Iroquois New York’s Eateries Are Both Theater District Smash Hits

It’s easy to surrender to the Iroquois New York, a peaceful nook amidst chaos and crowds. Situated in the heart of the city, this peaceful, upscale boutique hotel is a place of seamless luxury: classic cocktails in the lobby, toasty rooms and suites, first class service and a consistent, regal aura.

And for romance? Voila! The Iroquois is laced with two excellent, under-the-radar restaurants: Lantern’s Keep and Triomphe.

At Lantern’s Keep, a gastopub-lite, patrons sip Negronis and Pimm’s Cocktails while drifting off into the fireplace (and perhaps, next, to their room). Most come for pre-dinner cocktails or après-theater snacks, but real food happens too. Favorite plates include: crispy risotto fritters, meatballs with pine nuts and fig syrup and root vegetable crisps with eggplant spread.

Triomphe, voted the “Best Theater District Restaurant” by New York Magazine, is another diamond in the rough. The breakfast, lunch and dinner menus are collectively crowd pleasuring, though the Lobster Dumplings with salad and ginger butter and Veal Ossobucco for dinner tend to steal the show. Executive Chef Jason Tilmann’s "Perfect Bite" Philosophy (self-explanatory!) is not just a mantra; the chef delivers. For French-inspired, low key luxury, Triomphe is a smash hit.

A Mystifying Look at Mexico City

Mexico City is mucho elusive. What goes on there? Salma Hayek sightings? Sombreros? Guacamole? Gangs? It’s not the eternally chic Cabo, nor the rough and tumble Tijuana.  No. Mexico City is it’s own unique land.

As a first time visitor on a three-day tour, I was stunned to discover the capital’s countless features; North America’s largest city has a lot to offer––glamorous nightlife, vibrant culture, mouth-dropping architecture––and nothing falls short of spectacular.

Located in the high plateaus of south-central Mexico well over 7,000 feet above sea level, if crowds don’t affect your equilibrium, the altitude might. This is not so much a warning as a self-affirmation. I personally worried very much about being plagued by dizziness…but the culture’s positive energy outweighed any such issues.

At every corner, there’s colorful, animated old streets, lush with live music, laughing children and an abundance of magnificent museums and galleries––it ranks second to Paris in number of museum options. And the food! Let’s put it this way: if you don’t love Mexican food, you are no friend of mine…

We stayed at the Hotel Condesa DF, a quirky hang, with a wind-up vintage car that works like a music box at the entrance. Offbeat and stylish, the hotel is on a triangular block amid wide, tree-filled streets in the Condesa neighborhood––often referred to as Barrio Magico or Magical Neighborhood. It’s a picturesque location, with lovely parks and fountains nearby.

I liked my room, which was clean, if a bit cramped. The killer complimentary breakfast comes with quesadillas, which I accepted with great joy. The hammam and outside grounds were sun-drenched and divine during the day. Evening noise, however, was an issue. The hotel welcomes a very happening nightlife. Good for the single ’n’ mingle set, not great for sleep!

On our first night in Mexico City, we ate at Don Chui, a fun, vacay-friendly Chinese-fusion restaurant fifteen minutes from our hotel. Out of this world. There, we were gastronomically spoiled rotten.

The next day, we refueled in an open-air restaurant at the impressive, 17th-century palace, Azul Historico. Set underneath mighty laurel trees and fringed by balconies, we felt like royalty. We inhales warm fresh bread, sipped mescal served out of dried bowls made from fruit and ate dishes like mole Filete de res servido con salsa de chile chipotle––filet mignon with chipotle sauce. Make sure to try the ensalada de pera con queso Roquefort, the supermodel of all Mexican greens.

Pre-dinner cocktails were at La Terraza at Hotel Habita––a tropical, South Beach-esque haunt with hypnotic views of the castle of Chapultepec and Espana Park. Downstairs, in the lobby restaurant, I ordered the Veracruz-style mahi mahi; otherwise known as the best fish dish I’ve ever had in my life. (Fact!).

The next day, we tried Tori Tori in the Polanco neighborhood, widely considered the best Japanese restaurant in Mexico City. With an exterior made from steels, it looks more like an urban art gallery than a high-end food establishment. A truly special place, for the VIPs and in-crowds. I highly recommend the Gyu Tataki (cold sautéed beef with secret sauce).

The Palacio de Bellas Arts, or Palace of Fine Arts, in the central square, is said to be the most notable cultural center in the area. Even if you have no attention span for museums, this is the one must-see. The exterior of the building is simply awe-inspiring. Inside, massive murals depicting different scenes from Mexico’s history take your breath away.

For history buffs, Templo Mayor is an imperative stop on the itinerary. The temple was nearly destroyed by the Spaniards until a telephone repairman stumbled upon the site in 1978. Since then, its excavation has uncovered numerous findings like jewelry and bones––just last month, it was reported that 50 skulls were discovered at one sacrificial stone.

My favorite is Museo Rufino Tamayo, situated in the peaceful Chapultepec Park, which primarily showcases the private collection––about 300 paintings––of artist Rufino Tamayo. Other paintings, sculptures and installations from artists like Picasso are on display as well. It’s worth having a museum tour guide walk you through each painting, as the art reflects so many details in Tamayo’s fascinating life. By the end, you feel so connected to him personally that you actually feel like you knew him.

