Sunday, January 09, 2011

Only One Times Square. Only One Broadway.

Tree at 30 Rock

After a few months of being inexcusably dormant, I wish you a Happy New Year! I have made a vow to bless this space at least once a week. Between my food blog (which pays the bills) my fashion blog (which keeps me sane) and this one (what started it all), I'm finding excitement in finding my jovial voice again.

New York is that one place in the world where all cultures, ethnicities and religions converge. Ask anyone for any cuisine and you're bound to be directed to a fabulously delicious spot. Looking for a mosque, a cathedral or a synagogue? Walk a few blocks in any direction and go pray. It's the mecca of art, fashion, food, finance and travel. If you've not been to New York, then you've not seen the world.


I'm speaking of Manhattan, specifically. It's the dirtiest yet fanciest place in the globe--proverbially speaking, that is. Beauty is no doubt in the eye of the beholder, but when you consider that you can be entertained on every corner and learn useful and poignant bits of information every day by simply entering a bodega or speaking to a talented homeless, how can that not be classified as a beautiful place!

Last weekend, right after Christmas, my parents and sis drove from DC to see the tree at 30 Rock and be amused by all the pedestrian traffic. Somehow the mess works. Somehow the mass of people doesn't get in your way and you continue to trek as you find your way to your next haute spot. We had 8 hours to blow. In NY time, that's about an hour.

Fam at East Village resto

We started in the East Village. This is when my iPhone comes in sooo handy. Scoutmob led us to a highly-rated Sicilian joint, nestled in the middle of a brown-from-NYE-guck street. The place was fantastic and so I'll give it a formidable review on my food blog.

Me & Leon in East Village

After a quick tryst with a close friend from Atlanta who just happened to be in the city, we made our way to Times Square. That place never ceases to amaze me. It's madness. Utter madness. It's so overwhelming to the point of hysteria. The tourists can be so damn annoying, but I suppose we were too for the day. Dad walks in a circle and screams "I LOVE NEW YORK!" Really, dad? Really? I wasn't too far off.  As if I'd never been before, I stood right smack in the middle of the main intersection and just stared at all the blaring lights. Then we got giddy and watched ourselves in front of the colossal camera above Forever 21. That was silly, but totally apropos.

We're right in the top middle of the screen!

Mom, sis and I at Times Square

A drive-by shot from the car
This is the type of behavior the city extracts from even the most of coy person. It's that ish in the air that grips your reasoning and causes you to lose all inhibitions.

We continued up one of the theater district streets and contemplated purchasing tickets right then and there for an 8 pm show. Unbeknownst to my parents, sis and I had gifted them tickets to Driving Miss Daisy for yesterday's show. So we played it off and kept it movin'.  You know, I've only been to a broadway show once--The Lion King--and it was all it was cracked up to be. Now I just need to find a way to make it to Mama Mia. And Les Misérables. And Rent. And Driving Miss Daisy, of course.

Can't wait to see this!

Or this!

This one was fantastic

I will become a theatre fiend. A connoisseur and a well-spoken bougie attendee. I see myself falling into that lifestyle. You know, the skinny black cigarette, the sexy French martini and a fabulous pair of Louboutins.

Yes. Clearly in my foreseeable future.

Caricature of mom! So lovely!

A book about a sexy café in Paris. Bought this to seal the deal on my move there.

Pictures, cheap-o but fabulous bookstore gem of a  find, caricature of my mom and a slight drizzle later, we ended up at Rockefeller.

Rockefeller signage

Yes, we were complete tourists--again-- but the flashing lights and fighting for a posing spot was worth watching the annual snowflake light show Saks Fifth Avenue does. We anxiously waited 30 minutes. In the rain. For this:

Saks Fifth Avenue snowflake light show

The Snowflake and the Bubble

Not as great as years past, but definitely creative. Ultimately, sis and I agreed that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Some things just don't need alterations. I loved the bubble effect, but the absent Carol of the Bells took away from the otherwise lovely show.

We blew kisses at the tree, hugged white angles blowing silent trumpet notes, took pictures of my adorable parents and said bye-bye NY!

