Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Radio Theatre's "Dracula": You've Never Seen Bram Stoker Like This.

Looking for a Halloween themed activity this weekend? Try a spooky rendition of Dracula by Radio Theatre NYC. "Radio Theatre" is a modern take on the radio programs of yesteryear, presenting theatrical interpretations of actors reading story-scripts at radio mics, but before a live studio audience.

Stephanie Heitman as a Vampire Bride in Dracula
Photo by R. Patrick Alberty (Dracula's own Jonathan Harker) Used With Permission
The Dracula storytellers, for the most part, do not interact with each other on stage, though their stage presence and demeanor, and the deep passion in their voices creates vivid imagery for the audience without too much stretch of the imagination required. For those who do need a little more scenery to paint that perfect picture, there's a homemade fog machine queued up to spew smoke at any moment that calls for a chilling atmosphere.

In Dracula, like in Bram Stoker's original vision, there are several key characters -- Count Dracula of course (read by Patrick Halloran), solicitor Jonathan Harker (R. Patrick Alberty), his wife Mina Harker (Olivia Obaressi), Mina's friend Lucy Westerna (Stephanie Heitman), and prominent vampire hunter, Dr. Van Helsing (Joshua Nicholson). The story's narrator, voiced by the show's director, Frank Zilinyi, is presumably asylum keeper, Dr. John Seward, from Bram Stoker's novel, though his famous eccentric patient Renfield is conspicuously absent. The cast works together reading the story on stage as if they are living it, voices both taunting and trembling, with blood curdling screams abound.

Radio Theatre's Dracula has made it through several layers of adaptation before hitting Horse Trade's Kraine Theater. The original novel was adapted for radio by Orson Welles, legendary for his October 30, 1938 panic-causing War of the Worlds radio broadcast. In fact, Welles' Dracula broadcast hit the airwaves more than three months before War of the Worlds. Since then, Dan Bianchi has re-re-adapted Dracula for the modern "radio theatre" goers. Though, presumably, no one listening to the 1938 Dracula broadcast believed they should actually fear vampires at their windows and doors, theatergoers at Bianchi's current-running Dracula production may become so engrossed as to believe Dracula could creep up behind them in their seats at any moment, hungry for blood.

Like the Count's coffins of earth, time is running out for Dracula with only two more shows left this season. See it on Sundays, November 3 or 10, at 3pm, before it takes flight. Tickets are $25 for general admission and $15 for students/seniors/military, and are available for purchase online, at the door, or by calling 212-868-4444. The Kraine Theater is located at 85 East 4th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.

Monday, October 28, 2013

David’s RedHaired Death Captures the Joys and Sorrows of Love and Loss

By Tami Shaloum 

There is something interesting going on in the back of a Mexican restaurant in Williamsburg and it’s not the fine cuisine. It’s LA SALA, an innovative performance space located in Cantina Royal. The room is equipped with high ceilings, blank walls, a projector, cabaret tables and a bar, and is especially well suited to the imaginative multimedia two-woman show, David’s RedHaired Death. The experimental play happens to make good use of the high ceilings, with the addition of two male aerialists, and the vast walls, with images and video projected onto three walls of the space.

The story is simple enough: two red-haired women, Jean and Marilyn, are introduced through an unseen mutual friend and fall in love. Right away, it seems as though they are soul mates. Aside from their shared hair color—a detail that threads throughout the play—they smoke the same cigarettes, have the same family composition, and often say the same things at the same time. Half the play deals with exploring this sudden and surprising mutual admiration. Interwoven in this narrative is the death of Jean’s brother, David. This, we know from the beginning (and the title), is imminent. It is the aftermath of that event that we do not see coming and which, along with the complexity of emotions the two actresses convey, adds some really deep intensity to the story.

The performances by Diana Beshara as Jean and Elizabeth Simmons as Marilyn are nothing short of magnetic. The two actresses are charming and exude chemistry as they flirt and discuss the many benefits of being a redhead. Sherry Kramer’s writing is quite poetic at times and utilizes repetition to great dramatic effect. The story seems to be set in some heightened reality, enhanced by dim lighting and an all white set with a red accent. My one technical complaint is that the aerialists, while skilled, seem a bit superfluous. They pop in about four times throughout the show, apropos of nothing, and perform their gravity defying moves. I understand the use of them in conveying the literal fall of a character, but it took me out of the story rather than enriching it.

