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1 MAIN Courtesy Napa Valley Wine Train

The Napa Valley Wine Train isn't so much a mode of transportation but rather a time machine transporting passengers back to an era when the journey was as scintillating as the destination, itself. Particularly well-suited for couples seeking quality together time, this excursion offers an elegant sojourn through the heart of Napa Valley in a refined, history-rich atmosphere befitting the lush countryside through which it passes. Duly complementing the drop-dead gorgeous vistas are gourmet victuals and varietals-a-plenty.Having been aboard with my own loved one, I dare say the Napa Valley Wine Train is among the most romantic experiences you can have while in this revered region.

The train itself is a wonder to behold. The expertly restored and maintained antique Pullman cars gleam with brass and Honduran mahogany while etched original glass and swanky armchairs evoke the early 20th century spirit of luxury travel. One of the few active historic passenger railroads remaining in the United States, the Napa Valley Wine Train offers a tempting variety of tours, events and packages,including gourmet dining experiences for both lunch and dinner.

Of course, fundamental to the Napa Valley Wine Train is the route, itself, which takes passengers through the heart of the winery district. The round-trip tour starts in the downtown area and meanders its way through Yountville, Oakville, Rutherfordand Calistoga, passing directly by such revered wineries as Opus One, Cakebread, DomaineChandon, Grgich Hills and a host of others. With seemingly endless rows of grapevines in the foreground and foliage-laden rolling hills beyond, the scenery is utterly breathtaking and worth the price of admission alone. However, the splendor outside the windows is duly accompanied inside the train by the posh retro-chic décor, impeccable customer service and an elevated food and beverage program that would delight even a hardened epicure.

Indeed, dining on the Napa Valley Wine Train is not incidental, but rather an integral part of this indulgent multi-sensory experience. The train features four separate dining cars, but the two-story Champagne Vista Dome Car in which I travelled provides a truly distinctive dining experience. This luxury glass-domed observation car is a 1952 antique Pullman rail car that is accessible exclusively to guests with reserved seating, inaccessible to passengers in the main cars. The intimate setting accommodates only 56 guests at a time and can also be reserved for private events.

Lunch is served on the Vista Dome car as well as two others: the Silverado Car and Gourmet Express car. Each has its own kitchen and dedicated menu, with the Vista Dome offering the premier experience of the three. Each meal on the Napa Valley Wine Train is prepared to order by award-winning chef, Kelly Macdonald, and hisbrigade who work culinary wonders from compact but highly efficient on-board galleys.

Dinner is available on the Vista Dome or Gourmet Express cars. As with lunch, menu items are prepared to order and feature fresh, environmentally responsible ingredients that are locally sourced to the extent possible. During spring and summer, dinner passengers delight in the Napa Valley landscape bathed in the golden twilight sunshine,while during autumn and winter the dinner train departs after sunset, ramping up the romance and adventure factor of being aboard an antique train traveling through the dark.

My guest and I hopped aboard the Vista Dome Premier Train for a seasonal lunch package offered on select weekdays throughout January and February for $154 per person. The experience surpassed what I had hoped and imagined. This elite trainserves the same fine diningmenu of the traditional Vista Dome experience that’s available throughout the year (also priced at $154 per person, increasing to $199 on March 9). It connects only the Champagne Vista Dome Car, Grappa Power Car (believed to be the only power car in existence that passengers can enter and walk through while in operation), a 100-year-old Lounge Car and the rarely experienced Deli Car—far fewer cars than the usual Wine Train. Perfect for couples, the privacy factorwas enhanced vis-à-vis a more intimate venue with seatinglimited to just 56 passengers in total. While I anticipated the beauty of the region we traversed through to enthrall, which it did in droves, the authenticity of this semi-private train transport in concert with the quality and creativity of the culinary program exceededall expectations.

The 3-hour odyssey began with a welcome glass of California sparkling wine, to be enjoyed while settling into the plush booth seating and taking in the stellar surroundings. From there, a thoughtfully conceived four-course menu ensued, on this day commencing with a choice of Flourless Yam Ravioli or Smoked Salmon Crêpe, then continuing with an appetizer course selection of Red and Green Endive Salad or the Soup du Jour, which was a rich and creamy Lobster Bisque. Of the multiple entrée selections proffered, my guest and I opted for the Roasted Beef Tenderloin, served in a Cabernet reduction on cambozola toast alongside a sautée of vegetables, as well as the Special of the Day: a lightly-seared Tuna Filet. Other scintillating entrée options included Grilled Local Lamb Chops in a rosemary-garlic bérnaise, a Grilled Salmon Filet topped with lemon-basil pesto and Seasonal Vegetable Risotto topped with a sweet potato stuffed gypsy pepper.The grandiose gastronomes continued through dessert, as we reveled in an Espresso Crème Brulée and a White and Dark Chocolate Cheesecake served atop a brightly flavored raspberry coulis. Not only a conceptual success, the execution of this menu was on point with perceptibly fresh, top-quality proteins and produce that was allskillfully prepared and plated.

As goes without saying, the wine offerings on the Napa Valley Wine Train are ample, and impressive given the space restraints. With approximately 30 varietals to choose from, there is something for every oenophile’s palate. Or, passengers can bring their own bottle on board for a nominal $15 corkage fee. Those hankering for a social vibe can hit the bar car where wine and champagne flights are available—those pre-planned by on-staff staff wine experts or mixed-and-matchedby passengers preferring to custom-create their own tasting experience. In fact, passengers are encouraged to get out of their seats and explore each the train’s various dining and lounge cars and also visit one or both outdoor observation decks where they can take lovely keepsake photos and generally bask in the fresh country breeze.

In addition to the lunch and dinner packages, the Napa Valley Wine Train also offers winery tours—be exact. If amour is top-of-mind, the Castle Winery Tour is perhaps the most romantic. Passengers enjoy a gourmet lunch before attending a two-hour wine tasting at Castello di Amorosa, which literally means "Castle of Love" in Italian. The winery is an authentically-styled 13th century Tuscan castle located on 30 acres of estate vineyards. Other tours include an evening wine tour—the only such tour offered in Napa Valley—as well as tours of popular local wineries such as Raymond Vineyards, Charles Krug Wineryand Grgich Hills Winery.In addition to the wine tours, the Napa Valley Wine Train boasts a calendar packed with fun events includingholiday-themed trains and murder mysteries.Moonlight Escapes take place at sunset during a full moon making for an extra romantic ride. A gourmet dinner is included, of course.

The Napa Valley Wine Train isn’t just a train ride—it’s an institution that echoes the glory days of train travel, with fine dining service, multiple course meals cooked to order, Napa Valley scenery and ultimate relaxation aboard an exquisitely restored vintage rail car. Book this experience and you’ll be on track for a spectacular time.

Amour Aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train
Photos: Courtesy Napa Valley Wine Train



"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

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1MAIN Cindy Crawfords Essentials by Urban Remedy 2 credit Urban Remedy
Cindy Crawford's Essentials by Urban Remedy


Health-Boosting Food & Beverage Finds

By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

While many resolve, or re-resolve, to follow good nutrition practices when the New Year rolls around, it’s important to sustain those healthy eating habits all year through.  Luckily, modern food and beverage manufacturers are developing innovative products in convenient form factors that make sticking to a healthy diet regime easier—and tastier—than ever before.  Here are a few wholesome, delicious and nutritious options.

LEVEL Life Bars and Shakes (www.LevelFoods.com) - $5.99 and $8.99

LEVEL Life Bars and Shakes are great tasting, precisely formulated low glycemic and gluten free snacks that fight hunger and support healthy blood sugar. They are packed with protein and fiber and low in carbs and sugar. As part of a proper diet, these snacks can help facilitate weight loss, which can lead to diabetes control. There are four delicious flavors of both the bars and shakes. LEVEL Life's Peanut Butter Cups and Peanut Turtle Bars are formulated with 80 percent- and 60 percent-less sugar than traditional offerings, respectively. The decadent snacks help to keep blood sugars stable throughout the day while also offering healthier options for those seeking a sweet treat or dessert without the guilt of a candy bar. They are low glycemic and gluten-free, making them ideal for anyone looking for simple solutions to satisfy hunger while watching carb and sugar intake. The Peanut Butter Cup features 9g fiber and 5g protein and contains only 3g sugar. The Peanut Turtle Bar has 7g fiber, 6g protein and 8g sugar. The convenient treats fit easily into a pocket or purse for a satisfying snack on-the-go.

