2 Jews, An Italian, and A Food Festival

As a New Yorker, I spend a lot of time celebrating other people’s cultures through the city’s vibrant restaurant scene, but Sunday was all about the traditional foods of my fellow chosen ones. Thanks to The Workmen’s Circle “Taste of Jewish Culture” event, I ate  latkes, pickles, corn beef, falafel, chopped liver, and most importantly, the three B’s: Babka, Borscht, and Brisket. And I was lucky enough to be joined by my good friends Pamela and Michael.

Walking through the various stands brought back so many memories… Helping my grandma make rugelach when I was too little to reach the counter, Shabbat dinner centered around my mom’s secret brisket recipe (Heinz Ketchup and Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix), and the annual Hanukkah party I threw at my old apartment in Harlem. I am so proud of my heritage, and without getting too political, now feels like an important time to honor it. It was also nice to share this experience with Michael, who was eating some of these foods for the first time, and creating new memories of his own.

Big thanks go out to all the musicians, volunteers, and chefs who made this amazing event possible. My restaurant to do list just got a whole lot longer. Below are some snapshots from the festival, and links to my favorite vendors.

*Breads Bakery – 18 E. 16th Street

*Mile End – 53 Bond Street / 97A Hoyt Street (Brooklyn)

*Shelsky’s – 141 Court Street (Brooklyn)

*Peck’s Homemade – 455A Myrtle Ave (Brooklyn)

*Kossar’s Bialys – 367 Grand Street

*The Pickle Guys – 49 Essex Street

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Meet Me In…

Vacation #2 of the summer found me in Montauk, surrounded by amazing beaches, super fresh seafood, and the constant temptation to quote  “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. Here’s the low down on where to stay and what to eat in Montauk, along with some snapshots from my trip.

LODGING: Windward Shores

EATS: Goldberg’s Bagel, Lunch aka The Lobster Roll, Clam Bar, Surfside Inn, Gosman’s, John’s Drive-In

WARDROBE: All bathing suits, all the time… Except for lobster bibs with maxi dresses at dinner

Summer Lovin’

Hey there, fellow conquerors! Here are some things that will surely spice up your summer. They’re already doing a number on mine.

TO EAT:

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BLACKSEED BAGELS

170 ELIZABETH STREET

TO DRINK:

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DEL’S SHANDY / ALLAGASH GINGER

GET THE SHANDY AT PROFESSOR THOM’S AND THE GINGER AT HARLEM PUBLIC

TO READ:

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LUCKY PEACH MAGAZINE

TO SEE:

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“CHEF” THE FILM

TO WATCH:

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“SILICON VALLEY” ON HBO

TO WEAR:

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DRESS AVAILABLE AT ANN TAYLOR LOFT

TO LISTEN:

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THE BLACK KEYS “TURN BLUE” / YOUNG THE GIANT “MIND OVER MATTER”

Where to go for Carbs and Cheese in NYC

Aside from this random heatwave, it’s been the most rainy and gray summer ever. Therefore, a little carb and cheese action is in order. Here are my go to spots in NYC for the day-brightening diet downfalls.

Beechers – 900 Broadway bt 19th & 20th

Seattle is home to many of my favorite things– The EMP Museum, Nirvana, Starbucks, my parents. Therefore,  I’m partial to anything that comes from our northwest neighbors. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese is high on that list. The original Beecher’s is nestled inside the famous Pike Place Market, and it’s New York location might lack that impressive address, but it makes up for it in scenery and quality grub. You can buy various gourmet items in the front of the store, watch the cheese being made while you eat off their super affordable a la carte menu in the back, and have a classic sit down experience downstairs. I usually choose to sit by the cheese making situation to enjoy what is probably the best grilled cheese I’ve ever eaten. Thick bread, super melty homemade cheese, at the bargain rate of $7. If you’re feeling rich, go for adding the tomato soup, which will only cost you $5 more. They also have fancy grilled cheese situations with things like figs, veggies, and meat, that are also delicious, and a killer mac and cheese offering,  but it’s my recommendation to stick with the classics. You won’t be sorry.

