TNT Supper Club presents Will at Vulture Festival 2017

One of the side effects of starting this blog is that our days off are now few and far between. But when we do take a day to relax, we often spend some part of it in front of the television, with our feet up and our hands reaching into a tub of snacks. It feels like our natural resting state. So when an event brings together television and food, we can’t say yes fast enough. TNT Supper Club did just that, and in a big way.



A Shakespeare for today

TNT Supper Club Presents Will at Vulture Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

TNT Supper Club Presents Will at Vulture Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



TNT Supper Club Presents Will at Vulture Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

TNT Supper Club Presents Will at Vulture Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

We attended the inaugural TNT Supper Club event as part of Vulture Festival, which is an annual weekend extravaganza that brings together all things pop culture.  (In case you missed it: Part One of our Vulture Festival experience involves Kevin Bacon.) To celebrate its new original series Will, TNT hosted a fabulous dinner at West Edge in the Meatpacking District. Will captures the life of a young William Shakespeare in London during the 1500s. If you’re flashing back to a boring English Lit class, or worse, Leonardo di Caprio playing Romeo, then you’re in for a surprise.

In Will, the young bard is in his twenties, and London’s theatre scene is exploding. It’s an exciting tale of fame and fortune, love and friendship, which we can all still relate to today. And a young, attractive cast doesn’t hurt. (They were among the guests at the dinner.)



Culinary poetry in motion

TNT Supper Club Presents Will at Vulture Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

TNT Supper Club Presents Will at Vulture Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

TNT Supper Club Presents Will at Vulture Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Speaking of dinner, the multi-course feast that evening was presented by James Beard Award-winning chef Jamie Bissonette. With 16th century London as his inspiration, he developed a veritable feast that included appetizers like a divine Roasted Beet Salad and entrees like Curried Lamb Pie. The dessert, a Chocolate Pudding with ice cream and a crumble on top, was the stuff of dreams, so much so that Justin felt compelled to approach the congenial chef, shake his hand and offer his appreciation.

Perhaps what was most unexpectedly enjoyable about the evening was that we were seated at communal tables. This can make for an unbearably awkward evening, but fortune smiled upon us and we found ourselves meeting and dining with some lovely people. As they plied us with plates of polenta and turkey (and for those non-teetotalers, unlimited beer, cocktails and glasses of wine), we chatted about life, work, and, of course, the latest television shows we were catching up on. It made for an enjoyable evening all around.

Will premiers on TNT July 10.  

– L.

One Degree from Kevin Bacon at Vulture Festival 2017



We share New York City with a lot of celebrities, which means on any given day you might run into Jonathan Groff on his way to Hamilton (which I did!). Or you might find yourself waiting​ in line behind Famke Janssen for your takeout (which I also did!). And you might spy Michael K Williams in your subway car (yup, totally happened). I even walked by George Lucas on his way to Starbucks. (No judgment, George.)



One Degree from Kevin Bacon Vulture Festival 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Image courtesy of Vulture Festival
One Degree from Kevin Bacon Vulture Festival 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Image courtesy of Vulture Festival

It might be a little silly, but I read a long time ago that John Lennon loved how New Yorkers were always so relaxed around him. He captured that sentiment in the lyrics of his song, New York City:

Well nobody came to bug us,
hustle us or shove us
so we decided to make it
our home

So I always try to give the celebrities their privacy. I usually make crazy eyes at Justin to alert him (just so he can vouch for me when I tell the story), then furiously text all my friends. But bottling up my inner groupie is an effort. So once a year, I get pretty excited about letting my freak fangirl fly at the Vulture Festival.

We attended the Vulture Festival last year too, so you can read a little more about what it’s all about here. This year we had a couple of events lined up, the first of which was an interview with Kevin Bacon.  



One Degree from Kevin Bacon Vulture Festival 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Kevin Bacon and New York City

Kevin Bacon’s career has spanned many years and covers the stage, the small screen and the big screen. Everyone has a favorite Kevin Bacon movie, and because his range is so wide, it’s rarely the same one. He’s a die-hard New Yorker, and I’m not saying that because he’s lived here since the age of 17. When asked about his favorite restaurants, he refused to divulge them because then they would get crowded.  Classic New Yorker move.



One Degree from Kevin Bacon Vulture Festival 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

One Degree from Kevin Bacon Vulture Festival 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Kevin Bacon and Fame

The interview was refreshingly conversational, and Kevin Bacon was surprisingly real. He talked honestly about fame: “There are two types of actors: the ones who want to be famous, and liars.” He confessed that when he achieved fame, he struggled with the fact that it wasn’t for what he wanted to be famous for. There was an anecdote about how he felt starring in Tremors (a favorite of Justin’s, it just so happens) wasn’t something he fully appreciated at the time. But he has since changed his opinion, so much so that he’s currently developing a television series based upon it. He’s funny too: he joked about not having enough coke to pick girls up at Studio 54, and nepotism on this latest project (it was directed by his wife, starred him and his daughter and was scored by his son).