The drive back to DC was priceless. It was cold and wet; some traffic due to serious rubber-neckers meddling in an accident happening in the opposite direction of the Jersey Turnpike; and mom and dad singing songs from their early courtship in Cuba--singing, laughing, and reminiscing.

I tried to sleep. Walking in 5.5" shoes will wear you out.

They went to the show last night and called promptly at 9:30 to report it was stellar. Now it's our turn. I'm thinking I'll have to sell a pair or two of my less-favorite shoes to experience Broadway the way I know how.

I have a sweet life. 

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Scenes From Oahu, Hawai'i

Top of bunker at Diamond Head.

I've decided that I'm going to get married in Hawai'i in high fashion. Jumping out of plane. Yup. That's exactly what I will plan on doing!

My fam just spent 8 fabulous days in paradise and so I share with you a serious teaser of some incredible scenes I saw... there is so much more to share, none of which require words.


Blow Hole Beach.

Private helicopter ride over the island.

Surfer's playground.

To see more images from my first installment of images, visit my food blog here

Monday, August 23, 2010

Writing, Old School Style & A Women's Soccer Win!

(All pictures courtesy of  Shane Durrance)
One of fun elements of my job as a journalist, is being just that and nothing else. No cooking. No critiquing (sometimes). No high-maintance clients.
I do my research, sit, inquire and listen. I had started getting used to and really liked the idea of using a microphone adapter on my iPod to record conversations. For a short time it had proven to be cool. Ultimately for me, it wasn't practical. Scrolling back and forth in desperate search of unmarked statements took up much more time than I want.
Plus, I liked the old school and conventional method of taking notes and short-handing it.
It's painful, however! I've feel like I've lost my scholastic penship in the age of automated multi-media and replaceable keyboard keys. Long gone are the days when reporters pull out a mini spiral notepad and pencil (because an eraser does come in handy). But, I relished the notion of busting out a no. 2 led pencil and pretty paper.
A few weeks ago, I spent a super fun evening hob-knobbing with some R & B and HipHop artist's mom's among other entertainment types.

(My pen and paper)
The occasion? We were there to attend of the the 1st home games of The Atlanta Beat, a newly commissioned Women's Professional Soccer team. A pro soccer team in the A? Yup! They are one of two expansion teams in the 2010 season. Owned by Fitz Johnson (a former military Colonel), the team became official last summer after then-Atlanta-Mayor Shirley Franklin unveiled the team name, logo and colors. Although I'm not a huge fan of soccer as a sport (Cubans like baseball and boxing--and we're never at the World Cup anyway!), I was excited to support Women's sports. 
(Fitz Jonhson, owner of Atlanta Beat)
Those girls are hard core! It was pouring rain that particular night and they were totally unbothered by such conditions. Then again, they are paid to do what they do. To much audience cheer, the chicks kicked ass that night, beating out Texas's team. 
Some of the team members hail from Atlanta while others were brought on during the International Draft in mid-September of 2009. They finished their full roster in January of this year. 
After the game was done and the women jumped up and down like school girl district champions, I got to sit down with the a co-owner of  the catering company that provides all the food for the beautiful and state of the art stadium. 
It was a great evening, chit chatting about food and sports. The most special part was having a photographer there to document me in one of my most relaxed environments.

(Me and Hip-Hop Supestar T-Payne's mom)

(Me and Judge Glenda Hatchet)

How wonderful are they! Enjoy the pics here, but do check out a partial interview over at Flanboyant Eats
And, come out and watch the women kicks some goals at Kennesaw State University. 3 home games remain!
August 28th
September 1st
September 5th
You can visit their website here

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Best Smell Goods From Resort Bathrooms. Do or Don't Take?

When I travel, there are certain "must" items that make the cut when packing. 

Just as you consider your daily ensemble based on your meetings, the weather, etc.. the same applies for les voyages. You must consider your destination and length of stay. That will determine the size of your luggage. Once that's in order, the weather of your final destination will determine what you wear and ultimately how much you pack. 

