Gilt.com Is Hosting a Major Holiday Partywear Sale Today

New Year’s Eve is a little over two weeks away, so naturally we’re stressing over what to wear. There’s a few ways we could go, like spending hours in line at holiday sample sales (only to find out that they’re out of our size), or taking the cheap route by attempting to revamp what’s already in our closets. Or we can bypass these likely letdowns and shop Gilt‘s plethora of partywear offerings from the comfort of our homes.

Today at noon, Gilt is hosting a super sale on dresses, footwear, and handbags that have been specially curated to ensure that you’re rocking the hottest look at every NYE party you decide to make a cameo at. Gilt hooked us up with a sneak peek of the designer goods that will be up for grabs, and we virtually bee-lined toward this gold metallic number by ADAM, which is marked down to only $169 (original $445).

Watch the clock to ensure that you’re first in line by noon, and shop here when it’s go time.

Tomorrow: Buy Hervé Léger on Gilt, Score $200 Credit

We’ve highlighted many Gilt Groupe ventures before, but this one’s pretty major. Tomorrow at noon EST, the members-only flash sales giant is hosting an Hervé Léger sale that will reward shoppers with $200 in Gilt credit just for making a purchase.

We know what you’re thinking: What’s the catch? Well, you have to actually buy something from the sale first in order to receive credit – and items don’t come cheap. Ranging from $750 to $1,690, the collection is on the pricier side, but it’s still a fraction of the retail cost and scoring $200 simply for ditching your work duties to online shop is our favorite kind of deal. Plus, every girl should have at least one HL bandage dress in her Vegas partywear arsenal, right?

In conjunction with the spotlight on Hervé Léger by Max Azria, Gilt.com will run a contest that anyone can enter to win two tickets to a show during Fashion Week (February 2012) and a night’s stay in a New York City hotel. Visit Gilt.com for more.

From Garden to Snifter: Veggies Land in Cocktails Across America

Is that a cucumber in your cocktail or are you just happy to see me? I, for one, am just happy to see the cucumber. With the emergence of ‘vegetails’ (vegetable laden cocktails) popping up on bar menus from coast to coast, the days of ordering a salad might soon go the way of the tape cassette. These days, you can find all the greens you need right in your drink, from walloping tubers to delicate slices of cucumber, and you can bet those veggies come from organic pastures.

Whilst carousing at New York’s Gilt in Midtown East recently, I found myself gleefully swilling chef/mixologist Justin Bogle’s Watermelon Coolers, made with Bulldog Gin, fresh watermelon, and basil. Like a symphony played upon the taste buds, this legume-y libation partied on my palate and went down almost too smoothly. Summer, watermelon, and basil go together like peas and carrots, which decidedly should be Bogle’s next veggie-inspired cocktail. Always an intrepid foodie (and cocktailie), I’d come back for some muddled peas mixed with vodka and a carrot garnish any day. He could call it The Forrest Gump.

Ever since, I’ve been thinking—what else is out there in the vegetails realm, and how deep does this alcoholic spin on the farm-to-table trend really go?

Owner of Williamsburg’s Huckleberry Bar, Stephanie Schneider explains that there are many reasons to use vegetables, fruits, and even meats to create cocktails. She says, “Being in the restaurant business for so many years [Schneider put in time at Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, Eleven Madison Park, and Jean Georges before opening Huckleberry Bar in 2007], I saw chefs working with seasonal herbs and vegetables all the time. It’s bringing the same mindset to cocktails. If you’re serving a fennel and blood orange salad, why not make a cocktail with fennel and blood orange juice?”

Huckleberry Bar serves up a bevy of booze, from citrus-infused vodka to rosemary-infused rye to anise hyssop-infused vodka to lovage-infused rum to jalapeño-infused tequila. You name it, they infuse it. Most of their ingredients come directly from the Green Market in Union Square. “You take the fresh herb, shock it with hot water to release the oils, then pour the booze over and let it sit for two to five days,” Schneider explains. Not only does it make for great tasting drinks, but it’s also cost effective. “When you make dinner and you buy tarragon or thyme why not use the leftovers for the drinks? It eliminates waste in a small place like ours by using all parts of the vegetable and animal.” If you ever go to Huckleberry Bar for brunch try the bacon-infused bourbon. But I digress.