LEVEL Life Peanut Butter Cups and Peanut Turtle Bars 3 credit LEVEL Life  LEVEL Life Bars and Shakes 2 credit LEVEL Life  LEVEL Life Bars and Shakes 3 credit LEVEL Life 
 LEVEL Life Bars and Shakes 1 credit LEVEL Life  LEVEL Life Peanut Butter Cups and Peanut Turtle Bars 1 credit LEVEL Life  LEVEL Life Bars
Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: LEVEL Life

Mamma Chia’s Chia Vitality Granola Clusters (www.MammaChia.com) - $6.99

Chia Vitality Granola Clusters are bursting with nutrient-rich chia seeds, whole rolled oats, wild blueberries or toasted nuts, all naturally sweetened with a touch of golden honey and rich molasses. Enjoyed by the bowlful or the handful, with milk or yogurt at the table or in a container while on-the-go, thesesatisfyingly crunchy granola clusters are an excellent way to get a full serving of (1,500mg, one day’s worth), gluten-free whole grains, 10 grams of vegan protein (dairy-free and soy-free) and 5 grams fiber.Available in Wild Blueberry, Vanilla Almond and Cinnamon Pecan.

 Mamma Chia Chia Vitality Granola Clusters 1 credit NA
   Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Mamma Chia

KURA Nutrition Smoothie Protein Powder (www.Sprouts.com) - $3.30 and $24.00

KURA makes smoothie protein powders that combine high nutrition, great taste and the ultimate convenience. Every GMO-free KURA smoothie is packed with 14 grams of pure New Zealand dairy protein, vitamins and minerals, probiotics and prebiotics, and Omega-3’s. Unlike protein supplements with hard-to-pronounce ingredients, KURA is a protein smoothie you can easily understand and feel good about. KURA can provide a delicious, nutrient-rich start to your family’s busy day and is also an ideal mid-day snack or post-workout recovery smoothie. KURA brings all the benefits of New Zealand dairy--long considered the gold standard--to the U.S. in three healthy flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla and Berry.

KURA Nutrition 1 credit NA  KURA Nutrition 2 credit NA 
 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Kura Nutrition

KeVita Sparkling Probiotic Drinks (www.KeVita.com) - $2.99-$3.49

KeVita is a functional beverage brand guided by a vision to help consumers improve their overall health and vitality from the inside out. KeVita crafts three great-tasting and easy-to-drink varieties of healthful beverages that are refreshing and revitalizing: KeVita Sparkling Probiotic Drinks available in 12 vibrant flavors; cleansing and invigorating KeVita Tonics with apple cider vinegar; and naturally energizing Master Brew Kombucha with a bold and smooth flavor. All KeVita drinks are probiotic-rich, low-calorie, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, certified organic, Non-GMO Project verified, and Kosher.

 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: KeVita 


Mocktails Brand Cocktails (www.Mocktails.com) - $39.95 4-pack

Mocktails Brand Non-Alcoholic Cocktails are a ready-to-drink, non-alcoholic beverage line created to provide a sophisticated alternative to alcohol, soda, and water—both for yourself as well as your guests on social occasions. Convenient and dual purpose, each of the indulgent, low calorie flavors can be served with or without alcohol and come in a reusable and recyclable glass shaker bottle. When adding alcohol, it's best to do so by the glass to keep the remaining beverage in the bottle alcohol-free so it may be enjoyed by others as such since each bottle provides four servings. Mocktails brand products come in four flavors: The Karma Sucra Cosmopolitan, The Vida Loca Margarita, Sevilla Red Sangria, and Scottish Lemonade Whiskey Sour.

Mocktails Brand Cocktails 1 credit Mocktails Brand Inc 
 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Mocktails Brand Inc.

Three Bridges Chef-Crafted Meals (www.ThreeBridges.com) - $7.99

In our time-crunched lives, spending hours making a meal for the whole family often isn't possible. With this in mind, Three Bridges created its Chef-Crafted Meals. Three Bridges’ foods are, literally, chef-crafted and use only fresh, premium natural and organic ingredients that you can see and recognize, including restaurant-quality meats, cheeses, vegetables and herbs. The easy-to-make, artisanal Chef-Crafted Meals can be prepared in four minutes in the microwave or 25 minutes in the oven. Currently the company offers seven meal options including Chicken Paella, Sausage and Basil Lasagna and Chicken Enchilada.

Three Bridges Chef Crafted Meals 1 credit Three Bridges  Three Bridges Chef Crafted Meals 2 credit Three Bridges 1  Three Bridges Chef Crafted Meals 3 credit Three Bridges 
         Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image:Three Bridges


Cindy Crawford's ‘Essentials by Urban Remedy’Nutrition System (www.UrbanRemedy.com) - $224.99

Cindy Crawford’s “Essentials by Urban Remedy” nutrition system is a collection of Cindy’s favorite certified organic, non-GMO and low-glycemic, cold-pressed juices, teas/coffees, ready-made meals and snacks that offers three complete days of planned organic nutrition designed to boost energy, lower inflammation and “help anyone become their best self. All selections are made with the highest quality organic, low-glycemic, plant-based ingredients available.”Health-seekers can use this collection to acquire all the complete nutrition needed for 3 full days or, as Cindy does, spread out the items throughout the week as you choose. With great tasting, grab-and-go healthy essentials at your fingertips, this system makes it easier to look and feel your best.

Cindy Crawfords Essentials by Urban Remedy 1 credit Urban Remedy  Cindy Crawfords Essentials by Urban Remedy 3 credit Urban Remedy 
  Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image :Urban Remedy



"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at
www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided and/or sponsored to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***




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Amid a renaissance underway in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood, one new restaurant—Sirena—promises to bring Latin flair to the fare served up in this burgeoning community. This South American-inspired seafood restaurant, which opened up to the public in October of 2014, dishes up a creative, sustainable and fresh-forward menu that offers guests something new in the urban downtown neighborhood.

From daily Empanadas ($8); to fresh Dressed Oysters ($15) served with pickled vegetables and toasted squid-inked black bread; to Chilean-inspired El Chileno Ceviche ($15) prepared with red snapper, octopus, and scallop proteins marinating in a tastefully tart uni leche de tigre; to Chicken a lo Macho ($20)—a succulent breast stuffed with cheese, yucca, tomato, red onion and cilantro served with a shrimp hot sauce, Executive Chef Jaime Chavez’s menu highlights natural and regional Latin American ingredients from land and sea in inspired ways.

During my interview with Chef Chavez, he provides insight into what makes Sirena so distinctive in San Diego’s bustling culinary scene.

The Luxe List: If you had to summarize what makes Sirena particularly special, what would that be?

Chef Chavez: Sirena’s menu highlights fresh ingredients, prepared in a way that showcases and elevates their natural beauty and tastes. Guests won’t find menu items that have been overdone or seasoned beyond recognition–we do our best to show how sometimes the best food can be simple food. We believe many of the Latin traditions of preparing and serving food that we use are the perfect way to experience some of the most delicious dishes.

TLL: Tell me about your background – what are some career highlights?

CC: I was born in a small town in Chile and into a family of cooks and chefs. I was cooking before I was even reading! I began my culinary education in 2004, while also working in kitchens. From fast food to taco shops, Asian bistros to fine dining establishments, I worked at nearly every kind of eatery while in school. I also had the opportunity to work at El Cingle under iconic Chef Montse Estruch, where I would eventually be hired as the Chef de Cuisine shortly after my graduation. It was an incredible experience. Eventually, I did leave Spain to move to Tijuana with my wife for new opportunities, which led me over the border to San Diego, where I have worked in several top restaurants in the city. I was asked to be the Executive Chef at Sirena and the rest is history. I am excited and very happy to be sharing my passion for fresh food and Latin-inspired cooking for San Diegans.

TLL: How would you sum up Sirena’s approach to Latin American cuisine?

CC: With our menu, we like to take pieces of Latin culture and intertwine them into the menu, through cooking or preparing the dishes. It can be the way we season our fish, to how we prepare our ceviche or how we cook a steak. Many of the techniques I have learned as I cooked my way through Spain and Mexico.

