Unique New York City Experiences: A visit to NYC Icon Russ & Daughters



We’re pretty unabashed brunchaholics.  We register an abnormal amount of excitement when a well-regarded restaurant moves from serving dinner only to offering brunch.  We’ve got a Google Map with a list of restaurants that we’ve saved, with enough potential suitors to secure a weekend brunch schedule through 2050.  But our favorite thing to do AFTER brunch?  Head over to Russ & Daughters to pick up bagels, cream cheese, smoked fish and any other number of goodies so we can have a second brunch for dinner.

Don’t judge.

We can’t possibly be alone, because when you step in there on a weekend, it’s packed to the gills.  (Hey, did I just pun?)  



Unique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Unique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Unique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The first thing you want to do when you step through the door is grab a ticket.  Then take in all that’s around you while you wait: one counter offers smoked fish, caviar and shmears.  Take a few steps down and you’ll see egg salad, tuna salad, eggplant salad and a selection of herring.  On the other side there’s a counter that offers tempting sweets like dried fruit, rugelach and babka.  Or check out the cooler where you’ll find soups and some other pre-prepared items like latkes and blintzes.  Along the wall you’ll see wire baskets holding bagels and bialys, some of the best the city has to offer.  If you’d rather have crackers with your shmear, they carry those too.

Russ & Daughters celebrated its 100th year anniversary three years ago, and it’s one of the few family establishments that is still a real family establishment (it’s currently run by the 4th generation of Russ family members).  It’s been the subject of numerous articles, books and movies, and has such well-known fans as Anthony Bourdain.



Unique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Unique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Unique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

There’s also a great story about it being somewhat of an accidental pioneer.  Joel Russ made his daughters partners and added “& Daughters” to the store name back in the 30s.  Third-generation owner, Mark Russ Federman, moved two Latino workers from the back to the front of the store to slice fish in the 70s.  Both situations were unheard of at the time.  Family members don’t romanticize the two, saying they were just borne out of practicality.  But aren’t those the best ways to break barriers?  By simply applying reason?

In a city full of icons, one has to be careful not to bandy that title about.  But Russ & Daughters fully deserves the honor.  Standing in line while you fight the urge to order half the store, waiting patiently for your number to be called, is a quintessential New York City experience.  And whether it’s 5 degrees outside or 70, there will be people on the bench in front of the store devouring their freshly gotten goods.

Tip:  Russ & Daughters Cafe, located nearby on Orchard St, conducts a Music Nights series that is free to its patrons on the last Thursday of every month.  On those nights they offer nosh and cocktail specials in addition to the regular menu. The set starts at 8:00 pm. 

Location:
179 E Houston St

Hours:
Monday-Friday 8am – 8pm
Saturday 8am – 7pm
Sunday 8am – 5:30pm



Pair it with:

Brunch at Miss Paradis

Unique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Unique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Unique NYC Icon Russ and Daughters - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

We fully recognize that our capacity to consume food is probably slightly (largely?) outside of normal.  But to that one person who read second-brunch-as-dinner and thought “What a great idea!”: this one’s for you.

We love that brunch in New York City rarely means the same thing from one eatery to the next.  If you’re contemplating a stop at Russ & Daughters, perhaps start your day not too far away in SoHo, at the trendy new eatery Miss Paradis.  We’re rarely fans of spots that are “trendy”, “sceney” or are the “latest obsession”.  Thanks to founder Claude Louzon and designer Philippe Starck, Miss Paradis is all of those things.  But we still go there because the food is really good.

Count on great basics like French Toast and Polenta with Eggs, but also try the dishes with international influences, like their bowl with avocado, edamame, coconut milk and toasted sesame seeds.  For vegans or lactose-intolerants, they also have Yolita, a vegan frozen yogurt.  Our perfect outing involves spending some time browsing at McNally Jackson Books across the street afterwards, then making our way to Russ & Daughters before heading home.

Location:
47 Prince St

Hours:
Monday-Friday 11:45am – 1am
Saturday-Sunday 10am – 1am

– L.

Cat Lovers Unite! Behold Cat Camp NYC



We love our cat. Chloe is family in every conceivable way.

And if you sense that I’m both unapologetic and unequivocal when making these two statements​, let me explicitly confirm your intuition. I am. On both accounts. Full stop.

I do not have a young child, nor do I currently have elderly parents or in-laws to care for in their latter years. (I’m incredibly grateful that they are all, by God’s grace, in good health.) As for my grandparents, they have long since departed this world.

That’s not to say I don’t know something about being a caretaker. For years, I’ve had a dependent, just not one I can claim on my taxes. I’ve cleaned up her messes. I’ve prepared her meals. Even handled her 3P’s (pee, poop and puke). I’ve brushed her hair and cut her nails and attempted, rather unsuccessfully, to bathe her. I’ve transported her to checkups.  (And chewed my nails through a few medical procedures.) I’ve soothed her crying on airplanes and hushed her hissing on road trips. I’ve spent untold hours doting on her, reprimanding her, worrying about her and pulling at my ever-thinning hair in frustration.



