I’ve known Nora Zelevansky for years as a fellow lifestyle journalist, then as a friend. As such, I felt a slew of emotions upon hearing about her debut novel—excited (she seemed to write it in a snap!), jealous (like virtually every other journalist in the world, I would like to …
I’ve known Nora Zelevansky for years as a fellow lifestyle journalist, then as a friend. As such, I felt a slew of emotions upon hearing about her debut novel—excited (she seemed to write it in a snap!), jealous (like virtually every other journalist in the world, I would like to write a novel, too), and when it was completed, a tad trepidatious (as is the case when reading a friend’s work, you want the best). Luckily, in regards to the latter emotion, I needn’t have worried. Semi-Charmed Life is just as quirky, smartly written, sweet, and energetic as its author. In it, you meet Beatrice Bernstein—an Upper West Side girl, struggling as the pop culture-loving black sheep in an artistically gifted family—who gets swooped up into the glamorous vortex of a socialite’s world to ghost write her blog. Love, humor, food, shopping, globetrotting, and major twists and turns ensue. With Beatrice in mind, we mined Nora’s encyclopedic knowledge of where to shop, eat, and go in LA (where she lived for 15 years) and NYC (where she grew up on the Upper West Side, and now lives in Brooklyn).
Favorite writing haunt.
LA: Sadly, I don’t leave my house much to write, but I do have favorite spots inside. My light and airy office overlooking tree-lined Blackburn with the breeze streaming in through the window.
NYC: My Room & Board couch in my living room from which I can also see out the window to the trees and brownstones across the way. (Such a bad habit to sit on the couch!) I guess I need to be near windows—maybe that’s why Beatrice is always looking out them longingly.
Most frequented restaurant.
LA: Mishima for the California Soba Salad with fresh avocado, cucumber, crab and masago and the Shrimp Tempura Roll in soybean paper. But also Earth Bar for the Radiant Skin, Mayan Cacao or Amazon Immunity Smoothies. I crave those constantly!
NYC: City Sub on Bergen in Park Slope for a turkey sandwich on their delicious sesame seeded rolls with lettuce, pickles and roasted red peppers and a Dr. Brown’s Diet Cream Soda and black and white cookie from Bergen Bagels up the street. I also obsessively eat vegan desserts from ‘Snice on my corner because I’m sadly lactose intolerant.
Less frequented, but beloved restaurant.
LA: Leaving LA, I wasn’t sure what I’d miss the most,. I kind of thought it would be Mexican food because that’s such a strong suit on the West Coast. But instead I miss Asanebo (in the Valley for sushi!) and sitting in the back at Eveleigh with a muddled cocktail. I also dream about Din Tai Fung‘s soup dumplings and their string beans, which are like my version of crack.
NYC: In Brooklyn, it’s all about farm-to-table artisanal versions of everything. I don’t need to see another brussel sprout for awhile, but I’m obsessed with Franny’s for pizza and sides like sunchokes with pickled currants and Frankies 457 for Italian food, but also newbie restaurant Talde for Pretzel Dumplings and Fried Oyster & Bacon Pad Thai. I mean, c’mon! In Manhattan, I have been a longtime fan of Hasaki on 9th Street too and of course Momofuku Noodle Bar.
This is where I buy many of my clothes.
LA: I go to Barneys. I’ve tried to fall for boutiques instead and, of course, living on 3rd Street I frequented great spots like Satine, Milk and Opening Ceremony (which I do like better in LA), but I am just a Barneys girl at heart. It’s a perfect store! And I actually think the LA store is better than the NYC version here, too. That’s why you’ve got to be bi-coastal (dare to dream)!
NYC: I love Poppy and Coclico in Nolita, Steven Alan wherever (but especially on Atlantic Ave), Eponymy and Bird in Park Slope, Dear Fieldbinder in Cobble Hill and I love me a Scoop and Barneys Coop store anywhere. I also find myself at Rebecca Taylor all the time.
In LA, I live in Vince sweaters, James Perse and Cotton Citizen t-shirts, 7 For All Mankind and J Brand Jeans, random little frocks from lines like Mint and Theory and Leigh & Luca scarves.
And this is where I dream of filling my closet.
All the places I listed above, but without waiting for sales and without discretion! I think about it all the time: What if I could shop with abandon?