TLL: Sirena boasts a “sustainable and fresh-forward menu” – please describe what patrons can expect.

CC: We do our best to ensure we have the freshest, seasonal produce and even grow many of our herbs and vegetables on local farms. We also ensure that the seafood we source is sustainable and we are choosing fresh fish that are local or regional to the Baja California area.

TLL: Does Sirena have a “signature dish”?

CC: Our unique ceviche style I would say is a signature dish. The El Peruano is Catch of the Day, lime juice, amarillo chili, “uni leche de tigre” (a preparation made from fish broth, ginger, key lime juice, garlic, cilantro, salt pepper and amarillo chili paste), red onion, cilantro, cancha and sweet potato. It’s very reminiscent of a dish we used to prepare in Peru, highlighting the natural flavors of the seafood that has been cooking in this marinade.

TLL: What is your personal favorite item on the menu?

CC: My personal favorites are the ceviche and the scallops.

TLL: Menu aside, what is your personal favorite aspect of the eatery?

CC: I love the design of the restaurant. The hand-painted octopus on the walls is one of my favorite elements.

TLL: Why is San Diego’s Little Italy section the optimal spot for this restaurant?

CC: It offers something different in the area, while maintaining the high caliber of cuisine in the neighborhood.

TLL: What other qualities set this restaurant apart from other dining options in the area?

CC: The best thing about having our restaurant in Little Italy is that this neighborhood is really becoming an iconic food destination in the city and is showing that it’s much more than just pasta. Sirena offers something different to diners in the area by just the tastes, colors and textures they will get to enjoy here. We are a smaller restaurant, but we do things in a big way.

TLL: How will Sirena maintain and/or elevate its image?

CC: We believe Sirena is a very well-designed, chic eatery that truly is built around the quality and caliber of our menu. We will never try to be something we are not, and we will always continue to use only the freshest and most local ingredients whenever possible. It’s about creating a beautiful, creative and simple menu with robust and elevated flavors.

TLL: What are some of your long and short term goals for the restaurant?

CC: My short term goal would be to have many, many locals and visitors visit Sirena for lunch, dinner or weekend brunch. We are so proud of these menus and the work that has gone into the restaurant, and we hope to share it with many people. Long term, I hope to introduce new flavors and tastes into the lives of our diners.

Sirena Latin Seafood Restaurant San Diego



marileen"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.LuxeListReviews.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

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mainPhoto: Courtesy Lauren Sharon Vintage Rentals & Design

If you're looking to up the ante on date night romance or turn an ordinary date into an extraordinary and memorable one, look no further than Pop Up Picnic. This company creates turnkey, one-of-a-kind experiences that are as elegant and imaginative as they are convenient and affordable. Conceived by Lauren Sharon Vintage Rentals & Design, Pop Up Picnic proffers an instant date replete with everything needed for a dreamy, vintage-themed daytime or sunset picnic for two. You simply choose the date, time and location and let Pop Up Picnic handle the rest—the food, beverages, accoutrements and ambiance—for an al fresco date to die for.

Pop Up Picnic is truly a hands-free service. The only thing you have to bring is yourself and your date, of course. I recently arranged a Pop Up Picnic of my own and boy did this date deliver—literally and figuratively. I opted for the company’s deluxe "Midsummer Night's Dream" Pop Up Picnic currently offered for $279. This package includes a Charcuterie Board for two from Venissimo Cheese that featured a variety of gourmet cheeses, artisanal cured meats, olives, dried fruit (figs and apricots), chocolate and a French baguette; Italian soda and still water (feel free to bring your own wine or bubbly); and, for dessert, two cheese-paired truffles from Andrea's Truffles. A charming antique gazebo and chandelier lighting create the perfect vintage backdrop to a bistro table and chair set adorned with candles that’s all staged atop a beautiful antique rug. A basket of blankets is also provided to add a touch of coziness. Also included are all the necessities such as serving pieces, pewter tableware, ice and napkins.

I chose a sunset Pop Up Picnic in the La Jolla Cove Cuvier Park area, situated on an elevated grassy cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Upon approach to the location, which I arranged as a “surprise” for my guest, we were both immediately captivated by what was waiting for us: a spectacular structured setup that’s wonderfully out-of-place in a seemingly random and unexpected outdoor location. The emotion of surprise and awe this initial impression evokes is priceless unto itself, as the eyes then begin to register all of the painstaking attention to detail causing the anticipation to bubble over. From there, the date—and the romance—ensued as we sipped, savored and socialized amid the splendor of a perfectly-timed San Diego sunset and candle-lit dusk thereafter.

If you’re not sure where to have your Pop Up Picnic, the company has several tried and true locations throughout La Jolla Cove and in Sunset Cliffs and Balboa Park. All have close parking, easy access and fantastic views. However, if you have a certain location with special meaning, Pop Up Picnic his happy to accommodate but additional fees may apply.

As if all of what’s included in the fundamental package weren't enough, several additional-fee upgrades are available starting with Pop Up Picnic’s exclusive dessert: the Cake-In-A-Jar from Cupcakery. This delightful confection comes courtesy of baker Amy Black, who layers your favorite flavor of freshly baked cake and frosting in a Mason jar, which fits in perfectly with the vintage picnic theme. If cake isn't your thing, you can purchase a dessert of your choice starting at $15. You can also upgrade your main course to suit your tastes—anything from sushi to steak to tacos—for an additional $20. Non-edible upgrades include wireless speakers synched to your music player for an evening serenade and custom décor or flowers from La Jolla florist, Adelaide's. Picnics last 60 minutes but additional half hour blocks can be purchased for $25 each.

With its motto, "We Do the Work, You Take the Credit!" Pop Up Picnic is a simple and sure-fire way to treat your significant other. In addition to providing everything you need for the perfect date, when the picnic is over you just get up and go—the company handles all cleanup.

Not only does the company create unforgettable dates, Pop Up Picnic also helps its patrons celebrate just about any occasion with a Pop Up Party. Like Pop Up Picnic, the customer chooses the location and Pop Up Party brings the food, drinks, furniture and ambiance. This experience starts at $75 per person and there is a minimum of 10 guests. The same upgrades are available with Pop Up Party and additional options include a photographer, emcee and fire pit.

Whether you're simply looking for a relaxing night out with your loved one or if you're planning on a remarkable way to pop the “big question,” a Pop Up Picnic ensures your outing will be one to remember.

PUP3 Courtesy Lauren Sharon Vintage Rentals Design  PUP5 Courtesy Lauren Sharon Vintage Rentals Design 
Photo: Courtesy Lauren Sharon Vintage
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 Photo: Courtesy Lauren Sharon Vintage 
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PUP1 Courtesy Lauren Sharon Vintage Rentals Design 
 Photo: Courtesy Lauren Sharon Vintage 
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PUP4 Courtesy Lauren Sharon Vintage Rentals Design 
 Photo: Courtesy Lauren Sharon Vintage 
Rentals & Design


TheLuxelistBy Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor


"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

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1 MAINBull and bear Steak179 Waldorf Astoria and Towers of the Waldorf Astoria New York 1

The iconic Waldorf Astoria New York hotel—world-renowned for five-star accommodations and premier amenities—is notorious for its impeccable standards whereby luxury and refinement reign supreme in all that it offers. This includes the property’s award-winning food and beverage program that has stood the test of time, making itself as relevant and revered today as in storied years past.

One need not be a guest of the hotel to partake in gastronomic pleasures at the Waldorf Astoria New York. Whether you're staying at this prestigious Park Avenue hotel or are simply seeking a memorable dining experience in the heart of Manhattan, this haute hotel boasts two premier epicurean experiences that are a perennial draw unto themselves: Bull & Bear Prime Steakhouse and Sunday Brunch at Peacock Alley. These two dining options are very different, but both deliver everything a patron would expect of fine dining in one of the world's most illustrious luxury hotels.

Bull & Bear Steakhouse
Bull & Bear Prime Steakhouse
, the signature restaurant located inside the Waldorf Astoria New York, is home to one of the most historic and well-recognized bars in New York City. Here, Italian fabrics, leathers, dark wood, plush carpet, decorative mirrors and painted artwork lend an air of casual sophistication to the old-school lounge ambiance of this former men's club. The signature bronze Bull & Bear statues stand behind the legendary bar as commanding reminders of the steakhouse's significance to city's financial sector and its rich history—ultimately serving as the location’s namesake.

