Maison Premiere


298 Bedford Ave New York NY11211


For your next high-energy date night, seek out the oyster and absinthe scene at Williamsburg’s Maison Premiere. Right from the start you’ll feel like you’re in on a secret, as the entrance is understated and barely marked. Inside, overhead fans and vintage décor provide a little time-travel thrill, as you dig shades of fin de siècle French Quarter. You may want to dress a little smarter than usual, at least to keep up with the staff, who pride themselves on their retro style. There are dining room and bar options, on top of a leafy garden in back. Either way, you and your sweetheart will feed off the knowing crowd as you journey through the house’s thirty-strong oyster list, recalling fond beach memories as you decide between Bluepoints and Wellfleets. If the absinthe fountain in front puts you in the mood for cocktailing, you’re in the right place. You’ll find New York’s deepest list here, and absinthe has rarely been known to undercut a night of romance. Dinner won’t weigh you down, as the newly expanded kitchen serves the likes of chilled seafood and lobster curry. Save a little room for a dessert like pear pain perdu with fig and sherry, and be sure to offer your sweetheart the first bite.

– See more at Love This City

Photograph by
Edited by BlackBook

Recette – Date Night in NYC


328 W 12th St
New York NY 10014
(212) 414-3000

For a youthful date night, head to chef Jesse Schenker’s buzzing West Village haunt Recette, an upbeat spot with ‘90s music on the stereo and an eclectic mix of locals and wandering foodies occupying the tables. Your evening will feel intimate, though, thanks to flickering candles and a warm staff that seems to anticipate your every need. The people-watching here is top-notch, and once you and your date have finished constructing back-stories for your fellow diners, take in the sidewalk scene from massive windows while feeling cozy in your own Parisian hideaway. The name is French for recipe, and you’ll enjoy sampling a range of the kitchen’s expertise thanks to a menu built for sharing. Chef Schenker is young and innovative, as seen in his Iron Chef stint, and you’ll have plenty to talk about as you dig into cod fritters with lamb sausage and curry and quail stuffed with cornbread and chicken hearts. Being a French spot, the wine list is appropriately deep, but first warm up with a cocktail from a list that offers clever variations on classic recipes, like cinnamon-and-fig-infused vermouth in a Manhattan. At dessert you’ll imagine yourselves at a haute campfire, savoring s’mores made with burnt marshmallow, graham cracker ice cream, and chocolate ganache spiked with cayenne. It’s a perfectly cheeky note to cap off a night of approachable avant-garde cuisine.

– See more at Love This City

Photograph by Krista
Edited by BlackBook

Blackbird – Romance Takes Flight


619 W Randolph St
Chicago IL 60661
(312) 715-0708

Your first date was coffee. Your second was a lighthearted brunch. Now that you’re getting along grand, it’s time to step it up for date number three. Here’s a tip: Blackbird, on the Near West Side, soars ahead of its competition as Chicago’s ideal date spot for burgeoning couples—especially those fond of fine dining. The scene is low-pretense, so you won’t overwhelm your companion by going overboard with the romantic regalia, but it’s not too casual either, so you can’t be accused of being a cheapskate. Instead, the clean, streamlined interior will have you feeling sharp, modern, and excited for what’s to come. Order the tasting menu for two and unwind for a few hours as you learn more about one another. You’ll get familiar with each other’s tastes as you navigate delicious courses made with local, seasonal ingredients. Enjoy the adventure of trying something you’ve never had before, like the oxalis greens that come with the rye berries and lemon of a steak tartare. The meal culminates in a magnificent trio of cheeses, sorbet, and pastries that will seal the deal, in case there was any wavering. For drinks, there are both wine and cocktail pairings. Be adventurous and go for the latter. The bartender will work up tipples just as inspiring as the food—but remember to use your best judgment if you want date number four.

– See more at Love This City

Photograph by T.Tseng
Edited by BlackBook

Osteria via Stato – Canoodle with Noodles


620 N State St Chicago IL60654

(312) 642-8450

When it comes to delicious Italian cuisine in Chicago, there’s plenty of high and low end, but Osteria Via Stato owns the middle–in the most satisfying of ways. Prime for a romantic date night out, this intimate River North restaurant’s setting aims to get you all lovey-dovey as soon as you get situated at your two-top, and it comes at a price that won’t leave you gasping for air. Try to grab one of the corner tables, perfect for hiding out and making eyes at each other all night. Downtempo tunes and flickering candles add to the vibe, and the waiters are skilled in the art of great timing—just in case you have an important question you need to ask your significant other. Just note that this is not typical southern Italian red sauce and pasta territory. Instead, you’ll savor fine northern-influenced fare designed for sharing. Lean in close for antipasti like mini veal meatballs, or house-marinated olives with orange and rosemary. Pastas come in half-portions, so you can sample the goods without getting weighed down. For main courses, you’ll dig in to thoughtful combinations like salmon with heirloom tomatoes and fennel pollen, or a hearty rib-eye with aged balsamic. After dinner, head to the adjacent Pizzeria Via Stato bar for a nightcap. It’s more of the same, but you’ll get to snuggle closer as you sip on Italian-focused cocktails, beer, or wine.