Cat Camp NYC Cat Lovers - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Cat Camp NYC Cat Lovers - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Cat Camp NYC Cat Lovers - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

When Lynn and I heard about the first-ever Cat Camp, the feline-focused conference and adoption event at Metropolitan Pavilion, it was a given that we would attend.  As the press release alluded, “The symposium will bring cat lovers together under one roof to celebrate all things cats and to discuss some of the most important and challenging problems facing cats today.” And Cat Camp didn’t disappoint. There were a tremendous number of vendors, offering wares and information on numerous cat-related products and services, scattered throughout the space.

Of all the vendors present, we were particularly taken with The Dancing Cat, where we found cards, prints and t-shirts featuring witty illustrations by artist Jamie Shelman.  The Dancing Cat has had an online presence since 2008, but their cards can also be found at Paper Source and other brick-and-mortars.  Jamie Shelman is a Rhode Island School of Design graduate, and you can shop her charming designs on etsy here.




Cat Camp NYC Cat Lovers - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Cat Camp NYC Cat Lovers - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Jamie Shelman’s Purrito illustration, courtesy of her etsy site
Cat Camp NYC Cat Lovers - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Chloe doing her best impression of Purrito

Several rescue organizations were present, hoping to facilitate cat adoptions. It can be heartbreaking to see kittens orphaned at birth and older cats abandoned in their waning years, or worse, abused and broken by the worst examples of callous human nature — all, waiting in cages, for permanent homes. One’s instinct is to save these poor creatures. And certainly I feel that pull, though I cannot indulge in its gravity.



Cat Camp NYC Cat Lovers - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Monty, a polydactyl kitten with only one eye, via Bronx Tails Cat Rescue
Cat Camp NYC Cat Lovers - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Katy, a chunky calico via Crazy Critters Cat Adoptions

At 18 years of age (as of this month), I stand beside Chloe at the abyss of her mortality. I’ve cared for her in what was at first gradual but is now, more recently, a precipitous state of decline. And at some point in the future, near or far, I’ll have to go on in life without her.  Cat Camp was a celebration of our journey, from the moment Lynn brought her home from the ASPCA, to the moment I joined what has become our family unit, to what will be a difficult end.



Pair it with:

Daily Provisions

Cat Camp NYC Cat Lovers - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Cat Camp NYC Cat Lovers - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Cat Camp NYC Cat Lovers - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

There was a running joke at work that I was a food porn sadist. On Monday mornings, around 9:00 am, I’d assail colleagues with pics of my weekend food conquests, be it burgers, slices of pizza, or any number of delectable sweets. You would hear a collective “Dear God, you son-of-a-bitch!” when these images would pop-up unexpectedly on their screens in group chat, followed by the likes of “Well, I can’t eat this crap 0% yogurt now, can I?” 

And so, there’s the segue into my weekend excursion to Danny Meyer’s new bakery and cafe, Daily Provisions, praised for his excellent crullers. And the accolades proved well-deserved. These are, without doubt, the best I’ve ever tasted. Crispy on the outside at the twists and warm egg-creamy, reminiscent of a souffle texture, at the center. They come in three flavors: glazed, maple and cinnamon and sugar — all three are excellent.

And though I’ve since moved to another department within the company, you can rest assured, my former colleagues received a group message with the images you see here, first thing Monday morning.

Location:
103 E 19th St

Hours:
Monday – Friday 7 am–6 pm
Saturday – Sunday 8 am–6 pm

– J.

 

 

SPRING/BREAK Art Show during Armory Week



You know that saying about opinions and how everybody has one? Let’s be honest, you can probably say the same about blogs. There are so many out there, from personal blogs to those run by corporations and news outlets. Standing out is a challenging task. I’ll admit that when I meet new people I balk at mentioning the blog. It’s a part of ourselves out there for public consumption, and each post is an exercise in acceptance and rejection. Giving someone immediate access to that puts us in a vulnerable position.

But blogs are simply one of the many vessels of self-expression. Artists, since inception, have dedicated their lives to it. Acceptance and rejection are woven into the fabric of their existence, because their desire to create supersedes everything.  



SPRING/BREAK Art Show Armory Week - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Artist: Michael Zelehoski

SPRING/BREAK Art Show Armory Week - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Artist: Maisie Maeve Myfawnwy

The Armory Art Show is an annual art event in New York City that brings together hundreds of galleries from all over the world.  In one fell swoop, art lovers can view works from established names as well as up-and-coming talents in a variety of mediums.  After more than twenty years, the Armory Show now draws so many visitors that entire week is branded Armory Week and a variety of art events occur alongside the main event.  We decided to check out the SPRING/BREAK Art Show, which is a curator-driven art fair.  This year’s event was held in the heart of Times Square.