"In the late 1800s, the New York Stock Exchange was the place where businessmen and burgeoning industrialists staked and won their fortunes,” explains General Manager Gilbert Bolivar. “At The Waldorf Astoria Bar, now Bull & Bear Steakhouse, New York’s giants of real estate and finance hammered out deals while drinking elbow to elbow. In honor of this patronage, the hotel placed two magnificent bronze statues–a bull and a bear. Over time, so many deals were struck 'at the Bull and Bear' where the gilded statues stood that regular patrons adopted the moniker as the bar’s unofficial title."

Mere steps away from numerous Fortune 500 companies, the Bull & Bear caters to sophisticated tastes. Bolivar notes, "Our food and beverage is top notch–everything is sourced as locally as possible, including ingredients coming from the hotel’s rooftop garden. Bull & Bear is also one of the only restaurants in NYC to offer real Satsuma Wagyu beef [Grade A-5 Black, “600” day grain fed, hand cut and aged 35 days] imported from Japan. We are constantly working to lead the food and beverage trends. We change our signature cocktails seasonally and our culinary team is always looking at ways to enhance our dishes. I continue to be my own critic and every day we look for ways to improve.”

And those efforts are paying off amid the modern marketplace, with Bolivar pointing out recent accolades, including a 4-star rating on Tripadvisor, Yelp and Opentable, and earning the 2014 OpenTable Diners' Choice Award. The New York Times also cited the restaurant's mahogany bar as one of the world's greatest. In his quest to continually curate exceptional dining experiences, Bolivar also shared that among the restaurant’s short term goals is achieving a 5-star rating on all platforms, “exceeding the expectations of customers daily." This the restaurant will work toward one divine dish at a time.

For his part, Bolivar’s favorite item from this fairly traditional steakhouse menu is the 30-ounce Porterhouse ($62), a robust combination of a sirloin and a filet. In my own visit to the eatery, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to indulge in the 6-ounce Satsuma Wagyu New York Strip Steak ($115). Although the house recommends this superlative steak be served at rare temp, my personal preference (in line with recommendation on how to optimally prepare Wagyu steak), is to achieve medium temp to achieve the peak richness and flavor point. Sauce options for all of the steak dishes include peppercorn, bordelaise, béarnaise or Bull & Bear’s own steak sauce.

Baroque beef aside, I can also personally vouch for the restaurant’s Chilled Maine Lobster Cocktail starter—a half lobster served with a fine herb aioli ($29); Dover Sole Meuniere in brown butter sauce ($59) entree; Parmesan Truffle Fries ($14); and the Lobster Mac & Cheese ($16). Of course, don’t miss the opportunity to eat a fresh, crisp and light Waldorf Salad ($19) at its birthplace. The Bull & Bear also serves the Waldorf Astoria’s Private Label Caviar (Gold Selection $100; Premium Selection $130). For dessert, you simply can’t miss with the New York Cheese Cake ($16), of course, served with an orchard fruit sorbet. Divine indeed.

Peacock Alley and Sunday Brunch
While the Bull & Bear is the quintessential venue for making high-octane deals and celebrating life’s good fortune, Peacock Alley is another popular place to "see and be seen." This eatery’s scintillating Sunday brunch, held seasonally from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ($98/adult, $65/child), flows out of the restaurant’s various dining rooms into the Waldorf Astoria's expansive main lobby—the promenade area that connects the once separate Waldorf and Astoria hotels. Today, the space is utilized to deliver a lavish power brunch like none other—one that that pays homage to the hotel’s culinary history as the birthplace of American breakfast staples like Eggs Benedict.

Executive Chef David Garcelon elaborates on the scope and significance of what has become a highly anticipated weekly affair: "I believe we are the only hotel in Manhattan with a full, gourmet buffet brunch. The buffet features over 100 meal options and is highlighted by a seafood station with shellfish, smoked fish and caviar, chefs preparing omelets, eggs benedict and carving beef wellington and, of course, a bountiful display from our pastry chefs around a molten chocolate fountain. I love our latest chef station that features one of our a pastry chefs making made to order 'Baked Alaska Lollipops' using Top of the Waldorf Honey Ice Cream, coated in meringue and browned with a blow torch."

"While dining with us at the Sunday Brunch, you will be able to taste the best that New York has to offer while enjoying the legendary and renowned Waldorf Astoria New York lobby atmosphere," states Julien Pierlas, Director of Restaurants who can be seen meandering through the dining rooms to meet and greet patrons tableside.  "Then, you will be transported back in time as you listen to the pianist perform on Cole Porter’s piano while the harpist in the back room lulls you into a relaxed Sunday mood."

Pierlas continues, "Our beverage program is also of the best out there. With specials like the Waldorf Buzz Beer made exclusively for us by the Finger Lakes’ own Empire Brewing Company, with the honey produced on the rooftop. In fact, many of the ingredients grown in the hotel’s rooftop garden are used in Peacock Alley specials, from daily dish specials to creative cocktails. Or, try 'The Bloody Bunny,' a twist on the original Bloody Mary, made with fresh carrot juice."

I’ve had the pleasure of eating at Peacock Alley’s Sunday Brunch, and the bounty can overwhelm at first.  One sumptuous station unfolds after the other, each with an allure all its own. Among other notable aspects of the buffet is the abounding raw bar replete with various types of caviar and accoutrements as well as clams, oysters, lobster and shrimp. Multiple soups, salads, breakfast fare, pasta dishes and a bevy of meat carving stations are among the other fine fare options rounding out the savory pageant of provisions.  The sweet finish consists of more than 100 gourmet desserts displayed in delectable form. At this buffet, check your diet at the door and fully immerse yourself in this one-of-a-kind experience.

Indeed, this is a brunch designed to be distinctive. When asked about future plans for Peacock Alley, Pielas replies, "Our goals are to keep food quality, food presentation and drink specials at such a high level, that guests won’t find it anywhere else." Garcelon concurs. "Of course we want to continue to focus on quality and continuing to tweak the offering while maintaining the items that people love. We are very fortunate to have a large group of loyal New York guests who come on a regular basis."

For over a century, the chefs of The Waldorf Astoria New York have been renowned for their culinary excellence. This heritage continues to be celebrated through Bull & Bear and Peacock Alley’s Sunday Brunch—two classic dining experiences that inspire patrons to slow down, soak in the scene and savor a life being well lived.

Bull and Bear Prime Steakhouse Courtesy Waldorf Astoria and Towers of the Waldorf Astoria New York 1

normal BullandBearDining Waldorf Astoria and Towers of the Waldorf Astoria New York 1


marileen"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.LuxeListReviews.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***


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Soothe3Photo: Courtesy Soothe

We’ve all had them. Those days that start off perfectly fine and then take a hard left turn onto the stress superhighway.  On these rough days in particular, there’s nothing like a relaxing massage to calm your nerves and alleviate anxiety. Courtesy Soothe 1But, all too often we don’t know in advance we’re going to have a “bad day” and, thus, didn’t have the foresight to make a therapeutic massage appointment at the spa, which is surely booked solid weeks in advance. Indeed, unless you'd thought to book an appointment well ahead of time, that post-workday or workout massage is going to have to wait until the spa has an opening. Happily, one company has set out to change all of that: Soothe. This emerging mobile massage-on-demand service allows consumers to quickly and easily book a professional spa-quality massage at their home, hotel or other location of choice via a smartphone APP or online with as little as 60 minutes advance notice.  

Soothe is the brainchild of tech entrepreneur Merlin Kauffman, who founded and now operates the endeavor. The idea came to Kauffman when, after a long stressful day of traveling, he wanted a massage but was frustrated by the fact that he couldn't book an appointment on such short notice. And so lit the spark now known as Soothe, which first opened in Los Angeles and is reportedly now the largest massage provider in that region. The company subsequently expanded into additional service areas, including Orange County, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Austin, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Beach and now San Diego.

Later this year Soothe has its sights set on launching in Washington D.C., Chicago, San Francisco and New York to offer its brand of mobile massage therapy throughout these major metros. From there, Soothe plans to continue rolling out services in every major U.S. city within the next 24 months and will notify those who register online or through the APP via email as soon as services become available.

