Thursday, February 17, 2011

How to Use Chopsticks

Dim Sum at Buddha Bodai

Join the NYC Food Crawl on their January Shumai Crawl.

Every month the NYC Food Crawl selects a delicacy and appropriate neighborhood for food exploration and New York City foodie research.  On Monday, January 24 (the coldest day of the year so far, I swear) I bundled up and joined the Shumai Crawl through Chinatown.  Though this was a much smaller crawl than usual due to the weather, these were the 30 bravest, most unaffected foodies in the Big Apple. 

We met at Columbus Park, where we formed groups of five to eight people.  As a group, we were given maps with five specific locations and directions to each Dim Sum restaurant selected for us.  Each team had different maps, so we didn’t overcrowd each restaurant.  We listened to some recommendations by Amanda, the Food Crawl organizer, including advice to pace yourself.  Then we were off. 

Our first stop was Sunshine 27.  We walked through Chinatown, and turned onto this little, hidden alley I never knew existed to find the restaurant.  Snuggled in between rows of Chinese food spots was Sunshine 27, sadly closed for a wedding. 

Right across the street was Jing Fong Restaurant, our second location.  At the top of a steep escalator is a huge dining room decorated with bright red walls and gold Chinese symbols.  Dozens of huge, round tables fill this gigantic space.  They have an extensive Dim Sum menu with over 70 items!  My team of six foodies split five plates, including my favorite dish of the evening, shark fin shumai.  We sat and began to get to know each other, undoubtedly the best part of the food crawl (the best part after the food).  We gathered our things, and we headed to our third restaurant.

Dim Sum Go Go is more contemporary with sleek white tables and printed wallpaper.  We sat at our table and made our selections on a paper menu with check boxes.  We selected five more plates and were pleasantly surprised by the shumai when it came.  The wrappers were like a delicious rainbow served to us in a bamboo steamer.  The shumai was fuchsia, lime green and yellow and filled with yummy crab, pork and vegetables.  We also ordered sesame balls and a pumpkin dessert. 

Though we were getting adequately stuffed because we had not paced ourselves, we continued to Buddha Bodai.  Being a vegetarian herself, Amanda likes to include meat-free options to accommodate all types of food crawlers; however, this was my first experience at a vegetarian restaurant that served all forms of meat.  I ordered beef.  It looked like beef.  It smelled like beef.  Trust me, it was not beef, but it was tasty.  I had a great time discovering the world beyond Nasoya packed tofu.  We ordered the Dim Sum platter, and I tasted duck, pork and chicken. 

Granted there were five locations chosen for the best shumai, my team called it quits after four.  I had eaten four fortune cookies with a lot of specific and confusing directions on what to do in bed. We had calluses on our thumb and forefinger from the chopsticks, and I needed to research meatless meat (hoping I didn’t turn into a hippie).

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How to Fall Off the Beaten Path

Simone E Le Page performs at the Red Lotus Room

Go to an event with these directions: Behind an unmarked gray door (cut into a small roll-up gate)…wedged between a row of warehouses.

My Saturday night trip to the Red Lotus Room was an exotic exploration of sex and circus performers.  Low lighting and 20s and 30s style jazz from the Epistrophy Swing Band preshow transformed this huge space into a dream like state.  The Fellini inspired sound and d├ęcor took you back to the 1930s from within this hidden performance space.  
Human sized bird cages and real life pin-ups girls created a mysterious and sexual vibe. 

Voluption: A Starry Assemblage of Dance, Music & Performance held a lot of firsts for me including burlesque dancers and contortionists.  There were street performers and one-man (and woman) performances.  The Hungry March Band and other musicians put on a great show.  Every time a new act began, I didn’t know what to expect.  There was a child on stilts shooting a bow and arrow, clowns and a belly-dancer!  This variety show presented by Little Miss Big Mouth unquestionably gave me an evening out of the ordinary. 

My favorite part of the experience was Sweet Soubrette.  This duo sings dark and slightly morbid love songs accompanied by a ukulele (furthering my need to play the uke).  Their song City People felt a little too close to home, but I think that is the point of most of their songs, to walk on the edge of too personal.  Either way, they were awkwardly awesome!

The festivities ended with a huge dance party and an even bigger line for the bathrooms for me.  I asked someone wearing a top hat, fake eyelashes and vest for directions from this obscure place where people balance knives of fire on their head, and I followed them all the way home. 

For the night, I fell off the beaten path, but I got right back up. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How to Salvage a Snowy Saturday

Visit one, or a couple, of the over 500 art galleries in this great city of ours.

The Big Apple has been under at least five inches of snow for as long as I can remember (maybe a month).  I admit this city is reasonably difficult to enjoy during a perpetual whiteout.  The snow piles up on the corners and covers in dirt and dog shit, and worst of all, its cold.  Never the less, I love this city.  Snowfall in New York always has an air of romance, and just before the dog walkers come out, the entire city looks new and clean.