If the first act is as dreamy as new love, shit gets real in the second act. All of a sudden, the red-haired curtain gets lifted and we see all the unnatural, brassy highlights. The dialogue ceases to be as lyrical. While it is admirable to let the tone shift a little, it is a little too jarring in this case. It seems as though the entire storytelling device changes. This is accentuated by a phone call that should have been a monologue, but instead we have to endure a hackneyed recording and pretend it is a dialogue. The story could have advanced without this detail.

Configuring the space to the performance and vice versa is an interesting way to deepen the story and inject some energy into the space as though it were another character. This is hopefully a theatrical device that continues to evolve. Even without it, David’s RedHaired Death is still a profound exploration of joy and sorrow, a juxtaposition of the bliss of new love and the depression that can overwhelm us, and a testament to the limits of love.

David’s RedHaired Death is currently playing at LA SALA in the back room of Cantina Royal at 58 North 3rd Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Performances are running until November 10 on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets include a free beer.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Regular Friday Night Romp, "Off The Top Of Our Heads" Has Witty Performers Who Think On Their Toes.

Reprinted with permission
"What are you doing Friday night?" A typical question in our anything but typical Gotham City. Enter Gotham City Improv's Friday night romp, "Off The Top Of Our Heads," a witty and entertaining, fully improvised show that's sure to start your night off right. While many NYC improvisation troupes perform "longform" or "Harold" improv, taking audience suggestions to create full story-scenes, "Off The Top Of Our Heads" specializes in "shortform" improv, and in doing so presents a scintillating variety show.

WGINY recently attended a Friday night performance of "Off The Top Of Our Heads," and was impressed by how quickly the actors could come up with one-liners and quirky dialogue, only moments after a new idea was presented.  The audience was involved in nearly every aspect of the improvisations, as the joking, charismatic Artistic Director, Marc Adam Smith, ran several series of interactive games to get the show going. Smith was a fine MC whose ability to interject himself into scenes at the most unexpected times kept the show fresh and entertaining.

Every few minutes, scenes were changed and altered, and new layers of absurdness ensued, as actors were rotated in and out of the spotlight. There were five performers, in addition to the Director, and each seemed to personify a different personality trait throughout the show, even as they portrayed varying improvised characters. The vibrant, expressive Nannette Deasy had an innate ability to think on her toes and cause raucous laughter as as result. Maddie O'Hara tended to charm as a proverbial "girl-next-door," Christopher Boerger had no trouble making apathy amusing, Curt Dixon's exaggerated style gave him a special glamour, and Alex Decaneas' eccentricity only served to further add to the blithesome frivolity of the evening. Although I understand not all are "regular" castmembers, I have rarely seen such a cohesive, connected group of improv performers. Scenes and jokes flowed like whimsical anecdotes across the stage and into the audience aisles (quite literally at one where you sit!).

"Off The Top Of Our Heads," showing every Friday night at 8pm, is a great way to kickoff a weekend, or let loose after a long work week. Tickets are only $10, and Goldstar is currently running a 50% off promotion.

Gotham City Improv is located at 48 W. 21st Street, between 5th and 6th Ave. For more information, follow GCI on Facebook and Twitter, and check out their promo video on Yelp!. GCI also holds improv classes (including FREE sample classes), and has a full calendar of other improv shows.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Accidental Pervert" Contest Winner, Joey S., Is A Cut Above!

The winner of WGINY's "Accidental Pervert" embarrassing childhood story contest is also comically engaging. Joey S., of New York, New York, discusses his "Scalp Lock" haircut and even models it in pictures:

Most of my [childhood] embarrassments weren’t entirely evident to me until well after the fact, and sadly, most of them lasted much longer than was necessary. Yes, there was that time when I wet the bed at the age of 10, but then again, who hasn’t? And sure, I may have been the last guy in elementary school to get the memo that wearing the same color sweat suit wasn’t the cool way to dress, but honestly, it was easier and extremely comfortable. At the end of the day (today), there has to be one story that takes the cake… and so here goes:

On my sixth birthday, I decided to get a haircut. I was really interested in Native American Indians at the time, and there were some re-enactors in the area that I wanted to be like. My newly 6 year old self decided that I would get a “Scalp Lock,” which, for the few of you who are not acquainted with Iroquois culture, is a completely shaved head minus a long ‘block’ of hair directly in the center. (Clarification: This is not a rat tail. It is significantly worse.)

