Monday, August 26, 2013

From the Inbox: Visiting NYC with a 13 year old girl.

WGINY responds to a reader who asked for activities to do in NYC with his teenage daughter, having already seen the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building on a previous Big Apple trip. Here is the full question and WGINY's response, suggesting ideas for tourists with teenagers who have already seen some of NYC's most fabled icons. 

The question:
I will be in New York for 2 days..., I want to do fun things with my 13 year old daughter, what would you suggest? We have seen Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, the last time we were in NYC. I thought we could do Times Square, Central Park this time plus any other recommendations that you might have for me. My daughter loves chinese food so any recommendation on that will be great.

The response:
Times Square is a lot of fun for a 13 year old, you can take her to the big Toys R Us Store, which has a huge indoor ferris wheel, an entire Barbie world, Lego world, and nearby is an M & Ms store, and you can also walk around and meet characters that hang out around the area. If you think she might like a Broadway show, I've heard really good things about Matilda and Annie as kid-friendly shows. You can get great discounts by waiting on line at the Theater Development Fund's ticket booth at Broadway and 47th Street in Times Square. Check here to see what discounts have been offered lately, as they change daily: . Essentially you purchase tickets that afternoon starting at 2 or 3pm for an evening show. Many theaters are dark on Mondays, so Tuesday may be the better day, but check individual show websites to be sure. 

A fun, interactive dining experience in Times Square is Jekyll & Hyde Restaurant. This was one of my favorite restaurants to go to with my parents growing up. It's standard (and a bit overpriced) pub food, but you go for the eerie entertainment.  

For Chinese food, you might enjoy spending part of the day walking around Chinatown. If your daughter likes purses and perfumes, there is no shortage of items on Canal Street. One really fun experience is to go out for "dim sum" in Chinatown, where you are whisked to a group table and servers just bring over random plates of food and you point to items that look good and that's what you get served. You can ask some questions, but it all happens really fast and is a nice food adventure as long as you/your daughter like meat and pork, which feature prominently in dim sum. Some restaurants only do dim sum on weekends but Jing Fong serves dim sum daily and it's one of my favorite. After your dim sum, walk a few blocks over to Little Italy and get some famous cannolis at Ferrara Bakery

If you liked the views from the Empire State Building, try Top of the Rock for another perspective. Your daughter might like this as it at the top of NBC towers and many famous shows are associated with this building. 

If you are thinking of Central Park, consider stopping first at FAO Schwarz at 5th ave and 58th Street, then either renting bikes through the park or taking a carriage ride. Inside the park is a very nice zoo. It's a surreal experience as you stand at the monkey exhibit, for example, you look behind and see the backdrop of NYC skyscrapers. 

For more ideas, you can check out some free museums or see a free movie at a NYC park, which is a very NY experience. For something a little different and educational, try a "rooftop" film (often not actually on rooftops, but in various outdoor venues).

Hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Urban Oyster Helps to Revitalize Sandy-Ravaged Neighborhood

By Tami Shaloum

NY Water Taxi Whizzes by Lady Liberty
Photo Courtesy of Urban Oyster
On a recent drizzly summer afternoon, WGINY got to sample one of Urban Oyster’s most philanthropic food walking tours. The New York City tour guide company ferried a group on a New York Water Taxi from South Street Seaport to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook for its Neighborhood Eats: New York Waterfront Tour. The tour is designed to visit small, local businesses that were affected by Superstorm Sandy last fall as a way to revitalize the neighborhood. Because no subways go there directly, the Water Taxi is a great way to get people to this isolated section of Brooklyn. Other ways to get to Red Hook include taking the F/G/D/R trains to 4th Ave.-9th Street, or the 2/3/4/5 to Borough Hall, and then taking the Ikea shuttle, or taking the B61 or B57 bus.

Sipping complimentary glasses of crisp Riesling, courtesy of Red Hook Winery, we zipped through New York Harbor, past the Statue of Liberty and Governor’s Island, and disembarked at the pier in front of Fairway. Before we set out, we were split into two smaller groups (about 16 people each), and given a little history of the area. Much of Red Hook consists of Civil War-era warehouses that have been converted into art spaces. Many of the businesses, at least the ones the tour includes, make products using local or sustainable ingredients. This was evident right at the first place we visited, Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies. Owner Steve prides himself on using pure, whole ingredients to make the flaky graham-cracker crust and creamy custard-like key lime filling. The only thing more enjoyable than the pies was the awesome view of Manhattan from the friendly and colorful outdoor picnic area.