The SPRING/BREAK Art Show offers independent curators free exhibition space, but the curators are challenged to work within a theme and push artistic boundaries to the limit.  This year’s theme, Black Mirror, is “a looking glass meant for aesthetic reflection—a way to isolate a subject—once used by Old Masters in landscape painting and portraiture. The apparatus was used for seeing the world in its most basic attributes, enhancing some features, obscuring others.”   The show featured an astonishing breadth of work.  The artists each had a little room or space, and patrons, who subsidized the space with a small fee, could wander around the maze discovering all that was offered.

The artists at SPRING/BREAK are provided access to a large audience, with an opportunity to cultivate lifelong patronage.  But the experience must be unnerving, standing alone among a sea of exhibitors, struggling to stand out.  Art is so subjective, and some pieces resonated more strongly with us than others.  We’ve included a selection of what we saw in this post, and we’ll leave you to form your own opinions.  Let us know what you loved and hated in the comments below, or on Facebook, G+ and Instagram.

Artist: Nicholas Fraser

SPRING/BREAK Art Show Armory Week - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Artist: Greg Haberny
Also the artist of the featured picture

SPRING/BREAK Art Show Armory Week - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Artist: John Dilg



SPRING/BREAK Art Show Armory Week - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Artist: Tiffany Smith

SPRING/BREAK Art Show Armory Week - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Artist: Erin O’Keefe

SPRING/BREAK Art Show Armory Week - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

RHW Enterprises, performance art by multiple artists and performers



SPRING/BREAK Art Show Armory Week - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Artist: Michael Gittes

SPRING/BREAK Art Show Armory Week - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Artist: George Horner

SPRING/BREAK Art Show Armory Week - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Artists: Ori Carino and Benjamin Armas



Pair it with:

Brunch at Lalo

SPRING/BREAK Art Show Armory Week - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

SPRING/BREAK Art Show Armory Week - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Every once in awhile you come across a power couple that brings together two favorites that wouldn’t normally have seemed compatible, but somehow end up being a pretty great match.  No, I’m not talking about Blake and Gwen.  I’m talking about former El Rey chef Gerardo Gonzalez’s partnership with Dudley’s alums Mateusz Lilpop and Ben dos Remedios, which resulted in Lalo.

It’s still Mexi-Cali fare, though with a completely fresh perspective.  Case in point: there’s no avocado on the menu.  The coconut grits with 12-hour braised turnip was divine, as were the chilaquiles tacos and papas bravas.  The menu also features unique salads like the Cali “Kasha” Varnishkas with butter-toasted kasha, parsley, crimini mushrooms, onion agrodolce and farfalle, and inspired sides like the Cucumber in Brown Goddess, with mole, candied pumpkin seeds & mint.  

The avant garde menu is the perfect primer for a day at the art fair.  Or really, any day.

Location:
104 Bayard St

Hours:
Lunch Wed-Mon 11-4pm
Brunch Sat-Sun 11-4pm
Dinner Mon-Sun 6-12pm

– L.

Open House by Liz Glynn at Central Park



I remember when I first read and fell in love with The Great Gatsby, and I’m sure you do too.  Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan captured our collective imaginations, and we continue to romanticize the period described so vividly by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  However, the term “Gilded Age” originates from Mark Twain’s book of the same name, which was a scathing commentary on the excesses of the time.  “Gilded Age” alluded to the shiny veneer that masked underlying poverty and social ills.  California artist Liz Glynn bring us a fresh interpretation of this juxtaposition in her latest piece, Open House, for the Public Art Fund.  




Open House Liz Glynn Central Park - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
William C. Whitney Mansion at 871 Fifth Avenue
Open House Liz Glynn Central Park - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Ballroom of William C. Whitney Mansion, Illustration by James Lewis

At the southeast corner of Central Park in Doris C. Freedman Plaza, you’ll find reproductions of sofas, chairs, footstools and arches that once inhabited the William C. Whitney Ballroom.  William C. Whitney was an elite political figure and financier, and his luxurious home once sat at 871 Fifth Avenue.  The reproductions are from the period after the mansion was renovated by Stanford White in 1900.  But Open House artist Liz Glynn makes one small tweak in her reimagining: each piece is made out of concrete.  Concrete is a common building material, hence creating accessible versions of the opulent pieces.

Let’s sidebar for a second here.  Does the name Stanford White sound familiar?  Sure, he was a well-established architect and an equally prominent figure of the time.  But you’re more likely to remember that he was brutally murdered on the roof garden theater of Madison Square Garden in 1906 due to his scandalous relationship with a young model and actress.  We talked about that juicy morsel in our Flatiron post here.





Open House Liz Glynn Central Park - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Open House Liz Glynn Central Park - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Discussions of widening income inequalities, rising costs of living and a disappearing middle class are pervasive today.  While the issues exist everywhere, one could argue that the disparities can be more prominently felt in an expensive metropolis like New York City.  So Open House might feel particularly relevant in its little piece of Central Park.  Come out and grab a seat.  Rest your feet after a long park excursion.  Perch on a concrete sofa while you nosh on the crepe you bought from one of the food vendors nearby.  Or just hang out and watch the horses and traffic go by.  But come soon, it looks like the pigeons of New York City are already claiming parts of it for themselves.