– See more at Love This City

Photograph by Jonas Foyn Therkelsen
Edited byBlackBook

Tablao Tapas Y Restaurante – House of Spain


361 Greenwich St
New York NY 10013
(212) 334-4043

Great date nights leave you feeling like you’ve traveled a little further than the corner bar. To catch some shades of Spain, along with a dose of downtown glamour, head to Tablao in Tribeca. A Spanish family runs the place, so you’ll find warmth and authenticity in equal measure. Walk in the door and you’ll be feeling sophisticated, as smart design makes the most of high ceilings, exposed brick, and artful mirrors. You and your loved one will be looking good, lit just right by banks of candles, with a little color from the lighting effects at the bar. Traditional small plates make perfect sharing. Dig right into tapas temptations like Spanish sausage with fried quail egg, or fresh figs marinated in sherry. For main plates, you can share again, maybe a seafood-celebrating paella, or a charbroiled steak. You’ll appreciate Tablao’s attention to detail when it’s sangria time. Opt for white, with its mix of four fresh berries, and watch as your waiter uncorks a fresh bottle of good wine to top it off. As transporting as all this is, you’ll want to time your visit here for a flamenco night. The restaurant’s name refers to the floor where Spanish dancers perform, and Wednesdays and Fridays you can catch the real thing, with the rhythm of heels perfectly accenting the accompanying drum and guitar. You won’t have to wait until you’re back home to say “¡Olé!”

– Read more at Love This City

Photograph by Flavio Grynszpan
Edited by BlackBook

The Gaggle Girls’ Most Memorable Valentine’s Days

When a book comes out that redefines a word and introduces a new perspective on dating, the world takes notice; the book gets written up in the New York Times, covered on CNN, and becomes the bedtime reading of singles everywhere. The phenomenon: The Gaggle: How To Find Love In A Post-Dating World. Written by Jessica Massa (pictured, left), The Gaggle says that because we’re in this post-dating, technological world where everything and nothing is a date, every guy in your life—in your “gaggle” (n.) of guys—plays a role and fulfills a need. From your spontaneous neighbor across the hall, to your intellectual friend at the coffee shop, all of these people, many of whom you’re not romantically involved with—covet some kind of quality that’ll guide you toward figuring out what you really want in a relationship.

Jessica—along with Rebecca Wiegand (pictured, right), her longtime best friend and co-founder of The Gaggle bloghas classified the gaggle into 10 distinct, highly-recognizable types of guys, from The Ex-Boyfriend Who Is Still Around, to The Ego Booster, to The Prospect You’re Not Sure Is A Prospect. And of course The Super Horny Guy Who Happens To Be Around A Lot. When you really take a step away from your interactions and take an honest look, it’s simple to pinpoint each of these men in your life.

The best part about The Gaggle: it makes dating—even simply hanging out with guys—fun again. As a single, 24-year-old girl living in NYC with a gaggle, I can attest that this book has powerfully transformed once pressure and expectation-laden experiences with guys, into carefree, “just enjoy what makes you happy” moments of glee.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Jessica and Rebecca share their most memorable Valentine’s Days ever, from middle school on. And these girls delivered. From black lipstick, to messages on AIM, to psychic predictions, these experts on love have lived and learned. Here are their stories.

Jessica Massa:

1996: Valentine’s Day was a VERY big deal at the middle school that Becky and I attended. Within the hot and heavy world of 7th grade relationships, various school clubs had a tradition of letting students order roses and candygrams to be delivered to their admireree’s classes. This, of course, added an air of popularity, competition, and stress to the holiday. Every time the gift deliverers would interrupt a class with a rose, all the girls’ faces would light up in nervous anticipation: Is this one for me? Who could’ve sent it? Wait, no, why is Marissa getting another one??

That year, a few friends and I decided that we were going to rebel against the oppressive tyranny of Valentine’s Day. So we did what any other middle school girls would’ve done when Alanis Morissette was popular: we dressed in all black, piled on layers of black lipstick, and carried around bouquets of dead black roses. Take that, Hallmark.