I am also lucky to live in a city where I don’t have to drive.  This makes continuing life after blizzard (A.B if you will) much easier.  Saturday, January 22 I braved the less than desired weather conditions to have an art adventure. 

To begin this escapade for art I needed a nutritious and delicious snack to energize me for the day: The Doughnut Plant!  If you haven’t been there, go, now, seriously. Marzipan is my favorite flavor, and they’re making it right now!  They sell these mouth-watering treats until they’re out, so don’t waste your time.  On you way to the green, organic, local market this weekend, stop there first. 

I went from breakfast paradise to the Lesley Heller Workspace in the Lower East Side to see the Bushwick Paintings by Deborah Brown on view until February 20.  I have lived in Bushwick for nearly two years, and I am very fond of the area and wanted to see it on canvas.  I loved her use of Dickchicken as a cultural reference for the neighborhood. 

From there I walked to NoLita to Gallery Nine5.  Extended until February 3, Seth Wulsin’s Animas is a small and very curious exhibit.  Wulsin uses layers of screen to create 3D images, one of which greets you when you enter.  Where ever I was standing, it was watching me.  His large scale installation pieces fill the entire gallery space. 

The last space I visited was in hidden in DUMBO.  Ellis Gallagher, famous for his sidewalk chalk drawings, held his Permanently Temporary (so temporary you can only see it until February 4) exhibit at The Mighty Tanaka.  The gallery was a room full of multicolored chalk outlines of different object’s shadows from a house plant to a Rastafarian.  It was great to be in a room surrounded by these drawings, as I usually feel like I found a treasure when I see them on sidewalks in random NYC locations. 

To finish my trip and thoroughly freeze my toes off, I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge (under construction, so the view is obstructed).  For some reason, it is easier to get to Bushwick from Manhattan than from Brooklyn (maybe driving would be easier).  I crossed into Manhattan feeling fulfilled.  My brief love affair with New York City winter and art was coming to a close for another day. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

How to Spell Success

AFC Championship Pep Rally in Times Square

J-E-T-S! Jets!  Jets!  Jets!

Time Square was lit from end to end in green and white for the second AFC Championship Game Playoff Rally on Thursday, January 20th!  For the second year in a row the New York Jets are in it to win it!  Hundreds of fans turned out to send the high-flying Jets to dominate the Pittsburgh Steelers!  Chris and I were among this crazy green crowd with higher hopes than last year!

Fans of all makes and molds showed up with rally towels (some even in costume).  The green mob was alive and ready to spell out everyone’s favorite New York football team!  People brought huge signs (that blocked most of my view), decapitated Pittsburgh Steelers’ heads, stuffed animals dressed in Jets gear, and baby dolls painted green.  I came in a green coat, so I was safe, too. 

The rally had a huge line-up of guests including Mayor Bloomberg, Fireman Ed, owner Woody Johnson, General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and a performance by Ready in 10.  It was amazing to hear the roars of the pack of fans and be apart of something so huge two years in a row.  We screamed every time Fireman Ed instructed and booed every time the band played (trust me, you would have, too).  However, the highlight of the evening wasn’t the foam fingers, it was hearing the entire crowd chant, “Plow my snow!” during Mayor Bloomberg’s entire speech.  Only in New York

Chris and I got there too late for the totally awesome foam fingers, and no matter how cute I tried to be, none of the middle aged men were giving them up!  How rude, I know, but I feel like I should have expected that.  As I left empty handed, I had hopes of another pep rally two weeks from now for Super Bowl XLV! 

Let’s go Jets!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

How to Twist and Shout

You shake it up, baby.  Then you work it on out.

Hypothesis: The more you twist, the better you get.  The more you shout, the worse you get.

Proof: Beatlemania

Example 1: 1964: The Tribute
My $17.50 seat at Carnegie Hall became a time machine traveling back to the 1960s during the height of Beatlemania.  Isaac Stern Auditorium became the Ed Sullivan Show as four mop-top musicians gave the audience a history lesson in rock n’ roll music with a set list including songs pre-Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band accompanied by a 16 piece orchestra conducted by Robert Miller. 

They covered songs from I Saw Her Standing There to Yellow Submarine (lead by Ringo, naturally) and everything in between!  The entire performance was unbelievable; however, one moment stands out and still gives me goose bumps.  With a breathtakingly beautiful introduction by the string section, Eleanor Rigby blew my mind.  I will never listen to that song the same again.

This foursome has been performing together for over twenty years, and it shows in every motion, witty exchange and personal characteristic displayed on stage.  It would have been enough to go to Carnegie Hall, hear some Beatles music and dance, but this performance was purely perfect.  George muttered shyly into the microphone.  Ringo offered peace, and Paul sang about love.  Oh, and John was just super cool. 

