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Experience Korea without leaving Manhattan at COTE Korean Steakhouse

Of all the changes that have developed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (and there have been many), I miss travel most of all. Sure, it's not like my family and I jet off to Europe or Asia on the regular, but theoretically, we COULD if we saved our money and planned ahead. But while travel in some parts of the world is slowly making a comeback, I'll settle for watching my good friend Darley Newman's travel adventures on PBS while we wait for the girls to be officially vaccinated. Safety first, friends. 

Luckily for us, living in New York City offers an incredible advantage for the travel-starved. One could traverse the world countless times just by tasting the many cuisines available right here within the five boroughs. Simply put, food can transport us to another culture without ever leaving the table (though having a healthy imagination doesn't hurt, either). And if there's anything New Yorkers enjoy, it's going out to eat.

My gal Darley Newman and I recently visited South Korea by way of the Flatiron District at COTE Korean Steakhouse. The restaurant was awarded a coveted Michelin star (the only Korean barbecue restaurant in the world to have one, in fact) and while I can't claim to be the foodiest foodie of them all, I can confidently report that COTE offered up one of the best meals I've ever had. For example, I'm still thinking about our Korean "bacon" and jalapeño appetizer a week later.

I mean, just look at that crispy deliciousness (house-smoked crispy heritage pork belly with pickled jalapeño, to be exact)...

But let's not get too ahead of ourselves, shall we?

COTE is the culinary vision of restauranteur Simon Kim, who's successfully managed to combine the best of both Korean barbeque and the classic American steakhouse. With smokeless grills at every table, guests are given a front row seat to the dining experience unfolding in front of them. A feast for the senses, with a menu varied enough that there is truly something for everyone (though no surprises, vegetarians might have a small issue with all the meat being prepared around them). 

After showing our vaccination cards and entering the restaurant, we grabbed an inventive cocktail (my frosty Froze came presented with a flamingo straw; adorable!) at the bar and made our way to be seated.

Comfortably full without feeling overcrowded, COTE definitely feels like a scene, but in all the best ways. Guests are there to be fed (and fed well) and the vibe is upbeat, hip and positive. Maybe it's just that New Yorkers are excited to be out and about again, or more likely, that they are just super excited about the meal ahead of them. 

After checking out the menu with Wesley Sohn, COTE's Director of Hospitality, we started first with a couple appetizers, the aforementioned Korean "bacon" that I'm still dreaming about, and "Steak and Eggs", hand-cut filet mignon tartare with Kaluga Hybrid caviar on milk toast. Here's where I admit that I've never had caviar before. And, now that I've had it once, I'd like to know WHEN AM I HAVING CAVIAR AGAIN?! This appetizer was sooo tasty, so flavorful, and let's give some bonus points to that really cute purple tray, too, shall we?

Next, we moved on to the "Butcher's Feast", which offers a selection of the chef's favorite cuts of beef. Our night's selection included: USDA Prime hanger steak, 45-days dry aged rib eye, American Wagyu Flatiron steak and marinated short rib (my personal favorite). Korean accompaniments included in the Butcher's Feast are Savory Egg Soufflé, Spicy Kimchi Stew, Savory Dwen-jang Stew, Ban-Chan (pickled seasonal vegetables), Scallion salad and Red leaf lettuce with Ssam-jang. 

As we ate our way through the beef courses, there's no question that we began to get full. And since I don't think it can be overstated enough, let me say, when you come to dinner at COTE, come hungry, and maybe skip lunch that day. You're going to leave full (but not uncomfortably stuffed), as you will absolutely want to eat everything that comes your way. 

We loved it when Simon Kim stopped by to say hello, and he and Darley were able to discuss her work as Travel Ambassador to Korea (a tough job, but someone's gotta do it, right?). Her Korea episode will make you want to hop on a plane tomorrow, just be forewarned. I mainly gushed about the food, which was right on brand for me.

I do hope to be able to visit South Korea someday. Husband was in Pyeongchang for the Winter Olympics in 2018 (working for NBC Sports), and he came home with the most amazing stories of visiting Woljeongsa Temple (his photos are stunning!), the Imperial Palace and Seoul Tower, not to mention the amazing food, of course. Speaking of food, we topped off our dinner with vanilla soft serv ice cream topped with soy sauce caramel (ingredients I would never think to put together, and yet there it was, simply delicious). 

A week later, I'm truly convinced this is one of the better meals I've had in my life. Isn't that remarkable, to get to a certain point in life, and be able to think back on favorite meals you've experienced along the way? Because there's no doubt in my mind that dining at COTE was indeed an "experience", and one I hope I get to relive one day. 

 Here's to traveling the world via our favorite NYC restaurants. Korea, you were well worth the visit!

PLEASE NOTE: Per COVID guidelines, those 12 and older are now expected to provide proof of vaccination in order to dine indoors at restaurants in New York City. 


