Thursday, May 17, 2018

Don’t Miss The Metromaniacs, Closing May 20 – A French Farce in Meter by David Ives

You have only four more chances to see this romp of a literary farce on Broadway. Meter, rhyming, deceit, and fantasy all play into The Metromaniacs whirl of a show where nothing appears as it truly is. Scheming, mistaken identities and assumed personas play into the lovefest where the ultimate goal is to connect with one’s true soulmate. Set in Paris, 1738, verse- and poetry-mania have created an affinity among residents for couplets. 

I don’t want to spoil the intrigue but suffice it to say that you’ll need to pay attention to the goings-on here in much the same way as you’d watch a Shakespearean comedy.

If you enjoy fast-paced language-dependent theater, you’ll have a great time. And the interspersing of current language idioms with 18th-century rhyming and cadence adds to the literary witticism and pleasure. Language nuts will have a field day! 

Original Baroque music by Adam Wernick. Gorgeous costumes by Murell Horton. And the wonderful script by David Ives (Venus in Fur, The Liar, All in the Timing).

The cast of The Metromaniacs - credit: Carol Rosegg

Instead of a pre-show glass of wine, have an espresso and get ready for a literary tour de force

Tickets on sale at The Duke, 229 West 42nd Street.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Seven Sweet Ideas to Honor Mom on Mother's Day in NYC

It’s not too late to buy your mother a tasty gift for Mother’s Day, or, better still, to take her out to celebrate the fact that you exist because of her!

This Mother’s Day, legendary Katz’s Delicatessen on the Lower East Side (and now in Brooklyn) has launched two new packages, specially made to celebrate mom. You can either bring the feast to her with Breakfast in Bed a perfect in-bed food rush with New York bagels and lox, Katz’s signature coffee mug, a T-shirt which makes a perfect sleep shirt, and a limited edition egg cream candle. If mom isn’t the stay-in-bed type of person, I’d suggest taking her to dinner at Katz’s instead for their Mother’s Day Dinner . She’ll get a full taste of New York City local dining with one of Katz’s famous pastrami, corned beef or brisket sandwiches with all the fixing;, a cup of matzoh ball soup; rugelach for dessert; and a take-home Katz’s Deli apron and egg cream candle (it’s always good to give your mother a real present as well as food!). 205 East Houston Street, at Ludlow Street. 1-800-4HOT DOG.

If you live outside of New York, or even if you do live in the city and don’t feel like trucking downtown or over the bridge, Katz’s will send these packages straight to your door through their nationwide shipping service, free with orders over $100.  Instead of sending a salami to your boy in the army, you’ll be sending a pastrami to your mother at home. Yum!

The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park celebrates mothers with an indulgent “Mom and Me” spa package. After choosing between two treatments, a 60-minute Signature La Prairie Facial or a 60-minute Swedish Massage, your mother will spend the afternoon enjoying a special Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea in The Star Lounge with a Champagne toast, savory sandwiches, and other treats personalized with her  initials to make her feel extra special. 50 Central Park South. 212-308-9100

If you feel like taking a 30-minute drive outside of the city, The Ritz-Carlton New York, Westchester is also offering a special Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea with a specially crafted menu. Moms are welcomed with a complimentary glass of Shramsberg Blanc de Blanc wine and then a high tea experience that only the Ritz-Carlton could do: a choice of loose leaf tea, fresh homemade scones, housemade jam, and an assortment of savory sandwiches like smoked salmon with dill and asparagus, or cucumber with mint cream cheese on caraway bread.  For a sweet finish, the decadent petit four collection will bring a smile with chocolate opera cake, fresh fruit tarts, French macaroons, and madeleines.

You can add to Mom’s perfect day with a treatment at the Ritz-Carlton Spa such as a Radiance and Renewal facial, or the 90-minute Spring Equinox Spa Treatment, a three-part series of full-body dry brushing, a detoxifying algae wrap, and a massage. 3 Renaissance Square, White Plains. 914-467-5717.