 

Professor Thom’s – 219 2nd Ave bt 13th & 14th

You wouldn’t expect an Irish pub-style bar to have the best nachos in NYC, but for me, Professor Thom’s holds that title. Said nachos are delivered on a silver platter the size of a large pizza, and are the perfect accompaniment to Thom’s impressive beer and whiskey selection. It’s possible one could polish off the crazy-generous portion of fresh cheese, vegetables, guac, and chips all by themselves, but I’ve seen groups of ten manly men bested by the challenge. Aside from the nachos, Thom’s is a rock solid bar all around that you should also be going to anyway. Good service, great playlist, private party space, Girls/Mad Men/Lost viewing parties, and reasonable prices are just a few reasons why it’s one of my go to spots. The nachos will draw you in, but everything else about Professor Thom’s will keep you there.

Melt Shop – 55 W 26th St at 6th Ave

Outdoor seating… Perfect Location… Tater tots. SEE HERE

 

Earls Beer and Cheese – 1259 Park Ave at 97th

It’s all in the name… beer and cheese… also beer cheese… but we’ll get to that later. In a relatively tucked away shop on the Upper East Side, lies a menu that spans the globe with cheese as its common denominator. Tacos made of scallion pancakes, brie and blackberry grilled cheese, ginger and sriracha laced tomato soup, and the finest beer cheese outside of the midwest, are just a few of the things you can expect to find at Earl’s. As far as carbs go, they have a rotating beer menu and all the sandwiches and food come with crazy good bread. Some would consider Earl’s limited space a downside, but I feel like it provides the opportunity to get to know the other people there, perhaps by talking about the food, or the wallpaper that looks like a forest. You’ll see what I mean when you get there.

 

Jacob’s Pickles – 509 Amsterdam bt 84th and 85th

While all the chumps out there head to S’mac to fulfill their mac and cheese needs, I like to make my way to Jacob’s Pickles on the upper west side for their $9 version of the American classic. It’s far better than any other mac and cheese in the city, and you can enjoy it while talking to one of the plaid wearing, bearded bartenders about hot sauce and indie rock music.  They have sparkling rose on tap, every random whiskey you’ve ever wanted, and a whole display case for their pickled items… And this exists above 72nd street! In addition to the mac and cheese, their fried pickles are the bomb, I’ve been told their fried chicken is some of the best ever, and their french fries come in an obscenely large sized bowl with little squeeze bottles of ketchup, hot sauce, and honey. They also seem to hit the Black Keys and Jack White Pandora pretty hard, which is obvi a plus.

What to do in NYC this weekend

Wondering what to get into this weekend? Here’s some suggestions running the gamut from costly to free, and brainy to brain-numbing. The one thing they all have in common though is fun. Here’s to making the first weekend of Spring an awesome one! But first things first… Go see Garbage at Terminal 5 tonight. I’ll be there!

-Get your 90’s on at the New Museum

This exhibition that I’ll be visiting ASAP focuses on 1993 and the art that came from that oh so 90’s year.

-Eat at the new Num Pang

One of my fav spots now has a whole sit-down situation on 29th street. I recommend going with a ton of people so you can order as many types of their insanely delicious Vietnemese sammies as possible.

Hunker down in front of the tube for MTV’s Retro Real World Marathon.

Starting tonight, they’ll be playing the first season ever of the show, followed by the Vegas season on Saturday, and the legendary run in San Francisco on Sunday.

-Eat some Korean comfort food at Food Gallery 32

All options are good, but my fav is the Soon Dooboo tofu from the stall in the back left corner. And snack on a $2.50 kimchi bun from the front while you choose what to get.

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-Check out Brandi Carlisle at Beacon Theatre

Pricey, but worth it.

-Take a dance fitness class at M Dance & Fitness

Pretend you’re in Slumdog Millionaire, Save the Last Dance, and the salsa scene of Center Stage all under one roof!

-Check out the Studio Museum of Harlem and it’s amazing flag

Bonus: There’s a GAP Outlet next door!

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-Learn about condoms

Head on over to the Museum of Sex for what’s sure to be an eyeful… Of information… Don’t be gross.

-THEN head to Birch Coffee

Some of the most delicious brew you’ll ever drink plus your choice of boardgames are sure to bring things back down to PG.

-Get a cocktail at Murray Hill speakeasy, Middle Branch.

The drinks are spendy, but worth it! Feeling risky? Go with the Bartender’s Choice!

HAPPY WEEKEND-ING!

A night out in Chelsea

For everyone out there who likes to have drinks, dinner, and dessert all on the same block, this post is for you.

Last night I joined up with Andy and Stacilyn for a two block Tour de Chelsea. We started for a quick drink at Jake’s Saloon on 23rd and 9th. It was quiet, full of wood paneling, and just what the doctor ordered. The actually Irish bartender poured a perfect pint of Guinness, which isn’t an easy find in the isle of Manhattan. (I think I just quoted Death Cab… Deal with it.)