Vulture Festival calls itself a “pop culture extravaganza”, which might come off as a little bombastic. But these kind of up close and personal experiences are pretty hard to beat, and the talent keeps getting better each year (Neil Patrick Harris! Sarah Jessica Parker!). All event attendees also had access to their lounge, which featured amazing eats, live music and DJs throughout both days.

If you’re a fan of pop culture, there’s really no event like it. Stay tuned for Part Two of our experience there later this week. And Los Angeles take note: Vulture Festival is coming to you this November for the first time!

– L.

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Screening at the Tribeca Film Festival



Have you ever been in the situation where you’re walking down the aisle of a grocery store, a certain song plays over the speaker and you find yourself overcome with emotion?  Maybe it triggered the memory of your first boyfriend, or it reminded you of a particular place, or the lyrics were particularly relevant to a recent event.  If you’ve ever stifled sobs in the dairy aisle while deciding between skim and 1%, you’re not alone.

There’s a well-studied link between music and memory, but for many of us that extends to books, television shows and movies as well.  They can evoke powerful emotions. I can distinctly remember how I felt when I finished Wuthering Heights, when Mr. Big’s real name pops up on Carrie’s phone, and definitely when I watched Reservoir Dogs.



Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Fans wait patiently outside the venue in hopes of a celebrity encounter
Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Michael Madsen on the red carpet

As a self-professed movie lover, the Tribeca Film Festival is something I look forward to every year.  It’s always exciting to see the festival picks, but it’s also a fun time in New York City.  The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in an effort to revitalize the flailing New York City economy after 9/11.  Backed by the star power of names like Robert de Niro and Martin Scorsese, the inaugural festival launched in 2002 and has continued to grow exponentially each year.  Now it’s a time of celebrity sightings and fan geekdom throughout the city.

There are hundreds of screenings that take place during the Tribeca Film Festival, from shorts to documentaries to features.  There are also an impressive number of talks and special events.  Cinephiles are like kids in a candy store.  (Or Homer in a pie store.  You get the gist.)

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

This year’s festival featured a special screening of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs on 35mm print in honor of its 25th anniversary.  Reservoir Dogs is a movie that was well ahead of its time at its Sundance Film Festival debut in 1992, and still holds up today.  The banter is still engaging.  The plot is still relevant.  And yes, the acting and directing are still fantastic.



Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Not a bad place to watch a movie, right?

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

(Yes, I totally geeked out in my Reservoir Dogs finest.)

The screening was followed by a talk with Quentin Tarantino himself (Mr. Brown), Harvey Keitel (Mr. White), Steve Buscemi (Mr. Pink), Tim Roth (Mr. Orange) and Michael Madsen (Mr. Blonde).  It was great to hear tidbits about how Harvey Keitel had to pay for Quentin Tarantino to fly to New York City so that local actors could audition (which led to the discovery of Steve Buscemi).  And it was fascinating to learn that Michael Madsen was incredibly nervous about the now-iconic dance scene, so much so that it was never rehearsed — then amazingly, shot in one take.  

It’s a fan experience we were fortunate to have access to, thanks to the Tribeca Film Festival.  Movie buffs, be sure to sign up for advance notice so you can pre-game ahead of the next festival.  If you haven’t yet watched Reservoir Dogs, I suggest you remedy that right away.  If you have, tell me your favorite line.  Here’s mine:

“Yeah, but Mr. Brown, that’s a little too close to Mr. Shit.”




Pair it with:

Something from Mister Dips

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Mister Dips is nowhere near Tribeca, the Beacon Theatre or any other Tribeca Film Festival location.  But we’re also talking about Reservoir Dogs, and in my version, Mr. White, Mr. Brown, Mr. Pink, Mr. Orange, Mr. Blonde and Mr. Blue all go to Mister Dips.  (Poetic license, it’s a thing.)  

Mister Dips is located in an Airstream trailer at the William Vale Hotel in Brooklyn.  It offers a small-but-tight menu of burgers, soft-serve and floats and serves up a fantastic view on the side.  Andrew Carmellini is behind the venture, so I wasn’t surprised that the burger was good.  Or that the waffle fries were fantastic.  What DID surprise me, though, was that the Green Label burger is probably the best veggie burger I’ve ever had.  And after we downed all that? We still found room for a Jacker-Crax cone. Heck, I’d let you cut my ear off for one of those.