How about surprising your mother with an elegant and indulgent weekend hotel staycation. Make sure you’re enrolled in Hilton’s Honors Program as you select from the Hilton hotels in New York City that are offering discounted stays, a taxi credit, discounted tickets to the Roundabout Theatre, and special meal discounts at restaurants including Lincoln Ristorante, BLT Steak, ATRIO Wine Bar & Restaurant

If your inclinations take you somewhere outdoors, New York Hilton Midtown will put together a Mother’s Day picnic for you in Central Park. Stop by the hotel’s gourmet market, Herb N’ Kitchen, to pick up your picnic basket filled with a blanket, housemade meats, and treats from local vendors including sandwiches, salads, New York cheesecake, and sustainable wine. 1335 Avenue of the Americas. 212-586-7000.

One of my favorite restaurants near City Center, Carnegie Hall and the Theater District, Molyvos is a wonderful choice for a pre-theater or post-theater Mother’s Day celebration.  An authentic Greek tavern, Molyvos will present a three-course prix fixe menu with specials like jumbo lump crab cake, slow roasted Vermont baby lamb, and the restaurant’s own distinctive Greek dessert, tres leches baklava.  871 Seventh Avenue. 212-582-7500.

We wouldn’t want to forget the great restaurants in Brooklyn also celebrating Mother’s Day. My choice for the perfect place is Olmsted, a lauded sliver of a restaurant with a cozy garden in the back. Bring your mother here for lunch or dinner where a prix fixe selection of the restaurant’s many favorites will be on the menu including their inventive breakfast egg roll, duck duo with crispy duck sausage and duck scrambled eggs, and krapfen (Austrian donuts filled with pear jelly).  For dinner, you can expect more deliciousness. As of this writing, reservations were still (surprisingly) available. 659 Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. 718- 552-2610.

Travel and Wellness Ideas for Mother’s Day (or any time of the year)

If you’re a procrastinator as I often am, it’s not too late to find the perfect gift for Mother’s Day. For me, travel and fitness never have a deadline and they are presents that I would never consider returning.  If some of the dates below don’t work for your mother’s schedule, think of these as suggestions for other times. You can call the hotel or spa to ask when their next similar program will take place.

I just returned from a wonderful visit to New Orleans for JazzFest and since I still have NOLA on my mind, I will start by suggesting two New Orleans ideas that are truly wonderful. It’s a perfect way to join in the city’s 300th birthday celebration, too.

The luxurious Windsor Court in New Orleans, is offering a Mother’s Day package for those looking to give their mom a well-deserved weekend of relaxation and luxury. Your mother will enjoy a plush guestroom, a four-course brunch in the Grill Room, and discounted treatments at the Spa at Windsor Court. Dining on Southern specialties like baked chicken and waffles served with a definitely New Orleans-inflected caramelized banana, pecan praline sauce and Louisiana strawberries may just be a new form of heavenly dining. Since the weather is likely to be quite toasty on Mother’s Day, your mother will love Windsor Court’s new rooftop, where the Waterman bar will offer refreshments as will the salt water swimming pool.

At the new NOPSI Hotel in the heart of New Orleans’ Central Business District, Mother’s Day will celebrated Big Easy-style with special savings on luxurious room and suite accommodations, live jazz entertainment (so important in New Orleans!) and a Mother’s Day Champagne brunch with twelve food stations, hosted in the hotel’s grand Dryades Ballroom. The kids can participate, too, with a cookie decorating station to make the perfect take-away gift for mom. 

The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside, California is offering several packages with combinations of luxurious spa treatments, meals, botanical gifts and more. With the Mother’s Day Indulgence Package, mom will have a wine and food experience enhanced by luxurious spa treatments. The Mother’s InSPAration Package focuses on spa therapy with an afternoon in the spa enjoying treatments such as a rose petal bath and private massage, or an in-room massage. History fans will enjoy exploring this landmark property which dates back to 1896 and has been to host to many celebrities and US Presidents over its celebrated history.

For a New England wellness holiday, join Sarahjoy Marsh at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts for a Mother-Daughter Yoga Weekend. Together you’ll spend quality time exploring your mother-daughter connection through yoga, meditation, and group experiences while having fun, learning new things (indoor and outdoor), and enjoying the gorgeous Berkshires setting. Mealtimes are also wonderful sharing experiences where you can try the delicious cuisine from Chef Jeremy Rock Smith which includes  a changing mix of vegetarian, Asian, regional, and international specialties.

