Friday, December 30, 2011

Watch the Ball Drop in Times Square Without Standing Outside All Day...

The rumors you've heard about trying to watch the ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve are true ... no alcohol allowed, no bathroom breaks unless you want to push your way back through the crowd, heavily monitored by police... And now that it's actually gotten cold outside in NYC, do you really want to stand outside for hours just to get a glimpse of the ball dropping at midnight?

If you're wondering what all the fuss is about, check out the Times Square Alliance's description of the New Year's Eve festivities here. For cool facts about the ball's history and how it is and has been constructed over the years, see here. Some people are lucky enough to have a friend or family member who has either rented a hotel room or works in an office building surrounding Times Square. However, if you're not one of those people, please read on.

While, admittedly, WGINY will be snug and warm at a cozy house party on NYE, watching the ball drop live on TV from a comfy living room, I can offer some suggestions for those of you who want to get out of the house and experience one of the most iconic New Year's celebrations worldwide:
  • Buy a ticket for Dave and Buster's New Year's Eve celebration, which gives you access to Times Square (to get to the venue...). Note: D & B does not offer private viewings of the ball drop, but having a ticket for a Times Square venue will help you work your way through crowd control. $75pp+.
  • TGIF -- You may be thinking you don't want to spend your NYE at a chain restaurant in NYC, but think again... If you buy a ticket to TGIF's Times Square New Year's Eve party, you can have the opportunity to exit the bar just before midnight, right onto the heart of Times Square, and then re-enter after the ball drops. $220pp+.
  • Madame Tussauds -- Spend your evening mingling with famous celebrities, sports figures and politicians, or at least with their wax likenesses... And if you're willing to drop some extra dough on these tickets, you can watch the ball drop from the museum's second floor which overlooks Times Square. $700pp. (Less $$ if you just want to hang at the venue and not have access to the overlook).
  • Dream Hotel -- Still pricey, but for less than Madame Tussauds' package, you can buy a ticket that will give you access to a top-floor lounge with views of Times Square. $495pp.  (Less $$ for venue access without view of Times Square). 
  • For more ideas on how to get tickets to New Year's Eve events in Times Square, so that you have a legitimate reason to be there, see here. There's a party for every budget! Re-entry is not guaranteed at most of these venues, but if your aim is to get to Times Square, you may be able to accomplish just that...
  • A friend's mom gave me the following idea, which I have not personally tried, but which I do trust, and which can save you at least a few hours of freezing outside: buy a ticket for a movie at one of the major movie theaters in Times Square -- either AMC Empire 25 or Regal E-Walk Stadium 13 -- make sure to show your movie ticket to police at showtime, and when the movie ends, walk right out onto prime Times Square area. Although the movies at AMC end pretty early in the day, with the last movies beginning at 3pm, Regal has at least one movie beginning at 6pm on December 31. In other words, you can have food/drink/bathroom access with a Regal movie ticket until at least 8pm in Times Square... 
  • Finally, a few years ago, Caroline's, a top-rated comedy club on Broadway, had a special for New Year's Eve where patrons could have the opportunity to come to a late-night comedy show and then spill out onto Times Square just before the ball dropped. It's not clear from their website whether or not Caroline's still offers this. Contact the club directly for details. 
One last side note: I randomly found this event, "Times Scare," while Googling Times Square activities (and I realized it also appears on the link above). It does not appear that the event will offer an actual viewing of the Times Square ball drop (besides on live TV), but it just seems like a super cool idea -- a 6-hour open-bar Halloween-themed haunted masquerade party, and there's even a magic show! 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A True "Nightmare (Before Christmas)" Comes to Life on the Lower East Side

The creators of the critically acclaimed "Nightmare" themed haunted houses (as described in WGINY's Halloween suggestions post) are at it again. Not even two months past the thrills and chills of Halloween, the creative team behind Nightmare brought back, and significantly expanded, a popular nightmarish attraction for a limited time--"The Experiment," originally developed in conjunction with Nightmare's 2011 "Fairy Tales" haunted house, is a 50-minute off-Broadway show where every audience member is a potential, no, a probable, subject.

The show at "Los Kabayitos Laboratorio" ran from December 9-23. Although WGINY did not get to experience "The Experiment" until the night before it closed, I still felt it deserved some recognition here, and by way of this review, I hope that the creators are encouraged to develop more attractions like this, and/or re-open this show for a longer engagement.

According to the creators, "[s]tudies have shown that the anxiety of the holiday season, coupled with seasonal depression, heightens the neurotransmitters associated with feelings of fear," and "The Experiment" exploits "those levels of fear for an adrenaline rushing 50 minutes of twisted holiday pleasure."

This "Nightmare (Before Christmas)" was no kids' show. Rather, the very limits of participants' fears were tested and re-tested in a small, poorly lit lab, controlled by two rather mad scientists. Those who did not do as these stern scientists said, found themselves relegated to a special corner reserved for cowards (and anyone with food or animal allergies was advised to tell the experimenters at the beginning of the show...). Every moment kept the audience on the edge of their seats, or cuddled up in their friends' seats, afraid of what might happen next. If you've ever seen TV's "Fear Factor," then you may have some idea of what audience members experienced during "The Experiment." What do you fear? Pain? The dark? Humiliation? Large flying cockroaches that enjoy burrowing into their prey? Ten tests conducted by the scientists explored these fears and more, using participants from the audience as test subjects.

I definitely left this show with the heebie-jeebies, and a paranoid feeling all the way home that someone, or something, was watching me. Even as I type this, my mind reverts back to the fear I experienced at this show just two nights ago, of the terrifying and revolting things I saw (and didn't see...) that made me cower and cringe.

Glancing at the time now, it looks as though this will post just in time to actually be up the night before Christmas... so, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. Mwuahahahaha....

Friday, December 16, 2011

WGINY on Vacation

WGINY is leaving this suddenly cold New York weather for sunnier skies. Look for new posts at the end of December.

Meanwhile, my music enthusiasts should check out these events:

Brooklyn Night Bazaar, December 15-17, at 149 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg. Tickets for James Murphy (of the late, great LCD Soundsystem...), Fucked Up, and The Hold Steady can be purchased here.

DJ Jonathan Toubin Benefit, Friday, December 16, at Brooklyn Bowl, featuring the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bear in Heaven, and more.

Parisian Favorite Comes to New York City

Saturday Evening Service at Le Relais de Venise NYC
Recently, upon the recommendation of a trusted co-worker and friend, I was excited to dine at
"Le Relais de Venise "L’Entrecôte", a Parisian restaurant she had first stumbled upon while traveling in Europe. She told me of how an extravagantly long line and the fierce aroma of fresh steak drew her in to the restaurant's original location in Paris. When she learned of a new New York branch, she did not dare dream that it could hold a candle to the original, but she found that it was just as hearty and fulfilling. Of course, WGINY had to give it a try... 

First Course = Salad 

The handful of worldwide locations of "L’Entrecôte," as it is often referred to, all have no menu. No menu is necessary as the only meal served is steak and frites. As soon as you walk into the New York branch, your senses are overpowered by the satiating scent of sizzling steak. (Don't worry vegetarians, there are some exceptions made for you...). Your first course is a simple salad mixed with walnuts and topped with a mustard-vinaigrette dressing that has just enough kick to keep it interesting. 

