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LA/NYC: THE BEST TIME TO HEAD TO BARNEYS CO-OP

By Nora Zelevansky / November 20th, 2009

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Some people are all about the Barneys Warehouse Sale.  Don't get me wrong: I spent a good three hours at the last one and came out with a Philip Lim sweater and black leather clutch (both of which have become wardrobe linchpins).

But see I love the Barneys Coop sale even more because A) there are generally not grown women getting in fist fights over sun dresses (true story) and B) I don't have to haul ass to a random convention center or hanger.

Anyway, the sale just started to sprint over there while there are still items left.  Otherwise, you may have to get in a fist fight after all.

xo – N.

LA (AND BEYOND): THE BEST WAY TO CHEER UP A SPACE

By Nora Zelevansky / November 19th, 2009

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I'm sick.  And not just in the head, this time.  Yup.  I have the sniffles like every other person across the country at this time of year.

"Sniffles" makes it sound cute, but, trust me, I look and feel anything but adorable right now.  And, so, I thought: What is one thing that always makes me feel less icky?  The answer is clear: Pretty smelling things!

Well, I have a long list of favorite lovely fragrant products, but my most beloved right now is the Votivo Red Currant diffuser with wooden reeds.  I've always loved it, but I didn't know the name, and when I described my favorite scent to my friend who works for Votivo, she knew instantly what it was (I suspect it might be everyone's favorite).  It's tangy and citrusy and clean and all things good, but not overpowering and it doesn't smell like a creepy airplane bathroom deodorizer.  Shudder.

And, everytime I put it out, I know it always makes everything smell good.  Which is most important right now because–with my stuffed nose–I can't smell a damn thing.

xo – N.

MEXICO (SAYULITA): THE BEST EATS IN A REMOTE FISHING VILLAGE

By Nora Zelevansky / November 18th, 2009

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[CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE: Baja Shrimp Tacos From Sayulita Fish Tacos]

Not that I've ever been to Tamarindo (an expat yoga-happy enclave in Costa Rica), but I imagine that Sayulita is pretty similar.  If you haven't been to either, then that comparison really won't help you. At all.

Basically, Sayulita (which is about 45 minutes from Puerto Vallarta) is a fishing village, where a bunch of expats (largely from Canada and Santa Cruz for some reason) have taken up residence.  More importantly, though, Sayulita is where M. & P. got married a few weeks ago.

So, without further ado (ado, adieu, ado), here were the three places we ate at nonstop:

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[CLICK IMAGE TO EXPAND: Guacamole]

First, at half-stand/half-restaurant Sayulita Fish Taco, I liked the Baja Shrimp and Baja Fish tacos best.  Of course, just my luck, those are the fried ones, but they aren't greasy at all.  The tacos come with cabbage, pico de gallo and this tangy spicy sort of creamy sauce that most people just love, but I was sort of not so into.  I learned this the hard way, but if you don't mind being high-maintenance and explicit about your wants, you can get them my way: with no pico and no creamy sauce, but with mango salsa, hot sauce and salt instead.  YUM.

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[CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE: Chicken Burrito, Sauces]

Burrito Revolution was also a hot ticket, although some people had iffy experiences with the fish versions.  I tasted both the chicken and carnitas and they were totally great: with a crispy tortilla and all things good.  Though everyone else loved the orange sauce best here too, I LOVED the garlicky verde situation above.

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[CLICK IMAGE TO EXPAND: Mole Enchiladas]

Lastly (although we actually ate this on our first night in town), Sayuita Café's mole was actually kind of out of this world.  I'm not always a mole fan.  Sometimes it weird me out (and by "it weird me out" I mean "it weirds me out"–YUP, I have a cold and my brain isn't functioning), but this was just tangy and spicy and tasty and all things good.  They're actually famous for their Chile Relleno, which got good reviews from our group too.

Also, I think Andre loved the breakfast at Villa Amor (our hotel), but I don't do breakfast, so you'll have to take his word for it.

Ole.

xo – N.

LA (LA CIENEGA): THE BEST WAY TO BECOME A LOW MAINTENANCE WASH-AND-GO GIRL

By Nora Zelevansky / November 17th, 2009

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Okay, so there's a really good reason why I'm posting this not so attractive picture of myself on a plan to Mexico (with a random woman sleeping behind me–sorry, lady).  I'll get to the point.  But bear with me.

Every once in a blue moon, I decide to let my hair go curly.  On that first day, for some inexplicable reason (especially if I haven't worn my hair naturally curly in ages), my hair might actually look acceptable.  Most of the time, though, I am not even remotely wash-and-go.  I'm the opposite of wash-and-go.  I'm like wash and stay.  In the bathroom.  Blow drying for the next 50 years.

Now, some of my lovely friends, who shall remain nameless have solved this age old problem with Japanese straightening and it actually looks really great on all of them, but I've not been on board.  See, with really flat, pin straight hair, I look a bit like a drowned rat.

So, I've been relegated to blow drying, though I must admit that my totally genius FHI Heat Nano Salon Pro 2000.  I got it as a gift and was admittedly totally shocked that it made a difference, but it not only dries my hair quicker than average, but it changes the texture to smoother and more moisturized.

