Monday, July 23, 2018

The Foodie Event of the Season Happens This Saturday: James Beard Foundation's Chefs & Champagne

Get ready for this weekend’s much-anticipated foodie event, the James Beard Foundation’s annual Chefs & Champagne tasting. The delicious event is held in support of the James Beard Foundation’s programs which celebrate, nurture and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage. 

On Saturday July 28, 36 chefs – many of them James Beard Award winners -- from restaurants in New York, Florida, Missouri, California, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington DC will dish up their best under the beautiful tent at Wölffer Estate Vineyard. The 2018 Guest of Honor is Padma Lakshmi, host of Bravo’s James Beard Award-winning Top Chef. 

The menu features craveworthy, seasonal dishes like Stephen Bogardsus’s corn soup with truffles (The North Fork Table & Inn, Southold); Georgette Farkas’s tarte pissaladière (Rotisserie Georgette, New York); Mina Newman’s Nikkei ceviche with sockeye salmon (Sen Sakana, New York City); and Nick Stefanelli’s burrata with beluga caviar (Masseria, Washington, DC) that show why summer is the best culinary season. All is to be washed down by constantly flowing Champagne Boizel, Tito’s vodka and a variety of Wölffer Estate wines.

The evening begins at 5pm with a VIP reception. The main event, from 6-8:30pm, is followed by an after-party for VIP guests until 10pm. All guests receive a goodie-filled swag bag and can also take part in an extravagant silent auction with the chance to win a vacation getaway, a delicious dining experience, a watch, cookware and more. Bidding is open online through July 25 and will continue as a silent auction throughout the evening of the event. Take a look here

Proceeds from the auction and the dinner will support JBF’s initiatives including the Impact Programs in areas of seafood sustainability, food waste, chef advocacy and childhood nutrition; the Women’s Leadership Programs and numerous scholarship programs. For tickets, including VIP tickets to the after-party dining extravaganza, click here. 

Wölffer Estate Vineyard, Sagg Road, Sagaponack, New York; 212-627-2308,

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Support Dance for a Good Cause at This Weekend's "Dancers For Good" Benefit with Superstar Performances and Honorees

Here’s a “good” reason to travel to the Hamptons this weekend: the 2018 dance benefit brought to you by Dancers For Good at Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York.

Thanks to producers Eric Gunhus and Michael Apuzzo, you’ll want to put on your own dancing shoes after watching Friday’s amazing line-up of dance luminaries. Starting at 7pm, a program of modern dance, contemporary dance and ballet featuring eight companies and 40 performers will take the stage in support of The Actors Fund.

The evening of dance celebrates dancers who have devoted their lives to the wonder of movement and supports an important organization in the arts community, The Actors Fund. Headed by President and CEO Joseph Benincasa, The Actors Fund provides support and services for those in the performing arts and entertainment fields.  The Actors Fund encompasses programs like The Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative and more.  All net proceeds from the evening’s event will go to The Actors Fund.

Honorees for the evening are noted dancers and actresses Chita Rivera (Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Bye Bye Birdie, West Side Story, The Visit, Nine) and Bebe Neuwirth (Chicago, Dancin’, Sweet Charity).  Performances scheduled include a special tribute by Broadway star Stephanie Pope (Chicago, Sweet Charity, Pippin) also the host for the evening, who will perform “All That Jazz” from Chicago, recognizing the roles played by Rivera (Velma) and Neuwirth (Velma, Roxie)  in the musical.  Dance companies on the program are Martha Graham Dance Company, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Rock the Ballet, Amy Marshall Dance Company, Carolyn Dorfman Dance, Eryc Taylor Dance and Pam Tanowitz Dance.  VIP level ticketholders are invited to attend the post-performance cocktail reception and mingle with the stars.

Gunhus, a former Broadway performer, created the first Dancers For Good event in 2016 along with dancer Michael Apuzzo of the Paul Taylor Dance Company as a showcase for some of the most prestigious companies and individuals in the dance world.  Why East Hampton?  “East Hampton was a natural choice with a beautiful theater like Guild Hall,” Gunhus replied. “And we felt The Hamptons was craving a unique event of this nature.  Where else out East can you see a world-class showcase of dance with celebrity hosts and guests and endless cocktails at a charity event to support a vital organization?”  It’s a beautiful setting for a beautiful evening of artistry.  Amen, Eric. I couldn’t agree more.

Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton.  Tickets are $150 and $250 (VIP) and can be purchased here.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Celebrate Bastille Day and the World Cup Final in New York City This Weekend

The Fourth of July is over but we can celebrate another Independence Day with some great restaurant  and entertainment choices in Manhattan. Even better, you can celebrate this “day” for an extended period while partying or dining out a la francaise. 

Bastille Day, July 14, commemorates the fall of the French monarchy and celebrates the storming of the Bastille in Paris in 1789.  

An annual celebration is the fête populaire thrown by the French Institute Alliance Francaise (FIAF), the largest public celebration of France’s Independence Day in New York France’s historic friendship with the United States. 

The festival, a three-block all-day affair, is popular among New Yorkers of all ages, with French cuisine, music, dance and other family-friendly attractions. 

The Bastille Day celebration takes place on July 15, 2018 on East 60th Street from 5th Avenue to Lexington Avenue, and is a block party extraordinaire. Starting at 11am, there will be a live screening of the World Cup Final, following by a “Summer in the South of France” tasting starting at noon, along with a French-themed market, kids’ corner and musical performances. At 1:30 and 3:30pm, you can toast to everything French with a Champagne and jazz party.  And, if you’re feeling especially lucky, enter to with trips to Paris and Martinique with a prize drawing to be held at 5pm. 

If you’re still hungry, several of the city’s French restaurants including Bar Boulud (with live music, can can dancers and a caricature artist), Claudette and Bar Tabac offer special Bastille Day menus.

Another of my favorites, Paname French Restaurant, is in easy walking distance from the FIAF fete. Paname French Restaurant’s Bastille Day Menu features a three-course prix fixe selection for only $43 per person.  The restaurant, helmed by owner/chef Bernard Ros, is mostly bistro in sensibility, but with a modern eclectic flair.  Here you’ll enjoy an appetizer, a main and dessert with such typically French dishes as escargots, potages de legumes, boudin noir, and steak bordelaise.

Additionally, on July 15 from 10am-8pm, Bar Tabac joins other establishments on Smith Street in Brooklyn for their annual Petanque Tournament and Smith Street Provence Festival. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

So You Wanna Know Something about Brooklyn? Here's Your Chance

Brooklyn is the second largest borough in New York City and holds a myriad of cultural and culinary attractions.  Here are two ways to explore it, one by bus (and a wonderful culinary exploration) and one by foot (with a focus on theater, music and history).

All photos by Julienne Schaer.

If you’re a foodie, you will love Foods of NY’s culinary tours.

It takes a while to explore (and eat your way through) Brooklyn, so a bus tour is actually a good idea if you want to cover a lot of distance in a short period of time. If Brooklyn were’nt part of New York City, it would still rank as the fourth largest city in the US, with 43 distinct neighborhoods with people from almost every country. With that comes an amazing array of traditions, history, and, of course, lots of fabulous ethnic foods.

The half-day food, history and cultural journey traverses four Brooklyn neighborhoods where you’ll learn about Brooklyn’s immigrant past and present. Areas visited include Williamsburg’s Hasidic area, Greenpoint’s Polish neighborhood where you’ll sample kielbasa and pierogies, North Williamsburg’s hipster areas with lots of street food and pizza choices, and more. In total, you’ll have six tastings of some of Brooklyn’s most representative cuisines from Middle Eastern to Italian, from hipster to traditional. Plan to come very hungry!

Pick up and drop off are in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. After getting a taste of Brooklyn, you might just want to stay there a bit longer and make your way back to Manhattan by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge for its glorious views of both Brooklyn (look behind you) and Manhattan (in front of you). Or plan to book an overnight in one of Brooklyn’s new trendy hotels and explore more on your own.

Tickets are priced at $125 per person.

Local Expeditions are walks and bike tours curated and led by local residents passionate about a topic.

This walk through Brooklyn is perfect for theater lovers, music fans, and anyone curious about Brooklyn’s past. The tour meets in front of BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, and ends at the Theatre for a New Audience’s Polonsky’s Shakespeare Center 262 Ashland Place (at Fulton Street), Brooklyn.

Once described as a “regional attraction to rival Times Square,” downtown Brooklyn was a popular destination of shops, restaurants and theaters. It is now enjoying a revival with the Brooklyn Cultural District, Polonsky’s Shakespeare Center, and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (where you can eat and drink while you watch).

The tour is led by theater historian Cezar Del Valle and will explore downtown Brooklyn’s theatrical past, present and future. Sites visited  include those of the legendary Paramount and Fox theaters, the 14th and 15th  largest movie houses built in America.