Aimee Olexy, co-owner of Talula’s Garden in Philadelphia, maintains a purist mindset when adding herbs and vegetables to cocktails. “One of the things that we do is try to focus on food and then the drink as a result of it,” she says. “We manipulate ingredients but still showcase the liquor. If we’re going to use a pure spirit then what can we do to take some of those inherent flavors and showcase them in a natural way?” The goal of the cocktails at Talula’s is to relax you and get you ready to eat, a precursor to a nice bottle of wine. “People that are drinking good cocktails these days are such foodies that the drinks must reflect some of the flavor profiles of our food,” Schneider adds. “Take the flavor of rum. We think about what characteristic from the farm will make a nice marriage to it. Its woody because it’s aged in oak so honey or a cucumber nuance will bring the flavor out. We want the integrity of the spirit itself to exist by finding something in the garden that will accentuate the taste.”

A house favorite at Talula’s Garden is the Gardner, a classic play on the Mojito. “The fresh mint will bring some more fragrance to this nice vanilla woodsy spirit, making it a little grassy. The use of cucumber, basil, or mint tends to open up your palette far more than juice. This drink literally makes you start to salivate and then you crave food,” Schneider says.

Chef/Mixologist Mariena Mercer of the Chandelier at Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas takes a culinary stance when it comes to her cocktails. “I explore individual roles of the four basic tastes [salty, sour, bitter, and sweet], coalescing them and bringing them into unity,” says Mercer. “The spirit needs to stand out, as does each element.” One of the newest additions to their cocktail menu is the Thai Down, made with Milagro Blanco, Domaine De Canton, strawberry puree, Thai Chili Syrup, and Thai basil leaves. “We eat a lot of Thai food so we wanted to channel the cuisine into the cocktail,” says Mercer. “The Thai basil has strawberry puree, but not in a gratuitous sweet way. It’s all about creating perfect harmony in the drink,” says Mercer

Beverage director Jonathan Baird of Hatfield’s in L.A. agrees wholeheartedly. Baird takes leaps and bounds to concoct myriad mixed creations for their discerning and thirsty clientele. “We base everything on balance,” says Baird. “That is to say, we make sure that you can taste each item that goes into the drink. It’s also about using the freshest ingredients we can get our hands on from the local Farmers’ Markets.”

Baird reveals how it’s done, “For our Cucumber Mint Gimlet we peel and slice the cucumber thin and blend it with an immersion blender instead of steeping the cucumber coins in vodka. This gives the drink more of a cucumber flavor and adds a nice green hue to it.”

Now that fresh herbs and vegetables can be obtained through bar hopping, I may never have to masticate them in salad form again. The veggies in these drinks must counteract the calories from the alcohol (they simply must!). And besides, why expend energy chewing when you can sip your greens and simultaneously get a buzz?

E-Tailers Merge Content & Commerce to Compete with Online Magazines

One stop at your favorite e-commerce site and you’ll invariably see that they either have a blog or a feature that requires editorial upkeep. From Shopbop’s high-quality lookbooks (shown here), to Opening Ceremony’s abundance of interviews and creative blog features, sites that are primarily meant for a shop-and-go experience are now giving us a reason to stay. This interactive engagement is a new focus for e-tailers—and major editorial players are starting to take notice.

“A new kind of magazine has arrived online and it’s bringing editors into the sales business,” reports WWD. Their story focuses on the growth of sites like Net-a-Porter and Gilt—two companies that are dramatically expanding their resources. And, unlike magazines, these sites are fully-supported by commerce, allowing them to bypass advertisements and solely focus on customizing their content. “There is nobody at our company who is pressuring our content people to cover X or Y product because there’s no incentive for us to do that,” says Gilt Groupe chairman Susan Lyne.

Just as the e-commerce game is evolving, magazines likes InStyle are now launching their own online shopping sites to stay competitive. Since this new content-meets-commerce business model will soon be the standard for all digital platforms, we’ll see how companies manage to simultaneously replenish stories and inventory on a near-daily basis.