“Soothe’s uniqueness lies in its ability to connect the client to an available therapist who can quickly come to the client’s location and deliver five-star service at an affordable price,” Kauffman explains. Soothe has created a hassle-free experience for the customer with no guesswork, even including taxes and gratuity for the therapist in the service price when scheduling the appointment. And, the convenience of a well-trained massage therapist coming to your home, hotel or other suitable location sure beats fighting traffic to get to and from a spa location after a long, hard day.

So how does it work? Just install the Soothe APP on your smartphone or visit the www.Soothe.com Web site on a computer, tablet or other Internet-enabled device. After signing up or logging in, simply choose the desired appointment date and time, the type of massage you want (Swedish, deep tissue, sports or couples using any of these styles), the length and cost of the session (60 minutes for $99, 90 minutes for $139 or 120 minutes for $169) and the desired gender of the massage therapist. You can also input comments, if any, such as a special request for a specific therapist. You then enter the location address and any parking information necessary. Once you enter your payment detail, either using a credit card or a gift certificate, the appointment is booked and a confirmation email is sent. Appointments are available seven days a week from 10am to 10pm and, in some locations, from 9am to midnight.

One of the reasons Soothe’s services are so affordable, even with gratuity bundled in, is because the spa operator is taken out of the equation. After speaking with a number of therapists, Kauffman learned that out of a $120-plus session, spas were only paying therapists about $35. With Soothe, therapists reportedly make about twice the industry standard and are empowered to make a better life for themselves. It's a win-win-win for the business, the therapists and Soothe clientele.

In addition to individual or couples massages, services are also available for corporate and special events. A team of therapists can be booked for chair massage services for a specific number of hours. This is ideal for offices or other corporate locations. For personal massages in a private home or hotel room, Soothe does also keep safety top of mind. The company employs a network of 650 licensed and insured massage therapists who have all undergone thorough vetting, including passing background checks conducted by state investigators. And, the skills of the Soothe workforce are sure to be top-notch as the company interviews all therapists in person and hires only highly trained and qualified personnel who have a track record of excellent customer satisfaction.

As a self-professed massage connoisseur with years of “research” under my proverbial belt, I can attest not only to the ease and expedience of Soothe’s booking engine, but also the proficiency and aptitude of its therapists. In my own deep tissue massage session, it was apparent that the technician was highly experienced and knowledgeable as she adeptly located and resolved various myofascial trigger points (i.e., painful muscle knots in key areas of the anatomy) that had been causing me chronic discomfort and stiffness.

With its simple booking system that offers same-day appointments amid extended operating hours and a team of well-trained massage therapists at-the-ready, it’s no wonder Soothe customers post rave reviews and stellar ratings. This is mobile massage-on-demand made easy and affordable as compared to the typical spa price for the same exact treatment that’s far less convenient. All things considered, Soothe just rubs the right way.


Merilee"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***



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1MAINDFG NY Gallery Booth2 Courtesy Del Frisco Grille

When I travel to New York City, I seek out those venues where I can be “one with the natives” and immerse myself in the local culture to get a true sense of an area. More often than not I find these opportunities off the beaten path, in mom and pop eateries or neighborhood watering holes where authentic atmosphere and provincial fare reigns supreme but nary a tourist can be found. However, sometimes such gastronomic gems are hiding in plain sight, as is the case with Del Frisco Grille New York. With an enviable location at the very heart of Rockefeller Center just blocks away from Times Square and Radio City Music Hall, this restaurant emanates the energy, dynamism and culinary creativity that makes NYC such a draw for locals and visitors, alike.

I visited Del Frisco Grille New York during the happy hour timeframe on a Friday night, and from the moment I walked in the door the energy radiating from both the dining room and adjacent bar area was palpable and infectious. The very spirit of the restaurant set a fun mood and high anticipation for the experience ahead. Although surely there were any number of out-of-towners like myself present, it quickly became clear that many of the patrons were local residents, including those who worked at the famed NBC “30 Rock” location and other media, entertainment and financial industry professionals from offices nearby.

Once seated, I took my time to decompress from a busy day in the city amid the eatery’s inviting décor, which featured original artwork paired with warm woods, earth tones and dim lighting reminiscent of a steak house. While the dining room where I was seated had a more relaxed vibe, the bar that shared the open floor plan space was boisterous. The space pulsated with the after-work crowd intermingled with sojourners seeking a spin on classic spirits and sumptuous sustenance, including fresh flatbreads from the open brick-fire oven uniquely built right into the bar area.

In my exclusive interview with Nick D'Ambrosio, General Manager of Del Frisco, he points out that this bar is a place to see and be seen. "Our lively bar scene is always buzzing with the industry’s broadcast, sports and business elite," he explains. “The restaurant is a favorite for TODAY Show staff, including Kathie Lee and Hoda Kotb.”

Another particularly remarkable aspect of the restaurant is its patio area.  In fact, Del Frisco Grille New York is one of the only restaurants in the area with a patio actually facing Rockefeller Center, offering extraordinary views of the Rock Center Christmas tree in the winter and prime people watching in the summer.

Ambiance aside, I was at the restaurant to eat dinner so I turned my attentions to the menu of what has become a lauded American grill. While refined comfort food might sound like an oxymoron, at Del Frisco Grille NYC these two concepts make ambrosial bedfellows.

D'Ambrosio went on to underscore why the foodstuffs make this restaurant so distinctive, noting, "Del Frisco’s Grille prides itself on offering elevated classics—for example, the infamous Cheesesteak Eggrolls, said to be a favorite of NFL players and often requested to locker rooms; fresh Ahi Tuna Tacos; or the ‘Burger & Brew’ combo—an ideal fall pairing of the Grille’s signature prime cheeseburger and draft beer. The menu is filled with fun, inventive dishes that are reminiscent of favorite comfort foods with unique twists and quality ingredients.”

D'Ambrosio also points out that, although there are other Del Frisco Grille’s around the United States, the New York location rests on its own laurels. “While the Grille concept is expanding, each menu is unique to the location and no two are identical,” he said. “That gives our chefs flexibility to get creative and cater to a local palate – plus, it furthers the enticement to try out different Grilles in different markets."

One look around the bustling venue and it’s clear the approach has paid off, although accolades garnered by Del Frisco Grille's New York location—including Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence (2012-2013) and the Best Casual Restaurant NYC's Concierge Choice Award (2012)—make it rather official.

When discussing his goals for the Big Apple-based Grille, D'Ambrosio emphasizes the importance of sustaining a top-quality and memorable experience. "Short term, we aim to continue to make every guest experience personal, enjoyable and delicious. Quality food and service are first and foremost, so keeping those at the top of our priority list for each experience will always be a goal. Long term we want to continue being the restaurant of choice for a fun environment with the highest quality food offering twists on American classics."

While lunch at Del Frisco Grille New York is an inspired food fest unto itself, my own dinner experience delivered. Some of the “sophisticated comfort food” creations I delighted in included the Deviled Eggs ($12) with truffle-chive vinaigrette; Iceberg Lettuce Wedge ($12) with bacon, tomato, and blue cheese dressing; Prime Beef Short Rib Stroganoff ($35) with pappardelle noodles; and Steamed Brown Bag Fish ($33.50) with farmer’s market vegetables, steamed fingerlings, white wine and basil pesto. A side of Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($10) rounded out the entrées nicely.

Other notables on this American grill’s menu includes appetizers like Ahi Tacos ($19) with tuna tartare, avocado and spicy citrus mayo; “Surf” options like Bay of Fundy Salmon ($33) with arugula-citrus salad; and, for steak-lovers, “Turf” selections like a 16 Prime Ribeye ($43) and Prime New York Strip ($48)with the preparation choices of Oscar-style ($10), port-foie gras butter ($6) or blue cheese ($4).

Of course, a fine dining dinner is not complete without dessert and Del Frisco Grille New York’s dessert menu is an endearing ending.  There's good old fashioned Warm Chocolate Cake ($11.5) with vanilla bean ice cream and raspberry sauce but, for a true New York experience, go for my personal favorite: the six-layer Lemon Dodger Cake ($12.50) with lemon buttercream icing and lemon glaze.

Even amid an outwardly impressive food and beverage program, the mark of a truly successful restaurant business—one that will endure and flourish—is how well it retains its staff. Frequent turnover is the telltale mark of back of the house bedlam. With this in mind, D'Ambrosio is eager to explain that, as the Del Frisco’s Grille brand’s flagship location, “We’ve retained 70 percent of our opening staff—an impressive rate especially here in New York. That’s a testament to our value of our employees."