The walk ends at the Theatre for a New Audience’s Polonsky’s Shakespeare Center. Opened in 2013, this was the first major house for classical drama to be built in New York City since Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater in 1965.

Tickets are $30 per person.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Soaking up the Cowboy Vibe in Sheridan, Wyoming

I’m anything but a cowgirl. I live in the city, I take motorized public transportation wherever I go, and I don’t often chow down on steak and fries.  But I relished my visit to Sheridan, Wyoming (named one of the country’s “Best Small Towns") where I got a taste of small-town America, done cowboy-style.

Here’s my guide to how to immerse yourself in this truly American experience.

Walk the Streets of the Town

At every turn in this historic town, there are sculptures signifying important aspects of the Wild West, from eagles and moose, to fishermen and Native Americans. These are part of the city’s public arts initiative to creatively add art to the town while also explaining the markers that create its history. You’ll learn about the history, as well, about legends like Buffalo Bill and the iconic places they frequented.

Speaking of Buffalo Bill, pop into the Sheridan Inn which opened in 1892, where Bill and his buddies downed more than a few. William “Buffalo Bill” Cody was intimately involved in the creation of the inn, and the 22 rooms each commemorate an aspect of his life. You can also drink at the original bar that Buffalo Bill frequented on his many “Wild West Show” trips to Sheridan. 

Shop ‘til You Drop

Yes, that’s a cliché, but here the shopping is different.  You can enter a world of ropes and saddles, where buckle art and lasso creation lends an important eye to the whys and wherefores of these sale items.  Schedule a tour at King’s Saddlery and the Don King Museum, too, to learn more about Western history and ropes.  If you like home goods, the small shops here offer a plethora of choices to decorate your country house or make your apartment homier. For souvenirs and clothing, check out the Crazy Woman Trading Co.  

Soak up the History at the City’s Museums and More

Just outside the city limits in Big Horn, the Brinton Art Museum displays 19th, 20th and 21st century Western and American Indian art in a gorgeous eco-friendly building with views of the Bighorn Mountains. Of note are the Native American galleries where costumes and headdresses are displayed in magnificent cases showing their full-feathered glory. The Brinton Ranch House, just a short walk away and also on the grounds, is an authentic period home from the 1892, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Of note to me were the bathrooms, reminiscent of many of the pre-war bathrooms in New York City.

Enjoy a Cowboy Feast 

Brews, beef, and bounty are the calling card here. New-fangled brewery Black Tooth Brewing brings the city into the 2000s with artisanal beers like Black Eagle Baltic Porter and Little Goose Lager. Step around the corner for a Western saloon experience at the 100-year-old Mint Bar and for traditional cowboy meals at restaurants like Frackelton’s and Open Range Bar and Grill where generous portions of chicken-fried steak, ribeyes and ruby red trout headline the menus.  If you’re an urban cowboy, you might also like the wine bar with its measured pours (you insert a purchased “Library Card” into one of the myriad dispensers) at The Tasting Library at the end of the strip heading towards the mountains.

Commune with Nature and Locals

Within the city limits, you can join in where the buffalo roam by the grounds of the Kendrick Elk and Buffalo Park. Antelope and deer are spottable too.

Or drive a short ways up Bighorn Mountain to Spear-O-Wigwam, a place for retreats and relaxation with cabin-style living, roaming moose, and the simple joys of reading, hiking and watching the sun rise over the lake. Ask to stay in the cabin where 29-year-old Ernest Hemingway spent his days musing and creating.  Just be sure to keep your windows shut – I had an unwelcome encounter with a swarm of flies that were attracted to the warmth of the stove inside the cabin!  If you call ahead, you should be able to arrange horseback riding and rowing on the lake.

And one of my favorite things of all?

Around the corner from my hotel, Holiday Inn- Sheridan Convention Center, was a giant Wal-Mart.  For me, this was nirvana, particularly at midnight, when customers and employees could get to know each other, while also enjoying the breadth of items sold at this fixture of Western (and non-urban) Americana.

A Traveler’s Trip:  The plane on Key Lime air from Denver to Sheridan is very small and luggage weight and contents are carefully monitored.  Pack lightly and don’t bring a lot of electronics with you unless you’re willing to have everything in your bag scrutinized. You can also fly into Billings, Montana and rent a car to drive two hours to Sheridan.

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.