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The Ultimate Holiday 2012 Shopping Guide

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Black Friday, signs, OWS

Black Friday 2012 is predicted to be bigger than ever, with stores opening doors hours before midnight and "leaking" their sales ads weeks in advance. 

The best way to miss out on great deals, however, is if you only mark Nov. 23 on your calendar. The next 30 days will be packed with crucial opportunities to save on holiday essentials.

Here are the dates you should keep in mind:

Nov. 19: Look for early deals online.

Amazon.com: Get a head start with Amazon's Black Friday Deal Week, which kicks off today and features a new deal each day. Subscribe to their daily email for updates. 

Bestbuy.com: Reward Zone Members get exclusive access to early online days beginning at 11 a.m. EST. 

Nov. 22: Plan your Thanksgiving dinner early if you want to take advantage of early Black Friday sales. Retailers are opening their doors as early as 4 p.m. (Michael's) and 8 p.m. (Toys 'R Us, Kmart, Walmart). 

Nov. 23: Black Friday: Fatwallet.com or Dealnews.com are great sites if you're looking for a comprehensive list of store openings. Look for hot deals on electronics and apparel, and don't forget about online doorbusters. Pro tip: Bring your smartphone–– it's one of the best ways to track deals on the ground. 

Nov. 24: If the chaos of Black Friday isn't your scene, opt for Small Business Saturday instead. It's an excellent way to boost your local economy and save on unique gifts without battling your way through crowds. You might surprised how many deals you'll find. 

Nov. 25: Just a day away from Cyber Monday, Amazon.com will open its "doors" early, kicking off a week's worth of new deals today. 

Nov. 26: Cyber Monday is giving Black Friday a run for its money. Hop online for massive savings, especially on apparel. Just be sure to protect yourself while you're at it. Scammers will be scrambling to take advantage of unwitting consumers searching for deals online. A good rule of thumb is to look for "https" at the beginning of any URL, which means the site is secure and your financial information won't be visible to anyone else.

Nov. 27 to Dec. 7: Save your toy shopping until today. Retailers will be rolling out the best deals the week after Black Friday.

Dec. 17: Free Shipping Day is huge for online shoppers scrambling to get gifts in the mail before Christmas. The best way to track free shipping offers is to search Freeshipping.org. 

Dec. 20-25: This is the sweet spot for deals on holiday foods and wines, according to Savings.com. 

Dec. 26 - ?: Resist the urge to spend cash on yourself before the holidays. The absolute sweetest deals will hit the racks after Christmas, when retailers do whatever it takes to shed their surplus inventory.

See Also: 10 great Black Friday apps >

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'Real Housewives Of Atlanta' Star's Mansion Hits Market For $3 Million

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real houswives kim atlanta mansion

The home " Real Housewives of Atlanta" star Kim Zolciak rented on the show is now on sale for $3 million, according to Trulia.

Zolciak called the Atlanta mansion her "dream house," and held her wedding in the backyard during her spinoff show Don’t Be Tardy For The Wedding.

The house has six bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, and 15,800 square feet of living space.

Welcome to Roswell, Ga. The house sits on two acres of land.



The current owners are asking $190 per square foot.



The house was built in 2006.



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The 7 Best NYC 'Young Members' Clubs For Meeting An Eligible Bachelor

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New York Public Library Lions

The New York social season is already in full swing, but it's never too late to join one of the Young Members circles.

Besides being able to fill up your social calendar with annual bashes like last week's Apollo Circle Benefit, the main reason young aspiring socialites and arts patrons join these societies is to mingle with the city's most well-heeled bachelors.

Whether you're into the art aficionados or bow-tie clad socialites, we've got you covered. We've rounded up a list of top organizations you can join to find the right type of guy for you this winter!

This post originally appeared on Guest of a Guest.

Met Young Members

Ages: 21-35

Membership fee: $70/year and up

Boys: The MET young members circle is your best bet for finding the largest selection of boys. The membership fees range from $70 to $20,000, so you'll have plenty of boys from all different tax brackets. As it is one of the more inclusive junior philanthropy circles in the city, you should expect to find down-to-earth members with full-time jobs.

The perks of this membership (and the reason many members choose to join), is the Young Members Party. This annual bash is known for being one of the rowdiest parties, where members come together for a night of drunken debauchery. Most boys will show up in after-work attire (some even in jeans), and it's a great way to meet single boys and get a good feel of the art patron world.

Go here to join.



Met Apollo Circle

Ages: 21-39

Membership fee: $1,000/year

Boy: As one of the more prestigious committees in the Young Members circles, you're going to find the NYC bachelors who are considered the cream of the crop in the Apollo Circle. This one tops our list as their giant fete is tonight and well, why not?

In addition to a number of invitations to private collection viewings, gallery talks, evening receptions, and curatorial tours, you get discounted tickets to the Apollo Circle Benefit Dance and reservations in the exclusive Trustees Dining Room. If you're looking to attend some of the most important events on every junior social's calendar, this is the circle for you. Often referred to as the Upper East Side matchmaking club, expect to see bow tie clad boys being dropped off in a fleet of black Escalades and town cars.

Go here to join.



The Whitney Contemporaries

Ages: 21-40

Membership fee: $500/year

Boys: Forget the opening cocktail receptions or gallery walks around the city, this membership guarantees you an invite to one of the best parties of the season. Their annual art party brings together artists, fashion designers, and other celebs in support of the museum's Independent Art Programs.