"Steak and Frites"
At some point, a waitress, who is most likely a young, pretty female styled in "French Maid" attire, will visit your table and ask each member of your party how s/he likes his or her steak cooked. There are only three options -- rare, medium or well -- no in betweens allowed. Although the restaurant says that the main course of "steak and frites" is served in two portions, it is really more like one regular-sized plate of steak and frites followed by a very small second helping of steak and some more frites. Nevertheless, the steak is absolutely superb. Entrecôte is a French term meaning a "premium cut of beef" (Source: Wikipedia), and there is no doubt that this steak is of premium quality.

As you bite into each tender morsel of the sliced steak, what will really make you swoon is the "secret sauce." That's right, according to the restaurant's maitre'd, the sauce is made from a true secret recipe known to only four living persons in the world. I did try to ask a variety of waitresses if they could reveal any ingredients, but each one responded that she herself did not know how the sauce was made. Apparently, the base of the sauce for all for all of the restaurant locations is made in France, shipped out to the other branches, and then finally mixed fresh at each individual location. You will definitely want to lap this sauce up by the spoonful, even when the steak is all gone. It also makes a good dipping sauce for the frites, which, while served traditionally thin and crispy, could use a touch more salt and/or pepper. There is also homemade mustard on each table. Add a dollop to your steak every so often if you like things spicy.

Wine and Coffee Bar 
While enjoying your meal, be sure to also check out the wine list. Although the options are fairly limited, each bottle has been chosen to pair perfectly with your dinner, and since full bottles start at only $23.95, there is no excuse not to order one.

Finally, you will also want to peruse the 16 or so dessert options to round out your Parisian dining experience. If you don't speak French, call over a waitress to describe the desserts for you, as the printed list does not include English descriptions.

After much debate, my dining companions and I settled on two sweets -- a classic creme brulee, and what we were told was the house specialty, "Le Vacherin de Relais," a tower of meringue layered with vanilla and hazelnut ice cream, drowned in hot fudge and topped with whipped cream. The latter was actually a bit too rich for my tastes, but the creme brulee was divine. The caramelized top tasted like the crispy skin of a freshly roasted marshmallow, and the thick, sweet cream underneath the sugar-coated top was heavenly.

I can honestly say that my friend's recommendation for Le Relais de Venise "L’Entrecôte" was spot on. I enjoyed a wonderful, fun meal in an atmosphere that sought to transport me to Paris from the moment I arrived. 

Note that "L’Entrecôte" does not accept reservations, so plan accordingly. The New York branch of Le Relais de Venise "L’Entrecôte" is located at the corner of Lexington Avenue and 57th Street. A full meal of salad and two portions of steak and steak and frites costs $25.95 per person. Drink and dessert options can be found here

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New AMNH Exhibit Asks, "Are We Going Where No Man Has Gone Before?"

"For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon, and to the planets beyond." - John F. Kennedy, 1962 

The latest exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History ("AMNH"), "Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration," is, quite literally, a stellar experience. After attending "Cinema and Space," a presentation by the exhibit's curator, astrophysicist, Dr. Michael Shara, I was extremely eager to visit "Beyond Planet Earth," to explore what might be "humanity's next steps in space."

I had the opportunity to journey through the exhibit this past weekend, and it was awesome ride.

  • Did you know that between 1969 and 1972, there were 6 successful manned missions to the moon (all American...), but that no human has landed on the moon since 1972? 
  • How about that, in just the first four months it was operational, the Kepler telescope located more than 1,000 stars in our Solar System that appear to have at least one planet in orbit, some of which may be capable of sustaining life? (Don't miss the beaming "exoplanet" hologram at the end of the exhibit...) 
  • Or that the Hubble telescope has captured images of galaxies as far as 13.1 billion light years away, nearly as old as the Universe itself, and which may provide vital information about the Universe's origin?

"Beyond Planet Earth" takes these and similar inquiries and makes them accessible and interesting for museum-goers of all ages. After briefly examining the recent history of space exploration, including models of "Sputnik," the first satellite ever launched into space (by the former Soviet Union in 1957), and a robotic Mars "rover"(launched by the U.S. in 2004), the exhibit hones in on a not-so-distant future where we may once again send a manned mission to the moon, and may even travel to Mars, to Europa (an icy moon of Jupiter thought to have a salty ocean flowing just beneath its surface), or to a near-Earth asteroid (which, if rich in precious metals or other resources, may provide abundant mining opportunities).

Model of rover, "Curiosity," that will leave Earth in late 2011 and is expected to reach Mars in 2012.
Its primary mission is to search for signs of life.
I was most excited by one of the simplest premises presented during the exhibit: water = life. On Earth, it is beyond a doubt that wherever there is water, there is life. Does the same hold true beyond our planet? If so, then must moons like Europa, or even the areas around the polar ice caps of Earth's own moon, be viable breeding grounds for life in some form? Was there once flowing water on Mars and, if so, was there life there as well? As you move along the exhibit, you will learn how, as we wait for humanity to develop the technology that will guide future manned missions in search of this knowledge, robots have already explored every planet in our Solar System. At least one robot was even sent into space carrying messages in 55 languages, just in case it ever made contact with any intelligent life forms.

You will also learn why establishing a base on Earth's moon, where scientists can work and live, may be crucial to expanding human space exploration, as a lunar base could essentially serve as a launch-pad for exploring outer space. A fantastic, detailed mock up of what a lunar base might look like is all part of your tour as you continue your journey Beyond Planet Earth. Pause here and, as the display suggests,  just imagine the magnificent, unobstructed views of the Universe one might see standing on the moon.

Mock Up of a Lunar Base at "Shackelton Center," a Crater Near the Moon's South Pole.
(Earth is visible in the distance)
If traveling to the moon isn't enough for you, make sure to stop and evaluate whether you "have what it takes" to spend 6-9 months living on a ship bound for Mars, as scientists estimate that just a one-way trip from Earth would take the better part of a year. Through inventive dioramas coupled with a "Mars Personality Test," you can discover how well you might survive (or not survive) such a journey.

In fact, as is typical of special exhibitions at AMNH, the "Beyond Planet Earth" exhibit is full of interactive media. You can smell the moon (or at least get whiff of moon rock), hear historic sentiments by John F. Kennedy and Neil Armstrong, terraform a barren planet (which is a way to make a planet more "Earth-like," essentially by creating a viable ecosystem), deflect an asteroid from a collision course with Earth, and explore Mars. Make sure to look up, down and all around as the exhibit's curators have really created another world within this contained space, complete with a lunar elevator, a Martian surface, asteroids and other celestial objects and modes of exploration.

Getting the Feel for a Not-So-Futuristic Space Suit on "Mars"
"Beyond Planet Earth" challenges us to consider whether we are really alone in the Universe, and where the future of humanity may be headed. Could we colonize any of the "exoplanets" identified by Kepler? And if we could, should we? Visit this special exhibition and find the answers for yourself. 

Timed-entry tickets are available here. Allow approximately 2 hours to explore the exhibit, which runs through August 19, 2012. If you have an iPhone or iPad, download this special app before you go. 

