A Much Needed Breath of Fresh Air: Summer Streets 2017



It’s that time of year once again when, on its best days, the public transit system is relegated to a crude pneumatic tube belching hot air through the bowels of the city. We can add to that the now frequent occurrence of trains being delayed or stalling for prolonged periods of time. And then, of course, there were the three frightening derailments that have transpired since March. The truly incredible obsolescence of this integral system has been laid bare, the ugly truth plain for all to see. And no amount of half-measures–duct tape or bubble gum–can fix the mess. Andrew Cuomo’s “Summer of Hell” is in full swing.



New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

And that’s precisely why Summer Streets, now in its 10th year, is such a breath of fresh air. The Department of Transportation’s eagerly anticipated program offers residents and visitors the opportunity to travel on a car-free route from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park for three consecutive Saturdays in August. The event’s purpose, according to the NYC.gov website, is to provide “space for healthy recreation.” But it also “encourages New Yorkers to use more sustainable forms of transportation.” To ensure no one chokes on a drink at that statement, it should be noted that the MTA, not the DOT, is responsible for the transit needs of New York City’s 8.6 million population.

Along the route this year, participants will find the usual unobstructed lanes for cycling, running and walking. There are also Rest Stops with booths and installations from innumerable city agencies, organizations, and companies offering free activities, information, demonstrations and products. Highlights include the LG sponsored Quadwash Water Park, a 165’-long, 30’-high zipline ride, free workouts at the Health and Fitness Zone, Citi-sponsored Food Sessions, and the Vita Coco-sponsored Beach and Beach Slide.



New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

We ventured out to Summer Streets early this past Saturday morning despite the ominous forecast of heavy rain and thunderstorms. Fortunately for us, it never quite materialized. Our pictures might have a New York City-meets-The Walking Dead feel to them, but we were otherwise unaffected. (Though it’s quite an interesting contrast from our outing last year.) It was great to get the blood flowing and breathe some fresh air. Summer Streets offers a little something for everyone, whether it be families, sports enthusiasts, community advocates, or amateur photographers. There are still two Saturdays left, so don’t miss out!

You can find additional details, including route information, here. Certain activities require registration, have limited availability and are scheduled at designated hours. It’s recommended participants sign up ahead and show up early.

Dates & Hours: August 5, 12, and 19, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m



Pair it with:

Brunch at Atla

New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

New York City Summer Streets 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Many participants of Summer Streets start downtown and work their way up to Central Park. The idea is to continue their “healthy recreation” in the park or, perhaps, to end the morning with a picnic on that gorgeous lawn. And sure, we get that. But Lynn and I have a different strategy. And that strategy is best reflected by this question: Would one be more likely to find food of the best quality and variety uptown or downtown? Exactly! And that’s how we ended up in NoHo at Atla, which is located directly on the Summer Streets route.

Atla is an all-day cafe offering contemporary Mexican bites in a bright, open, relaxed space. It’s another example in an increasingly crowded field of high-end chefs making moves at the casual end of the restaurant spectrum. In this case, it’s Chef Enrique Olvera, well known for Mexico City’s Pujol and the highly regarded New York City restaurant, Cosme. We found the trio of dishes we ordered simple, fresh, and tasty: the scrambled eggs with cherry tomatoes and chilies served with fresh corn tortillas, the huevos rancheros smothered in a smoky-sweet salsa, and the creamy, mildly tart whipped coconut yogurt with fresh blueberries dressed with just a touch of olive oil. It was the perfect meal–not too heavy, not too light–after such an early morning and so much walking.

Location:
372 Lafayette St

Hours:
Monday to Friday 8am – 4pm, 5pm-11pm
Saturday 10am – 4pm, 5pm-11pm
Sunday 10am – 4pm, 5pm – 10 pm

– J.

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.

Madison Street to Madison Avenue: A Chinese New Year Celebration



Justin recently replaced his umbrella and when it arrived from Amazon, he opened it up in our apartment to make sure it was what he was expecting.
“Don’t you know that’s bad luck?,” I asked.
“Is it?,” he replied, completely unfazed.
#husbandsowhite

We Asians are a superstitious bunch.  The number four is bad luck!  You can’t buy someone a clock, it’s bad luck!  Don’t clip your nails at night, it’s bad luck!  I’m Malaysian, and I’m biracial.  My father is of Chinese descent, while my mother is native Malay.  So we grew up celebrating the Chinese New Year, and my late grandmother made sure we were all well-versed on the many traditions meant to ward off bad luck and bring good fortune as we ushered in a new year.

