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Archive | August, 2011

The Best Things in Life Can Be Free

30 Aug

If you live in Manhattan, you may have passed by Vero Restaurant & Wine Bar, or you may have even been there before. But have you been on a Monday? Well, I think it’s worth a visit. On Monday nights, you get a free panini with any drink. Order as little as a great glass of Pinot Grigio ($9), and you get to choose from six varieties.

Owner Benny Silman says he started
the promotion almost 10 years ago, when the first location on the Upper East Side opened.

“We originally did it to build our Mondays because they were slow,” says Silman. “Within six months, we were packed every Monday and became a staple on the Upper East Side for many years to come.”

But I think there’s more reason to visit; I’ve been to Vero before and all the food I ordered was  excellent. Last night, however, I specifically went to check out the paninis. The two I tried–prosciutto, fig, Gorgonzola and rosemary oil, and turkey, Fontina, tomato and pesto–were so good, and usually $12 each. I also tried the light and not-too-sweet watermelon sangria, one of five different flavors (there’s also tropical fruit, blood orange, red and white), which you can get for only $5 Tuesday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and all day Sunday.

There’s the option of enjoying these specials inside, where it’s softly lit by candles, or outdoors. I think it’s a great setting for either a date or simply a get-together with friends. There also are two locations: A Midtown location opened three years ago, which also offers the panini and sangria specials. Vero Restaurant & Wine Bar, 1483 Second Avenue, Manhattan,(212) 452-3354; 1004 Second Avenue, Manhattan, (212) 935-3530

The Bloggains Guide to Fashion’s Night Out

28 Aug

Model Karlie Kloss (Photo: Craig McDean)

The third incarnation of Fashion’s Night Out (FNO)  is September 8.
And it can be overwhelming and intimidating, with more than 1,000 stores participating in New York City alone–and not just in Manhattan–as well as more than 250 stores in other cities. They stay open late, some
with live performances, DJs and
other offerings. According to Susan Portnoy, Fashion’s Night Out’s
Vice President for Corporate Communications & Digital Strategy, the original idea behind it was to give the the fashion industry a boost during the recession.  (If you want to see more on the conception of FNO, click here.)

“There are wonderful products being created especially for FNO as well as stores that are using a lot of interesting incentives that are tied to purchase,” says Portnoy.

But not every store has an incentive. So, I’ve whittled down a list of locations, including designer boutiques, restaurants and block parties, most offering  freebies to draw you in. From goody bags, food, cocktails and raffle prizes, to mini-makeovers, massages, manicures and makeup consultations–you can enjoy these perks during FNO without having to spend hundreds of dollars (you may even see some celebs if that’s your thing). Although, if you can, you should spend: Many businesses and designers–in addition to offering FNO-specific items or incentives for purchases–will donate a portion of their sales from the evening to charity. At the very least, buy a FNO T-shirt (long-sleeve version, $30, above) for $25 or tote bag for $50 (available at most participating stores): 40% of the proceeds will go to the New York City AIDS Fund in the New York Community Trust.

But if you consider yourself a charity case, below is a list of 27 places to hit if you want to score some swag. And note: Don’t be late; some spots only give out the goodies on a first-come, first-serve basis (while supplies last).

A Uno Tribeca
Image consulting for makeup, accessories and fashion, as well as live music, wine and snacks.
7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
123 West Broadway, Manhattan, 212-227-6233

Alice + Olivia
Sno-Cones, cotton candy, carnival games and raffle prizes.
6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
755 Madison Avenue, Manhattan, (212) 545-2895; 80 West 40th Street, Manhattan, (212) 840-0887

AnGG New York Boutique
Refreshments, cocktails and a raffle drawing at the end of the night for gift certificates worth up to $250.
6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
325 7th Street, Brooklyn, (718) 788-2898

ASH Footwear
Live music, a DJ, nail art by manicurist Tracy Lee, food and drinks.
6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
44 Mercer Street, Manhattan, (646) 422-7098

