Five Great Restaurant Passovers in NYC, 2015

For those who can’t bear the thought of entertaining, or who are unable to entertain thanks to unforeseen circumstances, New York’s restaurants make Passover (which begins April 3, by the way) a breeze. Einat Admony and Anita Lo’s blowout at Balaboosta has long since sold out, but plenty of restaurants are offering special holiday menus — some for the entire week. Granted, you’ll have to shell out more than you typically would for a catering package, but if you’re yielding control to the pros, you might as well go for a (matzoh) balls-to-the-wall Pesach. And if not, you can always check your local Jewish deli. Here are five great restaurant Passovers in NYC restaurants.

Joe & Misses Doe (45 East 1st Street, 212-780-0262)
This is the sixth year that funky lovebirds Joe Dobias and Jill Schulster have hosted a “Progressive Passover” at their petite, eponymous New American restaurant on the southern edge of the East Village. Offered April 3, 4, and 5, diners can conduct their own services, though the intended experience is a bit more freewheeling, with dinner as the main event. Under Dobias, matzoh balls blush red from beets, and plates of braised brisket come with horseradish sauce and pastelicos, a kind of Israeli meat pie. The dessert, a “Passover Sundae,” takes its cues from chocolate and coconut macaroons.

Mile End (53 Bond Street, 212-529-2990)
On Friday, April 3, and Saturday, April 4, at 7:30 p.m., the Manhattan location of Noah and Rae Bernamoff’s Montreal-inspired deli will conduct a casual Seder with the main blessings and a recital of the four questions, followed by a $125 six-course prix-fixe dinner with wine pairings from chef Josh Sobel. Expect matzoh ball soup with smoked chicken and asparagus, smoked lamb shoulder with merguez sausage and rhubarb charoset, and a cake made with apples and almonds.

Telepan (72 West 69th Street, 212-580-4300)
At chef Bill Telepan’s beloved greenmarket restaurant, nestled into an Upper West Side townhouse, the kitchen serves a $95 four-course prix-fixe menu comprising traditional Seder meal flavors given nouveau twists. An amuse features smoked trout potato latkes, chopped liver, and a dried fruit chutney-apple salad, and diners can choose between fish like arctic char and striped bass, hanger steak with brisket, or roast chicken with olives and chickpeas. Kosher wines will also be available for the holiday.

Morso (420 East 59th Street, 212-759-2706)
Pino Luongo will celebrate the first two nights of Passover at his rustic Italian restaurant tucked under the Queensboro Bridge with a $55 three-course prix-fixe. Start with a choice of crostini, like Tuscan-style chicken liver or Roman-Jewish fried artichokes, then opt for family-style portions of braised brisket or roast chicken. Desserts play with chocolate and coconut, as flourless cakes or macaroons.

Russ and Daughters Cafe (127 Orchard Street, 212-475-4881)
This cafe, an offshoot of the venerable Lower East Side smoked-fish institution, will host a blowout $175 prix-fixe hosted by musician Laurie Anderson. There’s no set menu yet, so if you’re willing to take the plunge, reservations are only available via email sent to


Fill Your Stockings With Holiday Spirits

Fork in the Road is publishing a series of local gift guides this year — one from each regular contributor. This one comes from In The Spirit columnist Eve Turow.

As the countdown to Christmas nears completion, consider filling your last few empty stockings with one of the most universally pleasing gifts (for adults) of all: booze and booze-related frivolities. This has been a fantastic year for New York in the world of mixology, brewing, and distilling. Celebrate the stellar products being made and the expert cocktails shaken and stirred with these unique home bar finds.

Jack From Brooklyn’s Sorel
This product is a hands-down holiday gift winner. Steeped with delicious herbs — ginger, cassia root, and cloves, for example — this liqueur is enjoyable over ice, heated, mixed with champagne, or even drizzled into eggnog. And at 15 percent alcohol, it’s a dram you can sip throughout a long fireside evening. Added bonus: you’ll be supporting a Red Hook small business, and you’ll likely surprise your giftee with this unique find.

Greenhook Ginsmiths’ Beach Plum Gin
A riff on the British cordial sloe gin, this New York version supplies the same wintry tart flavors as the beloved UK Christmas-time classic. Proprietor Steven DeAngelo macerates and soaks Long Island beach plums with his award winning American Dry gin and organic turbinado sugar to create the first commercially released Beach Plum Gin. The result is a stone fruit infusion with a thick marzipan-like, fortified wine character that you can drink in cocktails or sip all on its own.

Tuthilltown Spirits’ Hudson Maple Cask Rye Whiskey
This may be the best thing you put in your glass this winter. The whiskey will warm you from the inside, and the subtle maple flavor offers a sweet brown sugar note that rounds out the pour. Made from 100 percent rye, this powerful spirit is aged for four years in charred oak barrels before ending its aging process in maple syrup-cured whiskey barrels. It has a hefty price tag — around $50 for 375 mL — but hey, it’s the holidays.

The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks, by Amy Stewart
For the cocktail lover who thinks they know everything, The Drunken Botanist is sure to supply new factoids, historical stories, and recipes about distillates around the globe. Author Amy Stewart expertly tackles tales of nearly every plant any human has ever tried to boil into a strong drink. A bestseller, this intoxicating read is the ideal gift for anyone interested in the sciences, history, etymology or mixology.

Hemingway Muddler, Sterling Place
As couture cocktails continue to gain fans around the city, more and more drinkers are trying their hand at mixology. One of the most basic tools to getting started on the home-cocktail journey is a badass muddler; find one beautiful version of this tool at Sterling Place in Brooklyn. Crush citrus peel, macerate fresh herbs, or break ice with this nifty and thrifty gift (just $12). Buy one or the whole set at one of three Sterling Place locations. (363 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-797-5667, 11217; 352 7th Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-499-4800,11215; 148 Seventh Ave, Brooklyn, 718-788-1216, 11215)


. . . And to All Some Good Nights

Jaded New Yorkers bored with the usual holiday fare take heed. No need to ooh and aah at big trees and sleep through dancing fairies in order to indulge the family. We’re here to help. Our list of seasonal entertainment is filled with gay Santas, boozing reindeer, and other offbeat fun. And if you decide not to venture out until 2006, we’ve got some long DVDs to keep you busy till then. Enjoy!

‘A Very Bette Christmas’

Welcome to bitchery beneath the mistletoe. Novelist Elizabeth Fuller, who once played host to Bette Davis during an impromptu month-long stay, imagines the difficult Ms. Davis as star of a 1962 televised special. Through song, story, and hissed aside, famed female impersonator Tommy Femia will play Bette as she cows co-host Joan Crawford and spars with the show’s director. SOLOSKI

Through Jan 8, Don’t Tell Mama, 343 W 46th, 212-757-0788

‘The Eight: Reindeer Monologues’

Apparently Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, et al. get up to some fairly kinky reindeer games. In this series of monologues by Jeff Goode, Santa’s eight-deer team gathers on-stage and dashes away eggnog-curdling confessions of boozing, bestiality, and the indignities suffered at the hands of Santa Claus. Come buck the Christmas spirit. SOLOSKI

Through Dec 17, Red Room, 85 E 4th, 212-868-4444

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

Dreamy and even a little grotesque, the Christmas lights in Dyker Heights seem to get increasingly elaborate every year. By mid December, the lawns on Tenth Avenue are littered with high-voltage dioramas, 20-foot toys, and life-size reindeer. Approximately 100,000 people visit each season (many in SUVs)—it’s best to walk, not drive. AVIV

83rd & 84th sts, btwn Tenth & 13th aves, Bklyn

‘The Baby Jesus One-Act Jubilee’

If exchanging shiny commodities and drinking too much at the office party are popular ways of celebrating the birth of the Christ, then commissioning a one-act-play festival to honor his natal day isn’t such an odd choice. Williamsburg’s Brick Theatre presents 12 15-minute plays in two programs: “Shepherds” and “Magi.” SOLOSKI