Madison St Madison Ave Chinese New Year - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
My late grandmother
Madison St Madison Ave Chinese New Year - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
And again, with me and my cousins (I’m the one with the purse, natch)

There’s a robust Chinese population in New York City, and there are a number of enjoyable Chinese New Year celebrations that take place.  The main events happen in Chinatown, where there is a firecracker ceremony and then a large parade.  While I generally enjoy an opportunity to celebrate just about anything, I’m also fairly crowd-averse.  So this year we decided to attend the Madison Street to Madison Avenue Chinese New Year celebration, a joint effort coordinated by East Midtown Partnership in conjunction with Chinatown Partnership, The Grand Central Partnership, Madison Avenue Business Improvement District, and Confucius Institute for Business at SUNY.

I’m not going to lie: the event feels a little bit like “Chinese New Year for Beginners”.  There were a few cultural performances scheduled, while a handful of tents set up on East 54th Street offered activities like calligraphy and face painting.  But it’s okay, I was really there for one thing: the lion dance.  



Madison St Madison Ave Chinese New Year - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Madison St Madison Ave Chinese New Year - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

A lion dance troupe performs the traditional custom of “plucking the greens”, whereby the lion plucks the auspicious green vegetables either hung on a pole or placed on a table.  The greens are tied together with a red envelope containing money.  The lion will dance and approach like a curious cat, then eat the green and spit it out but keep the red envelope which is its reward.  The lion dance is believed to bring good luck and fortune to the business.

I have fond memories of watching lion dance performances during Chinese New Year when I was a kid back in Malaysia, which would range from basic to grandiose.  As the size of the purse increased, so did the skill of the performers.  Even at its simplest, the members of the troupe were talented dancers, acrobats and martial artists, and it was a sight to behold.

The lion dance troupe on Sunday was modest, but it was a joy watching all the Madison Avenue retailers embrace the tradition and join in the fun.  Many of them offered refreshments and special discounts to the crowds drawn there by the event, and placed Chinese New Year decorations in the store.  

Madison St Madison Ave Chinese New Year - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Madison St Madison Ave Chinese New Year - Mad Hatters NYC Blog




Madison St Madison Ave Chinese New Year - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Madison St Madison Ave Chinese New Year - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

If you follow us on Instagram, you might have seen this post (which we later shared to Facebook and Google+ as well):

As you can see, diversity isn’t just an idea for me, it’s a way of life.  My parents married outside their race even though it wasn’t widely accepted, and I’m proud to say my siblings and I have muddied the water further.  We’ll proudly continue to support our diverse community here in New York City.  If you feel the same way, there are still many events in the upcoming weeks to partake in.  Happy Chinese New Year to all, may the Year of the Rooster bring everyone good luck and good fortune!

– L.




Pair it with:

Xi’an Famous Foods

In a slight departure from our usual posts, Justin is writing the pairing portion of this one. 

Madison St Madison Ave Chinese New Year - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Madison St Madison Ave Chinese New Year - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

It was a forgone conclusion that the food pairing for this post would be Chinese cuisine. Not that Lynn and I minded that one bit.

Lynn is half Chinese, on her father’s side of the family.  And, well, I’m not any part Chinese.  I do, however, have a deep appreciation for the food, culture and traditions, having been generously and intimately introduced to them over the course of our many years together.  Simply put, we both consider this cuisine to be one of our ultimate comfort foods.  

While we weren’t keeping with all the normal traditions for Chinese New Year, we still wanted to eat something celebratory.  Noodles, which signify longevity, at Xi’an’s Famous Foods seemed like a natural fit.

It’s unfortunate, but not so long ago, I would have said the story of Xi’an Famous Foods was an American story.  Recent events challenge that notion.  It’s a simple story, really, one I’ve heard used, rather cynically, in sound bites and anecdotes throughout my life.  A family of immigrants comes to America from a foreign land.  They are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges: language, culture, education, and commerce.  And yet, courageously, they adapt.  With an entrepreneurial mindset, they eventually launch a business.  They work hard.  Their children gain education.  With a little luck and a lot of perseverance, their business thrives.  Eventually, they prosper and continue to do so into future generations.  This, in a nutshell, is the story of Xi’an Famous Foods. Change the name of the business and it’s the story of large swaths of this country.  Lest you forget.