Open House will be on display through September 24.

Location: 
Doris C. Freedman Plaza



Pair it with:

Dinner at Fowler & Wells

When we posted this picture on Instagram, our friend Saba noted that it was giving her Gatsby vibes, which mirrored our feelings exactly.  But it wasn’t a coincidence.  The building was originally built in 1881, when the Gilded Age was just blossoming.  The Beekman Hotel’s opening last fall was easily one of the most celebrated.  The atrium is enough to make you swoon, but the revamp is triumphant in that it gives one a sense of the borrowed past mingling ever so coyly with the present.  

Open House Liz Glynn Central Park - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The stunning interior at Fowler & Wells
Open House Liz Glynn Central Park - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The black bass and diver scallops entrees were scrumptious




Open House Liz Glynn Central Park - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Don’t miss the amazing fluke appetizer
Open House Liz Glynn Central Park - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Looking down on the warm and cozy Bar Room

You can enjoy drinks and snacks in the Bar Room, or splurge on a meal at Fowler & Wells.  Both are under the purview of Tom Colicchio.  But Fowler & Wells is his first new restaurant in Manhattan in six years.  The menu at Fowler & Wells is meant to replicate the marriage of old and new, featuring classics with a contemporary feel.  On our visit we found the dishes were executed to perfection, and the service was impeccable.  If you’re hankering to play Jay Gatsby for a day, this might be a great place to do it.

Location:
5 Beekman St

Hours:
Breakfast
6:30am – 10:30am, Monday – Friday & Sunday
6:30 – 11:30am, Saturday
Lunch
12:00pm – 3:00pm, Monday – Friday
Dinner
5:30pm – 10:00pm, Sunday – Wednesday
5:30pm – 11:00pm, Thursday – Saturday
Sunday Brunch
11:00am – 3:00pm

– L.

Thoughts on Life and Death: Wakey, Wakey at Signature Theatre



We’ll let you in on a little secret. While theater is something we love to experience, it’s not something we love to blog about. It’s a daunting task trying to capture the essence of a play or musical.  But when we experience something unique, like we did with Wakey, Wakey, we want desperately to share our experience.

In Will Eno’s new off-Broadway play, Guy gazes out at the audience and says:

“This was supposed to be something different.”




Wakey, Wakey Will Eno Signature Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Image courtesy of Signature Theatre. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Wakey, Wakey Will Eno Signature Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Image courtesy of Signature Theatre. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The character is played brilliantly by Emmy Award-winning actor Michael Emerson (you’d likely know him from his portrayal of Finch on Person of Interest). Something about his delivery of the line stood out to us.  Was it meant apologetically or as a mere statement of fact?

As it turns out, it held a special meaning.

When we approached the play’s co-star, January LaVoy, to commend her on her performance after the show, she shared some intel on this wonderful play.  She revealed that James Houghton, the founder and former artistic director of Signature Theatre, had succumbed to stomach cancer and passed away in the latter half of 2016.  Will Eno, the playwright and director, was so profoundly affected by the event that his work-in-progress morphed into Wakey, Wakey.  

“This was supposed to be something different.”





Wakey, Wakey Will Eno Signature Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Wakey, Wakey Will Eno Signature Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Wakey, Wakey deals with issues of mortality but there was a sense of reverence to it all.  There was a feeling that this was deeply personal, and that we, the audience, had not only been invited into this private moment of grief and celebration but were also being asked to be a part of it, to share this man’s final moments, to see him off on this last, solitary journey.  And January LaVoy’s beautiful, minimalist rendering of the archetype of a calm, gentle, humane and caring stranger was the perfect complement to Michael Emerson’s moving portrayal as Gus.  The relationship gives us hope that in our final moments, humanity can save us from feeling entirely alone.

It’s a poignant work made infinitely more touching by the personal experience.  And don’t let the subject matter deter you, we promise there is no shortage of celebration.  And if you’re still feeling particularly melancholy after the performance, a nice spread of snacks and beverages are available for free after the show to cheer you up.  (Free food always cheers us up.)

Wakey, Wakey has been extended through April 2.  For more information and to buy tickets, visit Signature Theatre’s website here.

Location:
480 W 42nd St



Pair it with:

Ramen at Ippudo

Wakey, Wakey Will Eno Signature Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Wakey, Wakey Will Eno Signature Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Wakey, Wakey Will Eno Signature Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

You may be wondering why we keep pairing our theater outings with ramen.  We wish we could produce a hyper-intelligent string theory to explain how they are inextricably linked.  But we can’t.  It just so happens that there are a lot of great ramen places in Hell’s Kitchen near the Theater District.  And it also just so happens that we really like ramen.