Further reading: Just two days after I visited the exhibit, and obviously too late to be included, NASA publicly announced that Kepler had located a potentially Earth-like planet "in the habitable zone of a sun-like star," meaning that the planet might actually contain water. A "mere" 600 light years away, "Kepler-22b" is 2.4 times the size of Earth (apparently the smallest planet yet found orbiting any "habitable zone") and takes approximately 290 days to make a full orbit around its star. The planet may also have Earth-like temperatures. Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist at AMNH, explains during an interview with why this may be the "Holy Grail" of discoveries. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pioneer One: Season One Finale Screening Tonight

It's finally here -- the long-awaited finale of the debut season of "Pioneer One," and you can see it first, as the series' sixth episode (and yes, the final one of the season) premieres tonight at Anthonoly Film Archives, at 32 2nd Avenue. As I explained when WGINY initially covered this new, rivteing viewer-supported web/torrent "science faction" series, "Pioneer One" is a fresh, fun and original show. The five episodes that have aired so far have created an exciting story that explores humanity, morality, and xenophobia, of a sort, in the context of modern-day heightened national security fears and waxing and waning U.S. international relations policies. The theme of the series centers on the possibilty that, decades ago, at the height of the international "Space Race," the former Soviet Union sent two cosmonauts to Mars, who have been living on the planet ever since, and may have recently sent something (or, in actuality, someone...) back to Earth.

You can catch a FREE screening of what I can only imagine will be a gripping season finale of "Pioneer One" at Anthology Film at 9pm tonight. Make sure to reserve your ticket(s) here and/or find more info here. There is also a 7:30pm showing, but reservations for the earlier show have reached capacity. Doors open at 7pm and a reception will follow the first screening in the lobby.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

¡Buen Provecho! at Spain Restaurant

Recently, while searching for a restaurant where we could enjoy some authentic Castilian food, my friend and I stumbled upon Spain Restaurant, a 40+ year resident of Greenwich Village, located on West 13th Street, off of 7th Avenue. We were in the mood for some "tapas" (Spanish for "small plate"), but I was skeptical at first when I saw that the menu appeared to focus on large entree items at premium prices. Nevertheless, something about the ambience of the restaurant drew us in, and I soon realized how wrong I was to doubt Spain Restaurant. The tastes I experienced that night will not soon leave my memory, and because most dishes are made to share, you can fill your belly without emptying your wallet. This surprising Spanish gem serves up delicious, creative dishes that you will want to eat time and time again.

"Paella Valenciana" at Spain Restaurant
Want to know more? I now offer a recount of our evening at Spain Restaurant so that you can experience it vicariously or, better yet, become mouth-wateringly enticed to run out this instant and try it:

We began our night by enjoying some wine at the bar, a full-bodied house red served up at only $5 per glass. Without even ordering a thing more, a waiter thereafter dropped off two steaming tapas plates to us -- tasty, spicy mini-meatballs ("sherry meatballs") accompanied by a potato dish smothered in some kind of tangy hot sauce ("patatas bravas"), all given to us to enjoy at no extra charge. While enjoying these tapas and waiting for a table, we informed the waiter that we would like to split some "gambas al ajilio" (garlic shrimp) to start, followed by a restaurant special paella for our meal.

When our table was ready, we were then led through a quaint corridor into a back dining room that had beautiful European-style paintings and sculpture adorning the walls. To our surprise, not only was our table exquisitely set, but waiting for our arrival was what looked like the beginning of a feast for a king. Our succulently sauteed garlic shrimp were set in the middle of the table, and in addition there was a delectable plate of what must arguably be some of the best chorizo this side of the Atlantic, another plate of lush claims topped with a sweet onion relish, bread, and bowls of salad. The salad was dressed in a barbeque sauce ... a strange combination at first sight, but it hit the spot. And, after all that, our meal was still far from over.

A delectable feast awaits us.... This is only the beginning.
Our waiter next brought over a large pot of "Paella Valenciana," a Spanish-rice based dish filled with fresh clams, shrimp, mussels, chicken and chorizo, and mixed with vegetables such as red pepper and peas. Spain Restaurant certainly does not skimp on portion sizes, and this one entree could have fed at least 1-2 more people. Despite engorging ourselves on the fantastic paella, there were plenty of leftovers. I only wished I had left room for dessert.

I must also note that the wait staff at Spain Restaurant were impeccable and their hospitality rounded out our culinary adventure. The waiters were friendly, and eager to chat with us (in both English and my high school level Spanish...). The restaurant itself was prim and clean, with a definite old-world charm. Considering how much fun we had, and how much we enjoyed the food and the service, the biggest surprise of all was probably the bill. For all of our food plus four glasses of that sultry house red, we paid only about $30 each (not including tip). What a fabulous find!

I cannot wait to try Spain Restaurant again, and I certainly plan to bring company. ¡Buen Provecho!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why You Should Donate to the Bond Street Theatre Haiti Project.

This past February, three Bond Street Theatre ("Bond Street") performers—Anna Zastrow, Christina Pinnell, and Joshua Wynter—traveled to Haiti for three weeks to bring empowering theatre workshops to victims of sexual and political violence in the country, as part of Bond Street's Haiti Project.  Along with a local Haitian actor, the performers worked with women in FAVILEK, a group founded by Maricia Jean, originally in response to a violent coup in Haiti in1991.

FAVILEK’s name stands for “Women Victims Get Up, Stand up” (or, "Fanm Viktim Leve Kanpe") Unfortunately, since the 2010 destructive earthquake in Haiti, the situation for many women has only gotten worse.  Rape and sexual assault are not uncommon in the tent camps, and HIV spreads rapidly. As Ms. Jean stated at a fundraiser for the Bond Street Haiti Project on November 17, many Haitian women are “still fighting…for justice.”

The "Extravaganza for Haiti" fundraising event, held at Sidewalk Café, was a music, comedy and clown cabaret, with a tinge of Haitian flavor, to benefit the Haiti Project and raise money to send Bond Street performers back to Haiti in early 2012.  FAVILEK's founder was a surprise guest at the fundraiser. Jean spoke about FAVILEK's partnership with Bond Street, and explained to the audience (through a translator) that FAVILEK would like Bond Street to help Haitian women create a theatre piece to show their struggles. She hopes that, one day, the production they create together might play in the States. Bond Street board member, Frank Juliano, who was also in attendance at the fundraiser, noted that the physical theatre-method of their group “heals and empowers…educates and transforms,” with an overall goal of “improving lives.” FAVILEK's own "Theater for Action" project offers women the cathartic opportunity to share their experiences through performance.

Of course, the fundraiser would not have been complete without audience participation in exercises in which we got to experience first-hand some of Bond Street’s theatre-based methods. Christina Pinnell led us in a game called “Voulez Vouz Danse,” which had the entire room up clapping, dancing, and expressing themselves. This is just one of many games and exercises in which the Bond Street performers engaged Haitian women and girls. At the fundraiser, we watched clips of footage from some of these exercises designed to raise self-esteem and provide outlets for addressing the traumas these women have experienced. The pure joy on the faces of the Haitian women as they danced and performed with Bond Street truly warmed my heart. Pinnell described working with teenagers and children who doted on her and played with her long, straight, brown hair, which they were not used to seeing. She nearly cried as she told the audience how it felt to make such real “human connection(s)” with these young women, many of whom she later learned were former prostitutes, forced into the sex trade at early ages. 

