New York: Midtown

Hotels, cocktails and tea

Eastern Indulgences

For its first spa in the United States, Japanese cosmetics giant Shiseido decided to go with something very chic and holistic called QIORA CENTER FOR TOTAL BEAUTIFICATION (the name qiora comes from the phonetic link of the Japanese character "ki" and the English word "aura"). With its minimalist product display and three lab-white treatment rooms, this glass-and-steel day spa on Madison Avenue is the perfect embodiment of a pared-down Asian aesthetic wedded to high-tech Western efficiency.

Qiora therapists practice "yoga for the skin." During the two-hour Indulgence session ($160)—a facial, eye mask, footbath, and massage—they perform a highly choreographed routine that involves stretching, deep breathing, and meditation. Ask for the harmonic massage, a Japanese relaxation technique. 535 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022; 212-527-0400;

— Shane Mitchell

Rare Jewels

Makers of cuff links and studs for nearly one hundred years, SEAMAN SCHEPPS creates marvelous and unexpected designs using unusual materials like nerite shells, green onyx, gray button pearls, yellow sapphire, white coral, cabochon rubies, smoky topaz, citrines, brown diamonds, and ebony wood. And that's just for starters.

The firm's signature link is its gold shell design, a model of utter simplicity (from $3,300). Cuff links and studs are handcrafted in 18-karat gold, after which they are signed and numbered. $1,800-$4,000. 485 Park Ave., New York, NY 10022; 212-753-9520.

— G. Bruce Boyer

Fine Haberdashery

A jewel of a shop on the sixth floor of Saks Fifth Avenue, ALAN FLUSSER is the epitome of everything a fine European tailor and haberdasher should be.

Flusser's accessories are one-of-a-kind items selected during his frequent European buying trips. Knowing customers invariably stop in at the beginning of each season, before all the choice pieces are snapped up: English moiré braces ($95), silk-cashmere hand-blocked paisley scarves of gossamer lightness ($395), formal silk hosiery ($55), cashmere neckwear in stripes and solids ($155), and elegant shoes (like the black-tie pump, $700). 611 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10022; 212-888-7100.

— G.B.B.

DB Bistro Moderne

The latest from Daniel Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne turns out modern takes on bistro dishes in an urbane, clubby setting. Despite a sometimes confusing menu and occasional slow-downs in the kitchen, this restaurant promised, after only three weeks of operation, to equal Boulud's other two celebrated outposts, Daniel and Café Boulud.

Most appealing are straightforward entries such as the lusty duck paté; the warm tomato tarte Tatin; a seductive open ravioli with lobster, morels, and peas; and perfectly cooked salmon veneered with a chanterelle crust. Boeuf en gelée—chilled, aspic-set beef in a martini glass along with a dab of foie gras and a gloss of horseradish cream—is inspired, as are desserts like chocolate clafoutis with blueberries and vanilla ice cream and a rum-spiked roasted pineapple. $130. 55 West 44th St., New York, NY 10036; 212-391-2400.

— Mimi Sheraton

OXXFORD TAILORED CLOTHING has been a world standard for more than three quarters of a century—and there is no debate that Oxxford Clothes puts as much craftsmanship into its suits, sports jackets, trousers, and topcoats as any custom tailor. A sublime case in point: gray flannel trousers, handmade from perfect nine-ounce English flannel, lightweight enough for complete comfort, substantial enough for faultless drape ($495). 36 East 57th St., New York, NY 10022; 212-593-0204.

— G.B.B.


Architect David Rockwell seems to be here, there, and everywhere these days, generally creating exciting backdrops for dramatically inventive food. Town, a huge downstairs restaurant in the new Chambers Hotel, is another notch in his belt and one that, perhaps, is handsomer as a whole than in some of the gaudy details. But no matter, for here Geoffrey Zakarian, formerly of 44 and Patroon, shows off his savory inventions to best advantage.

