Monthly Archives: February 2012

AJ Maxwell’s Steakhouse – The Perfect Bite

by Cari, New York Guest Concierge

I’m a meat eater. I love the classic meal of steak and potatoes, even though I was raised on Italian and Greek food. So after my last visit to Italian heaven, I decided my next excursion better have steak on the menu. I chose AJ Maxwells Steakhouse for this feast, a place I’ve called hundreds of times due to its perfect location adjacent to Rockefeller Center. I walked in with my theatre and dining partner – my mom – and we were immediately relaxed and happy. The atmosphere didn’t feel like your everyday stiff steakhouse; it was a comfortable and welcoming place with white tablecloths and great chandeliers.

Upon sitting we met our waiter Howard who was informative, helpful and attentive. He introduced us to the friendly and kind manager Tommy. We received our bread basket- an assortment of garlic crackers and delicious breads with butter. We ordered unsweetened iced teas and decided to start with two half salads. I went with the half Goat Cheese salad with goat cheese, nuts, soft cracker-like croutons, and a wonderful complementary dressing. My mother went with the half Tri-Color salad full of her favorite endive and mixed with a great vinaigrette. We decided it wouldn’t be a meal without getting a slice of thick Canadian bacon; it arrived crispy and juicy and it was seriously a little bit life-changing. We didn’t feel rushed and we really enjoyed the simplicity but deliciousness of our starting courses. They were beautifully presented and perfectly portioned.

For dinner we had to go with the Petite Filets cooked to Medium even though I sincerely considered the lamb chops. I think that steak temperatures are extremely important; if you get it wrong, your taste buds are totally compromised. Ours were cooked to perfection with a warm pink center; filets are the hardest to cook and they nailed them! The taste was absolutely fabulous; AJ Maxwells even has their own steak sauce. I am a fan of A1 but most steakhouses attempts at a steak sauce are not successful— AJ Maxwell’s steak sauce is to die for and I wish I had it at home. I would put it on steak OR chicken. To go along with our steaks we ordered some a la carte side dishes: potatoes au gratin, creamed spinach and parmesan jumbo asparagus. The asparagus was well-cooked and still perfectly green, the way asparagus should be, with a little crunch. The Creamed Spinach was very simple, not too creamy and you could still taste the spinach. The winner of the main course was by far and away the potatoes au gratin. The cheesy and creamy stacks of potatoes reminded both my mother and me of my grandmother’s take on this dish. Everything was fabulous, though we couldn’t even finish it. I think we made Howard proud! (We also got a visit from another manager named Michelle! Both the managers were so friendly.)

You must always leave room for dessert. It’s necessary to see what people have come up with because you just never know what will blow you away. We decided to order the crème brulee and the crepe layer cake. The plate came out with fresh fruit and fresh whipped cream, a delicious crème brulee (perfect in taste, not burnt, and so creamy), but the winner was the crepe layer cake. Crepes are thin pancakes and there was cream in between each layer. I had never seen a cake like this and surely had never tasted anything like it. Crepes easily fall apart but not in this cake. It was brilliantly delicious and I wish I had the recipe.

AJ Maxwells is the perfect choice of a steakhouse. With its simple elegance, comfortable atmosphere, and fantastic service, they cater to everyone: a small family, a first date, or a business meeting. (And if you are going anywhere near Rockefeller Center, you really don’t need to think twice- it’s the perfect choice.) I love the comfortable feeling I got when I left the restaurant. I felt like family and I felt like I could go back again and again. How about this weekend everyone? I enjoyed it so much and I know you will too. Make your reservation today!

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Filed under New York Restaurants, Out on the Town

Vote for the top Empire State Building Photo!

One thing we’ve noticed that most fans of NYC have in common is that they LOVE the Empire State Building. Almost everyone we know who has visited as at least one photo of this iconic building that they treasure – and so we couldn’t resist making it our February Photography Contest theme! The photos we received are so varied even though they are all of the same structure, it will be so difficult to choose a winner. We’re glad that you are here to help us! Scroll down below to view the photos, and then vote for your favorite.

#1 by Ana Laura Soria

#2 by Ana Laura Soria

#3 by Barbara Leubner

#4 by Fernanda Lopes

#5 by Gilles Vauclair

#6 by Ilse Neugebauer

#7 by Linda Brown

#8 by Linda Brown

#9 by Martin Cabal

#10 by Thais Yamanishi

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Filed under Monthly Photography Contest

I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’!

by Cari, New York Guest Concierge

Birthdays are a big deal in my family. My mom and I always buy each other tickets to Broadway shows as our gifts to one another. It helps feed our addiction to the soaring sounds of a Broadway score. This year I got my mom two sets of tickets for her birthday: The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, right before it ended its short run.