The next stop was the dual deliciousness of Cacao Prieto, a chocolate factory and whiskey distillery. Prieto uses only single origin, organic chocolate from the Dominican Republic. We were treated to a tour of the factory where the assistant chocolatier explained the process of making their high-end chocolate bars. Tasty samples were, of course, plentiful. Several different whiskies were available to sample as well. There is also an adjacent bar where customers can chill out with a cocktail or two.

The last stop on this mini-tour (the full tour generally visits about seven different establishments) was Brooklyn Crab, a tri-level crab shack that offers up Narragansett lager and fried oysters, along with other fresh seafood. Containing both indoor and outdoor seating, this restaurant has a casual, laid-back vibe, and boasts a pool table, cornhole (bean bag toss), and an 18-hole mini golf course for patrons’ enjoyment. On a warm summer night, one can imagine nothing better than kicking back with a frosty beer and some steamed crabs on the immense outdoor deck.

The Red Hook waterfront still has a long way to go toward full development. It sometimes feels like a small fishing village that is removed from New York City; the only reminder that you are still in the city is the exceptional views of Manhattan from the pier. It certainly has its charms though, and tours like Urban Oyster’s are essential in getting people there to appreciate it.

The Neighborhood Eats: New York Waterfront Tour costs $85 (with a built-in $5 donation to Sandy recovery efforts) and runs every Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday at 11am and ending at 2:30pm. For information about this and other tours, check out Urban Oyster's website.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Head to Broadway for the Best "First Date" You'll Have This Year.

Broadway's newest musical comedy will have you falling in love at first sight as you watch characters Aaron and Casey fumble through their First Date. At first glance, Casey, who works in an art gallery, presents as edgy, creative and avant garde, while Aaron, who works in finance, seems as square and structured as ever. Casey likes bad boys, while Aaron likes, well, his ex. Can these too ever find common ground?

First Date takes a sassy approach to the blind dating scene, and reminds the audience that sometimes love may be lurking where you least expect it. Journey through all of the faux paus of that first date, as this could-be couple continues to get it all wrong. From discussing religion on a first date to exploring past relationships, Aaron and Casey could not be farther from hitting it out of the park. Or could they?

Though Zachary Levi (known for the lead role in TV series Chuck) makes his Broadway debut in First Date, his counterpart, Krysta Rodriguez (seen on TV as "Ana Vargas" in Smash) is no stranger to the stage, having originated the role of "Wednesday Addams" in The Addams Family. Like the characters they play, Levi and Rodriguez have an unexpected chemistry. Levi impresses as a charmingly awkward "Aaron," and Rodriguez is never stronger nor more radiant as she belts out her lines.

The show makes fun of dating, pop culture and corporate America, in a very ostentatious way. Think crosses and stars of David flying at your face, and yet it's all totally acceptable, because it's Broadway. Surely, the comic relief would not be complete without its ensemble cast of characters. Just four additional actors play a plethora of family members, friends, ex-lovers, and one lovesick, singing waiter (played by Blake Hammond) who is all too eager to intervene in the young daters' evening. Casey's sister "Lauren" (Sara Chase) and Aaron's best friend "Gabe" (Bryce Ryness) personify the proverbial angel and devil to Casey and Aaron, getting inside their heads during their date and forcing them to face their inner dating demons. Meanwhile, Casey's best friend, "Reggie" (Kristoffe Cusick) won't stop dialing her during the night, expecting her to be eagerly waiting a "bailout" from another failed blind date. "Bailout Song" is one catchy, hilarious tune with an attitude that you won't soon forget.

For anyone that's ever experienced the New York dating scene, the length of time that Casey and Aaron actually spend together on their date, despite seeming to have nothing in common, may seem a bit contrived at first. But give love a chance, and you won't certainly regret giving this First Date a second look.

First Date has just officially begun its Broadway run at the Longacre Theatre, and tickets can be purchased here.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Q & A With Central Park SummerStage's Curator of Dance, Danni Gee.

