Sonoma and Napa: Wind Down and Wine Up!

          Truly Julie and MamaisHaute having a royal of a time at Castello di Amarosa!The rolling hills…the neat rows of grape trees that look like well uniformed soldiers…the pace of life that trickles as slowly as cabernet legs on a fine wine glass…Sonoma and Napa are exactly what a New York City girl needs to wind down and wine up! It’s hard to believe just 40 minutes or so from San Franciso is this dreamboat of a place…where boozing and comparing the sweet grape nectars of different years, vineyards, and myriad of grapes is pretty much your only task for the day. I breezed through 3 vineyards for wine tasting: Spring Mountain, Barnett, and Chalk Hill. Spring Mountain had my favorite wine of the whole trip..the “Elivette”. I smile just thinking about the taste…which could only be described accurately if I had time to list 100 adjectives. Barnett is located on top of a hill so it has dashing views, plus it’s still family owned so it has that charm. Chalk Hill is cool because it offers horseback riding…though, if you want to cantor or trot, they’ll only let you in the pavilion. All the rules for riding at Chalk Hill made me really miss my experience in Uruguay where I got to gallop freely on a beach. But I guess the US is a lawsuit happy place…pun intended…tighter reins. I also squeezed in a pool day at Calistoga Ranch. I splashed around with my nephew by day..and by night…dined at The Lakehouse. Just look at this crab cake…it’s so beautiful and sculptural that it looks like it belongs in the MOMA. I often get asked if my blog pictures are all my own. YES. And while I was a bit tipsy during my stay in the wine country…it was hard to take a bad photo of this picturesque place. Wine goggles or not…Sonoma/Napa are worthy of every praise. I’ll drink to that!

San Francisco!

                                          Truly Julie with the Ann Arbor gang!Look at this dreamy sunset with the Golden Gate Bridge as our majestic backdrop! How fitting…given these are my childhood/high school Ann Arbor friends that I hope to have in my life well into my golden years:) In addition to my longtime Michigan friends who now live in SF…this earthy city also sparks so many childhood memories for me because I visited my late grandmother here every year as a kid. And boy…was she ahead of her time. Long story short…she raised 3 kids as a single mom during the Korean War aftermath…worked several odd jobs including being a maid to raise enough money to move to SF (and to put my uncle through med school)…opened her own jewelry boutique…powder blue convertible Benz…4 bedroom home in Twin
Peaks…BAM! The way she lead her life imbued in me: you can either wait for things to happen…or make things happen. Ding ding ding! You got it…she always opted for the latter. I really do think I get so much of my go-getter, independent spirit from her. And perhaps that’s why she chose SF as her final destination. This city, too, marches to it’s own beat. It doesn’t effing matter if you wear a Patagonia fleece to a nice dinner. Never mind the hills with the 90 degree incline..people will still bike around town with a smile. So hippie…yet so hardcore. Love it. I took more hikes during my 3 day stay in the Bay Area than I have…well…in 3 years! I highly recommend the trails throughout Tamalpais Park. We trekked the Matt Davis and Dipsea trails and I highly recommend. You get waterfalls…massive redwood trees…ocean view…a litte bit of everything. The park site says these trails are meant to “intensify your pleasure”. I don’t know about all that…but it was a beautiful 8 mile hike:) We also strolled through Sutro Baths which has sweeping views of Golden Gate Bridge and mesmerizing acres of Bay Area’s iconic Monterey pinetrees. As my Americana tour continues (check out N’awlinsPhillyBoston, Brooklyn & Cambridge …I’m glad I got to revisit SF. As the saying goes: it’s an oldie…but a goodie. Just like my friends I’ve known since I was kiddie:) (Don’t worry…not quitting my day job to become a rapper) Check out the picture gallery below which includes the best ice cream place ever!

I Heart You….Punta del Este, Uruguay!