Past guests included Bradley Cooper, Emma Roberts, Mariah Carey, Kate Bosworth, and Olivier Theyskens. The Whitney Contemporaries crowd is definitely one of the circles with the most clout, which should give you an idea of how trendy the boys will be.

Go here to join.



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The 11 Most Exotic Places To Celebrate Thanksgiving

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Montpelier Plantation & Beach

Thanksgiving is a cherished American holiday, when families from sea to shining sea gather to celebrate and give thanks over a bountiful meal.

For the travel-minded, Thanksgiving weekend also provides the perfect opportunity to get out of town, where manic Black Friday disasters are but a faint memory.

See the 11 best locations to celebrate Thanksgiving abroad >

Fortunately, traveling outside the United States doesn’t mean those who love a traditional meal need go without. While not necessarily acknowledging the cultural importance of the holiday, an increasing number of restaurants abroad are preparing special menus and dinners to accommodate those who crave them.

Chef Laurent Manrique, of the New York restaurant Millesime, will be spending the holiday in Paris, where he has been invited by chef Flora Mikula to cook a traditional Thanksgiving meal at her hotel restaurant Auberge Flora. The pair will offer a special menu, including roasted turkey and a scallop and cheddar fondue appetizer. “I am excited to bring to Paris a taste of Thanksgiving and allow those visiting Americans or adventurous diners to celebrate with us abroad,” says Manrique.

Though most restaurants participating in the trend stick primarily to the culinary framework of turkey, stuffing and pie, there are those who fuse the American foundations of the dishes with local techniques and spice. For the third consecutive year, Marrakech’s La Maison Arabe, where Americans make up 40 percent of the clientele, won’t just be serving a Thanksgiving meal at its Trois Saveurs dining room — its cooking-class program will teach guests how to make it (complete with a turkey cooked in a tagine). Even Etihad Airways will offer Thanksgiving-inspired options in addition to regular in-flight menus on the big day. We’ll say thank you to that.

More articles from Departures:

Aqua Expeditions, Peru

Trade in Thanksgiving football for a visit to the Amazon. Luxury river-cruise outfit Aqua Expeditions will arrange an unforgettable South American outing aboard one of its tricked-out water vessels before wining and dining guests with a Peruvian-inspired Thanksgiving meal.

Spend the day photographing some of the area’s unique wildlife or meeting with fishermen of the Ucayali River and then sit down to a dinner of baked turkey stuffed with breadfruit, a starfruit chutney and cocona side dish and sweet humitas for dessert.

Three-night itinerary (including meals and tours), from $2,700

866-603-3687

aquaexpeditions.com



Auberge Flora, Paris

Chef Flora Mikula is starting a new trend at the restaurant in the Auberge Flora hotel by inviting some of her favorite culinary masters to cook a meal in its kitchen.

The first of these partnerships will take place on Thanksgiving Day, when Laurent Manrique, chef at the Carlton Hotel’s Millesime restaurant in New York, will be on hand to serve guests and locals alike a time-honored American culinary experience. Mikula and Manrique’s menu will feature turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce as well as less traditional fare like a celery-and-pear soup.

Rooms, from $178; dinner, from $60

44 Bd. Richard Lenoir

33-1/47-00-52-77

aubergeflora.fr



CUT, 45 Park Lane, London

At Wolfgang Puck’s first European restaurant, the world-renowned chef will celebrate Thanksgiving with a variety of additions to its steakhouse menu, which is particularly popular with London’s robust American population.

Dinner on the day will feature a traditional meal of turkey with all the trimmings, plus quirky pie sliders (from pumpkin to pecan) and the 1863 cocktail (whiskey, port, lemongrass, ginger). “We wanted to create a special menu so our guests who are spending time in London on Thanksgiving could get a taste of home or an opportunity to experience an all-American tradition,” Puck explains. The pie sliders and cocktail will be available at Bar 45 from November 19 to 25.

Rooms, from $610; dinner (excluding drinks), from $133

45 Park Lane; 44-20/7493-4545

45parklane.com



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Take A Virtual Tour Of Philadelphia's Inspiring 'Mural Mile'

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Philadelphia Mural

Back in 1984, when Philadelphia was rife with crime and the city was covered in graffiti, Philadelphia's then-mayor, Wilson Goode, decided that it was time to make a change.

So he teamed up with some artists and instituted the Mural Arts Program, a program that encourages aspiring artists to leave their mark on the city. 

Since then, the program has grown into a thriving network of muralists, youth, local businesses, and Philadelphia residents all seeking to add more beauty to the City of Brotherly Love. More than 3,000 murals have now been painted all around the city, and many more are in progress.

We've heard some incredible praise for the program, so we decided to go see it in person. We took the self-guided walking tour of Mural Mile in the Center City neighborhood, and thought it was astounding. See for yourself.

Photographs by Melissa Stanger/Business Insider

'A People's Progression Toward Equality'

Location: S. 8th Street & Ranstead Street

Artist: Jared Bader

This mural represents the ascent toward equality, with each level representing a step forward and the top level being the most progressive. Naturally, Abraham Lincoln—a symbol of emancipation—is depicted. Artist Jared Bader worked with the community to create this mural.