Once sufficiently chilled out, we set off for the main attraction. After reading about Bombay Talkie on Serious Eats, I was left with three words looping endlessly in my brain. Cashew. Jasmine. Rice. And on our one block jaunt to the restaurant, there wasn’t time for too many saliva-inducing repetitions. While most places would seem toasty compared to the 20 degree winter night, when entering Bombay Talkie we were immediately struck by the restaurant’s warmth that was only partly due to the heating system.

The decor was dark and cozy. Tall booths against the etched wood wall allow for privacy, while a long banquet table on the other side would be perfect for a small party. There was also a bar area playing Bollywood films against a neon sign listing signature cocktails like “Truth is Beauty, “A New Phase of Life,” and “Love Story.” Or maybe they were just listing Taylor Swift songs… Regardless, romantic, serene, and inviting are all words that would fit the bill there.

bombayBut enough of that. Let’s talk about the food. Known (by me and maybe other people) for their homemade naan, we ordered the cilantro/red chili flake and onion/sesame  seed options. To go with it, we got the cucumber raita, and the cool cucumber yogurt was the perfect balance to the spice of the bread. You’re gonna notice aside from Chelsea, the other theme for the night was carbs. And speaking of carbs, once we demolished the naan, it was time for the Cashew. Jasmine. Rice. (Which, FYI, is actually called Pulao)

To go along with the Pulao, we got the Biryani, the Baigan Bharta, and the Sukhi Harabara Beans. Each contained a palate boggling burst of flavor that was beyond comprehension and explanation. The dishes’ flavors were even more complex than their names. I feel like despite eating Indian food countless times, last night was the first time I ate Indian food. The combination of spices, texture, and freshness caused a blanket of silence to engulf the table. And believe me, the three of us have NEVER been at a loss for words. The green beans tasted like they had just come from the garden, the eggplant mixture had hints of the Middle Eastern food my dad raised me on, and while I didn’t try the Biryani (stupid vegetarianism), there wasn’t one speck of it left, so I guess it was alright.

bombaymenu

The meal ended and we were full. Full enough for the following exchange:

“Stacilyn: I never want to eat again, which would be bad cause I weigh 95 pounds…

Andy: My cankles weigh 95 pounds.”

So of course from there we took a walk across the street to Billy’s Bakery. The 50 steps totally counted as enough exercise to justify the yellow daisy/chocolate buttercream cupcake that followed. Simple, sweet, delicious. Billy’s always delivers.

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Next time you’re hanging out on 9th bt 21st and 23rd, I urge you to go to any of these three places. But if you have to choose just one, go to Bombay Talkie. Stat. And then get a cupcake while you’re at it… And then maybe a beer too… I’m not so good at this whole restraint thing.

Sound City Players concert review

Last night brought me one step closer to renaming this website “Little Sound City Conqueror.” I was lucky enough to be in the fourth row at Hammerstein Ballroom for the Sound City Players concert, and part of me is still there standing googly-brained at what I just saw. As Rick Springfield, John Fogerty, Stevie Nicks, Foo Fighters, and more performed live right in front of my eyeballs, the power of good rock and roll was made clearer than ever.

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The show was a fusion between film and music, using clips from Dave’s Sound City doc to introduce each guest musician. Things started on a melodic note with Alain Johannes from Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures. At one point, Alain joked that he could play all night, prompting Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins to answer, “Well you are.” And he did… Switching seamlessly between guitar and bass and that weird cigar box instrument thing that I misread as an indication that Paul McCartney would be a surprise guest. And just so we’re clear, Paul McCartney is the only thing that could have made this night better… Other than Dave deciding to give me his trademark Trini guitar.

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The banter between Alain and Taylor was just one candid moment of many that made this show super special. At all points the seams were very visible. Everyone stayed on stage while the movie clips were being shown and playing songs other than their own gave the Foos a chance to let loose a little bit and be more present in their performance. So many glances were shared between band mates that ran the gamut from unbridled joy to sheer terror at the complexity of playing some of the more involved songs. I heard in an interview that in order to prepare for this concert Dave and Co. learned  40 some songs in a week, and while they delivered at an insane level, it was cool to see that even the most accomplished musicians face challenges. Not just us newbies. The most sweat was shed throughout the Foos set with Lee Ving, a man who claims to fit an equal amount of notes into a minute long song as a four minute one.  A couple different times Taylor and Dave exchanged a quick “fast enough for you?” and Taylor deserves a thousand Gatorades for holding down that crazy drum beat so well.