The haircut wasn’t so much embarrassing as the 5 years afterwards when I continued to sport this look. I was “that kid,” the one with the weird hair. Perhaps it would have made a difference if I had pursued any reenacting, but I didn’t, and honestly, perhaps it still wouldn’t have. My parents deserve a gold star for championing individuality, and my Dad did say it made me much easier to find on the soccer field. As I’m sure most of you can guess, this hairstyle coupled with the aforementioned same-color sweat suits was double trouble for the ladies.  Mercifully, I put an end to the madness when I created the “change is good” slogan Obama later adopted in his 2008 campaign. 

Congratulations to Joey S! (And here's hoping he sports a better haircut on his night with "The Accidental Pervert"). 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Glimpse Into Rich Global Cultures and Human Stories at the AMNH's Margaret Mead Film Festival

By Tami Shaloum 

If you have ever wanted an insider’s glimpse into another culture without the expense and inconvenience of traveling, you will definitely want to check out the 2013 Margaret Mead Film Festival at the American Museum of Natural History this weekend. Beginning Thursday, October 17 and running through Sunday, October 20, the Mead festival features over 40 films and events documenting and showcasing many of the rich cultures from around the world and the human stories that connect us all. It will conclude on Sunday night with an award ceremony and dance party featuring the only all-female mariachi band, Mariachi Flor de Toloache.

The events running throughout the weekend include musical performances, talks and art installations, all free with the purchase of a film ticket. Films include Chimeras, which talks about modern Chinese identity and Western influence in the art world; Cinéma Inch’Allah!, about four Belgian-Moroccan filmmakers friends; The Infamous T, which features a queer and homeless American teenager; and Three Voices (Diario a Tres Voces), which weaves the stories of three Mexican females into a study of what it means to be a woman. Cultural tourism figures into several of the films this year, from Papua New Guinea in Cannibal Tours, to Ethiopia in Framing the Other, to Bolivia, Thailand, Mali and Bhutan in Gringo Trails.

WGINY is highlighting the opening night film and Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award Contender Miss Nikki and the Tiger Girls. This film will change your perspective on Myanmar. Miss Nikki is an Australian woman determined to form Myanmar’s first all-girl band. The Tiger Girls are her creation. She manages them, trains them, styles them, writes music, and choreographs their dances. Although the Girls’ music pervades the film, the story of the band is only half the focus, the other half being Myanmar itself. Long governed under harsh military rule, this country in Southeast Asia is as compelling a subject as the five vibrant young women talking about their dreams of becoming international pop stars. Myanmar’s strict censorship laws made it difficult for any kind of creative expression, especially those pertaining to politics and anything that goes against the ideal of a proper Burmese female. These six women persist despite these setbacks, even when it is clear that the country is not quite ready for such a concept. It’s an underdog story, although it’s clear these girls are bolstered by privileged Western entities. For instance, would they have even existed if not for a manager who is clearly being supported by her wealthy boyfriend? It is unlikely that the Burmese production company they are signed to in the beginning would have even taken them on without Nikki’s presence. Also, we are not given a satisfying reason as to Nikki’s motivations to forming the band and her experience with this kind of business. There is no real thoughtful discussion about the pros and cons of Western influence on their culture. Some of the girls express doubts about the changing pro-democracy government, but it is dismissed as something they will have to get used to. Ultimately, it’s a story about five girls from different backgrounds coming together and becoming close friends who also happen to make music together. It is filled with spirited and youthful dreams, but also the every day realities the girls face as they struggle with money, family and success.

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Accidental Pervert" is "Comically Engaging," and You Can Win Tickets Here!

Enter What's Good in New York's latest contest to win two tickets to see "Accidental Pervert," a play that TheatreMania finds"Comically Engaging" and BroadwayWorld describes as a "A Wild Roller Coaster Ride!"