As we sat eating at one of the 11 ( that’s right, 11…so far) Xi’an Famous Food locations, I couldn’t help thinking how perfect this was, how appropriate this felt, now, with everything going on, and in relation to Chinese New Year, a time of family reunion and wishes to friends and family alike for health and happiness and prosperity in the years to come.

Multiple locations

– J.

 

Better Late Than Never: 2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays



Whether you’re noshing on leftovers, watching Christmas Vacation again, or shopping the after-Christmas sales, we thought we’d help you eke out another ounce of holiday cheer with some pictures from the holiday window displays around New York City.  The amount of creative work that goes into the windows is always inspiring.  Making the pilgrimage has become one of our treasured holiday traditions, so we thought we’d share some of our favorites here. 

Here are some highlights from the same route we shared in last year’s post:

Bloomingdale’s:

Bloomingdale’s windows feature the work of visual artists who created one-of-a-kind chandeliers based on the word “light”, which is their holiday campaign theme. The chandeliers will be auctioned off to benefit the Child Mind Institute.

2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Brilliant by Susanne Bartsch
2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Moon Glow by Abby Modell
2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Sparkle by Allison Eden




Barneys New York:

Barneys unveiled the Love Peace Joy Project with windows featuring the work of well-known artists and celebrities.  “Our intention was to take the theme of Love Peace Joy and filter it through the eyes of five extraordinary, creative people,” Creative Director Dennis Freedman said of the project.

2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist Collective Studio Job
2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Contemporary artist Rob Pruitt
2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
And of course, Trey Parker and Matt Stone

Bergdorf Goodman:

Bergdorf’s theme, Destination Extraordinary, is a compelling collection in shades of green from rich emeralds to leafy tones.  The windows depict a dreamlike itinerary of lush locales, unexpected landscapes and verdant gardens.  According to David Hoey, Senior Director of Visual Presentation, “The windows are like magical realist versions of natural history museum dioramas.”

2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog




Saks Fifth Avenue:

Saks Fifth Avenue chose the delectable theme Land of 1000 Delights, tempting all passersby with windows filled with candy-colored decor.  The festive windows draw a parallel between the sweet childhood temptations and the luxe store offerings that grace many an adult wish list.

2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

We hope you had a wonderful Christmas weekend with loved ones!

– L. and J.

 

Manifesto by Julian Rosefeldt at the Park Avenue Armory



If there were a list of naturally aggressive words in the English language, it feels like “manifesto” would be at the top of that list.  But it’s really just a declaration of intentions, be it Marx’s or lululemon’s.  Each one carries weight, because once we verbalize or document a motive, we make a formal commitment to it.  And one person who seems to understand the power of a manifesto is filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt.

Roselfeldt’s 2015 film, Manifesto, premiered at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and is finally being offered to New York City audiences at Park Avenue Armory’s Drill Hall.  In real estate-starved Manhattan, it’s hard not to walk into the space and be awed by its sheer size.  The dark, cavernous 55,000-square-foot room holds thirteen giant movie screens.  A lone bench sits in front of each one, and as you perch on it, a speaker delivers targeted audio for the piece of film you’re watching.




Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt Park Avenue Armory - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt Park Avenue Armory - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Manifesto features Cate Blanchett, who needs no introduction.  Blanchett is a veritable chameleon, shedding characters like skin, as you move from screen to screen.  She completely embodies the role of the teacher, the homeless man, and even, in one sequence, both the news anchor and the weatherperson.  Each persona has been painstakingly crafted to deliver the speeches that have been stitched together from well-known works and movements like the Dada Manifesto from 1918 to the Golden Rules of Filmmaking from 2002.  

“..the spiritual revolution cannot be enacted without conflict…”

“..one can be attached to nothing and be happy…”

“..make room for youth, for violence, for daring..”

“..art should not advance towards abbreviation or simplification but towards complexity..”