ANYWAY . . . the point is that hair stylist at my beloved Roman Salon, Lien Scherr, convinced me to try the Brazilian Blow Out, right before I left for Mexico.  The treatment (which initially got a bad wrap for toxicity, but which has been reformulated several different ways by different companies) is not permanent like Japanese, but basically lifts after a few months.  Also, instead of making you hair pin straight, it takes out the frizz and some of the body and leaves in some wave.

So, this image is of me the first morning I washed and then went (to the airport).  Now, I'm not saying my hair looks the best it ever has in the above picture, but it is TOTALLY acceptable and I literally didn't have to do a THING.  And you know what?  It looked acceptable for my whole trip to Mexico, despite ocean swimming and humidity and no time to style anything.  This is without even product!

Anyway, I'm now a wash-and-go girl, at least for now.  I am just so low maintenance.

xo – N.

LA (WEHO): THE BEST PARTY DRESS

By Nora Zelevansky / November 16th, 2009

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This is me.

Yup.  Now that I'm a year older, not only don't my thighs touch, but they're like a foot apart.  I'm also really tall.  And blond.  Also, in this picture, I was having back pain, so that's why I'm standing all crooked and stuff.

Okay, fine.  The jig is up.  The pic is not of me, but I did wear the above Rebecca Minkoff dress to my birthday festivities on Saturday night at Bar Lubitsch.  I absolutely love her bags (and even bought my mother a signature "Morning After" at a small sample sale years ago, where the designer was personally selling her stuff in a friend's living room), but–in the interest of full disclosure–I feel like her apparel can be a little overpriced.

Luckily, I found this baby on major sale at my neighborhood Loemann's, just a couple hours before the (oh so fun!) party, and it soon became one of my lovely birthday presents (thanks, Drewser!).  I never used to do Loehmann's and other discount stores (at least not well) because I hate sorting through massive amounts of stock, but I find the middle and right side of their high-end backroom pretty manageable.  Plus, it's like two feet from my house.

And anything two feet from my house is worth frequenting.  Of course, in this neighborhood full of adorable boutiques and high-end food stores, that's a dangerous proposition.

xo – N.

FRENCH POLYNESIA (OR, WELL, SAMOA): THE BEST TWO TRIBAL COUNSELS IN A ROW

By Nora Zelevansky / November 13th, 2009

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Okay, no spoiler alert here (although I guess this post is like admitting that I sat on my couch and vegged for at least part of the night on my birthday–oops).  But I just want to say that the last two tribal counsels on Survivor have been . . . amazing.  Total blindsides.

And for you "I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here" watchers, who scoff that no one actually watches Survivor anymore, I say get a grip.  See, my TV personality is like my wardrobe: very of the moment, which basically means hi-lo, mixing contemporary with choice vintage.  Nothing wrong with a little old school reality TV.

Can I get a "hallelujah"?

Also, it's Friday.  And it's also spooky, Friday the 13th.

Can I get another "hallelujah"?

Also, this post makes no sense.

Can I get a . . . eh, whatever.

xo – N.

NYC & LA: THE BEST BIRTHDAY

By Nora Zelevansky / November 12th, 2009

BIRTHDAY

[I'm the one in the hat BTW]

Happy Birthday To Me, I Live In A Tree, Blah, Blah, Blah . . .

They say as you get older, birthdays get harder and harder to swallow.  I guess I felt that way about my 30th a bit, but generally I pretty much love my birthday.  Yup, I'm one of those.

So, anyway, I couldn't really think of an appropriate birthday post, except to say that BLANK years ago (yup, BLANK), PL was just a glimmer in, well, no one's eyes.

I'm trying to bring back the birthday hat.

Eh–I have no point.  Who cares.  It's my birthday, dammit.  I don't need to have a point.

xo – N.

NYC (TRIBECA): THE BEST PISTACHIO BROWN BUTTER CAKE & STRACCI WITH WILD GAME RAGU AND COCOA

By Nora Zelevansky / November 11th, 2009

LOCANDAVERDE

Since I'm pretty much a salt addict (and by "pretty much" I mean that I would salt potato chips, if no one was looking), I almost never save room for dessert.  But, before I even got to Locanda Verde, I knew that I needed an attitude adjustment in the sweets department, as they're known for their sugary delights (or "dolce" in Italiano).  I figured I was up to the task.

But as soon as I actually looked at the menu, I realized that instead of "saving room," I was just going to need to eat MORE cause there was no way I was passing up any amazing Italian appetizers and pastas.

I will mostly let the food porn pictures speak for themselves, but suffice it to say that on yet another unseasonably cold rainy evening (on which my umbrella blew inside out at least three times), Locanda Verde was a wonderful, lively, cozy refuge with amazing bites from Sheep's Milk Ricotta with sea salt and herbs with olive oil grilled bread to unbelievable Stracci with wild game ragu, cocoa (yup, cocoa!) and fiore di sardo to (the above) Pistachio Brown Butter Cake with huckleberries and pistachio gelato.