Location:
Vale Park at the William Vale Hotel

Hours:
Daily: 12-9pm

– L.

Finger Lickin’ Good: Los Pollos Hermanos Arrives in New York City


“Hey, I’m a civilian. I’m not your lawyer anymore. I’m nobody’s lawyer. The fun’s over. From here on out, I’m Mr. Low Profile, just another douchebag with a job and three pairs of Dockers. If I’m lucky, a month from now – best case scenario – I’m managing a Cinnabon in Omaha.”

– Saul Goodman, “Granite State”, Breaking Bad

These simple lines, delivered with gusto by actor Bob Odenkirk in the second to last episode of Breaking Bad’s final season, were an oblique, furtive promise. Though it was technically an end, it was also a beginning.  That promise was fulfilled in season one of the spinoff series, Better Call Saul. The flash-forward opening sequence — ironically shot flashback-style in black and white — was set in a Cinnabon at a nondescript mall (presumably in Omaha). And so began the long, winding journey from erstwhile small-time attorney, Jimmy McGill, to the morally dubious Saul Goodman.

To say I’m a fan of Better Call Saul is an understatement. In fact, I would argue it holds its own pitted against its predecessor. In my humble opinion, it’s only eclipsed by The Wire for one of the greatest series of all time. Over its past two seasons, I’ve spent nearly every Tuesday morning around the figurative water cooler discussing the most recent episode and theorizing future plot twists with my coworkers. So when I heard that a pop-up of Los Pollos Hermanos was coming to New York City, I pretty much had an apoplectic fit.



Los Pollos Hermanos Pop-Up New York City Better Call Saul - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Los Pollos Hermanos Pop-Up New York City Better Call Saul - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Asian Heisenberg and Jesse?




Los Pollos Hermanos Pop-Up New York City Better Call Saul - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Los Pollos Hermanos Pop-Up New York City Better Call Saul - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Los Pollos Hermanos Pop-Up New York City Better Call Saul - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Los Pollos Hermanos Pop-Up New York City Better Call Saul - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

There are fourteen Los Pollos Hermanos branches, the most prominent being the one personally managed by owner/proprietor Gus Fring in Albuquerque. However, the chain appears to have experienced a recent growth spurt. A temporary location initially popped up in Austin during SXSW.  Another one followed in LA, and this weekend a new Los Pollos Hermanos magically appeared in an IKON parking lot in the Financial District.  They pared down the menu for the soft opening: we were only able to get our hands on the new curly fries. But they are guaranteed by Fring, or it’s on the house.

The mark of true success, though, is when a fast food chain goes global. Los Pollos Hermanos is heading to Australia next, so get ready Sydneysiders!

Season 3 of Better Call Saul begins tonight, April 10 on AMC.



Pair it with:

Something sweet from the Great Northern Food Hall

Los Pollos Hermanos Pop-Up New York City Better Call Saul - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Los Pollos Hermanos Pop-Up New York City Better Call Saul - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Los Pollos Hermanos Pop-Up New York City Better Call Saul - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

“Well, hello there
My it’s been a long, long time
How am I doin’?
Oh, I guess that I’m doin’ fine
It’s been so long now but it seems now
That it was only yesterday
Gee, ain’t it funny how time slips away”

– Willie Nelson

Season two of Better Call Saul opens to Billy Walker singing Willie Nelson’s Funny How Time Slips Away, and once more, with a flash-forward — toeing the line with that same black and white — to our anti-hero, Saul, languishing as a manager at the Cinnabon in Omaha. But I probably didn’t notice much of what happened, because at the beginning of that sequence, there’s a shot of a tray of slowly spinning, freshly glazed cinnamon rolls or as I like to call them: bread kryptonite.

My family has a history with cinnamon rolls. On my father’s way-too-German side, there is a secret recipe that was passed down. And they all take it very, very seriously. The few times during my childhood that they endeavored to make them, it was a big event. It was a long, arduous process, and you needed a mixture of superhuman strength and a science degree to pull it off. I always found it a bit hyperbolic, but I will unequivocally admit to the truth of the finished product: they were damn fine cinnamon rolls.

So, when considering a food pairing for this post, I immediately migrated to where I go when I have a hankering for cinnamon rolls. No, it’s not Cinnabon. I need a crispier edge, a respectable, bready chew, and a solid — less sweet, more savory — cinnamon presence. I also tend to eschew frosting. For me, simple and unadorned is the only way to go. Which is why I gravitate towards Meyers Bageri, an artisanal bakery at Great Northern Food Hall in Grand Central Terminal. Their Kanelsnurre — the Nordic iteration of a Cinnamon Roll — strikes that perfect balance. 

