On the Hunt for the Perfect Shot: A Photo Walk with NYC Photo Safari


“All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”
– Richard Avedon

If my marriage hinged solely on my aptitude as an “Instagram Husband”, I would have become a divorcée long ago. Though I greatly admire the artistry found in photographs, I’ve never been particularly keen to play the architect of their creation or the subject of their inspiration. Much of that can be traced back to my father’s overeagerness with a camera throughout my formidable years.

So that brings me to a confession. A confession as embarrassing for an adult as the admission of not knowing how to swim or ride a bike: I never learned how to take a photograph. I’m not talking about pointing a camera in a particular direction and applying a little pressure to a button. In truth, it takes a fair amount of knowledge and skill to take a great, good, or even adequate photograph. That’s perhaps a shocking admission for a blogger, but thankfully, Lynn has happily filled that void. Whenever I’m asked by tourists to take a photo, it’s a foregone conclusion that I will gesture to Lynn and hand her the camera. “Trust me”, I always say, “You’ll want her to take your photo.” I didn’t want them to forfeit a cherished memory.



NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
St. Patrick’s Cathedral photographed with a smartphone

Recently, though, I finally decided enough was enough and set out to find a way to learn some photography basics in an environment that would be both supportive and fun. This is why I was so excited when I stumbled across NYC Photo Safari. They offer a number of photography tours and workshops around the city, and welcome all skill levels. We decided to join the Iconic NY (P1) tour, which explores classic New York City landmarks and locations such as the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall and Central Park. The group sizes are small, which allows the experienced professional photographer leading the walk to offer personalized suggestions and feedback to sharpen your photography skills.

We were paired with Zim, who is an accomplished photographer with nearly 30 years of professional experience. She provided valuable tips into composition and lighting, as well as other technical aspects. She explained basics like exposure and shutter speed in simple terms, and before we knew it, we were capturing motion blur on a train pulling into the station. Lynn and I love taking tours, and we know that a guide can make or break the experience. Zim had a great sense of humor and was accommodating at every juncture.



NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Though it rained for a good portion of our tour, we had fun and learned a tremendous amount. Three hours simply flew by. While waiting out the rain, I found myself experimenting with some shots and angles. Something I never would have done before.

If you’re visiting New York City as a tourist, taking a tour with NYC Photo Safari is a great alternative to a regular walking tour (or simply hunting down the main attractions yourself). You can pick up some new skills and take home some unique vacation photographs. But if you’re a local looking to sharpen your photography skills, NYC Photo Safari is also a fantastic way to spend a few hours in the city. You can have as much fun shooting with your smartphone as your hefty DSLR. We loved looking at the buildings with a new eye (and getting the opportunity to spruce up our Instagram feed!).

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
No, I’m not taking pictures of the mannequins at Victoria’s Secret. This window is where you’ll get the reflection shot we posted above 😉
NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
A photo of Noguchi’s sculpture we took for our Rockefeller Center post published earlier this year
NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The same sculpture photographed on the walk with a different perspective

At the end of the day, what constitutes a beautiful photograph is subjective. But learning a few tricks and forcing a change in perspective can give you just the right amount of confidence to find your own point of view. Check out all the tours offered by NYC Photo Safari on their website here.

Pro Tip: Dress appropriately for the weather since the tours are rain or shine. You don’t need to own a camera, you can rent one from them too. Camera phones are welcome, though technical limitations will depend on your model.

Thank you to NYC Photo Safari for partnering on this post.



Pair it with:

A meal at Made Nice

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Occasionally, we attempt to eat something on the lighter side. Let’s call it “healthy-adjacent”. That doesn’t mean we’ll accept something mediocre and tasteless, which can often be the compromise in such a pursuit. Enter Made Nice.

This fast-casual dining experience, from Chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park (recently declared World’s Best Restaurant) and The NoMad, opened back in April to much excitement. Made Nice offers a selection of vibrant salads and plates, and a highly popular Chicken Frites dish.