Bare Escentuals
Call ahead to make a reservation for a free “make-under.” Free limited-edition tote bag with any $50 purchase, while supplies last.
6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (6 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Times Square store)
Multiple stores throughout Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn; visit for locations

Betsey Johnson
The SoHo location will feature music from DJ Kalkutta, makeup by Stila Cosmetics and live models. The Upper West Side location will have hair by Faith and Reeva G. All three locations will offer cupcakes, champagne and a chance to win a Betsey Johnson tote.
6 p.m. to 10 p.m. in SoHo, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in other locations
138 Wooster Street, Manhattan, (212) 995-5048; 248 Columbus Avenue, Manhattan, (212) 362-3364; 1060 Madison Avenue, Manhattan, (212) 734-1257

Appearance from professional surfer Taj Burrow to celebrate his new line for Billabong, food, drinks and a DJ. The first 100 people to arrive will receive a free limited-edition gift. The first 50 people also will receive a free Billabong Jrs. tote.
7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
597 Broadway, Manhattan, (212) 840-0550

Bogner New York
Hors d’oeuvres, champagne and a free gift while supplies last.
6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
380 West Broadway, Manhattan, (212) 219-2757

Catherine Malandrino
A DJ, giveaways and cocktails. Meet Catherine Malandrino from 6 p.m. to
7:30 p.m.
6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
652 Hudson Street, Manhattan, (212) 929-8710

Crabtree & Evelyn
The first 30 visitors will receive a choice of a trial size of Crabtree & Evelyn’s new Pomegranate Soap, Body Lotion or Shower Gel. Enhanced gifts for purchases of $75 or more, door prizes and refreshments.
6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
10 Columbus Circle, Manhattan, (212) 823-9584

Elie Tahari
A special gift, music from DJ Maia, dessert and cocktails with celebrity chef Candice Kumai, style blogger Keiko Lynn and Elie Tahari himself to celebrate the launch of ETC, Tahari’s new online magazine.
6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
417 West Broadway, Manhattan, (212) 334-4441

Elizabeth Arden Flagship Store
Mini-services, cocktails by Dutch Kills, music from DJ Shan Boogie, raffles
and special gifts. Receive a complimentary eyelash application with any purchase of $50 or more. Call to RSVP for a full-access appointment and to reserve a special gift.
6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
691 5th Avenue, Manhattan, (212) 261-1254

Fiorentini + Baker
Music, cocktails and Italian delicacies. Meet designer Deborah Baker and enter to win a complimentary pair of boots or shoes of your choice.
6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
54 Mercer Street, Manhattan, (212) 226-7229

A DJ, mini-makeovers by NYX Cosmetics and mini-manicures. Join the GUESS List and make a $5.00 donation during the event to the NYC AIDS Fund and receive a goody-filled canvas tote that can be customized by a local graffiti artist.
6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
575 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, (212) 922-9792; 537 Broadway, Manhattan, (212) 226-9545

“Karaoke Karnival” with celebrity appearances, performances, raffle prizes and complimentary carnival food and beverages.
6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
109 Third Avenue, Manhattan, (212) 677-3171

Maybelline New York
Free mini-makeovers, free tubes of Great Lash mascara while supplies last and music from DJ Chelsea Leyland. The first 300 guests will receive a limited edition Great Lash T-shirt designed by Patricia Field.
6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Gansevoort Plaza, Little West 12th Street, Manhattan, (212) 984-4000

Champagne and a raffle for a chance to win a MCM fall/winter 2011 handbag.
6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The Shops at The Plaza, 1 West 58th Street, Manhattan, (212) 832-2626

Live music, performance art, drinks from the Inwood Tea Bar and Chess Lounge at Nostylgia and a product giveaway to all attendees.
6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
251 Dyckman Street, Manhattan, (212) 304-0337

OTTE Tribeca
Snacks, cocktails, limited gift bags will include goodies from Tocca, Bluma Project, RGB Nail Polish, Bullet Magazine and OTTE. Also, a giveaway of one head-to-toe look from OTTE’s fall lookbook.
6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
37 North Moore Street, Manhattan, (212) 431-8501