Rain or shine, I'm definitely returning again.  That Sheep's Milk Ricotta is the stuff of happy dreams.

xo – N.

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[CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE: Lamb Meatball sliders with caprino and cucumber & Cotechino Sausage crostino with pickled ramps on ciabatta; gratis pizza bread; Sheeps' Milk Ricotta with sea salt & herbs.]

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[CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE: Stracci with wild game ragu, cocoa and fiore di sardo; Autumn Salad of bitter greens, crimson pear, hazelnuts and smoked speck; My Grandma's Ravioli.]

BROOKLYN (WILLIAMSBURG): THE BEST AUTUMNAL PIZZA & BUTTER RUM ITALIAN SODA

By Nora Zelevansky / November 10th, 2009

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Of course, more so in NYC than in LA, making a name for yourself in the pizza biz is tricky.  I guess first a distinction needs to be made between by-the-slice and a more high-end artisan version with farm-to-table ingredients and the works.  But, still, the competition is stiff, so standing out depends not only on creating the most amazing version, but also on innovating new types.

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Well, I had the extreme pleasure of tasting some such new-fangled innovations (or at least unique bites) at Motorino in Williamsburg, when they hosted me and my friend A.P. for dinner.

First of all, the setting is totally ideal for fall: cozy and comfy and down home with a small dining room and an open pizza oven kitchen (see above).  Second of all, A.P. and I are like the most annoying diners because, while we both LOVE to eat, we eat have dietary restrictions.  I can't do cow dairy; she can't do wheat.

That said, since pizza is basically wheat and cheese, we decided to cheat just a bit, but also do what we could to get around the whole issue.  As a lactard, of course, I LOVE any pizzeria that offers to replace cow milk mozzarella with buffalo on any pizza.  Thank you, MOTHER LOAD!

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[CLICK IMAGES TO EXPAND: A.P. perusing the menu, The Fashionista cocktail, Mortadella grilled and served with mustard, Humbolt Fog goat cheese]

From their relatively vast Italian soda menu, I ordered a Butter Rum soda that really tasted like candy–I loved it!  Ever since I found out I was lactarded, I have craved butter rum ice cream (though I previously hated all things remotely butterscotch-related), so anything in that vein makes me happy.  Then A.P. ordered the above Fashionista cocktail (we'll excuse the name) with aperol, white wine and orange.

After a delicious baby spinach salad, olives with preserved lemon and chili, mortadella grilled and served with tangy mustard (which I would never have thought to order unless the chef sent it, but it was amazing!), some bresaola and prosciutto with lemon and Humbolt Fog goat cheese served with figs and pistachios in honey (KILL ME NOW–the sweet, sour and salty combo is so good!), A.P. and I wondered if we could possibly eat another bite.

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[CLICK IMAGES TO EXPAND: Buffaline Pizza and Homemade Jelly Donuts and Chocolate Gelato]

But, where there's a will, there is definitely a way.  And faced with the simple, but unique Buffaline Pizza with mozzarella, olive oil, raw basil and sea salt and the seasonal (a revolving part of the menu) pizza with squash, pancetta, mozzarella and sage, we dug deep and found a way to get through a good portion.  It was DELICIOUS and really different than your usual tomato sauce version.  I'm not generally even a white pizza fan, as I always find it too rich, but the flavors were so unique (sweet, salty, tangy and sharp) that it was just cheesy heaven.

And, for dessert, we ordered the above homemade jelly donuts with chocolate gelato (which I believe had a fancier Italian name).  A.P. ate the ice cream and I, of course, devoured some of the donuts.  Cause that's just how we do in the hood.  If the hood, that is, is Williamsburg.

xo – N.

NYC/LA (AND BEYOND): THE BEST FOLLOW-UP TO BETSEY JOHNSON POST

By Nora Zelevansky / November 9th, 2009

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[CLICK IMAGE TO EXPAND: Photo By Zach Merck]

Before you start getting all huffy, lemme just explain that the above gesture is by no means directed towards you and yours.  Unless you already jumped the gun, got offended and started spreading lies about me.  Then, the image should be interrupted as personal.  Yup.

No, but seriously, I mostly want to post this pic to acknowledge the fact that I left NYC's Opening Ceremony on my recent trip with my very own, beloved Betsey Johnson "Archive" piece.  As I've mentioned before, both the NYC and LA outposts of the shop (very different in vibe BTW–LA is slick, while NYC feels like a vintage store or Antique Boutique or something) were carrying a few of Betsey's favorite pieces of all time, recreated for our wearing pleasure.

Anyway, mine is the one above, sported at M.'s recent Mexico wedding.  At first I thought black might be too sedate for Mexico, but apparently some (READ: a boatload of) tequila and my bad influence friends go the better of me.  Because I seem to be quite happy in the thing.

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[CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE: Photos by Rachel Leonard]

I'm having second thoughts about posting these, but what else is a blog for if not to humiliate yourself?

Anyway, I know one isn't supposed to pick favorites, but I just can't help myself.

Gracias, Betsey!

xo – N.