Location:
Grand Central Terminal

– J.

Exhibitionism: The Rolling Stones at Industria



This morning Chloe sat by her bowl, looked over at me and gave out a loud meow. I looked at her and said, “Is that really necessary? You just watched me mix your food and I am now walking towards you with bowl in hand.”

Yes, I talk to my cat.  And she talks to me. Chloe has a series of meows for the different things she needs. She has a special meow for when she wants to get under the blanket and needs me to fluff it juuuuust so. There’s a special meow for when she wants to be rubbed. There’s a special meow when she doesn’t want to be rubbed. And there’s a special meow that specifically says “I know there’s food in my bowl but I find it unsatisfactory and would like you to replace it”.  I think that’s what comes from spending 16 years together.



Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

So what’s it like to be the Rolling Stones, a band that has been together — with ebbs and flows, of course — for more than 50 years?  Well, there’s an easy way to find out: visit Exhibitionism, the new Rolling Stones exhibit now on display at Industria in the West Village.  

The exhibition opened in London and will later travel on to Sydney.  At times you probably feel like you’ve walked into a super fan’s dream sequence.  But whether you’re the kind of fan who just likes singing Sympathy for the Devil at a karaoke bar, or the the kind of fan who knows where each band member spent their last twenty birthdays, there’s something at Exhibitionism for you.  

Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Replica of The Stones’ first London flat

Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Poster and tour art by Jeff Koons

There’s the evolution of the band from R&B to rock and roll, and the tale of its humble beginnings (see the replica of their first apartment!).  Then there’s the amazing memorabilia, from original concert posters to the selection of personal guitars.  Interactive displays let you watch interviews and mix tracks. There’s an entire area of the exhibit that’s dedicated to album art, and it’s a cross-section of pop art and culture through the decades.  The style section houses outfits and stage costumes from the likes of Alexander McQueen and Prada.

Throughout each section of Exhibitionism, you’re struck by the unique space in the entertainment sphere that the Rolling Stones occupies.  Keith Richards is quoted saying, “It’s still too early for me to talk about the Stones’ legacy.  We haven’t finished yet.”  The exhibition ends with a 3D performance at one of their concerts and I’d have to agree.  This lot is far from finished.

Exhibitionism is on display through March 12.  

Tip:  Tickets during the week are more affordable, however, you might be able to locate discount codes through Travelzoo and Groupon (do a quick Google search to see if the deals are still available).

Location:
775 Washington St

Hours:
Sunday to Thursday: 10 am to 6 pm (last entry at 4.30 pm)
Friday to Saturday: 10 am to 9 pm (last entry at 7.30 pm)

The exhibit requires a timed entry ticket. When you purchase your tickets, you will be asked to choose a date and time you would like to see the exhibition.



Pair it with:

Breakfast at High Street on Hudson

Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

High Street on Hudson arrived at the West Village by way of Philadelphia in late 2015 and was quickly heralded as the one of the city’s best new restaurants.  Perhaps that’s because even though its sister restaurant is located in Philadelphia, its chef and co-owner is a New Yorker.  Of the truest kind.  Eli Kulp was in an Amtrak derailment accident that left him paralyzed just six months prior to the restaurant’s opening.  

But a visit to the restaurant doesn’t reflect an ounce of compromise.  The breakfast menu is made up of a simple selection of eggs, egg sandwiches and other breakfast staples.  The bread is baked in-house daily and it’s nothing short of amazing, so we highly recommend going with one of the egg sandwiches.  We enjoyed both the Pastrami & Hash as well as the Forager, but also we made sure to grab some pastries to go at their takeout counter on the way out.

Location:
637 Hudson St

Breakfast Hours:
Weekdays 8 am – 11:30 am
Saturday and Sunday 8 am – 3 pm
Visit their website for lunch and dinner hours

– L.

First Comes Love: This Election Blows at Lynn Redgrave Theater



Before I’d ever visited New York City, my first introduction was through television. More so the late night variety shows than the procedurals. And none more so than the venerable live broadcast of Saturday Night Live, with its ever changing cast and crew of comedians and writers plucked, seemingly at random, from the inestimable local theaters, clubs and performance spaces found in every nook and cranny of the city. These establishments, where so much raw talent is skimmed off the top of a limitless, un-homogenized pool of hopes, dreams and aspirations, are the incubators for creativity, experimentation and collaboration.