Through this one-man Off-Broadway show, comedian Andrew Goffman brings to life the true story of how accidentally stumbling upon his father's collection of pornographic videos, at the ripe pre-pubescent age of eleven, turned him into an erotica-enthused teenager and young adult, and stuck with him through his twenty-sixth year, when he met his wife.

Andrew Goffman, as writer and sole performer in "Accidental Pervert," takes the audience on a charmingly unexpected, bawdy journey through his childhood pornography addiction. Watch a preview here, as Goffman explains that "in a strange way [Accidental Pervert] is actually a tribute" to his father, the unintended purveyor of his first major encounter with pornography.

Catch a performance of "Accidental Pervert" every Friday and Saturday night at 7pm, at The 13th Street Repertory Company. Regular tickets are $49, or for $99, purchase a VIP ticket ("Very Important Pervert") to go backstage for a special tour of the theater, a meet and greet with both Andrew Goffman and the show's director, Charles Messina, an autographed show t-shirt, a reserved front row seat, and two complimentary drinks from concessions. However, WGINY readers can get general admission tickets at the special discount price of only $29, by using online code RRM29, or by ordering by phone, with code RRM29, at 212-352-3101.

Want a chance to win tickets? Send WGINY your best embarrassing childhood story. E-mail your submission (under 250 words please) to and the funniest story will win a pair of tickets to see "Accidental Pervert". Submissions are due on or before Friday, October 18 at 5pm, and the winner will be announced Wednesday, October 23, with the winning story posted.

Contest restrictions: Blackout dates may apply. Voucher for two free tickets expires November 20, 2013. WGINY contributors and immediate family are not eligible.Discount restrictions: Offer may be revoked at anytime and is subject to availability. Not valid on prior purchase. Offer cannot be combined with other discounts or promotions; blackout dates and restrictions may apply. Maximum of 8 tickets total with offer.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Italian Bistro, "Incognito," Surprises With Its Scottish Flair

Photo courtesy of Incognito Bistro
Last week, WGINY was invited to a press dinner at "Incognito," a Roman bistro with "Scottish flair." When NYC restaurants offer cuisine from two vastly different regions, the first thought diners typically have is fusion, and an expectation that individual menu items will each have influences from both cuisines. Incognito Bistro, however, surprises with the unexpected separation of its Italian and Scottish roots.

Despite that Executive Chef and Co-Owner Paolo Montana is Scottish-Italian, hailing from Glasgow, a "Scottish Corner" of the menu at Incognito was only added this past summer, although the bistro has been in business since July 2011. Chef Paolo's humble story of how he became General Manager and Executive Chef of one of the best Italian restaurants in Glasgow by the time he was twenty-four years old, prior to emigrating to the US, reveals that his true talent lies within and that perseverance really does pay off.

Executive Chef and Co-Owner, Paolo Montana
Photo courtesy of Incognito Bistro
Prosciutto and Rucola Pizza
photo by WGINY
Our meal for the evening, served tasting-course style, began with a Prosciutto and Rucola pizza, one of eight savory small pies on the expansive menu at Incognito. On top of fresh roasted tomato and mozzarella, a thick slice of prosciutto sat on each pizza wedge, waiting to be devoured. We next moved on to some appetizers, of which my favorite was a Baby Shrimp Timble seeping with cilantro and avocado that had an ambrosial effect as it evanesced in my mouth.

Risotto prepared with smoked mozzerella
Photo by WGINY

In the middle of the meal we enjoyed selections of pasta including a unusually smokey-style mozzarella Risotto, and a Carbonerapasta with a parmigiano sauce and hefty helpings of pancetta, at just the right texture to complement the pasta.

Three other plates also made it to my memory, at least two of which came from that recently introduced "Scottish Corner," featuring upscale, creative versions of classic Scottish fare. There was the tasting of "Isle of Skye Scallops," made with scallops literally flown in from the Isle of Skye in Scotland, and the "Highland Haggis," Chef Paolo's take on Scotland's national dish.