Crunchy quail with foie gras fritters, chilled pea soup flecked with meaty prosciutto, silky tuna carpaccio sparked with ginger tapenade, and a luscious terrine of foie gras with sweet pepper jelly are such tempting starters that I considered having two or three as a meal. But then I would have missed softly braised veal tongue with artichokes and greens; rare chunks of rib eye atop boned, degreased squares of short ribs; roast chicken garnished with crushed parsnips and chanterelles; or ravioli puffed with a filling of veal and mushrooms. In two meals, the only off-note was the soupy, unrealized risotto with snails. Finish with the hot chocolate beignets and frozen café brûlot or the clean, sharp-flavored lemon tart. $100. 15 West 56th St., New York, NY 10019; 212-582-4445.

— M.S.

Abundant Antiques

I doubt that you will ever see as many antiques and decorative arts in one place as at NEWEL ART GALLERIES. An institution, Newel has been in business since 1939, and owner Bruce Newman has catalogued all 20,000 pieces on-line. But don't forgo the actual (admittedly overwhelming) experience of browsing through this wonderland. $ 425 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022; 212-758-1970;

— M.L. Latiolais

Doorman Charm

David Rockwell's theatrical design at the CHAMBERS HOTEL is pretty showy, the contemporary art impressive, and room service from Town restaurant a treat. However, the most memorable part of a stay here is being looked after by T.J., the sweet-natured seven-foot-tall doorman, who has a small-town friendliness and the willingness—not to mention the ability—to meet your every need. Rooms, $325- $2,000. 15 West 56th St., New York, NY 10019; 212-974-5656;

— Laurie Werner


In Finnish, Ilo, which rhymes with willow, means a place of joy. It's also a tip-off that chef Rick Laakkonen's roots are in that Nordic land. Practically in the lobby of the Bryant Park Hotel, the dining room is smartly contemporary and contemporarily noisy. Sit in a side alcove, however, and you can hold a conversation.

If Laakkonen's chicken soup were the only dish offered, Ilo would still rate a visit. This extraordinary broth is heady with dill and adrift with tiny bacon-bread dumplings (speckknödel). Braised guinea hen with cauliflower, kohlrabi, and spring onions in a natural jus is soul-warmingly soft and flavorful, as are the leg and loin of rabbit beside cannelloni that is plumped with wilted dandelion greens and sheep's milk ricotta.

From an intriguing array of cheese I tried a seductive English Stinking Bishop (like an Alsatian Muenster) and a buttery sharp cheddar from Scotland's Isle of Mull. All that and a citrus dessert—orange cake, lemon bar, lime parfait. $130. 40 West 40th St., New York, NY 10018; 212-642-2256.

— M.S.

Royal Suite

The decor of suite 5319 at the NEW YORK PALACE HOTEL isn't for everyone. It's Deco steamship, with an oversized, high-backed maroon velour couch, vivid red-and-blue velour chairs, and towering lighting fixtures meant to suggest the smokestacks on the French liner Normandie. Still, there's an element of fun fantasy to it.

The sheer space of this suite—5,000 square feet on three levels, with an 18-foot ceiling and grand windows in the main living room—lends unmistakable drama. There is also a 1,100-square-foot terrace that can be reached by private elevator, with views of spectacular city vistas. Mind you, the terrace would look better without the AstroTurf and with nicer furniture. But even so, the overall effect is pure glamour. $10,000. 455 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022; 800-697-2522, 212-888-7000;

— L.W.

Hidden Bubbly

Flanked by tourist magnets like the Carnegie Deli and David Letterman's studio, FLUTE remains a quiet, romantic oasis. "Very word of mouth" is how owner Hervé Rousseau describes his Champagne bar. A former speakeasy from the twenties, it attracts mostly media executives who rendezvous on the velvet couches for a splash of Perrier-Jouët and perhaps a little something from Petrossian. Flûte serves 150 varieties of bubbly, 20 by the glass (from $9). 205 West 54th St., New York, NY 10019; 212-265-5169;

— Lauren B. Weisberger

The Greenhouse Spa

Pedicure specialist Colleen Carson attends to feet at this outpost of the famous Dallas spa on East 57th Street. You'll fall head over heels for her vigorous Sport Pedicure ($50). Afterwards, be sure to ask her to top it off with the new Natura Bissé glycolic foot treatment from Barcelona ($15).