Of course, this lasted until 5th period, when it turned out that a very sweet guy friend had sent me a flower to be delivered in math class. I couldn’t contain my huge smile. I conveniently left my dead roses back on that math class desk and walked around with my blooming red one all day instead. The black lipstick got rubbed off pretty quickly, too. I guess this was the year when I discovered I wasn’t quite the raging, idealistic, anti-love feminist that I’d been selling myself as.

Mid-2000s: God bless AIM. This year, I was sitting in my cubicle at work with no plans. By this time, Valentine’s Day was really a take-it-or-leave-it holiday for me—and with no serious relationship in my life, it felt like barely a blip on my radar. 

But then a guy who I had a little crush on IMed me. While we chatted about nothing, it came up that I’d be running a work errand right by his office later in the day. Cool! He’d come downstairs for a minute and say hi!

So he did. We ended up meeting for a drink, and then seeing his friend’s show, then getting food, and then wandering around the East Village, and getting another drink…it turned into one of those epic, aimless, unplanned nights where you find yourself enjoying each other’s company not really wanting it to end, so it doesn’t. No, we didn’t kiss that night. But we kissed later, so that was okay. 

This became one of the memories that I always looked back on, especially when Becky and I were first exploring the idea of a post-dating world. Had I wanted or expected dates, flowers, and proclamations of love, that night would have been a let-down. But by being open to any sort of fun, positive way to spend the holiday, I ended up with a really special memory of a great night with a cute guy.

2010: At a certain point of adulthood, you find yourself at peace with Valentine’s Day—relationship or no relationship. One of my best girlfriends and I decided to celebrate our utter lack of caring and concern for the holiday in 2010 by throwing ourselves a traditional little date night. We got drinks, saw the movie Valentine’s Day, ate a classy dinner, and then went back to her place to watch Up and eat a lot of candy. The night was fun and lovely.

But what sticks out to me was our experience at dinner. We were having the best time—talking, laughing, gossiping, sharing food. And then halfway through dinner, the hostess seated a beautiful couple right next to us. "Okay," we communicated to each other through a series of raised eyebrows, "here is the part where we have to watch a couple be in love on this most ‘romantic’ day of the year. We’re ready for it." 

But then! They barely said two words to each other throughout the entire meal. They spent the whole time on their phones. We were actually pretty sure they were eavesdropping on our conversation, simply for lack of better things to do or think about. And both my friend and I were reminded that the very act of being in a relationship doesn’t earn you a prize, or a higher station in life. You make the best of whatever your romantic situation is. And that year—even on a day meant for couples—my friend and I were so happy to just have each other.

Rebecca Wiegand:

Circa 2003: "I don’t need a designated day of the year to buy you flowers!" my then-boyfriend said to me. He was on a roll: passionate, European, an ambivalent capitalist. I adored him and basically agreed with his assessment that Valentine’s Day was a manufactured holiday thrust upon us by greedy Hallmark. Still, I managed to squeak out, "Really? When was the last time you bought me flowers?" Dead silence in the room between us. It turned out that maybe a yearly reminder, courtesy of the Romantic Industrial Complex, wasn’t such an offensive idea after all.

2011: "GET YOUR GAGGLE ON!" Jess and I announced at our signature, Gaggle Valentine’s Day party, and I’ll always remember the damn important lesson I learned that night. We and our team wore white dresses and circulated the room as modern-day cupids, introducing men and women who wore nametags that said things like, "I Need a Career Booster" or "I Need a Hot Sex Prospect" for women and "I’m Your Career Booster" or "I’m Your Hot Sex Prospect" for men. The concept was that you should use Valentine’s Day to explore and expand your gaggle – not focus laser-like and neurotically on finding "The One." 

I had showed up at the venue stressed out of my mind, anxious about the party and—as always—thinking ten steps ahead to everything I felt I had to accomplish in the next six months (and in my life). I scooped up the nametag that said "I Need an Ego Booster" and started ranting about how I needed some guy, any guy, to be nice to me, lend a sympathetic ear, support all my goals and ambitions, and tell me I was doing alright. I was fed up and tired of playing games via text, via email, in person, over the phone, with men in general, and the one man in particular whom I really liked, but also knew it was never going to work out with. Why couldn’t he get his act together? Why couldn’t anyone give me what I needed?

Minutes later, my brother ambled up to the bar; quite my opposite, he is calm, self-assured, and reserved. He was wearing the nametag that said "I’m Your Ego Booster."

