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.