Dec 1 through 17, Brick Theatre, 575 Metropolitan Ave, Bklyn, 718-907-3457

‘Balletto Stiletto’

Mary Fulham, an original member of the ’80s all-girl comedy act the High Heeled Women, directs a multimedia play about nine daughters who can’t stop doing ballet. It’s like the Grimm fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” except the sisters are “drugged out,” fond of beer, and live in New Jersey. AVIV

Dec 1 through 18, La MaMa E.T.C., 74A E 4th, 212-475-7710

‘Celebrating Fifty Years of Jim Henson & the Muppets’

Whether you’re five or 55, the odds are good you’ve been charmed by one of Henson’s colorful, furry oddballs. (Even our government’s given them accolades with their own postage stamp!) This two-month retrospective celebrates Henson’s creations—Kermit, Miss Piggy, Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster—with rare screenings of specials (many holiday related, such as The Great Santa Claus Switch), episodes, clips, and gems from various TV appearances. BOSLER

Dec 2 through Jan 26, Museum of Television & Radio, 25 W 52nd, 212-621-6800,

Holiday Cooking Courses

Caught in a teary rush of sentimentality, many people with absolutely no culinary talents volunteer to cook massive Christmas feasts every year. Looking out for the guests, the Institute of Culinary Education offers several one-day courses on various kinds of holiday food, including ham, cakes, stews, puddings, biscuits, and eggnog. AVIV

Dec 3 through 31, Institute of Culinary Education, 50 W 23rd, 212-847-0700

‘4th Annual Gingerbread on Broadway’

After spending hundreds of hours creating new candy forms, students from various culinary schools across the East Coast will showcase their best attempt at a gingerbread home. In previous years, the chefs have created more colorful versions of the Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center, and Central Park carousel. AVIV

Dec 5, New York Marriott Marquis, 1535 Bway, 212-398-1900

Holiday Poetry Book Sale

The largest poetry library in the country offers a “maddeningly various” selection of obscure journals, recordings, and chapbooks, some of them written at the beginning of the century. Many of these books (which sell for $7 or less) are long out of print and impossible to purchase elsewhere. AVIV

Dec 9 & 10, Poets House, 72 Spring, 212-431-7920

‘A Christmas Carol’

What with Tiny Tim’s crippling illness, Jacob Marley’s rattling chains, and the spooky Ghost of Christmas Future, we’ve always found Dickens’s story a rather creepy holiday classic. But the family-oriented Theatreworks/NYC has tempered the tale into a musical appropriate for children five and up. With a live band and a cast of Broadway vets, audiences won’t likely be saying “Bah, humbug.” SOLOSKI

Dec 10 through 31, Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher, 212-279-4200

‘Original Holiday Doo-Wop Extravaganza’

Ever wonder where all the boybands of a few years back stole their moves and vocal harmony ideas from? Your ole uncle Barney knows, and b’gosh, instead of getting him another bad tie or shaving kit this season, treat him to a time-machine ride to his past via Dick Fox’s doo-wop holiday show. Featuring (the probably not-so-young) Frankie Lymon’s Teenagers, Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge, and Kenny Vance & the Planotones. BOSLER

Dec 10, 8 pm, North Fork Theatre, Westbury Music Fair, 960 Brush Hollow Rd, Westbury, NY, 516-334-0800

Early Music New York

Dressed in black and holding various excit- ing medieval instruments like shawm and sackbuts, the men’s vocal ensemble will sing 14th-century motets in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 20-foot Christmas tree. Many of their songs honor the Good King Wenceslas, the Duke of Bohemia, born in 907 and murdered on his way to church. AVIV

Dec 11, Medieval Sculpture Hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave, 212-570-3949

‘Red Hot Holiday Stomp’

Wynton’s Crescent City Christmas card always makes the cut at my house during holiday time. This show looks to be a live update of the same. Second-lining through “Sleigh Ride” could be a thrill, and I bet the team—which includes Wycliffe Gordon, Joe Temperly, Victor Goines, and banjo player Don Vappie—will put a little Preservation Hall polyphony on the book. They also plan to romp through pieces by that “Spanish Tinge” Santa, Jellyroll Morton. MACNIE

Dec 15 through 17, 8pm; Dec 18, 3pm; Jazz at Lincoln Center, Time Warner Center, Rose Theater, Bway & 60th, 212-258-9800

‘Twas the Night Before the Twelve Days of a Nutcracker Christmas Carol’

In Ken Nintzel’s last piece, Lapse, he used a Hallmark’s worth of crepe centerpieces and paper chains to depict a year in the life of a coma patient. Though he’s now concentrating exclusively on Christmas, this show recombines several seasons worth of holiday song and lore. SOLOSKI

Dec 15 through 25, PS122, 150 First Ave, 212-352-3101

‘Jewish Soul Celebration’

With popular songs like “Go Down Moses” and “Observant Jew,” Joshua Nelson, the self-described Prince of Kosher Gospel Music, hopes to “spearhead a new revolution in Jewish liturgical” tunes. In a womanly voice, he performs a combination of soul, klezmer, and prayer—it’s the sound of “suffering speckled with joy.” AVIV

Dec 17, Symphony Space, 2537 Bway, 212-864-5400


Sometime this December (the organizers are very secretive), more than 400 men and women, dressed as Santas, will wander drunkenly through the streets “for absolutely no reason whatsoever.” Go to to keep track of this “not-for-profit, non-political, non-religious, and non-logical Santa Claus convention.” AVIV

TBA, various venues,

‘The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players . . . on Ice!’

Those few who believe slide shows are the province of sleepy, high school biology classes or glassy-eyed evenings at Grandpa’s have clearly never seen a Trachtenburg Family show. In these incomparably indie evenings, Dad sings, Mom runs the slide carousel, and nine-year-old Rachel drums and narrates. Occasionally, there are cupcakes. This latest incarnation features holiday-themed visuals and live skating. SOLOSKI

Dec 18 through 23, P.S.122, 150 First Ave, 212-352-3101

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

“You will love it—it’s totally your kind of music, that hard metal stuff . . . but you know, for Christmas!” says Mom. She may be way off on what you like, but there could be far worse ways to experience a holiday musical. Created by heavy-metal producer Paul O’Neill, TSO is the Polar Express of rock operas, tailor-made for prog-metal lovers, aging rockers, kids, and any/all fans of showy Broadway spectacles. Expect exuberantly electrified Christmas songs aplenty, especially tunes from their most recent, The Lost Christmas Eve. BOSLER

Dec 19, Madison Square Garden, Seventh Ave & 32nd, 212-465-MSG1

‘The Beat Goes On: A Rock ‘n’ Glitter Xmas’

Favorite local musicians including Willie Nile ( Beautiful Wreck of a World), Don Fleming, actor-singer Carlton Smith, folk duo the Kennedys, and surprise guests take the stage to perform some classic holiday ditties from the Yule log—oops, catalog—of rockers, including the Ramones, the Pretenders, Paul McCartney, XTC, James Brown, and much more. ABER

Dec 21, B.B King Blues Club & Grill, 237 W 42nd, 212-997-4144,

Santa Claus Is Coming Out, or How the Gay Agenda Came Down My Chimney’

Historically, Santa makes lists of naughty and nice, rather than straight and gay. But Jeffrey Solomon puts the “ho, ho, ho” in homosexuality in this one-man show, in which a boy’s wish for a doll somehow outs Santa. (What will Mrs. Claus say?) SOLOSKI

Dec 21 through 23, Queens Theatre in the Park, Flushing Meadow–Corona Park, Qns, 718-760-0064