The total budget for the 2011 trip was $15,000 for airfare, meals, and transportation around Haiti for three weeks, as well as hiring the native Haitian performer. During the November 17 fundraiser, performer, Joshua Wynter, described one of his favorite moments in Haiti, when, during a Carnival festival, he came upon a group of schoolchildren performing in a parade, and the Bond Street actors ended up giving their own impromptu performance and workshop at the students' school. Wynter described this experience as “magical." 

In case you missed the fundraiser, from an entertainment value point of view, the $25 tickets were well worth it. Some of the highlights were a performance by singer/songwritier, Erel Pilo, a petite raven-haired beauty with a mesmerizing, airy folk sound that captivated me; hilarious and quirky comedy from the all-female improvisational comedy troupe, 13 Degrees; and the fun, bluegrass-style covers of 80's and 90's pop music by cover band, Thundergrass. There were also fabulous raffle prizes given away, including authentic Haitian rum, dance classes at the Alvin Alley Extension, a gift certificate to Alice’s Tea Cup, and other goodies.

Despite a great turnout at the successful Extravaganza for Haiti, Bond Street remains in need of extensive donations in order to make their 2012 trip to Haiti a reality. Click here to donate to this wonderful cause (and make sure to write "HAITI" in the designation field"). 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Like beer? Like 80s arcade games? Then Barcade is the place for you!

It's a bar... It's an arcade... No, it's Barcade!

Barcade Williamsburg on a Saturday night
Do you like to drink? Do you also like 80s video games? Well, I've got the bar for you. And no, I'm not just talking about some corner bar with a Megatouch machine. At Barcade of Williamsburg, located on Union Avenue, between Ainslie and Powers, sits a mecca to the Atari and Nintendo joystick days of your youth. For only .25 a game, you can relish in such classics as Paperboy, Qbert, Asteroids, Tapper, Tetris, Crystal Castles, and more. Maybe you can even beat the most recent high score... all while throwing back a pint of Sixpoint, or other beverage of choice.

Can you beat the latest high score(s) at Barcade?
At this no cover, no frills bar, the coin is king, and graphics speak louder than words. And if showing your friends what a whiz you are at Rolling Thunder isn't enough, then maybe you need to sign up for the full-day three-barcade adventure happening on Saturday, December 10. For $100 a person, a bus will pick you up at the Williamsburg Barcade, and bring you first to Jersey City's Barcade, followed by the Philadelphia area branch. Your ticket includes transportation between all three Barcade locations, as well as samples of 30 different Sixpoint beers, and food. I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pommes Frites: Double Dipping Encouraged.

If you find yourself trolling the East Village for a late night snack, head on over to Pommes Frites on 2nd Ave, between E. 7th and E. 8th Streets, for some of the best Belgian fries you have ever had. Be prepared to wait on line for these authentic golden "frites" at any time of the day or night.

Serving up fresh, hot "frites" at Pommes Frites.
Although Pommes Frites' large, fresh and crispy fries (twice fried!) are the only food on the menu at this divey joint, some say that the real draw is the 30+ varieties of available dipping sauces. Some sauces, such as plain ketchup or "Especial" (Frite Sauce/European Mayo, Ketchup, Raw Onion), can be included for no extra charge, while other specialty sauces, such as Rosemary Garlic Mayo, Wasabi Mayo, Peanut Satay, Wild Mushroom Mayo, and more, are only $1.00 extra (new Organic Black Truffle Mayo costs $1.75). Ever think of dipping fries into a thick, creamy mushroom sauce? Neither did I, until the server at Pommes Frites let me taste the Wild Mushroom Mayo, and I was instantly hooked on the combo.
Patrons enjoy an array of dipping sauces.
If you can't decide which sauce is for you, ask the server for a free taste. You can try a few frites with your sauce(s) of choice, and find your favorite.

Pommes Frites is located at 123 2nd Avenue, and is open until 1am Sundays through Thursdays, and until 3:30am on Friday and Saturday nights. A "regular" order of frites, which can serve at least two people, starts at $4.50.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mead Festival: "Cinema and the Future of Space"

On Saturday, November 12, WGINY attended "Cinema and the Future of Space," a film presentation and lecture by Michael Shara, Ph.D., given as part of the Margaret Mead Film Festival at the American Museum of Natural History ("AMNH"). Dr. Shara is a curator in the museum's Department of Astrophysics, and also curator of the upcoming exhibit, "Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration," which is slated to open at AMNH this weekend, on November 19. "Cinema and the Future of Space" was presented in conjunction with that exhibit, which will focus on how space exploration will continue to take flight (quite literally!) over the next 50 years, and will even look ahead 500 years, to glimpse "the future of humanity."

Dr. Shara discussed his predictions that robots will become more integral in space flight in the near future, and that within 50-75 years, humans may be able to travel into space via a "space elevator" grounded on the moon. Aeronautics and media mogul, Richard Branson, has already established Virgin Galactic, a company that is capitalizing on the dreams of wealthy would-be "astronauts,"and accepting reservations for anticipated commercial space flights. Can't afford the $200,000 price tag? Not to worry. The future of space exploration should see the rapid expansion of "space tourism," and along with it some healthy competition among travel companies to drive down prices.

Dr. Shara's presentation also focused on space exploration beyond the realm of tourism, including considerations of whether there might be life on Mars, or in the large, salty ocean beneath the icy surface of Europa (a moon of Jupiter), or even on the Earth's own moon, in some simple form. To highlight the wonders of such future exploration, Dr. Shara showed the audience the past. That is, the cinematic past of how filmmakers have portrayed notions of space exploration over the last 100+ years. Movies clips from some of science-fiction's best known films, as well as some of the genre's most frightening, disturbing and astonishing films, were shown and discussed. Beginning with the 1902 French film, "Le Voyage Dans La Lune" (A Trip to the Moon), in which travelers in top hats board a shell that is placed into a cannon by gunners and fired into space, and ending with the 2009 Hollywood blockbuster, "District 9," which examines the sociology of how humans might interact with intelligent aliens who arrive on Earth, the clips ranged from laughable to plausible and realistic. In the 1929 German Film, "Frau imd Mond" (Woman in the Moon), an astronaut in a helmet steps out onto the surface of the moon and tests for air by lighting a match. That seems reasonable, right?... I found that the clips served as a humbling reminder that science is never static, and that, as we begin to usher in what may be an unprecedented era of interstellar and interplanetary travel and commercial space flight, the only limit on what we may find is the human imagination.

Are you as excited about all this as I am? If so, make sure to check out "Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration"at AMNH, where you can walk through the world's largest hologram and see Kepler images of exoplanets (planets outside of the Solar System), or visit a lunar base mockup.  "Beyond Planet Earth" runs until August 12, 2012.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Instead of Wednesday Weekly...

I know that you all want something to look forward to on Wednesdays and, in fact, on most days. So, with that in mind, I will continue to post about future events, as well as review events and restaurants that I have been to, on this blog.