Then tiptoe down the hall for the spa's gentle Floral Facial ($125), with rosewater-based creams and heavenly fresh rose petal mask. 127 East 57th St., New York, NY 10022; 212-644-4449.

— S.M.

All About Shoes

The Frenchman MICHEL PERRY and his eponymous store, known for "feminine meets rock-'n'-roll" footwear, has landed stateside. His hot-pink jewel box of a store, more reminiscent of a boudoir than a shoe salon, is definitely in sync with his sexy shoes and boots. A colorful selection of signature pointed-toe ankle boots, kitten-heeled mules, and skinny stilettos will thrill. The mid-calf boot of woven black and white leather, has a heel that is just the right height and a toe with a comfortable point ($1,115). Several styles of classic pumps are available. $385-$1,115. 320 Park Ave., New York, NY 10022; 212-688-4968.

Other great shoe shops to consider include: Christian Louboutin (212-396-1884) for the highest of heels in the most exotic skins; Jimmy Choo (212-593-0800) for party shoes; Sigerson Morrison (212-219-3893) for a sophisticated, modern look; Nancy Geist (212-925-7192) for original cutting-edge designs; Kerquelen (212-431-1771) for shoes from Spain, Italy, and Germany; Nahbee (646-613-0860) for unusual styles by top designers; Geraldine (212-219-1620) for unique designs.

— Marina Luri


It is wonderfully reassuring to be in an architecturally distinguished space like Virot, part of the handsomely redone Dylan Hotel, formerly the Chemists' Club.

The superb moderne cuisine of chef Didier Virot, formerly of JoJo and Jean Georges, recalls classic flavors. There is roseate raw tuna brightened with sheep's milk yogurt and cucumbers and a dish of cannelloni with mussels in a celery root-wine broth. Cumin-scented couscous underlines spiced lamb; squab is roasted to proper rare moistness and its oatmeal porcini pancake is good enough to stand alone.

Pastry chef Jehangir Mehta shows equal skill with desserts such as a shelled chocolate cake, a warm hazelnut soufflé, and an odd but instantly appealing salty caramel tapioca tart with citrus ice cream and mango. Three-course prix fixe, $100 for two. 52 East 41st St., New York, NY 10017; 646-658-0266.

— M.S.

Artful Objets

Barbara Munves and Julie Sogg Seymour, her daughter, believe that the right antique makes the perfect gift—at whatever price, no matter how rare. In the business for 34 years, JAMES II GALLERIES specializes in one-of-a-kind objects ranging from small to large. Gifts are packed with a description of provenance (a Nailsea Glass bell, we learn, was made in England ca. 1830) and enclosed in the firm's signature maroon box tied with a silk cord.

Their two-story shop is filled with mostly 19th-century English porcelain, glass, and jewelry. 11 East 57th St., New York, NY 10022; 212-355-7040;

— M.L.L.

Hunting Style

In the top rank of international gunmakers since 1835, HOLLAND & HOLLAND of Britain inevitably became experts in wardrobes for hunting on moor, mountain, and veld. Not only does the firm carry wonderful cartridge and gun cases, but also wide-brimmed safari hats, cotton twill jackets with lots of pockets, shooting capes, stout hunting boots, hand-knitted woolen hose, cotton-wool tattersall country shirts, field parkas, tweed caps, and so on.

The store in Manhattan is beautifully done—bleached wood, potted palms, open staircases, and skylit atrium. Here, just as in London, it is possible to order a bespoke shooting suit ($2,500) with bellows back (for ease of movement when swinging the gun), throat tab (against the chill of the morning), and deep, reinforced pockets. Trousers may be ordered, but the suit's usual accompaniment is breeches, with a buckle-and-tab knee closure. 50 East 57th St., New York, NY 10022; 212-752-7755.

— G.B.B.

Straight Up With An Olive

It's possible to commute from Grand Central Station every day and never discover THE CAMPBELL APARTMENT—and how unfortunate that would be. The refurbished office of tycoon John Campbell, who presided over this soaring wood-paneled space from the 1920s to the 1940s, was opened as a cocktail lounge in 1999. What a treasure it is.