And for a program that’s pure entertainment from start to finish, The Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire has a range of activities for moms to enjoy with their entire family. The mountain setting is perfect for taking a canopy tour, learning how to decorate cookies, or making French toast s’mores and other treats. Everyone can participate. There will also be do-it-yourself sugar scrub and soap workshops, Vinyasa flow yoga, hiking along the Ammonoosuc River to the Upper Falls, paper flower making, Family Feud and other games, and movies. Whew!  You’ll need to book more than a few days here.
If your mother prefers the beach to the mountains, shecan celebrate her special day with a holistic and indulgent holiday at COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach. COMO Shambhala Urban Escape, the boutique hotel’s wellness center, has created a Mother’s Day program of meditation, spa services including Dr. Hauschka’s facial with rose-derived products, scalp massages, and the signature COMO Shambhala massage. Indulgent treats like the COMO Shambhala berry cheesecake will add a sweet finish to the day.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Broadway Ramblings: Easter Bonnet Competition, Broadway Cares, and Where to Eat in the Theater District

For Broadway nerds like me, The Actor's Fund and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids are important organizations, providing much-needed health and other services to the Broadway community.

At this year's recent Easter Bonnet Competition, the casts of Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen performed a brilliant version of "Together" as an ensemble, as their entry into the competition. The competition raised $5.8MM for this worthy cause. Thank you to the members of the Bucket Brigade who help collect donations at the theaters. And to presenters Nathan Lane, Bernadette Peters, Victor Garber, and Andrew Garfield (in photo).

Watch the video here:

And, if you're looking for some nearby places to eat -- here are a few to consider:

Opry City -- at 47th Street and Broadway, a four-story tribute to Nashville and country music with a two-floor restaurant, two music stages, and a shop.

Junior's -- expanding their Broadway cheesecake and deli empire into a mega-space at 49th Street and Broadway. The original Times Square location is still on 45th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.

Tender Steak and Sushi -- in the Sanctuary Hotel, a polished loungey restaurant offering up solid Asian and American fare. There's also a bar where you can dine on a more casual menu. 47th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue.

Haven Rooftop -- also in the Sanctuary Hotel, a year-round rooftop bar and restaurant that's in high demand, particularly during the warmer months

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Time is Perfect for a Women’s Celebration at Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City

150 years ago, Delmonico’s lifted the ban on female diners needing to be accompanied by men. At a pivotal, first-of-its-kind Ladies’ Luncheon, the restaurant hosted “unchaperoned” women at a private meal, marking the first time women were allowed to dine (or be served) alone in a restaurant anywhere. It was also the first time that women were allowed to congregate as a group, alone.  

Commemorating this event -- the original Power Lunch for women -- three-time James Beard Award-winning Chef Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune has created a special menu, putting her spin on the original $1 Ladies’ Luncheon meal which consisted of consommé, fish, lamb and dessert. The “updated” menu will be served as an option through April 28, along with Delmonico’s traditional menu. Menu choices include consommé, cold poached mackerel with pickled celery hearts, Colorado lamb loin chop and brûléed rice pudding with strawberry meringue and macerated strawberries.

At this landmark restaurant, established in 1837, Delmonico’s paved the wave for women’s rights activities to come and became a leader in the hospitality industry. The luncheon was organized by the Sorosis Club, the country’s first women’s rights organization and a model for other women’s clubs through the end of the century. Sorosis, by virtue of its existence had proven that women could work together, and men and women could dine together, without anyone being injured by the experiment. It further demonstrated that woman were capable orators, that they could propose a toast as men could, and that they could sing a song without being unwomanly.  

The club came about in response to a males-only New York Press Club dinner honoring Charles Dickens. After her application to attend was refused, Jane Cunningham Croly, an experienced journalist and editor, was so outraged that she founded the all-female Sorosis to give women a venue for congregating and communing. She also approached Lorenzo Delmonico with the idea of allowing women to dine alone. The result was the Ladies’ Luncheon. The women were treated with such consideration at the luncheon that they chose Delmonico's as their regular meeting place thereafter.

Delmonico’s, still in its original location, is known for its eponymous Delmonico steak, and many menu firsts including Baked Alaska, Lobster Newburg and Eggs Benedict. Considered the first fine-dining restaurant in the country, Delmonico's takes diners to a time of opulence with its leather seats, lavish chandeliers, gracious service and beautiful art. Delmonico's Restaurant 56 Beaver Street, New York City. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

I Found Happiness in Lafayette, Louisiana, the Happiest City in America, at a Cajun Mardi Gras

I didn’t know what to expect when I saw the guinea hen flung into the air. It seemed like a random act of serendipity, perhaps instigated by celebrating Mardi Gras just a bit too early. And then it all happened at once, a swarm of harlequin-like characters chasing after it until the poor animal was stopped in its tracks.