I swayed to every slow song and twisted to every fast one without a care in the world (especially about those sitting behind me).  I sang at the top of my lungs, and I shouted, “I love you George!” because the spirit had taken hold of me.  I left Carnegie Hall with a horse voice and as the best twister this side of the 1970s.

I was fortunate enough to see the last show of the season on January 15th.  This was the 11th performance of 1964: The Tribute at Carnegie Hall. 

A two day event covering all 185 Beatles’ songs on ukulele took over Brooklyn Bowl the weekend of January 15th and 16th.  For $10.00 (or free if you brought your own ukulele) I saw the second half of the performance on Sunday, January 16th.  It was incredible to see such a wide range of people dancing and singing along to these era defining songs. 

There was nearly a different performer for each song.  Some of the classics had been redone to personal interpretation, but mostly they were sung as we know them.  Children and adults alike all over the dance floor shouted Yellow Submarine and Octopus’s Garden as if it meant something so much more (and it did).  It is comforting to know we can always count on music to close the generational gap, sometimes without even recognizing it. 

Though I was still horse from my evening at Carnegie Hall, I danced and sang like I hadn’t practiced the night before, showing off my superior twisting skills.  When my voice was completely gone, my hips sore from twisting, and I had decided my new life goal was to learn to play the ukulele, I left. 

Theorem: Twisting and shouting have an inverse relationship.

Friday, January 21, 2011

How to Escape From Handcuffs

I have given this some considerable thought.  I think asking politely should work.  However, I have never personally been in that situation, except that one time, and being nice definitely wasn’t the answer.  It was a totally different set of circumstances. 

On Saturday, January 15, I visited The Jewish Museum to see the Houdini: Art and Magic exhibit.  This experience was similar to a one night stand. You get frisked heavily when you walk in the door.  It is extremely hot, and if you don’t take your clothes off right away, you’ll end up sweating in your coat the entire time. 

Let me explain.  When you enter the museum within two feet is a heavy duty metal detector.  You can check your coat directly after walking through security, which seems fishy.  If you chose not to check your coat, you will not be allowed to remove it during the entire exhibit.  It is hot in there, just a warning.

One of Houdini’s first stunning acts was the East Indian Needle Trick.  He would swallow a spool of thread followed by a pack of sewing needles.  Moments later he would pull the string out with all of the needles threaded!  Though small and kind of gross, this was my favorite piece in the exhibit, a pack of needles and a spool of thread because I stared at it wondering whether or not those items had been regurgitated by Houdini himself.  I’m easily impressed. 

Other than the TSA style brutality that occurs, I enjoyed learning all about the mysterious character, Harry Houdini.  The exhibit spans three decades and explains how Houdini created a showmanship status that few have been able to follow.  The exhibit showcases numerous videos clips, pictures, and physical restraints such as the water chamber, straightjacket, milk can, and, of course, lots of handcuffs.  The videos are as unbelievable today as they were during his lifetime.  Though I am still not convinced he didn’t have the key to the handcuffs in his mouth. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How to Bare It All…And Get Away With It

No Pants Day 2011

Join over 3,500 other people without pants in New York City for No Pants Day. 

Sunday, January 9th was the 10th Annual No Pants Day, an unclothed festivity celebrated in over 20 countries around the globe.  Created by Improv Everywhere to be a secret mission to shock other straphangers has become more than an urban myth (My boyfriend’s neighbor’s friend did that a couple years ago) due to an increase in participants each year. 

Now I have done it!

There were six meet up locations throughout the city; I chose Maria Hernandez Park in my neighborhood.  After doing the Polar Dip the week before, the cold didn’t frighten me, but I was scared.  You know the dream when you leave the house without pants.  Well, this is one dream about to come true.  I was terrified.  What if my underwear came down with my pants?  What exactly is proper etiquette for wedgie removal without pants?  These were genuine, reasonable questions!

Wearing my I Love JETS panties, I walked with my fellow exhibitionists to the L train.  I took my pants off at Montrose Street and rode bravely all the way to the end of the line.  As a team, we walked across the platform at 8th Ave to go back down to Union Square for the No Pants Party! 

No pants!  There were people with no clothes (other than a strategically placed sock)!  This quickly became a sea of naked, chanting people trying to get passers by to declothe. 

People loved my underwear!  Everywhere I walked people were taking pictures of my butt and that was okay!  Jets chants followed me the rest of the day. J-E-T-S!  It was smart I spent a week planning exactly what to wear (and that the Jets beat the Colts the night before).  I need to start preparing for next year; I’m thinking thermal. 

In the end, the best part of the day was meeting similarly naked and adventurous people, oh and putting my pants back on.