But it’s not all roses, as they say. New York City is a place where you’ll find incredible successes but also abject failures. You may stumble across the blueprints for achieving unparalleled fame and fortune, but you ignore the cautionary tales of ruin and misery at your own peril. New York City is hard. It’s survival of the fittest. And you don’t survive long on your own.

We’ve touched upon these themes before, when we covered a screening of Don’t Think Twice, which you can find here. But watching a film or reading a synopsis is one thing, seeing it play out in person is entirely another.

first-comes-love-b46a7372

first-comes-love-b46a7636
All show photos are from a different performance and are courtesy of firstcomesloveshow.com

First Comes Love: This Election Blows at Lynn Redgrave Theater gave us a bird’s eye view. First Comes Love is a series borne of Kyle Ayers’ ingenious idea to solicit pornographic movie scripts from a fake ad he placed on Craigslist. The response was overwhelming, providing him with so much material that he decided to turn it into a show. The unedited (and sometimes previously unread) scripts are acted out by comedians and actors with improvised costumes and props. Presented by CounterCulture, First Comes Love: This Election Blows was a selection of political election-themed scripts from the treasure trove.

While the idea of watching scenes from amateur adult movie screenwriters might seem a little raunchy, the essence of First Comes Love was far less about sex than one would expect. The atmosphere created by the close-knit band of comedic players was fun and lighthearted. Lynn and I laughed, and laughed hard, at various points throughout the show. The material was mostly weak (remember, these were responses to a Craigslist ad), but it was the intense expression of camaraderie between the cast, the contagious fun and enthusiasm they exuded, the blind trust they placed in each other, and the irrepressible joy they shared with us, the audience, that made it a unique experience.

You can stalk their website for a return visit to New York City, but First Comes Love is now also a podcast on Howl. Just maybe don’t play it during Thanksgiving dinner.  Or maybe do.



Pair it with:

Dinner at Minetta Tavern

Minetta Tavern - First Comes Love - Mad Hatters NYC

Minetta Tavern - First Comes Love - Mad Hatters NYC

Minetta Tavern - First Comes Love - Mad Hatters NYC
“Should we get dessert here, or pop into By Chloe down the street?”

I don’t really do “crawls”. And I don’t say that with disdain. There’s nothing wrong with them or with people who enjoy them. But I tend to feel going from one establishment after another over a single night numbs the palate. I do, however, pay close attention to “Best of” lists, and will, from time to time, methodically strike from the list different iterations of a culinary item over a relatively short period of time. Burgers are one such item. And I’ve tried many.

Until recently, Spotted Pig’s chargrilled burger with Roquefort cheese held the top ranking, unchallenged and by a wide margin. That is, until I visited the West Village and Keith McNally’s legendary French bistro, Minetta Tavern.

Steaks are excellent here, but let’s not waste time. The reason for this stop is the Black Label Burger — easily the best burger I’ve ever had. And yet, it’s the definition of simplicity: a beef patty allegedly consisting of a proprietary mix of NY strip, skirt steak and brisket, sauteed onions and a Balthazar Bakery seeded brioche bun. That’s it. And it’s incredible.

Opened in 1937, and purchased and renovated in 2009 by McNally, the space is filled to rafters with its charismatic ambiance. With the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Eugene O’Neill, E. E. Cummings, Dylan Thomas, and Joe Gould, as well as various other famous writers, poets, and pugilist regularly frequenting the tavern over its storied history, it’s a special and unique place to share an incredible meal.

Location:
113 Macdougal St

Hours:
Lunch:
12pm—3pm (Wed—Fri)
Brunch:
11am—3pm (Sat—Sun)
Dinner/Supper:
5:30pm—12am (Sun – Wed)
5:30pm—1am (Thurs – Sat)

– J.

America Divided at The New Yorker Festival



Living in a bustling metropolis certainly has its perks, and reading The New Yorker has always been an easy way to remind oneself of that. I can recall many quiet evenings on the secondhand futon in my tiny Cleveland apartment, thumbing through the pages of the magazine, a large Arabica iced mocha often within reach. I’d delve into the analysis of current events, read new fiction from distinguished authors and scour the pages for witty cartoons. Then I’d land on the listing of all the goings-on about town, and I’d wistfully make a list for my next visit.

America Divided - Mad Hatters NYC
Mural from “Ellis Island” series by Parisian street artist JR, in Tribeca

Now that we’re here, there is some wear to the patina, and it’s become easier to notice the cracks.  We share subway cars with city dwellers experiencing homelessness.  We speak to people who have to choose between a longer commute or a smaller space as rents continue to increase.  We have friends who now work multiple jobs as their wages stagnate but costs soar.  When it comes to affordable housing, our faces are pressed right up against the glass.  And it’s just one of the issues being covered in America Divided, a thought-provoking 8-part docuseries on EPIX.