Wednesday Weekly will be discontinued but please continue to check back for regular updates about What's Good in New York!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday Weekly: Something To Look Forward To.

It's Wednesday once again, and this week in NY it's all about festivals! If your work week is dragging on and you need something to look forward to, check out one of these:

New York Comedy Festival : Tickets are pricey, but this festival, which goes from Nov 9-13, is bringing some of comedy's best known performers to the Big Apple. Catch Wanda Sykes, Bill Maher, Louis C.K., and more. Click here to see if your favorite comedian will be in town, or see the full schedule by date here.

Margaret Mead Film Festival: Beginning in 1977, this is the 35th anniversary of this annual festival at the American Museum of Natural History ("AMNH"). The festival runs from Nov 10-13, and will showcase international documentaries. Find the schedule of all films here, many of which require separate ticketing. In anticipation of a forthcoming exhibit at AMNH, "Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration," the Mead Festival will also feature a special series of space-themed films, in addition to other documentaries. If you do visit AMNH this weekend for the festival, be sure to also browse the museum's current exhibits.

Other Israel Film Festival: Now celebrating its 5th anniversary, this festival, which runs from Nov 10-17, focuses on films by and about Arab-Israeli citizens and other minority populations in Israel. See the full list of films here. You can purchase tickets to individual films by clicking on the "Buy Ticket" links under each film description, or click here to purchase a $40 five-film pass.

New Amsterdam Pickle Festival: If you love pickles, head downtown to Peck Slip on Sunday, November 13, from 11am to 5pm, to visit the 75 vendors who will be serving and selling all types and variations of pickles, pickled and fermented foods, foods that pair well with pickles, and the like. Bring some cash to chow down, or you may find yourself in... a pickle! (Yea, had to go there).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wednesday Weekly.

There will be no Wednesday Weekly today. Stay classy, New York City.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday Weekly: Something to Look Forward To.

It's the Wednesday before All Hallows' Eve, and things in New York are certainly getting spooky! Are you looking for something to to this week/end? Here are my suggestions:

Party Halloween:
A Halloween Pub Crawl will take place on Friday, Saturday and Monday of Halloween weekend. Purchase tickets to have access to all the drink specials at the various bars throughout the weekend and Monday night.

If you've got some sturdy sea-legs, consider one of these Halloween weekend rides on the Hudson and/or East Rivers: Harbor Lights; New York PrincessQueen of HeartsPaddle Wheel Queen NY; Skyline Princess; The Majesty.

Scary Halloween
Haunted houses are not just for kids anymore! Check out these creepy Halloween attractions in NYC. Most are expensive and take a very short time to see, but if you've never gone before, it's worth a scare.

Nightmare: Fairy Tales is a haunted house with a theme that changes annually. This year's theme, "Fairy Tales," brings to life the gruesome stories behind the happy-ending fairy tales we were told as children. This haunted house tends to be more of a psychologically thrilling experience than one where things go bump in the night. Open through November 5. Tickets start at $30, or $15-20 with student ID. I went to a prior "Nightmare" haunted house and found it fun and chilling, although definitely over too quickly.

Blood Manor is another adult house of horrors and terror, made up of various rooms of gore, demons, dementia, and who knows what else may be lurking, or crawling, or rising from the dead among the Manor... Tickets start at $27.50 and are available through November 5. I have never been to Blood Manor but it's on my "to do" list... I especially recommend it this year as the Manor's 2011 season has been dedicated to a high school classmate of mine, Arwen "Spliff" Rosa, a freaky performance artist who sadly passed away on October 16, 2011 after complications following a car accident last year.

Blackout Haunted House is currently operating by standby list only through its closing date of November 5. This haunted house is unique because you are required to walk through alone, no matter how many people you arrived with.  The theme of this attraction is more sadistic and sexual in nature than the others, but if you can take some direction when commands are barked at you by strangers in the dark and you don't mind being touched (no, not like that), then this haunted house may be the one for you. I have been to a prior haunted house by the same host. It was incredibly scary, exciting, fun and offensive all at the same time. Without giving too much away, if you would not be comfortable with, for example, someone putting a potato sack over your head and marching you forward, then skip this one.

Third Rail's Steampunk Haunted House: Through the Looking Glass seems like it may be similar to "Nightmare." This is the first year I have heard about this haunted house, apparently in its third season. The theme focuses on the darker side of Lewis Carroll stories. Tickets start at $20 ($10 for students) and are available through October 31.

Bookworm Halloween:
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe will be hosting a FREE Literary Halloween Party on Monday, October 31 at 7pm. Come dressed in your favorite literary-themed costume and hear readings of "horrors real and imagined." Drinks specials and treats available.

Indie Halloween
Indie quartet, Brooklyn Rider, will play Carnegie Hall at 7:30pm on Monday, October 31. Tickets are normally $27-35, but is offering $20 tickets if you purchase tickets by October 28 and enter promo code "SKT13035."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Givers Continue to Rise Up, Up, Up!

On Thursday evening, as part of the CMJ Marathon, Louisiana-based band, Givers, opened for Portugal. The Man, at Terminal 5 (one of my favorite NYC venues!). I first saw Givers in 2009 at Brooklyn Bowl, when the band was just beginning to break into the indie music scene with the upbeat dance-pop tune, "Up, Up, Up." Two years later, and only a few short months after the release of their debut full-length studio album, "In Light," the music of Givers exploded on stage and excitedly commanded the attention of the standing-room-only crowd. Lead singer, Taylor Guarisco, told fans that the Terminal 5 performance was one of the largest the band had every played.

Givers play Terminal 5 on October 20.
If you haven't heard of Givers yet, you are missing out. Think Vampire Weekend meets Dirty Projectors and Fela Kuti, then add just a little more edge and some longer hair, and you've got the funky, electronic rock of Givers. Guitars, keyboard, a synthesizer and two drum sets rounded out the fresh, spunky sound of this up and coming band. The band's only female member and vocalist, the grungy, yet peppy Tiffany Lamson, played one of the percussion sets, which included a xylophone and tambourine. Her talent appeared to no know bounds as she also blended perfectly as a lead vocalist with Guarisco.

Givers' New York tour has concluded for now, but considering their large fan base, their unique style, plus Guarisco's quirky facial expressions and bouncing around the stage while he plays, this certainly will not be the last opportunity New Yorkers have to catch the beat of Givers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wednesday Weekly: Something to Look Forward To.

As Wednesday comes to a close, are you already thinking about what exciting activities NYC will play host to this weekend? No need to wait! The annual College Music Journal ("CMJ") Music Marathon and Film Festival kicked off yesterday and will continue through Saturday evening. According to Wikipedia, (a horrible source, I know!), the CMJ Marathon began in the 1980s as tool for promotion and discovery of college bands. Since then it has grown to become so much more.

This year's festival runs from October 18 through 22 and takes over venues throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, to showcase over 1,300 performances and "dozens of cutting-edge films" by new and emerging artists. Explore some of the music and films before you attend. A few bands I would personally recommend checking out: "Portugal, The Man"; "A Place to Bury Strangers"; "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah"; "Zola Jesus"; and Robbie Gil. Some of these bands have already played their official "CMJ" showcase, but are continuing to tour in NYC while in town for the Marathon, so make sure to check their websites or the websites of the venues. The best venues will include Brooklyn BowlCameo GalleryGlasslands GallerySouthpawRockwood Music HallPianosSantos Party HouseCake ShopAce Hotel, and The Bowery Presents family of performance spaces. While all-access badges for the Marathon are sold out, some events still have individual tickets available.

