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 CafĂ©, 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.