likely never associate the 230 Fifth rooftop bar with brunch. The draw here is not necessarily the scrambled eggs and toast, but the breathtaking view of America's iconic Empire State Building and her skyline. Viewing the striking structure against a bright blue sky, while holding a Royal Mojito in a palm tree-laden garden can make any meal grandiose. Open fifty-two weekends a year, 230 Fifth follows a strict "rain or shine" policy providing not only heat lamps but signature hooded robes for the chillier days.
Classic omelettes start at $11 but the view is priceless; 230 Fifth Avenue, 20th floor; 230-fifth.com
The East Village's Esperanto boasts a ten dollar prix fixe meal that includes bottomless hot coffee or tea, one fresh mimosa or spicy bloody mary, and a mega-portioned traditional Brazilian dish. If you're feeling savory, indulge in the huevos loisada—poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce on a potato shrimp pie. For your sweet tooth, choose the tropical french toast, but be sure to ask for the fresh papaya as your favored fruit topping.
Prix fixe brunch for $10.95; 145 Avenue C; esperantony.com
A New England Must-See
Cathy Bennett Kopf writes for TheOpenSuitcase.com I swear I could hear my daughter's eyes roll back in her head when I suggested we stop by Emily Dickinson's house after touring UMass Amherst. I explained that I feel personally responsible for supporting these types of museums. If old English majors don't visit Emily's home and other important literary sites such as the House of the Seven Gables and Poe's grave, then, really, who will? She conceded, if I promised a sweatshirt in return. Deal. I enjoy touring college campuses, at least I did, the first four or five times. After a while they begin to blend, like Caribbean cruise ports. Since precious vacation days must be spent on this important teen/parent bonding activity, I long ago began to package the campus visit with an unrelated sightseeing adventure. The Emily Dickinson museum is the perfect detour if you're spending the day at one of the schools that comprise the Five College Consortium: Amherst, UMass, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith. The Dickinson houses are operated as one museum offering two different guided tours, a 90-minute one that includes the Homestead and The Evergreens (brother Austin's house) or a shorter, 45-minute one. Our docent was a trim, somber woman who could not believe my daughter's lack of interest in the Emily Dickinson Poetry Marathon. Who could possibly pass on the chance to read all of the Belle's 1,789 poems in one sitting? Emily's house tour includes the parlor, library, and bedroom where she'd sit in the evening at her tiny writing desk and haul out the bits and scribbles that she'd tucked in her pocket throughout the day. You'll learn little fun facts about the poet; for example, she was a prize-winning bread baker. What you won't hear though are any of the salacious stories about the family, like those told in Lyndall Gordon's "Lives Like Loaded Guns." Apparently, Brother Austin routinely held trysts with his paramour, Mabel Todd, on the Homestead's living room couch. (Our guide mentioned only that the couch had been reupholstered.) The tour concluded with a brief discussion of Emily's poetry, comparing her freestyle verse with the more structured work of contemporaries like Emerson. When asked to read "I'm Nobody" out loud, I know my daughter considered vaulting through the window. Besides the sweatshirt, I offered compensatory cuisine—lunch at The Lone Wolf, one of Amherst's excellent independent restaurants. She scarfed down chocolate chip pancakes while I enjoyed an Eggs Benedict Florentine. The restaurant is open seven days a week until 2 p.m. and, in addition to traditional breakfast fare, offers a number of Southwest and vegan options. My favorite line in Dickinson's poetry is "To live is so startling, it leaves very little time for anything else." What's yours?
See the Mansions That Inspired The Great Gatsby!