Sledding at Riverside Park

Sledding is rarely as fun as it’s supposed to be—snow mysteriously sneaks up your sleeves, or down your boots, and the walk up the hill is too long. If you insist on trying, the slopes at Riverside Park are the steepest (far better than Central Park), and some even have what enthusiasts call “moguls” (e.g., bumps, sticks, rocks). Enter at 91st or 108th for the best ride. AVIV

Riverside Park at 91st or 108th

Matzo Ball Party

Small talk and desperate jokes come more easily when you’re a Jew on Christmas Eve. Hosted by the Society of Young Jewish Professionals, this party is good for ’80s tunes, kosher sandwiches, and drunken, desperate coupling. Gentiles can join too. AVIV

Dec 24, Capitale, 130 Bowery, 888-633-5326

Wave Hill Conservatory

Like a giant sauna with flowers, the Wave Hill Conservatory is a comforting place to go when the weather begins to dip below freezing. With temperatures around 80 degrees, you can simultaneously walk, talk, and look at nature without having to constantly adjust all your baggy winter clothes. AVIV

Wave Hill Conservatory, 675 W 252nd, Bx 718-549-3200

‘Chinese Food and a Movie on Christmas Day: Born to Be Wilder’

Watching movies (doing anything) is always better while sporadically and thoughtlessly snacking. Making good on the most beloved of Jewish clichés, Makor hosts a Christmas evening of unlimited Chinese food in the movie theater. The center will screen Young Frankenstein and Silver Streak, starring Gene Wilder (born Jerome Silberman), and director Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot and The Apartment—perfect pick-me-ups for an otherwise lonely day. AVIV

Dec 25, Steinhardt Building, 35 W 67th, 212-601-1000,

Coney Island Polar Bear Club’s Annual New Year’s Day Swim

To understand the joys of diving repeatedly into freezing cold water, join the country’s oldest winter-swimming organization on Coney Island beach every Sunday. Wearing nothing but a bathing suit and neoprene surf boots, members of the group dip into the Atlantic while onlookers cheer. On January 1, hundreds of people will join the club for a painful yearly ritual, featuring plenty of screaming. AVIV

Every Sun through May & Jan 1, Coney Island Beach, 718-356-7741,


Joe’s Pub for the Holidays

Don’t want to venture above 14th Street to entertain every relative in town? Downtown institution Joe’s Pub has something for everyone. Start nasty, start drag, with Varla Jean Merman’s I’m Not Paying for This (December 6 and 7), a one-woman (sorta) tour of the seven deadly sins. Lust, greed, gluttony, envy, pride, sloth, and anger are all addressed in this wicked little laugh-fest from actor Jeffery Roberson (a/k/a Varla Jean Merman) . Next up are pop rockers Betty, who bring their comical brand of musical merriment to the stage (December 8 through 10) with tunes like “Holiday Office Party Blues” and “Christmas Ain’t Coming,” from their album Snowbiz. Téada’s Very Irish Christmas Show (December 11) promises to transport audience members to the Emerald Isle with step dancing, Irish harp, bagpipes, and guest vocalist Cathie Ryan. Dave Parker and the Bang Group’s Nutcracked (December 15 through 18) proves the Nutcracker can indeed have some nuts when you add offbeat Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller recordings of Tchaikovsky’s classic score, then throw Peter DiMuro and the Happy Hour Comedy Trio into the usual ballet. For a little rock ‘n’ roll with a hefty splash of burlesque, Los Straitjackets and the World Famous Pontani Sisters (December 20 and 21) welcome guest emcee Kaiser George to their circus-like Christmas pageant. New York punk-folkie Mike Errico closes out the month with his annual Christmas show (December 21). The genre-bending singer is usually sedate but we get the feeling he’s going to be in a festive mood this night. ABER

Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette, 212-239-6200,

Homeward bound
DVDs to stay inside with

With the arrival of cold weather, ’tis once again the season for New Yorkers to take shelter inside our apartments and catch up on those long movies we’ve been too busy for during warmer months. Terrence Malick’s The New World may be the season’s most anticipated new release, making this a good time to revisit the director’s three-hour World War II reverie The Thin Red Line. A radical rethinking of the war movie, The Thin Red Line steers away from the problematic excitement of combat in favor of a more contemplative tone—Malick may be the only director alive who would cut away from a battle scene for a shot of sunlight hitting a blade of grass.

The long form lends itself to certain genres—there aren’t a lot of slapstick comedies or slasher flicks clocking in at three hours plus. Representing the costume drama is Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 film Barry Lyndon, which chronicles the rise and fall of the titular nobleman (seldom a less appropriate label) back in the good old days when the pettiest of insults was reason enough for a duel to the death. The opulent sets and groundbreaking cinematography-by-candlelight provide all the standard period-movie pleasures, even as Kubrick’s camerawork doggedly keeps us at a distance.

Is it a stretch to think of Twin Peaks as one long movie? Maybe not, particularly as the spotty second season remains unreleased on disc (the first-season DVD comprises seven hour-long episodes, not including the two-hour pilot, available separately). David Lynch’s color palette and Angelo Badalamenti’s moody score give Twin Peaks a cinematic ambience, even as its soap opera structure guarantees the compulsive watchability of TV.

Finally, on the nonfiction front, a long winter’s day (or two) provides the ideal opportunity to watch Claude Lanzmann’s masterful 566-minute Holocaust documentary Shoah, essential as much for its formal intelligence as for the enormity of its subject. Lanzmann’s investigation of Nazi evil gains significantly in impact when viewed in one or two sittings, the compact time frame giving the purposeful repetition of key images a chance to sink in. LAND


Santa’s Top 10 Cookbooks

No reliable scientific study has yet demonstrated that people who get cookbooks for Christmas actually cook anything with them. But think of all the other things cookbooks do for us. They brighten up a kitchen. They also keep us slender, since most recipes are best enjoyed by gazing at the color pictures, the same way sex can be enjoyed by flipping through the pages of Playboy. For your foodie friends, cookbooks make better gifts than, say, an egg slicer, a cherry pitter, or a gizmo that cooks hot dogs and warms the buns at the same time.

It pleases me to announce that I’ve been selected to help Santa pick his cookbook gifts this year. Frank Bruni was busy trimming the White House tree (as thanks for his adulatory Bush campaign memoir, Ambling Into History), so I got the nod. Here are the best cookbooks I found, and the worst too.

The Best

Simon Rimmer, The Accidental Vegetarian (Cassell Illustrated, 2004, paper, $17.95). With luscious color illustrations, this recipe collection—from an obscure Manchester, England, chef—circumnavigates the globe, furnishing an Italian panzanella shotgunned with capers, a Thai green-bean curry, and a Moroccan pasta with chickpeas, cilantro, and tomatoes. Give it to the most devout carnivore you know.

Scott Conant’s New Italian Cooking (Broadway Books, 2005, $35). The chef who made his mark at L’Impero in Tudor City spins off a book as elegant and well organized as the restaurant. It includes such signatures as roast baby goat, spaghetti puttanesca, and scallop carpaccio with scallions, interspersed with charming personal anecdotes about growing up Italian American.

Marlena Spieler, Grilled Cheese: 50 Recipes to Make You Melt (Chronicle Books, 2004, paper, $16.95). All those oozing pictures of toasted cheese sandwiches made me think of—oh, never mind. I usually hate one-subject
cookbooks, but there’s a unique appeal to toasted cheese: associations with childhood, use of leftover cheeses in your fridge, and easy concealment of grease.

Suzanne Goin, Sunday Suppers at Lucques (Knopf, 2005, $35). West Hollywood’s quintessential restaurant produces the only farmers market cookbook you’ll ever need, with a foreword by Alice Waters. It’s California between two covers. Organized by seasons, the book includes mouthwatering recipes for watercress soup with relish toast, lobster salad with bacon and fava beans, and grilled quail with ricotta pudding.

Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, Mangoes & Curry Leaves (Artisan, 2005, $45). This gorgeous coffee-table book combines travelogue, anthropology text, and recipe collection, with color photos of India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh that will knock your eyes out. In addition to everyday fare, it offers festival food. Included are a cuke and tomato salad called cachoombar (bless you!), banana fritters, and beef curry with toasted spices.

Brooke Dojny, The New England Clam Shack Cookbook (Storey Books, 2003, paper, $16.95). Salt spray blows from every page, as Dojny visits the seafood shacks you remember from Maine to Connecticut, collecting their unique recipes—every joint has one. Crammed with photos, vivid stories, and taxonomic information about local seafood, this masterpiece delivers a quick summer vacation in the dead of winter.

Francine Segan, Shakespeare’s Kitchen (Random House, 2003, $35). In the bard’s day gold was used in cooking and a rabbit’s foot was the handiest pastry brush. These and other facts make this the perfect cookbook for your favorite literary gourmand. The modernized “receipts” (recipes) are drawn from cookbooks of Shakespeare’s time and include purses stuffed with beef and candied fruit, leg of lamb with oyster stuffing, and rose-flavored cookies.

Melissa Clark, Chef, Interrupted (Clarkson Potter, 2005, $32.50). The author has collected one or two quintessential recipes each from 50 chefs, including Batali (chicken liver and fennel crostini), Bouley (asparagus-and-potato salad), and Boulud (braised Basque chicken). Why buy dozens of celebrity chef cookbooks, when you need only one?

Susanna Hoffman, The Olive and the Caper (Workman, 2004, paper, $19.95). With plenty of travel photos to put you in the mood, this hefty volume regards Greek cooking from a regional perspective. Sometimes unexpected flavors appear—orange zest in a lamb barley soup, for example, or pork-stuffed cabbage leaves with caraway seeds.

Arthur Schwartz’s New York City Food (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2004, $45). The now corpulent godfather of New York food writing has ferreted out stories and recipes from Gotham’s beloved dining institutions, places like Schrafft’s and Longchamps and Lundy’s. This is a book for the most avid New Yorkers on your list.

The Worst

Marguerite Patten, Spam (Hamlyn, 2001, paper, $9.95). The Queen of Spam offers Spam scones, Spam paella, and Spam steaks in port wine sauce. Will it surprise you to learn she’s English?

Betty Crocker’s Low Fat, Low Cholesterol Cooking Today (Macmillan, 2000, $22.95). Trading on the celebrity status of a non-existent person, the people who helped make you fat in the first place offer to fix everything.

Jamie Purviance, Weber’s Art of the Grill Deck (Chronicle, 2002, paper, $14.95). For the truly brain-dead, instructional playing cards you can take with you to the grill.

Andy Ennis, Cooking for Cher (Fireside, 1997, paper, $15). Thrill to the recipe for “Cher’s BBQ Baked Beans”: two cans baked beans, ketchup, brown sugar.

Rachael Ray, Best Eats in Town on $40 a Day (Lake Life Press, 2004, paper, $16.95). From Ray’s worst TV series, in which she cajoles her hapless hosts into all sorts of freebies, sidestepping her fiduciary responsibilities. She learned it from the “$25 and Under” column in the Times.

Jamie Oliver, Jamie’s Dinners: The Essential Family Cookbook
(Hyperion, 2004, $33.95). I got news for you: The “Naked Chef” isn’t really naked. Until he shows his pudding, I won’t be buying anything from him and his football hooligan “mates.”

Ariel De Guzman, The Bush Family Cookbook (Scribner’s, 2005, $30). What kind of pissant would buy this book?

Tony Lip and Steven Priggé, Shut Up and Eat (Berkley, 2005, $24.95). Who cares about the favorite recipes of the Italian American members of the Sopranos cast? The Mafia Cookbook is the superior volume.


You Know You Want It

We understand your plight. This is the year you were hoping to put some actual thought into the gifts you buy for those special freaks in your life. Yet you’re weary on what to get them. You already think they should kick some habits and stow away the absurd collections that have taken over their apartments. No need to be judgmental. This is the season to celebrate all those idiosyncrasies that make your family and friends unique. We scavenged around and found just the right things for all the addicts and fanatics you love—and sometimes even hate.


Whether you’re shopping for a casual card player or a hardcore slot jockey, Blatt Billiards offers a wide array of gifts for gamers of all stripes. For novice poker players, a rotary chip tray ($19.99) and dealer’s requisite green visor ($8) make for the perfect starter kit. For more seasoned enthusiasts, there are automatic shufflers ($40) and designer playing cards with reproductions of Klimt, Manet, and M.C. Escher ($15). And of course, no home casino is complete without a miniature roulette wheel ($34.99). If your giftee also enjoys a good cigar with his or her gaming, then Nat Sherman, self-proclaimed tobacconist to the world, is the next place to visit. A James Bond–cool humidor-and-game-set combo runs $150, but if that’s out of your range, a compact cigar cutter and ashtray can be had for $50. For even tinier budgets, their house brand cigars start around $2. MULLINS

Blatt Billiards, 809 Bway, 212-674-8855; Nat Sherman, 500 Fifth Ave, 212-764-5000


The only thing that makes buying food-related gifts a chore is the sheer abundance of specialty shops, like mighty Kalustyan’s on Curry Hill, that literally have everything one wants. For lovers of exotica, buy a candy-colored creel of woven plastic from Matamoros Puebla ($14.95–$24.95) and fill it with imported spices, candies, and other Mexican treats, plus some of the city’s best fresh tamales (pork or chicken, $1.50 each). Visit Bonnie Slotnick for a selection of vintage New York cookbooks that she boasts “ranges from Alfredo’s to Zabar’s.” Though the copper cookie cutters ($7.99–$14.99) and candied violets ($9.99 for 2.5 ounces) from a certain Chelsea baker’s emporium fascinate, the real treasures spied on a recent reconnaissance mission there were gorgeous edible copper glitter ($3.99 for 0.25 ounces) and Marimekko-hued edible-ink markers ($7.99 for eight). I confess my thoughts about how these two items might best be employed were not strictly culinary in nature. BEGHTOL

Kalustyan’s, 123 Lexington Ave, 212-685-3451; Matamoros Puebla, 193 Bedford Ave, Bklyn, 718-782-5044; Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, 163 W 10th, 212-989-8962; New York Cake & Baking Distributors, 56 W 22nd, 212-675-CAKE


Just because one’s tastes lie along subterranean strata doesn’t mean said aestheticism can’t come in refined packages. One favorite is the eclectic and curatorially exquisite Saved Gallery of Art and Craft, sort of an ABC Carpet & Home (and clothing store and tattoo shop!) for the Billyburg bedhead set. Though not a goth boutique by any means, they do have plenty of the dark and strange: vintage-like threads (with gothic and old-school tat designs, $50–$100), Persian ceramics, and Victo rian-inspired jewelry and antiques, perfect for the discerning Beetlejuice Betty in your life. Way expensive but way tasteful is East Village’s John Derian Company; not so much a haven for hipsterati or the clad-in-black, but a treasure trove of antiques and odd and elegant decoupages (“centuries-old” paper images arranged under glass) of skeletons, animals, flora, and sea life ($20–$850). For the more out-there (and more affordable) try Bedebug, an online jeweler specializing in dead curiosities—bugs (beetles, spiders, dragonflies), rat skulls, scorpions, starfish—encased in hand-sculpted resin ($25–$50). Note: No specimens were harmed or killed to make these designs. BOSLER

Saved Gallery of Art and Craft, 82 Berry St, Bklyn, 718-388-5990; John Derian Company, 6 E 2nd, 212-677-7197; Bedebug,