Porgy and Bess is a story beloved by so many that upon the original inception of this re-imagining, many were disturbed that this Gershwin opus was being edited and reworked. Having never seen this opera live but knowing enough of the story, I was interested to see what all the controversy was about. We walked into the Richard Rodgers Theatre with our tickets, and after the long hike up all the stairs, we settled ourselves in the last row of the theatre. We were instantly amazed that we could see EVERYTHING, even in the last row, and it was a pretty full house for a Thursday evening. The lights dimmed and the music swelled, taking us away with the sounds of Gershwin’s brilliant score.

For those of you who haven’t seen Porgy and Bess, I don’t want to give everything away but I will tell you that, as a qualified musical theatre snob, I put the guarantee on this show that you will leave speechless. Set in Charleston’s Catfish Row opening with the classic tune Summertime, Nikki Renee Daniels and Joshua Henry start this show off perfectly with their amazing voices; kudos to the casting team for picking the most charming singers on Broadway to really show their stuff with this challenging score. Leading the whole opening sequence in song, they segued beautifully to the inciting incident of this piece which I won’t give away. David Alan Grier gave a surprisingly solid and creepy portrayal of Sporting Life, the colorful drug dealer; the man can sing and he has amazing charisma! Phillip Boykin as Crown lends his glorious baritone to this fearful character. Natasha Yvette Williams is Mother Earth as the character of Mariah, navigating her relationships with care. The ensemble handles the score with ease and sounds absolutely amazing, legitimate voices at their best. How refreshing to hear classically trained singers on Broadway! I welcome this any day of the week. The direction by Diane Paulus is absolutely brilliant, using lighting, smart angled blocking, and simple sets to create different atmospheres; every detail is covered and this Paulus re-imagining does not take away from the story yet moves it along in a more concise fashion.

I don’t even know how to start discussing the two leads: Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis. If they don’t each take home a Tony Award, I will be shocked. Audra is absolutely flawless; her brilliant vocals soar on this score more so than ever before. (Those of you who saw her in Ragtime- get ready because we get to see the FULL Audra range and it’s unbelievable) Her physicality and acting ability are certainly stretched, featured and breathtaking. I’ve seen Audra live before but watching her in this piece was a different experience altogether; she is an actress completely at home and free in her own skin. Norm Lewis steals your heart as the beloved cripple Porgy even before he utters his first “Nuttin.” He uses his big booming voice but then charms us with his sensitive softer tones. You believe he is a cripple, you admire his devotion to Bess and his friends, and you applaud him when he becomes “Bess’ man.” Norm Lewis has been a hit before but in this show, he absolutely deserves the Tony Award and I’m sure Audra will be adding her fifth Tony to her mantle.

This show was a pleasant surprise to me. I expected a throwback to my college days of learning opera and enjoying it but always returning to my niche of musical theatre. This was a whole new level; it crossed Porgy and Bess over, broadening its fan base and bringing the more classic, operetta style back to the mainstream. Diane Paulus wanted to bring Porgy and Bess to today’s audience in this creative re-imagining. Yes, it’s different and controversial but that is what makes theatre interesting, fresh, and new. That is what makes it art. Porgy and Bess aren’t “leaving for the promised land” like the song says; it has just arrived to entertain a whole new generation. Porgy and Bess only runs until June- do you have your tickets yet?

You can buy tickets to Porgy & Bess by clicking here, or e-mail for special ticket deals when you book your NYC vacation package through us!

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Filed under Broadway Review

A Giant Celebration!

by Karissa, Reservations Manager

Karissa and her fiance sporting their Giants gear

One of my fondest memories as a young girl was watching Giants Football every Sunday after church with my Grandpa! Now at the time I wasn’t quite as into it as my older brothers and my dad were, I didn’t understand the rules and the games went on too long and sometimes I even fell asleep after a big lunch! My favorite player was Tiki Barber because I liked his name. Years later he actually was my favorite player because he was actually a very good player! Now maybe 15-17 years later I’m an avid fan and I don’t ever make plans on a Sunday when the game is on, I understand the rules (most of the time) and you’ll usually find me being the one yelling at the TV when they make some good plays or when the refs makes bad calls! Since my two favorite players have now retired (Tiki Barber and Michael Strahan) I now have a new favorite player: Victor Cruz. Of course, Cruz was a key player this year in helping the Giants get to the Super Bowl. Many know him as the salsa dancer in the end zone.