Mural, Art, Philadelphia



'Pride & Progress'

Location: S. Juniper Street & Spruce Street

Artist: Ann Northrup

Located in the heart of the Philadelphia "gayborhood," "Pride & Progress" is the largest gay-themed mural in the world. It captures the progress of the American gay rights movement, which began in Philadelphia in the 1960s. Protesters began gathering outside Independence Hall on July 4, 1966 (depicted in the painted poster on the left), and have been doing so every year since.

Mural, Art, Philadelphia



'Garden of Delight'

Location: Locust Street & Sartain Streeta

Artist: David Guinn

This mural is a tribute to the garden it stands over. The space was once a dirt lot used to store concrete, but the community worked together to transform it into a luscious flower and vegetable garden. The artist, who played in the garden as a child, captured the space in a peaceful, almost dreamy style.

Mural, Art, Philadelphia



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Hundreds Of Luxury Homes In France Are Flooding The Market Ahead Of Tax Changes

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paris france $92 million

Just like the impending capital gains tax has wealthy homeowners scrambling to sell in the U.S., luxury property owners in France are also trying to ditch their properties before tax changes in the country's 2013 budget go into effect.

In the past eight months, more than 400 properties worth $12.7 million or more have hit the market, according to Jean Rafferty of The New York Times.

Jean Rafferty of The Times writes:

Quite a few of France’s most wealthy already have moved abroad to avoid the country’s stiff inheritance and wealth taxes.

Now, real estate agents say, the younger, working wealthy also are on the move, unhappy at the prospect of being taxed at 75 percent on income of more than €1 million, or $1.27 million, and a capital gains tax of more than 60 percent on stocks, bonds and company sales, although protests have produced exceptions for investors and new business start ups.

Charles-Marie Gottras, president of Daniel Féau, a high-end French real estate broker, told The New York Times that the type of luxury properties that once appeared once every six months or a year were now landing on the market once a week.

And with so many luxury properties for sale, buyers know they can negotiate the price, which is leading to a 3 to 5 percent decline in the homes' actual values.

Sotheby’s International Realty France said that in the past six weeks it had sold three properties for more than $25.5 million.

DON'T MISS: 10 Awesome Castles You Can Buy Right Now

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HOUSE OF THE DAY: A Massive Stone Mansion In Connecticut Is On Sale For $13 Million

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greenwich connecticut $13 million house

A 15,800-square-foot house in Greenwich, Conn. is on sale for $13 million.

The Georgian mansion sits on five acres of land. It has six bedrooms, seven full bathrooms, and two half baths.

The home also features a wine cellar, a golf room, and expansive terraces.

Welcome to this grand estate in Greenwich, Conn.



The home was built in 2001 and "enhanced" even further in 2006.



The home is asking $821 per square foot.



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These Beloved '90's Toys Are Making A Major Comeback

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gak

Retailers are betting on a '90's comeback this holiday season. 

Some of the most-ordered toys this holiday season include throwbacks like toy Elmos, Furby, Polly Pockets and Razor scooters, according to trade data company Panjiva Research

“Parents who played with some of these toys as kids are now out shopping for their own children and may be willing to put their precious holiday budget behind the toys they knew and loved themselves,” said Panjiva CEO Josh Green.

“It’s probably a safe bet for retailers, and we’ll find out in the month ahead whether it was a smart bet as well."

9. Gak

Gak is a bouncy, stretchy, substance manufactured by Nickelodeon that went back on the market with much fanfare this year. Kids like it because of the funny sounds it makes.



8. Bop It

The Bop It is an audio game that orders the player to follow different instructions like "Bop it!" or "Twist it!" Thanks to a cool new design, it's in demand again. 



7. Power Rangers

The Power Rangers are toys based on the television show that features young superheros fighting for justice. Since then, the brand has grown to include toys, video games and online streaming. 



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McLaren Is Building A $597,000 Track Car For Rich People Who Want To Race

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mclarent 1C GT Can-Am

At the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance this summer, McLaren GT, the racing branch of the British automaker, premiered a one-off design study it built in tribute to race car drivers Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme.

The reaction was so positive, the "ultimate track car" is going into production. McLaren GT will build just 30 of the 12C GT Can-Am Edition, to be sold to collectors and wealthy individuals looking for a great car to take to the track.

Do not expect to see it anywhere else, though — it is not street legal. It will not be used in professional races, either.

The track car has the same carbon fiber chassis as McLaren's 12C and 12C Spider, but with a roll cage and a large rear wing to keep the car on the ground at high speeds.

The interior is built for racing, with McLaren GT's rectangular steering wheel and six-point harnesses to keep the driver and passenger securely buckled in.

The 12C GT Can-Am will be powered by a 3.8-liter V8 engine capable of producing 630 horsepower.

McLaren GT will build the cars starting in March 2013, at its home in Woking, outside London. The price tag: £375,000 (about $597,000), including delivery.

mclaren 12c gt can am edition

 

mclaren 12c gt can am edition

SEE ALSO: McLaren Debuted Its Awesome New Convertible In New York City

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How Alain Ducasse Became The Godfather Of French Cuisine After Surviving A Plane Crash

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alain ducasse

One summer’s day 28 years ago, Alain Ducasse—the man dubbed the “godfather” of French cuisine—was rescued half-paralysed from a mountainside in the Alps, sole survivor of a light plane crash.