Don’t let snobby sommeliers scare you away from finding that perfect gift for your wino friends. Those not confined to a budget should invest in an evening tasting sponsored by wine house Acker Merrall & Condit. December events include a 1990 versus 1991 red burgundy tasting, led by the renowned wine expert and critic Steve Tanzer ($545 a person). Those with a lighter wallet can swing by the MOMA Design Store and pick up the Rosendahl wine stopper, a sleek and sophisticated creation flawlessly combining Scandinavian minimalism with a twist of Mediterranean warmth. Created by Erik Bagger and produced by the Danish design company, the cone-shaped stopper, with the stainless steel top and black rubber base, impressively combines form and function for $48. Or brave the Christmas hell of Macy’s for a pair of Riedel wine glasses from the sexy, stemless “O” collection. The Austrian company made a name for itself by designing each glass to complement a different vintage, depositing various wines on a different parts of the tongue to accentuate the flavors. Two glasses made for pinot noir and Nebbiolo, or two made for Riesling and sauvignon blanc, come to a scant $19.98. The story of “O” never looked better. BRAUNSCHWEIGER

Acker Merrall & Condit retail store, 160 W 72nd, 212-787-1700; MOMA Design Store, 81 Spring, 646-613-1367; Macy’s, 151 W 34th, 212-695-4400


The easiest and often most welcome gift for art lovers is a membership to the institution of his or her choice—the Museo del Barrio, like most, offers a range of memberships to fit all needs and budgets ($25–$2,500). Gift certificates to museum shops assure no returns; excellent choices in this line include the Cooper-Hewitt and the American Craft Museum. A great source for artistic gifts of all sorts is the International Center of Photography shop, which stocks adorable handbags made from vintage box cameras ($50), terrific books, postcards, calendars, unique jewelry, and, of course, nifty cameras: the stalwart, plastic-lensed Holga ($25), an adorable fish-eye camera ($50), and a pinhole camera kit ($19.95). For working artists, a shopping spree at the Art Store would be bliss; it’s generally cheaper than Pearl Paint and the staff is nicer and more knowledgeable than the drones at Sam Flax. The tiny, dreamy Ink Pad offers thousands of rubber stamps, stamping supplies, kid-friendly crafting classes, and special events. BEGHTOL

El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Ave, 212-831-7272; Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, Fifth Ave & 91st, 212-849-8355; American Craft Museum, 40 W 53rd, 212-956-3535; International Center of Photography, 1133 Sixth Ave, 212-857-0000; The Art Store, 15 Bond, 212-533-2444; The Ink Pad, 22 Eighth Ave, 212-463-9876


I think it was Samantha Fox who said, “Naughty girls need love too.” So why not treat your favorite nymph to a few carefully selected items this season? Maybe in return she’ll reward you with some gifts of her own. Unfed makes irresistible 400-thread-count Egyptian-cotton pillowcases ($52) that are mischievous and playful. Each is embroidered with a delicate design of a woman tied up or in mid-disrobement. If you want to spread a little extra holiday spirit in the boudoir, Jolie’s lingerie Santa suit ($12.99), available at Joyce Leslie, is traditional-looking enough (red with feathery white trim and a black belt) but much smaller and lots more fun. It even comes with a hat. For an extra dose of kink, head to J&R, where you can whip out the Amex and buy that special little lady the Sony Cybershot DSC-N1 8.1 megapixel digital camera ($499.99). It’s as big as a deck of cards, hence discreet, and can hold up to 500 photos. There’s no telling what memories she’ll be able to make this Christmas. BASTIDAS; Joyce Leslie, 20 University Pl, 212-505-5419; J&R Music World, 23 Park Row, 212-238-9100


If you don’t want to get that bookworm friend yet another novel this year, there are some creative alternatives. Coliseum Books carries a line of plush dolls ($15) in the likenesses of writers from Emily Dickinson to W.E.B. DuBois to Edgar Allan Poe. There’s even a Charles Dickens finger puppet ($5). Just as writerly but far more practical is the David Levine 2006 Desk Diary: A Literary Birthday Book ($19.95), available from The New York Review of Books. Illustrated with 117 of Levine’s classic caricatures, it lists the birthdays of many a famous poet and novelist, so you’ll never forget Tennyson’s or Faulkner’s again. Finally, if get them a proper book you must, then The Writer’s Desk by Jill Krementz ($39.95) is appropriate. In lavish duotone photographs, Krementz (who happens to be the wife of Kurt Vonnegut) depicts a host of writers at work—where else?—at their desks. Terry Southern’s was apparently very messy. Stephen King’s, on the other hand, is quite tidy. MULLINS

Coliseum Books, 11 W 42nd, 212-803-5890; The New York Review of Books, ; The Writer’s Desk ,


Toys, particularly the import collectible variety, have gotten to a weird place unknowable to outsiders, where super new and retro are almost indistinguishable. Soho’s Kidrobot is tops in the game for “art toys” and mini-figures, but the glass cases of Munnys, Dunnys, and Ice-Bots can induce panic. Afterward, finding a talking stuffed Napoleon Dynamite ($19.99) in a choice of two outfits (one of them the celebrated brown dance suit!) at the East Village’s Toy Tokyo is a relief. Plastic Godzillas in all different sizes, colors, opacities, and widely ranging scarcities are also available: How about a Gatorade-yellow two-and-a-half incher ($24)? There are many types of toys in the city, but sometimes the best ones are still the classics. In this vein, nothing beats a prototype Christmas-morning robot, such as FAO Schwarz’s Chrome Smoking Robot ($80), with “lighted eyes” and “stop and go action,” or Atomic Robot Man ($30), whose box promises nothing except “choking hazard.” FONG

Kidrobot, 126 Prince, 212-966-6688; Toy Tokyo, 121 Second Ave, 212-673-5424; FAO Schwarz, 767 Fifth Ave, 212-644-9400


In this digital age, decent—yet affordable—new turntables are devilishly hard to find; when your beloved requests a portable model, you really have only two choices: hiding his or her body somewhere it’ll never be found, or tracking down a Crosley. This clever manufacturer introduced a sturdy three-speed model built into a small suitcase in the 1950s and they still make them today in spiffy black or tweed leatherette; we love the Stack-O-Matic ($179.95). For those who prefer solitude, pick a pair of stylish, quality headphones made by Brooklyn’s family-owned Grado Laboratories ($69–$695) from the wonderful Lyric Hi-Fi shop. And when you’ve had precisely enough of other people’s noise—be it screamo, Schumann, or Rhino’s superlative new girl-group box set, One Kiss Can Lead to Another ($63.60)—have yourself fitted for a pair of custom earplugs at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary ($162). BEGHTOL; Lyric Hi-Fi, 1221 Lexington Ave, 212-439-1900;; New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, 310 E 14th, 212-979-4340


The common species of Periodical Collector can be spotted peeking from behind tall stacks of half-read magazines piled on every horizontal surface of their habitat. They carefully build their nest of short-form reading, pleasantly free from the commitment beloved by the closely related Bookworm. To gain their trust, give them a vintage fashion magazine from Gallagher’s; a 1936Cosmopolitan featuring a festive holiday cover sells for $40. Or bestow the gift that keeps on giving and head to Nikos Magazine & Smoke Shop to pick up an issue to wrap up while you mail in the subscription card of a pub they might not be familiar with. Suggestions include the independently published music magazine Paste ($49.95 for 16 issues), which is filled with indie-music features and includes a sampler CD with each installment. For techie film geeks, a subscription to Res ($24.95 for 6 issues) will keep them informed on creative digital filmmaking. A bonus DVD of shorts and music videos arrives inside each issue. Even if this addict has all the publications they need, he or she could surely use a vintage magazine rack
from Waldorf Hysteria ($25–$35), which will allow them to display their ephemera in a slightly more organized fashion. REMSBERG

Gallagher’s Fashion and Design, 126 E 12th, 212-473-0840,; Nikos Magazine & Smoke Shop, 462 Sixth Ave, 212-255-9175; Waldorf Hysteria, 165 Ave B, 212-673-6284