Industry Insiders: Paul Liebrandt, Haughty Cuisiner

Paul Liebrandt has worked in some of New York’s most prestigious kitchens — from the decadent Gilt to the critically acclaimed Atlas. His sometimes atypical ingredient pairings in his early days in New York sometimes drew criticism from diners and journalists, a sore point he’s still hesitant to discuss. His current post at Tribeca’s Corton has earned favorable attention and may arguably be his most successful venture yet. Although getting through to the chef took some doing, we got a decent peek into the culinary mastermind’s lifestyle.

Can you describe a dining experience at Corton? How do you mean describe the dining experience? What does that mean?

Can you describe the menu, the ambiance, the experience for our readers who have yet to dine there? Well the menu is modern, contemporary, I guess. French. It’s a very calm dining experience. It’s very refined. Very elegant. You feel excitement in the food and the service. It’s a very refreshing experience to eat here.

How do you react to criticism of your food or your restaurants? Excuse me? Criticism? What do you mean by criticism of my food?

Any sort of negative press or negative reaction. I mean … everybody’s entitled to their opinion

We’re just wondering if you take in stride, or if that’s something that hits home for you? It’s part of any business that you do … people have the right to voice their opinions. If somebody doesn’t like something, that’s their opinion.

What are some of your favorite menu items currently? We have a lovely Japanese Madai on the menu right now, which is lovely, with summer tomatoes and coconut.

What’s is the most unconventional or daring item on the menu? Unconventional. Daring. Well I guess it depends what you call daring, doesn’t it? What I call daring may not be to someone else. We do have a lovely Stilton cheese ice cream. We serve it with a foie gras. It’s really refreshing. We also serve it with a cold cherry soup. And it’s savory, not sweet.

How are New Yorkers different from diners elsewhere? In other cities where? In this country? Europe? Japan? What?

Is there anything that distinguishes New York diners? New York diners are very discerning; they know what they want, and they are very loyal customers. When they like you, they keep coming back.

Which has been your favorite experience in a kitchen? Which has been my favorite kitchen? Is that what you’re asking?

Yes. For what, the restaurants that I’ve owned? Or just in general?

Just in general. Where I’ve worked?

Where you’ve worked. You mean like my favorite working experience?

Yes, your favorite working experience. Well, they all have great things about them, there isn’t one particular kitchen which is better than another one. If I said that one is better than another one, all the other kitchens would get jealous, wouldn’t they?

What’s one piece of advice you would give to novices cooking at home? Choose good ingredients. And when you cook, it sounds a little corny, but I think it is very true — but cook with passion. And really love what you’re doing.

Is there a starter dish that you would recommend to someone who hasn’t cooked very much for themselves? Since it’s summer time, beautiful, beautiful tomatoes are starting to come out of the market. For myself at home, for someone who doesn’t cook professionally at home, say a lovely tomato salad with maybe a little bit of Burrata sliced over the top. I like smoked sea salt, which you can buy at any good store. Just that, it’s beautiful. Very, very nice.

Where else do you eat or go out in New York? I really enjoy Japanese food, so I’m a big fan of Bar Masa. And Blue Ribbon Sushi.

Do you frequent any bars in Tribeca or elsewhere? Not really, no.

Have you noticed any positive trends in New York dining? I think more and more people are using all sorts of sustainable items on their menus. More people are very aware of the impact of using locally sourced ingredients. I think in general, you see a much bigger swing in that regard. The area that we live in here, within New York City, upstate New York, the Tri-Boroughs, it’s very, very good for their locally-sourced ingredients. I think you see a lot more people utilizing that.

Do you have anyone that you would cite as a mentor? Pierre Gagnaire.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? A weekend in Paris.

And what do you do during your weekend in Paris? Well, that’s something which your readers will just have to find out about themselves.

What’s your dream spot for a project? New York, of course. I live here, it’s my home.

Industry Insiders: Chris Lee, Aureole Ingénue

Formerly executive chef at the decadent GILT restaurant, chef Christopher Lee recently re-opened Charlie Palmer’s legendary at its new location in the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park (that’s him in the photo above at right, Palmer smiling paternally at left). The Top Chef Masters competitor talks about manning the kitchen as executive chef at Aureole, his modest perspectives, and having a green thumb. Aureole will beoffering a 15% discount on all menus until the grand opening benefit gala for Citymeals-on-Wheels on September 15.