Highland Haggis
Photo by WGINY

The scallops were pan roasted and prepared with a velvety butter sauce known as fennel beurre blanc. As for the haggis, I admittedly was wholly unfamiliar with this delicacy until Chef Paolo introduced it to me. I especially use the word delicacy, as patrons who know the history of haggis may be turned off by the idea of it, yet at Incognito the lamb sausage, turnip, and creamed potato sampling set in a light whisky au jus sauce really was a hidden treat, pleasant and soft and tantalizing. And that's the crux of Incognito right there -- it's exactly the opposite of what you'd expect.

Isle of Skye scallop tasting
Photo by WGINY
Not all of the items we sampled are included on the regular menu, but the menu changes seasonally, and if Chef Paolo gets to know you (and like you) as a customer, you may even be able to convince him to create something special just for you. As seems to be the trend with emerging restaurants, Paolo uses local and organic ingredients wherever possible, but yet again he goes a step further and is willing to accommodate special dietary needs, such as requests for gluten-free pasta.

Incognito's large, open dining area is both modern and vintage
Photo courtesy of Incognito Bistro
The story of Chef Paolo would not be complete without mention of his beautiful and charming wife and Co-Owner, Adriana Moretti. They may be the most down to earth power couple you will ever meet, and the restaurant works because of their hard work together, which brings me to the decor at Incognito. Richly painted columns adorn the large open dining area, and here's another surprise -- it's Adriana's mother, Scottish artist, Patricia Moretti, who is responsible for the colorful pastels. The atmosphere is at once both sleekly modern and suggestively vintage, with custom-made tables and chairs, and a leather banquette, watched over by black-and-white photographs of yore.

Never-ending dessert platter
Photo by WGINY
There's also a private room for parties or the occasional celebrity guest (yes, Incognito has gotten some, and no I can't tell you who, it's incognito!). Other special menu offerings include an all day bar menu, including both food and cocktails, where the "happy hour" never ends, as well as pre-theatre and lunch menus. Incognito even delivers.

Any good evening should end with a fine dessert, and ours did. Offered a selection of every dessert on the current menu, the standouts for me were a rich, creamy, chocolate torte glazed with caramel sauce, and a smooth vanilla panna cotta with a berry compote.

The award-winning Incognito Bistro may be tucked away inconspicuously in the Flatiron district of New York City, but it's not staying hidden very well, and if you have the chance to try it you'll see why. Try it on a Tuesday night for a taste of the new live jazz program, or on any other night of the week, except Sunday, which Paolo and Adriana take off for a well-deserved day of rest. And if you're wondering about the plaid ties your wait staff are wearing, read all about "Clan Italia," as Incognito becomes the first US restaurant to feature Italian Tartan. In fact, as far as WGINY can find, Incognito is the only restaurant in NYC offering both Italian and Scottish fare together.

Incognito Italian Bistro is located at 30 West 18th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. Reservations can be made by phone or online at

Friday, October 4, 2013

"I'll Take Manhattan" Walking Tours Gets Ghoulish in Greenwich Village

By: Cmdr. Howard Kalachman
Edited by Heather K.

Ghosts in Greenwich Village?
Photo by Cmdr. Howard Kalachman
Known to be the most walkable city in the US, and arguably one of the most famous and filmed locations in the world, New York City is still full of surprises around every corner. “I’ll Take Manhattan Walking Tours,” run by licensed NYC tour guide, Anthony Grifa, aims to let both tourists and locals alike get a glimpse of a Manhattan they've never seen before.

Photo by Cmdr. Howard Kalachman
I recently met "Tony" with a walking tour group on the Corner of Seventh Avenue and Grove Street for a very interesting, informative and enjoyable hour and a half “Ghostly Greenwich Village” tour. Wearing a mic with speaker, so everyone could hear him, Tony first led us to the reportedly haunted former home of Aaron Burr. Our group learned some alluring history behind the haunting-- there has been an alarmingly high property turnover rate due to many former owners fleeing after experiencing paranormal activity. And that’s with only one resident manifestation, unlike at the "House of Terror," where…wait, I am getting ahead of myself...

Tony next directed us to the oldest homes in the Village, on Bedford Street, as we continued on to the Cherry Lane Theatre, on Commerce Street, rumored to be haunted by an actress who rearranges scenery overnight, laughs at actors who miss their lines, and is held responsible for many other unexplained events. The building, erected in 1836, has a rich history, which Tony colorfully provided.