Heather K. and Tami Shaloum hold a virtual (email) interview with Danni Gee, Curator of Dance for the City Park's Foundation SummerStage program since 2006. Ms. Gee comes to SummerStage with a wealth of professional dance experience, having been a principal dancer and soloist for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and a principal dancer with the Philadelphia Dance Company, as well as a dance teacher and coach. Adding to her list of talents, Ms. Gee is also the lead singer of NYC rock and soul band, Suga Bush, and has toured as a backing vocalist with Gloria Gaynor, Cher and other renowned musical artists. Ms. Gee graduated from the Performing Arts School of Philadelphia, where she focused on dance, music and production, and also studied journalism at Temple University, where she attended on full scholarship.*

Danni ( as Danielle) Gee and Leonard Meek, Alvin Ailey., c.1995
photo by Roy Volkmann, used with permission
The Q & A:
  • Q: How has your background as a principal dancer with both the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Philadelphia Dance Company influenced you in curating the dance programming at SummerStage?
    • A: Well, both of these dance companies are well established, professional top-tier organizations. Being exposed and involved in that level of atmosphere, you are shown a standard. I seek to meet that standard of professionalism and artistic creativity season after season.
  • Q: What goes into curating a SummerStage dance program from year to year? How has the program evolved since you began as Curator of Dance for the City Parks Foundation in 2006?
    • A: For me, it has been important to engage not just the world renowned companies, but to also give support to emerging companies and choreographers. The evolution has been evident in numbers and diversity of the audience but I have also begun engaging more dance companies who work in different mediums including film and spoken word as well as collaborating more and more with live musicians on established and new works. I'm looking to offer traditional dance performances but also more edgy multi-faceted programs too!
  • Q: How is this season different from last season, dance-wise? What new things have you added or taken away?
    • A: Since 2006 with our citywide series, we have engaged two companies per event. I made the decision this season to shift to featuring just one company. Logistically that makes it somewhat easier in the production side, but when you have a company who knows they have the whole bill, they expand their program. They tend to add more elements and it brings the show into sharper focus and certainly gives the companies more time to make a bold statement on who they are. 
  • Q: We understand that you have worked together with dance companies and musicians to create unique, collaborative performances for SummerStage. How much does music influence your dance programming decisions?
    • A: Most groups come with their works already in repertoire, but since I am also a singer, I straddle a nice line in New York of being in the independent music scene and the concert dance scene. There is a vocalist I've known for over ten years now, Imani Uzuri, and I knew I wanted to engage her somehow but I had to fit her with the right company to match her earthy yet ethereal qualities. That company was Camille A. Brown and Dancers last year. It was a match made in heaven and something I am always looking to pair up for the series. 
  • Q: Where do you look for talent/acts? Do you focus on emerging groups and artists? Well-known performers? Or a special blend? Do you take into account different cultures and styles?
    • A: Yes, a special blend for sure. I get invited to a lot of performances which is a treasure. If I can't make a performance I may attend a rehearsal. People who I respect suggest artists. I know a lot of dancers who have gone on to become superb choreographers and now have companies. People send DVDs for my consideration or they'll send links of their works. Overall, I look for companies that spark my imagination or move me in some way. I'm open to every style of dance and being in a city as diverse as New York, I am blessed to have an ocean of established and emerging talent to chose from.
  • Q: What do you think of dance's role in making political or social statements?
    • A: The first obligation of the artist is to make the best art they can possibly make. Political art can be powerful but an artist shouldn't feel forced to create this type of work. There are many stories to be told. Artists should feel empowered to tell what ever story animates their imagination. I do, however, feel that every artist and every citizen for that matter should have a general awareness of what is happening in their community and globally.
  • Q: What has been your favorite dance moment or experience so far in the process of curating for SummerStage 2013?
    • A: Well truly every year has been special and every show is a highlight, but I must say for this year getting the opportunity to work with the legendary Martha Graham Dance Company, the oldest modern dance company in America, is a thrill. I studied the company's unique technique my entire dance career so presenting them was a huge honor! Also, having premieres with the multi-media project "SPEAK" and the legendary Hip-Hop dance crew. The Rock Steady Crew premiering a new work for SummerStage called "Ghetto Made." It's a blast to present something fresh out of the oven!
  • Q: Are you curating any other dance programs besides SummerStage this summer or in the near future?
    • A: Right now, just SummerStage, but I have worked with National Dance Week in the past. I would love to do a sister festival in my hometown, Philadelphia. So yes, there are other ideas in the pot which are simmering!
July 23 Martha Graham Dance Company show at SummerStage
Photo by Heather-Ann Schaeffner**
There's still nearly a month to go of innovative, exciting programming for SummerStage this summer, and at least eight upcoming August shows will focus on dance. See the City Parks Foundation's full calendar for more information.