Over a checkered-top mahogany bar, bartenders tell of the apartment's storied past and mix drinks to the swing and jazz-era music. By the light of fringed lamps and stained-glass windows, waitresses in red velvet cocktail dresses serve martinis and old-fashioneds. Go after eight p.m., when the rush-hour crowd has left for points elsewhere. 15 Vanderbilt Ave., New York, NY 10017; 212-953-0409.

— L.B.W.

Tapas At Solera

Tucked into a side street near Sutton Place, Solera is the kind of restaurant you might pass on the way to some newer, splashier venue. But you'll be missing the most expertly prepared tapas in town.

From tortillas to baby eel, each plate is magnificent on its own or in combination with others. Your appetite will run out before the selection does. Tapas, $7-$16. 216 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022; 212-644-1166.

— Melissa Clark

Sartorial Gents

When Reginald Turnbull and Ernest Asser first opened their shop, TURNBULL & ASSER, in the St. James's area of London in 1885, they were just one of a number of gentlemen's suppliers. Today they are the most venerable name in English shirtmaking, with a list of celebrated customers. As one of their ads noted, "Most people knew Winston Churchill as a great statesman. We knew him as a size 46."

Turnbull & Asser's New York shop is a mirror of the one in London. And while it is best known for its boldly striped town shirts, the formal shirt is perfection: 200-thread-count Egyptian cotton with pleated bosom, French cuffs, and either turndown or wing collar ($375). 42 East 57th St., New York, NY 10022; 212-752-5700.

— G.B.B.

Personal Shopper

"I am your friend in New York," explains MARINA CRISPO. As former general manager of both Barneys and Gucci and managing director of Hermès, Crispo has impeccable fashion connections, so she can find the perfect Chanel evening gown or Norma Kamali swimsuit on short notice—very short notice.

But for the high-spirited, Italian-born Crispo, personal shopping is only one small part of the job. She has also found apartments and plastic surgeons, arranged for private art-gallery tours, and bought last-minute Christmas presents. She is, however, very up-front about not being able to get tickets to The Producers—she leaves that to the concierges at the city's better hotels. Crispo's fee is about $125 an hour; 212-472-4788.

— L.W.

MAKEUP ARTIST MARIA VEREL works with the kind of celebrity who insists on Secret Service checks before submitting to eyeliner (Hillary Clinton, Queen Noor, Sarah Ferguson). Men get equal grooming: Robert DeNiro, Hugh Grant, and Michael Douglas are steady clients. Even if you shun publicity like the plague, it's worth booking Verel for a private house or hotel call before you go out on the town. She can design a new look, prep you for a big event, or teach you professional beauty tricks. None of this comes cheap: Verel's tab is $850 per hour. $ 917-270-2358.

— S.M.

Antique Linens

One of the most extraordinary collections of antique linens in the world belongs to FRANÇOISE NUNNALLE. Imagine sumptuous sheets, pillowcases, and table linens fit for royalty, and you'll begin to get the picture. On hand are many collections from the homes of Astors, Whitneys, Vanderbilts, Morgans, Dolly Madison, and Czar Alexander III.

Nunnalle's specialty is her line of meticulously made pillows from vintage Fortuny fabrics, specifically those dyed by Mariano Fortuny himself in the early part of the century. Understandable then that Nunnalle considers her selections works of art (she was originally a dealer in 19th-century still lifes and landscapes). She uses the finest silk faille and period trim (always in gold, silver, and pewter metallics), tassels, and silk threads. Nunnalle has an encyclopedic knowledge of not only Fortuny but of all vintage and antique textiles—silk damasks and brocades, cut velvets, embroidery, glazed chintzes, laces, and linens. Fortuny pillows cost $1,500-$2,500; linens go for $400-$12,000. $ By appointment only: 212-246-4281.

— M.L.L.