Around the corner from Cherry Lane Theatre is the very charming and beautiful Grove Court, a must see, where the ghost of a women has been reported sitting on the bench in the gardens purportedly waiting for her lover, who died while helping her to recuperate from an illness. Without giving away too much, the story behind that apparition is a tale of sad irony.

Continuing on, Chumley's, a former speakeasy and casino on Bedford Street, was an old drinking haunt for famous writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Eugene O'Neill, and many others, yet is known to be haunted, not by authors, but by former owner, Mrs. Chumley herself! The story of this famous speakeasy is fascinating. At street number "86," some say that the term "86"originated here as a warning to scram out the back door as the police were coming in the front. The building, closed after the 2007 collapse of its façade, is in the process of being rebuilt. It will be interesting to see if the mischievous resident spirit of the drunken Mrs. Chumley makes another appearance when the building is reopened!

Photo by Cmdr. Howard Kalachman
We next strolled along Gay Street, where Frank Parris, creator of "Howdy Doody," once lived and the ghost of Mayor Jimmy Walker has been seen, and then stopped at the former home of Mark Twain, on West 10th Street. There have been nine murders at that location including the infamous murder of young Lisa Steinberg in November of 1987, which earned it the title of the "House of Terror."  One unlucky author, Jan Bryant Bartell, who wrote the book, “Spindrift Spray From A Psychic Sea,” about the hauntings and purported possessions there, was found dead under mysterious circumstances a mere one-month after the book was published! I'm surprised that Hollywood never made a movie about that one.

Did you know that before Washington Square Park was erected the space was a graveyard, or more accurately a potter’s field, a common grave where many unknown, indigent people were buried. There have been so many sightings in Washington Square Park that our tour guide, Tony, who used to teach at NYU across the street, was often asked by frightened students if he would accompany them through the park. The legend is that several students have been chased into an NYU building by ghosts and thereafter jumped off the roof to their death! Now that is something I never knew about that park. Did you? Tony himself maintained that sometimes as he crossed Washington Square Park late at night he has observed little pockets of mist or fog -- Ghost or Weather? You decide.

Photo by Cmdr. Howard Kalachman
Our final stop was at the corner of Green Street & Washington Place the historic landmark location of the tragic and deadly March 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire with the loss of 146 young lives. Now owned by NYU, it is said that every year on the anniversary of that fire the upper floors are so haunted classes have to be suspended.

Believer or skeptic, it won't matter. Tony's tales were gripping and his knowledge of city streets, history and strange stories was impeccable and sure to impress even the most skeptic. "I'll Take Manhattan" offers more than ten tailored walking tours, for public or private visitors and groups, and can also arrange "Manhattan Sampler" bus tours for groups that can provide their own bus. See the schedule for more information on specific neighborhood and themed tours, or contact Anthony Grifa at ag@newyorkcitywalks.

Commander Kalachman is a retired NYC public school educator, current Cmdr. of Victor Murtha Post 972 American Legion, and author of "Hi Mom, I'm OK, And other Lies From Vietnam."  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Halloween "Mutt Masquerade" Benefits Animal Rescue Organizations

When I first heard about a "Mutt Masquerade," I recalled my youth when my hometown would have pet parades and proud owners would promenade their pooches down the block in cutesy costumes. In fact, the "Mutt Masquerade" taking place on Saturday, October 26, at The Joshua Tree, has nothing to do with animals in costume and everything to do with animals in distress.

Leave your pets at home but come dressed in your own best costume at this nearly-Halloween masquerade that will help raise awareness of animals in need while also benefiting worldwide animal rescue and wellness organization, such as Cats in the Cradle, Stewie to the Rescue, and BLES Elephant, Cat and Dog Sanctuary. 100% of the proceeds will go to these worthwhile organizations that work tirelessly to save animals from NYC kill shelters and other harmful environments.

A night at the "Mutt Masquerade" begins at 7:30 p.m. and will include a happy hour with drink specials and appetizers, as well as a pet-themed silent art auction. VIP ticket-holders will get complimentary raffle tickets for high-end skin care products, cosmetics, and accessories from prominent designers and artists including TOM's, LUSH, Matt & Nat, SHAG Brooklyn, and will also receive goodie bags filled with "schwag" from local sponsors. Additional raffle tickets will also be available for purchase for all ticket-holders.

