Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chagall Exhibit (and Co-mix) at the Jewish Museum: Must-Sees for Football and Non-football Fans Alike

Not everything happening in New York City this week, of note, is about football. And, for non-football lovers like me, I want to recommend a must-see art exhibit if you're visiting Manhattan this week, be it for the Super Bowl or not. There's also an amazing Co-mix retrospective of works by Art Spiegelman of New Yorker Magazine and the underground comics magazine RAW to while away your time.

Closing February 2, the Chagall: Love, War, and Exile, exhibit at the Jewish Museum in Manhattan should not be missed. This exhibit of paintings, prints and artifacts makes its debut in the United States, showing an important period in Marc Chagall's artistic career: the effect of the fascism and World War II on his creativity.  It also show the impact of the death of his wife Bella in 1944 and the inclusion of his new wife Virginia Haggard McNeil into his paintings, which are filled with many familiar icons of earlier works.

Always hearkening back to Vitebsk, the village in Belarus/Russia of Chagall's birth, the paintings include fondly remembered symbols of the shtetl or village, such as the cow, a brightly colored horse, houses, violinists, religious villagers and mothers with children. Later, darker paintings incorporate Chagall's memories of the Bolshevik Revolution, a dark period of exile from his beloved Russia to France.  The exhibition includes 31 paintings and 22 works on paper, as well as telegrams, letters, poems, photos, books and more, all works of Marc Chagall or ephemera from his life.
The Jewish Museum

Chagall: Love, War and Exile focuses on the artist's works from the 1930s through 1948, following his move to Paris in 1922 (where he changed his name from Moishe Shagal/Segal to the more French Marc Chagall and incorporated much French style into his paintings), and during his second exile to New York at the invitation of Alfred Barr of the Museum of Modern Art. One of the most revered modernist painters, Marc Chagall (1887–1985) displays here the influences on his style from folk art, religious painting, Cubism and even Surrealism (one painting shows a "walking" street lamp). Especially interesting is his attempt at outreach to both Christians and Jews, showing frequent depictions of the Crucifixion of Jesus as well as of Jesus in the form of Jewish figures wearing Jewish religious vestments, both functioning as an everyman symbol of anyone who has been the victim of persecution.

Moving from the folk style of Russian art, to French-influenced flower-filled paintings, darker persecution-themed paintings, and mourning images following his wife's death, Chagall finally shows splashes of color again in the final paintings of the exhibit. World War II has ended, Chagall has re-married and has a second child.  Themes of his past -- "the village" that he so adored -- remain but are now more vibrant, showing the Chagall that one has come to know more familiarly from his earlier paintings like "I and the Village" (1911) at the Museum of Modern Art.

Art SpiegelmanCo-mix runs through March 23 and includes not only Art Spiegelman's famous New Yorker magazine covers, but the 13-year project Maus: A Survivor's Tale, published in 1986, and its second volume published in 1991, intense comics depicting the life for Jews during the Holocaust with Jews drawn as mice, "the vermin of mankind" by Nazi standards. On a lighter note, Spiegelman's creations for Topp confections are parodies of bubble gum covers and highly entertaining.

The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue, 1109 5th Ave, Manhattan, (212) 423-3200 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I'm in a Super Bowl State of Mind: New York City

Super Bowl Boulevard, Times Square

If you haven’t been over to Times Square and Broadway yet, you’re in for a week of Super Bowl madness.  Last night I saw the testing of the New Jersey-New York Super Bowl Toboggan on Super Bowl Boulevard. A very chilly experience at 41st Street and Broadway. (I was much happier after I stopped for a build-your-own burger at The Counter and sipped on a lovely California zinfandel). Broadway will be closed down to cars from 47th Street to 34th Street so pedestrians can enjoy the shops, merriment, and snacks amid the freezing temperatures. You can also register on-location for free access to the NFL Network, ESPN and FOX broadcast sets as well as the Vince Lombardi Trophy display.  Some of the fun activities: take a photo with the Vice Lombardi Trophy, receive free autographs from NFL players, kick a field goal through NFL uprights, ride the 60’ toboggan,and enjoy giveaways and free snacks throughout.