Paper Doll Boutique and Beauty Bar
Free manicures, mini-massages, makeup applications, cocktails and giveaways.
6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
921 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, (718) 622-7867

A DJ, complimentary cocktails, gift totes for the first 25 people and a chance to win one of four $50 Pop gift certificates.
6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
310 Grand Street, Brooklyn, (718) 486-6001

Ricky’s NYC
Makeovers by Ricky’s NYC Elite Pro Beauty Team and Two Faced Cosmetics along with a complimentary specialty manicure by Dashing Divas led by Katy Perry’s nail Stylist Patricia Yankee or receive a $25 deep conditioning blow out by a Revolver Salon stylist with any skincare or cosmetics purchase of $40 or more. Also, champagne, snacks, a DJ, raffles and gift bags.
6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
2387 Broadway, Manhattan, (212) 721-0427

shadé brielle
Cupcakes, refreshments, gift bags, gifts with purchase, hourly door prizes and celebrity appearances.
6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Visit to RSVP and for more details

Surface to Air
Early-arrival gifts, cocktails and an exclusive screening of Kid Cudi’s “Mr. Rager” video, directed by Surface to Air’s founder & CEO Jeremie Rozan.
7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
27 Mercer Street, Manhattan, (212) 529-1407

Teen Vogue
Teen Vogue-inspired Essie manicure stations, AriZona Iced Tea smoothies and Popsicle bars, a performance by Sky Ferreira, Teen Vogue‘s Andrew Bevan DJing and a chance to have Teen Vogue editors sign your Teen Vogue Handbook.
Bleecker Street at West 11th Street, Manhattan, (212) 286-7087

Vera Wang on Mercer
Follow Vera and @VeraWangGang on Twitter as they tour the city in a customized Mister Softee truck. Meet Vera while she serves fans their favorite ice cream flavor. Also, exclusive shopping incentives and giveaways.
6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
158 Mercer Street, Manhattan, (212) 286-7087

Via Spiga
Free gift with purchase as well as complimentary gelato and a chance to win a fall footwear wardrobe.
6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
487 Broadway, Manhattan, (212) 219-3999

Navigating the Warehouse Sale

24 Aug

So another Barneys Warehouse Sale is upon us. The semiannual event kicks off this Thursday, August 25, and always draws hoards of fashionable bargain hunters, which can be irritating–at least for me. At times it almost seems like those scenes from Filiene’s Basement’s Running of the Brides. It can also be well worth it, although as I mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t think the shoe selection (which is the main draw for me) will be that great this time. But if you do plan on going, I offer up some of my personal tips to hopefully help you to score a great bargain (as you’ll see, they’ve worked for me).

  • Don’t go at lunchtime or in the evening. Mornings are always less crowded, like 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. And weekdays are better than weekends.
  • Go light: Don’t try to look fashionable. Consider this like the Olympics of sales. They make you check your bag, which is just a hassle. There are no fitting rooms, so you want to wear clothes that make trying on easier. Some Web sites suggest wearing less revealing undergarments. I say simply wear leggings or bike shorts (even a skirt works) and a spandex tank top. Stick your ID and a credit card (and your phone, if it fits) in the waistband. Fanny packs are “in” now (although they were never out for me), so don’t be ashamed to strap one on! This way you can try on easily over your clothes. Also, flip-flops help with both trying on clothes and shoes.
  • Check out the merchandise on the first day, but don’t necessarily buy. Unless it is something limited in quantity (and coveted), wait. You will find items marked down sometimes 75% to 80% off the sale price in the last days (Sunday and Monday) of the sale.
  • Don’t just look in your size’s section. People put back what they don’t want anywhere on the shelf or rack. And if you see something you like that isn’t your exact size, try it on anyway. Since many clothes and shoes vary in size by designer and country, it’s worth a shot.
  • Troll the aisles–especially the shoe section–multiple times. As I noted before, people pick up merchandise to try on and decide they don’t like it. Because of the overwhelming crowds, it takes a while for that shoe to get back to the shelf. It could be the pair you want.
  • And last but not least, decide wisely and inspect closely. A strap was missing from a shoe (that wasn’t necessary to it), and they marked it down further for me. But otherwise, you’re buying “as is,” and all sales are final.