Chef Mario Batali and restaurateur Joe Bastianich, the same wonderful team that brought us Babbo and Lupa, are responsible for Esca, with the skillful David Pasternack as resident chef and partner. Esca—Italian for "bait"—lures in fans with an oceanful of sparkling fresh seafood, enhanced by delicate sauces and seasonings. In a bright, casual setting designed by Lisa Eaton, seating is comfortable though noise level is not. The main problem is choice: whether to begin with one of the inspired marinated raw offerings such as striped bass with Gaeta aioli or diver scallops with tangerine oil, or to sample cooked delights such as the lightly fried mozzarella in carrozza, the grilled baby octopus, or the sea-bright zuppa di pesce.

Among the best pastas are shrimp-and-sorrel-filled ravioli with leek-nettle butter and spaghetti with lobster. The only disappointments have been the underseasoned linguine with clams and the colorful but tasteless vegetables. Roasted branzino encrusted with salt arrives at the table pearly and moist, and breadcrumbs add crunch to snowy baked hake. The mountainous fritto misto of seafood is a glorious meal for two, if not three. Esca has grilled baby chicken for fishophobes and restorative desserts such as golden pineapple with frozen lime curd and caramel gelato with walnut cracklings and a dousing of espresso. $100. 402 West 43rd St., New York, NY 10036; 212-564-7272.

— M.S.

Suite Fantastique

Some of the best things about the ST. REGIS HOTEL are already familiar—the sublime restaurant Lespinasse and the Maxfield Parrish murals in the King Cole Bar and Lounge, to begin with. But this one is hidden: suite 1503, the Orient Suite, a pure flight of fancy in an otherwise staid hotel.

Think designer pyrotechnics with an Asian motif and vivid colors. Sleeping on the red-and-gold lacquered bedroom furniture or lounging on couches done up in tiger stripes make overnight in New York seem très exotic. But the jade-green living room and restorative views of Central Park are the perfect antidote. $3,700. 2 East 55th St., New York, NY 10022; 800-759-7550, 212-753-4500;

— L.W.

Color Me Kyle

On the mezzanine level of the Plaza Hotel, the bright, low-key OSCAR BLANDI SALON attracts a cult following. Mostly they come for world-class colorist Kyle White. "I think of color as hair-painting, as art," says Kyle (first name only), whose regular clients include Julianna Margulies, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Mariah Carey. He takes only seconds to examine your hair texture, skin tone, and eye color before proposing a solution. Treatments, $90-$300. 768 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10019; 212-593-7930;

— L.B.W.

Buffer Zone

The BUFF SPA nail salon at Bergdorf Goodman will close to the public when you invite ten or more friends for a manicure-pedicure party ($120 per person). Sip Champagne or have a cup of tea as the staff passes treats from caterer Alexandra Payard, whose husband creates the city's most exquisite pastries (see "Master Pieces" in this month's Worldly Goods). Or recondition shopworn feet during a relaxing half-hour "buffFlexology" session ($50) with toe pro Clive Rousseau.

On Saturday afternoons, eyebrow specialist Angela Marinescu, on loan from the John Barrett salon upstairs, offers tweezer-only shaping ($45). The Beauty Level stays ahead of global beauty trends—you can snap up the latest products from London's hip apothecary Space NK, as well as personalized Lab21 skincare goods and cosmetics from runway makeup artist Linda Cantello. 754 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10019; 212-872-8624;

— S.M.

For Your Skin Only

Never in a million years would you guess the clientele that flocks to this unassuming skincare salon. The entrance to this East Side apartment building is better suited to a dental office. But that doesn't faze loyalists like Charlize Theron, Martha Stewart, and Sarah Jessica Parker. They come to MARIO BADESCU SKIN CARE for the classic deep-cleansing European facial ($65), a four-step process that includes unclogging pores by extraction. The ensuing massage, preservative-free creams, and masks make you forget the torture.

The company, founded by Romanian-born chemist Badescu, uses fruit and botanicals in its gingko mask, honey moisturizer, strawberry face scrub, and chamomile eye cream. Spa therapies include a Dead Sea salt scrub ($95), an herbal seaweed wrap ($105), and a Swedish massage ($70). 320 East 52nd St., New York, NY 10022; 212-758-1065;

— S.M.

