A Few of Gail Simmons' Favorite New York Restaurants

Gail Simmons was one of my favorite people to interview - she deserves every ounce of success she has, and worked damn hard for it! Her new book, "Talking With My Mouth Full," is so inspiring and I read it straight through on a recent flight.  Thanks to my friend Dana for making the introduction.

I chatted with her about her favorite hotels for Forbes and the interview is here.  But we had a great, long conversation and I couldn't fit it all into that piece. So here is some more!

Gail Simmons - Photo by Melanie DuneaWhat are some of your favorite restaurants in New York?

I love Morandi in the West Village and I go to Westville a lot because it's easy and they have great vegetables. The Meatball Shop just opened on Greenwich Avenue and I love the guys that started it. Pearl Oyster Bar is a favorite, as is Cookshop on Tenth Avenue. And I love Perilla and Kin Shop, both by Chef Harold Dieterle who won the first season of "Top Chef."

I try to cook at home at least two nights a week when I'm not traveling. I love roasting tons of vegetables and making a simple sauce like tahini & lemon, or a chimichurri, and putting them over brown rice. In the winter, I make really great veggie and grain soups and bean stews. There's nothing better in summer than corn on the cob with olive oil and butter.

Where do you want to travel next?

Latin America is the next major place on my list, especially Buenos Aires and Brazil. I also really want to go to India.

What's your last meal?

A smoked meat sandwich with mustard on rye and a pickle, which is the Montreal equivalent of New York deli pastrami.  There's a pasta I crave all the time from Sicily, which is pasta with sea urchi, chiles and olive oil and the sea urchins melt in your mouth.  Years ago, I worked for Jeffrey Steingarten at Vogue and I had never tasted them before but he did an article and would get flats of sea urchins.  I went to Sicily and would make it for us when I was working.  Jeffrey took me to Nobu once 12 years ago and the chef would make us sea urchin tempura.

I'd also have onion rings, corn on the cob, and would need something very nostalgic for dessert like a big bowl of butterscotch pudding, or a hot, gooey chocolate chip cookie.

What do you always take with you on the road?

I was just on the road for 4 weeks straight.  "Top Chef" films in a different city every season. I'll try to bring a meal with me - there's no denying that almost all airplane food is terrible and getting worse. I'm never without snacks, and I like to bring things like nuts and Trader Joe's makes really good dried fruit like apricots and flattened bananas (not banana chips, which has a lot of sugar). Also little bars of dark chocolate!

Forbes: My Interview With Jill Zarin

I want Jill Zarin to broker all my deals. She is fearless and goes after what she wants, and is a great businesswoman.  I just ordered one of the rings from her new jewelry line and love it! I brought it here to England and have been wearing it for dinners.  I always liked her but really respect her after talking with her.  Here's the interview I did for my Forbes column, all about her favorite NYC restaurants, hotels, cruise lines, and where she wants to go next.

Travel Talk with Jill Zarin As She Launches New Businesses


National Geographic Intelligent Travel: Samantha Brown's New York


Before I left for China, I went over to Park Slope in Brooklyn to interview Travel Channel's Samantha Brown. She is just hands-down the best in the biz.  I really admire what she's accomplished in this crazy business, for encouraging people to travel along with her to places they might not have otherwise considered (and of course, Disney World). 

All I've ever heard in the industry is "I love Samantha!" No skeletons in the closet or secret diva moments. One completely humble, hard-working and funny lady. 

Here is my interview with her for National Geographic's Intelligent Travel about her favorite spots in Brooklyn and favorite hotel in New York. Enjoy! 

Samantha Brown's New York

Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown relates part of her travel philosophy to me over breakfast at Perch Café near her home in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  “People cultivate the soul of a city.  Spend time with them and the place comes to life in a different way than just checking off the top things to do,” she says.

While Samantha has checked off over ten years with the Travel Channel, she is now exploring other avenues, in addition to hosting, that have her staying closer to home.  She just sent a book off to publishers (“It’s basically about my tenets of travel and how I do it”) and is selling out an eponymous croc-style luggage line on HSN.

