Happy Halloween!!

Its the one night when you can dress up to become anything you want. This city really comes alive tonight and you never know who you will see walking around, on the subway or at your favorite haunt. There are so many fun things to do in the city this weekend. I hope all of you get out to have some Halloween adventures tonight whether it is watching the infamous Village Halloween Parade, going to a costume party, handing out treats, or simply frightening yourself with scary movies.

I hope you all have a frightfully fun Halloween!

Climb to New Heights!

This weekend I decided to try my hand at indoor rock climbing. In addition to their many other great facilities, Manhattan Plaza Health Center has a climbing gym for all skill levels from beginner to advanced. I signed up through MMA so there was a group of about 15 of us ready to learn on this particular outing. After putting on our climbing shoes and harnesses, we were split into groups of four so that our instructors could help us to learn in smaller groups.

I’ll admit that when I looked at how high the walls went, I was a bit frightened but I was here to climb and was determined to learn how. Our instructor went over in detail how we needed to tie the knots to the climbing safety rope and also how to belay (which is when you are responsible for making sure the ropes are properly handled to keep the person climbing safe). Once we had gone over the basics it was time to try our hands at the real thing. The first time I actually tried to climb the wall, I realized the challenge I was in for. These walls were high! Once you have more experience there are specific paths that you can navigate on up the wall. I tried to aim for the beginning paths but at times would go for whatever hold I could get! The first time felt a bit petrifying but I did make it to the top successfully. As we took turns, each time got a little less scary as I felt more secure in what I was doing. When it was my turn to belay, I was worried about being responsible for the weight of the climber but discovered how secure and safe the equipment really was. As you go along with your climbing efforts, you realize that you are working your muscles both while climbing and also while belaying. After our group had all had enough training with the instructor, it was time to climb on our own.

The climbing gym has many varied surface walls to climb, in addition to the area where you try to climb on your own without ropes – which is for the more advanced climbers. It was really fun to explore the different wall sections and see how much high we could reach on the different levels of difficulty. I ended up staying till 5pm and was one of the last pairs to leave from our group. It was a challenging day but a fun one!

Upon returning my rental equipment, I asked about how one could come back without a group. If you already know the basics you can buy a day pass for $20 and pay extra for renting shoes and a harness if you need them. They also offer orientation and learn to climb packages for those interested in learning everything from scratch like I did. More details about Manhattan Plaza Health Center and the Climbing Gym can be found at http://www.mphc.com/.

Indoor rock climbing is definitely a great way to challenge yourself, get a great workout, and try a new activity. I hope to be able to go again sometime soon.

Lychee Martinis Galore!

In times like these it is always great to find a fantastic happy hour spot in the city. Well, Verlaine is such a place. Verlaine has happy hour daily (even on weekends!!) from 6-10pm. Their popular happy hour special includes $5 Bloody Marys, Sangria and the favorite Lychee Martini. Beer, wine and well drinks are also half price during happy hour. I recommend you get there as early as you can because it can get crowded as the night wears on.

There is a lounge area for larger groups to gather and then a bar and table section as well. The times I have gone the DJ always gets it right with good tunes and the ambient atmosphere is enjoyable. I am always amazed at how fast they serve their martinis because they are so delicious and affordable that everyone keeps coming back for more. When the crowd is at its fullest you feel like you are in a sea of lychees because they are everywhere. I tried this specialty cocktail for the first time and it was worth all the hype. You can see a half finished one in the picture above. It was delicious! Verlaine also has a menu of South Asian Tapas to savor while enjoying your beverages. I have tried the Portabella Mushroom Fried Dumplings which were quite tasty. So if you are looking for a happy hour spot that stands out among the rest definitely head to Verlaine.

Verlaine is located at 110 Rivington St. (Between Ludlow and Essex).

A Day of Fall Wine Tasting

It is the perfect time of year to get away from the city and head to the North Fork Vineyards on Long Island for some wine tasting and farm fresh produce. This Saturday I had the pleasure of going on a fun filled day trip organized by Zogsports. Our agenda featured tastings at three vineyards, lunch, a hay ride and pumpkin picking.

We left from the Penn Station area at 8am and made excellent time to our first destination, the Peconic Bay Winery. It was a perfect sunny day and our group of 50 was set up at 2 long tables outside. The presentation was rather formal but also comfortable. Our host gave us an enthusiastic, detailed description of each wine and what distinguished it from the others. As someone who has limited wine knowledge I feel like I learned quite a bit. The wine was of excellent quality and most of us were eager to buy a few bottles to bring home.

After taking in the views of this vineyard and snapping some pictures it was time for our next destination, Harbes Family Farm. This is the perfect place to go in the fall season. There were large wagons full of pumpkins, lovely mums lining the walkways everywhere you look and a real country feel to everything you saw. The first thing our group did was to sit down for some lunch. I wasn’t sure what to expect and based on past group trips I didn’t have any high hopes regarding the food. Luckily, I was quite surprised with how appetizing this lunch was. We started off with fresh roasted sweet corn – a Harbes specialty. It was so delicious and fresh! Then we had mozzarella and tomato sandwiches followed by an apple. Overall, I was really impressed and quite happy with this lunch.