When I saw him before me, I almost cried and laughed. There he was, not only supporting me and our project, but also putting himself out there to the single ladies present as the sweetest of all the gaggle guys he could be. I was humbled: I had the world’s greatest friend and supporter right there, but I hadn’t thought to look outside myself and beyond the realm of my fucked up love life. Having gotten over myself and my self-created psycho-drama, I was able to have fun at my own party.

2012: "You’re going to be very fertile this time of year, but I just can’t tell if it’s with a book or a baby!" The astrologer shook her head apologetically while also grinning. I was with two of my girlfriends at our local bar, where they were giving out love horoscopes. I crossed my fingers and prayed the stars were aligning to bring about book success; The Gaggle was being published in hardcover that June. Yet, another part of me wouldn’t have minded if the other b-word came about. I had just entered into a relationship with a man who brought more happiness into my life than I could ever remember having before. A desperate, hopeful part of me wanted him to stick around forever. Later that night, he met us at the bar, two big bouquets of tulips crammed into his backpack. He hadn’t known they were my favorite flowers. I took it as a sign—whether we ever had a baby or not – that he was the man for me. Once again, I found myself thankful for unexpected lessons learned on Valentine’s Day.

The Gaggle

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

Harlequin & ‘Cosmo’ Team Up For E-Book Romances

It’s a sisterhood of sexytimes! Romance publishers Harlequin are teaming up with Cosmopolitan magazine for a bodice-ripping new venture: e-book romance novels.

The New York Times reports that the series Cosmo Red Hot Reads will e-publish two new, short novellas each month beginning in May 2013. All the e-books will be less than 30,000 words. Harlequin authors will pen the books with Cosmo is presumably jumping on for branding purposes only. In a statement, Cosmo’s new editor-in-chief Joanna Coles trilled:

This is fiction for the modern girl negotiating modern love — with all its unpredictability and complications!”

Cosmo has already been publishing e-books on sex and relationship topics for the past year (14 in total), according to The Bookseller blog. One recent e-book flirted with erotic fiction: Cosmo Sexy Stories: Volume 1 contained five short stories by romance writers.

The Times mentions that the new Harlequin erotica will be in e-book form so readers can be "discreet" in public. Discretion certainly hasn’t stopped millions of 50 Shades Of Grey readers, to say nothing of all the women and teen girls who keep the romance genre afloat.

Esquire magazine, which, like Cosmo, is owned by Hearst, has also debuted a range of e-book novels recently. However, Esquire’s e-books, which were boldly and bizarrely marketed as "fiction for men," were somewhat less positively received

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Hallelujah! ‘Never Sleep Alone’ Returns to NYC Friday

NYC’s fuckability factor just rose 60 points – and it’s not just because you moved here. With the return this Friday of Never Sleep Alone – the hit show that helps get you laid – countless New Yorkers are now on their way to never sleeping alone every Friday night, from now until Nov. 2nd, so please plan accordingly (i.e. wash your bed sheets). And in celebration of the special opening night performance, this Friday’s 9:30pm show at Joe’s Pub is Black Tie-optional, and includes luxury limo service for the entire audience to the after-party at a very secret and sexy new club.

Just to re-cap: Never Sleep Alone is The New York Times-acclaimed show led by sexual psychologist and music therapist Dr. Alex Schiller. The Dr.performs sex-infused pop songs, dispenses golden advice from her book Get Laid or Die Trying, and encourages mingling and on-stage make outs between all the rows and legions of single people in attendance. If you’re feeling timid or you’re with a date, just sign up for the more expensive “voyeur” seat in the back and watch the action unfold while you wish you were single again.

The details of this special opening night performance mean several things:

  1. It’s Black Tie-optional, ensuring that already hot people are going to look even hotter
  2. Free limo service from Joe’s Pub to The Very Secret and Sexy New Club ensures optimal bonding time and rendezvous in the leathered corners, and
  3. The cocktails from both the show and after-party locations make every bit of this all the easier!

So if you’re ready to share your bed and get laid in it too, buy a ticket, get dressed up, and make your way to Joe’s Pub this Friday. And if you’re not ready to do that yet then, well, you’re selfish and deserve to be alone. Forever.

The Realities and Fantasies of Finding Love With New York’s Top Matchmaker

You are not the kind of girl who would be at a place like this at this time: 6:30pm. Or maybe you are. Maybe you are the kind of girl who would sit under a massive plastic cupcake-shaped awning while waiting for matchmaker Janis Spindel to assess you. But then, what kind of girl is that?

