Girls' Night Out

Consider some of these fun options when planning the next get-together with the girls.

by Mary Beth Schwartz

After a fun yet challenging week with my one-year-old and three-year-old sons, I look forward to quality time catching up with my closest girlfriends. We don’t get together as often as we’d like with our busy schedules—so when we do, we plan try to plan something special. No more lunches for us, when businesses in the Lehigh Valley offer shopping nights, culinary classes, and even popular wine-inspired events.

Shopping is part of every girl’s vocabulary. Owner Audrey Rehnert of Easton’s All About Accessories offers a fun, fashionable, and affordable way to purchase accessories. Costume jewelry, handbags and wallets, scarves and pashminas, umbrellas, hair accessories, belts, hats, gloves, sunglasses, watches, and more await eager shoppers. Popular feather earrings, hair clips, necklaces, and rings also are available. If a group of women would like to schedule a shopping event, Rehnert will host the event at the store and provide refreshments. She has held shopping events for such groups as the Red Hat Society, as well as for business professionals. There will be a special shopping event for mothers and daughters to celebrate Mother’s Day.

At BOUTIQUETOGO in Allentown, women will love finding all of the season’s must-have jewelry, bags, scarves, apparel, real and faux fur, outerwear, gloves, and gifts. This upscale boutique offers the latest merchandise from premier American fashion designers. Owner Elena Pascal hosts trunk shows of exclusive designers several times each year. These shows are all-day events that showcase upcoming merchandise and light refreshments are available. Every Wednesday there is wine tasting from 3 to 5 p.m., and Pascal offers store specials and serves red and white wines along with cheese. And if the ladies want a private shopping party, Pascal simply needs two weeks’ notice. The party will take place after the store closes for 2-2 ½ hours andthe evening of shopping is eligible for a group discount.

Nestled in Nazareth is the home décor and gift store Missing Piece. Owners Karen and Rick Sampson’s business features two floors of American-made fine handcrafted furniture, Vera Bradley handbags, Byers’ Choice figurines, Chamilia beads, SwitchFlops, candles, lighting, curtains, rugs, jewelry, scarves, hats, glassware, and items that are just plain fun. Accordingly, Karen Sampson enjoys hosting fun events for the ladies year-round. There is the summer party shopping experience, the pajama party experience, a special Mother’s Day event, and a Valentine’s Day Sweetheart event. The fun-filled events include light refreshments, music, raffles and gifts, store discounts, games, even complimentary beauty treatments. The Sampsons also offer personal shopping nights. Scheduled in two-hour increments, these in-store parties are just for a hostess and her guests. Snacks, refreshments, and two food items are served to the party. When the hostess reaches a minimum of $250 (excluding tax), she receives hostess rewards All guests receive a small gift as a token of appreciation for attending.

Shopping and much more awaits at The Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, which opened last fall. The Shoppes at Sands includes luxury brand outlet shops just steps from the casino floor. Experienced shoppers will recognize such names as Nine West, DKNY, Guess, Lenox and Talbots, as well as Ultra Diamonds, Spritz Designer Fragrances, Old Farmer’s Almanac General Store, and Hartmann Luggage. (At press time, both Coach and Corning were scheduled to be open, also.)After some shopping, casino guests can watch free nightly live entertainment, enjoy gambling, or dine at the food court or one of three restaurants by Chef Emeril Lagasse. If the girls want to stay overnight, the hotel features executive and presidential suites complete with a complimentary continental breakfast.

Another fun option for the girls is taking a culinary class. Donna Rossini of Chef Works Personal Chef Service & Catering offers cooking classes in her kitchen or your own. A three-hour evening session runs $65. There are several themes to choose from: four-course Gourmet Tuscan, three-course Succulent Seafood, French Fruit Desserts, Vegetarian Cooking, or Christmas Cookies, including decorating cut-outs with Royal icing. Advance booking is required.

Elisabeth (Babette) Nicolas of La Cuisine de Babette teaches French cooking classes in her home. The three-hour session, “The Essence of French Cooking,” teaches how to prepare an entire French menu. At the end of the session, time is saved to taste the Chef’s version of the recipes. With the two-hour lesson Special Healthy Meals, students learn to eat well with fresh products and not spend all day in the kitchen. One-hour Express Cooking teaches how to cook meals that are easy and delicious. All of the classes are limited to four students and held on Saturdays. Advance booking is strongly recommended.

What goes better with food than wine? According to Chairman Percy Dougherty of the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the American Wine Society, the group has monthly BYOB meetings at local restaurants and takes wine-related field trips. Membership is open to the neophyte through expert wine taster. The wine education group enjoys tasting, judging, and discussing wines.

Wine lovers also enjoy visiting wineries. The Lehigh Valley Wine Trail is home to award-winning, family-owned and operated wineries: Amoré Vineyards & Winery, Big Creek Vineyard and Winery, Blue Mountain Vineyards, Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery, Franklin Hills Vineyards, Galen Glen Vineyard & Winery, Pinnacle Ridge, and Vynecrest Winery. Events take place year-round. Weekends in March, March Madness passport holders have access to different wine and food pairings at each of the wineries. May 19 and 20 is the Wine in Bloom event, where visitors can see the bud breaks on the vines.

Quarterly wine dinners and tastings are on the menu at Sagra Bistro & Catering in Hellertown. Chefs Jim Zebert and Robyn Cavallaro present a fusion of food to meet any palate in a laid-back environment. The menu is constantly changing, so there is always something fresh and new to try. Tuesday Night is their Filet Mignon Special for $15. Birthday Club members receive a complimentary giant cupcake with their meal. According to Cavallaro, it weighs three or four pounds, and it gets lit with a blowtorch.

Upstairs at Sagra Bistro features Second Saturday Live Entertainment. Past shows have included murder mystery dinner shows, comedy shows, live bands, and impersonators. 2012 impersonators include Neil Diamond, Joan Rivers, Elton John, and Rod Stewart. Valentine’s Weekend includes Broadway show tunes with Maria Dunsmore. Their Annual Wine and Meatball Festival is scheduled for April 15.

The upscale casual Vintage Restaurant in Easton features cuisine prepared by executive chef/owner Mike Pichetto and wine expertise from Sommelier Rebecca Pichetto. Wine connoisseurs can host wine dinners in the restaurant’s private dining room. Rebecca Pichetto also can offer wine advice for off-site wine dinners. “A client may have a dinner party with a special selection from their wine cellar. We plan the menu around the wine. For a tasting party, wine is presented at each course. We start with the lightest white and progress to the heaviest red and conclude with a dessert wine. The tasting party should have a theme. For example, if the theme is Australian wines, each guest brings a wine from the country, along with its description. The guests can sample the wines at a wine station,” Pichetto says. Along with wine dinners, Vintage offers less formal events, including Happy Hour, live music every Wednesday evening, and a Sunday Brunch Buffet.

Rustic Italian Sette Luna of Easton features a true wine cellar in its basement, according to Sommelier and Beverage Director Elizabeth Carlson. “We store our reserve wines in the cellar. There is a big rustic handmade table that seats up to 12 guests. We can create a menu and suggest wine pairings. During the pairing dinner, I comment on the wines,” Carlson says. The Moon Room is another room available for private parties. Adjacent to the bar, it can accommodate a 50-person stand-up cocktail party or 35 seated. Sette Luna also hosts live music on weekends.

Carlson offers some tips on hosting a wine dinner at home. “Get a beverage to guests when they first enter the party. Have choices for them to choose from. Their glasses should always be full. And remember, you do not have to break the bank.”

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