Masked adults dressed in conical capuchon hats with matching top and bottom and making a sort of Pucci-esque fashion statement surrounded me, some on horseback, others walking, and some in trucks that formed a procession to the tune of the traditional, inspirational Cajun Mardi Gras song.

If this sounds like a Federico Fellini movie, it isn’t. Rather, this is one of the Cajun customs that make the Lafayette, Louisiana region a joy to experience. Called the Courir de Mardi Gras, the colorful run that I participated in in Eunice dates back to medieval times and  involves throwing a live bird (or multiple birds) in the air, with a goal of catching one to make dinner. This is followed by a long procession led by a cape-wearing Capitaine. Multiple stops along the route ensure that a perfect gumbo will be created as participants silently beg for “cinq sous pour les Mardi Gras” (a nickel) to buy ingredients, between beer and bathroom breaks.

Had you been watching “Black Mirror” on a Tuesday evening rather than viewing this scene firsthand on a Tuesday morning, this might not have seemed so far-fetched. But walking in the dirt and running across a muddy field after a chicken felt like entering a world of fantasy, one that was a blur of color and some intoxication.  In fact, the entire Eunice Cajun Country Mardi Gras experience was downright magical with families waving on revelers and runners as they passed. I guess you could call it magically charming. I certainly did. And it was completely different from the Mardi Gras I had experienced in New Orleans decades prior.

Charming is also how I’d characterize the people I met in the Lafayette- St. Landry Parish region. Friendly, gracious, helpful and ready to celebrate. Although Mardi Gras is certainly a big draw for the area, you can visit this part of Southwestern Louisiana any time of the year to capture the flavor of the people and their traditions, and enjoy of big bowl of Southern hospitality.  Or come back for the popular Festivale International two months later, a weekend of free concerts and performance.

But that wasn’t the only kind of bowl that kept me smiling.  Bowls of creamy bisque, seafood-laced gumbo and simmering étoufée became my new friends. I learned about roux, the mix of flour and oil that adds the richness to stews like fraisseurs, a version made with pig organ meat. I was curious about why there was such an emphasis on regional cuisine in Lafayette. The French-Canadian roots in the area were certainly there but that didn’t explain the creativity and fiercely artisanal nature of the menus. The distinctiveness of the dishes seemed to be born from a sense of pride, of sharing and enjoyment, with a small dash of survival and making do in an area isolated from other parts of the country (in earlier times, of course). In that “a ha” moment, I knew I’d found a new foodie paradise.

Over the course of the five-day Mardi Gras celebration, I stuffed my face with everything that spoke Louisiana to me: delicious chicken and sausage gumbo at the Blue Dog Cafe; Randol’s bright red crawfish by the pound, boiled in Old Bay with a touch of heat to remind you that TABASCO pepper sauce was born on nearby Avery Island; boudin balls for breakfast instead of sausage at The French Press accompanied by giant slabs of candied bacon; New Orleans-style poor boys from Old Tyme Grocery so large they could have fed a small family; and just-shucked oysters at Don’s for a perfect pre-parade seafood fix. Locally made rum, Sweet Crude, was the perfect finish.

That was only the beginning of my feeding frenzy. I participated in another food-centric experience intrinsic to Cajun Mardi Gras, the Lundi Gras Boucherie in Lakeview Park in Eunice, where chefs from Louisiana and nearby states come to show off their expertise in cooking up every last bit of a newly slaughtered pig. I was already a cracklins fan from a recent trip to Lake Charles, but here I discovered a new-found affinity for backbone stew, ponce (a sausage-like creation similar to haggis – eat it, don’t think about it), and ribs that neatly fell off the bone when washed down by an Abita Purple Haze or Turbodog, two of the area’s best beers.

I didn’t worry, though, because I knew I’d be dancing soon and I’d work off the calories -- music is equally as rich as the culinary culture here. Louisiana is the birthplace of a distinctively Creole jazz-blue fusion known as zydeco. Zydeco meanders from tunes that can sometimes seem like they belong in Tennessee, rather than in Louisiana, to accordion-and-washboard ones laced with Cajun French language so fine-tuned to Louisiana that there’s no chance that any Parisian could understand it. You can’t help but get on your feet when a zydeco band kicks into gear, even if you’re not familiar with the dance moves that accompany it.  And that’s exactly what you do at the Boucherie; you grab your partner and sidle over to the dance floor under the oscillating disco chicken (seriously).  