         Truly Julie high on life in front of the famous La Mano sculpture on Brava Beach!screen-shot-2012-04-15-at-10-54-37-amPunta del Este is 5-stars!!! Or more like 5-fingers…given the obsession I have with the La Mano sculpture on Brava Beach. Punta is Argentina’s version of the Hamptons. From
screen-shot-2012-04-15-at-11-03-48-amJanuary through March…Argentinians pour into this little Uruguayan beach town for some posh yet rustic fun in the sun. My sister Grace and I went late March…so we missed the sceney peak season…but we were totally OK with that because we got to meet really cool locals; and there was no reservation stress for restaurants and popular activities. Speaking of…it was activity galore in Punta. From riding a thorough bred palomino on a secluded beach like she’s my “Seabiscuit”…wine tasting on a charming
screen-shot-2012-04-15-at-11-28-52-amvineyard…visiting an island carpeted with seals…taking in the architectural marvel of Casapueblo…Punta del Este definitely lived up to if not surpassed its hype. We also explored the quaint surfer town of Jose Ignacio. While Punta at times has a hint of Miami…Jose Ignacio is rustic and unpretentious like Montauk. But in a splendid contradiction…Grace and I discovered the most futuristic hotel in Jose Ignacio. Playa Vik is a property that looks like something from the year 3000. It only has 7 or so “rooms” (which are more like mini-townhouses)…and every inch of this place rivals the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). Every painting…sculpture…furniture piece…tile in the bathroom…fork…is a conversation piece. We discovered Playa Vik as well as the Alto de Ballena Vineyard and Haras Godiva Horse Ranch through the one and only, Ryan Hamilton. I now call him “mi hermano”…simply because his warmth…genuine spirit…and dedication to show us all that Punta has to offer was soooooo “family”. Ryan runs The Wine Experience…and folks…I will not steer you wrong: this is a must-do. With a population of just over 3 million…and one of the lowest crime rates…and so much natural beauty…Uruguay is an absolute South American gem. I hope you get to see some of its sparkle through my picture gallery.

Don’t Cry for me Argentina….The Truth is I had the BEST TIME EVER!

Truly Julie in front of Floralis Genérica in Buenos Aires. The flower closes shut at night!screen-shot-2012-04-10-at-9-36-23-am

It’s important to stop and smell the flowers…especially if it’s a gargantuan metal one that moves:) I’m in the business of words/communicating…and yet…I’m having a hard time accurately describing the magic of Buenos Aires. Yes…as you’ve heard…it’s the perfect blend of Europe meets Latin America. But…it’s so much more! To me…BA is eating steak so tender that the server cuts it in half with a spoon (seriously!)…drinking buckets of velvety Malbec…tangoing till 3AM…hitting a beach rave till 6AM (only to have my new Argentinian friends boo me for leaving so early)…admiring the ridiculously good looking people everywhere (holy gene pool jackpot!)…and having men be so generous with their compliments that for a split second I thought I was _____ (insert celebrity crush of choice). I mean…the only downside to the constant praising and fawning is that once you return to the States…you feel like chopped liver. Every inch of BA is brimming with color. The plethora of graffitied walls are electric and beautiful in that pop art, urban way…you feel the
vibrance of people REALLY enjoying their life as you see the whole family including grandparents and toddlers enjoying 3-hour dinners that linger past midnight (it’s so bizarre seeing 2 year olds with pacifiers hanging out that late!). And the fashion among the younger crowd is a resurgence of the 80’s/early 90’s (think Depeche Mode/Cure/Erasure)…so lots of home haircuts (never seen so many crooked bangs…and asymmetric cuts since middle school!). And really…even if BA wasn’t 5-stars, I still would’ve had a good time because as the saying goes: it’s not where you go…but who you’re with. I got to experience this charming, passionate, gritty city with my sister Grace...who is just as ambitious as I am about vacationing right. We woke up each day with one goal in mind: how are we going to have the best time ever! And for 8 days…we did just that! I’ll always look back on my 4 days in BA and 4 days in Punta del Este, Uruguay in the fondest light. I’ll fill you in on Punta in a little bit but in the meantime…please enjoy the picture gallery of BA and my list of recommendations. You only live once…but if you do it right…you only need once. –Mae West