Now that we got that out
of the way, I wanted to share the proof of my Warehouse Sale shopping skills. The following is
just a sampling of what
I’ve scored over the years. Like, a pair of thigh-high suede and leather Manolo Blahnik boots (above, right) that were originally $1,400; I got them–I think in 2007–for $199.

And these great Dries Van Noten chunky heels (above, left), originally $580–nabbed them for $85.

And last, but certainly not least (and these took a lot of trolling on the last day of the sale to get): Lanvin patent-leather platform pumps (below, right) marked down to, if I recall correctly, $199 from $1,090.

My last tip (which I bet not many others know): If you miss the sale, you may not lose out completely. Some of the shoes that aren’t sold show up over the following weeks on the shelves of Loehmann’s (coincidentally Barneys’ original location). They’re not always in perfect condition, but you never know. Barneys Warehouse Sale, August 25 through September 5, 255 West 17th Street, (212) 450-8400.

All You Need Is a Dollar and a Drink

22 Aug

Ever wanted to buy someone a drink but thought, “Shoot, I can’t afford my drink and one for someone else!” Well, depending on the drink and the location, you can–through Bartab. Bartab’s mobile app (or Web site, allows you to buy $1 drinks at  participating bars for a friend–or yourself–and send it via Facebook, text or e-mail. The receiver then shows the bartender the virtual coupon and redeems the drink for another dollar.

According to Davis Schneider, spokesperson for Bartab’s parent company, Webtab Inc., the idea came after observing that Facebook trend of buying people virtual gifts (remember that scam!). Schneider says the thought was: “Everyone’s sending these fake, virtual drinks, why not send real drinks?” Thus, Bartab launched in May 2011 in San Fransisco.

He says the idea is to bring virtual interaction into the physical. Now, you can interpret that how you like (a way of enticing someone to meet you for a drink, possibly?). My friend just sent me a drink last week before we went to play trivia at Stone Creek Lounge (one of the more than 100 participating bars in New York City). I know so many people who don’t make a ton of money or are unemployed and don’t want to go out and spend. This is a great way to at least be able to be social without breaking the bank. And we so often loosely say to each other, “Let’s grab a drink.” It can, at times, be BS, right?  However, by sending someone a drink, it kind of forces you to actually drink together (hopefully).

There are some very minor catches: It’s not just for any drink, just the drinks listed for that bar. My friend sent me a black cherry vodka cocktail. With a splash of soda, it was quite good. Also, you can only claim one drink per hour and one per bar per day. So, technically, you could start at one place at 8 p.m., redeem your first Bartab drink, move onto another participating bar at 9 pm, redeem a drink there, and so on… Still, not too bad considering a drink in New York City can cost, on average, $14.

Bartab has more than 700 partner bars and restaurants in 17 markets now. Besides New York and San Francisco, it’s now available in Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, Atlanta, Washington and Phoenix, to name a few other cities. Schneider says Bartab plans to partner up with liquor companies soon to offer branded products, both regionally and nationally. So sign up, add some money to your account via Mastercard or Visa and start drinking. Cheers!

Zigzag on the Cheap

18 Aug


Travel Tote, $49.99; Twister Carry-On Luggage, $169.99

I’m a little late on the bandwagon in writing about this, although I’ve known about it for quite a while. And I thought it was great simply getting little Missoni bags for free at Barneys! But very soon, as many already know, you may be able to own much more than a little sack from the famed Italian family’s knitwear empire. Yes, I’m talking about the upcoming Missoni for Target collection.

