Thursday, December 20, 2012

Comfort Food and Red Bordeaux: A Heavenly Match on a Cold Day


In anticipation of this winter’s cold weather, I’ve already switched my wine orientation here in New York City to heartier, bolder reds.  I’ll pair them with anything from the stick-to-your-ribs osso bucco at Casa Nonna to a hanger steak at my local bistro Demarchelier or even the fabulous fried oysters remoulade at the Seahorse Tavern.  I love the website from the Bordeaux Wine Council for ideas for pairing either at a restaurant or at home. The tips are useful and the website is quite comprehensive.  Through it, I found Rob Moshein, a Bordeaux wine buff from Texas, who I interviewed about some of his favorite recipes to accompany these fabulous reds. 

Rob, who works with the Austin-based wine specialist store,The Wine Cellar at Bee Cave, noted that the tannins and acids of red Bordeaux go especially well with the protein-heavy nature of winter comfort foods.  I totally agree.

Here are three suggestions from Rob for wines and recipes to match three of my favorite winter dishes, cassoulet, French onion soup, and cauliflower (now on menus everywhere and rapidly replacing Brussels sprouts as the side vegetable of choice):

Cassoulet - serves 6-8
Pairs well with Château Segonzac, Blaye, Côtes de Bordeaux, 2009: Rich, black fruits, silky tannins and solid structure.


4 cups dried white beans, flageolet or cannellini

1/2 pound not-too-smoky slab bacon

1/4 thick sliced prosciutto or pancetta

small bunch fresh parsley -- leaves chopped, stems saved

10 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

3 whole cloves

salt and black pepper

1 pound boneless beef for stew, cut into 1-inch cubes

oil or fat as needed

2 medium onions, sliced

duck confit (if you can't find this, roast two whole turkey thighs and reserve)

8 garlic cloves, peeled

2 cups chicken stock, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 pound garlicky sausage, preferably in one piece

1 cup bread crumbs

1. Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan and add the beans. Remove from heat and let soak for 1 hour.

2. Cut the bacon slab and prosciutto or pancetta each into 4 large chunks and cover in water in another saucepan; turn the heat to medium, and when the water boils, turn it down to a gentle simmer.
Cook for about 30 minutes.

3. Make a bouquet garni by combining the parsley stems, thyme, bay leaves and whole cloves in a piece of cheesecloth and tying it into a bundle.  Add it, along with the bacon/prosciutto, to the beans; bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, skimming occasionally, until the beans are just tender, 45 to 90 minutes. (Add water if necessary; ideally the beans will be moist but not swimming when they’re done.) Taste and adjust the seasoning to taste if necessary.

4. Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper. Put 3 tablespoons oil or fat in a large pot over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the beef and brown the pieces well. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 or 6 minutes; turn off heat.

5. Remove the duck confit or turkey from the refrigerator and scrape off the fat; debone and shred the meat. Add the meat and garlic cloves to the pot with the beef, along with 2 cups chicken stock, chopped garlic and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer; cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is very tender, 1 to 11/2 hours. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

6. When you’re ready to assemble the cassoulet, discard the bouquet garni. Cut the fat from the meat and cut the meat into small pieces.

7. Heat 2 tablespoons oil or fat in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, add the sausage and cook, turning as necessary until well browned; transfer to a cutting board and slice into quarter-inch rounds.

8. Heat the oven to 375. Transfer the beans to a large enameled cast-iron pot with a slotted spoon to leave behind most of the cooking liquid. Add the sausage and bacon on top, then the duck-and-lamb mixture; gently stir to blend well

9. Put the pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer, uncovered, then turn off heat. Cover with bread crumbs and chopped parsley leaves and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325.

10. Bake the cassoulet until it’s hot, bubbling and crusted around the edges, 30 to 40 minutes; add a little water or stock if it starts to look too dry. Then, enjoy!



French Onion Soup  - makes 4-8 servings
Pairs well with Château Puy-Blanquet, Saint Emilion, Grand Cru, 2009.  This elegant Merlot-based wine has a vibrant cherry tone, is clean and crisp on the palate, but not too heavy for soup.  It has nice spice and pepper flavors on the finish.