1) Stay in the Palermo neighborhood. It’s the “Soho” of BA with lots of cute cafes (my fav, Cafe Oui Oui, is in the pic gallery), boutiques, yummy eats, and a nice mix of bars/lounges/clubs. I stayed at the Palermo Place Hotel and loved it! The girls that work the desk…Florentina and Leticia are awesome.

2) Visit the La Recoleta cemetery and you’ll wish you were dead:) Yes, this is where Evita along with the who’s who of Argentina are buried. You’ll be amazed by the stunning grave stones that are more like mini-mansions. I charmed a grave keeper to let me take a peak
inside one of them and it was three stories…with a marble spiral staircase. I’m ALIVE and dreaming of a space like that! The Recoleta is a stone’s throw from the Floralis Generica sculpture (the petals close shut at night…and re-blossoms in the AM…so cool!) and it’s also walking distance from my new favorite shoe store, Comme il Faut. They have a terrible website, but an amazing BA store. You walk into a beautiful empty room…the women take one look at your feet and know your size and shape..then they just start rolling out 30 or so pairs. Proof of serious credit card damage in pic gallery. You should try to bang out these three together to be efficient.

3) Stroll along Casa Rosada/Puerto Madero. This pink house is the Argentinian White
House. You’ll see the famous ledge where Evita (AKA Eva Peron) graced her people. I highly recommend you see it at night when it’s lit in pink lights. Much more dramatic. Right after…you can take a short cab ride to Puerto Madero. Gorgeous pier area with a cool needle sculpture and an old ship.

4) Feast at Parrilla La Cabrera. Best. Steak. Ever.

5) And I save the best for last….La Viruta tango club. The cafeteria-like space was an eyesore at first…but once they dimmed the lights…fired up the tango music…I was swept away. Literally and figuratively. This place was packed with local gentlemen who had enough tango swagger to make any rag doll seem like she knew what she was doing (i.e. me!). The early portion of the evening is a free tango lesson…fyi. I will cherish this night for as long as I live.

Knicks and Kimchi? Linsanity and Ladies? Truly Julie Breaks Down the Unique Pairings at MSG

                              Truly Julie and her nephew rocking Lin shirts!
My four-year-old nephew Odin may be pint size but he’s a HUGE Knicks fan. He can name the entire starting lineup! Come on…be impressed… Amare Stoudemire isn’t an easy name. I had the pleasure of taking Odin and my brother-in-law Ben to a recent game. WOW. This was my first visit to MSG since the renovation…and my first Knicks game post Linsanity. I couldn’t believe my eyes…or more like my taste buds. All around the 6th floor are gourmet food options…fancy cupcakes…popular BBQ chains…sushi, etc! The “Simply Chicken” stand brought to you by none other than Chef extraordinaire Jean George Vongerichten caught my eye. I had the chicken hotdog with kim chee kraut (love the Korean influence on an American classic)…and the chilled sesame noodles. Check out the picture gallery below for the food scene!  Also new to MSG and the Knicks…middle aged Asian women. I have never seen so many ladies passionately watching basketball. Bravo to Jeremy Lin for making the game of basketball more inclusive and diverse! I also got to witness my colleague Tina Cervasio in action. She fills-in for sports on Good Day New York every now and then…but her full time gig is to report from the sidelines of every Knicks game. She’s an absolute asset to the team…and it’s always inspiring to see a woman thrive in a field that has been dominated by men for so long. Tina always brings her A-game…and lucky for us…so did the Knicks that night. Knicks: 106 Raptors: 87. Jeremy Lin: 18 points and 10 assists!!!

Best Birthday Serenade…EVER!!!!!