It was another three years before the chef could walk unaided: “I had to imagine and write down recipes, and have others execute them for me,” the 56-year-old told Le Monde newspaper in a recent interview.

“The accident changed my way of doing the job.”

This month Ducasse fetes a quarter century at his first three-star eatery, the Louis XV in Monaco, by hosting a November 16-18 pow-wow for 240 chefs in the principality—of which he became a citizen in 2008.

Today at the helm of a global empire with 21 Michelin stars to his name, Ducasse pioneered a radical new culinary business model, sharing his secrets with an army of disciples of the Ducasse school of haute cuisine.

The scale of the Monaco event, devoted to the Mediterranean-inspired cuisine he long championed, is a sign of his clout on planet food.

The chef has fingers in dozens of pies from space flights to the Eiffel Tower, luxury hotels, publishing and training programmes, under the umbrella of Alain Ducasse Entreprise (ADE), which turned over €68 million (RM265 million) last year.

Ducasse is not alone at the top table of French cuisine—the profession already has an “emperor” in the person of Paul Bocuse, 86, and a “chef of the century”, Ducasse’s longtime rival Joel Robuchon, 67.

But his Louis XV has trained hundreds of chefs in the Ducasse style, acting like an incubator to create what France’s top food critic Francois Simon dubs “an extraordinary network”.

“There is no space left on the world map to put our guys,” jokes Franck Cerutti, Ducasse’s longtime ally and the chef of the Louix XV.

“Jet chef” is another of Ducasse’s nicknames, from the time he spends travelling the planet inspecting his two dozen eateries, from Paris to Tokyo or Las Vegas, with Qatar to follow next year.

Born to a family of farmers in the southwestern Landes region, Ducasse talks of being strongly influenced by his grandmother’s home cooking.

Impatient by nature, he quit catering school “because it wasn’t going fast enough,” says Cerutti, learning his trade in the kitchens of nouvelle cuisine pioneer Michel Guerard, as well as Gaston Lenotre, Roger Verge and Alain Chapel.

“Better to have turbot without inspiration, than inspiration but no turbot,” runs his motto.

His style? Though Mediterranean at its roots, he adapts to each venue with a “glocal” approach — both global and local — turning out camel pastilla in Doha, and classic Parisian for the Eiffel Tower’s eatery, the Jules Verne.

Many who know him say his plane crash — the year of his second Michelin star — was decisive in shaping his insatiable character. Cerutti disagrees: “He was like that before.”

In 1987, he arrived in Monaco, earning three stars in 1990. He arrived in Paris in 1996, and clinched three stars there too the following year.

In 2005 he became the first to hold three stars in three different places by adding New York, a triumph all the sweeter since the restaurant had been panned by critics when it opened five years earlier.

Ducasse makes no secret of the fact he is no longer personally in the kitchen of his numerous eateries — whose creations he tastes and rubber-stamps, or not. How could he be with an empire to run?

“He’s like the Steve Jobs of gastronomy,” jokes one colleague.

His skill, according to Marc Haeberlin, chef of the three-star Auberge de l’Ill in France’s eastern Alsace region: “The ability to spot talent, and to duplicate the secrets of his cuisine.”

The critic Simon is more measured: for him, Ducasse’s strategy has brought a kind of “coldness to a cuisine that has to be imitable, therefore less demanding in terms of research.”

SEE ALSO: Meet The Chefs Who Work For The World's Most Powerful People

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I Wish I Had Taken A Closer Look At The Kitchen Before Signing My Apartment Lease

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chef, cooking, lemon Before you have the chance to cook for yourself on a daily basis, it can be hard to understand what makes a kitchen functional purely by looking at it.

So when my roommate and I were apartment hunting for the first time about a year ago, we were dazzled by the huge kitchen with white cabinets and marble counter tops.

There was even a dishwasher, a full stove, and a microwave. It was a big factor in our decision to sign the lease.

It wasn't until I moved in that I realized there were a few quirks with our "dream" kitchen, and I only discovered them once I actually started cooking.

  • There is only one drawer. Growing up in the suburbs, I figured all kitchens had multiple drawers. While I was aware the kitchen in my new, 800-square-foot apartment was much smaller than the kitchen I grew up with, I never thought to actually count the number of drawers in the kitchen. Now we use our single drawer for knives, and the silverware is stuck in a cabinet. It's not a huge deal, but definitely not something I thought of before signing the lease.

  • There is no kitchen window. "Who needs sunlight while cooking? It's dark when I get home from work anyway," I thought. Well, the first time you burn something, you're going to want that window.

  • The cabinets are too shallow. Upon first look, the kitchen had cabinets galore. But once it was time to move in, I realized the cabinets weren't very deep. It was a huge puzzle trying to get my pasta pot, salad spinner, and cutting boards to fit.

  • There's an entire wall of dead space. One wall of my kitchen is filled with the fridge, stove, dishwasher, and all of the cabinets. The other wall is just dead, unused space. This makes it very hard to have more than one person in the kitchen at once. It also really traps the heat in there when the oven is on.

Call it a rookie mistake. But next time I go hunting for an apartment, these are definitely things I'll look for before signing on the dotted line.