Choice Eats, Free Bryant Park, and "Taste of NFL" Foodie Events

My favorite NYC foodie event is back, and tickets go on sale tomorrow at noon.  The Village Voice’s “Choice Eats” always has about 60 restaurants to sample treats from, from 35 or more different ethnicities. To date, 26 restaurants have voiced their commitment including Bear, Bhatti Indian Grill, Bobwhite Lunch and Supper Counter, Brooklyn Koloache (love those savory and sweet pastries), Butter & Scotch, Coppelia, Devi, Dirt Candy (vegetarians rejoice), Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue, Indian Clove, Jimmy’s No. 43, Kaia Wine Bar, Louro, Luke’s Lobster, Mables Smokehouse, Maima’s Liberian Bistro, No. 7 Oda House, Ovelia Psistaria, Pete Zaaz, Queens Comfort, Red Hook Lobster Pound (is this your favorite or is it Luke’s?), Robicelli’s, The Kati Roll Company, The Meatball Shop, Xe Mayu Sandwich Shop. Back by popular demand, "Choice Eats" will offer all ticketholders an array of dessert offerings in the "Choice Sweets" section of the event. March 25.

Since this is the seventh event, you know it’s going to be a lucky one!  Prepare. Don’t eat for several days prior. The location this year is new (not the 69th Armory as in the past): Basketball City at Pier 36 in Lower Manhattan (299 South Street). Three hours of eating from 7-10pm, with a VIP-only hour from 6-7pm. Tickets are $60 for General Admission, or $85 with the VIP sign-up.

New this year, "Choice Eats" will be accepting volunteers to assist The Village Voice team on-site at the event. In addition, to free entry to “Choice Eats,” this is a pretty cool way to get a free general admission ticket to The Village Voice's Third annual "Choice Streets" Food Truck Tasting Event to be held later this year in May. To apply, you must be 21 years or older and fill out this application,

Two other events happening in the NYC food scene this week:

23rd Taste of the NFL at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal
Held in Red Hook (Brooklyn) at “heated” Pier 12, the Taste of the NFL is holding its annual party, with lots of celebrity chefs fĂȘting their favorite NFL team, each with a special dish. This year’s event – no surprise – is being held the night before the Super Bowl.  As a nod to the Super Bowl’s straggling both New York and New Jersey, there will also be a special appearance this year from cast members of TLC’s “Cake Boss.” Proceeds go to local food banks in NFL cities. 72 Bowne Street, Brooklyn.

#PEPCITY in Bryant Park
PepsiCo will throw a three-day music and food celebration in Manhattan’s Bryant Park, starting Thursday, January 30 and ending Saturday, February 1. Free public events are scheduled from 2-6pm including performances from Broadway musicals.  Nightly entertainment includes free ticketed concerts in the dome at 8pm. Food stations will be provided by local celebrity chefs David Burke (David Burke Townhouse, David Burke Kitchen, Fishtail by David Burke), Marc Forgione (Restaurant Marc Forgione) and Michael Psilakis (Kefi, Fishtag).  40th-42nd streets, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, Manhattan. Check out the video here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Top Places to Go Sledding (or Snowshoeing) and Enjoy Hot Chocolate in New York City

The Polar Vortex keeps coming at us. Yesterday I saw bus gridlock on the Upper East Side, jackknifed articulated buses which had sideswiped parked cars, and frozen people galore.  But, you have to agree, it's pretty darn beautiful out there. So, get outside. Manage those multiple layers of fleece and silk, and head to the park.  Here's a list of places for some mild to aggressive sledding in all five boroughs.  Or, choose like me, to make snow angels or go snowshoeing instead. 

After the freeze?  Hot chocolate, naturellement, at some of the best places near the parks.  Check out Vosges (try the spicy Mexican version), Starbucks (their seasonal-fave peppermint hot chocolate inspires dreams), Le Pain Quotidien (Belgian hot chocolate so rich you need to add milk to dilute it), or the dreamy, rich French version at Maison du Chocolat (with a thickness that conjures up the Left Bank).


Central Park on the East Side and Riverside Park on the West Side are the destinations of choice for snow action:
Sledding Central Park
Cedar Hill, Central Park
  • Cedar Hill in Central Park on the Upper East Side (Fifth Avenue between 76th and 79th streets) is my favorite Manhattan locale, but be prepared for lots of people.
  • Pilgrim Hill in Central Park on the Upper East Side  (Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street) – its long slope is my other favorite when I don't mind crowds and a bit of mania.
  • Near the Metropolitan Museum on the Upper East Side (Central Park, Fifth Avenue and 8st Street) – the gentler slope here is great for little kids (behind the Ancient Playground).
  • Riverside Park on the Upper West Side, Riverside Drive at 103rd Street – for adults and kids alike
  • Riverside Park on the Upper West Side, Riverside Drive at 91st Street – much scarier; not recommended for children. There's a reason it's called "Suicide Park."
  • Also on the Upper West Side, St. Nicholas Park has a long, steep hill that divides the Harlem side from the Morningside Heights side.
  • At the northern most point of Manhattan, Inwood Hill Park has good sledding. Near Dyckman Street and the Hudson River.
  • Forest Park – sledding is popular on the golf course with its three hills and at the Mary Whale Playground at 79th St and Park Lane South.
  • Juniper Valley Park at 75th Street and Lower Highland Park.
  • Crocheron Park along the bay offers both easy and steep hill sledding. 35th Avenue between the Cross Island Parkway and 215th Street.
  • Check out Astoria Park's hills by entering at 19th Street and Shore Boulevard.