Sleeveless Sweater, $29.99 ( only); Floral Blouse, $39.99; Pleated Knit Skirt, $39.99; Hat, $24.99 Space-Dye Tights, $16; Slouchy Bag, $34.99; Silk Scarf (tied on bag), $19.99; Ballet Flats, $29.99

I happen to own a Missoni bag that I bought at Loehmann’s ages ago for less than $300 (that is a bargain, considering it was originally closer to $900). It has taken a beating and I could use a new one, so the timing of this collection couldn’t be better–nor the price! According to Target, the line–more than 400 items in all–will range in price from $2.99 to $599.99, with most items selling for under $40. And the company says that it will also include luggage (above), clothes for both adults and children (left), accessories (shoes included; below, right), beauty items and even housewares (below, left). Everything looks amazing.

Pumps, $39.99

Three-piece Ceramic Puzzle Trays, $19.99 each

I’m particularly looking forward to the bedding and towels, tabletop items, rugs and picture frames (clothes, bags and shoes goes without saying). Although the only furniture is really a patio set, if I were to spend the $599.99 (this is the most expensive item), I would plunk that in my living room (below, right). But I’m especially loving the bike ($399.99; below, left); it would look great cruising along all those New York City bike lanes.

Three-Speed Ladies’ Comfort Bike, $399.99 ( only)

Four-piece Patio Sectional, $599.99 ( only)

The line goes on sale starting September 13, and will probably sell out quite quickly. There will be some items available only online. For those who live in New York City, I suggest you go to New Jersey locations (no sales tax on clothes at all) that aren’t easily accessible by public transportation if you want to beat out all the other fashionistas. I’m not giving out the ones I’ll hit; you’re on your own with that. (Hint: one is in a Hudson County town whose name includes the name of another county.)

Because I’m not going to download all 400 images, I’ll refer you to Racked, another great site dedicated to retail that has all the pictures. However, below are just some of the other items I’ve got my eyes on, so stay out of my way (kidding). Happy bargain-hunting!

Bringing Home the Bread

17 Aug

I feel like I’m about to disappoint you after the excitement of the last few days: the prospect of a free haircut from celebrity stylist Ted Gibson’s salon, my TV appearance. But I could not contain my excitement (although I did because I was in public) when I came across a product in Trader Joe’s I’ve been waiting for the store to produce! I’m talking about sandwich flats–deli flats or sandwich thins, depending on the brand. Trader Joe’s Slim Sandwich Bread, in my opinion, is exactly the same as Arnold Select Sandwich Thins. And the price, at least in my neighborhood, is the same: $2.49. The multigrain versions each contain eight servings that include 1 gram of fat, 100 calories and 5 grams of fiber. The Pepperidge Farm Deli Flats are closer to $3, so I won’t even compare them. For someone like me, who will drive to another store to buy this product because I watch my diet and I like to save money by bringing a sandwich to work or by making an egg white-omelet sandwich in the morning (when I don’t grab a Dunkin’ Donuts egg white Wake-Up Wrap), this is big. Now, I’ll also save gas and time, in addition to calories! I haven’t yet fully delved into grocery shopping here, but I will say, sometimes Trader Joe’s prices can be deceiving; that is, you think you are getting something for less than the supermarket price, but oftentimes TJ’s items literally contain less product as well. More on that in a future post. Anyway, just an FYI to diet-conscious and thrifty out there.

If You Missed It, My Appearance on My9′s “The 10 O’Clock News”

16 Aug

If you missed it, here’s my advice on how to get freebies online, as well as locally–everything from medicines to toiletries and even movies–some of which I’ve mentioned in prior posts. Enjoy!

Free Haircut (If You Know the Right People)

15 Aug

Courtesy: Ted Gibson Salon

Quick, find out which of your friends gets their hair done at celebrity stylist Ted Gibson‘s Fifth Avenue salon! Why? Because now through Wednesday, if a friend who is an existing client refers you and you make an appointment (it doesn’t have to be completed by Wednesday, just booked by then), you get a free haircut with a junior stylist (don’t forget to tip).