This Weekend: The NY Philharmonic presents Fun at the Phil: Sleepover at the Museum

Already thinking ahead to the weekend? Me, too! If introducing your children to classical music sounds appealing, consider The New York Philharmonic's family benefit, Fun at the Phil: Sleepover at the Museum, this Saturday, March 7th at 11am. Combining classical music and an epic story time all in one, the orchestra, conducted by Ankush Kumar Bahl, will perform Saint-Saens's The Carnival of the Animals while narrator Jamie Bernstein reads aloud Karen LeFrak's Sleepover at the Museum. Simultaneously, David Bucs' illustrations will be projected on a giant screen above. Bernstein is a professional narrator, filmmaker, broadcaster and music lover (like her father, Leonard). The event honors LeFrak, who is a Vice Chair of the Philharmonic Board of Directors, as well as an author and composer.

The one hour concert at David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center is intended for children ages 6-12 and ticket information can be found here. Individual tickets are available for just the performance (from $16-35). If buying a table, the price goes up quite a bit, but that includes lunch afterwards with costumed characters on the Grand Promenade. Those ticket prices can be found here. All proceeds will go towards the Philharmonic's education programs.

Not your average Saturday morning, which I love! See you there?


Weekend event: The Yorkville Nutcracker by Dances Patrelle

Love The Nutcracker but want to see it with a NYC twist this Christmas season? Dances Patrelle presents The Yorkville Nutcracker this weekend, December 13-15, at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College. With all the same gorgeous music, sets and famous dance medleys, The Yorkville Nutcracker is slightly different as its setting is right here in the Big Apple. The audience will be transported to Olde New York's most beloved and classic landmarks: a holiday party at Gracie Mansion, dancing at the Crystal Palace in the New York Botanical Garden and skating in Central Park, among other locations. The talented Abbi Stafford of New York City Ballet returns as the Sugar Plum Fairy. It's going to be so lovely, and lucky for you, tickets are still available. The girls and I will be at an afternoon performance this weekend, and I'm really looking forward to experiencing this production with them.

Is The Nutcracker part of your family's holiday traditions?


A Stylish Night with Kidpik

A few weeks ago, Kidpik, the personalized fashion brand for girls, invited us to a special sleepover at the NY Edition Hotel in the Flatiron District. This sort of invitation doesn't come along every day, so I just had to say yes -- and I'm glad I did! We had so much fun, and I'm excited to share a little recap and a few photos of our experience. But be forewarned, you may have the urge to go shopping for the little gal in your life in a few minutes...

After getting checked in, we had some time in our room (the hotel is, in a word, gorgeous) before changing into our matching Kidpik lounge wear and heading upstairs to the penthouse. Before dinner, every guest had a mini style session with Manuel "Manu" A. Mendez, kids stylist to the stars (he counts Blu Ivy Carter among his clients). Manu is currently serving as Kidpik's guest stylist, and could not have been nicer. But more of that in a moment.

Normally I would not suggest to the girls that we go for the "matchy matchy" look, but our outfits were SO comfy, and as you can see, we weren't having any fun at all. Off to the penthouse for a look at the sun setting over the skyline and a little outfit styling...

Manu helped the girls find some looks, and I sort of sat back as much as I could, as I want them to begin developing their own style and sense of what they like and don't like (for instance, Vivian loves anything with sparkles, Millie not so much). That's one very cool thing about Kidpik. When you sign up to receive a box, you'll be invited to take a Style Quiz, where your child can choose her favorite colors, styles, fabrics, etc. Then, her personal stylist will choose 3 fashionable head-to-toe mix & match outfits personalized to your child (the average price per item is around $13). Then, you have 7 days to figure out what you want to keep, then ship back the rest (for free), and only pay for the items you keep. So fun, right? One important note: you don't have to make this a monthly thing, either. You can do once a month, every 2 months or 3 months, and you can pause, skip or cancel at any time.

Thanks for your expert tips, Manu!

Next, the girls personalized some jean jackets and we had dinner shortly thereafter. I really enjoyed chatting with the other guests, and the girls had a lot of fun playing with the other little girls that attended with their moms. 

The next morning, before we headed back uptown for school, we headed back to the penthouse, where it had been transformed into a mini showroom for Nina Shoes, which is owned by the same company as Kidpik. Known for their formal and bridal footwear, Nina is branching out with more hip "out on the town" options and coordinating purses (loving those stripes!)

Thanks to Kidpik for such a fun night, and if you're looking for a gift for the mini fashionista in your life (or making shopping simple a New Years resolution), Kidpik is a great brand to check out. Need to dress up during the holidays? Kidpik is currently offering 4 personalized box options in different styles -- Ruby Princess is my favorite!

Happy shopping, friends!