DON'T MISS: How To Decorate A 1-Bedroom Apartment On A $2,500 Budget

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Superchef Raymond Blanc Tells Us His Favorite Restaurants

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raymond blanc

Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc gives his guide to the best restaurants in the world.

It takes an ensemble of things to make a good restaurant, food alone is not enough. For me a good restaurant should have a good ambience, it should have warmth, a true food and people culture, staff who care and food that makes you dream. It should offer a full experience and you need all the scenery and all the culture around the food to make the restaurant very special.

Service is important of course. Once there was a tremendous amount of interference when dining out, whereas now the modern guest doesn’t want to be disturbed. He wants to sit in a chair like he would sit in a lemon soufflé and just let go. For him intelligence in the restaurant’s design is more important than something showy – he wants to enter a space where you feel well. I hate gold taps, thick carpets, pompous sommeliers and pretentious, ‘fashionable’ surroundings. Fashion only lasts a few seconds and then it disappears. When you go in a space and it’s quietly modern and you feel well that’s what it’s about.

I’ve been in a restaurant where I was interrupted what felt like 72 times and I wanted to kill everyone around me. I don’t want constant interruptions or to have to choose from 25,000 courses – I just want to choose what I want to choose and I don’t want to be told what to eat. Now, the modern guest feels luxury is claiming back his own time and his own space and not being told what to do or what food goes with what wine. In my restaurants we ask if you want to be disturbed or not. If you don’t, we put the menu on your table and you can see what you’re eating; if you do, we can tell you everything you want to know. We give options and to me that’s true luxury.

Bras - Michel et Sébastien; Laguiole, France
The greatest dining experience I had was at Michel Bras, in Laguiole in the Pyrenees. All of Michel’s food comes from local surroundings: he’s got the best cattle, the best of everything. His food is refined, modern, intelligent, rich and deep. When you eat there the dishes have layers after layers of flavours and I really love it. The restaurant is slightly rustic, with lots of wood and lots of warmth. It’s not an environment that’s trying to make some fashion statement. You feel well there. It’s one of the precursors of modern cuisine, definitely. I’ve eaten some extraordinary meals there.

elBulli; Roses en Cala Montjol, Spain

Ferran Adrià, the Spanish chef behind elBulli. Image: Alamy

I know it’s closed now but I have to mention elBulli because one of the greatest dining experiences I ever had was there. Ferran Adrià is a great philosopher and a great cook; he cares about where food comes from, about local issues and seasonality; he’s a multifaceted talent. I think he’s creating the techniques and the gastronomy of tomorrow. He’s got such a huge intelligence and daring. I remember when I was there I had 42 dishes and, believe me, I could have had 72. (That’s why I’m called the hungry Frenchman.) It was fascinating. Was it the best food I ever had? No. Was it the most extraordinary dining experience I ever had? Yes.

Le Louis XV - Alain Ducasse; Monaco

Image: T.Dhellemmes

Le Louis XV, the Alain Ducasse restaurant in the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, is an extremely luxurious space. It’s a highly convoluted environment and the restaurant is like Versailles – I’ve never seen so much gold in my life - but he’s managed to make it really warm and modern. The first time you go it’s quite impressive in a negative way because you ask yourself how you can eat in such an incredibly gold-plated environment. But when you actually sit down the service is wonderful and the human side takes over. I love the restaurant. Ducasse cooks Mediterranean food extremely well; he has a deep, deep understanding of cuisine. In fact, he’s probably the chef with the greatest understanding of Mediterranean food at the highest level - I’m talking about haute cuisine here – and his delivery is extremely modern but still retains a degree of classicism because he comes from a classic school. The food is absolutely brilliant and I always have amazing meals there.

Noma; Copenhagen, Denmark

Image: Niels Quist / Alamy

I haven’t been yet but I have to compliment Noma in Copenhagen. Noma represents a new trend: a new trend of going back to the past; going back to purity; going back to simplicity. But it can be highly complicated to achieve simplicity. All of the messing around with the look of a plate is gone and you’re at the heart of food. You are steeped within it. I love [head chef] René Redzepi’s philosophy. It’s definitely my next destination.

The Fat Duck; Bray, England

Snail porridge at The Fat Duck. Image: Dominic Davies

I think Heston Blumenthal has been very instrumental in redefining a certain aspect of gastronomy and The Fat Duck in Bray is a wonderful restaurant. Heston is a lovely young man, completely focused with a good philosophy and a good approach to food and he’s a highly creative person with a great sense of humour. I always have wonderful meals at The Fat Duck although sometimes there are certain things I don’t need, like earphones playing the sound of the ocean when I’m eating seafood. I don’t want to be imposed upon – I have my own imagination. But he’s done a brilliant job and he’s shown a new leadership in terms of gastronomy. His is a form of gastronomy which reconnects with its own heritage and which cares about people – which trains and nurtures young talent rather than breaks them in front of television cameras.

Born in Besancon in France, Raymond Blanc began his career in England as a waiter before opening the restaurant Les Quat' Saisons in Oxford in 1977. Most recently Raymond Blanc was made culinary director for Eurostar . The role has seen the chef design a new menu for Business Premier passengers, which focuses on sustainable, seasonal and responsibly sourced ingredients.