When I walk in to Dylan’s Candy Bar for one of the famed Matchmaker’s Meet and Greets with eligible women I feel an almost frantic temptation to inform anyone manning that door that I am fine. I don’t need any help getting dates! Maybe some women do, but not me! Not me! I feel this way, because, if you are a halfway attractive woman, you are supposed to be in, approximately, the same romantic situation as Scarlet O’Hara at a barbecue—no matter that not even Vivien Leigh had that many beaux.

Besides, you know the kind of girl that you expect to see at any kind of matchmaking event.You know. Imagine them in your head. Imagine The Millionaire Matchmaker if you’re having trouble. Bleached blonde hair. Lips pumped full of collagen. Dead behind the eyes.

When I think of the women who use matchmakers, I specifically think of one of the girls on Millionaire listlessly stroking the back of her male conquest as he excitedly explained they were co-habitating. While he did so, she stared at the camera, blankly, as though she had decided her youth would be a fair price to barter for a three bedroom on 3rd Avenue.

Which is to say: I don’t think I could ever pull off bleached blonde with my coloring. Becoming utterly soulless also seems like it might be tough.

And if there’s any door guy, I want him to know that, too.

There isn’t one, of course.

There is, instead, an incredibly nice, down-to-earth group of around a dozen women waiting in the upstairs cafe. Not a single of one them seems to suffer from jelly-fish lip syndrome. They appear to range in age from their mid-twenties to late thirties, and all of them are excitedly waiting to meet Janis.

I’m shocked, mostly, I think, by the footwear. They wear sensible shoes. I realize I—ludicrously—expected everyone to be teetering around in 6-inch plastic heels.

But the women aren’t gold diggers or dilettantes or universally known “actresses/models”. They have great jobs. They make good jokes! They’re the kinds of girls you’d want to be friends with. Then I draw back and realize that this is perhaps because they are not doing this to be on television.

That might be why. So, why are they here, then, these nice, pretty, normal women in their nice, pretty, normal shoes?  They’re certainly the kind of women who can find dates on their own.

Everyone has their reasons. One woman explains that her mom met someone through Janis. Someone else says that they found an offer through Lifebooker. Someone remarks that Janis has e-mailed her to come in about 20 times (Janis proudly admits that she is relentless). And someone else points out that she read that Janis has married almost 1,000 couples (Janis is, in fact, six away). The group nods in unison. 

Ah. That’s right. They’re there to meet their husbands. 

That, perhaps, really is the appeal. In an age and a city where you’re supposed to be so fulfilled with your life that you’re perpetually “only looking for something casual”—you’re Scarlet O’Hara at a barbeque!—it’s almost taboo to be obviously looking to settle down and get married.

Even on the Internet. In spite of the fact that on online dating sites it’s perfectly acceptable to say that your interests include, say, crocodile wrestling and braiding strangers’ hair, it would still be a bit weird to lead with your desire to get married and start a family as soon as possible. But Janis assures the room that that is precisely what her male clients are looking for.

Marriage is what Janis Spindel does, and she’s fairly clear on that point. She recounts a story to the women about meeting a man who had decided he was ready to find his wife, and how a name of one of her clients instantly popped into her head. “So, I said to him, ‘Brianna,” she declares, “and he says ‘who’s Brianna?’ And I said, “well, she’s your wife.’”

Janis says this with such conviction that I imagine there’s no doubt in any listener’s mind that, a week later, Brianna and that man are now married. This, seemingly, is just how it happens with Janis. She does—as that one attendee pointed out—have nearly 1,000 couples married, and a shockingly low divorce rate.

Now, maybe it happens that way simply because she is throwing together two people with reasonably similar interests who are both very ready to settle down. But still. On some level, everyone who has ever had disappointing experiences dating probably dreams that a fairy Godmother will sweep in and say, “Here. Here is the person you are supposed to be with. Go live happily ever after now.”

And to get to skip all the stumbling about and feigning an interest in crocodile wrestling in search of that person? No wonder men pay Janis a starting fee of $100,000. And as for the women, perhaps it’s worth sitting through Janis’s intense questioning period (she asks one woman if she’d like to move to Seattle, the woman declines, and Janis replies, undeterred, “Until you meet him and fall madly in love!”) on the off-chance that your name will pop into her head and she’ll present you with true love on a platter.

We may be willing to work very hard to find love, but how wonderful it would be if, instead, it could just be presented to us so effortlessly.  As the women—these nice, normal, pretty women—leave the Meet & Greet, they do so with a sense of childlike optimism that befits the venue.

And who’s the kind of girl who would be into that? Well, maybe it’s just about all of us.