How would you describe your occupation? We’re chef-entrepreneurs — business people who create food. A chef’s title these days has expanded from just making food to running and creating a business. I call myself an Average Joe, and I never thought I was God’s gift. As a trade industry, we train ourselves and develop a passion for what we do. I wasn’t born with a palate for this business. I walk to work. I do the same things everyone else does. If I do some things better than others, okay, but I think of myself as a service provider.

Aside from Aureole, what organizations are you affiliated with? Among the philanthropic organizations CityHarvest has the hardest rules, and when we have food waste on some nights, we donate. The idea is that they have certain parameters that are difficult to meet. For instance, when I was at Oceana on every holiday, we used to make holiday meals and drop them off — one-by-one — to the homeless. Now Citymeals-on-Wheels has been a favorite charity of mine for years, and throughout those years we’ve supported them and raised money. It’s a sad thing when elderly or home-bound people can’t feed themselves. I might be there one day, so one motivation for me is to give back to those who might have to be there for me in the future.

How’d you get your start? It’s one of those age-old questions that people ask. In junior high and high school, guidance counselors always asked me what I wanted to do, and from the time I was 14, I was in the restaurant business, busing tables, dish washing, whatever. When it came to going to college, culinary school crossed my mind, but my parents on Long Island really wanted me to graduate from college. So after I did that, I bought a car and drove to California and enrolled in culinary school. I was born and raised here, and I wanted to see the diversity on the west coast. People are different; they talk, live and act differently. I didn’t want to stay where I was comfortable. I wanted a challenge and went as far as I could without leaving the country.

Where are your spots in the city? I have a lot of personal favorites in this city, and I like the rustic world more than anything. I go down to my favorite Italian restaurant, Il Bagatto on Second Street. It’s owned by one of my favorite couples, Beatrice and Leo. Beatrice is cooking in the back of the house, and Leo is out front. She cooked some authentic cuisine and said to me, “Know what makes me different from you? I cook from the heart; you cook to compete.” She really hit it on the head. Even though we all cook from the soul, when you play in the upper tier of the game, we’re all about stars and ratings. Then there’s this woman in Alphabet City who doesn’t care about being better than someone else; she just cares about making people happy. She makes the best lasagna there. I buy two or three extras just to put in the fridge for the week. I’m also a big sushi fan, and Sushi Seki is a favorite of mine. Bar Coastal on 78th and 1st Avenue is fab. The bartenders have great stories to tell, they make amazing frozen drinks, and they make the best chicken in the city.

Who do you look up to? There are so many of them. One of the reasons I came to work for Charlie Palmer is because I admire him. He’s not just a great chef, but a savvy businessman — one of the many reasons we began our relationship. Food and creating something I love to do is as important as learning to run a business. Daniel Boulud is someone I consider to be the “Dad” of the industry. He’s the headmaster — the one who gave us all the answers.

What’s going on in the hospitality industry now? The best thing about food is that it’s evolving all the time, especially American cuisine. We’re developing a soul in this country, a style that is all-American. For awhile, we were jealous of European countries and their cuisines, and American food was soulless. But now we’re developing our own cuisine. Maybe it came a little after Europe, but we’re on track. Now Europeans come here to find out what we know.

Anything that peeves you about American cuisine? I know there’s a place for it, but I definitely dislike the fast-food trend this country. We should be a lot healthier and wiser than to feed ourselves a Happy Meal with saturated fats. That’s been a bad trip from the start. As a realist, I understand the value behind it. For certain people, it may work, but as a country we could do a lot better at offering great, high-nutrition food for a lower price.

What is something that people might not know about you? I live in Brooklyn, and I love gardening. We built our deck out with about 400 pounds of soil in a trough around it. Squashes, jalapenos, sweet peppers, shallots, eight different variety of heirloom tomatoes, cherries, strawberry plants, cucumber. My wife and I are really good at it. When I have time, I like to play golf, and in my retirement, I want to built motorcycles, but my wife won’t let me do that right now. I didn’t have the passion for motorcycling until I was involved with my wife, and when I put it to her, she put a big “NO” on that one.