A testament indeed. That value shines through every aspect of the Del Frisco Grille New York and makes the restaurant a can't-miss destination for an exceptional dining experience that’s duly representative of its vibrant locale.

Del Frisco Grille NYC


marileen"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.LuxeListReviews.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

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1MAINTreana Credit Hope Family Wines2Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image:Hope Family Wines

TheLuxelistBy Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

Showing your loved one just how much you care on Valentine's Day doesn't have to break the bank. With this collection of decadent, whimsical and generally thoughtful gift ideas that also happen to be economical, your Valentine's Day game can remain on-point without the hefty price tag.

Credit SharisBerriesPhoto Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image:Shari's Berries

Shari’s Berries Ombre Cherries with Dozen Valentine Strawberries (www.Berries.com) - $64.97
Saying “I love you” is twice as nice with this dual gift pack from Shari's Berries. The decadence starts with very large fresh strawberries that are dipped and decorated with swizzles, chocolate chips and adorable micro heart sprinkles perfectly suited for Valentine's Day. This gift is doubly sweet with the addition of 10 juicy maraschino cherries that are hand-dipped in four shades of pink for a lovely ombre effect. This delicious collection includes 2 maraschino cherries hand-dipped in white, 8 maraschino cherries hand-dipped in various shades of pink, 4 strawberries dipped in milk chocolate with white swizzles, 4 strawberries dipped in dark with chocolate chips and 4 strawberries dipped in white with heart sprinkles. This gift from Shari’s Berries makes a tasty moment to remember.

Treana Credit Hope Family WinesPhoto Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image:Hope Family Wines

2012 Treana Red Wine (www.HopeFamilyWines.com) - $45
After 18 years, Paso Robles-based Hope Family Wines is giving its flagship “Treana” wine a bold new look that belies its affordability. Designed exclusively for Hope Family Wines, the label is screen-printed in 22-karat gold directly onto the bottle using cutting-edge technology, resulting in a distinctive, elegant feel. The taste is distinctive as well. The 2012 Treana Red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, showcasing the Rhône varietals that flourish in California’s Central Coast. Treana features beautiful aromas of bright red cherry and pomegranate enhanced by intense flavors of plum, allspice and vanilla. This wine culminates with a long and balanced finish. The 2012 Treana Red has great depth and structure, and will continue to develop and mature over the next ten years.

Light My Fire Credit Temple SpaPhoto Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Temple Spa

Light My Fire Candle (www.TempleSpa-USA.com) - $38
Energize your space and put a little love in the air! The Light My Fire candle has been handcrafted exclusively for Temple Spa, and boasts a fresh, upbeat fragrance that will liven up the atmosphere of any space. It’s aced with a gorgeous blend of rousing essential oils, including clary sage, grapefruit, ginger, orange, peppermint and bergamot, that are all wonderfully captured in a fresh white glass. The Light My Fire candle is perfect for creating a spa ambiance in the privacy of your own home. The candle has a long burning life of up to 55 hours and is made with 100% sustainable and renewable wax comprised of 100% natural soybean oil for a cooler, cleaner burning without soot build-up.

Lips Bag Courtesy ThurFri.com  Lips Bag Courtesy ThurFri.com2 
 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above
Image: N/A

Lips - Anywhere - Pink (www.ThuFri.com) - $50
Stylish, confident, sexy and intelligent - your lady love deserves a bag that can keep up. The Lips - Anywhere - Pink tote is designed for the woman who wants to make a statement and leave her mark in every scene. It's the perfect accessory for a true city glitterati! This eye-catching compact tote, with its universal crossbody design, is  perfect for carrying the essentials like a wallet, phone, keys, cell phone and lip gloss, of course.  The tote also features detachable chain handles with 20"drop, a zipper enclosure, 100% cotton canvas and a 100% nylon lining with branded t/f logo.

Diamonique Courtesy QVC

Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: N/A

Diamonique Pave' Sterling Heart Ring (www.QVC.com) - $49.75
You'll heart this sterling silver puffed heart ring. Pave-set, faceted Diamonique simulated diamonds and a highly polished shank make it a great and affordable gift choice for any gal who loves bling—whether a romantic partner, a daughter or to share with a sweet friend. Total weight of this pretty piece is approximately 7/10 carat and it’s replete with round cut stones thoughtfully set to shimmer. The Diamonique Pave' Sterling Heart Ring is available in full sizes 5-10.

Messages Heart Courtesy JCPenny.com   Messages Heart Courtesy JCPenny.com2
Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above
Image: N/A

‘Messages from the Heart’ Multi-Chain and Collar Necklaces (www.JCPenney.com) - $30.80
These stunning necklaces by Sandra Magsamen make a statement both of love and fashion. These two romantic necklaces feature silver-tone, gold-tone and brass-tone metals with acrylic, glass and resin, as well as cubic zirconia stones. The collar necklace measures 18" and has a haphazard design while the multi-chain necklace measures 16" and has a more thoughtfully planned feel. Both necklaces come with a 3" extender. Designer Sandra Magsamen is an artist and author whose work has touched millions of people, one heart at a time. Sandra's collections offer women a new way to express themselves and experience each day with more heart, meaning, purpose and joy.

GenevaWatch Credit Overstock.jog  GenevaWatch Credit Overstock 
 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above
Image: Overstock.com

Geneva Platinum Metallic Round Face Watch (www.Overstock.com) - $22.09
On Valentine's Day, give the gal you love the gift of time. This ladies watch by Geneva Platinum with Japanese Quartz movement will add style and precise performance to any fashionista's day. This watch features a faux leather strap available in various colors, a rose goldtone bezel and a rose goldtone dial. A high polish finish completes this great look. Also durable, the watch is water and dust resistant.


"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.LuxeListReviews.com. Follow her on
Twitter here:
http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***


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LobbyFull2 Courtesy The Row NYC

Travelers seeking to plunge themselves into the pulse of New York City’s famed Times Square area need only book a stay at Row NYC—an independent hotel that prides itself on offering guests an immersive experience in the very heart of Manhattan. While the coveted location, itself, has operated under various identities of yore, including the Lincoln, the Manhattan and, most recently, the Milford Plaza, March 2014 saw the hotel’s debut as the Row NYC—the culmination of a two-year, $140 million re-development effort. The result is a one-of-a-kind property that seeks to embody and exude the New York City experience at nearly every guest touch-point.

About the hotel’s design direction, Heidi Avedisian, Curator and Brand Strategist for Row NYC, explains, "We took the unique approach of inviting the city into the property and giving our guests exactly what they want–the ultimate New York City experience versus creating a sanctuary or retreat. We do this by embracing all things art, culinary, design, culture, even pop-culture. Many of the hotels surrounding Row NYC are part of large branded chains, but our hotel only has this one location, giving us a lot of creative freedom.  We made sure that guests experience New York the minute they arrive at Row NYC.”

Indeed, Row NYC enthralls from the moment guests enter the ever-bustling lobby, which has a 24-foot high crystalline glass façade and décor elements that feature earthy and industrial materials. Once in the front door, an illuminated grand staircase presents as guests ascend and descend under a wooden slatted, umbrella-like ceiling that creates warmth, drama and visual appeal. The stairs lead up to the lobby area, where the registration and concierge desks reside, which is the first stop in what essentially becomes a NYC art exhibition.

"Located next to reception, you’ll find the striking work of New York-based artist Yorgo Alexopoulos projecting on two light sculpture walls that depict what it’s like to move through the course of a New York City day,” Avedisian continues. “Think driving through the Lincoln Tunnel and passing gargoyles atop Upper West Side landmarks. Not only do we want our guests to perceive the artwork, but we want them to be a part of it. This was the driving idea behind The Bosco Photo Booth and Cube Structure.  Row NYC commissioned the first ever Cube Structure by The Bosco.  Essentially guests take their photo in our photo booth and in real time their pictures are projected onto a large 3D cube structure in the lobby. Even when they are out exploring the city, they can take photos and send them back to the cubes by using our hashtag #MoreNYthanNY. It’s just another unique way to let the city in – through the eyes of our guests."