Ippudo, which hails directly from Japan, has elevated ramen from fast food to a culinary delight.  While it always offers its signature products, it continues to innovate.  Ippudo is one of the few chains to offer a wide variety of vegetarian ramen bowls.  They also offer a multitude of toppings, with recommendations for each specific bowl to suit the flavor profile.  

There might be a wait, so try to come on off-hours.  We promise, it’s worth it.

Location:
321 W 51st St

Hours:
Monday-Thursday 11:00am – 3:30pm, 5:00pm – 11:30pm
Friday 11:00am – 3:30pm, 5:00pm – 12:30am
Saturday 11:00am – 11:30pm
Sunday 11:00am – 10:30pm

– L. & J.

Library After Hours: Love in Venice at the New York Public Library



There were two take-aways from my trip to Venice many years ago.  1) Learn to travel light.  Though the bridges are pretty, lugging suitcases up and down them gets old fast.  2) I don’t care if Venice is sinking, it can take me with it.  The city that brought us tiramisu, Titian and Vivaldi was as magical as promised.  Paris may hold the title City of Love, but I’d be strapped to conjure up a city more romantic than Venice.  Maybe the fact that I’m a fan of a little-known rom-com called Only You starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. has a little to do with it. (Fair Venice is one of its co-stars.)

Library After Hours Love In Venice NYPL - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Library After Hours Love In Venice NYPL - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Dancing lessons, anyone?
Library After Hours Love In Venice NYPL - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Some mask-making action

When I read about the New York Public Library’s new Library After Hours event, it was quickly penciled into our calendar.  The first of its kind, the event would be held at the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, which has long been one of our favorite buildings in the city.  (They offer free building tours too, which we blogged about here.)  As an added bonus, the theme of its first event was Love in Venice, in conjunction with Carnegie Hall’s larger La Serenissima festival celebrating the music and arts from the Venetian Republic.  

In our excitement, we’d completely missed that you could sign up for priority access.  *Insert face palm here*  Needless to say, the priority access spots to the Library After Hours event went quickly, so we arrived early to get in the people-who-don’t-have-their-sh*t-together line.  It’s fortunate that we did: the response to the free event was so strong that both the priority access and regular lines wrapped around the block.  We were allowed in with the second group of priority access holders, but we had been waiting for almost two hours at that point.

Library After Hours Love In Venice NYPL - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Lines for masks and food
Library After Hours Love In Venice NYPL - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Line for drinks

The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building was festively lit, and had smaller “stations” set up where event goers could partake in dance lessons and mask making, enjoy themed food and drink, or visit the special Love in Venice exhibit featuring works from the NYPL’s collections.  With the balmy 60-degree daytime temps setting the tone, this would normally have ranked pretty high on our ideal-night-out meter.  But the event felt heavily overbooked, with lines stretching throughout the building for each activity.  It was a logistical fail, so we were only able to sample a tiny portion of what was offered.

We overheard lots of heavy sighs when people realized where the end of the line was.  We even witnessed some heated conversations with event staff members.  It felt like Trader Joe’s on a Saturday afternoon, except over, and over, and over á la Groundhog Day.  While we’re big proponents of accessibility, we feel strongly that it shouldn’t impede enjoyment of the experience.  Perhaps it would have been wise to cap the number of attendees.  But it was the inaugural Library After Hours endeavor, and it’s only fair to acknowledge that.  We suspect (and sincerely hope) that the next event will be better executed.



Library After Hours Love In Venice NYPL - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Library After Hours Love In Venice NYPL - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The Love in Venice exhibit will be on display through August 26.  Don’t miss the Venus and Amor print designed by Titian and executed as a woodcut by Niccolo Boldrini.  And allow the reproductions of Piazzetta’s portraits by Teodoro Viero to charm you.  

Library After Hours returns March 31 and April 28.  Visit the NYPL website here to sign up for notifications.  Remember to register for priority access and show up early for the best experience!

Location:
476 5th Ave



Pair it with:

Dinner at Esca

Library After Hours Love In Venice NYPL - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Library After Hours Love In Venice NYPL - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Library After Hours Love In Venice NYPL - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Venice is known for its seafood, so we couldn’t ask for a better pairing for our Library After Hours event than dinner at Esca.  The Italian trattoria created by the rock star team of Dave Pasternack, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich specializes in fruits of the sea and has been a theater district staple for well over a decade.  (Esca actually means “bait” in Italian.)  

There is an extensive crudo menu, but you can’t go wrong with the many fish offerings and classic preparations.  Batali has famously said, “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who are Italian, and those who wish they were Italian.”  We agree.  

Note:  As an alternative, Eataly is also running a Meet Me In Venezia event.  Read more about it here.

Location:
402 W 43rd St

Hours:
Lunch
Monday-Saturday 12:00pm – 2:30pm
Dinner
Monday 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Tuesday 4:30pm – 11:00pm
Wednesday-Saturday 4:30pm – 11:30pm
Sunday 4:30pm – 10:00pm

– L.