I can download any of her shows on iTunes and instantly travel thousands of miles with her.  But Samantha is also a New York homebody, splitting her time between the city and a home in the Hudson Valley she bought with her husband a few years ago. “We live in the city but it’s amazing, that pull to be agrarian. It has the farmhouse, the front porch, the whole feeling of family and setting down roots.”

Like all of us, she has her go-to spots near home. “What I think Brooklyn has is great mom-and-pop shops trying to make it in the neighborhood. And when you support them, you support the whole community.”

Annie Fitzsimmons: Where do you love to eat in Brooklyn?

Samantha Brown: There’s a fantastic Korean restaurant called Moim that we love, off of Seventh Avenue.

I love Moutarde, a great French bistro with this amazing shaved fennel salad with blue cheese and walnuts.  Al Di La is great when you can get in, but you can also go to the little bar, which has the same menu.

A really authentic Italian restaurant is Two Toms. When you sit down, they just have one meal and that’s what you get.  It’s a really neat, only-in-New York kind of experience.

The best place for coffee that rivals Italy is Café Martin in Park Slope.

AF: What’s one of your favorite hotels in New York?

SB: I really love the Library, a boutique hotel near the main New York Public Library.  Each floor is based on a subcategory of the Dewey decimal system.  They have the Biography Room or the Architecture Room, and your room has a shelf of books all on that subject. So right then and there, what a great concept.  On the top floor, instead of having a Penthouse Suite, they have a Poetry atrium. The public spaces in the hotel inspire you to read and relax. I think it’s a great hotel for New Yorkers to go when we don’t need to see New York but we do need to get away. By the way, the number one room that’s requested is Erotic Literature.

AF: What book are you reading right now?

SB: I’m reading the new Jeffrey Eugenides book, The Marriage Plot. He hasn’t written a book in eight years, and I’ve been waiting so long for this one. Middlesex by him is one of my favorites.  When the book ends, you are a part of that family.

Samantha Brown's New York

Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays

I saw an incredibly touching and hilarious set of short plays and monologues last weekend called Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays. It is getting rave reviews, including one in The New York Times.  The set was put together in response to the changing and often infuriating and unfair laws such as California repealing legal gay marriage in 2008.  With Craig Bierko, Mark Consuelos, Harriet Harris and Richard Thomas, each cast member made me tear up and laugh at different moments. 

It's playing at the Minetta Lane Theatre. Tickets can be found through the show's site here. Always check for discount codes, like Broadway Box, before booking.  You often get the same discounts as waiting in line at TKTS but can get the tickets weeks in advance...and you don't have to stand in line! 

We had great seats! 

Broadway: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

There is nothing I love more than a great New York night. Nothing. Last week, we went to see How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and then had dessert and coffee at Joe Allen’s on Restaurant Row, W. 46th Street. 
The stage before the show
Yes, Daniel Radcliffe drew me in to the show.  And there were a couple moments at the beginning where I giddily thought “That’s Harry Potter!” And then, “Wow he’s really short.” And then I forgot about Harry Potter altogether because he was so fantastic in the role, singing, dancing and commanding the stage.  It’s a fun show, with a great supporting cast and I left thinking that Daniel Radcliffe can do anything.  He’s in the show until January, when Nick Jonas takes over the role. 
Joe Allen, New York City
After, we went around the corner to Joe Allen, a place that I felt nostalgic for as soon as I walked in and I had never been.  Open since 1965, the walls are covered in posters of notable Broadway flops, like Breakfast at Tiffany's.  
They’re famous for their banana cream pie so we split that and still had a lot left.  It’s gigantic and good, but I probably wouldn’t order it again.  The ultimate Broadway chick, Kristin Chenoweth, told Bon Appetit “At Joe Allen’s in New York, I order the banana cream pie.  It’s ridiculously good. I had it two nights ago. When I’m in town and I want to treat myself, that’s what I have.” 
Joe Allen used to give hefty discounts to struggling actors when it first opened and it’s still inexpensive by New York standards.  I will go back again and again on those Broadway nights.