With the weight of executive producers Norman Lear, Common and Shonda Rhimes behind it, America Divided attempts to shine light on some of the biggest social inequalities this country is facing, including such polarizing topics as gentrification and immigration.  Several celebrities act as correspondents, but the series does a wonderful job of including both subjects and experts who are intelligent and invested, which gives each problem an honest, relatable everyday face.  

America Divided - Mad Hatters NYC
Photo credit: EPIX
America Divided - Mad Hatters NYC
Photo credit: EPIX



We caught a preview of America Divided at the New Yorker Festival, an annual celebration that offers panels, talks and events spanning a broad spectrum of literature, politics, culture and entertainment.  It’s a jam-packed 3-day affair where you can hear from the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Jonathan Safran Foer, discuss a Trump presidency or participate in a food tour.

It’s an election year, so just by voting you get to shape some of the policies that will affect many of the topics discussed both directly and indirectly.  But we urge everyone to find a way to get more involved in the things that matter most to you, whichever side of the aisle you find yourself on.  Because there’s nothing like being in a city of 8 million people to remind you that lives intersect, and we can be better for it.

If you made it this far, we appreciate that you indulged us five minutes on the soapbox, and we will return to regular programming this Friday.  Thank you, as always, for reading!

America Divided is broadcast on EPIX Fridays at 9/8c, or it can be streamed here.

– L.

Outdoor Movie with Rooftop Cinema Club



I love movies. From the classics to the contemporaries, the small indies to the big blockbusters.  We’ve been pretty open about that here on the blog where we’ve covered a film festival (here), attended an opening week screening (here), or most recently, just waxed poetic about one of our favorite directors (here).  So when the weather warms up, it should come as no surprise that one of our favorite things to do is catch an outdoor movie screening.  

New Yorkers are fortunate that there are numerous free outdoor movie screenings offered in many of the city’s amazing parks throughout the summer.  You could watch The Omen at Bryant Park, Purple Rain at Hudson River Park, American Graffiti at Brooklyn Bridge Park or The Royal Tenenbaums at McCarren Park.  But we’re not the only ones who love movies in New York City, and we’re definitely not the only ones who love free activities.  City dwellers wait in anticipation for the schedules to be released at the beginning of the season and appear en masse for showtime.  In order to find a spot most of us have to turn up hours earlier, often with blankets and refreshments in tow.

Outdoor Movie Rooftop Cinema Club - Mad Hatters NYC

Outdoor Movie Rooftop Cinema Club - Mad Hatters NYC

Outdoor Movie Rooftop Cinema Club - Mad Hatters NYC

If you find yourself in the position of wanting to partake in this summer ritual, but not necessarily wanting to battle your fellow citizens for that coveted patch of grass, then you can turn to a private operation like Rooftop Cinema Club.  The outfit screens outdoor movies in London, New York and Los Angeles, and it offers a more intimate experience that is sure to appeal to all movie buffs.

We recently attended a showing of Roman Holiday via Rooftop Cinema Club on the YOTEL rooftop (one of its two New York locations),  and I couldn’t help but hear that MasterCard ad campaign of yesteryear play in my head:

Movie ticket, including popcorn and champagne: $30
Stunning rooftop views: Priceless

At Rooftop Cinema Club, the staff comes around before showtime to arm you with a box of popcorn and a bottle of champagne each.  If the light snack and bubbly do not leave you satiated, YOTEL has a rooftop bar just a few steps away which serves food and drinks through 11pm.  The screening occurs rain or shine (with obvious exceptions for severe inclement weather).  Since there was a light drizzle during our visit we were graciously supplied with ponchos.  The scattered raindrops came and went throughout the evening and brought with them a moderate breeze, which ended up being a refreshing change from the recent spate of  punishing temperatures.   And the shadowy sky provided the most amazing backdrop for our evening entertainment.  

Outdoor Movie Rooftop Cinema Club - Mad Hatters NYC

Outdoor Movie Rooftop Cinema Club - Mad Hatters NYC

Outdoor Movie Rooftop Cinema Club - Mad Hatters NYC

We sat in our striped beach chairs with our headphones on, and we watched as Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck made their way around Rome, with scenes from Piazza Navona, the Coliseum and Castel Santagelo flashing before us.  Roman Holiday is credited as Audrey Hepburn’s breakout movie, and watching her nimbly maneuver the light romantic comedy reminds you why she deserved the Oscar for it.  The hair and the outfits?  Cherries on top.  Afterwards Justin and I reminisced about the first trip to Rome we made over a decade ago, happily talking about one amazing city as we strolled through another.