Even if you do not want to attend any shows, if you are in the media industry, you may be interested in informative music, film, gaming, tv, internet and marketing panels. If you are a lawyer, you can get CLE credit at Friday evening's Entertainment Business Law Seminar. The full schedule of CMJ Marathon events can be found here.

Folk singer/songwriter Will Stratton performs at an unofficial
pre-CMJ Marathan event at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
on Monday, October 17: "Around the Campfire with "

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"The Avengers" Assemble at New York Comic Con.

Left to right: Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Tom Hiddleston (Loki),
Cobie Smulders (Agent Maria Hill), Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson),
Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk), and Marvel's President, Kevin Feige.
The most talked about panel at New York Comic Con was undoubtedly "Marvel StudiosMarvel's The Avengers." In what is sure to be one of the most anticipated movies of 2012, "The Avengers," modeled after the similarly-titled Marvel comics, will bring together favorite Marvel superheroes such as "Captain America" and "Iron Man," in an action-packed, star-studded adventure to "avenge" the Earth from invaders. As "Tony Stark/Iron Man" (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) says in the movie's first official trailer, "if we can't protect the Earth, you can be damn sure we'll avenge it." Due out in May 2012, the movie is co-written and directed by Joss Whedon (known for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Dollhouse," "Firefly"/"Serenity," and "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," to name a few).

In addition to the actors who attended Comic Con, shown in the picture above, the ensemble cast of "The Avengers" will include Scarlett Johansson as "Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow," Samuel L. Jackson as "Nick Fury," "Chris Hemsworth" as "Thor," Jeremy Renner as "Clint Barton/Hawkeye," Gwenyth Paltrow, reprising her role, for the third time, as "Tony Stark's" doting assistant, "Pepper Potts," and many more familiar faces.

The Saturday evening Comic Con panel began with a premiere of the trailer above, and was the first time that "The Avengers" trailer had been shown to the public on a large screen. Attendees were also treated to a lengthy clip of never-before-seen footage from the movie, focusing on how "Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk" (played by Mark Ruffalo) is brought into the Avengers group.  We were asked to keep any spoilers "secret," but a decent Google search will reveal that fanboys (and girls) are not very good at keeping secrets, despite Ruffalo's warnings that disseminating any information might "make [him] angry." Even Ruffalo himself, who was a "surprise" guest at the panel, was seeing the finished footage for the first time. All I will say is that the combination of the trailer, the footage, and the personal thoughts of the actors and Marvel's President, Kevin Feige, who also sat on the panel, has reinforced that I am exceptionally excited for this movie.

During the panel, actor Chris Evans, who plays "Steve Rogers/Captain America," suggested that the movie's creators would like to see "The Avengers" become a franchise, with future "Avenger" movies to follow. "The Avengers" itself already falls on the heels of two "Iron Man" movies (2008 and 2010, with a third planned for 2013) and the summer 2011 releases of "Thor" and "Captain America." Having also played "Johnny Storm/The Human Torch" in the 2005 Marvel movie, "Fantastic Four" and its 2007 sequel, "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," Evans admitted that he liked playing "Captain America"better.

Cobie Smulders, who plays "S.H.I.E.L.D." agent, "Maria Hill," described how the costume designers for "The Avengers" worked hard to stay true to the wardrobes of the superhumans in the comics, and produced intricate designs for each character that were remarkably similar to those portrayed in the comics. "The Avengers" will be Smulder's first action movie, as she is most known for her role as "Robin Scherbatsky," aka "Robin Sparkles," on CBS TV's hit comedy, "How I Met Your Mother." Smulders, who laughingly refused to sing HIMYM's "Let's Go To The Mall," talked about how physically demanding her role as "Agent Maria Hill" was compared to her sitcom character, and she told the audience that the most exciting part of the movie for her was being able to work with Joss Whedon.

At least one of the actors did break into song. At the request of the panel's moderator, actor Clark Gregg, who plays "Agent Phil Coulson," sang the theme song for "The Avengers" for the crowd, as he had apparently been continuously doing backstage.

Another great treat that came out of "The Avengers" panel was the creation of the word "Ruffalized." As Tom Hiddleton, who plays "Loki" in the movie, was describing a fight scene between his character and "The Incredible Hulk," he noted that he gets "Ruffalized" by the "Hulk," referring to actor, Mark Ruffalo. As predicted by the panelists, "Ruffalized" quickly made its way into Urban Dictionary, defined as getting one's "ass kicked."

When asked by the moderator how he approached the role of "Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk," Mark Ruffalo explained that he drew inspiration from "Hulks" past, including actors Bill Bixby, Eric Bana and Edward Norton. Interestingly, the 2012 "Avengers" movie will be the first time on-screen that the same actor plays both the roles of "Bruce Banner" and "The Incredible Hulk," as the technology available at earlier times was not sufficient to create the right likeness. For an unexplained reason though, Lou Ferrigno will still voice "The Incredible Hulk." (I'm also not sure why Ruffalo did not include Ferrigno in his list of inspiring "Hulk" actors).

The panel ended by taking questions from the audience. The first inquirer was a cute little boy who asked to actors to all say "Avengers Assemble," which they did, driving the already giddy crowd wild. Another audience member asked each panelist to name his or her favorite male and female superheroes. The results were as follows:
Chris Evans' favorite male superhero was "Iron Man," because he was not born with his powers, but had to work for them. Evans' favorite female superhero was "Agent Maria Hill." "Hill" was also the female favorite of just about every other panelist, although Ruffalo and Gregg also noted enjoying "Black Widow." Ruffalo and Feige both chose "Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk" as their favorite male superheroes, and Smulders named "Iron Man." One of the last to respond, Hiddleston chose "Thor" as his favorite superhero, noting that he felt like his "brother" had been left out.  (Does anyone else notice some bias in these answers? Note, the question did not limit the panelists to "The Avengers" movie or even to Marvel superheroes...).

"The Avengers" panelists respond to questions from the panel moderator.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Spotlight on Mark Hamill at New York Comic Con

Yes, that's Mark Hamill, on the right. (Sorry, I was sitting far away!)
On Friday evening at New York Comic Con, actor Mark Hamill, or as many of his fans know him, "Luke Skywalker," led a panel discussion to a packed room at the NYCC MTV Theater. The panel, "Mark Hamill Spotlight," was set to focus on Hamill's pursuits beyond that galaxy far, far away, such as voicing "The Joker" in Warner Brothers' forthcoming video game, Batman: Arkham City (which hits U.S. stores on Tuesday). Hamill impressed with quite the evil laugh and explained how he felt anxious to follow in the shadow of actor Jack Nicholson, who had been the most well-known "Joker" actor at the time Hamill began voicing the character.