*Background info on Danni Gee paraphrased from City Parks Foundation's Biography for Ms. Gee.
**View Ms. Schaeffner's full photo reel from the Martha Graham show here.

Friday, August 2, 2013

"Essence of Kimono" Displays Antique "Wearable Art" at The Nippon Gallery.

Kimono from the Alexander Collection
used with permission
What is a kimono? Is it something to wear or an art to marvel at? Can it be both? Explore these ideas as the Nippon Gallery's* current exhibition, "Essence of Kimono: Art, Culture & Commerce." On display for the first time in history are 60 antique kimono and obi handpicked from the private collection of Alexander Murray. Mr. Murray's passion for kimono and other "wearable art," as the gallery describes it, has led him to collect nearly 1000 beautiful textiles from Japanese historical periods as far back as two hundred years. The portion of the Alexander Collection on display at the Nippon Gallery highlights distinctive colors and patterns, and rare, delicate details. The textile pieces are intricate, stunning works of art, and all items on display are also for sale.

The exhibition runs through August 23rd, and is open 10am-6pm on weekdays, and 10am-5pm on Saturdays (closed Sundays). Although the experience is priceless, admission is free.

*The Nippon Gallery is part of notable Japanese cultural institution, The Nippon Club, and is located at 145 W. 57th Street, between 6th & 7th Aves. The exhibition is also supported by the J.C.C. Fund of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York, Inc., the Consulate General of Japan in New York, and the Japan Foundation, New York. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Motorino Williamsburg is Back and Better Than Ever!

After a nearly two year hiatus due to a shoddy landlord, trendy, tasty Motorino Pizza has finally reopened a new Williamsburg location at 139 Broadway, off of Bedford Ave. With a larger space and more options on the menu, the new location stands a slice above even its own East Village sidekick. Chic exposed brick peeks out over signature white marble tabletops as candles light the mood for the meals at Motorino Williamsburg.

Steamed Clams W/Oregano Garlic Bread
Start off with the Steamed Clams served with Oregano Garlic Bread. These little steamed gems will melt in
your mouth as hot as the buttery sauce in which they're served. When you've devoured all the clams, move onto the bread and dip it in the remaining sauce to really give your sensations a kick.

When you're ready for your pizza, Motorino Williamsburg has 11 "Pizze" options to choose from, or you can create your own pizza. As thin crust varieties go, Motorino concocts a crust that is light and airy yet fulfilling and tasteful. You won't want to leave this crust behind, as it's probably one of the best you'll consume in NYC.

Soppressata Picante Pizze
As for toppings, try the traditional Margherita first, made with real mozzarella di bufala, and the sweet tomato sauce that makes Motorino's pizzas shine. Next you can move on to a spicier experience, with the Soppressata Picante. It's no "Hellboy," but the combination of fior di latte, spicy soppressata, pecorino and chili flakes, among other spices, will leave you salivating for more.

Brussels Sprout Pizze
And if by some chance your hunger is still not satisfied, engorge yourself on the Brussels Sprout pizza. Brussels sprouts and smoked pancetta on pizza without any tomato sauce might seem unappetizing, but rest assured your mom won't have to make you eat these Brussels sprouts. Set on a that perfect crust with a bed of soft fior di latte, the Brussels Sprout pizza gets better with every bite.

Unlike the typical brick oven haunt, the "new" Motorino has (so far) little to no wait on a weeknight at prime dinner time, and accepts credit cards. The liquor license is pending, but within 1-2 weeks the restaurant should be adding wine and beer to the menu.  Get it while it's hot!