Since I was born the Giants have won the Super Bowl 4 times. 1986, 1990, 2007 and now 2011. Hopefully they’ll win a lot more in my lifetime and I can have my kids grow up on Giants football as well! I was too young to remember the Super Bowl in 1986 and 1990 but the last 2 I will never forget. And of course everyone will always remember the David Tyree catch in 2007 win against the Patriots and now the Mario Manningham catch in 2011 win against the Patriots. Both games were also nail biters till the end. I remember watching the 2007 game and being almost scared to watch the last few seconds and this year was just the same when the Patriots had the ball with less then a minute left to score a touchdown. Luckily, they didn’t!

Living in New York City for both the 2007 and 2011 championships made it that much more exciting when they won. Even though the Giants play in New Jersey they are known as the New York Giants, although many native New Jersey residents (my fiance being one of them) become upset when New York City gets all the credit. Lucky for me the parade is always in New York City! Unfortunately I was unable to to go the Ticker Tape Parade in 2007, but this year I was blessed to be given a ticket to get reserved seating in City Hall where they have the ceremony! I was beyond ecstatic. I made sure to tell my whole family and all my fellow Giants Fans as I couldn’t hold in the excitement. But I took plenty of pictures and videos to share with them!

When we got downtown it was a sea of Blue, White and Red. Everyone in their Giants apparel and screaming and having a great time with all these strangers. Since we had reserved tickets were were able to get into City Hall Park so we didn’t have to stand sardined in with all the people on the street. So once inside the park we scoped out great locations right against the fence of the park where we could stand along the fence and see over everyone’s heads in the street – which is an added bonus for me since I’m pretty short! After a long time waiting the parade started and it started off with my favorite player VICTOR CRUZ! I was so excited for him to be at the head of the parade and I’m sure he was as well! As the floats went by I saw the whole team go by one by one waving to the fans and signing memorabilla and throwing it out to the crowds. It was an amazing expereince and it only got better!

After the parade we headed back into the park and had a seat in the crowd as we patiently waited for the players to come out onto the stage. They had a few performers from Rock of Ages, some local high school bands and of course some salsa dancing! When the ceremony started we were greeted by Mayor Bloomberg and and another favorite player of mine Michael Strahan, I was so excited to see him on stage I had no idea he would be there but was over joyed seeing him welcome his old teammates onto the stage. The players all entered the stage single file and it was a great experience sharing the excitement with the team and the thousands of people inside the park screaming for their favorite players as they were announced. After all the players and coaches received their keys to the city there were two great short speeches by Quarterback and MVP Eli Manning and co-captain Justin Tuck, ending with their song they made up called “I Got a Ring”

It was an incredible experience and I hope the Giants win many more championships so other people can have this same memory as I will always have. Check out the rest of my pictures on the New York Guest facebook page!

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Filed under New York Stories, NYC Sports

A Trip to the Tryp!

by Beth, New York Guest Travel Planner As the New York Guest Family of 5 Specialist I have been waiting in anticipation for the Tryp Hotel to open in its doors. Today we went to visit the trip and I can say that the wait was well worth it. The Tryp Hotels are known for their Mediterranean and Spanish flare while still added an at-home feel. Once you walk into the Plaza Central (their lobby) you feel like you’ve come home. There are couches and tables set up near the bar as well as separate sitting areas and a library.

The Tryp is very technologically advanced, having its own App that you can communicate to the hotel staff and other residents with. The live feed is displayed on flat screen televisions throughout the area. After roaming around the lobby, we made our way up to see the rooms.

New York City hotels can have a bad reputation for being smaller than most rooms. This hotel goes against the grain as all of their rooms have more than enough space. Their rooms all have separate walking areas so your bed is separated from the door and the bathroom. They are also decorated like the lobby in a Spanish and Mediterranean flare. A big part of why we love the hotel is that they have hardwood floors, again giving the hotel a more at-home feel.

After seeing their standard room we moved onto the Family Room, the one I have been waiting to see. The spacing of this room is incredible! This room is perfect for groups of travelers and families. Housing two Queen beds, a set of bunk beds, and a pull-out couch, there is no longer a need to share beds or cram together. The rooms all also have iPod docks and Keurig coffee machines. Any one staying at the Tryp will feel like they are right at home.

The Tryp Hotel is located in Midtown Manhattan where guests can walk to the Empire State Building, Herald Square, Times Square, and Broadway shows in just 5 to 10 minutes! The location, the rooms, the amenities… this hotel is one to try! Whether you’re a solo traveler or coming in with the whole family this is the place to be. Contact me at or at (212) 302-4019 and I can help you feel right at home right in New York City!

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Filed under Hotel Review, NYC with Kids