Have you got Gatsby fever? This week, director Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby opens with Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, the tragic hero who amasses a fortune in an attempt to win back his first love. As dreamy as DiCaprio will appear on screens around the world, the Oscar winner will be rivaled by his opulent surroundings. Fitzgerald concocted a fictional Long Island community of knockout mansions, swimming pools, and endless Roaring Twenties parties, and Luhrmann's film promises to deliver a typically over-the-top interpretation of that lost world. But you can actually take a peek at the way the real-life Gatsbys of the early 20th century lived on Long Island's North Shore, in an area known as the Gold Coast. Here, four beautiful mansions that inspired The Great Gatsby—and are open to the public less than an hour from New York City. Oheka Castle. This 1919 mansion was the second-largest private residence in the U.S. and has long been rumored to be the inspiration for F. Scott Fitgerald's Gatsby mansion. Built by banker Otto Kahn, the estate's house and gardens once saw guests that included the opera singer Enrico Caruso, the composer George Gershwin, and the vaudeville star Fanny Brice. Today, it is available for private events but visitors can call ahead and request a tour or an overnight stay. (136 West Gate Drive, Huntington, NY, oheka.com) Old Westbury Gardens. This 1906 home was built by philanthropist John S. Phipps for his family. The house is a Charles II-style mansion with a priceless collection of furniture and fine arts. Its 160 acres serve as an impressive botanical gardens, with more than 100 species of trees, gardens, and classical statuary. The grounds include a plant shop, gift shop, and café. (71 Old Westbury Road, Old Westbury, NY, oldwestburygardens.org) Vanderbilt Museum & Planetarium. This vibrant museum would be worth visiting even if it weren't the former home of the great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Overlooking Northport Harbor and Long Island Sound, the mansion is open for guided tours, and the museum's planetarium is one of the best in the U.S., with high-definition sky shows. The museum also features an observatory on clear evenings for stargazers. (180 Little Neck Road, Centerport, NY, vanderbiltmuseum.org) Nassau County Museum of Art. We associate major art collections with big cities, but here in Roslyn Harbor, in a three-story Georgian mansion that was once the Frick estate, you'll find a world-class collection of fine art, a sculpture park, the Art Space for Children, and a school for budding artists. (One Museum Drive, Roslyn Harbor, NY, nassaumuseum.org) TALK TO US! We want to know: What movies have inspired you to pack your bags and travel?
8 of the U.K.'s Crowd-Free—But Amazing—Natural Landmarks
Sophie Gackowski for HomeAway UK You've probably heard of Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, and the White Cliffs of Dover are certainly no secret. But have you ever been to Thor's Cave, the Brimham Rocks or Speedwell Cavern? Here we list just eight of the UK's unusual but unsung sites; each an awesome masterpiece courtesy of Mother Nature. So next time you're enjoying a vacation in our fair isles, you can visit natural landmarks without the excessive crowds. 1. SPEEDWELL CAVERN Situated in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales, you'll find spectacular Speedwell Cavern. A large underground vault that you navigate by boat, its limestone depths house superb stalactites and stalagmites. If you have the time, why not visit its neighboring cave? Although it's named after a rather rude British word for the Devil's rear end, it's an impressive sight nonetheless! 2. LOUGHAREEMA LAKE Loughareema Lake has got to be one of Northern Ireland's strangest sights; if you can see it, that is. Also known as the "Vanishing Lake," its bed near Ballycastle is made of leaky chalk, so when peat isn't plugging its bottom, the waters drain rapidly underground. You'd have no clue it was there if it weren't for the local sign: Even engineers were fooled into building a road right through it! 3. CALLANISH STONES There are many standing stones on the Isle of Lewis, but the collection at Callanish (or Calanais, in Gaelic) is the best known of them all. Monolithic rocks dating back at far as 3,000 B.C., they're a romantic reminder of Scotland's ancient past. Admire the three sets of stone circles as they rise proud against a Hebridean sunset: The pink and russet hues are an experience not to be missed. 