Of course, Hamill will never be able to get away from the iconic Skywalker character, but he doesn't seem to want to. He opened the panel by discussing "Star Wars" and noting how he himself was an avid comic book fan who attended comic conventions in the 1970s, before he ever found his claim to fame in George Lucas' trilogy (er, hexology?). Nevertheless, he still could not out-nerd his own fans at NYCC. When unable to precisely name certain creatures from the movies, Hamill explained that his son enjoys quizzing him with "Star Wars" trivia, which he ritually "flunks."

One of the most interesting tidbits was Hamill's reaction to learning that "Darth Vader" was "Luke's" father. He described how the original script for "The Empire Strikes Back" directed "Vader" to tell "Luke," "Obi-Wan killed your father," and what a shock it was to later learn that the line was dubbed to substitute that great revelation, a phrase that may be one of the most mimicked movie-lines of all time, "[Luke], I am your father." Even the actors were kept in the Dark! (pun intended...).

Hamill also discussed "The Black Pearl," a comic miniseries he created, which he hopes to adapt to film. The protagonist of "The Black Pearl" is a vigilante crime-fighter. However, Hamill emphasized that he is not seeking to create another "Kick-Ass," or similar tale that focuses on "real" masked avengers but steps far outside the realm of what is actually possible in the real world. Hamill hopes to change the public's perception of what it takes to be a vigilante. He even referenced Seattle's own "superhero," a man who goes by the name of "Phoenix Jones" and was recently in the news for essentially botching an attempted "rescue" and getting himself arrested for assault. It will be very interesting to see what comes of the planned "Black Pearl" adaptation.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wednesday Weekly: Something to Look Forward To.

Well, as I have not had the opportunity to post since last Monday, I was unable to get out a "Wednesday Weekly" last week. I apologize to all of my adoring followers (all 21 of you!).

Wondering What's Good in NY this upcoming week/end? WGINY has only one suggestion, as it is where I will be all weekend:

It may not be San Diego's baby, but the New York Comic Con ("NYCC"), held annually at the Jacob Javits Center, is the largest popular culture convention on the East Coast, and for good reason. Beginning Thursday evening with a concert by DJ Z Trip and The Nightwatchman, aka Tom Morello (open only to press, professionals, VIP and four-day ticket-holders), and continuing through Sunday with industry panels, screenings and celebrity signings, NYCC is packed with fun, educational and networking opportunities.

Whether you are an aspiring comic book writer seeking to learn more about the trade, or a film buff anxious to meet your idol or hear him or her speak, there is no shortage of activities, and you cannot possibly see it all in one day. Recognize any of these celebrities, comic writers/designers/artists or other authors? They are all planning to attend the Con, and if you plan your schedule accordingly, you might just get that autograph or photo you've always dreamed of.  You can also play "Quidditch," go Speed Dating, or bring your kids to "Jedi" training. According to Midtown Comics, NYCC consistently ranks as one of the top five attended events in NYC. You wouldn't want to miss that, would you?

Also, while you're at the Con, don't forget to stop by the New York Anime Festival, a celebration of Japanese pop culture that always takes place within NYCC. Don your favorite "cosplay" outfit and find out where these anime guests will be throughout the weekend.

One day NYCC tickets for Saturday only are currently sold-out, but all other single day and package options are still available online here, or at these official retailers, many of whom will be vendors at the show and will be selling their products at deep discounts (e.g. Midtown Comics, mentioned above, will be offering 20% off graphic novels and trade paperbacks at their NYCC booth). The Javits Center is huge, and hardly any space will be going unused for this convention, so you may want to bring a floor map with you.

Monday, October 3, 2011

¿El Mejor Burrito en Nueva York? ¡Qué bueno!

I have finally discovered the best burrito in New York City and, to my surprise, it's not at the highly exalted Bay Area transplant, Dos Toros Taqueria (which, let's face it, makes good fast-food style burritos, but so does Chipotle), nor even at the deliciously hidden Mexican gem on Avenue A, Zaragoza Mexican Deli & Grocery. No, readers, the BEST burrito I have had, to date, in this city, may be right on your very block this weekend -- at a NYC Street Fair.

While wandering through a cascade of vendors dripping over Lexington Avenue at last weekend's "Oktoberfest" street fair, I knew I was hungry and on the prowl for some street meat, but somehow nothing was striking my fancy. Then I saw it, a big sign that read "Authentic Mexican Grill Burritos," superimposed on a banner of a Mexican flag, and I knew that I had found something special.

The succulent smell of chicken and beef being grilled right in front of me wafted up into my nose and beckoned me toward the crowded food vendor. Once there, a warm tortilla was smothered with freshly grilled, still smoking, chicken pieces, along with all of the toppings I desired. Slowly, the burrito grew, as rich black beans, grated cheese, chopped onions, tomatoes and tasty salsa were layered over and around the chicken, and topped with my choice of sauce, then rolled up and wrapped in foil to make it the perfect on-the-go meal. I chose a chipotle sauce, which gave the burrito a spicy kick that hung around my mouth and only made me want more.

As I enjoyed the fantastic filling, I asked the servers where I might order the burrito in a restaurant in NYC. To my dismay, I learned that the vendor, which hails from Puebla, Mexico, does not serve their products in any restaurant in New York, and only frequents the street fairs. However, not to fear, as they do tend to appear at nearly every fair on this list, which is updated often.

Mardi Gras Festival Productions is behind the majority of the street fairs in Manhattan. Don't be fooled by the catchy names of each fair, as most serve the same food and sell the same sheets, Pashminas, hats, computer accessories, and played-out "I <3 NYC" t-shirts. Although, I must admit, it is a great way to spend some time outdoors in the city. Many of my hats and scarves were purchased at a NYC street fair, and I always find it hard to resist the cheesy-fried aromas of the $5 arepas, which always pair well with the $1 lemonade specials. If you look carefully, you might also just find a good deal at the occasional hippie clothing, vintage item or specialty art vendor.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday Weekly: Something to Look Forward To.

We are officially heading into October... Time for some great Fall Festivals! Here are my suggestions for this upcoming week/end:

If you're hanging around the boroughs:
The must-see/eat festival for any local foodie is here again, the fourth annual NYC Wine and Food Festival, presented by Food Network, and benefitting (100% of proceeds!) the hunger relief organization, Food Bank for New York City. From September 29 through October 2, take part in culinary, wine and spirits demonstrations and tastings, many featuring celebrity chefs such as Emeril Lagasse and Martha Stewart. Purchase tickets to individual Festival events here. Hurry, as many events are already sold out. Most events are located at venues in the "Meatpacking" district of Manhattan, but others are scattered about the city. Also check out the Festival's online auction for gourmet dinners, get-aways and more--bidding will remain open through October 14.

Another idea: A few days ago, I stumbled upon this yahoo news article, which led me to information about the upcoming New York Musical Theatre Festival. It seems to be a really unique event that showcases new and rising Broadway-style talent and shows. Read the yahoo article and/or peruse NYMF's website for more info.

If you're willing to make a day trip:
If you don't mind a short drive or train ride, the Long Island Fall Festival is happening this weekend, from Friday through Sunday, at Heckscher State Park in East Islip, New York. You can take the Long Island Railroad to Huntington, or even just park your car for free (Saturday and Sunday) at the Huntington train station, and board a festival-sponsored shuttle for a $1 round-trip ride to the park. Once you arrive at the park, general admission is FREE. There will be hundreds of vendors, daily live musical performances, a carnival, a food court with beer and wine, and even a meatball eating contest! If that's not enough for you, try wandering the park's 20+ miles of hiking and biking trails, or taking a dip in the Great South Bay.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wednesday Weekly: Something To Look Forward To.