LA: I’m an accessories junkie (again like Beatrice?), so I guess I dream of walking into Rag & Bone and buying all the shoes and I want, walking into Rebecca Minkoff and buying all the shoes and bags I want, and then heading to wherever (maybe Heist in Venice!) to buy Isabel Marant boots and bags by husband Jerome Dreyfus. I’d also buy out Dream Collective and snag some “fine” rings from Suzanne Felsen on Melrose. She manages to use semi-precious bright stones without making them look new agey.
NYC: I’d love to shop Bergdorfs with abandon. I wouldn’t mind a stop somewhere classic like Tiffany’s for some jewelry (as long as I’m on the Upper East already). Downtown I’d hit Phillip Lim and Helmut Lang. But also, as much as I love places like Bird, most of the time I need to cherry pick in a major way. I’d love to go in and grab whatever I want … and I’d like to do that at Butter on Atlantic, too. And, despite what I may have said about the NYC Barneys, I would hit that street level accessories floor hard.
I’ve traveled to…
LA: As a travel writer (in part!), I was lucky enough to visit many North, Central and South American spots: Vancouver, Oaxaca, Mexico City, Sayulita, Cabo, Rio, all over Costa Rica, Ecuadorian highlands and Quito, and even to The Galapagos. I also got to visit Bora Bora in French Polynesia and Bangkok, Thailand. That was amazing because, growing up on the East Coast, we mostly headed east to Europe. Actually, in the book, Beatrice goes to Europe and South America—living the dream.
NYC: I spend weeks of the summer on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay (eating blue crabs with Old Bay seasoning!) and also spend the occasional weekend in The Hamptons. I travel to the British Virgin Islands and to other areas of the Caribbean, too. It’s so close and the ocean is so turquoise and warm! In fall, I’ll head to Morocco and I am beyond excited. But lately I’ve been on book tour, so I’ve just been traveling around the country!
But I must go…
LA: I never went to Hawaii. I know, I know. I was so close. I also miss areas of California itself like Big Sur and Sonoma, and I will need to go back! I’m dying to explore Vietnam and more of Thailand, too.
NYC: I really want to explore the Hudson Valley, which is supposed to be unbelievably beautiful. I’m also chomping at the bit to revisit London and also all different parts of Italy, including Tuscany where this new property built around the remains of a 10th century castle, Castello di Casole. There’s also a new Aman property opening in Greece that sounds incredible!
When I need to clear my head, this is where you’ll find me:
LA: Hiking Runyon or just wandering/jogging my old residential 3rd Street hood with earbuds in.
NYC:In Prospect Park or walking 6th Avenue in Park Slope (which is beautiful and residential), or to Carroll Gardens (the old Italian neighborhood) or, in Manhattan, in Nolita, LES or the West Village, or through Central Park.
Best place for pampering and beautification:
LA: Kate Somerville, where facialist Lili Mineni is especially genius. But for a more pampering massage, I think maybe The Four Seasons Beverly Hills. The spa itself is not super opulent, but I always have a good experience there. I think they take training their therapists very seriously.
NYC: Element Natural Healing Arts in Carroll Gardens, where Jane Hansen is an incredible masseuse and acupuncturist. For a facial or super upscale experience, I’d either head to La Prairie’s spa at the Ritz on Central Park South (so amazing and worth a splurge!) or to Trump SoHo (where they do Kate Somerville facials). Or, if I need serious help with my skin, I’d head to Dangene (another LA transplant!) at The Institute of Skinovation.
Where your love of art and culture can be amply cultivated:
LA: I am a lover of Little Tokyo because you can wander the Geffen Contemporary and The Japanese American National Museum (despite current MOCA drama) and then grab an early sushi dinner at Hama. Or you’re also just a hop, skip and jump to all the Chung King Road galleries in Chinatown (and Yang Chow for dinner!).
NYC: I love The Met. It’s one of my favorite places on earth and is actually featured prominently in Semi-Charmed Life. I could wander there for hours and, if they had nicer restrooms, it might actually be a perfect experience. (NYC has willfully disgusting bathrooms; it’s like some twisted badge of honor.) Heading there and then to The Whitney afterwards is ideal. But NYC’s art world is the one in which I grew up, so of course I also have an everlasting fondness for MoMA, where my mother was a curator when I was a child and where I would get to wander through empty galleries on days when the museum was closed!