Breaking Bread NYC: Raising a Fork and Awareness



“May we borrow a cup of sugar?”  I know, it’s a tad idyllic. And it’s certainly an anachronism in today’s introverted, disconnected world. But once upon a time, perhaps more recently than you can imagine, this concept was commonplace. You might recall recently hearing about Chris Salvatore and Norma Cook, a 31-year old actor and his 89-year old neighbor who were in the news when they became unlikely roommates (RIP, Norma). But there was a time when this wouldn’t have made headlines. We regularly reached out to those in our communities, shared provisions, broke bread together, attended to the elderly, and shouldered the burden of raising children. We knew our long-standing neighbors, welcomed newcomers and even stayed in touch with those who moved away.

I was pondering this recently, somewhat abstractly, while watching a movie on Netflix. It’s called Today’s Special, and I happened upon it during one of those all-too-frequent occurrences when I simply couldn’t find anything that struck my fancy. And I’ll admit, I juuuust about scrolled past it.

Today’s Special didn’t win any major awards. There were no flashy actors (though there were some incredible veteran players in the ensemble cast). It’s a simple, somewhat cliché story. But it embodies some beautiful ideals. It’s a New York story. It’s an immigrant story. It’s a story about cuisine, family, identity and love. And it’s a story that resonates with me, particularly in light of recent events.



Breaking Bread NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Breaking Bread NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Breaking Bread NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Breaking Bread NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

On a recent weekend Lynn and I ventured out into the city, which turned out to be a risky proposition given the weather. It was bitterly cold, the wind was pushing us forward, backward and sideways and a hazardous mixture of rain and sleet steadily pelted us with minuscule shards of what felt like wet glass. We found no respite in the subterranean tunnels of the subway system, either. Trains were slow or nonexistent. Runoff gushed or dripped from every crack and crevice. Impatient, ill-tempered commuters milled about anxiously until they finally gave up, cursing as they wandered off. But we were on a mission of sorts, so we battled through it.

Our plans involved a map we had purchased, as the weekend approached, from Breaking Bread NYC.  Breaking Bread NYC is a charitable project with the stated aim of “bringing people together with shared food experiences through food tours, campaigns, and events”. The map set us back only $10 and doubled as a donation to local hunger relief initiatives. The focus of the map was on local businesses serving cuisine from countries listed on the recent travel ban. For Lynn and I, eating as a way of protest seemed like a natural fit.



Breaking Bread NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Breaking Bread NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Breaking Bread NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The map offered nine locations in Manhattan. Happily, we found a few that we had not yet had the opportunity to sample. So we decided to hit up Ravagh and Moustache, respectively. At Ravagh, a casual Persian eatery, I went with a hearty bowl of Ash Reshteh, a traditional lentil and noodle soup, perfect for such a cold day, while Lynn lapped up the subtle smokiness of Mirza Ghassemi (a spiced, grilled aubergine spread) with warm, fresh pita bread. From there, we moved on to Moustache, where we ordered the Green Pitza with leeks, scallions, herbs and fresh mozzarella. The pitza crust was crispy and delicious and the sweetness of the leeks and mild saltiness and creaminess of the cheese was the perfect marriage.

If you make a similar donation through Breaking Bread NYC, you will continue to receive maps every Saturday “until they run out of recommendations”, so you’ll have the opportunity to discover new eateries and offer your continued support. If you prefer a more in-depth food and cultural experience, Breaking Bread NYC is also offering a variety of guided meals and food tours. Visit their Facebook page to purchase your food map and to check out all available events.

– J.

An Evening with Neil Gaiman at Town Hall



The books we read are as much a part of our identity as the clothes we wear and the music we listen to.  They inform our worldview, build our vocabulary and shape our sense of humor.  My father tried to cultivate a love of reading in all his children at a young age. Book stores and literary festivals were common stops.  We were initially nudged towards popular kids’ titles, reading lots of Enid Blyton then favorites like Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. But once we recognized the wealth of material out there, we started to gravitate towards books that interested us personally. I went through an embarrassing teen romance phase (Sweet Valley High, anyone?) then thankfully moved on to a wide variety of literature.

As a family we didn’t always have shared tastes in reading material, but one author that we seemed to agree on was Neil Gaiman.  I can vividly recall my brother’s obsession with the Sandman series, and my cousin’s excitement when she read Good Omens. Gaiman’s books and graphic novels made you feel like you’d discovered something special and were now part of a cool members-only club.  Except it’s a REALLY LARGE club.



Neil Gaiman Norse Mythology Town Hall - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Neil Gaiman reading from his new book, Norse Mythology
Neil Gaiman Norse Mythology Town Hall - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Opihra Eisenberg and Neil Gaiman

We recently attended a Neil Gaiman event at Town Hall.  Town Hall is Gaiman’s preferred New York City venue; he revealed that it was his fourth or fifth visit to that location.  We can certainly share his enthusiasm, Town Hall is a wonderfully intimate venue.  Neil Gaiman read from his latest book, Norse Mythology, then sat down to tackle audience questions.  In between, fans were also treated to advance previews of two additional projects based on his writings: How to Talk to Girls at Parties on the big screen and American Gods on the small screen.

