Last weekend, my family gave Mal and Peter a sendoff brunch before their big move to Maryland. We decided on Chinatown Brasserie so we could still do dim sum, but in a more relaxed atmosphere than actual Chinatown. (Plus, better cocktails, too!) It was so nice to get everyone together, despite the bittersweet reason.
My birthday is in January, so (almost) every year I use it as an excuse to escape freezing cold NYC and head somewhere warm and sunny. I celebrated my quarter century in Costa Rica with my sister, my 26th in Cartagena with my then-boyfriend/now-good friend, Ryan. I had just started a new job and couldn’t get away for 27–which means I was overdue for a trip this year. I rang in 28 in Negril, Jamaica with my parents and sister.
We spent two nights at Rockhouse Hotel, one of the most amazing places I’ve ever stayed. The sprawling resort consists of 38 villas and rooms perched on Negril’s rocky cliffs. My sister and I shared a sweet waterfront villa.
It was big, airy and, best of all, had two patios and a private staircase that led down to Pristine Cove, whose caves were featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean.
When I booked the trip, I was afraid I would be bored after a day or two of lounging around. (My vacations are usually pretty active with hiking, mountain climbing, snorkeling and the like.) But within a few hours of being in Negril, I knew it wouldn’t be a problem.
“I think I’d be okay if I didn’t see the beach,” I told my sister. (It was about 20 minutes away, by car.)
“I think I’d be okay if we don’t leave Rockhouse,” she replied.
And we didn’t.
We vegged by the pool…
…sunbathed and enjoyed the view…
…my mom and I got deep-tissue massages. (Aahhh…)
Rockhouse also has three fantastic outdoor, waterfront restaurants. Rockhouse Restaurant serves “New Jamaican” cuisine, which basically means local flavors–like curry and jerk–with a global twist (dishes might include roti or chutneys, for example). We had my birthday dinner there, and the menu was quite seafood-centric, to my delight. I devoured a grilled two-pound lobster accompanied by rice and beans and fresh veggies. At the laid-backВ Pool Grill, the following day, we chowed down on delicious jerk chicken. On our last evening at Rockhouse, we had another wonderful dinner at the Pushcart Restaurant. Their menu is inspired by Jamaican street food and features lots of traditional stews (that’s oxtail, goat, chicken and lentil stewsВ in the picture above).
We were unable to book rooms at Rockhouse for our whole trip (despite making reservations four weeks in advance!), so we spent two nights at Tensing Pen, another cliffside Negril resort just five minutes down the road.
It was also gorgeous property, though the crowd was mostly older return visitors and not as young and hip as the Rockhousers.
Not surprisingly, we spent most of our time by the pool, but we left the resort a few times to go to…
…Rick’s Cafe, a (very) touristy institution known for its cliff divers and boozy sunset parties…
…the Hungry Lion, a chill, romantic restaurant specializing in Jamaican vegetarian and seafood cuisine…
…and for our last dinner, Ciao Jamaica, which serves local and Italian food. (I commemorated our final meal with another grilled lobster. Mmm…)
On our way to the airport, we asked our driver to stop at Juicy Beef, a patty place that two travelers at Tensing Pen recommended. He refused and took us to Tastee, instead, “the only place I buy my patties,” he said. We were skeptical because the place looked like a barebones fast food restaurant, but our beed and veggie patties were amazing, just as he promised. I would go back to Jamaica for those, alone–or to do the whole trip again. (I never repeat vacations either, but this one is making me reconsider my policy!)
I really thought we were done with snow and ice for the year. A look out my window proves I was wrong.
Over the past week, I went to so many bridal appointments with my sister that it’s amazing I had time to do anything else. Some shops were great, others were…not. And at our last appointment, we might have found THE dress. A quick rundown of our search:
The Good: J. Crew: Their bridal salon on the UES was one of the nicest we visited. Viewing the gowns and bridesmaid dresses is by appointment only, and since they space them well, we only saw a few other people while we were there. (Unlike some other places mentioned later…) Our large suite contained two dressing rooms so Mal and I could both try on dresses (bridesmaid ones, of course, in my case), and not one, but two very helpful consultants worked with us. J. Crew’s gorgeous collection includes sleek sheath dresses and funkier ball gowns with patterned fabric and lots of interesting ruching. We all loved one dress, but agreed it wasn’t quite right for the season and venue.
The Good: Jenny Yoo: I loved the dresses here; they were simple and elegant with sophisticated, clean lines. Mal found one that we deemed a strong contender. The salon (in the Garment District) was nice, as well, but not my favorite. Even though we had our own consultant and only two or three parties had appointments at the same time, all mirrors were out in the open, so it wasn’t as private as I would have liked. Jenny Yoo also has beautiful bridesmaid dresses in a variety of rich hues–including one we’re considering for the wedding.