Biggest obsession? I’m a giant Yankees fan.

What are you doing tonight? Working at . I’ve got a service to go through, every day, I’ve got to go to the kitchen and throw it down.

Photo: Chris Lee with Charlie Palmer by Pete Thompson

First Look: The New Aureole

“This isn’t a facelift,” Charlie Palmer tells me of his new Aureole. “I cut things off and start fresh. That’s just the way I do things. I don’t even go to class reunions.” The chef and owner of the Upper East Side eatery is set to open a very different Aureole, expanding the dimensions to include a bar area, cozy dining room, large dining room, and a outdoor patio facing the Conde Nast building at its new home at One Bryant Park. Chef Christopher Lee of GILT maintains that the food will be progressive American, but the menu will essentially be completely different. Experimenting with seafood and staple comfort dishes, options will include small plates, plus lunch portions to appeal to different “economic backgrounds and lifestyles.” Palmer promises, “The only way we’ve kept Aureole the same is we’ve decided to keep it comfortable.”

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Over 1,000 wine selections are available, and to prove their size and girth, 15,000 bottles are stored on-site with 3,500 showing off in a glass “wine bridge” called the wine mezzanine, that looks like a glass-bottom boat protruding from the warmly lit ceiling. To keep with the new economic theme, they’ve selected 100 bottles to price under $100.

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While the new space is certainly slick with modern touches thanks to silver and metal details, sharp lighting fixtures, geometric carpet prints, and severe edges, Aureole is still quite cozy. Pleasant lighting and rich reds and dark oak keep the atmosphere intimate.

Jennifer Lee runs the pastry department, churning out sweet confections with a focus on seasonal treats, specifically chocolate tortes.

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Still a work in progress, Aureole is taking reservations for seating in July.

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New York: Top 10 Thanksgiving-Friendly Restaurants

imageBecause we don’t like cooking, our kitchen is the size of a closet, and the thought of leaving the city and risking missing the early-morning sale at Saks is too scary to bear (as are some of our relatives), here’s a list of our picks for the most Thanksgiving-friendly restaurants in New York City (and the specials they’re running for Turkey Day).

10. Freemans, three courses, $75. Number 10 on our list because only half of us find irony in surrounding yourself with taxidermy on Thanksgiving. 9. Ben & Jack’s, three courses, $65. The main course, traditional roast turkey, comes with turkey stuffing, caramelized mashed sweet potatoes, classic mashed potatoes, sautéed string beans, cranberry sauce, and turkey gravy — enough said. 8. Mesa Grill, three courses, $70. With dishes like fresh sage and orange butter turkey and pumpkin flan made with gingersnap wafers, Bobby Flay’s longstanding Southwestern joint would surely prove to be a Smackdown winner. 7. BLT Market, three courses, $95. Because where else could you get a sage-foie gras crouton?

6. Benjamin Steakhouse, three courses, $65. A sure bet with its ten-foot working fireplace, oak wood paneling, oversized mirrors, leather chairs, and traditional eats courtesy of Peter Luger alum Benjamin Prelvukaj. 5. Kittichai, five courses for $55 or four for $45. Infusing dashes of Asian flare into traditional dishes — turkey osso buco braised in massaman curry with Brussels sprouts, sweet potato and traditional trimmings — makes the sleek eatery an innovative delight. 4. Gilt, four courses, $110. Who knows, you might run into Blair Waldorf. 3. Via Dei Mille, five courses, $59. Like Cipriani only newer, cheaper — better. 2. Alloro, four courses, $40. Excellent value from local Italian dynasty Gina and Salvatore Corea; includes turkey meatballs, pumpkim raviolo, prune-stuffed turkey, and pumpkin tiramisu. 1. Cookshop, two courses, $60. Proudly displaying a chalkboard listing not the daily specials, but rather the joint’s “favorite farmers,” was the touch that made this modern cozy spot, with its food that’s fresh-as-can-be, come-out on top.