Is it still Wednesday? Technically, no. But, as I have not gone to sleep yet, it's still Wednesday for me. A little delayed, but here is your Wednesday Weekly:

Calling All Nerds and Nerdettes:
Are you a Jedi or a Dark Lord? If you don't know, you had better decide by Saturday, because Newmindspace, notorious for holding ridiculous events like flash mob-style pillow fights and bubble battles, has another free, massive event coming up in NYC -- a Lightsaber Battle! On Saturday night, from 9pm to 11pm, be prepared to use (or misuse) The Force in what Newmindspace promises will be an "ultimate nocturnal showdown." And while the event IS completely free, you should probably reserve a $5 lightsaber on the event's website, as it is offered at a significant discount from most stores. Plus, if you sign up, you may get an email inviting you to get free ice cream on Battle Day from Van Leeuwen Ice Cream...

Calling All Hipsters:
RADIOHEAD IS FINALLY PLAYING A SHOW IN NYC!! Next week, the epic rock band that came on the scene in the 1980s and forever changed the genre, is returning after a long US touring hiatus to play Roseland Ballroom for two nights only (which, unfortunately for some, happen to fall on the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah...), September 28 and 29. Tickets for the shows will be nearly $80 with taxes and fees, but it will be worth it, if you can get tickets. U.K. website W.A.S.T.E. will begin selling tickets on Friday, but tickets will not be on sale at ticketmaster or Roseland's box office until Monday morning, September 26, and there is a two ticket limit per person, pick-up only on the night of the show(s). Britain's The Independent also notes that Radiohead will in fact be touring in 2012.

Calling All Lushes:
Oktoberfest is in full swing in Germany, but you don't have to travel to Deutschland to celebrate, as NYC has recently become practically littered with Bavarian-style (or so these establishments claim...) beer gardens. And if you have an iPhone or iPad, there's even an app for that.
Of the more than 50 beer gardens, I have been to at least 7-- Loreley, Bierhaus, Radegast Hall, Zum Schneider, Berry Park, Studio Square, and the Bohemian Hall Beer Garden, which claims to be the oldest beer garden in NYC.
My favorite, so far, is a toss up between Radegast, in Williamsburg, and Bohemian Hall, in Astoria. Bohemian is great because of its old-school charm and outdoor space (I wonder if they do weddings?...), although the bouncers can be pretentious. Radegast is large and friendly, with a varied beer assortment, but has no outdoor space. Both have very delicious food. Loreley, on the Lower East Side, is also at the top for food, especially soft pretzels. And, as much as I hate to admit it, the spicy fries at Studio Square are fairly addictive, even if the bar feels douchey and soulless. Zum Schneider and Berry Park are decent, although neither stands out as spectacular. Finally, Bierhaus just tries too hard ($10 to anyone who can avoid staring at the chest of the "Wench" serving your beer).

Calling All Festival Lovers:
I should have posted this one last week... Starting September 16, but running through Friday, September 23, Bryant Park is hosting a Fall Festival to kick off the vibrant fall cultural season in New York City. The festival features musical and dance performances, poetry readings, children's theatre and more. A full schedule of events is available here.

The 11th annual Coney Island Film Festival takes place this weekend, from Friday through Sunday. Prices vary based on screenings and parties you decide to attend. The film festival is a non-profit arts project that benefits Coney Island, and will feature some special "made in Coney Island" films. What better excuse to go ride the Cyclone!

UPDATE: Thanks to theskint for reminding me about the annual DUMBO Arts Festival, also taking place this weekend. From the festival's organizers: "Each year the DUMBO Arts Festival seeks to highlight Brooklyn's commitment to and presence in the arts community by presenting the best in local, national, and international art amid the breathtaking backdrop of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline." I have been to this one before, and the festival is definitely a gem.

Still Ongoing:
Also, don't forget that there are a few good events that I mentioned last week which are still ongoing!

Happy Wednesday/Thursday!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday Weekly: In Progress

Don't worry. Don't fear. Your Wednesday Weekly is almost here. WGINY has some great suggestions, but has been otherwise engaged today. Check back later tonight for Something To Look Forward To.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Indoor Rock Climbing Venues in NYC.

As the chill of Fall begins to sweep over the city, opportunities for certain outdoor adventures like hiking and climbing will decidedly dwindle. Not to fear though, you can still seek out some adventurous thrills at the many indoor rock climbing venues in and around New York City.

My favorite place for indoor climbing in NYC is also the newest climbing gym in the five boroughs, Brooklyn Boulders, which recently celebrated its second birthday. With 22,000 square feet of exciting and challenging climbing (lead and top roping) and bouldering routes, Brooklyn Boulders is by far the largest indoor climbing arena in the city. Brooklyn Boulders also offers yoga, pilates and slackline classes, and has better hours than other area climbing gyms, open until 11pm or midnight every day. If you don't have a belay partner, you can leave your contact information on a blackboard at the gym, or you can join this meetup group that gathers at Brooklyn Boulders every Wednesday evening, and benefit from the reduced group peak rate of $18, including gear (usually $22 + $10 for gear, or $18 during off-peak hours with gear). If you are a complete beginner, you can purchase the "Learn the Ropes" package for $75, which comes with two day-passes, a belay class, and a one-day gear kit.

Before I discovered Brooklyn Boulders, I was quite content exploring the Climbing Gym at Manhattan Health Plaza Club, with over 60 changing routes and 5000 square feet for climbing and bouldering. $20 plus equipment to climb. Beginners can purchase an introductory package that includes a one-hour lesson, a one-day pass and gear for $60.

While Chelsea Piers also has a very large climbing "wall," which supposedly offers 11,000 square feet of climbing, and bouldering, frankly, I find their facilities to be boring and expensive, and I just don't have very much to say about this gym.

Finally, if you're willing to make a day-trip out of it, you can take the Long Island Railroad to Plainview, and then cab it to Island Rock, Long Island's "premier" climbing facility. This is the gym where I learned to climb, and which I enjoy returning to when I am visiting friends or family on LI. Island Rock has 9,000 square feet of climbing and bouldering routes for every level. A day pass costs $17, plus $10 for shoes and harness. Newcomers to climbing can purchase a "Quickstart Package," which comes with an introductory lesson, a one-day pass and gear.

If you are not purchasing a lesson package, all of these gyms require that you know how to belay and can demonstrate this. Once you pass the belay certification test once, most gyms will give you a certification card, but it may not be transferable between gyms, so be prepared to show off those belay skills a few times if you wish to try out different climbing venues. Otherwise, you will have to take a class.

All gyms have appropriate routes for beginners to advanced climbers and also offer lessons at various levels. You can always bring your own gear (e.g. shoes, chalk, harness), or rent on the spot. If you plan to climb a lot, consider asking the facility about various membership packages and multi-day passes.

Each gym also offers great group rates and fun activities like children's birthday parties. Happy belaying!