Face it, for some women there is one and only one appropriate gift: jewelry. The good news is they usually let you know in advance by hinting all over the place. The bad news is that unoriginal jewelry is everywhere, multiplying and infecting stores and boutiques all over the city, making it tricky to spot unique goods. EDGEnyNOHO, a new designer-run market, has hip, one-of-a-kind baubles from a variety of undiscovered talents. Stroll down the long glass cases in the center of the store until something sparkly catches your eye. A dramatic necklace by Draugsvold ($175) plays with scale by using large brass rings, three-inch-wide hummingbirds, and clear crystal beads. Sterling silver horseshoe rings by Spragwerks ($65) are decidedly non-girlie accents, reminiscent of flash tattoo designs. Nabi provides sweet and delicate contributions, including charm-laden safety pin broaches ($52). If your giftee already has enough trinkets to decorate the tree at Rockefeller Center, Anthropologie has jewelry boxes ($38–98) covered in velvet, satin, and brocade that dazzle all on their own. REMSBERG

EDGEnyNOHO, 65 Bleecker, 212-358-0255,; Anthropologie, 85 Fifth Ave, 212-627-5885,


Your muscle-bound friend whose interest can only be peaked by mentioning dumbbells might appreciate something other than protein this year. Power walk to Paragon, where you can find lots for your fitness fanatic. The Ogio Turbulence duffel bag ($60), which can apparently withstand anything judging from the name, features a vented compartment for smelly gym shoes, mesh water-bottle pockets, a pouch for an iPod, and more. Plus, it comes in orange or black. If you really want to make your buddy go apeshit, pick up the 30-meter water- resistant Polar F6 watch ($109.95). Not only does it tell time, but it also establishes personal target heart rate zones, tracks calories and percentage of fat burned, determines body mass index, and allows online transference of exercise data. Whew! Lastly, the gift any workout fiend would love: a 55-minute “Reflexology, Neck and Shoulder” massage ($115) from Equinox’s spa. Focusing mostly on the feet, this session gives overworked stair-steppers a luxurious time-out, while aiding in overall detoxification and stimulating proper body function. Just prepare for potentially bone-crushing hugs. FRANKLIN

Paragon Sports, 867 Bway, 212-255-8036,; Equinox, 10 Columbus Cir, 212-871-0425,


Christopher Brosius once wrote a perfume manifesto, filled with love/hate enigmas like “A lazy and inelegant concession to fashionable ego,” which would give him the name of his future company, CB I Hate Perfume. The first perfumer to be included in a major museum for the design of scent, Brosius makes fragrances conceived on abstractions: In the Library, Mr. Hulot’s Holiday ($45). He also does custom blends in his Williamsburg gallery (starting at $50 plus the cost of materials); for those who “miss the point entirely,” he says, “I simply sigh and direct them to Bloomingdale’s.” Or Saks, we presume, where more mass-market girls find Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb ($95 and up), a pink grenade with top notes of tea and bergamot and something of an It perfume. Bond No. 9, famous for bottling New York City neighborhoods (Nouveau Bowery, Chelsea Flowers), offers an alluring selection of vintage accomplices, such as a shimmering glass egg with a tasseled atomizer ($115). FONG

CB I Hate Perfume, 93 Wythe Ave, Bklyn, 718- 384-6890; Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Ave, 212-753-4000; Bond No. 9, 9 Bond, 212-228-1732


When your sister gave you the silent treatment after you sat on the couch with subway-worn clothes, it became clear that she’s a tad touchy about spotlessness. No worries, Tiny Living has something she’ll relish. The sleek, steel Blomus magnetic board ($41), akin to a modern bulletin board, is perforated so she can attach trays for stowing sunglasses, a paper dispenser, hooks for hanging keys, magnets to post shopping lists, and more. Foam-lined microfiber Casabella kitchen gloves in pink or lavender ($5.99) will help keep her gift as shiny as the day it was unwrapped. A great alternative to sponges, they remove dust and gunk sans cleaning products. And while on the organizational tip, any type A personality would kick up their heels using the sheer blue or silver Hipce CD-filing system (holds 80 to 120 disks; $29.95–$31.95). A drawer glides out with the press of a button bearing alphabetized slips. Plus, there’s a lock and key so your sibling can sleep soundly knowing that nothing will ever be moved out of place. FRANKLIN

Casabella, Bed Bath & Beyond, 620 Sixth Ave, 212-255-3550; Tiny Living, 125 E 7th, 212-228-274


We all have friends who’d rather be someplace else than here. Instead of buying this globe- trotter a plane ticket you can’t afford to some far-off destination, opt for something equally fitting and less pricey. The Swiss Army Soho store not only carries an assortment of pocket knives but durable travel gear as well. Their Mobilizer 22 Ultra-Light wheeled suitcase ($299.99) in classic red delivers on its name: It’s super-compact with plenty of pockets and lightweight for easy maneuvering in crowded airports. If you’re more of an under-$50 gift-giver, the American Apparel Airplane Blanket ($28) is made of California fleece, comes in plenty of colors, and is big enough to cover your jet-lagged pal. Or you can buy them Assouline’s Adventure Hotel Stories ($40). A coffee-table must-have for any escape artist, the book takes readers from climbing to the top of the world in Nepal with Sir Edmund Hillary, to surviving in the Brazilian jungle in Amazonia with Peter Fleming, to lots of other places in between. Bon voyage! BASTIDAS

Swiss Army Soho, 136 Prince, 212-965-5714; American Apparel, 104 N 6th St, Bklyn, 718-218-0002;


It’s time to find a present for that friend you lovingly refer to as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” One sip of morning java turns this raging maniac into a tolerable companion. For the fiend that is always on the go, Boss Coffee ($1.89–$2.49) is the ultimate in prepared iced-coffee drinks. Made in Japan, each can features the company logo and the picture of a classic boss man smoking a pipe. One can even shows the boss riding tall on a motorcycle, perhaps to show you how macho a tiny 6.7 ounce beverage with milk and sugar can be. If the politics of bean-growing are keeping you from making a guilt-free purchase, Allegro Coffee tackles two important issues in the coffee business: sustainable farming and fair-trade pricing. Bags of whole beans are available in enough varieties—single origins, blends, and even decaf ($5.99 for eight ounces)—to soothe the wildest thing. The gentle art-loving side of your caffeine-dependent pal will appreciate a set of Illy espresso cups designed by artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel ($160). Each of the five cups has a different version of Schnabel’s chilled-out surfer dude Chuck, and comes packaged in a life-preserver-shaped box, because even the crankiest among us deserves to be saved. REMSBERG

Boss coffee, Sunrise Mart, 212-598-3040, 4 Stuyvesant, 2nd fl; Illy Gallery, 382 W Bway, open until December 15, or; Allegro Coffee, Whole Foods, 212-823-9600, 10 Columbus Cir


Product divas who worship at the altar of Sephoras everywhere need not be punished for the holidays. Instead, toast your favorite beauty junkie with some bubbly—in the form of champagne, which contains antioxidants that infuse the skin with vitamins, especially when directly applied. Euphoria Day Spa in Tribeca offers gift certificates for a Body Bellini ($99), a decadent scrub that delivers glowing skin on contact. The spa pairs the treatment with a glass of the real thing for recipients to enjoy while getting pampered. If your darling is a bit more old-fashioned, one of our favorite apothecaries C.O. Bigelow sells vintage gift sets that any classic beauty would love. Their Tinted Love trio of lip shines ($16.50) gives kissers that extra hue and come in a collectible tin. All you need is the mistletoe. If your favorite narcissist is of the male variety, he’ll appreciate the World’s Greatest Shave kit ($49.50), which includes shaving cream, witch hazel, and aftershave lotion for fellas with sensitive skin. BASTIDAS

Euphoria Day Spa, 18 Harrison, 2nd fl, 212-925-5925; C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries , 414 Sixth Ave, 212-533-2700


Homeward Bound

With the arrival of cold weather, ’tis once again the season for New Yorkers to take shelter inside our apartments and catch up on those long movies we’ve been too busy for during warmer months. Terrence Malick’s The New World may be the season’s most anticipated new release, making this a good time to revisit the director’s three-hour World War II reverie The Thin Red Line. A radical rethinking of the war movie, The Thin Red Line steers away from the problematic excitement of combat in favor of a more contemplative tone—Malick may be the only director alive who would cut away from a battle scene for a shot of sunlight hitting a blade of grass.