Visit Rooftop Cinema Club’s website to see their upcoming schedule and to buy tickets.



Pair it with:

A meal and Otto’s Tacos… and ice cream from Ample Hills

Otto's Tacos - Mad Hatters NYC

Otto's Tacos - Mad Hatters NYC

In addition to attending movie screenings and visiting movie theaters, we also stream movies at home, which has taken our movie snacking game to the next level.  A good strategy has to include solid pre-movie and post-movie options.  For the pre-movie meal — which should be light enough to still enable snacking during the movie — we propose you head over to Otto’s Tacos in Hell’s Kitchen.  The tacos are made in-house daily, where masa dough is squished into hearty, flavorful tortillas that don’t ever seem to crumble.  There is a wide selection that includes seafood and veggie options, and most of the tacos are gluten-free.  And don’t shy away from the masa fries, which uses the same dough to churn out slightly crunchy sticks to dip in a spicy mayo sauce.  The tacos are served individually, so you can order as many or as few as your tummy can accommodate.

Ample Hills - Mad Hatters NYC

Ample Hills - Mad Hatters NYC

As for post-movie grub, we recommend heading to Gotham West Market, where Ample Hills offers some of the best ice cream in the city.  The Brooklyn mom-and-pop creamery (literally – they were new parents when they opened shop in 2011) offers a host of fun and creative flavors.  Grab a small cup or cone to cap off a magical evening.

Otto’s Tacos Location:
705 9th Ave

Otto’s Tacos Hours:
Sun – Thur 11am – 11pm
Fri & Sat 11am – 12am

Ample Hills Location:
600 11th Ave

Ample Hills Hours:
Sun-Thu: Noon-11pm
Fri-Sat: Noon-Midnight

– L.

Don’t Think Twice



Let’s imagine, for a second, that you watched Casino Royale and fell in love with the Aston Martin. You dreamt of owning it. You started an Aston Martin Fund.  You collected pictures of it. You learned everything you could about it. Then one day your best friend shows up at your house in an Aston Martin.  “Isn’t it cool?”, he says. “My dad bought it for me.”

Could you be happy for him?

Life doles out its shares of disappointments, but this is a particularly trying brand.  It can appear in so many insidious forms: Your friend gets into the college you dreamed of attending. Your sister inherits the piece of jewelry you’d always loved.  Your girlfriend gets asked out by the boy you thought was really cute. We congratulate them, rally around them, support them. But a part of us hates them too. How much can you love someone who steals your dream?  Mike Birbiglia’s latest movie, Don’t Think Twice, explores this idea and so much more.



Don't Think Twice

Don't Think Twice

Don't Think Twice

The movie is written and directed by Mike Birbiglia, and it’s produced in conjunction with Ira Glass.  At this point I should probably disclose my long and unending love affair with This American Life.  Mike Birbiglia and Ira Glass have collaborated on the program before (several times!), so I knew I’d probably enjoy the movie.  But Don’t Think Twice managed to surpass my already-high expectations.  What appears to be a movie about improv comedy also turns out to be a heartfelt tale of adult friendships.  It’s a coming-of-age movie, if you view growing out of your adolescent dreams as achieving true adulthood.  It’s heartbreaking, as most good movies are.  Just like This American Life, it’ll make you laugh and it’ll make you cry.  

We caught Don’t Think Twice at the Sunshine Cinema, which is a wonderful arthouse theater that has been a neighborhood staple for fifteen years.  Many independent films open here and bring with it the opportunity to interact with some of the actors and directors, but Sunshine Cinema is also well-known for its Sunshine at Midnight film series featuring fun classics.  We were fortunate to be among the viewers treated to a Q&A after the show with Mike Birbiglia, Ira Glass, Tami Sagher (who’s in the movie) and Judd Apatow.  You could tell from the conversations that this was a passion project for all involved.  Fantasy and reality somehow merged in the making of this movie, which made the emotional rollercoaster seem that much taller and faster.  I’m not going to tell you much else, except that it turns out Judd Apatow lived this movie by way of Adam Sandler.  Go and watch it.  You’ll thank me later.

Note: We’re happy to report that Don’t Think Twice will also be playing at the Film Society at Lincoln Center, a venue that we featured here.