Alice in Wonderland at The Players Theatre

The beloved children's classic, Alice in Wonderland, is now in musical form at The Players Theatre in the West Village! Performing on weekends through November 17th, this charming musical is the perfect way to introduce your child to the theatre and be entertained at the same time. Additionally, one of my favorite aspects of a Players Theatre production is their family-friendly interactive arts workshops, which take place an hour before each show begins. While there, children will get to hear from a cast member about how the musical was created and the original story itself. Then, children are invited to complete a special arts-n-crafts project that relates to the show.

I took Vivian and some of her friends to a performance a couple weeks ago to celebrate her 8th birthday, and they all had so much fun! They made Mad Hatter hats during the pre-show workshop, and as a special treat, the stage manager had everyone sing Happy Birthday to Vivian right before the show began. The girls all loved the performances, especially from the Queen of Hearts. The cast and crew were really able to bring the magic of Alice to life, and I do believe for little ones, a Players Theatre production is a wonderful way to introduce a child to live theater.

Afterwards, we headed to Molly's Cupcakes around the corner for a sweet treat and a "swing" on their famous seating. After Alice wraps up, "A Christmas Carol the Musical" will open December 1st, marking its 11th year, and in spring of 2020, The Little Mermaid will make its way to the West Village. So much fun!

Pre-show arts-n-crafts:

 Mad Hatters loose on the subway!

If you haven't had a chance to see Alice in Wonderland yet, go HERE for tickets. And here's a special bonus: with code BABYMEETSCITY you'll receive 20% off. Enjoy!


Coney Island = A Summer Bucket List Destination

So it goes like this: Christmas, respective birthdays, Coney Island. In terms of the girls' favorite days of the year, that's how far up the pole Coney Island ranks. Pretty impressive, right? They just love everything about the place, from the rides at Luna Park, to the boardwalk and aquarium, to the ice cream they figure we'll most likely buy them for the long subway ride home. Our day at Coney Island has become a summer bucket list item that we all really enjoy and look forward to once the last day of school finally arrives.

This time around, we spent most of our time at Luna Park, and also tried a legendary pizza place that we've somehow missed on previous visits. But more about that in a moment. Luna Park is filled with rides for all ages, and while we sadly skipped a few that they're just too big for now, there are still plenty of rides they love and even talked their mother into doing with them (AGH). From the swings to the Coney Clipper, the Wild Ride water log ride to The Tickler (the girls' all-time favorite, which we did twice)... it was a day full of twists and turns -- literally. Follow along for a few fun photos from our day!

For lunch, we headed about 10 minute walk from Luna Park to a Coney Island institution (for the last 93 years, in fact!): Totonno's Pizza. It is off the beaten path away from the boardwalk, so you may wonder where in fact you're walking, but just think of it as discovering Brooklyn... we're so happy we did. Called #1 pizza in America from the Food Network, it was also recently featured in an episode of Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix. And while we did have to wait a little bit to be seated (and then wait some more for the actual pizza).... sufficed to say, it was worth it. Each pizza is made from scratch and put in a coal fire oven and what you get out is just perfection. From the sauce to the not overly thick crust... we found ourselves a new part of our Coney Island tradition.

Lastly, for your viewing enjoyment... my trip down the roaring rapids of the Wild River (I apologize in advance for the screaming). I've always been too scared to do it before, but when it's really hot and your children are begging you... it's amazing what you can get talked into. And you know what, that cold water at the end felt really GOOD! Until next year, Luna Park, Coney Island and Totonno's!

For more information on Luna Park pricing, calendar, etc., check out their website. Just a few weeks of summer vacation left for NYC kids... enjoy it! 

Disclosure: We were provided with complimentary tickets to Luna Park for the purposes of this review. All opinions herein are my own.


Summer Fun: A Magical Tea Party at The Gallow Green

One of my favorite event series for kids is back again this summer! The Gallow Green (at the top of the McKittrick Hotel) in Chelsea hosts 4 "Potions and Planting" tea parties for children over the summer months. While one has already past, 3 more dates are available!

First things first, have you ever been to the Gallow Green? It's a magical urban oasis amidst the rooftops of our concrete jungle, making the space alone worth a visit. You really feel like you've stepped back in time. During the Potions and Planting tea parties, children (ages 5-10, please) will enjoy a traditional English high tea platter, pink lemonade and hands-on lessons in potion-making and gardening from Gallow Green staff (and if you've ever been to Sleep No More, you know everyone REALLY gets into character). If your child is into magic wands, potions and enchanted forests, well, this is the place for him/her. Additionally (and I especially love this part), guests are welcome to bring along their most favorite doll or teddy bear, too. You'll find out why when you arrive!

I posted about the Potions and Plantings tea when we attended a few summers ago, and even though the girls were a bit younger, their enthusiasm remains the same, and they're excited to attend another one. It's such a special, unique afternoon! Tickets for the event ($25 pp) are still available. While the date may say 'sold out' - never fear; they will be releasing another block of tickets closer to the each of the dates (July 27th, August 10th & 24th remaining).

Happy summer, friends!
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