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BMW Museum Visitors Get Linen Gloves To Touch Classic Cars

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bmw night white gloves

Visitors to the BMW Museum in Munich will have the rare privilege Friday evening to touch the collection of classic cars to their hearts' content — provided they wear white linen gloves.

The Night of the White Gloves, an annual event at the museum, will include more than 125 exhibits.

The BMW Museum, opened in 1972, is dedicated to the history of the German automaker.

Cars on display include the 1930s BMW 328 and the Z1, which is marking its 25th anniversary.

Munich-based company Roeckl will put on a glove-making demonstration, and light manufacturer Osram is displaying "Dandelion," an installation featuring 1,000 organic light-emitting diodes.

Admission is five euros; the event runs from 7pm to midnight.

SEE ALSO: 2 Awesome BMWs Will Shape The Future Of Electric Vehicles

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Patrons Sue Metropolitan Museum Of Art Over Confusing Admissions Policy

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Metropolitan Museum of Art

Two members of the Metropolitan Museum of Art are suing over the museum's admissions policy, according to a report in The New York Times.

Their issue stems from the iconic museum's original lease with New York City, which specified that the museum had to be accessible free of charge to guests several days a week.

The plaintiffs, Theodore Grunewald and Patricia Nicholson,  argue that the museum "deceive[s] and defraud[s]" the public by making it difficult to understand the fee policy, arguing the museum makes the $25 fee for adults, $17 for seniors, and $12 for students appear mandatory and not simply suggested, according to The New York Times.

In their suit, the pair site a survey they commissioned in which more than 360 museum visitors were asked if they knew the admissions fee was optional. 85 percent responded they believed the fee was required, and that they had to pay in order to enter the Met. 65 percent said they had signed up for yearly memberships, which cost $70 (and higher, depending on the category) a year, so they could get in for free.

Grunewald and Nicholson are now asking the court to prevent the museum from charging any fees whatsoever, according to the NYT.

Harold Holzer, a rep for the museum, told The New York Post that the suit was "frivolous." The museum says that changes in city policy back in the 1970s allowed it to institute a voluntary admission fee. There are also signs above the museum's admissions desks that say the fee is only "Recommended" and a brief sentence on the museum's website that reads: "To help cover the costs of exhibitions, we ask that you please pay the full recommended amount."

According to The New York Times, when the recommended fee was first instituted in the 1970s, the signs said, "Pay what you wish, but you must pay something."

Each year, 6 million New Yorkers visit the Met, 250,000 of which are New York City schoolchildren who get in for free. In addition, special exhibitions in the museum are free with admission, the notable exception being the immensely popular "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" exhibit in 2011 that charged $50 for special admission after it extended the event.

Don't Miss: Shanghai Is Finally Becoming A Serious City For Art

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This Has To Be The Funkiest Studio In Midtown Manhattan

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We couldn't help but stare at this funky studio for sale in Midtown.

This E. 49th Street studio is on sale for $239,000. It has three large windows and an east-meets-west design aesthetic.

We're perplexed by the pattern on the wall behind the bed.

There's not much space for anything besides a bed, but for a tiny studio, it has a huge amount of character.

funky midtown studio

 

funky midtown studio

 

funky midtown studio

 

Now find out to decorate this place on a budget >

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The 25 Coolest New Businesses In Philadelphia

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Pizza Brain, Philly

Philadelphia is not just a historical stopover anymore. It's a growing hub for startups, an emerging culinary center, and a great place to open a business.

Click here to go straight to the businesses >

We recently spent some time trekking around Philadelphia to find the coolest additions to the city that have opened or expanded in the last year (one of us is a Philly native).

Within the last year, the city has seen the opening of several new gastropubs, artisanal cocktail bars, and gourmet food trucks—all at very affordable prices. More startups are calling Philadelphia home too, attracted by the low cost of living and the city's low-key vibe.

The top 25 businesses that blew us away are listed here in alphabetical order.

Alla Spina

1410 Mt. Vernon Street

What it is: Italian gastropub

Why it's cool: Alla Spina is the latest restaurant from Mark Vetri, one of Philadelphia's most successful restaurateurs and arguably one of the best Italian chefs in the country. 

The North Broad gastropub has a selection of Italian beer on tap, including Negroni. It serves dishes like fried pig tails with fennel agrodolce and poutine with guinea hen leg bolognese and mozzarella curd. 



American Sardine Bar

1800 Federal Street

What it is: Neighborhood gastropub

Why it's cool: This Point Breeze gastropub, which has been open for about a year, features an authoritative list of beers and a constantly changing menu of casual, affordable food. Creative dishes, like the Pittsburgh cheesesteak sandwich, the local apples and ricotta sandwich, and the $2 sardine sandwich, take advantage of local produce.



Brideside

Online only

What it is: An online wedding catalog that exclusively features bridesmaid dresses and accessories.

Why it's cool: A product of the fall 2012 Philadelphia DreamIt Ventures accelerator program, Brideside allows brides and wedding parties to peruse through wedding photos for inspiration, connect with other brides on forums, and shop for styles that they like. 



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Russian Beauty Queen Gives A Brutal Impromptu Takedown Of Her Own Country

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Russia's contestant in the Miss Earth competition is Natalia Pereverzeva, a 24-year-old who works as a financier for the Civil Service.

As you can see from the promo video below, Miss Earth offers a different take on beauty pangeants than Miss Universe and Miss World, emphasizing sustainability and ecological causes.