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The music nerdiness wasn’t reserved to the audience and was equally matched by everyone playing on stage. Dave was thrilled to play with Rick Springfield, Taylor lost his cool over Rick Nielsen, and Chris Shiflett, who plays in a country-ish band on the side, took a break from his usual stoicism and grinned like a little boy while playing with John Fogerty. And speaking of John Fogerty, he might be my new Tom Petty. I need to get my Fogerty on in a big way, as he was probably my favorite part of the show. And that says a lot considering Rick “Fucking” Springfield and the Foo Fighters joined forces for “Jesse’s Girl.” I mean never thought that when I was actually “Little” Conqueror and rocking out to the Kidsongs version of Centerfield, I’d be seeing the it performed by the man who wrote it 3 feet away from me over 20 years later on a guitar made out of a baseball bat.

Other performers that caught me off guard included Brad Wilk from Rage Against the Machine. Who knew there was someone out there who hit harder than Dave? I couldn’t take my eyes off of Mister Wilk and wanted to curl up in a ball inside his giant drummer biceps. And while we’re talking about fantasies, if Rick Springfield makes another album, I’m definitely going to that concert. Finally, Rick Nielsen put on the show of the night. His performance was a little bit Catskills/a little bit Vegas and campy in all the right ways. You could tell he was having a ton of fun as he showered the crowd with guitar pics and played the Cheap Trick standards with utmost enthusiasm.

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Oh. And Stevie Nicks was there. She’s kind of magical. Stevie might have been the only lady in the lineup, but it was far more than that that set her apart. After bopping, bouncing, and head banging all night, swaying to the Fleetwood standards was a lovely break. And seeing Foo Fighters slow down to gently backup Stevie for Dreams was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Imagine Boyz II Men singing an Insane Clown Posse song and you can start to get what I’m talking about.

The show ended in the only way it could. Dave and Stevie playing an acoustic version of Landslide, followed by every performer joining forces for a sonically assaulting version of Gold Dust Woman. Excuse my language, but that was some goooooooood shit. Nothing could come after that… Except Paul McCartney. I left Hammerstein in a daze that I’m still coming down from. Dreams came true in that room for everyone onstage and off, and the only thing that’s bringing me back to reality is all the music homework that I now have to do. Any and all album donations are welcome.

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Where I want to eat (and drink) in 2013

The new year means trying out new restaurants, and now that the effects of drinking too much “iced tea” on NYE have left my body, this girl is ready to eat. I’m typing this, fork in hand, to share where I intend to stuff my face in 2013, and to prove that I’m a woman who doesn’t need all ten fingers to use a keyboard.

COCKTAIL BODEGA

205 Chrystie Street (LES)

It might be a little soon to talk cocktails, but these cocktails are blended with fresh fruit, so I think it’s okay. Organic Avenue meets the TGI Fridays app menu at this Lower East Side bar/restaurant, and I couldn’t be more intrigued. According to the restaurant’s website, they offer spiked juices and smoothies, and street food-inspired fare, all in the sunny upstairs cafe situation or their underground bar. I’m counting the minutes until I get to go to Cocktail Bodega, and not just because they have a Birthday Cake Smoothie… I swear.

BOB WHITE LUNCH AND SUPPER COUNTER

94 Avenue C (Alphabet City)

If I had a time machine, I’d go back and eat at all the old school diners and cafes which, in this situation, wouldn’t be old school cause I’d be eating at them in real time. But luckily I don’t have to wait on Biff and McFly to get their act together, and can just go to Bob White’s instead. Apparently, back in the day a lot of these small restaurants existed that offered seasonal food at an affordable price point, and that’s what they’re trying to replicate. Catfish, Black Eye Peas, Banana Pudding, and more populate Bob White’s menu along with other classics that are making me go deep into food fantasy mode. The best part is I could get all of the above for under $20. I think I’m in love.

EARL’S BEER AND CHEESE

1259 Park Avenue (UES)

Beer and cheese, lots and lots of cheese, is what I hope to find after taking the trip to Earl’s on the Upper (Upper) East Side. Despite being decorated to look like a hunter’s wilderness heaven, the food on Earl’s menu is far from what the camo-clad set would usually expect. The grilled cheese comes with pork belly, the tomato soup is made with sriracha, and the tacos are wrapped in scallion pancakes. I plan to set aside a whole day’s worth of hours (and calories) to indulge here and can’t wait to see their top hat wearing pig in person.