Barber Deluxe

"Men get hooked on our shaves," says Jordan Covell of THE ART OF SHAVING. There's a traditional shave ($25), and then there's the Royal shave ($45)—light massage, hot-towel treatment, clay mask, and aromatherapy. This old-fashioned yet state-of-the-art barber shop is serious about pampering.

Also on tap are haircuts ($30), skin treatment ($20), beard-and-mustache trims ($15), and the increasingly popular head-and-face shave ($45). This is also the place to buy all your grooming paraphernalia, from the sterling silver compact shaving set ($1,600) to badger-hair shaving brushes ($50-$700), horn-handled straight razors ($215), and manicure sets ($95-$360). The firm also has its own line of pre-shave oils, shave creams, aftershave balms, and shaving soaps (in unscented, lavender, lemon, and sandalwood). Stop by for a free consultation on skincare, shaving techniques, and grooming products. 373 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10017; 212-986-2905.

— G.B.B.

The Burger At Patroon's

Sometimes the most comforting culinary experience is one we partake of alone—its purpose is to feed the soul as well as the body.

Ordering a hamburger at the bar at Patroon is one of those experiences. It's not just that the charred burger is meaty and juicy or that the onion rings (skip the fries) are every bit as crisp and salty as potato chips. It's that there is no greater sense of contentment than nestling into the wood-paneled, railroad-car intimacy of the bar. 160 East 46th St., New York, NY 10017; 212-883-7373.

— M.C.

All the Trimmings

Just about everyone is familiar with M&J Trimmings in the Garment District, a beloved Manhattan institution for over half a century (and around the corner from Hyman Hendler & Sons, the ultimate source of splendid ribbons). Renowned for their passementerie, the Cohen family has a second venue on Third Avenue called M&J DECOR.

The selection includes tassel fringe and tiebacks, bullion and brush fringe, gimps, borders, cords, and virtually anything else needed to accessorize in the way of soft furnishings, draperies, and the like. Interior designers are on staff to assist their varied clientele in both selection and design. While the Third Avenue location is technically to the trade only, you can accompany your designer to the showroom. 983 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022; 212-704-8000.

— M.L.L.

The President Slept Here

There are bigger presidential suites than this 3,500-square-foot complex at THE WALDORF TOWERS , but none can match its history. Every U.S. President stays here when in town (others, from Kruschev to DeGaulle, have resided here as well).

JFK bequeathed one of his rocking chairs, which was kept in a side office. When Bill Clinton was visiting, he would move it to the cream-and-yellow living room, designed and furnished in the style of the White House. After a recent renovation, that's where the chair is now, next to General Douglas MacArthur's desk. $7,000. 100 East 50th St., New York, NY 10022; 800-445-8667, 212-355-3100.

— L.W.


Terrance Brennan, also of the West Side's Picholine, has opened Artisanal, a high, wide, handsome, and noisy bistro-brasserie. Follow your nose to the cheese alcove, there to see, sniff, and select from some 250 varieties. The cheese not only stands alone (it's also expensive for tiny portions), but it appears in the little golden puffs known as gougères that rest atop a burnished onion soup. There are several fondues offered, and although I usually dislike that gooey concoction, the Artisanal blend is an appealing exception.

Delicious non-cheese bistro classics include baked codfish brandade with sweet peppers and a bracing coral fish soup with rouille. Only dry escargots in heavy pastry and bland boudin blanc are lackluster. But rarely have I had better sautéed skate with capers or roasted codfish atop artichokes, olives, and tomato. Riesling-drenched sauerkraut and chewy spaetzle flesh out tender rabbit, and white beans cushion pan-seared, butterflied chicken; slim fries are just right with the juicy hanger steak. Honey-gold tarte Tatin is best shared by at least two after all that cheese. $85. 2 Park Ave., New York, NY 10016; 212-725-8585.

— M.S.