       A six piece band serenades Truly Julie in the East Village! Click on the picture.Wow..what a night! So there I am eating my belated birthday dinner (had to work on actual birthday) with a small group of my family and friends when all of a sudden my sister Grace says to me…”Um…I know we’re in the middle of eating but can you put your coat back on because I have a surprise for you outside.” I look to the others hoping for clues…but they look just as puzzled. As we make our way out…I’m thinking…’Did she get me a car? I hope not given I haven’t driven in 8 years….did she get me a scooter? I mean…why in the world do I have to actually go out into the open streets of NYC?!’ What was awaiting outside is something I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. Click here for the video! My guitar teacher/BFF Michael Thurber put together a 6 piece band consisting of Juliard trained and Broadway professional musicians to serenade….yup! Lil’ Ol’ me!!!! The bold sound of the saxophone ricocheting down E. 10th street…the vibrations of the bass catching the eyes and ears of every passerby…the perfectly pitched voices of the band and my jovial laugh splashing smiles across the faces of even the most jaded New Yorkers…for that moment…I genuinely felt like the world is my oyster. Michael and I first met a year ago for a story that changed my life and since then….we’ve been like two peas in a pod. Michael has given me the incredible gift of music…and equally if not more importantly…one of the most amazing friendships. My deepest gratitude to Grace and Michael…it really was a happy birthday.

Truly Julie’s Winter Winners

NYC got its first dose of snow this weekend! Maybe it’s the Michigan girl in me…but there are quite a few things I love about winter. Well…first and foremost…it gives me hope that not all polar bears are drowning in the arctic. Plus…there are fun…delicious ways to beat the winter blues. Here are my “ups” when the mercury goes down.

1)Moon Boots! If I could wear these everyday…I would. They’re like walking on pillows…plus…they have super grips on the bottom so you don’t slip. Sure…you look like you’re 5-years-old waiting for the school bus…or a hardcore Napoleon Dynamite fan…but I guarantee you will be the only one not complaining about cold feet!

2)Korean soups! On your left is Sam Gae Tang (whole chicken ginseng soup) at Arirang Restaurant in Koreatown. On the right is Yuk Gae Jang (spicy beef stew) from Kang Suh.

3)Infinity scarfs and fun hats! Fashion Front: Grace Sun cashmere infinity scarf, Saks Fifth Avenue cashmere hat.

 

4)Indoor hobbies. I’m obsessed with playing my guitar…and if there’s ever a drum set within 50 yard radius…I’m there. Superhero Arts & Crafts with my nephew is always entertaining. Oh…I also love to knit! so I hit the yarn store Purl in Soho and have my mom…a knitting genius…help me with my projects…i.e. my white hat with the fun grey pom-pom.

Grandmas Gone Wild

                                                           Charlotte and OJ
I recently had a tea party…complete with fancy hats…with some unusual suspects: my brother-in-law’s mom Charlotte and my mom. I swear…if I had some extra cash to throw around…I would create a reality show on these two. They are hysterical. Charlotte will tell you hours of the most unimaginable stories without ever taking a breath…all in a volume that’s audible from one end of the football field to perhaps the next stadium…and in a quite entertaining Chinese-Queens accent. My mom speaks with a thick Korean accent….and formulates her sentences like Yoda. So let’s say she wants to tell someone they look pretty…in OJ language…it would be…”So pretty you are.” She also likes to
add the word “the” at the end of whatever she says…”So cute the”…”So fun the”…and so forth…THE (pun intended)! Any who…I took the two out
for breakfast recently…then on our stroll back to my apt for ginseng tea with kumquat…we bought really fun fascinators/hats from a street vendor. The two were giggling like school girls over our dress-up tea party. I love that they defy the odds of an in-law relationship…they are bffs! My nephew Odin is so lucky to have two adoring grandmas in his life. I grew up with almost zero grandparent presence…so it warms my heart to see a different situation for Odin. So much of their conversation gets lost in translation…but I guess friendship is like music..it’s universal. Hats (on) off to that!