The stock:

3 lbs. meaty beef soup bones

2 bay leaves

4 whole peppercorns

salt to taste.

Put the bones onto a large baking pan and roast at 375 for 20 minutes until browned.  Transfer the bones to a large stock pot.  Add a cup or two of water to the baking pan and scrape up all the browned bits on the bottom and add to the bones in the pot.  Add the bay leaves and peppercorns and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a gentle boil over high heat then cover and lower the heat and let simmer for at least 90 minutes. (This can be done in advance, just strain when cooked, cool, cover and refrigerate until needed for the soup).

The soup:

3 pounds onions, sliced both thick and thin.

3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

beef stock (from above)

ground pepper and salt to taste

1/2 brandy or cognac (optional)

1/2 pound Gruyere cheese grated

Melt the butter in  a large soup pot.  When the foam subsides, turn the flame to medium and add the onions.  Stir well and often until the onions are soft and golden, about 30-45 minutes.  Add the flour and stir well, cook about 5 more minutes, stirring, to cook out the raw flour taste and start to color the flour golden.  Add the stock, cover and simmer on a low flame for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Add the brandy if using and cook another fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.  Put equal parts of the grated cheese into individual soup bowls and ladle in the hot soup on top.  Serve with good crusty bread.


Chou-fleur Gratinée - serves 4
Pairs well with Mouton Cadet Bordeaux Rouge, 2010.  A light, easy wine, with typical currant and cherry aromas on the nose. This wine is silky with moderate tannins.

1/2 pound bacon

large onions, sliced

1 pound potatoes thick sliced

1 pound fresh cauliflower, cut up bite size

1/4 pound Gruyere cheese, grated

Heat oven to 350.

Put a tablespoon of oil into a frying pan and cook the bacon until just crisp.  Add onion and sauté until the onions are just soft and turning golden.

Put the potato slices in a large pot and add enough water to more than cover. Add salt to taste and bring to a gentle boil, add the cauliflower and cook until both are tender, about 5-7 minutes.  When cooked, drain thoroughly.

In a gratin dish, layer 1/3 of the potato and cauliflower, and then scatter 1/3 of the bacon onion mixture across and top with 1/3 of the cheese.  Drizzle the layer with 1/3 of the cream and repeat until all is used.  Bake in the 350 oven for about 30 minutes until bubbling.  Let rest two or three minutes before serving piping hot!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Paris Retro: Fine (or not so fine) Dining, Cheap Living and Offbeat Graffiti

Travel and Food Notes welcomes back guest blogger Peter Hochstein, author, biographer, journalist and award-winning advertising copywriter. Check out his new autobiographical ebook for more of his inspired, witty and irreverent observations.  

They say that after a while we begin to regress to childhood. I’m a case in point. As I’ve grown older, my hairline has retreated toward the near-zero state it was in when I was born. To be honest, I’m shrinking, too. I’m an inch shorter than I was at 35. And now even my travel habits are slipping backwards .


Until quite recently, a trip to Paris meant I’d been staying in the charmingly fashionable Sixth Arrondissement or the ultra chi-chi Eighth. But due to the current economic situation, I decided to skimp a bit and go back alone to where my love affair with Paris began. That would be the Fifth Arrondissement, or the Latin Quarter, named for the days when classes at the Sorbonne were taught in Latin.

The bible of student travelers in Europe when I was a student was Arthur Frommer’s “Europe on $5 A Day.  One of the cooler places recommended was the Hotel Cluny Sorbonne at 8 Rue Victor Cousin, directly across the street from the Sorbonne. Here, I learned that while you can’t really go home again, you can sort of do it.

I actually got my old room back at the Cluny Sorbonne. Well, anyway, half of my old room. Renovations in the 1980s split some of the rooms in two, so more guests could be accommodated. Additionally, every room now has a bathroom. No more toilet down the hall, or paying the equivalent of 50 cents for a shower.

But the room rates have been renovated, too. My old room, a double, used to cost roughly $4 a night and was furnished in slightly tired Belle Epoque satins, with red and gold the predominating colors. My renovated half of my former room, ran 101 Euros a night. Unfortunately, that’s what passes for a bargain price these days in Paris and you get what you pay for.


