Living the good life in The Big Apple

New York City is often referred to as “the center of the world” – a city that transcends many countries. “The Big Apple” is an international mecca of style, culture and luxury. New York is a place of dreams and dreamers, of fairy tales and harsh realities. Life is never boring in “the city that doesn’t sleep,” with its virtually endless selection of fine dining, extravagant lodging, world-class shopping and entertainment.

Enter Tony Award nominee Loretta Ables Sayre, a self-described “simple, local girl” from Hawaii who now resides in The City and plays Bloody Mary in Broadway’s South Pacific. Although Ables Sayre blends in seamlessly with a cast of other theater veterans, she says that maintaing her role hasn’t allowed her much time to enjoy everything New York has to offer. However, she does have a few beloved places to recommend for those looking for a star-worthy New York visit. And in a city full of luxury, it’s not hard to find other stellar dining, shopping and accommodations, as well.

For a special night out, Ables Sayre is partial to China Grill Management’s Center Cut, located at 44 W. 63rd St., directly across from Lincoln Center. Situated on the first floor of the historic Empire Hotel, Center Cut brings the traditional steakhouse into the 21st century. Specializing in naturally raised meats and sustainable seafood, the fare is delectable. The décor is rich and classically elegant with contemporary flair.

Another fantastic restaurant in the same vicinity is Café des Artistes, located at 1 W. 67th St. Filled with beautiful hand-painted murals, this historic restaurant opened its doors in 1917 and has been a favorite of local well-to-do patrons and many celebrities. Its classic French cuisine is exquisite, and the intimate old New York atmosphere nostalgic. The puree of chestnut, apple and squash soup is a religious experience. Either venue is a fine choice before going to see Ables Sayre as Bloody Mary in South Pacific (get your tickets way in advance at www.lct.org).

Speaking of Bloody Mary, did you know that the Bloody Mary cocktail originated in New York City? During the Roaring ’20s, Fernand Petiot, an American bartender working in Paris, mixed up equal parts of tomato juice and vodka. One of his regulars said it reminded him of the Bucket of Blood Club in Chicago, and a girl he knew there, Mary. Fast forward to 1934, Petiot returned to the U.S. and began working at the King Cole Bar, located in New York City’s St. Regis Hotel. Discerning New Yorkers were under-whelmed with Petiot’s bland libation. At his customers’ request, he tweaked the recipe, adding black and cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, lemon and Tabasco. And voila – the Bloody Mary as we know it today was born.

Seventy-five years later, the fabled King Cole Bar at The St. Regis Hotel, located at E. 55th and 5th, is still a thriving hangout for local and visiting elite, now serving $18 “Red Snappers” since the name “Bloody Mary” was just too uncivilized for the city’s post-Depression era gentry.

Built in 1904, The St. Regis is a Beaux Arts landmark and symbol of luxury in the heart of midtown Manhattan. The five-star hotel is elegantly appointed with Louis XVI-style furniture, crystal chandeliers, silk wall coverings and carved molding details. The combination of unparalleled service and beautiful décor earns the St. Regis a consistent ranking among the world’s best hotels. Its mid-town location is convenient to shopping, dining and the theater.

If you have a heftier budget, the newly renovated Plaza Hotel awaits with the most expensive hotel suite in Manhattan. Its Presidential Suite will set you back $15,000 per night for 7,800 square feet of refined extravagance. Located on Fifth Avenue at Central Park South, The Plaza is an internationally recognized architectural masterpiece. Spanning almost the entire 18th floor of the hotel, the five-bedroom, five-and-a-half bathroom suite is equipped to handle the most discriminating clientele. It also has three fireplaces, a sauna and comes with an in-residence butler. Located in the epicenter of the fashion universe, The Plaza is near high-end boutique shopping and directly adjacent to Bergdorf Goodman.

Bergdorfs, as locals fondly call it, is a one-of-a kind department store that carries the highest of the high-end. It is world-renowned, yet uniquely New York. The iconic store, housed in a former Vanderbilt mansion, stands tall as a princely beacon of luxury at the end of Fifth Avenue’s shopping district. Always adapting to, or setting the most current fashion trends, Bergdorf Goodman has been serving the rich and famous for almost 100 years.

Barney’s is another well-known New York City shopping venue. Located only a few blocks from The Plaza Hotel at 660 Madison Ave., Barney’s has been around since 1923. It carries a breadth of fashion styles ranging from classic and conservative to edgy. Even though Barney’s has expanded to multiple locations throughout the U.S., including Los Angeles and Las Vegas, it is still an unmistakable symbol of New York.