The long form lends itself to certain genres—there aren’t a lot of slapstick comedies or slasher flicks clocking in at three hours plus. Representing the costume drama is Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 film Barry Lyndon, which chronicles the rise and fall of the titular nobleman (seldom a less appropriate label) back in the good old days when the pettiest of insults was reason enough for a duel to the death. The opulent sets and groundbreaking cinematography-by-candlelight provide all the standard period-movie pleasures, even as Kubrick’s camerawork doggedly keeps us at a distance.

Is it a stretch to think of Twin Peaks as one long movie? Maybe not, particularly as the spotty second season remains unreleased on disc (the first-season DVD comprises seven hour-long episodes, not including the two-hour pilot, available separately). David Lynch’s color palette and Angelo Badalamenti’s moody score give Twin Peaks a cinematic ambience, even as its soap opera structure guarantees the compulsive watchability of TV.

Finally, on the nonfiction front, a long winter’s day (or two) provides the ideal opportunity to watch Claude Lanzmann’s masterful 566-minute Holocaust documentary Shoah, essential as much for its formal intelligence as for the enormity of its subject. Lanzmann’s investigation of Nazi evil gains significantly in impact when viewed in one or two sittings, the compact time frame giving the purposeful repetition of key images a chance to sink in. LAND


Homes for the Holidays

As winter seeps into your bones, avoid the temptation to hide out in your teeny apartment. Sure, you can depend on trusty “cohorts” Jack, Jose, and Jim to keep you company during the colder months, but why not meet them at some of our favorite watering holes instead? The following bars have arranged to keep you—and some actual friends—warm and entertained whenever you decide to venture away from the remote control. Just leave the pajamas at home.

Safe Havens for Literate Lushes

Oh, pale Galilean (or bookish Brooklynite), if it is loneliness you seek to conquer during the existentially enervating holidays, make a pilgrimage to one of these storied watering holes. Eschew the food at prim Fedora, a West Village speakeasy that went respectable in the 1950s, and settle at the tiny bar with your tattered paperback of The Portable Dorothy Parker; after several very dry, very dirty martinis ($6) you’ll be very drunk—and very happy you’re not in love. For a rather more gay old time (note emphasis on “gay” and “old”) visit the Town House, a discreet, posh, Upper East Side bar for mature men of means and their admirers. There’s a dress code, but if you’re under 30 you’ll do all right in a sweater and chinos as you pose with a champagne cocktail ($8) and a copy of How to Marry a Millionaire. Perhaps you’ll meet a member of the prestigious Grolier, that private club for antiquarian-book enthusiasts whose black-tie events are as surreally camp as they are exclusive. For those with less esoteric tastes, there’s Old Town. For over a century this art nouveau saloon has been the downtown haven for crusty newspaper types and other writers. Stand at the bar with a black and tan ($6.50) and make up stories about the “good old days,” when the Voice was really the Voice . . . Or come early, colonize a booth, and fondle a copy of Pete Hamill’s A Drinking Life. Just don’t yak on your cell or they’ll chuck you out before you can say “Cholly Knickerbocker.” BEGHTOL

Fedora, 239 W 4th, 212-242-9691; the Town House, 236 E 58th, 212-754-4649; Old Town Bar & Restaurant, 45 E 18th, 212-473-6728

Escape to Polynesia With Tiny Bubbles in the Wine

For those who can’t migrate to warmer climes, there is always the poor man’s vacation to the South Seas known as the tiki bar—if the atmospheric lighting, totemic idols, and scads of bamboo thatch don’t transport you to an exotic island locale, then the drinks certainly will. Take East Village bar Otto’s Shrunken Head. Order up a Pang’s Punch ($8) and you’ll know you’re going places before your first sip, when you discover that it actually glows in the dark. At heart a tiki-cum-rock-and-roll bar, Otto’s also serves up nightly music in its back room and features an old-school photo booth with which to commemorate your trip. For a slightly less grungy, more upscale incarnation of the Polynesian theme, check out Brooklyn’s Zombie Hut. The house signature drinks are the Frozen Zombie (small $5, large $8) and the Flaming Tiki Torch Shot ($5), which is not only served on fire but with marshmallows on a skewer that you’re encouraged to roast before downing this powerful brew. Zombie Hut also boasts a working fireplace that, if all else fails, is guaranteed to keep you warm while you close your eyes and picture sunny, tropical vistas.

Otto’s Shrunken Head, 538 E 14th, 212-228-2240; Zombie Hut, 261 Smith St, Bklyn, 718-875-3433

Hit the Slopes at Nearby Lodges

While downhill skiing in the city involves garbage can lids, duct tape, and landfills, a handful of local establishments have made aprés-ski a reality, complete with the prerequisite fireplace. Walk into Aspen, a restaurant closer to Chelsea than to Colorado, and travel back in time to a ’70s ski adventure, replete with deer heads on the wall. Sip their version of a Mexican hot chocolate (mint-infused tequila, combined with zesty hot chocolate, south-of-the-border style; $10). Downtown in the East Village, Kabin features a fake-log wall, antique signs (the kind that hang in every Montana home), and a sled dangling from the wall. Or take a break from Manhattan and head to Boerum Hill’s Kili, where exposed-brick walls and wooden beams scream wool sweater with snowflake prints. Warm up with a $7 mulled wine or think spring with the Kili Martini (peach schnapps, peach vodka, peach juice; $7). Thankfully, these pseudo ski lodges up the ante on the real deal by refusing to hire sucky singers to perform guitar-driven hits for drunk coeds after a long day out in the elements. BRAUNSCHWEIGER


Aspen, 27 W 20th, 212-645-5040; Kabin, 92 Second Ave, 212-254-0204; Kili, 81 Hoyt St, Bklyn, 718-855-5574

You Can Always Go Home Again

Growing up, cold winters were about wasting time downstairs in the rec room. That’s why when seasonal affective disorder gets you down, indulging in the nostalgic comforts of home can start that serotonin flowing again. An archetypal rec-room bar, Welcome to the Johnsons boasts a requisite second-hand couch encased in plastic (protecting you from the sofa rather than protecting the sofa from dirt). The bartenders here will require you to pay $3 to $4 for your beers, unlike Gramps, who barely noticed a couple missing from the spare fridge. Go ahead, build a beer-a-mid of empty PBR cans on top of the bar. You have to be 21 to drink, so no bratty kid sister is around to knock it over. If you’re homesick for the kind of basement entertainment that included your big brother’s band practice, dive into 169 Bar, where you can listen to some raw rock ‘n’ roll and loiter around like an annoying little brother. Teetering on the edge of Chinatown and the Lower East Side, 169 is devoid of pretense: The full aroma of stale beer and sweaty dudes helps you relive the good old days. REMSBERG

Welcome to the Johnsons, 123 Rivington, 212-420-9911; 169 Bar, 169 E Bway, 212-473-8866