Despite this angle, we figure few expected Pereverzeva — a government employee — to answer to a seemingly innocuous question with a lengthy, angry, and incredibly articular rant about her country. Now Pereverzeva's answer — in which she calls Russia a "poor long, suffering country, mercilessly torn to pieces by greedy, dishonest, unbelieving people", has caused a storm in Russia. One newspaper ran with the splash "Did our Miss Earth 2012 contestant slate Russia or tell the truth?"

 Here's the full text:

What makes you proud of your country and what can you promote about it?

I have always been proud of the country in which I live. I can't imagine myself without it. My country – that's all I have, all people that I love, are all that is dear to me. My Russia – it is bright, warm, patched, but it is so pleasant to slumber under it in a winter evening when the storm rages outside. My Russia – it is a beautiful stately girl, full-blooded, rosy, in embroidered Sarafan, with long and thick plait, in which multicolored fillets are twisted, a beautiful fairytale girl. My Russia – it is a kind cow with very big eyes, funny horns and always chewing its mouth oh, what sweet milk she gives! Oh, how it smells – meadow herbs and the sun.

But my Russia – it is also my poor long, suffering country, mercilessly torn to pieces by greedy, dishonest, unbelieving people. My Russia – it is a great artery, from which the "chosen" few people draining away its wealth. My Russia is a beggar. My Russia cannot help her elderly and orphans. From it, bleeding, like from sinking ship, engineers, doctors, teachers are fleeing, because they have nothing to live on. My Russia – it is an endless caucasian war. These are the embittered brother nations who formerly spoke in the same language, and who now prohibit teaching of it in their schools. My Russia – it is a winner which has overthrown fascism but bought the victory at the expense of lives of millions of people. How, tell me, how and why does the nationalism prosper in this country? My dear, poor Russia. And you still live, breathe, and you gave to the world your beautiful and talented children Esenin, Pusbkin, Plisetskaya. The list could be continued on several pages, and each is gold, a gift, a miracle.

I am happy to be your citizen. Russia! In spite of all tears, sorrows, wars, invasions, no matter who rules Russia, I am still proud to be born in this great and beautiful country that has given so much to the world over the years of its existence. I am proud of my motherland for mercy, for heroism, for courage, for diligence, for heritage that she leaves to the world, for people who can live for others. I believe that each person living in Russia should identify himself with it. Feel the participation and take a proactive stance whatever it concerns. There are moments to which we close eyes and reject as spoiling a look. Everyday we meet the facts that are unpleasant to us, that are unworthy of our homeland. Only we can improve the situation. We must learn to express ourselves and to show our best quality traits. We should try not to live only as consumers, but to develop ourselves, read books, listen to interesting music, and be interested in scientific achievements. Politics, to communicate with good people, develop creativity, bringing into this world something new. We should bring up our children and talk to them on spiritual topics, disclose their talents and only then we reject everything unnecessary, affected and pretentious. When we seriously begin to take care of our country, it will blossom and shine brightly.

According to reports Russian press, Pereverzeva's agent says she is currently in Indonesia and she has not been in much contact, but she had not realized "she said something terrible". Perhaps even more remarkably, she says the questionnaire was handed out without warning, and the answer was spontaneous. We wonder how long these feelings have been brewing.

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Here's What I Learned By Not Using A Real Estate Broker

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real estate agent broker realtor

A teachable moment is defined as a point in time when learning becomes possible and easiest.

My husband and I had a teachable moment in real estate that lasted about seven months from the time we put in our offer till we finally closed on the purchase of our first apartment –– a junior-4 Hamilton Heights one-bedroom –– sans broker.

Between the holidays, the banking crisis, and a mortgage officer who checked out (as in, mentally) in the middle of it all I’m not sure there was anything we — or a broker — could have done differently. 

Besides, I’m a control freak who sets her own working hours -- I had the time and disposition for the job -- and I also have a great loathing of unnecessary papers cluttering my life (which turned out to be a good thing to have in light of the avalanche of paper transactions involved in buying real estate).

There were other factors too that disposed us toward moving ahead without a broker.  

Though it wasn't our foremost consideration, we thought we might  be more attractive as buyers to sellers and their brokers (no split broker fee!), and we knew there would be plenty other free-agent (agent-free?) buyers out there.

Also, we wanted to stay in Harlem where we had been living for the past few years, either a few blocks south in Morningside Heights, or north towards the Hamilton Heights area, and we were confident we could find a two-bedroom apartment or a generously sized one bedroom within our price range and with cash to spare for renovations on our own.

In retrospect, it wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world to have had the benefit of a good broker’s experience, advice, and assurance on our journey to the $196,000 fixer-upper we eventually bought.

On the other hand, we actually had a lot of fun “self-agent-ing” our way up the learning curve.

Here are 10 things I learned while going it alone:

1. Know the market. Be the market. All that time I spent pretend-buying wasn’t a waste of time after all. The open houses I attended “just for fun,” the property searches online -- these, it turned out, were research and practice.  I felt confident I could find us an apartment as well as any broker out there because I knew really well what the market in our chosen neighborhoods had to offer.

By game time, we knew enough to make a quick decision (as in, we walked into the space in and knew there was nothing better for us out there).