The Bad: RK Bridal: “I have a feeling you’re going to shut down as soon as we get in there,” my sister said as we entered RK (also located in the Garment District) and that’s exactly what happened. I was overwhelmed in seconds. Rack after rack of plastic-sheathed gowns packed the space and swarms of women sifted through them. RK doesn’t take appointments–which, I think, causes the chaos. Walk-ins are on a first-come, first-serve basis–the noisy hordes were all parties waiting to be called. When our group finally met with our consultants, they were nice but frazzled and didn’t spend enough time withВ my sister to get a sense of her taste and pick gowns matching her aesthetic. Mal found a few to try on, but she had to share a mirror with other girls also trying on dresses. IВ can’t deal with environments like that, and I fully admit that I wasn’t much help (ok, no help) in finding dresses or giving positive feedback on any. The whole setting turned me off. (To be fair, I was there on a weekend morning. My sister and mom went on a weekday and said it was quieter and calmer.)
The Bad: Macy’s: I was unimpressed by our experience here, too. The salon, which is run by the labelВ Demetrios, was quiet and private, but felt a little dingy and dated. While we had a consultant assigned to us, we still had to go through the racks ourselves. (On the upside, Macy’s has a wide variety of stylish dresses, but not so many that it feels overwhelming.) Our consultant was friendly and personable, if a little too much for my taste. She kept calling my sister “all bones” and asking if she ate dinner–comments that would have sent me storming out in a huff, but Mal didn’t mind. She tried on a few dresses that looked nice, but nothing worthy of a second appointment.
The Bad: David’s Bridal: I could go on a long rant about how bad this appointment was, but I’ll refrain. We went to see Vera Wang’s new (and extremely affordable) collection.В Upon arrival, however, we decided it wasn’t quite right for Mal–and neither was anything else in the store. Still, since we were there, she tried on a few dresses. Some were nice, though not even remote contenders. The worst part of our experience wasn’t the gowns, though. It was our consultant. In her defense, she was probably new (she had to ask another associate where her assigned dressing room was located–though that’s something she should know before giving appointments!). But some of the questions she asked us were just weird (like how many people were invited to the wedding, because less than 150 people is considered informal), and, not surprisingly, she pulled dresses that were not at all in the style of what my sister requested. Plus, David’s requires all brides-to-be to put on a new pair of their undergarments before trying on anything; I assume it’s a hygiene thing, since our consultant couldn’t explain the reason for the policy. Sigh.
The One?: The White Gown: I’ve already rhapsodized about my/our love for this boutique, which was the very first place we tried. And it might be telling because that’s where Mal may have found THE dress. We went back yesterday so Mal could take another look at the first gown she liked–but she also ended up trying on one other. It elicited the response she’d been waiting for. As she stepped into it, she felt like it could be The One. I cried. My mom got teary. And we all could see it fitting perfectly with the venue and season. Mal’s giving it a little time to be absolutely sure. But maybe the end of the dress quest is in sight!
Note: None of the gowns I’ve posted are in the running or necessarily considered, and I purposely haven’t gone into detail about dresses we liked or didn’t. Did you think I’d give away any of the surprise?
I’d been hoping to see Will Ryman‘s “Roses” along Park Avenue for the past few weeks, but it was always too cold to walk uptown, out of my way. I finally ran into them, by chance, the other day, when I was on the UES for another bridal appointment. I’m very happy I glimpsed them on a nice(ish) afternoon when there weren’t piles of ice and dirty snow around!
My sister, Mallory, is getting married in November and I couldnвЂ™t be more thrilled to be her MOH (maid-of-honor)! Since she’s moving to Maryland in April (sniff) she started a whirlwind few weeks of dress shopping before she leaves the state.
Last Wednesday, she had her first appointment at the White Gown in DUMBO. What a fantastic experience! The salon was quiet, private (I didn’t see any other brides-to-be) and had a hip, industrial vibe (thanks to its exposed brick walls, etc.) fitting of its location. Our sales consultant, Erica, was superb. She spoke to Mal about what she had in mind, looked at pictures she brought along, and picked out dresses complementary to her vision, personality and budget. She also knew the shop’s inventory inside and out and was extremely helpful in offering design and embellishment changes to align a gown more Mal’s style (like adding a sash in place of a pearl cluster, etc.). While Mal didn’t say yes to a dress that day, she did find one that’s in the running.
The next day we went to the Bridal Garden in the Flatiron District…and left after about 15 minutes. The boutique has a wonderful mission: Designers donate gowns that anyone can purchase at heavily discounted prices and all proceeds benefit education for NYC kids. The shopping experience isn’t for everyone, though, and it wasn’t for us. You have to purchase the sample gowns as they are–whether they’re stained, too big, too tight; you can’t order a new one in your size. While the Garden stocks all sizes, the vast majority of dresses are 8s and 10s (typical of samples), which is great if that’s your number, not so much if you’re larger or smaller. Plus, there are no consultants to help you out. You and your party have to go through the racks yourselves. This could be no problem if you know exactly what you want, but overwhelming if you’d like some professional input on how a dress could be altered or what other styles would look good (which is definitely my sister!).