“..it is now already too late and today is yesterday with its memory already lost..”

“..the present is the only active thing, the past and the future are prostitutes that nature has provided, so art is periodic escapes from this brothel..”

“..I am one of millions who do not fit in..”

Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt Park Avenue Armory - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt Park Avenue Armory - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
One of the gorgeous reception rooms at the Park Avenue Armory

One reviewer compared the project to Cindy Sherman’s work (we’re fans and have featured her work here).  But Blanchett’s impeccable performance of Rosefeldt’s remixed material isn’t all Manifesto has to offer.  There are stunning, quiet sequences of film — mostly captured in Berlin — that include beautiful buildings and awe-inspiring aerial shots.  A varied supporting cast helps to fill in each vignette.

Now that New York City is freezing over, indoor activities sound much more appealing.  Our last post featured Pipilotti Rist’s Pixel Forest at the New Museum, and we still heartily recommend it.  This is another wonderful option.  If you have friends or family visiting for the holidays, we imagine either one would give everyone a lot to discuss at the dinner table.  Manifesto is on display through January 8.

Location:
643 Park Ave

Hours:
Monday–Wednesday: 12pm–8pm
Thursday–Saturday: 12pm–12am
Sunday: 12pm–7pm
Christmas Eve & New Year’s Eve: 12pm–4pm
Closed Christmas Day




Pair it with:

Anything other than Sant Ambreous

Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt Park Avenue Armory - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt Park Avenue Armory - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The $17 Avocado Toast at Sant Ambreous. Sorry, but no.

So here’s the deal.  We like to eat, and we truly believe everything’s better on a full stomach.   (You know the meme “Forgive me for the things I said when I was hangry?” A little close to home.)  A good meal can enhance an experience, whether it’s a visit to a museum or a trip to the theater.  So we try to offer food pairings that are in close proximity or that are worth a little bit of a hike.  But in our efforts to uncover those recommendations, we sometimes hit some duds.  And usually those just don’t make it to the blog.  Until now.

There are a number of great museums and galleries on the Upper East Side, but food options? Not so much.  We’ve featured a few that we like here already, such as Bluestone Lane, Lady M, Luke’s Lobster and Laduree.  Although we haven’t had a great experience at the SoHo Sant Ambreous location, we thought we’d give the Upper East Side location a shot for breakfast.  But I have to say, it was a terrible disappointment.  

First, like most UES locations, the prices are out of control.  I ordered the Avocado Toast, and it was one small slice of toast with avocado and egg on a bare plate.  For $17.  We both ordered regular coffee and they brought us two separate pots… for $7 each.  And the bigger crime?  The coffee was terrible.  The entire experience was disheartening.  Sant Ambreous has been around for awhile, and maybe they’ve just stopped trying.  

So here’s our manifesto:  We will not suffer overpriced, mediocre food.  And you shouldn’t either.  Try one of our other recommendations above from previous posts, or travel south/west for a much better culinary experience.  

Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt Park Avenue Armory - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
I know I’m flogging a dead horse here, but THIS is the Avocado Toast at Bluestone Lane. Which would you rather have?

Location:
1000 Madison Ave

– L.

New York Coffee Festival: Takeaways (besides a caffeine high)



Like many coffee aficionados, my devotion began less as an expression of passion and more as a product of necessity. The world may run on fossil fuels, but people, well, they run on caffeine. The delivery method of choice comes in the form of seeds (commonly referred to as “beans”) from the coffea plant, a commodity so precious it is more valuable than oil. Add to that the third wave of coffee, an artisanal movement elevating this respectable staple to a gourmet foodstuff and a burgeoning national obsession (though we’re not quite to the level of Australians), and you have the groundwork for an event such the New York Coffee Festival.

Originally based on the popular programs in London and Amsterdam and now in its second year in New York City, the two-day festival is both an industry event as well as a celebration for coffee-loving enthusiasts. It boasts over 85 coffee, food and equipment suppliers, unlimited tastings, product demos, giveaways, interactive workshops and demonstrations, and live music.