GEZUNTE BAGELS

121 W 19th Street (Chelsea)

My grandparents yelled “Gezunte” every time somebody in the family would sneeze or burp, so growing up, I heard this phrase a lot. That has nothing to do with this restaurant other than giving me the feeling that it holds some sense of home. Described as an “upscale kosher cafe” I’ve heard their bagels, cream cheeses, and Jewish food is some of the best around.  Whether you go with the aforementioned treats, a pastry, coffee, salad, or soup, Gezunte Bagels provides tons of books to sit and enjoy while you’re sitting and enjoying your food.

MISSION CHINESE

154 Orchard Street (LES)

I never made it out to this go to spot in 2012 and refuse to rest until I get my tushy to Mission Chinese. So much has been written about New York’s newest best restaurant, so I’ll refer you to Adam Platt’s opinion, until I can write a post-meal review of my own.

Pratt

Way back in the ancient times of 2003, the internet was still somewhat of a mysterious place. Banking happened  at banks, dating was done through face to face (or phone to phone) communication, and social media had yet to catch on. I was a freshman at Indiana University with a badass Hotmail account, and on a random day in the Spring semester, it changed my life forever.

I remember coming home from class, pondering if a particular boy would like me more if I took down my Austin Powers poster, deciding I didn’t care, and checking my Hotmail. That’s when I got what would end up being the most important email I’ve ever received. It was an email from Pratt Institute asking me to apply for their writing program. I had never applied to Pratt nor was I affiliated with any clubs that would out me as a writer, so I was pretty baffled to find this message in my inbox. I had no clue how they found me, and am still unsure to this day.

The short version what happened over the next two months is best represented in the table below:

That was almost ten years ago and last night while walking with Ariele, (a dear friend from Pratt) we found ourselves distracted by the Empire State Building. The way it was lit caught our eyes and it turns out it was lit that way in honor of Pratt’s 125th anniversary. I’m working really hard here to avoid writing “The lights upon one of New York’s most famous buildings lit it up in the same way Pratt turned the light on in me.” But oops. I just did. Sorry, to my fellow writing majors for being so “saccharine.”

I don’t know where I’d be if I had stayed at IU, and I imagine the feeling I get when I meet a fellow Pratt alum is similar to that of two veterans meeting post-battle. Pratt is a great school and the best thing that ever happened to me, but there is definitely no hand holding involved. You are plopped in the middle of Bed Stuy with the understanding that you are somehow committed to taking courses, but it’s really up to you from there. Anything I ever achieved or made happen there was a result of perseverance and taking initiative, and as a person preparing to work in the creative fields, this college experience was the perfect training ground.

There is no real set path for the artistic careers my peers and I were and are still seeking. You have to (for lack of a better phrase) think outside the box and take unconventional routes to get where you want to go. As a die hard Type-A control freak, I don’t think I could sustain this unpredictable way of life if not for my time at Pratt. Class registration was done through securing a one on one in person appointment, the bursar’s office came with a Pentagon-level of confusion, lectures could have been interrupted by a wandering cat at any moment, and every so often I’d come home  to a caved-in bathroom ceiling. There was nobody waiting to help me with these stresses. Nobody was watching over my shoulder to see if I got all my work done, went to class, or performed internships to enhance my education. That was all on me.

Pratt specializes in teaching its students the art of how to hustle and fight for things and I’m so proud to see all my Pratt friends using this hustle in their post-grad life. People are starting their own businesses, making amazing things for print, tv, and film, and working for some of the most prestigious companies out there. The Pratt person will always be the person remaining semi-calm in the middle of a big ole storm because compared to their college years, it’s likely to seem like child’s play. Just look at what these people were able to pull off during Survey, the fashion show, Portfolio season, and Thesis. All with no sleep, limited facilities, and a full course load.

Pratt was the best thing that ever happened to me. It is the source of my closest friends, my creative voice, my ability to fight for what I want, and the light that shines within me. (Sorry again!) Also, the hipster cred of going to art school in Brooklyn isn’t too shabby. It goes without saying that I’d urge anyone entertaining the idea of being a Pratt student to enroll immediately.

I don’t know where my Austin Powers poster ended up and I might never know the source of the life-altering  email, but what I do know is I’m proud to be a Pratt grad, and I’ve got a bear hug and a kiss waiting for whoever sent me that message. Happy birthday, Pratt! You don’t look a day over 50.