Visitors of District M, the hotel’s lobby-level European express café by day and cocktail lounge by night, are treated to Row NYC’s most prominent and captivating art feature: the commissioned digital art gallery by paparazzo extraordinaire, Ron Galella. This one-of-a-kind digital gallery features Galella’s most well-known images that capture celebrity life in New York during the late 60s, 70s and early 80s, including his most iconic black and white shots of Jackie O, Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, John Lennon, and more. “It’s a moment in time that we all know of, even if you weren’t there, when celebrities were less jaded and possessed a lot more mystery and glamour,” Avedisian notes.

In its good fortune, the hotel also gained access to never-before-seen photographs by Galella and proceeded to design a penthouse suite coined "The Paparazzi Project" in his honor to showcase these exclusive images. An experience unto itself, the 1,000 square foot Paparazzi Project suite not only features Galella's work, but a stay in it will make any guest feel like a star in their own right. The suite comes with an actual paparazzo from Getty Images who, for two hours, will capture the guests' candid moments both in the hotel and around Times Square. The experience also includes a hair stylist and makeup artist to create a look worthy of a night out on the town. Designed by Avedisian herself, the suite's luxurious décor, rife with cut marble, crystal, dark hardwood floors, white leather and palm leaves, is the epitome of old Hollywood style and glamour.

Overall, the Row NYC features a total of 1,331 contemporary, urban-chic-styled rooms that are compact but cozy and clean. Many boast city views. Even walking through the upper guest floor hallways offers a quintessential NYC experience. During the design phase a photographer was commissioned to capture true life images in SoHo, the East Village, Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side and the Meatpacking District. The resulting photos flank the hotel's upper floor corridors as floor to ceiling murals, providing guests with what Avedisian refers to as, "a walking tour" of NYC's downtown neighborhoods and iconic destinations as they make their way to their rooms.

Of course, guests cannot sustain themselves on art alone, so Row NYC does offer on-site epicurean amenities. While the hotel does not offer room service, Avedisian notes that in the property’s European express café and cocktail lounge, District M, they offer fine NYC pastries from Payard, Balthazar and Pain d’Avignon in the morning hours as well as La Colombe coffee.  At night District M serves a bar food menu, including hand-stretched Neapolitan pizzas, and cheese and charcuterie plates from the famed Murray’s. 

“We keep it simple, and we keep it at a very high quality level,” Avedisian offers, along with a glimpse into the hotel’s culinary future. “In early 2015, we’re expanding our food footprint with the launch of an interior food market, City Kitchen.  We scoured each NYC neighborhood—even the food trucks-- and the boroughs to find restaurateurs with truly crave-worthy items, and we are bringing them all under one compelling roof in Times Square—an area long known for its mediocre food.  It’s going to be ground breaking for the neighborhood and I’m excited to give locals the food options they are looking for, as well as expose our guests to some of the most tried and true NYC food concepts. The main goal is to keep Row NYC true to New York and continuously evolve right along with this great and dynamic city."

Also on site is Iconic M, a one-stop-shop for everyday essentials that’s open 24/7, as well as a state-of-the-art Apple device-powered Internet lounge in the lobby.

With a location to-die-for and a vibe that melds NYC’s signature urban grit with a sleek and modern hospitality guise, it’s no wonder that celebrities including Kristin Cavallari, Toni Colette, Wyclef Jean, Lizzy Jagger, and Carmen Electra have reportedly stayed at the Row NYC. It's a truly unique property with just one location, which just happens to be Times Square—one of the most iconic destinations in the world. Here, the Row NYC is free to be itself, which, incidentally, is a direct reflection of the vibrant and eclectic city that surrounds.

Row NYC Hotel


marileen"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.LuxeListReviews.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***


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Valentine’s Day is on approach and love is in the air. But, this enviable emotion isn’t shared just between the living, as untold millions adore their sports and fitness endeavors just the same. For many in this crowd, perspiration is as alluring as an Eau de Parfum. And, the only thing they love more than a good sweat are gadgets and gear that keep them at the top of their game, literally and figuratively. Whether that special someone enjoys outdoor adventure and exercise or prefers to recreate indoors, this bouquet of gift ideas for sports and fitness “lovers” will surely charm the lucky recipient.

Casio OmniSync STB1000 1 credit Casio America Inc1 
 Photo Credit by: Casio

Casio OmniSync STB1000 Sports Watch (www.Casio.com) - $99.95
The OmniSync STB1000 is Casio’s new “smart” sports watch that seamlessly connects with users’ smartphones via Bluetooth v4.0 low energy wireless technology. Notably, this watch enables music player operation and the ability to check personal fitness data from popular mobile APPs such as Abvio’s Runmeter, Walkmeter and Cyclemeter and Wahoo Fitness. Casio has provided products with Bluetooth technology and advanced time-keeping features to consumers for years, and the STB1000 is a perfect example of intelligent functionality re-imagined in a Casio timepiece—one that’s cost effective to boot. This watch displays running pace and distance, elapsed time, pulse cycling speed, pedal rotations, and can record up to 120 lap times. In addition to its fitness capabilities, the STB1000 offers an incredible battery life up to two years in a versatile 100 meter water resistant design. Of course, it also includes all of the essential functions that Casio fans have come to expect, including world time, multiple alarms, countdown timer and 12/24 hour time formats.

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Photos Credit By: Runtastic    

Runtastic Orbit Wearable Fitness Tracker (www.Runtastic.com) - $99.99
The Runtastic Orbit is a new fitness wearable that allows users to track daily movements, fitness activities and sleep. It can count Steps & Distance, Calories Burned, Active Minutes, Sleep, Goals and Ambient Lighting. It monitors the user’s daily progress and can emit vibration alerts that trigger after an hour of inactivity. You can even wear your Orbit to go for a swim or take a shower because it’s waterproof up to 300 feet. The Runtastic Orbit is also versatile, available with a black and blue band plus a clip so it can be worn in more discrete locations. Six other colored bands are also available for purchase.

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 Photos Credit by: Athlights    

AthLights Wearable Safety Lights (www.AthLights.com) - $9.99
AthLights are super-small, battery-powered LED safety lights that clip to your clothing with the help of a magnet. They can be turned on and off with a simple twist and placed anywhere on your clothing or athletic gear. They are a more compact and comfortable alternative to many of the personal lighting products on the market today, especially for long-distance runners. The strobing light is visible up to 600 ft away, giving motorists the extra critical moments necessary to recognize and avoid the wearer as they pass. AthLights can be placed just about anywhere, including socks, a MP3 player arm band and compression shorts, so users can still dress appropriately for the weather.

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Photos Credit by:
The Boom Shop

ShUvee UV Shoe Deodorizer and Germ Killer (www.TheBoomShop.com) - $84
Germs and bacteria are the source of foot odor, but they can be hard to get rid of—especially in shoes worn every day. But this gadget does the job. It kills 99% of odor and disease-causing microorganisms in shoes using its safe ultraviolet light system, giving users a fresher pair without having to use harsh chemicals or cleaners. And because the weight of the shoes activates the UV light, there are no buttons or confusing settings to deal with. This product eliminates germs, bacteria and pathogens that cause both foot odor and athlete's foot with 2 hours of use. The device works with all shoes, including boots, sneakers, cleats, high heels, flip flops and everything in between. Now that’s a fresh idea!

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 Photo Credit by: Aqua Sphere Swin

Aqua Sphere Maputo Water-Repellant Swimsuit (www.AquaSphereSwim.com) - $59.95
Aqua Sphere is a premier swimming equipment manufacturer for fitness and recreational swimming, aquatic exercise and triathlons. The company, which recently partnered with the world’s most decorated Olympian Michael Phelps and coach Bob Bowman, was the first in the marketplace to introduce a revolutionary line of water-repellent swimwear made specifically for fitness and recreational swimmers called AquaLight. One design option of note is the Maputo AquaLight suit, which is crafted to retain less water and dry six times faster than traditional fabrics, making the transition to life outside the pool both comfortable and hassle-free. Maputo is a feminine design offering not only a quick drying fabric but also extreme comfort and a built in shelf bra, making it a favorite among women on the pool deck.