A New York Day in the Life of ‘Gossip Girl’

imageGossip Girl, affectionately referred to as the Greatest Show of Our Time by New York, is gearing up for Season 2, debuting on September 1. Last season’s ad campaign, OMFG, has reached new heights, turning criticism towards the show on its head by using quotes like the Boston Herald’s “Every parent’s nightmare” on their billboards. Sure, we already showed you the wining and dining, but get ready for the drama and let life imitate art: Take a tour of New York, Gossip Girl style.


Stay The New York Palace. Home base for the Van der Woodsen-Bass clan, the Palace is instantly recognizable as the scene of many an awkward interaction betwixt Serena and Nate, Serena and Dan, Serena and Chuck … well really, Serena and anyone-else-in-the-GG-cast.

11 a.m. Stop at the local Dean & Deluca on 85th & Madison, grab some organic yogurt, and head over to eat your GG breakfast on “The Steps” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, home of the scenes of the many Blair vs. Serena vs. Jenny showdowns.

11:45 a.m. Walk the 10 or so blocks uptown to get a good look at the Russian Orthodox Synod of Bishops, which moonlights as the fictional exterior of the Constance Billard and St. Jude’s School for Boys. Think about Chuck smirking in his scarf.

12:15 p.m. Walk west until you hit Central Park. Head south along the Jackie O Reservoir as you remember Nate racing his cokehead father in the park, Nate and Chuck smoking doobies in the park, and sad sad Serena dialing Dan early in the a.m. while walking in this very same park.

1:15 p.m. Walk, cab, or take your personal town car the 30ish blocks to have lunch at Geisha. Reminisce about the GG pilot and see if you can spot the exact table where Blair and Nate have their first super awkward dinner.

3 p.m. A few blocks away is Blair-favorite Henri Bendel. Stop, shop, and when in doubt think, WWBWD?

5 p.m. It’s got to be happy hour somewhere. Time for drinks at The Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Terminal, owned by real life Upper East Sider Mark Grossich. Flashback to the fateful scene where S + N betray B and get it on amongst a medley of champagne bottles, barstools, and a leering Chuck Bass.

7:30 p.m. Dinner at Butter. Start an argument about whether or not Blair really would have fallen for the fake invitation to Butter when she was on the outs, and Jenny was making a run for Queen Bee.

9 p.m. Walk by the fictitious “Eleanor Waldorf” shop on 14th and Hudson, a.k.a. Rubin Chapelle. Cackle as you recall Jenny locked in, alarms wailing. Cackle again when you remember how she outsmarted Blair to get out of that particular caper.

10 p.m. Live it up at Marquee and relive the “truth or dare” scene where Jenny and Blair one-up each other, smashing couples left and right.

11:30 p.m. The Lower East Side is awash with yet more GG hotpots. Walk by Sunshine Cinema, scene of aborted date between Dan and Serena. Keep it local and catch the later show at the Box, a.k.a. “Victrola” on GG. Think of Blair shimmying around on stage in her nightie, then getting banged by Chuck Bass in the back of his car. Yehaw! If luck is on your side, maybe you’ll meet a real life Bassinator Sebastian Nicolas, part owner of the Box.

1 a.m. Roll back to The Palace late night and belly up to the bar at in-house restaurant Gilt to order the infamous grilled fontina cheese sandwich with truffle oil. That’s right — Chuck ordered this sandwich for Serena moments before trying to rape her in the kitchen, and now you can too! (Eat the sandwich that is, not get all rapey.) Gilt has turned fiction into a $50 truffle-oiled reality. Enjoy.

Extra Credit In case you haven’t had enough, feel free to hop boroughs and check out: ● The Foundry, in Long Island City, scene of “The Kiss on the Lips Party.” ● Fictional gallery de Rufus Humphrey, a.k.a. the Front Room, located in real Williamsburg, as opposed to the “Williamsburg” that the Humphreys live in — which is consistently shot with views of the Brooklyn Bridge, real-life neighborhood of DUMBO. ● Communitea, also in Long Island City, the coffee shop where Vanessa works.

See the future with these Season 2 soon-to-be-scenes-of-drama, as the GG crew has been spotted shooting at the following locations:


STKR&L RestaurantPacker Collegiate in Brooklyn Heights ● Fort Tilden BeachRoslyn Claremont HotelPlanting Fields Arboretum