Hotel Stories

After a day spent braving the elements of holiday shopping (the cold! the crowds! the cash!), the relative tranquility of a hotel bar is guaranteed to soothe. Devoid of the usual must-be-seen hipster narcissism, these bars, with candlelight and soft tunes, can calm jangled nerves; and, you can always get a stiff drink. Cibar, which sits below the Inn at Irving Place, passes all three tests. Red love seats combine with low lighting to lend the place an accessible elegance. Secluded tables in each corner ensure that you’ll be able to quaff your holiday ennui away with a Suffering Bastard (Malibu, Myers’s, Captain Morgan, tropical juices, and a flaming floater of 151; $12) in peace. Those with more minimalist tendencies and fatter wallets should head to Thom Bar at the 60 Thompson hotel. This large and beautiful space’s basic black-and-white decor impresses without trying. Kick back in one of the many nooks, order a fizzy Passion Fruit Bellini (passion fruit juice and Mo $14), and relax. Although the Lower East Side location and red carpet (!) of the spanking-new Hotel on Rivington should make it too trendy and crowded by half, the Thor Bar and Restaurant
in its lobby turns out to be loud, fun, and not too overly full of itself. Make your way to one of the rectangular Ikea-style couches circling the space and realize that you may not be able to hide out; but after a couple of Hemingway Daiquiris (rum, maraschino liqueur, lime juice, champagne, and mint; $11), you’ll happily blend in. LEE

Cibar, the Inn at Irving Place, 56 Irving Pl, 212-460-5656; Thom Bar, 60 Thompson hotel, 60 Thompson, 212-219-2000; Thor Bar and Restaurant, Hotel on Rivington, 107 Rivington, 212-796-8040

Hide Out at These Subterranean Dens of Iniquity

Ugh! The holidays—a supposedly joyous time ironically rife with stress and depression and loaded with awkward social chitchat. If the family doesn’t lobotomize you, that bore two cubicles over surely will. You need to drink deep in intimate environs. Double Happiness, the Chinatown institution, is a subterranean den of iniquity (we say that not ’cause of its mafia-owned gay bar/speakeasy past, but ’cause we once spotted Macaulay Culkin partying monsterly). Asian themed with dungeon-comfy private-esque digs, the tasty and clean Green Tea Martini ($9) is calming and faux-healthy. If Red China won’t do it for ya, get down all KGB-secret stylee in the and fairly trendy Pravda—an atmospheric two-floor underground dwelling with dark wood floors, cozy plush-leather booths, and a vault-like ceiling. They specialize in vodka from all over the globe; we suggest spicing things up with the caviar and smoked fishies ranging in prices from serf to czar. BOSLER

Double Happiness, 174 Mott, 212-941-1282; Pravda, 281 Lafayette, 212-334-5015

Entertainment Tonight

When the winter doldrums set in, the scene at numerous bars fizzles from outdoor patios and cavorting crowds to sipping a lonely, flat lager and hoping for a decent jukebox selection. At this moment, you should recognize a need for entertainment—and I don’t mean the type originating in your chemically screwed brain. So stop vegetating in your drafty apartment and get the blood flowing to your digits at Williamsburg’s Barcade. Thumb muscles go into overtime working the 20 different arcade games, including Ms. Pac-Man, Tetris, and Galaga. Those feeling lazier should take in a drag show at Barracuda, sitting back while someone sexier does the work. Or head to the West Village venue Rose’s Turn, where at the downstairs piano bar you’ll find some of the best voices this side of Broadway, and the upstairs cabaret space packs a crowd. As part of your two-drink minimum, try a Rainierita, their signature margarita (Cuervo, Grand Marnier, lime juice; $8.50) named for the bartender, Rainie. Most importantly, you’ll be able to break out of your winter stupor for at least one evening. BRAUNSCHWEIGER


Barcade, 388 Union Ave, Bklyn, 718-302-6464; Barracuda, 275 W 22nd, 212-645-8613; Upstairs at Rose’s Turn, 55 Grove, 212-366-5438

Tips for Sips

Brandy, you’re a fine swirl

After months of heat waves and floods, the Farmers’ Almanac predicts that we’ll have a snowy December and “exceptionally cold” late January; you can either bundle up and cry or head out for a nip. As downtown
bars increasingly skew low-rent luxe—gorgeous wallpaper and cheapish bottled beer—perhaps it’s time to warm up with a brandy, an aristocratic drink whose time for co-option has come.

But first, a tutorial, courtesy of Shyda Gilmer, of Madison Avenue fine-liquor emporium Sherry-Lehmann: France produces the world’s most illustrious brandies, of which cognac and Armagnac are the two main types; the latter is more of an earthy, sitting-before-the-fire, petting-a-German-shepherd drink. There are three classes of brandy, a hierarchy based on how long the liquor has been aged: V.S. bottles are usually four to seven years old, V.S.O.P.’s are five to 13 years old, and pricey X.O. brandies may be aged several decades.

Venture to Tribeca’s Brandy Library (25 N Moore, 212-226-5545), a polished, genuinely upscale bar, for an unbeatable list of fine brandies, starting at around $9 a glass. Swirl the brandy around and sniff, then sip slowly—the longer you wait, the more the taste will evolve, as the different nuances mature and cohere. “You want to open up the beautiful flavors,” Gilmer advises, employing words like “luscious” and “otherworldly” while rhapsodizing on the taste of a brandy that’s reached its peak.

In hipper quarters across town, the Back Room (102 Norfolk, 212-228-5098), a new bar that aims for “speakeasy” but doesn’t hit the mark, served three different brandies on a recent chilly night: Imoya, E&J, and Hardy, all V.S.O.P.’s ($8 a glass). The Imoya is especially tasty, throat-searing and sweet at first, then blooming with a black-pepper kick. But all three are served in BR’s signature teeny teacups on tiny saucers, which is as cardinal a sin as throwing ice cubes in a Guinness.

Move down the block to Schiller’s Liquor Bar (131 Rivington, 212-260-4555), where, happily, leather armchairs aren’t part of the design scheme. The pear-inflected Poire Williams ($9), served cold, only gets better as the drink warms to room temperature, while the Bushnell Calvados ($10) has an underlying apple-pepper hybrid taste. Bonus: Schiller’s offers brasserie-style french fries, which may seem like a “don’t” when you’re savoring brandy, but really, fries are always a “do.” WEINSTEIN

Party All the Time

A couple of New Year’s Eve bashes

From high-end boutique parties to sleazy downtown bashes, you can spend a million or nothing at all on New Year’s Eve. Chelsea boys can dance to house music for a full day at Crobar‘s (530 W 28th, 212-629-9000) 24-hour New Year’s Eve bash. Resident DJ Boris spins from 9 p.m. till 8 in the morning, then Victor Calderone takes over until 6 p.m. It’s not really 24 hours, but after 21 hours of partying, who’s keeping track? $125 if purchased before December 25, $150 after; includes open bar from 8:30 p.m. to midnight, with a bottle of champagne.

The folks at Cielo (18 Little W 12th, 212-645-5700) are celebrating for another reason: The club opened on New Year’s Eve four years ago. Resident deep-house DJ Willie Graff guides you into the New Year with a special guest still TBD. $50 in advance, $75 at the door.

Feel like a celebrity and celebrate the New Year where the stars like to go, at Marquee (289 Tenth Ave, 212-255-4223). Jus Ske spins dance and house in the main room, where you can get a V.I.P. table for a mere $300 per person, which comes with two bottles, mixers, and hors d’oeuvres. Plus, they don’t kick you out for the after-party. If you plan on dancing—not sitting—all night, $175 gets you in. Show up fashionably late (after 2 a.m.) and $35 grants you entrée.


You can leave the fancy stuff to the real celebrities and get gritty at
Lit (93 Second Ave, 212-777-7987). Last year’s down-and-dirty party featured Leo Fitzpatrick (of Kids fame), Fannypack’s Fancy and Kat, and Fischerspooner’s Lizzy Yoder, among others. This year expect a similar vibe; dance to electro, hip-hop, booty base and rock into the wee hours. ROMANO