Asian Arts

For more than 15 years, THE CHINESE PORCELAIN COMPANY has been one of the most respected sources for Asian as well as European works of art. The gallery inventory includes Han and Qing dynasty ceramics; Vietnamese pieces dating from the 11th to 15th centuries; Chinese porcelain (like the ca. 1700 jars $55,000 for a pair); Ming Dynasty jade carvings, enamels, and ivories; ancient Khmer sculpture from Cambodia; and stone sculpture from all over Asia. $ 475 Park Ave., New York, NY 10022; 212-838-7744;

— M.L.L.

The Candy Shop On Wheels

The candy cart at ALAIN DUCASSE is a childhood fantasy come true. As it rolls by your table (after you've already had dessert, no less), the cart tempts you with all manner of confections: apricot-Earl Grey caramels, boat-shaped financiers, nougats, miniature almond tarts with lavender-infused honey, citrus-scented lollipops, chocolates galore, divine little madeleines. "Mr. Ducasse has a sweet tooth," we've been told by someone at the restaurant who should know. "He loves filling his pockets with candy, and he encourages his guests to do the same." 155 West 58th St., New York, NY 10019; 212-265-7300.

— M.C.

A-List Aesthetician

Get down on your knees and beg SIMONE FRANCE, a petite French cosmetics aesthetician, to take you on. Then maybe, and only maybe, she'll fit you in 12 months from now. (It helps to bribe a current client for her unlisted number.) France, an industry secret, gets raves from makeup moguls Laura Mercier and François Nars for her simple skin-care regimen of soap, refining scrub, and moisturizer. Soap? Not just any bar, of course. Bergdorf Goodman now carries her product line.

Her mantra: exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate. France works out of a cramped two-room office in an East Side walk-up, but don't be fooled by appearances—it's her technique that counts. Facials, $130. 1 877-746-6633;

— S.M.

Cult Coiffeur

Even if you don't know Michel Aleman, it's easy to spot the diminutive Frenchman. Look for the cluster of apprentices who attend his chair on the rare days when this cult cutter is in residence at FREDERIC FEKKAI BEAUTE DE PROVENCE.

Aleman's technique is flawless, his manner discreet (salon chitchat optional). And even though he excels at shaping short hair, longer locks get star treatment too. While waiting your turn, order a soothing cup of verveine tea and book a L'Express sea-salt pedicure ($60-$70), Le Peel facial ($65), or Beauté de Provence mud therapy ($45-$65). Haircut, $80-$135. 15 East 57th St., New York, NY 10022; 212-753-9500.

— S.M.

Taking Tea

If the idea of afternoon tea only calls to mind tiered silver trays filled with crustless cucumber sandwiches, take tea at FAUCHON, the first American outpost of the venerable Paris institution. Petit beurre cookies, Provençal fig compote, and foie gras are served along with bonbons, macarons, cakes, and, of course, hot chocolate. With all that, you might just forget the tea. Afternoon tea, $30. 442 Park Ave., New York, NY 10022; 212-308-5919.

— M.C.


As autumn days grow dark and cold, consider the earthy cooking of the French Gascogne, with its prunes and Armagnac, duck and goose foies gras, cassoulets, and thick meat-and-vegetable soup, garbure. Then satisfy such longings at D'Artagnan Restaurant and Rotisserie, where Ariane Daguin, a supplier of Gascony provender to some of our best restaurants, is loyal to the traditions of her homeland.

The busy take-out counter on the street level barely hints at the campy opulence of the upstairs dining room, with its posters of The Three Musketeers, huge old furniture, costumed waiters, and plushy red-and-gold chairs. It's the right setting for such dishes as the assiette that includes French kisses (Armagnac-soaked prunes filled with foie gras), Gascon sushi (foie gras rolled in duck prosciutto), and the mellow terrine. A foie gras "burger" nestles cozily in yeasty brioche. The rotisserie turns out delectably rare leg of lamb, magret of duck breast, quail, and baby chicken. If you down a Trou Gascon, a stomach-opening shot of white Armagnac, you might manage the aromatic rice pudding or the puffy apple croustade. $80. 152 East 46th St., New York, NY 10017; 212-687-0300.

— M.S.

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