Snow angel
  • Ewen Park – a steep hill with the added benefit of stairs to climb back up, Riverdale Avenue at 231st Street.
  • Van Cortland Park – Also in Riverdale, shallow hills but lots of areas to sled. This one is easy to get to via the 1 train to 242nd Street or the 4 train to Woodlawn.
  • Yet another Riverdale spot, Henry Hudson Memorial Park will challenge you with its drops straight down to the Hudson River.  Kappock Street near Palisade Avenue.
  • Crotona Park at Fulton Ave between Crotona Park North and 172nd Street – a great area for kids of all ages. The slope is located behind the ballfield.
  • Clove Lake Park – a family destination, Martling Avenue at Slosson Avenue.
  • Dead Man's Hill in Silver Lake Park -- Enter at Forest Avenue and Victory Boulevard.
  • Fort Greene Park – the steepest area of the park's four hills is at the back part of the hill leading down to Myrtle Avenue; the smallest hill is near Willoughby entrance of Myrtle Avenue. Entrance to the park is on Myrtle or DeKalb avenues.
  • Prospect Park has many choices:
    • 9th Street and Prospect Park West -- a good downhill run
    • The Nethermead -- rolling hills in the Picnic House area
    • The Long Meadow Slope -- Tennis House Area in Prospect Park
    • Vanderbilt Playground – off Prospect Park Southwest
      Sledding, Brooklyn
      Prospect Park, Brooklyn

  • Sunset Park - Enter at 41st/44th Street and 5th Avenue. The hill is in the park between 42nd and 43rd streets.  Great views of the State of Liberty, too.
  • Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge (at Shore Parkway, Shore Road, Colonial Road and 68 Street). Hill is at Shore Road and 97th Street.
  • Brooklyn Heights’ dog park by Harry Chapin Playground, near the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
  • Clumber Corner in DUMBO near the BQE and Washington Street.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Travel and Food Notes Resolutions: Lessons I've Learned This Past Year

As I travel from country to country and city to city, I always take notes about things I should never do again, or things that I'd like to share with my fellow travelers and diners. Here are ten "rules" I plan to put into action during my next travels:

* Do not stop at the transportation desk at a foreign airport.  These desks are often fronts for time shares or other high-pressure activity centers, with transfers to your hotel only a secondary consideration.  Rather, arrange your transfers in advance, and know exactly how and where to meet the person who will take you to your hotel.
* Always change at least $100 at the airport. This will tide you over until you can get to an ATM or a hotel-based change facility which will give you more favorable rates. Still, you need to have some local currency in your pocket should an emergency arrive before you get to your hotel.

* Be careful when using your smartphone. Call your service provider before you leave and arrange a global package for the days you plan to be out of the country.  Then, importantly, try to use WiFi wherever possible to access your mail. Turn off your cellular service and restrict any contact to voice messaging. Data access charges will kill you. I kid you not.

* Pack a package of Pepto Bismol chewables and carry it with you at all times.  Think of it as a cocktail that you take daily as a prophylactic to keep you healthy.

* Seek out concierge advice, but only after you've done your own pre-trip homework regarding restaurants and activities Use their services to help you decide among options, rather than to give you their recommendation; you'll get much less biased advice if you're already somewhat educated.

* Before you leave for the airport, call your banks and credit card providers to let them know that you'll be traveling abroad.  This way they can monitor any fraudulent activity on your cards, and, importantly, it will allow you to use your cards while you're away.

* Always check the clock in your hotel room.  Very often, the time is wrong.  And, worse, the guest before you might have set the alarm to go off at an hour that could make you very very unhappy. 

* Travel light. Lay out everything you're thinking of packing, and discard at least one third of it.  You can wear things more than once and you can minimize the number of shoes you bring. Better still, pack clothes that you can give away or throw away so you will have room for local purchases.

* Bring some favorite snack foods. Not all airlines or hotels offer food during off-hours.  You'll be happy to have a package of peanut butter crackers or an energy bar when you wake up jet lagged at 4am. 

* Learn a minimum of phrases in the local language.  "Can you help me?" is a good one to begin with.  "Hello, thank you, please" are other noble additions. Flash a smile, and you'll make friends instantly.

* Confirm and reconfirm all plane, meal, and return transportation reservations when you arrive at your hotel.  There's no easier way to ruin the karma of a good trip than with a stressed-out run to the airport when your transfer doesn't show up.