What worked:

New York Coffee Festival - Mad Hatters NYC
Walter’s Coffee Roastery, the Breaking Bad-themed coffee shop, was Instagram gold
New York Coffee Festival - Mad Hatters NYC
Toby’s Estate had their signature Cold Brew as well as their new Black & White on tap for tastings
New York Coffee Festival - Mad Hatters NYC
Alpha Dominche, a brewing system that offers controls for time and temperature which allows customized extraction

As one would expect, the New York Coffee Festival afforded us the opportunity to speak to representatives of some of our favorite vendors, such as Toby’s Estate, Bluestone Lane, and Cafe Grumpy, as well as discover new vendors, such as Quills Coffee Roasters out of Louisville, Kentucky and Tom’s Lemon Coffee. Tastings were offered at everything turn, and we scored numerous sample bags of whole bean roasts to try out at home. Some established vendors took the opportunity to debut new concoctions, like Toby’s Black & White Cold Brew, which was deliciously rich and creamy. Festival-goers looking to equip a home brewing station could find options that ran the gamut. And all the while we were supporting a good cause: 50% of tickets sales from the New York Coffee Festival are donated to Project Waterfall, a New York-based charity supporting clean water access projects in coffee-producing communities.

What didn’t:

New York Coffee Festival - Mad Hatters NYC

New York Coffee Festival - Mad Hatters NYC

New York Coffee Festival - Mad Hatters NYC
Pardon our *ahem* glow

There were some serious air conditioning issues, which should have been an obvious priority with a number of coffee vendors actually brewing coffee. Latte art workshops were available for wannabe baristas, but didn’t really impart any skills: it was mostly a seasoned hand guiding yours. And lastly, two simple words (borrowed from Anothony Bourdain): judgmental baristas.

This year’s New York Coffee Festival took place in the 69th Regiment Armory. Even though the event organizers struggled with the temperature of the event space (indeed, it was very nearly a sauna during our visit), we found the event charming and educational overall.  So mark your calendars with over-caffeinated, feverish anticipation: the next one is sure to be even bigger and better. Hopefully, we’ll see you there.



Pair it with:

Pastries from Sans Bakery

New York Coffee Festival - Mad Hatters NYC

Sure, Lynn and I like to indulge when we eat, but we occasionally attempt to balance that with something a little more healthy. In many cases, that’s reason enough. But we also have friends and family who have dietary requirements. I like to try vegetarian and vegan foods, because if my brother and his fiancee visit, I want to know the absolute best places to take them. And we’ve had some incredible luck on that front.

Similarly, we’ve tried gluten-free foods, but to put it mildly, success has been elusive. Enter Sans Bakery, the near solitary light breaking through a nearly impenetrable bank of clouds. Erica Fair, the proprietor of Sans Bakery, learned that she suffers from a wheat allergy. It was, I’m sure, an unpleasant discovery. But even more unpleasant, I’d venture to guess, was the discovery that most of the gluten-free baked goods available were atrocious. Lucky for all of us (and especially those with wheat allergies), Erica decided to create her own brownies, cookies, and sweet breads.

You can find an assortment of Sans’ products at numerous restaurants, coffee shops and cafes. A few of our favorites — where you can pair your eats with incredible coffee — are Cafe Grumpy, Bluestone Lane and Think Coffee. We highly recommend their banana bread, in our humble opinion one of the best in the city, gluten-free or otherwise.

– J.

Summer Streets: A (Temporarily) Car-Free New York City



My love affair with New York City started out as a long-distance relationship filled with whirlwind visits, teary goodbyes and months of longing in between.  As my feelings for it grew deeper, the distance became unbearable and the decision to close the geographical gap became inevitable.  Once we were no longer apart, I endeavored to explore it more deeply, anxious to unearth all its secrets.  I was enthralled by its charms and blind to its flaws.  But alas, time is no friend to commitment.  Adorable quirks began to turn into grating annoyances.  Fortunately, New York City is a savvy lover: it realizes when it’s been too trying, too needy, too demanding.  So it does something special to remind you how great it is.  This past Saturday it pulled a little velvet box out of its pocket and gave me Summer Streets.

Summer Streets Car-Free New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Summer Streets Car-Free New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Summer Streets Car-Free New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Summer Streets Car-Free New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Summer Streets is an annual tradition in New York City which follows in the footsteps of other major metropolises like London and Paris.  On three consecutive Saturdays almost seven miles of road running through the heart of the island — from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park — becomes car-free so that residents and visitors alike can play, walk, run and bike.  Between the hours of 7 am to 1 pm participants can safely traverse as much or as little of the path as they choose, and multiple rest stops — sponsored by some of the city’s biggest corporate residents — are strategically placed along the route to provide a variety of entertainment and refreshment options.  