The renovated space was spartan, the colors less colorful than my student days, and the bedding, though pristinely clean, was probably well on the low side of any thread count you’ve experienced. The blankets were covered with fuzzy nubbins, presumably from punishing trips to the washing machine. But the room’s view of the Sorbonne hadn't changed at all.

Without even unpacking my bags, I grabbed my camera and ran down into the street to record what else had or hadn’t changed.

I am happy to report that the urge to post graffiti in the Fifth is proudly unchanged, except for subject matter. While there are still hooligans with magic markers doing just as they do in the United States to post their “tags” in impossibly difficult places, much of the graffiti is clever. Here and there it’s even beautiful, and some of it appears to be pasted-on, like wallpaper, so that eventually it can be taken down.

When it’s political, the focus of graffiti in the Fifth sometimes shifts from France to the United States. And, reflecting the new cosmopolitanism of Parisians, a great many of whom now speak excellent English, some of the graffiti are in English, too.

Moreover, there’s a tendency toward images that make you stop and think. At  Place de la Sorbonne, in front of the venerated university, there’s a statue of  August Compte, said to have been the father of sociology. At the base of his statue, somebody has gratefully scribbled “Merci pour tout!” 

How about a fashion statement? I found a wall scrawl that declared, “Praise be to Prada.” Yes, in English. Possibly sarcastic English.

All this walking around in seach of graffiti made me hungry. So in keeping with my budget-minded plans, I used a street map and the kindness of strangers to direct me to Rue Mouffetard, about a 15-minute stroll from Place de la Sorbonne. “Rue Mouff” has become a restaurant row. It’s filled with bistro after touristy bistro, many offering moderately-priced French specialties beloved by visitors – fondues, raclettes, escargots, boeuf bourgignon and steak pommes frites.

For considerably more upscale dining in the Fifth, I took some French guests another night to L’Atelier Maitre Albert, one of celebrity chef Guy Savoy’s establishments. This one, at the corner of Rue Maitre Albert and Quai de Montebello, even wowed my French friends. It specializes in rotisseried meats (roasted chicken unlike you’ve ever had before), and while I suppose we could have racked up a king’s ransom there, a three-course prix fixe “seasonal” dinner ran only 35 Euros a head. A luscious bottle of Haut Medoc cost 69 Euros extra, and went perfectly with the meal.

In fact, the food was so good that I had to struggle with myself to avoid stepping outside and scrawling praises for the restaurant’s cuisine on its walls.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pisco: The Favorite Liquor of Peru (and Chile)


In this season of holiday parties with much eggnog and other fattening drinks, I prefer to choose regional cocktails as a combination dessert-drink.  One of my go-tos has always been the Pisco Sour, a favorite in Peru and Chile.  Pisco is the national liquor of Peru, with a National Pisco Day on July 21, but there is much debate between Peru and Chile as to which country originated the drink.  No matter, pisco is still relatively unknown here.  A wonderful base for a variety of cocktails, pisco is a clear brandy which is made by fermenting one or more grapes mixed together, all grown in the coastal desert plains.  It’s also a nice lower-calorie choice for a shot if you’re tired of tequila (which, by the way, has its only national holiday just three days later on July 24).

Piscos are divided into ones that are aromatic and those which are not, depending on the grape or grapes used, similar to other brandies.  Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Uvina and Mollar are made from just one type of non-aromatic grape; aromatic piscos include Moscatel, Italia and Torontel.   You can also try Acholado or Mosto Verde which contain at least one non-aromatic and one aromatic grape.

I have to admit that I’m a novice when it comes to pisco; I’m much savvier about the varieties of blanco, añejo and reposado tequilas.  What I’ve started to notice, however, is that there are quite a few pisco producers, and this becomes important if you prefer to drink your liquor straight up.  Some of the best brands come from Peru and include Huamani, Campo de Encanto, Cholo Matias and Torres de la Gala.