The only thing I DO consider is what I'll be brining back from the place I've visited. We all know duty-free is a great way to shop and bring back cheap alcohol or last minute gifts. I use duty-free for unfound liqueurs in the U.S. and Clinique make-up. Way cheaper in any airport. 

Then there are the lovely local art work, craftmanships, fashions and artesenias you are apt to finding in street shopping, boutique, vintage shops and museums. Those are most important, so having enough space in my suitcase for the return trip is critical. 

("jelly fish" lamps found in street shopping in Playa del Carmen, Mexico)

But, allow me to introduce and talk on the point of those little "gifts" we don't ever think about making room for or bringing back. Those little gifts we find in our hotel rooms, our resort suites that are generously placed in our bathrooms for our liking, aromatic pleasure and bodily enjoyment. 

I'm talking about the sewing kits, conditioners, shampoos, body gels and soaps and body lotions that I admittedly love to take every morning and call housekeeping to replace after I've showered. Hey, I've paid for the room, so I figure it's mine to use and take. And if anyone ever questions my decision to make them my own beyond my visit, consider their minuscule size. 

However, there have been unique cases where the portions were so nice, and the brand so exclusive, I hardly could resist placing an order to take home with me; or simply not using at all, thus making my take home stash even larger. 

I do a lot of traveling and have smelled and lathered myself with tons of luscious scents and suds. One of my faves became European brand Molten Brown after 1st being introduced to this luxe line during a  weeks' stay at The Westin hotel in Greenville, S.C., 8 years ago. I was so tickled with the fabulousness of the goodies, I had the kind bell boy Fed Ex me a 1lb box of all the bathroom toiletries. Then, we all know about the BLISS Spa line found at the W Hotels. Those are nice, but not as full-bottled or sexy as Molten Brown. I've also enjoyed Fedderic Fekkai products in NYC hotels. 

And, I've come across more exotic scents and textures in St. Maarten and Cabo, San Lucas' Sheraton Hacienda Golf & Spa resort, only a few months ago. 

I just came back from a fabulous visit to  Maya Riviera, Mexico, near Cancun and Playa del Carmen, and stayed at the all inclusive and adult-only  Valentin Maya Imperial resort. This 3 year old resort, perfectly located in multi-million dollar real estate with a white sand beach lacing its property, offers 9 restaurants, car service to and for your hot spots and a slew of daily activities that will do nothing but rush you to your room for a relaxing evening and sexy shower in the marble stalls. 

(shower in my "swim-up" suite at the Valentin Maya Imperial)

This is when the goodies placed on the white alabaster trays come into graceful play. These  had something different about them. The toiletries were made of whole wheat grains and organic honey, offering both scrubbing  benefits and sensual, sweet aroma. I appreciate the buyer's choice in selecting a brand that is eco-conscious. Accepting all the benefits were fitting, there was one issue: the size. At 4.2 oz, they exceed the carry-on luggage limit, causing me to re-think making room in my luggage. But, the soap scrubbed my arms so nicely, the shampoo left my hair smelling like bees had just washed it and the body lotion made me extra sexy.

(yummy toiletries found at Valentin Maya Imperial)

After 3.5 half days and 3 nights, I had accumulated enough bottles to share with my sister who's now visiting me in Atlanta and take on our next mini-vacay. 

When traveling, don't be shy to gift yourself with these lavish goodies replenished there for your enjoyment! If all else fails and you want to be sure, simply call house-keeping and kindly ask. I guarantee 100% of the time will they say "sure."  

Bathroom goodies are one of the given perks of traveling and you should take full advantage of! That's not to say you should go and book a flight simply to stock up on smell good prod!

Oh, one more thing about collecting hotel and resort toiletries; they can always be recycled and donated to local charities or homeless shelters for those in real need. I find myself having to do that once a year and it's just as gratifying giving them away as much as initially enjoying them! 

Where have you stayed and just loved the shower gels and soaps found in the bathroom!? 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Starry Night at The Kimberly Hotel, Manhattan

Late last year, I was fortunate to parlay and cook with a most esteemed, world-class chef, requiring a 3-day stay in Manhattan.