During Summer Streets one could choose to zoom down a 30-foot-high zip line at the Uptown Rest Stop or slide down a 300-foot water slide at the Foley Square Rest Stop (note that registration is required for both of these wildly popular events), but those of us with a little less appetite for adventure can simply stroll along the route and take in the amazing architecture and public art along the way.  



Summer Streets Car-Free New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Summer Streets Car-Free New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

You can enjoy Tom Friedman’s “Looking Up” on 53rd Street unencumbered by the usual mess of traffic rushing by on Park Avenue.  The 33.3-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture depicts a quasi-human figure gazing up to the heavens, which can serve as an always-welcome reminder of how infinitesimal we (and perhaps our problems) are.

Also not to be missed is Jean Dubuffet’s “Welcome Parade”, which is on display in front of the Seagram Building.  The piece is from his Hourloupe cycle, with which the artist sought to create “some wonderland or grotesque object or creature, while at the same time … evok(ing) something rumbling and threatening with tragic overtones.” Dubuffet is known for his flattened three-dimensional sculptures, which he referred to as “drawings which extend and expand in space.”  Dubuffet’s work has found temporary homes in New York City several times, and “Group of Four Trees” commissioned by David Rockefeller and completed by Dubuffet in 1972 can still be viewed at the Chase Manhattan Bank Plaza.

Summer Streets Car-Free New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Summer Streets Car-Free New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Summer Streets Car-Free New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Summer Streets Car-Free New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Drink in the intricate Byzantine Revival design of St. Bartholomew’s (more affectionately known as St. Bart’s) Episcopal Church, a jewel completed in 1930.   Enjoy the clock and the sculptures over the entrance of the Beaux-Arts Helmsley building as you travel the through Park Avenue viaduct.  Emerge to admire the Grand Central Terminal facade facing 42nd Street where you’ll find “Glory of Commerce”, a sculptural group by Jules-Félix Coutan featuring Hercules, Minerva and Mercury, unveiled in 1914.  Admire the gorgeous granite, multi-hued brick and colorful terra cotta facade of the Pershing Square building which features Northern Italian motifs including round-arched windows and tiled hipped roofs.  And that’s only half the route.

Mignon McLaughlin said, “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”  New York City, you had me at hello.

Summer Streets will continue on August 13 and August 20.  Visit the official website to see all the different organizations participating on the day of your visit.  



Pair it with:

Brunch at Two Hands Cafe

Summer Streets Car-Free New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Summer Streets Car-Free New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Summer Streets Car-Free New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Summer Streets Car-Free New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

As you close in on the SoHo rest stop, you’re likely to be distracted by the bevy of food options around you, and if your tummy is anything like mine, it’ll start to rumble.  Loudly.  So wander off the path eastwards on Broome Street towards Mott until you come across a hidden gem called Two Hands Cafe.  It might seem like we’re heavily favoring Australian food on this blog when you consider the food pairings on this post and this post, but the fare just seems most likely to feel refreshing on a sticky summer day, but also rewarding after you’ve clocked some miles.  We have yet to tire of the Avo Toast with its chili flakes and olive oil as pictured above, but the Corn Fritters is another Australian dish that manages to feel wholesome and sinful at the same time.  But first, coffee.

Location:
164 Mott St

Hours:
8am-6pm Everyday
Kitchen closes at 5pm

– L.

Modern Pinball NYC



Before the phenomena of binge-watching episodes of that favorite guilty pleasure program du jour on video streaming services or staring down, slack-jawed, for hours at the now ubiquitous mobile device while perusing social networks, there was another place, anathema to parents and teachers alike, where one could go to rot one’s brain and shorten one’s attention span. It was simply known as an arcade — the earliest iteration of which had pinball machines — and it was glorious.

Now, you can imagine my surprise and adoration when my lovely wife suggested a little adventure to Modern Pinball NYC on a breathtakingly beautiful Saturday afternoon. You can also imagine my surprise and self-loathing when she repeatedly topped my score. There’s no doubt: my girl’s got serious game. And I’ll likely never hear the end of it.