If either of these two retail behemoths is a bit overwhelming, and you would like to opt for something a little more intimate, then Intermix is for you. It is located on the Upper East Side at 1003 Madison Ave., near E. 77th St., and has expanded to multiple locations in Manhattan. Founded in 1993, the Intermix philosophy is that a boutique should merchandise its clothing in the manner in which it is intended to be worn. It has created an eclectic fashion environment, representing a mix of emerging and established designers. (Sorry, guys, Intermix only carries women’s fashions.)

After an exhausting day of shopping, you will want to have a peaceful, relaxing dinner. Far from the bustle of midtown, and well worth the trek into the West Village, One If By Land Two If By Sea is an unexpected treat. Tucked away in a quaint neighborhood between 7th Ave. South and W. 4th St., it was recently named the “most romantic” restaurant in New York City – and rightfully so. Located in what was once Aaron Burr’s carriage house, the warm neo-colonial décor sets the stage for a memorable dining experience that is classic New York. In addition to magical ambiance and refined service, the French-American cuisine is excellent and sure to please. It is a perfect place to “pop the question.”

Grab a cocktail (or three) before retiring to your suite for the evening. Depending on your scene, check out Gotham Bar and Grill, 40/40 Club, or Bar and Books.

Located at 12 E. 12th St., Gotham Bar and Grill has award-winning cuisine in addition to its great bar scene. Gotham’s bold architectural lines and mix of patrons, from local power players to tourists, makes it a great spot to people-watch – which is almost a sport in New York City. 40/40 Club is a high-end sports bar and lounge at 6 W. 25th St. owned in part by hip-hop mogul Jay-Z. In typical Jay-Z style, 40/40 is over-the-top fabulous, with flat screen TVs galore and cool, ultra-contemporary decor, encompassing 8,000 square feet of entertainment in a lounge setting.

Two words epitomize Bar and Books: “old money.” Picture Ivy League grads with sport coats and thick-rimmed glasses having uber-intellectual conversations while smoking cigars, sipping fine brandy or a signature cocktail, such as the Elderflower Manhattan. With three Manhattan locations – one in downtown, mid-town, and Upper East Side – there is sure to be one nearby. The midtown location, or Beekman, as it is called, is located at E. 50th and 1st Ave. The setting is refined and intimate, as if you are in a private gentleman’s estate home. Built-in bookshelves, rich wood paneling and books surround you as the fireplace blazes in the background.

Now it’s time to get some proper rest to prepare for another eventful day. If you haven’t committed to other accommodations yet, check out The Four Seasons New York. The Four Seasons is consistently ranked among the best hotels in the world, and is currently considered The City’s top hotel. Designed by world famous architect I.M. Pei, this opulent, five-star, 368-room hotel was built in 1993. Constructed at a record high price per key, the hotel contains exquisite rooms, marble baths and luxurious amenities. The best (and most expensive) rooms are located in the tower; they have breathtaking views of the City and Central Park. Visit the beautiful Spa at Four Seasons for a day of relaxation and pampering – you will surely need it because New York can be exhausting.

Ables Sayre will tell you that New York is a city where anything is possible. Filled with interesting people from all over the world, it is a place of wonderment, magic and great excitement. New York City has the very best of everything, filled with luxury and a population striving for more. It is with purpose that people come to The Big Apple, to create things and fulfill their dreams. There is a pulse here that cannot be explained, an energy field that calls to you.

Broadway, BaBy!

Local girl Loretta Ables Sayre makes it big in New York.

“It’s so crazy with eight shows a week,” says Ables Sayre of her life as a musical stage star. Whisked away to New York from her roots in Honolulu and Mililani to star as Bloody Mary in Lincoln Center’s South Pacific, she is now in the books as a Tony Award nominee.

The experience has been humbling for Ables Sayre. Many celebrities have greeted her backstage to praise her performances: Bette Midler, Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Elaine Stritch and James Taylor, to name a few.

A highlight of Ables Sayre’s New York experience was the 2008 Tony Awards, where nominees were invited to a private soirée at Rockefeller Center. Feeling like a princess in a custom-made haute couture gown by New York designer Junko Yoshioka (known mostly for couture wedding gowns, her fashions can be found at Saks Fifth Avenue), she thought, “This can’t be my life.”

Yet, with all the excitement, Ables Sayre says she misses her island home. She has even decorated her luxury Upper West Side apartment with an explosion of aloha print to remind her of Hawaii.