Machu Picchu
My preference when choosing a pisco drink is the famous Pisco Sour, though, which I got hooked on during my visits to Chile a few years ago.  I guess I’m not the only one, as Peru has a National Pisco Sour Day in February (there are more and more holidays dedicated to liquor, it seems).  This cocktail is simply made with pisco, lemon juice, sugar and egg whites. To me, this is the best, but you can always experiment with other pisco variations such a maracuya sour made with passion fruit or a chilcano which has ginger ale in it.
If you’re planning a trip to Peru – I only had a brief layover in Lima, sadly – try to visit the area around Ica, south of Lima, where most pisco is produced.  A worthy reward after hiking Machu Picchu, pisco can be sampled and venerated at the Museo del Pisco in Cusco.  The bar there is dedicated to everything pisco and will give out samples – oh, for a museum like that in the US!  In New York City, I always head to Pomaire in the theater district for a Pisco Sour fix.

While I don’t have another South American itinerary planned for the near future, I hope to go back to Chile soon (Easter Island is probably my favorite exotic destination) and I’m looking forward to spending real time in Peru.  If you’re researching an itinerary or just want help in planning a trip, South American Vacations can assist.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas in Little Italy: December Events Starting this Weekend


It’s that most wonderful time of the year, and Chinatown NYC and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of New York (CCCNY) are adding to their seasonal events with the First Annual Chinatown Holiday Street fair this Saturday, December 1 from 12 Noon - 5pm.  Colorful, fun, and engaging for families of all ages, the street fair will take place on Mott Street from Canal to Worth streets, Bayard Street (from Bowery to Mulberry Street), Pell Street, and Doyers Street. Be sure to stop by the stage in front of Confucius Plaza Square, adjacent to Bowery, for performances of singing, dancing, and Chinese martial arts throughout the afternoon. Of particular note are the Lion Dance at noon and the ribbon-cutting with reps from the Mayor’s office and other elected officials.  Another don't miss is the traditional tree lighting and Christmas musicale at 6:30pm at the Courtyard of the Most Precious Blood Church on 109 Mulberry Street.  It will truly show you how important community life is to New York City.  Tony Danza will be there as well.   In keeping with the spirit of Christmas and the post-Sandy recovery effort, the neighborhood’s shops will be featuring a Christmas market of sorts with specially discounted items and food.  

On December 22, the annual East Meets West Parade kicks off at 2pm along Canal and Mulberry streets, replete with lions, dragons, floats, marching bands and Santa Claus.  All events are sponsored by the Little Italy Merchants Association and the Chinatown Partnership, 212-764-6330.




Thursday, November 8, 2012

Global Food Shopping Ideas Just in Time for Thanksgiving

Although I can pretty much find anything I want in Manhattan, I love the idea of world cuisine being shipped directly to my door.  And, if you live outside of NYC, this is a way to experience the culinary treats of the Big Apple as well.  From Manhattan dessert treats to the finest Alaskan seafood to Spanish wines and oils, you’ll enjoy global treats, just in time for Thanksgiving, too.

Here are some of my favorites:

           
If you salivate over tapas from Barcelona or olive oils that are some of the freshest in the world (my favorite is the very grassy Arbequina), you’ll want to know about DeliShop.  This Spanish food shop features everything from the finest of Spanish cooking oils to essential pastas, sauces, spices and more.  Not only does Delishop deliver to your door after just a few online clicks, but it also has an extensive list of traditional recipes for make-it-yourself world cuisine.  Some Spanish favorites include a classic paella entrée, típico cocktails and the ever-delicious tres leche cake.  Although not limited to those found in Spanish meals, selections largely draw upon an Iberian-based diet of oil, seafood, starch and more oil.  DeliShop also offers cooking classes at its four Barcelona locations, a potential vacation activity for the foodies and cravers of a bit of onsite Spanish culture.  Check out recipes, locations and food order options at www.delishop.es.
           
For sweeter treats to indulge yourself or your friends & family, Cookie Panache is a solid go-to.  Its bestsellers include the likes of Dulce de Leche and Red Velvet Vanilla chewy cookies, as well as Brownie and Blondie bites.  Perfect for special occasion planning, the website filters results based on the event theme.  From birthday gifts, to thank you acknowledgements, to get-well-soon packages, a wide range of sweet snacks are available.  Located in Manhattan, this gourmet bakery will alleviate any “I Miss New York” pangs. Order at www.cookiepanache.com.           
       