2. Pushiness is key. I learned to be pushy. Okay, even more pushy. A broker is worth their pushiness in gold, so push away.

Push for appointments to see the apartment, push for answers from sellers and lenders. Push your deal through. It’s exhausting, all that pushing, but good for toning those muscles you’ll need when you’re dealing with contractors for your remodel.

3. Be true to yourself and not to the Joneses. You know what I mean. Parents will want a room for a nursery, friends will want you closer to them. Go check out any renovation thread on Streeteasy, and see if you don’t come away a Pre-war Purist, thinking anything less than 9 ½ foot ceilings is totally gauche.  

Then there’s the hype around certain neighborhoods, and the prejudice against others, the horror of income restrictions, etc. At some point I learned to tune it all out and focus on what we needed and could afford.

4. Learn to let go. I almost bankrupted us by nearly jumping on a 4th floor walk-up co-op with less than stellar financials. It was the perfect location, glorious light and views and itbarely needed a ton of work.

It was a great apartment, but it needed a cash buyer — which it got after we lost in the bidding war. Thank god. And don’t let anybody tell you a walk-up saves you a gym membership. That’s just bull.

5. You can’t compete with cash. Unless you, too, have it. See above.

6. Go for organic, locally grown lenders.  There’s nothing quite like being asked by a banker in Cleveland if the unit you’re buying is wired for electricity.

Us: "Sir, I think that question is meant for a new-build, pseudo-loft space in Ohio?"

Banker: “Still, the box must be ticked off.”

I’ll tell you who was ticked off: the appraiser who had to go back in with his camera and Ikea desk lamp. The bank asked for one picture of a lightbulb lit by the apartment’s very own electric wiring. That afternoon, our appraiser sent us 20 photos of a lit lamp from various angles and locations within the apartment.

7. Get the best lawyer you can barely afford.  A recommendation from somebody you trust is priceless, of course. But we didn’t have any of those, so I got a-Googling.

I spoke with a lawyers but only one was willing to give a first-time buyer the time of day. He anticipated my questions and corrected some of my expectations. He gave me his fee structure ($1,200: $250 at contract signing, the rest at closing) and told me not to be scared of what was coming. He knew the drill. And that’s all it was: a drill.

He did only the thing I was paying him for: he got involved when necessary, and he saw the deal through. He was not my broker, nor my friend, nor punching bag. I wanted a war- time consigliere, but that kind of service costs extra.  On the other hand, find the cheapest lawyer in New York City and you may just have found a waste of money.

8. Study up and it’ll come easily. 

I did a ton of studying online, and surprisingly, by the time the paperwork really started, I had become so familiar with all aspects of the transaction, that I found things easy to organize, mentally and actually.

9. Be patient and let people do their jobs.

I learned my limits and that “tear my hair out” is, and should remain, only an expression. I’ve never experienced a wait as frustrating and as long as it took to finish the appraisal, approval, and finally get a closing date.

I’m not saying it took that long (after the five months leading up to it, it only took two months with all the holidays smack in the middle). I’m saying that’s how I experienced it. At some point, I had to let people do their jobs and trust I had done all I could.

10. Let the Internet be your guide

When it comes to real estate, New Yorkers are savvy and sincere and online. And many of them are real estate brokers. You can Google anything from police blotters to the apartment’s previous owners, from What Does “Pre-War” Mean Anyway, to How to Fix Plaster Walls, to Questions Asked at a Co-op Board Interview. 

Related:

Diary of a First-time Buyer column

How to buy a NYC apartment

What I learned from 150 apartments before I finally bought one

Here are 7 things your lawyer should tell you when you buy a condo or co-op in NYC (Sponsored)

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The Most Outrageously Expensive Apartments For Rent In New York City

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most expensive rentals nyc

Living in New York City can be ridiculously expensive.

While the average New York apartment goes for $3,400 a month, there are some penthouses and townhouses asking staggering amounts rents equal to some New Yorkers' annual salaries, if not more.

We rounded up the most expensive luxury real estate rentals we could find in Manhattan.

For $40,000 a month, rent an East 80th Street townhouse. The five-story home has six bedrooms and seven bathrooms.

Click here to see more photos of the apartment >



For $40,000 a month, rent this furnished townhouse on Grove Street. The four-story home has seven bedrooms and six bathrooms, and a garden off the kitchen,

Click here to see more photos of the apartment >



For $45,000 a month, live in four-bedroom Upper East Side apartment. It's in a historic building that dates back to 1907.

Click here to see more photos of the apartment >



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Tovolo Outdoor Wine Bamboo Table

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This is the Outdoor Wine Bamboo Table by Tovolo.

Why We Love It: On almost every "Dating To-Do List" someone suggests going for a picnic. And while the idea is romantic, what people forget is that bringing wine, wineglasses, and plates to eat with on uneven grass isn't exactly a recipe for success.

But that's where this bamboo wine table comes in. You stake it into the ground so that it will securely hold stemmed wine or champagne glasses, plus it's large enough to hold extras like small desserts, crackers, cheese, and other snacks.

tovolo picnic table

Where To Buy: Available through Amazon.

Cost: $15.31.

Want to nominate a cool product for Stuff We Love? Send an email to Megan Willett at mwillett@businessinsider.com with "Stuff We Love" in the subject line.

See Also: The Sony Personal 3D Viewer

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