Of course, if you want to work it out with your friend so you each get a deal (maybe forking over half the money you saved is a nice gesture), that’s up to you. Regardless, a haircut at Ted Gibson starts at $75, so no matter how you cut it (no pun intended), it’s a bargain–especially considering Gibson has tamed the tresses of some of the biggest celebs, including Angelina Jolie and Anne Hathaway. And designers such as Rachel Roy (who has a great affordable line for Macy’s), Carmen Marc Valvo (click here to see one of my stories on the amazing designer) and Lela Rose (yes, the one I mentioned on Friday) rely on him to coif their models for the runway during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. He is also the hair expert on TLC’s What Not to Wear. If he’s that good, imagine how good his junior stylists are.

And I can vouch for how great the salon is. Many years ago, I was treated to a discounted haircut because a friend worked there. So, hurry. The deal ends Wednesday. Ted Gibson Salon, 184 Fifth Avenue, Second Floor, (212) 633-6333.

Watch Me on My9 News August 15

15 Aug

Before I post my next deal, I wanted to quickly mention (as I have for days via Twitter and Facebook) that I will be discussing freebies on My9′s The 10 O’Clock News tonight (Monday, August 15). Due to the preseason Jets game, it may actually air at 11 p.m. Click here for a preview…. and set your DVR!

Warehouse Sale or Payless

12 Aug

First of all, I know my last post wasn’t “sexy,” so I’m going to make it up to you with a whole post about shoes. And what could be more PG and sexy at the same time (at least I think so)? Anyway, I’ve been meaning to write about a longtime favorite bargain store of mine, Payless ShoeSource. While I was in Barneys New York a couple of weeks ago (I know, a 180-degree there), I had to take a peek at what was on sale in the shoe department. I wasn’t impressed. And that’s usually a preview of what to expect at the semi-annual Barneys Warehouse Sale (If you plan on going anyway, I will soon provide a post on how to troll it for the best deals, and believe me, I’ve gotten many). I got my flier in the mail today and FYI, it’s August 25 through September 5 (August 13 through August 21 in Los Angeles). I’m not going this year. And not just because of the preview; because for a fraction of the price, Payless has some equally fabulous shoes.

And the timing couldn’t be better: The chain is now offering its BoGo promotion. For those who don’t know, that’s buy one, get one half-off for any shoe, whether in-store or online (through September 6). And I did just that this week. Besides the selection of Lela Rose, Isabel Toledo and Christian Siriano (my personal fave), the lesser-known brands Payless sells are putting out some great designs as well. There is also a new designer, Colombian native Silvia Tcherassi, whose creations are quite beautiful and all under $70. Click here to check them out!

Let me share one of my first Christian Siriano for Payless purchases that I always get compliments on, even from men! These metallic-heeled booties (above, left). They were $24 (reduced I believe from $59.99). If you wait till late in the season, you can usually get these designer shoes for less than $30. Like today, I bought two pairs of shoes totaling a little more than $33. One pair (the half-off one), was $6.50: Lela Rose satin ankle-strap stilettos (below, right), originally $44.99. I was aiming to replace an old pair of Miu Miu velvet and denim ankle-strap stilettos that I ruined by my standing in the sand at The Surf Lodge like an idiot (I guess that sand has sharp particles in it that stripped the velvet off the heel). They were old anyway, and it cost less to replace with these than get them repaired.

Lela Rose has some great wedges on sale now (left).

However, I think one of the more unique heels with a late-’70s/early-’80s feel was not from any of the designers. These Fioni cork-soled heels with grosgrain ribbon straps were $26.99 (below, right). The straps also come in white.


Let me go back to Christian Siriano, though. I think he is great and have had the good fortune of interviewing him on two occasions. If you want to learn about the inspiration behind his fall line, watch my story from February’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week . The Payless versions are quite close to the runway styles. See the shoes below. There are 20 Payless locations in Manhattan alone, so it’s a convenient, inexpensive alternative to the Barneys Warehouse Sale!

Courtesy: Payless ShoeSource