For all of this, general admission tickets are only $35, and VIP packages are $50. VIP tickets are currently sold out, but if the Masquerade sells more general admission tickets and/or adds new sponsors, VIP tickets may open up again. Do you know an artist or business that might want to donate their goods or services? Contact organizer Sandi at

Even if you can't make it, you can still donate and make a difference.

Join the Mutt Masquerade's facebook invite for more info and updates on this masked gala charity event, and visit eventbrite to purchase your tickets.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Asphalt Green's New Battery Park Location Offers "Tasty Cooking" and Other Cultural Arts Programs

By Brian Mangan
Edited by Heather K.
Sparkling New Facilities at Asphalt Green Battery Park City
Photo by Brian Mangan
First opened in the 1970's on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Asphalt Green specializes in youth and adult fitness programs. Recently, Asphalt Green opened a new location in TriBeCa, offering similar sports and fitness classes, but expanding options with some intriguing culinary and cultural arts programs.

With that in mind, a friend and I ventured down to the TriBeCa location, excited to take a special cooking class, "Tasty Cooking for Special Diets and Allergies." Upon entering the location at 212 North End Avenue, the newness of the facility was immediately apparent. Everything was sparkling clean and bright, and we were greeted by helpful staff who were happy to talk with us regarding their brand-new set up.

Chef Hoffman Demonstrates While Would-be Chefs Follow Along
Photo by Brian Mangan
The "Tasty Cooking" class was led by chef Katie Hoffman who has been cooking, catering, and teaching in 
New York City for over a decade. Hoffman was extremely knowledgeable and her proficiency in creative cooking was even more impressive for this special diets" class, as so many of the issues and questions she faced pertained to food allergies and other exceptions requiring alterations to typical dishes.

"Tasty Cooking" was hands-on and intimate: in addition to taking place in the facility's brand-new kitchen, it had only five participants, making it possible for everyone to get a lot of individualized attention. We were given aprons and recipes when we arrived, and we were on our way. I knew nothing about cooking, but Chef Hoffman was helpful, friendly, and patient with me nonetheless. 

On the menu for the evening were three items: chicken and black bean enchiladas, guacamole, and cashew butter blondies. We started with the dessert first, then moved on to the enchiladas, and finished it off with the guacamole. While Chef Hoffman's methods were inventive and interesting to watch, and there was some interaction as class participants could help now-and-then to cut or dice, we were not provided with own dishes to prepare which would have brought the class around full circle. 

Mangan and Another Foodie Enjoy Enchiladas
Photo by Anonymous

As enjoyable as the class was, ostensibly the program still has some strives to make. For starters, although the class was touted as gluten free, some of the ingredients used did contain gluten. Also, since dishes were not individual, and all food was shared, the class was tailored to the person or people whose dietary restrictions were the narrowest -- therefore, we ended up making the "chicken" enchiladas vegetarian rather than with actual chicken. To her credit, Chef Hoffman did her best to accommodate all allergies and food restrictions given short notice as she was only advised of some of these issues directly before the class began. I must also say, the food was delicious!

Chef Hoffman also took her time in preparing and explaining each menu item, and although the class was supposed to last from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., she and the Asphalt Green staff were very accommodating in allowing the class to run into overtime. 

The Enchilada Speaks for Itself!
Photo by Brian Mangan
For someone who is an aspiring chef or foodie, the nearly one-on-one access to the tutelage and craftsmanship of an expert cook such as Hoffiman is undoubtedly an enormous perk, though it's clear that the program is still working out the kinks as they go. Though those with food allergies may be used to paying more premium prices to have specially prepared meals, similar classes may not justify the hefty price tag ($120/member, $150/non-member), but I will definitely be keeping an eye on Asphalt Green Battery Park City for future opportunities.

Brian Mangan is a co-founder and writer for The Read Zone (, a community-sourced blog about Sports, Politics, Law and New York City. He can be found on twitter @brianpmangan and the Read Zone @ReadZoneNow.