4. THOR'S CAVE Thor's Cave is a large natural cavern, nestled in the Manifold Valley of Staffordshire. Its entrance, an impressive arch about 30 feet high and 24 feet wide, is located more than 200 feet above the ground in a steep, limestone cliff, offering panoramic views of the valley. At its ancient heart, remains of extinct animals, jewellery, and pottery shards have been found dating back to the Stone Age. 5. RHAEADR FAWR FALLS Abergwyngregyn might sound like a mouthful, but this sleepy village in Wales is just a few miles from Aber Falls. Known as Rhaeadr Fawr Falls in Welsh, the 100-plus-foot-high torrent spills out over a rocky sill, situated along the picturesque coastal trail, the North Wales Path. With Bronze Age settlements and plenty of picnic benches in the area, it's long been a popular spot for a sunny afternoon. 6. BRIMHAM ROCKS A bizarre collection of rock formations on the Brimham Moor, North Yorkshire, this superb series of landmarks boasts an enviable location. Situated in some 50 acres of the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you'll find towering rocks with names like the Watchdog, the Dancing Bear, the Sphinx and the Turtle. Try viewing them from all angles to guess the name before you hear it! 7. FINGAL'S CAVE Fingal's Cave is trickier to reach than the other natural landmarks on this list, but if you can make the boat trip to the Isle of Staffa, you won't regret it. Part of the Inner Hebrides, Staffa is an uninhabited and entirely volcanic island, home to a number of strange sea caves. The structure of Fingal's Cave, however, is unique: Formed solely from hexagonally joined basalt columns, the cathedral-like cavern inspired composer Felix Mendelssohn's "Hebrides Overture." 8. LONG MAN OF WILMINGTON A gargantuan man carved into the slopes of Windover Hill, East Sussex, the Long Man of Wilmington's been around for a very long time! No one knows exactly when he first came about, or why the unusual drawing is there, but that's all part of this enormous chalk figure's allure. Measuring in at around 200 feet tall (he's the tallest in the United Kingdom), the enigmatic gentleman holds a stave in each hand. Follow Sophie Gackowski on Google+.
Lake George: One of New York's Unsung Sweet Spots
Cathy Bennett Kopf writes for TheOpenSuitcase.com It was Christmas in July when Dad brought home the silver Plymouth Fury station wagon. It meant that my brother, sister and I no longer had to fight over who had to sit in the middle of the back seat with their feet on the hump (where the drive shaft used to be). Someone got to ride in the rear-facing third seat, stretched out on the luxurious naugahyde, like Cleopatra on her chaise, napping or making faces at the passengers in the car behind us. This was a huge deal because summer meant vacation and vacation meant road trip. I was the oldest. I was the loudest. I got that back seat. One of our favorite locations was Lake George, the threshold to New York's Adirondacks. My parents had visited as newlyweds (they took a picture of him in the stocks at Fort William Henry). Attractions included Storytown USA, an amusement park that combined an area devoted to nursery rhymes with one simulating the Wild West. We prospected at Barton's Garnet Mines. The birthstone ring I purchased in the gift shop continues to occupy a special place in my jewelry box even though it turned my finger ogre-green that summer. Accommodations were roadside motels with ice cold swimming pools or bungalows situated on the frigid lake. We went back with our kids and things hadn't changed much at all. Storytown's now a Great American theme park and a large hotel was constructed with an indoor water park, permitting swimming without the risk of hypothermia. The Mohican and the Minne Ha Ha, an authentic paddlewheeler, keep cruising the lake, operated by the Lake George Steamship Company, founded in 1817. The motels still line Route 9 and their pools are ringed by Solair chairs, the plastic bowls with holes that created monstrous grid patterns on my thighs in 1973. It's not cellulite; it's residual pool chair damage. It rained during most of our stay at Roaring Brook Ranch, but we took the kids on their first horseback rides, taught them how to play pool, and participated in the evening variety show. I volunteered as the hypnotist's victim. To this day, they've kept the details of that evening a secret. I love them for that. TALK TO US! Do you have a favorite childhood vacation spot that you still return to as an adult?