Modern Pinball NYC

Modern Pinball NYC

Modern Pinball NYC

Modern Pinball NYC offers one-hour, three-hour and full-day passes which gives you access to all the available machines for as many games as you please during that period.  It also offers private party and event bookings (all of which include re-entry privileges).  Coincidentally, next door is a bar sharing our name, Mad Hatter Pub, Eatery & Beer Garden, offering a 10% discount to Modern Pinball patrons.

Location:
362 3rd Ave

Hours:
Open daily 11 am – midnight



Pair it with:

Lunch at Shake Shack

Shake Shack NYC

Shake Shack NYC

What do you get when you open a Chicago-style hot dog cart, in a recently redeveloped park, near your acclaimed, upscale restaurant Eleven Madison Park (which has since been sold to its chef) simply to draw additional commerce to the area? A massive success, apparently. One certainly wouldn’t answer: the humble, seemingly-unrelated beginnings of the biggest burger (note that I didn’t say hot dog) phenomenon since the establishment of McDonald’s, Danny Meyer’s beloved Shake Shack. But that’s exactly what happened in Madison Square Park nearly fifteen years ago.

Offering, reputedly, one of the best burgers on the planet, Shake Shack also offers their eponymous milkshakes, frozen custard concretes, signature crinkle-cut fries, a recently added fried chicken sandwich and, of course, a hot dog, in a nod to their very humble beginnings.

The secret to the famed ShackBurger is two-fold: one devastatingly simple — the proprietary blend of butcher Pat LaFrieda’s 100% Angus beef and the cooking process of “smashing” the burger on the cooking surface, producing a crispiness at the edges; the other a mystery — the addictive, spicy-smoky-sweet, ingredient speculation inducing Shack Sauce. Throw that on the famed Martin’s Potato Roll with some other fixings and you’ve got the stuff of legend.

Notes:

[1] Yes, there are other Shake Shack locations, but the original — even with all the fuss — is certainly worth it. To avoid the worst of the queues, simply check the “Shack Cam” here to get the scoop.

[2] Madison Square Park is a gorgeous recreational area hosting art exhibits and events throughout the year, as covered by this post. Make sure to pencil in some time to take it all in either before or after your meal.

Location:
Madison Square Park

Hours:
Open daily 11 am – 11 pm

– J.

 

Martin Puryear: Big Bling at Madison Square Park



It was a lovely spring day in Central Park when my girlfriend remarked that she’d only begun noticing strollers around New York City after she’d had her baby and found herself pushing one as well.  I looked around and realized that families had decided to take advantage of the all-too-rare perfect weather just like we had, and had come out to the park in droves.  I marveled at the little kids running around, envious that they get to grow up with Central Park as their playground.  

New York City gets a bad rap for being a concrete jungle, and New Yorkers get pretty defensive when celebrities pick up their kids and move away.  But few are aware that there are more than 30,000 acres of public park land that is maintained by the city for the benefit of the residents, not including additional parks under federal and state jurisdiction or those that are privately owned.  To put it in context, Central Park only ranks fifth on the list of largest parks maintained by the city, and there are over 1,700 spaces — including playgrounds and recreational facilities — to be enjoyed.  

Madison Square Park
A previous outdoor sculpture called Fata Morgana by New York-based artist Teresita Fernández, consisting of mirror-polished discs that create canopies above the pathways

Madison Square Park is a seven-acre green space located in the heart of the city, at Madison Avenue between 23rd and 26th Street.  It has a storied history, with such famous residents as Edith Wharton (during the 1860s and 1870s) and the Flatiron Building (1902 to present).  Although it was once in an elite neighborhood, time took its toll and it eventually fell into disrepair.  A campaign was initiated, and the park was renovated into the wonderful space it remains until today.

Big Bling Madison Square Park

Big Bling Madison Square Park

One of the lovely features of Madison Square Park is its commitment to a strong art program.  Martin Puryear’s Big Bling is their latest public art exhibition, running from May 16, 2016 through January 8, 2017.  As noted on their website:

Big Bling’s architectural language suggests a building that is accessible by ascension through its levels. Its storeys are obstructed by chain-link fence, a barrier to entry, which will cover all visible surfaces of the sculpture. In contrast to the coarse materials employed throughout most of the work, the gold shackle is a shimmering beacon that simultaneously adorns and restrains.