Any time I go to that favorite city of mine, the first thing I consider is my wardrobe and then start looking for a place to kick my shoes off and have enough room to bring in one medium sized suitcase and a traveling hat case.  We all know NYC real estate is just about parallel with prices in Dubai and Monaco. That doesn't stop me, though. Some way, some how,  I was not going to pass on meeting this incredible chef due to a shortage of inexpensive rooms in the city.

I was traveling with a crew of 3, so a hotel with ample room space and calming ambiance, was essential. I needed a place to host all of us and layout paperwork in preparation for the big meeting.

(Robbie--videographer, me & Dana, 1 of my fab assistants for the week)

I had two days to find a place and as a vintage procrastinator, I waited until the last minute to secure a comfy bed. I called the NYC tourism office, which I found completely unhelpful and uncooperative. I did pull my media card on the egotistical sun of a gun, but it didn't work.

Fine. Whatever.  In doing my own search, I came across The Kimberly Hotel.

This remodeled, user rated 5-star boutique hotel in the Eastside, was perfectly situated just two blocks from my meeting.  And, just three blocks from 30 Rock, I could make a quick shopping run if a last minute outfit change was necessary.

The lobby tells you everything you need to know about this boutique hotel. Lavishly adorned in Victorian décor and grandeur aesthetic, you feel like you're stepping into the foyé of an old chateau. The building used to be occupied by private condo owners and later bought out my an hotelier.

Check-in was effortless, as I was greeted by Peter, the witty concierge.  He immediately offered all their services and noted I had film crew, etc..with me so he went further and wanted to make sure we had everything we needed.

Making it to the room was a bit challenging, albeit the elevators are much ampler than most city hotels. But that was quickly a non-issue when I opened my suite door.

Schweeet! Two doors, two big rooms, 2 bathrooms, one large living room, 3 flat screens and 3 coffee makers---the most important of it all amenities.

The 2 bedroom luxury suite was large enough to have brought my family and then some. I'm not so much into the Victorian-esque look when I'm looking for a swanky, modern and sleek vibe--especially when visiting Manhattan. But, I appreciated the juxtaposition of old era (as detailed in the gold encrusted and ornate hand carved wood dressers and headboards) and minimalistic touches like flat screens and king sized "heavenly" layered feather beds.

I stayed in the main room, needing to really spread out and make a mess with 7 pair of shoes and jewelry for days! My bathroom, styled with marble floors and shower walls, made getting dressed more fun that in my own place in Atlanta. The colossal shower was updated with 10 shower heads, shooting out from places you didn't know could make it to your body! There was space enough to bring a waterproof chaise and do a remote spa treatment!

 I didn't have a chance to indulge in the turbo hot tub, but doing that alone isn't the sexiest thing, either.

Maybe next time.

I took a tour of the hotel on my 2nd day and started questioning why I wasn't reserved for the suite pictured above! This particular suite, while only having one room, has a cocktail area, flushed to the left of the living room. There, you'll enjoy a bar, mini-kitchen and a lounge-y area for laying back and sipping on a cocktail that room service will bring you. The luxury one bedrooms have all been remodeled to entice you with recessed and tray lighting, vintage mirrors, silk taffeta window treatments and a mixture of artwork and fresh flowers.

The kicker for me in this suite, was the view of Manhattan from the patio! To your left, you clearly see the East River. In front you see billion dollar buildings and below--well, you see a lot of yellow cabs.

As we wrapped up the tour, I was taken to the Penthouse, which I didn't get to see because it was being remodeled. I'm glad I don't have "before" pictures, but do have these extraordinary shots of the aftermath.

Swoon and gasp at this rooftop terrace, located 30 stories above the citys street level.

I only share pics since I wasn't lucky enough to get my Carrie Bradshaw on. Clearly, what they've done to it, lends itself to hosting swanky soirées and chatter of the latest celeb gossip (or the oil spill mess) over a glass of champagne.  Maybe even some salsa dancing.

If these views alone don't convince you of considering a stay, then you may want to rethink visiting Manhattan until you're really ready!