Next up we had a combination hayride and educational wine tasting. While a local farmer drove the tractor, guiding our wagon around the farm, we heard about and sampled some of the local wines produced at Harbes Farm. Their vineyard is relatively new and it was fun to be doing our tasting while driving by pumpkin patches and the actual vineyards where the grapes are grown. After the hayride tasting we went into the Wine Barn to taste their more reserved wines. We then had an hour of free time to pick pumpkins, run through the corn maze, buy some produce and just enjoy the Farm.

Our last destination was the Jamesport Vineyard where we not only had our group tasting but we also got to partake in the Oyster Festival going on this particular day. There was live music and a variety of fresh oysters to sample for $1 per oyster. I have not had them before (except the fried kind which is definitely not the same) so I made sure to try a few oysters. They were quite good. It was a different type of eating experience than I am used to but I was definitely glad I tried them!

At 5pm it was time to get back on the bus and return to city life. While we drove back many of us enjoyed some of our new wine purchases. I even saw someone dig in to the pumpkin pie they had bought. It was a relaxing trip home after such a fun filled day.

So that concluded our day trip to the North Fork of Long Island. I highly recommend signing up with Zogsports because it was so well organized and so much fun! You get to enjoy the vineyards and farms without any stress and all transportation is arranged for you. This particular group was not as inclined to mingling as other groups I have been in but we all still had a lot of fun. I spoke with someone who had gone on other trips with this company and they said past outings had more mingling so I guess it just depends on who signs up for your trip. Zogsports also offers ski trips, hiking and white water rafting outings. I plan to go skiing with them at some point this winter. They also have numerous sports league teams you can join. Check out their website for more info at http://www.zogsports.com/ .

Are You Brave Enough to Ride the Bull?

If you want to try your hand at being an urban cowboy/cowgirl than head to Johnny Utah’s. I went last night and it was so much fun! Enjoy a wide range of beverages and southwestern cuisine while the music and atmosphere help you forget that you are in the heart of NYC. While you are at your table or even just mingling in the bar area it is impossible to miss the main attraction – the mechanical bull! Before anyone had tried their bull riding skills the bull would occasionally roar into action demonstrating some crazy moves that would throw even the toughest rider off with ease. I definitely needed some liquid courage before I was ready to sign up and ride.

Essentially, anyone who wants to ride the bull must sign up by presenting a driver’s license and signing a waiver. Then once you get your stamp you can go up to the bull pen whenever you are brave enough. This is helpful if you need to muster up some courage before you are ready. My advice is to be brave early on because as the night goes on the bull is increasingly less patient with newcomers. I waited a bit and felt like my ride was a bit more challenging than some of those who started the night off. However, I had so much fun and so did everyone in the group I was with. You can even go as many times as you can gather the strength to do it. I plan to go back again for sure!

The nightly running of the bull at Johnny Utah’s starts at 7:30pm. Then on Monday’s they have a bull riding challenge that goes from 10pm – 2am where industry professionals show what they are made of and battle to be called the best of the night! I have heard that lots of bachelorette parties are in attendance on weekends so be prepared. When I went on a Tuesday there were lots of after work folks and it was a pretty good crowd. We didn’t have a long wait for the bull but I’d imagine that might be different on weekends.

If you need an extra boost of confidence MMA offers a singles bull riding event at Johnny Utah’s on their site. That way you have a group of people to mingle with and then to cheer you on when you get up on the bull. So definitely check it out on their site if you are interested. http://www.meetmarketadventures.com/

Johnny Utah’s is at 25 West 51st Street – right next to Rockefeller Plaza. Check out all the details and some video footage at their website: http://www.johnnyutahs.com/

A Night of Acoustic Music at Crescent & Vine in Astoria

This Sunday, October 5th, there will be a live music showcase at Crescent & Vine from 7-9pm! Shannon, My Divided Unity, AM Preacher and Two Seconds To Midnight are all scheduled to perform and trust me when I say that it is a great line up.

Crescent & Vine held another acoustic show a few months ago and it was simply divine to hear great music while sampling the fabulous wine and beer offerings at one of my favorite wine bars. They also have cheese/meat platters you can order to accompany your wine samplings as well as delicious sandwiches, appetizers and desserts. I cannot go there without getting the Tartufo panini and the bruschetta. It is so yummy! This is a cozy venue so get there early to get a seat so you can really enjoy the dark yet candlelit atmosphere while hearing this local music showcase.

After the bands have all played, everyone will head over to another favorite place of mine – Fatty’s Cafe. This is another amazing Astoria restaurant that has one of the best brunches in the area and an amazing dinner menu as well. Fatty’s is the place to go for late night drinks in an artistic yet still laid back atmosphere. Local artists take turns having their works on the walls so there is always something new to see and the bar is illuminated with a blue light which sets the tone for the space. When the weather is nice the outdoor patio is open to accommodate more people. There is always a great mix of music playing while you are there enjoying your dinner/brunch/drinks too. I love this place!

So plan to make your Sunday a night of wine, beer, food and music by coming to Crescent & Vine for the showcase and then mingling at Fatty’s Cafe afterwards. It is sure to be a lot of fun!

Fatty’s Cafe is located at 25-01 Ditmars Blvd (corner of Crescent St.) and Crescent & Vine is right next to it.