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 Photos Credit by: OverStock.com  

Coleman VisionHD HD Swimming Goggles with Built-in Video Camera (www.Overstock.com) - $141.29
One of the best things about snorkeling or scuba diving is being among the stunning natural beauty that only exists under water. If you've ever wished you could bring that beauty with you topside, your wish is now a reality with the Coleman VisionHD HD Swimming Goggles with Built-in Video Camera. These exceptional goggles bring wearable video to the max. They feature full 1080p HD video resolution and are waterproof to a 10-foot depth. These functional goggles also feature an anti-scratch/anti-shock UV protected safety lens. With these, your vacation videos will never be the same. Now you can record all of your great underwater adventures in stunning HD.

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 Photo Credit by: SwinSpray.com  

 SwimSpray Hair Care (www.SwimSpray.com) - $15
A dip in the pool might be invigorating but the chlorine smell in your hair afterward is definitely an unwelcome result. But there’s a solution: SwimSpray. This product uses a patent-pending vitamin C technology to immediately neutralize the chlorine on your hair and skin after swimming in chemically-treated water, eliminating the residual chlorine that can damage and irritate your hair and skin. This residual chlorine is commonly associated with causing dry, itchy, and irritated skin and dry, crunchy, and discolored hair. SwimSpray prevents these affects and leaves your hair soft and moisturized. The product is 100% natural, fragrance-free, sulfate-free, and free from artificial colors, and it’s safe, gentle, and appropriate for users of all ages.

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 Photos Credit by: OverStock.com  

Treasure Cove Fortune Finder Junior Metal Detector (www.Overstock.com) - $74.69
Make a trip to the beach a treasure hunt! Designed specifically for kids, young adults and recreational users, the Fortune Finder Junior metal detector TC-1010 boasts many features. It has an easy-to-understand viewmeter and one-touch auto-tuning so users can get outdoors exploring the world rather than sitting indoors reading an instruction manual. Its 7.5-inch waterproof search coil can detect a US quarter buried up to 6 inches. Additional features include simple discrimination with two-color LED ferrous and non-ferrous indicators, audio feedback with adjustable volume control, adjustable handle for comfortable use, low battery indicator and 6.3-mm headphone jack. This metal detector is lightweight and compact, weighing just 3.8 pounds and measuring 7.5 inches wide x 30-40 inches long.

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 Photos Credit by: OverStock.com  

Barska Portable Solar Charger Case with Speaker (www.Overstock.com) - $37.98
This USB/solar charged case is the ideal solution for traveling, camping or during an emergency situation when you do not have access to a power source or outlet. It’s also great to carry with you while you’re out and about as you play sports, exercise and live your active outdoor lifestyle. This multi-purpose case features a solar charger/USB capable charger, output speakers and sturdy carrying case all-in-one. Power is provided by using either the USB charging port or by solar energy. Simply place the case under the sun for an all-day power supply. The built-in speakers provide amplified sound to any device with corresponding jack. The inner storage compartment can safely store most personal mobile devices or MP3 players while on the go or while charging.

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 Photos Credit by: OverStock.com    

Rockboard Descender All Terrain Board (www.Overstock.com) - $116
The Rockboard Descender is a super-cool all-terrain board ready to tear up any surface that stands in your way. The unlike typical skateboards, the Descender's tank-like treads provide traction on grassy slopes, pavement, wooded paths, snowy hills and more. No need to wait for a sunny day or a smooth sidewalk; skateboard enthusiasts can now take their sport off-road. Beneath the Rockboard Descender's deck are four heavy-duty triple-wheel sets—36 wheels in total—surrounded by a rubber tread. The treads tilt both backward and forward for stability and smooth transfers between different surfaces. With the Rockboard Descender, you can ensure any terrain does not go untraveled.

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 Photo Credit by: ToysRUs.com

Y Fliker SP5 Sport Scooter (www.ToysRUs.com) - $149.99
Y Fliker SP5 Sport is the fastest Y Fliker scooter yet. This sporty scooter has extra-large wheels for faster propulsion and improved handling, special designed foot plates with superior grip meant for rapid acceleration, and high riser-style handle bars that offer more stability and control during tricks and stunts. This innovative, three-wheeled self-propelling scooter is all kid-powered. Using the same motions as downhill skiing, riders only need to move their hips and legs from side to side to get going and keep moving. Y Fliker SP5 Sport features polyurethane wheels for a smooth ride, anti-vibration rubber hand grips for comfort, and a quick response hand brake for safety.

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 Photo Credit by: OverStock.com

Zero Gravity Sports Air Hockey Table (www.Overstock.com) - $145
Feeling competitive? Provide hours of fun for you and your loved one with the 54-inch Zero Gravity Sports Air Hockey Table. With its large play surface, slanted leg design and electronic scoring, this air hockey table allows you to play competitively with the table keeping track of all the action. The set comes with everything you need, including a table, two pushers and two pucks. MDF construction provides maximum durability and powerful Zero Gravity Sports motor provides even puck float. The table measures 54 inches long x 27 inches wide x 32 inches high and weighs 44.4 pounds. Assembly is easy as well,  and once put together it’s light enough to move wherever you need it.


marileen"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.LuxeListReviews.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided and/or sponsored to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***


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  • With the New Year comes a fresh and renewed focus for students to dig in and work toward keeping, or getting, those grades up in the academia second half and school years beyond. Here are four fab productivity tools and homework helpers that can give kids a smart kick start:

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Turnstone Buoy ‘Active Seat’ (www.MyTurnstone.com) - $199
Designed for today's active person, the Buoy by office furniture and design company, Turnstone, is an active seat that helps encourage movement, which fosters increased productivity. Mixing up how students sit while they do homework and study can improve overall well-being, which improves the ability to think clearly and be productive.  A riff on the stool, Buoy can tilt, swivel, wobble and adjust for height. It stands at a slight 5 degree angle and can tilt even further—up to 12 degrees—to lean into your work. Users can change the seat height up to five inches with a quick lever pull. Buoy is also customizable by color for both the base and the cap, choosing from a mix of bright and basic colors and fun patterns. Example colors are Wasabi Green, Picasso Blue, Chili Red and Element Grey.

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Printed Lap Desk (www.Overstock.com) - $25.99
Students can work from the comfort of the couch, their bed, out on the lawn, in the car or just about anywhere else with this stylish printed lap desk. This decorative, portable desk features a cup and pencil holder while a soft bead-filled pad allows the lap desk to rest comfortably on the lap. This handy lap desk measures 17.29 inches long x 13.36 inches wide x 1.965 inches high--just right for a laptop computer, tablet, or even good old fashioned paper and pencil. Lightweight, the lap desk is made with MDF (Medium-density fibreboard), PVC plastic, polar fleece, polyfoam, and non-woven fabrics.

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Acer Iconia One 7 (www.US.Acer.com) - $129.99
With Intel quad-core performance powering games, videos and web browsing, the Iconia One 7 will satisfy a student’s need for speed this New Year. Students also love that the device comes in a rainbow of colors and is light and easy to tote around. With neat features that create a bright and clear screen, speedy and responsive use, and great HD media playback, users get up to 7 hours of use in a slim package. The HD LCD with IPS1 technology brings out every detail of the display from any angle, and Zero Air Gap technology provides brighter and crisper images with higher contrast and notably good visibility in sunlight.

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Five Star Folder, Notebooks, and Shelf (www.MeadOnline.com) - Prices vary
The Five Star line is rife with products helping kids be more efficient and organized throughout their school day. One great option is the Flex Hybrid NoteBinder, which acts like a notebook and works like a binder, creating a fail-proof system that helps students keep it all together. The unique TechLock rings in 1- and 1.5-inch sizes accommodate as much as traditional binders of equivalent sizes. Each Five Star Wirebound Notebook comes with uniquely designed features that enhance durability, including reinforced storage pockets that help prevent tears, and water-resistant front and back covers that protect notes and documents all year long. Five Star’s Wireless Notebook feature a durable one-piece plastic cover that opens to lay flat, making notetaking less cumbersome. The sturdy interior pocket allows for quick and easy paper storage and the Neat Sheet perforated, college-ruled pages make turning in assignments and tearing out notes simple and stress-free. Another great item is the Five Star Stackable Locker Shelf that fits securely in the bottom of a standard locker. Quick and easy to assemble, the shelf has a tall clearance designed to fit high-capacity and sewn binders. Students can use one shelf alone to create additional usable space within the locker, or stack two locker shelves for even more room to store and organize. The shelf is designed to withstand up to 150 pounds!


marileen"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.LuxeListReviews.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

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