My meeting went extremely well, which you can read about here and it was all made so comfortable by a fabulous stay at The Kimberly, a definite mainstay in midtown Manhattan. Stay there. Love it. And then tell me about it!

145 East 50th Street
New York, NY 10022-9502
(212) 755-0400

* all pictures courtesy of The Kimberly Hotel. Used with permission. 

* thanks for Village Tea Co. for sponsoring in part this fabulous trip! I sipped so much tea while prepping my team for the meeting, it offered great mental relaxation during jittery moments of outlining. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Norwegian Orchestra Does the Cha-Cha-Cha & Other Cuban Classical Style Dances

I believe most of todays' pop music, be it hip-hop, R&B, jazz, etc... is heavily influenced and rooted in Cuban music. Understanding that Cuban music is a combination of Afro-beat and our own indigenous sounds and rhythms, is crucial to appreciating the sampling and role it plays in our tunes.

My mom recently showed me this video of An der shoned blauen Donau doing the Cha Cha Cha, a classic Cuban dance, to Johann Strauss's El Danubio Azul. 

I found their rendition of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 to be incredibly moving--sounding as if our friend Paquito D'Rivera, Arturo Sandoval and other Cuban Maestros, were playing each note. 

The timbales player kills it and must be Cuban!

How about the Nutcracker's Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy? Simply Beautiful. 

I've seen the LSO live in Florida. I've seen Wynton with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, among other  world-class symphonies and orchestras. But this ensemble plays our music the way it's intended: with gusto, passion and inhibition. They do our beloved musical genres true justice. 

I found it genius. Classic. And, I'm inspired to pick up my cello and play around with the music native to my household and soul. Y con sabrosura!

Viva la musica Cubana!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Oh, The Woes of Infidelity

Dear Tiger,

I used to love you. Like really love you. I went to one of the Major's in '97, only to lay my eyes on your beautiful, young and innocent face.

Because of you and the guy I was dating at that time, I started playing golf. It's been 13 years.

But, has it been 13 years of lies, deceit, masked by wins and huge purses?

If so, I'm over here smashing my golf clubs into the ground, the same way Elin allegedly smashed your truck windows.

I saw your press conference on Monday. Great job. Very professional. But I noticed you didn't have your ring on. I hope it's not a sign. I can appreciate Jack supporting you. You should appreciate him, too.

But, then I saw this commercial, and could only think: Really? Really? How much money did Nike pay you to redeem yourself through the resurrection of your late father.

Imma pray for you brother, because we all do deserve redemption and an opportunity to get it right.

So, I'll be watching you play and maybe even win the Masters. I may even go hit some balls this weekend.

Thanks for reinvigorating the game of golf, albeit in a disgraceful way. Just sayin'



Evidently, the video was removed by Tiger, CBS or the Masters. Go Figure. 

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Re-encounter With Raheem Devaughn

I first met Raheem DeVaughn 8 years ago, before he was barely a known name in D.C., both our hometowns.  I saw then, what is happening today: A complete blossoming of a prolific artist that breaks the stereotype of your Bobby Valentino’s, Ne-Yo’s and Usher’s. 8 years later, both of us in Atlanta, pursuing our own respective musical and artistic dreams, I had the chance to be reintroduced and talk about his journey so far, his new album and new voice. With The Love and War Masterpeace Raheem DeVaughn has managed to synthesize many styles of contemporary and traditional soul, moving  from lover man grooves to political statements without missing a beat. DeVaughn has clearly outgrown the limitations the Nation’s Capital planted for him, allowing him to explore and draw in song, his bigger picture in his new “Masterpeace.”

Bren: Raheem, boy has it been a minute since I last saw you. K-Alyn days. Remember?
DeVaughn: Oh man yeah. That cat’s doing real well in Ethopia.
Bren: Yeah I heard. Interesting our paths cross again, here in Atlanta of all places. But, we’ll talk about that later. So talk to me about the new album, what was the inspiration? What’s your heart telling us here? You’re real soulful and open in your writing, which is unusual these days when you’ve got a plethora of writers writing for artists. A lot of artists are singing about sexing and grinding, but you’re allowing your vocals to really express you emotions. Talk to me about that creative process and approach you took with this new record.