There are no false promises when it comes to Wisconsin’s delivering as the Dairy State, especially when it comes to its selections of meat and cheeses.  Figi’s has specialized in this combination of smokehouse favorites since 1944.  The variety packs are a definite win if you’re looking for a mix of new and old tastes, combining the best of all flavors into an assortment of snack-sized cuts of Colby-Jack and Cheddar cheeses, Smokehouse Summer Sausages, and buttery Cashew and Mixed Nut Add-ins among others.  Try the Salami- or Bacon-flavored cheese if you’re feeling daring.  Order at www.figis.com

Sick of the grocery store’s mediocre seafood section of same-old, sad hunks of fish?  Alaska wants to change all that.  From Halibut to King Crab, Snow Crab, Shrimp, Scallops, Smoked Salmon, Rockfish, Sablefish, Black Cod and more, you’ll love the choices Coal Point Seafood offers.  Fare is purchased directly from Alaskan fishermen and shipped to your door.  Coal Point even has a same-day-caught-blast-frozen policy!  You can choose from individual samplers to variety packs, and different ounce options are available.  Halibut is the Alaskan fish of choice, so that is always a good start if you’re not sure what to buy.  Order at www.welovefish.com or call 1-800-325-3877 to order direct.  

Zabar's

Anyone who visits Manhattan knows that Zabar's is a must-visit, one-stop shop for all deli items.  And now’s the perfect time to order goodies for Thanksgiving, from main courses like roasted turkeys and sides such as honey roasted yams, to non-Thanksgiving but typical Zabars treats like rugelach, smoked salmon and bagels (for the day after when you’re sick of turkey), or their famous coffee beans.  You’ll spend lots of time online perusing their site at www.zabars.com,  or call 800-697-6301 for help in selecting the perfect menu.

Monday, October 29, 2012

How to Weather Hurricane Sandy

Grand Central Terminal closed from Hurricane Sandy
New York City isn't usually a target for a hurricane.  But we've now had two in the past two years, Irene and now Sandy. And a freak snowstorm just one year ago today.  Combined with a full moon, and the prospect of cold weather colliding from the West with the hurricane rain and winds from the South, a Snowicane (yes, that's the term I read today) is possible.

For those of you tempted to walk outside to see the waves crashing over the FDR or the West Side Highway, don’t.  Stay tuned to local news stations like New York 1 and stay indoors. And, if you’re located in the Zone 1 areas that are in immediate danger including the Rockaways, City Island, Battery Park City, and low-lying areas of the East Village, we hope you’ve heeded the warning to find shelter in the city’s evacuation centers.

This is a “perfect storm,” the likes of which haven’t been seen in NYC… ever.  Hurricane Irene was a baby compared to this one.  If the Western-generated snow front collides with the rain and wind from the South, we’re in for a biggie here in the New York-New Jersey area.  If you’ve been advised to evacuate, it's probably already too late.  What you must do, at this point, is stay away from your windows, keep tuned to the radio or TV, and hope.  There are restaurants open in some areas, but we aren’t advising that you venture outside unless you really need to.  Hopefully, you've already stocked up on lots of water, batteries, bread, milk, cereal and other non-perishables.

Branches from trees, weakened from last year's snowfall in October, could fall at any point and debris from rooftops could drop anywhere.  The crane collapse at 57th Street and 6th Avenue is an example of unexpected destruction from the up to 80 mph winds forecast.


Stay safe and stay indoors.  Follow me on Facebook (MDP Publicity or Meryl Pearlstein) to see other photos.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Time for the last Yankees-Red Sox Showdown in NYC -- October

October usually signals the end of a mad-dash rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees.  This year, it's anything but.  Tickets are available for all 3 games, October 1-3, on StubHub for as low as $10 each with thousands left for sale.  I guess that says it all.  I'm still going.  Being a BLOHARDS member means always having the faith.  I'll say meekly, "Go Sox!"



Make a Fancation vacation of it. The Bronx (and Manhattan) are always interesting regardless.  See you at Rao's?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Broadway Week Hits NYC: 2 for 1 Deals and Free Dessert


Love theater and dessert?  From September 4-16, you can get 2-for-1 tickets to 19 of New York City’s most popular Broadway Shows…. Plus dessert…. Free.  NYC& Company’s fourth  "Broadway Week" invites you to stay in the city and enjoy the Great White Way.