Neil Gaiman’s fans are enthusiastic, to say the least. As he read a particularly timely excerpt from his book, the audience hung on every word, breaking out in laughter heartily at every turn.  Credit is due to Gaiman, who brought his prose to life with the affectations and pauses of someone who knows his material and his audience well.  Not all authors manage it with such ease.

Neil Gaiman Norse Mythology Town Hall - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Neil Gaiman Norse Mythology Town Hall - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Neil Gaiman Norse Mythology Town Hall - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Neil Gaiman Norse Mythology Town Hall - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The evening would have been a success with just the reading and the sneak previews, but I found the Q&A session to be the most enjoyable part of the evening. Prompted by audience questions which were read aloud by Ophira Eisenberg (of NPR’s Ask Me Another), Neil Gaiman spoke from the heart about his work and his personal life, and was surprisingly candid about his successes and his failures.

This is Neil Gaiman’s first undertaking involving mythology, but Norse Mythology feels very much in his wheelhouse.  His talent lies in making the line between fantasy and reality feel particularly fluid.  I’m sure it’ll make a wonderful companion on a cold day, along with a large cup of coffee and a box of chocolates.  What are you reading next?



Pair it with:

Poke at Maui Onion

Neil Gaiman Norse Mythology Town Hall - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Neil Gaiman Norse Mythology Town Hall - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Neil Gaiman Norse Mythology Town Hall - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the poke (pronounced poh-kay) bowl trend.  Originating in Hawaii then sweeping the West Coast, it finally made its way east and hit New York City by storm.  It’s a trend we welcomed heartily, since we love seafood.  We covered one of our favorite outlets in our food pairing here.

Although Midtown dining options continue to evolve, the restaurants still largely cater to the weekday business crowd.  There’s a draw to places that can provide semi-healthy, cost-effective meals in an efficient manner.  But it can be difficult to find something that isn’t Pret-A-Manger or Chipotle.  Or eat something that isn’t a salad or a sandwich.  Enter Maui Onion, a new poke bar ready to capitalize on the demand for interesting fast-casual eateries.  

Here you can choose from a number of combinations as a bowl, salad, temaki or burrito.  You can then personalize it with a variety of toppings.  The space is open and inviting, but those in a hurry can also grab the order to go.  Service is quick but friendly, and the food is fresh and delicious.  Add it to your Midtown roster, you won’t regret it.

Location:
35 W 26th St

Hours:
Mon – Sun 11:00 am – 9:00 pm

– L.

 

Central Park Ice Festival



I used to live in Cleveland and I used to smoke. Having a cigarette in downtown Cleveland in January is what one might call “peak winter”.  It’s what separates the smokers from the puffers, we used to joke.  (Not something we smokers should’ve been so proud of, I’ll admit.)  New York City winters are mostly mild by comparison, which is probably the only reason why I would turn to Justin and say, “Let’s go to the Ice Festival! That sounds like fun!”

The Ice Festival is an annual event organized by the Central Park Conservancy.  At the Naumburg Bandshell, park visitors are treated to a live, on-site carving by Okamoto Studio, a custom ice studio based out of Long Island.  The studio, a design collective originally founded by father-son team Takeo and Shintaro Okamoto, is known for working its magic with crystal clear ice.  Besides performing at previous festivals, Okamoto Studio has also lent its talents to Barney’s holiday windows and numerous private events.



Central Park Ice Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Central Park Ice Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

During the Ice Festival, the ice sculptors from Okamoto Studio are tasked with creating a replica of one of Central Park’s many bronze sculptures.  Last year’s event was cancelled due to inclement weather, so it was completely serendipitous that we finally made it out to the festival only to discover that this year’s replica was of the park’s Alice in Wonderland statue.  The bronze statue by José de Creeft was a gift by philanthropist George Delacorte, whose wife used to read the book to their children.  We obviously have our own attachment to Lewis Carroll’s tome.



Central Park Ice Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Central Park Ice Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Central Park Ice Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

We arrived towards the later part of the event, after the sculptures had already been completed. At a balmy 45 degrees, the ice was melting pretty fast.  But the mild weather made the Silent Disco a hit, and we saw many getting down to the DJ’s tunes.  (On a funny note, a silent disco isn’t really silent:  most of its participants are singing to the music.)  It was a little crowded for our liking, but it’s no wonder why.  One couldn’t ask for a nicer winter evening to check out some art, sample some food truck fare, and then dance it all off in Central Park.  It’s the makings of a classic New York City adventure.