 Well I definitely have some sexin’ and grindin’ on this album, but we’ll get to that. {laughing}. This album is something for the mind, body and soul. It’s called The Love and War Masterpeace. I think it’s some of my best work. Half of the album is socially conscious, half of the album is love; you know, bedroom material; and something for the women– the whole nine.
Bren: So it’s modeled after vintage tapes with Side A/Side B?

DeVaughn: In a perfect world, it would have been like that, but from a business stand point, we’re putting it all in on one disc at one point. We’ll start with a full disc. One starts out with a deluxe joint and then the weeks and months and years that follow. You’ll be able to get the full deluxe digitally. The hard copy will be one disc. First it’s gonna be 2 cds then it’s gonna be shrunk down to 1 CD. So that means you can only have a certain amount of songs on one CD. But you definitely get the messages out that we did. I have Dr. Cornel West narrating through the whole joint. I got Damian Marley on the album, Bun B, Luda, Wale and my new artist.

Bren: Yeah, talk to me about the single with Ludacris and how that came about and what the inspiration was behind that theme.

 The record has been recorded for about 2-3 years, already. And then ya know, when they opened up the budget for the new album, I had lunch with Chaka and Luda on my own and sent them the record, and I was like yo I want y’all to be a part of this. I sent them the record and they loved the record. And then out the blue, Chaka hit me and I sent him the record and he did it. No money exchanged hands. None of that. They did it off “GP,” just really feeling and really believing in the record. They’re just real dudes, keeping it 100. And now that I came to Atlanta, the DTP family showed me a lot of love. I view Atlanta as whole other vibe down there. And that’s how that record in particular came about. And everybody who’s on my album I went and got them for the album – the label had nothing to do with that.
Read the interview in its entirety, here

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A Love Affair With Shoes When Cooking

Dear Gwen Stefani, 

I cook. I cook my ass off. 
I wear heels. 
I wear the hell out of some heels.
I wear your heels. 
I rock the hell out of your heels when I cook. 
I get men talking and panting about my shoes when I cook in them. 
I leave women wanting to cook when I wear your shoes. 

I could do great things for the L.A.M.B line in the culinary industry. 
I see a place for the brand. 
I could bring sexy back with L.A.M.B
It's the missing "S."

These will help us initiate a relationship.
Jaco is doing his thing. 
But Justice will really bring the house down
and get old and new talking. 

And cooking, again. 



Sunday, January 24, 2010

Malcom-Jamal Warner Hits for Haiti Relief

People always ask me what my next venture or interview will be or what country I'll find myself freely galavanting about; and my answer is always: I'm working on it. Just know it's something to be recokned with. I take what I do seriously, but with a grain of salt because at the end of the day, it's a hustle.

Haiti has been cursed with a devastating earthquake and its people are suffering more than ever. Their resilient spirit keeps those in pain, alive. Their zest for life keeps them bending over, lifting heavy building foundations, in short hopes of recovering lost ones.

Millions of people have shed their humanitarian light by collectively mobilzing efforts in aiding Haiti get back on its feet. It's a matter of emergency.

Childhood TV star, turned adult actor, producer, film writer and producer, Malcom-Jamal Warner is one of those humanitarians.

He and his band will perform groovey, Funkjazz tunes at the eclectic 595 venue, Friday, January 29, in benefit of Haiti relief. The night will be funky, exciting and at minimum, a throw-back to old times of peace, girating dance moves and fret slides.

No Huxtablisms, please.

So, you ask what my next venture will be. I see the evening turning into a sequestered moment of an in-person, intimate interview with my favorite Dr.'s son. We'll talk about his music venture, his band, what inspires him and of course, I'll touch on his favorite food and what entices his palate. For that interview, you'll have to visit Flanboyant Eats in a few weeks!

If you're in Atlanta, come support this funk fest in benefit of Haiti and experience some magical music!

When: FRIDAY, JANUARY 29TH, 2010; Showtime @ 10 pm

$15 Cover (proceeds going to Haitian Earthquake Relief)