There’s also an additional incentive this fall: a free dessert when a ticket stub from one of the participating shows is presented at one of the more than 25 participating restaurants in the Theatre District.  Try some of my favorite restaurants like Firebird (don’t miss their honey-infused vodka along with a side of osetra), Shun Lee West (for dim sum and other more lofty Chinese fare), or B. Smith’s (solid Americana with Southern influences) for a great meal and a free dessert. To book tickets for a Broadway Week show and for the complete list of participating restaurants, visit www.nycgo.com/broadwayweek.

Broadway Week is designed for both locals and visitors to New York City and is produced by NYC & Company in partnership with The Broadway League, AARP, Amtrak, NBC 4 New York and The New York Times. Many of my favorites like Peter and the Starcatcher and Jersey Boys are being offered.
Choose from this great list of plays*, offered 2 for 1:
  • Bring It On: The Musical
  • Chaplin
  • Chicago
  • An Enemy of the People
  • Evita
  • The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
  • Jersey Boys
  • The Lion King
  • Mamma Mia!
  • Mary Poppins
  • Newsies
  • Nice Work If You Can Get It
  • Once
  • Peter and the Starcatcher
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Rock of Ages
  • Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
  • War Horse
  • Wicked
*Subject to availability. Blackout dates may apply.
One more perk:  If you travel on Amtrak, Amtrak Guest Rewards members can earn 100 points or more for each ticket purchased to a participating Broadway show by registering their Amtrak Guest Rewards account with Audience Rewards before making their Broadway Week purchases. 



Thursday, August 30, 2012

Theater in London: More Post-Olympics Travel Ideas


We’re still on a high after watching the Summer Olympics, and not all the West End theatrical productions travel to the U.S.  So, moving on to another of my favorite things to do in London -- theater -- here’s a list of some of the best venues to visit when considering your evening (or daytime) entertainment across the pond.

The Shakespeare Globe Theatre – This architectural wonder was opened to the public for performances in 1997 and has since then been one of the most popular places to visit in London. This theatre is in many ways international; it has staged plays by Shakespeare and Shakespearean-inspired works by writers from all over the world and attracts an international audience. The theater was also the first to have showcased a play written by a woman and today hosts many workshops and public events as well. You can book online from anywhere in the world, so you won’t miss out when you get to London.

 
The Shakespeare Globe Theatr













The National Theatre- Three auditoriums make up this top-notch theatre that has been delivering world-class performances. With restaurants, bookshops, live bands, riverside terraces and free foyer exhibitions, the National Theatre is known not only for its shows but also for all types of other entertainment: classics, musicals, family plays and more. Families will definitely want to look at the schedule here, as there are special kids’ weeks and war plays (always fascinating for young boys!). 

 

The Lyceum Theatre – This 2000-seat theatre is one of London’s most beautiful. The interiors are gorgeous and theater is an “event” here. The theatre is currently playing the very popular Lion King. You can also purchase your tickets online, in advance, by visiting their box office. 

New Wimbledon Theatre
– From Legally Blonde the Musical to The Drifters or even the classic Grease, this theatre is a magnet for blockbuster musicals.  There are also special events, courses, and tours for visitors to enjoy.  For something entirely different, look on their schedule for their pantomime performances and stand-up comedy as well.


My advice: don’t be disappointed by not booking your tickets before you arrive in London.  Some of the best deals will be online (just like in the US), using the links above, either through the theater itself or using various ticket sellers. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Backstreet Boys to Perform in Central Park August 31 - Free


Still longing for one more free outdoor-in-the-park concert in NYC?  There’s a big one coming up, the Backstreet Boys as part of GMA’s outdoor morning series.  You have to be willing to get there bright and early, bring your coffee (although then you risk the port-a-potty nonsense), but it’s always a good time.  If last year’s Lady Gaga zipline over Central Park didn’t inspire you to attend, I’m not sure what will.  The Good Morning America Summer Concert Series takes place at Rumsey Playfield, from 7-9am.  Suggest that you arrive by 6am.  Enter at the 72nd Street entrance on Fifth Avenue.

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