Where to Celebrate Your Birthday in Your 30s, and More Reader Questions

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By Nikita Richardson

March is here, which means spring and the gift of later sunsets are just around the corner. I feel downright ebullient. I can’t wait to see the city in bloom, to eat outside and to celebrate the first anniversary of this newsletter. (Can you believe?)

Nearly 12 months in, and you all are still sending me questions that test my knowledge and push me to (happily) explore on your collective behalf. This month, we have a reader looking for a “special-occasion-worthy” spot for their 35th anniversary and another planning a birthday party. I also have a fascinating question about finding a specific kind of Mexican bread.

As always, email me at [email protected]ytimes.com with your questions or advice, and you may see your message featured here.

“Special-Occasion-Worthy” Dining

Our 35th anniversary is coming up on Memorial Day weekend, which is the same weekend as my aunt’s 95th birthday — her party is that Saturday. We are looking for a place to go to dinner on Sunday. We want a place that is special-occasion-worthy: elegant with excellent food. Our budget is high, but not unlimited, nothing more expensive than the Jean-Georges $268 prix fixe. — Larry W.

Talk about a budget ceiling! You’ll have plenty of good options at that price, but I’m not going to lie: I usually find fine dining to be so terribly cold. Crown Shy in the financial district is an exception. (Pete Wells awarded the restaurant two stars in 2019.) The space is lovely and romantic, but more important, every part of the wide-ranging menu is strong, from the appetizers (Gruyère fritters) and entrees to the wine list and the desserts (sticky toffee pudding for two). It’s definitely worthy of a special occasion. I sent a friend there for her one-year-of-dating anniversary a few years back — she ended up marrying the guy.

In Search of Bolillos

I have been searching the city for almost two years for Mexican bolillos. Found a variety of sandwich rolls but haven’t found any place that bakes or sells them. Any suggestions? — Heron M.

When I’m at a loss, I look to more knowledgeable people. And in this case, that person is Natalie Hernandez, the chef and owner of the Mexican restaurant-turned-pop-up Boca Santa. She told me that while bolillos — a type of short baguette — in New York City pale in comparison with those in Texas or Mexico, you can’t go wrong with Tulcingo Bakery in Corona, Queens, which she calls “a proper Mexican bread place.” She has also found quality bolillos at (the completely unrrelated) Tulcingo Deli Grocery, a bodega in Bushwick that sells fresh masa and cheese as well as barbacoa on weekends. It’s a real one-stop shop for superior sandwiches.

One Night of Birthday Shenanigans

I’m hoping to dazzle some friends and family (we’re all in our early to late 30s) with a celebratory, but delicious dinner downtown for my birthday. We’re mostly vegetarian but adventurous, and I’m very into natural wines and inventive cocktail menus. Can you recommend a place large enough to seat a party of eight on a Saturday night that has an interesting atmosphere? Also, some funky lounges or bars around the restaurant to keep the party going and possibly for some light dancing (with snacks)? — Megan R.

I admittedly am semiretired from the party life, so I reached out to our occasional Where to Eat contributor Becky Hughes. She pointed me toward HiLot, an Alphabet City bar with a disco dance vibe that bills itself as “your cool rich uncle’s house.” They take reservations via Tock (how mid-30s is that), though you have to DM on Instagram for larger parties. It’s down the street from Cadence, an excellent vegan restaurant, now in a larger space that has great cocktails and wine plus plush velvet booths. Email the restaurant to book: [email protected]

In Other News …

This week, Pete Wells reviewed Okiboru House of Tsukemen, a new restaurant on the Lower East Side that specializes in brothless ramen and “approximates the speed and efficiency of the Japanese model" of high-speed dining.

Openings: Principe, a new Italian-leaning restaurant from two NoMad alums will open on Thursday in SoHo; another hotel restaurant — the Press Club Grill at the Martinique New York — enters the chat on Monday; and Slutty Vegan arrives in Harlem.

Christina Morales wrote about the rise of more globally minded food toys, including lumpia, tacos and dim sum, that appeal to adults and children alike.

Americans’ love affair with ice-cold drinks goes back more than two centuries. So it only makes sense, Becky Hughes reported, that people are now increasingly obsessed with specialty ice.

Meet the Pasta Puffer, which, as Priya Krisha writes, has become the “it” winter coat.

Did you know that mocha gets its name from the city of Mukha, Yemen, or that romaine does, in fact, refer to Rome? These are just a few examples of food word etymologies that are explained in a new book by the medieval scholar Judith Tschann, Kim Severson reports.

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