But Madison Square Arts isn’t satisfied with simply commissioning such a stunning piece like Big Bling and placing it on display, it has also scheduled multiple art talks and performances so everyone can discuss, share and exchange thoughts on the work.  You can simply be a passive admirer strolling through the park, or choose to engage in one of the many options provided to experience Big Bling more fully.  What do you see when you look at it?

Location:
Madison Square Park



Pair it with:

Dessert at the Nutella Bar in Eataly

Nutella Bar Eataly NYC

Nutella Bar Eataly NYC

Being in Madison Square Park, you might’ve already succumbed to the temptation of one of its own residents, Shake Shack (to be covered as the food pairing in an upcoming post).  And really, we wouldn’t blame you.  But we operate on the theory that humans have a separate stomach for dessert, because, you know, we always find room.  (Scientific study pending.)  So head on over across Fifth Avenue to Eataly’s Nutella Bar.  Yes, you heard right, there is a section of the Italian food superstore that is strictly dedicated to that magical, hazelnutty chocolate spread in a jar.  You can pick one of their pastries filled with Nutella, order a freshly prepared crepe with Nutella, or go with gelato that they drizzle in, you guessed it, Nutella.  Nutella is the substance I’m most likely to die overdosing from, and I’m really quite okay with that.

Tip: Use the entrance on 23rd Street if you’d like direct access to the Nutella Bar without having to go through the madness that is Eataly.

Location:
200 5th Avenue

Hours:
Open daily 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

– L.

Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival


“I don’t think there is a life in the mundane 9-to-5 hypocrisy. That’s not living. That’s just part of the Matrix. And drag is punk rock, because it is not part of the Matrix. It is not following any rules of societal standards. Boy, girl, black, white, Catholic, Jew, Muslim. It’s none of that. We shape-shift. We can do whatever we want.” – RuPaul

While we’d like to encourage you to be happy with who you are, we’d also like to embolden you to be anyone you want to be. That may involve introspection and ambition, or it may simply involve putting on a costume when the occasion allows it. There’s a boldness to the business of getting dressed up and standing in the spotlight. Some New Yorkers get up and do it every day, while others wait for an instance like the Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival to get their shape-shift on.

At the Parade and Festival on Sunday, some outfits were literal (think Easter baskets, eggs and rabbits), while others were more abstract (matching stripes and polka dots with paper umbrellas and pointy hats — still thinking on that one). Some were simple (colorful chapeaus) and others elaborate (handmade head-to-toe costumes).  The colorfully-attired participants came together on Fifth Avenue, where the dramatic Neo-Gothic exterior of St. Patrick’s Cathedral provided the perfect backdrop for their unofficial parade.  They graciously posed for pictures for, and with, admirers from far and wide. I’m sure Southern hospitality has its charms, but when New York City plays host, you can be sure you’ll get a show.

Easter Parade Bonnet Festival

Easter Parade Bonnet Festival

Easter Parade Bonnet Festival

Easter Parade Bonnet Festival

Easter Parade Bonnet Festival

Easter Parade Bonnet Festival

Easter Parade Bonnet Festival

Easter Parade Bonnet Festival

Easter Parade Bonnet Festival

Location:
St. Patrick’s Cathedral



Paired it with:

Something sweet at Neuhaus

Neuhaus NYC

Neuhaus NYC

Neuhaus NYC

Just around the corner on Madison Avenue, you’ll find the Belgian chocolatier Neuhaus’s flagship store.  There is no shortage of chocolates to fill your Easter basket with here, but you’ll also find an ice cream and hot chocolate station to indulge all your chocolate factory fantasies.  With two chocolate faucets running (one for milk and one for dark, of course), it’ll take every ounce of willpower not to stick your tongue under one of them.  Shop from their Easter collection, put together your own chocolate selection, or indulge in chocolate-drizzled ice cream.  The choices are endless, just like the supply of chocolate coming out of those faucets.

Location:
500 Madison Avenue

Hours: 
Monday through Friday 10 am – 8 pm
Saturday and Sunday 11 am – 7 pm

– L.