It seems that everyone in Lafayette has been dancing all their lives – just look at the afternoon fais-do-do (Cajun dance party) in places like Vermilionville, a recreated Acadian village complete with a Performance Hall. There’s no shortage of music venues in St. Landry Parish from the Vermilionville dance hall to stand-alone clubs or event spaces like Warehouse 535. Music is an all-day affair, starting with a jazz (or zydeco) brunch at Abacus, for example, then two-stepping through the afternoon fais-do-do and ending with an evening boy-meets-girl meetup, perhaps at The Grouse Room to the tunes of the rockin’ Jamie Bergeron & The Kickin’ Cajuns.

If you thought I’d forgotten about the parades so characteristic of Mardi Gras, that’s an impossibility in the Lafayette area. Telltale remnants of floats and parties past stay visible months after Fat Tuesday is long gone with beads dangling from trees and light poles. I was fortunate to experience the excitement of the parades on many levels, literally, from a walking parade following the Krewe de Canaille through the streets of Lafayette, to an evening float parade by the Krewe de Bonaparte where I was the joyful recipient of pounds and pounds of beads and prized doubloons from atop a canopied platform. My turn as mischief-maker came a day later when I was invited to be one of the “pitchers” on a bi-level float, targeting eager kids of all ages who awaited my throws and chided me with posters saying, “Hit this! Don’t throw like a girl” or “It’s my birthday. Throw me something mistuh.” 

The energy of these experiences was infectious. Festivals like Mardi Gras are pure delight and Lafayette does them right Everyone is excited, happy and acting as a community. I felt blessed to be part of it, even for a short while. In a yin and yang way, too, I succumbed to the serene bliss of earlier and easier times, soaking up the Southern atmosphere while paddling among cypress trees and Spanish moss on Lake Martin with the Bayou Teche Experience, and while visiting the Jungle Gardens on Avery Island, where alligators meander by groves of camellias and azaleas, and a 900-year-old Buddha sits in a pavilion overlooking the Chinese Pond. I was captivated by the myriad Asian sculptures placed along the shore of Lake Peigneur adjacent to the semi-tropical Rip Van Winkle gardens and the gracious Joseph Jefferson Mansion, a place where President Grover Cleveland took his siestas under a sprawling 350-year-old oak tree. Dining at the nearby Jefferson Café completed the dream sequence for me, where my rapture when enjoying a Cajun and Creole meal of seafood bisque, shrimp remoulade and pecan pie convinced me that I might have been a Southerner in a previous life.

What truly makes Lafayette’s Cajun Country Mardi Gras special is that despite the non-stop activity, the crowds (albeit much smaller and less crazy than its bigger sibling New Orleans), and the seemingly endless food and drink, the underlying sentiment is happiness wrapped in a sunny spirit that spills over to each visitor. Lafayette was recently named the happiest city in America by the Wall Street Journal's And I can sure see why. I can’t wait to come back, and maybe this time I’ll get one of those crazy harlequin-like, pajama costume ensembles. I bought the mask, now I just need the outfit and maybe a horse.

If you go, stay at the conveniently located Doubletree by Hilton Lafayette. The hotel has a gym, executive floor for private breakfast and hors d’oeuvres, a pool, and it’s a wonderful oasis with a bar that serves some pretty nice wines as well. Don’t miss the tour of the TABASCO factory on Avery Island where you can purchase many versions of the 150-old sauce that are unique to the area and enjoy some pretty creative TABASCO art. You’ll find the best King Cakes to celebrate Mardi Gras at Poupart Bakeryand you can wash them down with a coffee and ice cream (yes, that’s a perfect combination) at the only Borden’s Ice Cream Shoppe in the world, opened in 1940. If you’re pining for something new-fangled, Dat Dog, a hot dog mecca, even has a version that comes with toppings in purple, green and yellow, the colors of Mardi Gras.

You can find lots of information about Cajun Mardi Gras and Lafayette’s year-long schedule of events at 

Dance photo and swamp photo, courtesy of Jill Schensul.

All other photos by Meryl Pearlstein.