Location:
143 E Houston St



Pair it with:

Brunch at Sweet Chick

Sweet Chick NYC

Sweet Chick NYC



Sweet Chick NYC

Sweet Chick NYC

Sweet Chick opened in Williamsburg in 2013 and was such a success that it opened its Manhattan outpost on the Lower East Side a year and a half later.  The restaurant is known for its Chicken and Waffles which we saw come out of the kitchen over and over, multiple plates often balancing precariously on the servers’ arms.  But Sweet Chick offers what they call “American cuisine with a Southern accent”, and there are many other wonderful options on the menu that bring that statement to life.  

The Shrimp and Grits was divine, and the Black Bean Cake and Scramble was flavorful and unique.  Perhaps most important for an institution claiming any kind of Southern affiliation, the biscuit was amazing.  We should also note that you can get their Chicken and Waffles with vegetarian chicken: it’s always nice when food establishments accommodate the diverse population it serves.  Located just minutes away on Ludlow, it’s a great pre-movie meal: follow with a small popcorn and/or a Divine chocolate bar from Sunshine Cinema’s concession stand.

Location:
178 Ludlow St

Hours:
Monday – Friday: 11am – 2am (last seating at 1:30am)
Saturday & Sunday: 10am – 2am (last seating at 1:30am)

– L.

Vulture Festival and Film Club at the Crosby Street Hotel



My obsession with New York City started early, and when I was a college student in Cleveland I would regularly fantasize about a life in the big, bright city.  I browsed through the New York Times’ real estate listings and weekend magazines, perused the New Yorker’s articles and cartoons, and pored over New York Magazine’s news and reviews.  I’m still a New York Magazine subscriber today because it was quick to move into the online digital arena, where, like the growing majority, I choose to get most of my news now.  

New York Magazine has built several successful online brands — The Cut, Grub Street, The Science of Us, and of course, Vulture.  Vulture is their entertainment arm, providing movie, television and music news and reviews.  A few years ago the Vulture Festival was hatched: a weekend extravaganza filled with panels, performances, and screenings to fill all your pop culture dreams and desires.  The third annual festival included a tour of the Met Breuer led by their in-house art critic, a Rent sing-along, and a morning with The Muppets, among many others.  Eclectic, to say the least.



Vulture Festival Film Club

Vulture Festival Film Club

Vulture Festival Film Club

At this year’s Vulture Festival we had the good fortune to attend the introduction of a new TNT drama series called Animal Kingdom, which is based on a 2010  Australian movie of the same name.  After loading up on complimentary candy and popcorn, we watched the pilot episode then listened to a conversation with the show’s executive producers, John Wells (ER, West Wing, Shameless) and Jonathan Lisco (NYPD Blue, The District, Halt and Catch Fire).  They worked together on Southland and partnered up again on this project.  

The panel provided insight on why they chose to adapt the movie and where they decided to base it.  The show is lucky to be anchored by Ellen Barkin, and includes recognizable names like Scott Speedman (Felicity), Finn Cole (Peaky Blinders) and Jake Weary (Pretty Little Liars).  It’s a story about a modern crime family — with the emphasis on family — and it’s certainly a provocative look into a complicated matriarchy.

Although this year’s Vulture Festival has come to a close, it’s worth keeping future festivals on your radar.  It’s a carefully curated event which delivers pop culture in thoughtful and creative ways, and it’s a great way to geek out on your favorite shows and talent.  




Vulture Festival Film Club

Vulture Festival Film Club

In the meantime, our event was hosted at the Crosby Street Hotel in SoHo, where they have a cozy 99-seat state-of-the-art screening room in the lower level.  On Sunday evenings the luxury hotel runs a Film Club which is open to hotel guests as well as members of the public.  They offer dinner or cocktails in The Crosby Bar followed by the movie of the week starting at 8 pm.  It’s a fun way to end a weekend, so visit their website to see what’s on schedule.

Location:
79 Crosby St



Pair it with:

A meal at Taïm

Taim NYC

Taim NYC

Taim NYC

Just around the corner from the Crosby Street Hotel, you’ll find Taïm’s Nolita location. Taïm’s chef and owner Einat Admony’s story is fascinating — her career in the kitchen started when she was a cook in the Israeli Army — but her food is what will win you over. Taïm was inspired by the street food in Tel Aviv, and still offers what many will argue is the best falafel in the city, over ten years after its inception.  

The light menu features a variety of sandwiches, platters and bowls that include three different falafel flavors, other Israeli favorites like sabich (fried eggplant and hard boiled eggs), and an assortment of salads and sides.  Their hummus is our favorite, and has a permanent spot in our fridge.  The entire menu is vegetarian with multiple vegan options available and the falafel is gluten-free, but there is no sacrifice in taste here.

Location:
45 Spring St

Hours:
Daily 11am-9pm

– L.