Pair it with:

Amorino

Central Park Ice Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Central Park Ice Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Now, I often wax poetic about how much I love this city, but you might be surprised to find out that I’m otherwise quite unromantic.  I despise Valentine’s Day and all the standard cliches that come with it.  Justin and I often laugh when my family texts to wish us Happy Anniversary because more often than not, we’ve forgotten.  We believe one has to be accountable in a relationship every single day, not once or twice a year.  I think volunteering to take out that really horrible, disgusting, ripe bag of trash says “I love you” more than a bouquet of roses.  BUT, if I were to ask for a rose, it would be one made out of ice cream.  

Ice cream roses have had their day (and then some!) on Instagram, and here it is, finally making an appearance on our blog.  I was introduced to Amorino by friends in London many years ago, and was thrilled to later discover it here in New York City.  It’s still one of my favorite gelato spots in the city.  And if I’m dressed for an Ice Festival, it means I probably have enough layers on to tackle a cone in the cold.  Winter be damned.

Multiple locations

– L.

Evening at the Talk House at Signature Theater



Long ago (before the invention of the wheel, it sometimes feels like!), we were just a young couple in love. And when we first started dating, during that universal period in a relationship when everything is about connection and shared interest, we discovered with a great amount of satisfaction that we both had a mutual passion for film, from foreign gems to esoteric indies to cult comedies. We re-watched some of our favorites films together. There was Cinema Paradiso, The Sweet Hereafter, The Shipping News, Young Frankenstein, Dr. Strangelove, and, of course, The Princess Bride. The Princess Bride, in particular, became a rich source of our inside jokes.

Often, in those early days, I would muster my best (awful) impression of Fezzik (Andre the Giant, RIP) and drop this line at an absurdly incongruous moment:

“Why do you wear a mask? Were you burned by acid, or something like that?”

It never failed to crack us both up. Lynn’s favorite, one she still occasionally employs to this very day, was Inigo’s (Mandy Patinkin’s) response to Vizzini’s (Wallace Shawn’s) repeated use of the word “Inconceivable!”:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

And we’re not alone in our devotion to this film or our continued admiration for the brilliant dialogue and its flawless delivery by its brilliant actors. A quick Google search will produce endless memes appropriating its lines. I found this posted on a co-worker’s cubicle:

Evening at the Talk House Theater - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Needless to say, we purchased more cookies than we should have.

So when we heard that The New Group was going to put on a play written by Wallace Shawn himself, we were intrigued.

You might have noticed, as we have, that television and movies have been regurgitating material for a while now.  Reboots, sequels, prequels, and trilogies have become a normal part of the landscape.  And Broadway has not been immune.  Show runners have been producing musicals or plays that are derivative of already-popular movies, guaranteeing patronage from a loyal fan base.  So Evening at the Talk House, an original work, already had us rooting for it.



Evening at the Talk House Theater - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Then we flipped to the Who’s Who in the Cast part of the Playbill.  It’s a dream team of character actors, featuring such names as Matthew Broderick, the husband-wife team of Michael Tucker and Jill Eikenberry, John Epperson, Larry Pine, and of course, Wallace Shawn himself.  When we arrived at the intimate Linney Theater and saw that the cast members were actually serving sparkling wine and hors d’oeuvres to the guests, we knew we were in for something different.

Evening at the Talk House isn’t easy to describe.  Nor would we want to give too much away.  Broderick’s character, in a spectacularly long monologue executed to perfection, describes how a play he wrote occurred in a realm that existed outside of the real world, running parallel yet apart from it.  And Evening at the Talk House feels the same way.  It’s a world that’s rooted in our own, but where things have taken a dark turn.  It’s not so far off course that you relegate it to fantasy, which creates tension and an uncomfortable sense of foreboding.



Evening at the Talk House Theater - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
This image, as well as the featured image, are courtesy of The New Group’s Evening at the Talk House website

Evening at the Talk House brings together a powerhouse of talent and feels particularly timely.  Post-performance talkbacks will undoubtedly be thought-provoking.  Visit their website for more information or to buy tickets.

Evening at the Talk House runs through March 12.

Location:
480 W 42nd St



Pair it with:

A meal at Ivan Ramen

Evening at the Talk House Theater - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Evening at the Talk House Theater - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Evening at the Talk House Theater - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

With all the dining options available in New York City, we haven’t yet found cause to repeat ourselves in our food pairings.  But Pershing Square Signature Center, where Evening at the Talk House is being staged, is further west than most theaters.  Which means it’s practically next door to Gotham West Market.  Although we featured Ivan Ramen’s flagship in our post here, the Gotham West Market outpost (appropriately nicknamed the Slurp Shop) is worth its own visit since it offers several location-specific exclusives.  And let’s face it, when you’re deep in the heart of winter, nothing sounds better than a bowl of noodles.  Try the Roasted Shrimp Ramen or the Miso Mushroom Mazemen.  And if you’re feeling particularly piggish (like we usually are), try one of their combos and add a specialty bun.  You won’t regret it.

Location:
600 11th Ave

Hours:
Sunday-Thursday 11am-11pm
Friday- Saturday 11am-midnight

– L. and J.