Farm-to-Table Dim Sum?! Brilliant!

My family does not play around when it comes to food. In fact…in the Korean language…there’s no direct translation for…”How are you?”. So often times…people will ask…”What did you eat today?”. I guess it’s because being able to eat well and enjoy good food is a sign of health. Up until my dad passed away…the first words out of his mouth when he called me were…”Did you eat today..and was it yummy?” I love that. My family and I recently enjoyed an AMAZING dim sum (which is Chinese brunch) at Red Farm. The above left picture is there delish pork buns. Red Farm is not your cornstarch gelatin…super greasy Chinese food. It’s farm-to-table so the ingredients are organic and fresh…and they don’t drown it in oil so you can actually taste the freshness. My personal favorite was the pork belly rice noodle salad here on the right. The ambiance of the West Village eatery is quite charming…farm accoutrements hanging here and there…plants in mixed matched pots…lanterns hanging on a wire…very charming. But the best part is the food! Starting top left, clockwise: Katz’s pastrami egg roll. I know…waaaaaaat. They also have several different kinds of dumplings on the menu including crispy duck and lobster. My mom pulled a rookie move with the soupy dumpling. You’re supposed to gently place in spoon and eat it in one bite so you get the sealed-in soup broth in your mouth…not on your plate. Oops. And last but not least, my family too busy pigging out to give me a decent picture:) To their health!

Dear 2012…

So much to wish and hope for in the new year…but I guess the most immediate would be to make sure “Tonight’s
gonna be a good night”! (Truly Julie with Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo on the left) And to lead a more purposeful life such as Jane Goodall…who’s devoted her whole life to preserving our wildlife. Oh…and since I am a giggle maniac…I’d love to embrace more humor a la Kathy Griffin or Chris Rock. I’d also like to be more bold and fearless e.g., Ricky Gervais. And on the career front…I’d love to mix it up all the while never mince a word i.e., Ryan Seacrest.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in 2012…I’d also like to embody William W. Purkey’s quote: “You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth.”…case in point…the Glee cast!

 

 

 

Work ethics wise…I aim to not settle for complacency…such as Steve Carell. He walked away from his hit show “The Office”…because he felt unchallenged and wanted to grow. That’s inspiring. Oh…and I hope to be as hard working as Joan Rivers…who at age 78 could still kick my butt. Also in 2012…I hope to continue crossing paths with those who are the best in their niche i.e., Simon Cowell & LA Reid…and who knows…maybe their “X factor” will rub on me:)

Health wise…my wish is to be as strong, supple…and..auh…sexually vigorous…as sex therapist Dr. Ruth! Also in the new year…I hope to be as innovative as James Cameron and fashion icon Patricia Field. These folks always think outside the box. And I also aspire to be an urban super woman…a la my sister Grace Sun and Rosanna Scotto. From designing to blogging to mothering…Grace is always 10 steps ahead. Rosanna is the unofficial mayor of NYC all the while getting up at 4AM everyday to co-host Good Day New York…she is the ultimate mother hen at Fox 5…and to her nuclear family at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll also continue to refine my dorkiness …because like Zooey Deschanel…it’s cool to embrace your inner nerd. And I figure what makes me different and quirky…will be the unique factor that takes my game to the next explosive level…maybe like Paula Patton! From starring in “Precious” to “Mission Impossible” to being married to Robin Thicke…she’s on it! Life is about finding “Your Song”…and I hope mine becomes a hit like one of Elton John’s master pieces:) Hmm…what else…maybe in the new year…I’ll cook more…e.g., Guy Fieri. OK…now that’s just crazy talk…so I better end on a strong note. My goal for 2012 and beyond is to have the kind of lasting love found by my parents 40 plus years ago and raise a healthy family! Happy New Year!!!