In the end, I grew to understand what makes Mexico City so magnificent. It’s the richness of character in everybody and everything! Vibrancy cloaks you; from the second you step off that plane. And when you leave, you take some of that effervescence home in your heart…wrapped carefully in a wool tapestry of history, honor and humanity.

Easy, If Breezy, Chicago: A Brief Guide For New Yorkers

Say the words "Windy City" and by free association, we all think: Oprah, Obama, deep-dish pizza, Da’ Bears, and "brrrrr."  But there’s so much more!Dazzling architecture, outstanding city views, cordial Chicagoans, quirky neighborhoods and sunny, 60-degree mid-November weather––those are just some of the highlights of my recent 48-hour family trip into town. By "family," I mean me, a thirtysomething free spirit, and my parents (just imagine the crazy side of The Fockers). Could Chi-town handle us?

Upon arrival into O’Hare, we jumped on the easy-to-navigate, not to mention uber-clean CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) and transformed quickly from savvy New Yorkers to dopey tourists, as we tried to understand the no-change metro machine policy. Luckily a CTA employee was helpful and midwesternly, and got us through the turnstyle gracefully.

We landed at our hotel, the JW Marriott––the baller of all Marriott’s––in the bustling, business-oriented Financial District. Located in a renovated historic national bank building, the shiny, marble hotel lobby and lounge was a nice, warm welcome.At nearly 500 square feet, our airy room offered everything we needed: two beds draped with fluffy duvets, a spa bathroom clad in Italian marble with a stand-alone tub, and supersized terry cloth robes.

Service was top-notch. For example, after some slight confusion over our room temperature (I’ll take full credit for that one), the front desk immediately had an engineer at our door. We called down a few other times for more bathroom products and additional pillows; everything was "no problem." The concierge helped us with maps and routes constantly––we wouldn’t have made it far without him.

At night, we’d sit with our laptops or novels in front of a cozy gas fireplace in a quiet corner of the lobby. How charming for a hotel we assumed was strictly a corporate hang. Good people watching too––wedding parties, football fans, first dates. Refreshing (and free!) orange cleansing water in the lobby kept us hydrated and happy.

But let’s discuss beyond the hotel. 

The first place we went was Magnificent Mile; about a 15-minute walk away, which initially, alarmingly, sort of felt like Times Square. Streets were crowded, tourists were crammed together. I worried we’d entered a bit of a migraine. That is, until we stumbled upon the iconic Wrigley Building. Powerful, stop-in-your-tracks, absolutely stunning!

Lunch was at the famous Giordano’s Pizza. While we wanted to try Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza, they only offered deep-dish crusts stuffed to the nines. This concept, us pizza purists found unappetizing, so we chose a basic thin crust pie. It was decent, but we’ve had better, like Grimaldi’s in Dumbo. Just a small strike, Chicago. (By the way, what’s a New Yorker doing in Chicago if not to say our pizza is better?!)

We were then off to Wicker Park, an edgy neighborhood dotted with vintage stores, cute coffee houses and loads of shopping options. The locals were a mix of real-deal artists, grungy hipsters and Lululemonized stroller moms. One trendy term that could be applied? Très Brooklyn. We felt right at home.

We hopped the subway after a few hours, and then took a bus to Hyde Park to see the Obama’s house. This was really exciting, especially to be there right after the election! We tried to bribe the secret service at the edge of his street for more personal scoop, but no luck. Alas, we were perfectly content just checking out the nice-but-modest digs.

Meanwhile, Chicago and the Chicagoans were really growing on us! Locals kept helping with directions and advice, and everyone was just so nice and patient. Every so often, we’d catch a glimmer of glamour on the regal streets. My mother alluded to Champs-Elysées more than once.  

We stopped at the Willis Tower SkyDeck—in the former Sears building—and rode up to the 103rd floor. I pushed my fear of heights aside as much as I could, and I’m glad I did. The view was breath-taking as we could see about 40 miles of city landscape, plus Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Don’t think my dad didn’t try to also re-enact the scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that was filmed here.

For dinner, we shared plates at the celebrated Sable Kitchen & Bar, a gastro-lounge in the center of the River North neighborhood adjacent to Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar. Spearheaded by Top Chef alum Heather Terhune, her seasonal dishes were out of this world. The menu was well balanced, as there was something for all of us, which, with a vegetarian mother and a meat-n-potatoes father, doesn’t happen often.

We started with the Butter Lettuce & Apple Salad with radicchio, grapes, smoked cashews & almonds and sherry-apple cider vinaigrette. Easily, the best salad of our lives. Our other favorite dishes were the brick oven flatbread with rosemary, brie, and house-made ricotta, butternut-squash apple soup, mini wild mushroom veggie burgers with red onion jam, and short rib sliders. This would definitely, no question, be our new family go-to spot if it were in New York. The food was fresh, flavorful and mouth-watering. Service was exceptional as the food came out perfectly timed to give our stomachs a brief rest. The dining room felt both calming and luminous. The staff was professional, warm and had serious culinary swagger. If you go to Chicago, you’d be crazy not to run here!  

We also had a lovely breakfast at Hoyt’s Chicago, inside Hotel 71, near Millennium Park. A sweet spot, with a nice street view. I very much appreciated that Hoyt’s is also part of my illy coffee cult.

At the end of our stay, we didn’t want to leave. Chicago embraced us New Yorkers in a way we never expected. I’m happy to say, it’s a city I’m now totally in-sync with and can’t wait to touch down here again.