We went with a trio to share: the Nicoise Salad, the Curry Cauliflower Salad, and the Chicken Rice. The Chicken Rice was underwhelming. Maybe after a decade-long love affair with Halal Cart, this was doomed by comparison from the start. I quite enjoyed the Nicoise Salad but the star of the show was the Curry Cauliflower Salad. The combination of Cauliflower Stew, Tofu, Couscous, Coconut, Lemongrass, Watercress, Almond & Grapes was absolutely delicious. I’m eager to return to try out the roasted chicken since our neighbors at an adjacent table were devouring theirs like wild animals. And you might be able to convince me to grab a cup of Milk & Honey Soft Serve Ice Cream with Honey Brittle and Oat Shortbread.

Location:
8 W 28th St

Hours:
Mon – Sat 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
Closed Sundays

– J.

Deja Vu All Over Again: Groundhog Day The Musical on Broadway



Imagine that you’ve had a record-breaking, Seinfeld-esque “Serenity Now!”-level, unbelievably AWFUL day. Some of it is the result of one calamitous decision after another, while the rest is just the universe playing tricks on you. You descended into the subway instead of walking. You spoke up when you should have been silent. Someone hit you with their bag. Twice. You didn’t make reservations. You wore the wrong shoes for this much walking. WHAT is that smell, and dear Lord in heaven, where is it coming from? Oh, and it’s raining. Really, really hard. Of course you forgot your umbrella. Nothing–and I mean nothing–has gone your way. Then add to that the fact that this happens while you’re in New York City, an unforgiving megalopolis with a bloodhound’s nose for the scent of weakness.

Now, take a beat. Breathe. Imagine that you could get a do-over.  A chance to start the whole god-awful thing over again but with the benefit of the memories of that horrible day intact. What would you do?



Deja Vu Groundhog Day Musical Broadway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Deja Vu Groundhog Day Musical Broadway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Harold Ramis’ and Danny Rubin’s 1993 cult classic, Groundhog Day, which stars the inimitable Bill Murray, answers that question along with a few others. It’s a film that still resonates with us all these years later. What makes it unique is that it’s a cerebral, philosophical film charading as a simple comedy. The premise of the film cleverly articulates, through the follies of its protagonist, Phil Connors, the existential theme that actions without consequences are meaningless.  Or that immortality, even when attained, is not a virtue but a curse.

This past weekend, we attended the musical based on this beloved film, which recently opened on Broadway. If you’ve watched the movie, you might have reservations. How does one live up to the genius of the original? You wouldn’t be alone in that pool of doubt. The musical adaptation was rumored to have been in the works for almost ten years. But it wasn’t until Tim Minchin, the man behind Matilda The Musical, was handed the baton that the musical came into being.



Deja Vu Groundhog Day Musical Broadway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Image courtesy of the Groundhog Day Musical website
Deja Vu Groundhog Day Musical Broadway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Image courtesy of the Groundhog Day Musical website

We’re happy to report you can cast those concerns aside. Groundhog Day The Musical does a tremendous job translating the myriad charms of the film from the screen to the stage. Solid acting, imaginative set design, and ambitious sequences, while more or less faithfully adhering to the original story line, made for a truly memorable and enjoyable performance. If you liked the movie, it’s a good bet you’ll enjoy the musical. And if you’ve never seen the movie, the musical is definitely a worthwhile introduction. You’ll be quoting the lines in no time. (There are so many good ones.)

Purchase your tickets at their website here.

Location:
245 W 52nd St



Pair it with:

Brunch at Maialino

Deja Vu Groundhog Day Musical Broadway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Deja Vu Groundhog Day Musical Broadway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Deja Vu Groundhog Day Musical Broadway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Deja Vu Groundhog Day Musical Broadway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

While repeating the same day for an eternity would eventually grow tiresome, let’s all acknowledge how freakin’ awesome it would be when you realize that 1) you could eat whatever you want without getting fat, and 2) you would never have to pay that Visa bill. And there’s no better place to celebrate that epiphany, than at Maialino.

Maialino’s brunch is legend, and appropriately so. We’d like to tell you that our blogger selves ordered the pancakes because we wanted to specifically tie in the reference to flapjacks from Groundhog Day. But the truth is that we just really wanted some delicious pancakes. The ricotta pancakes here are some of the best in New York City. You won’t get a stack, just two oversized, fluffy, luxuriant, perfect pancakes. A choice of toppings will accompany them, so you can choose to swipe on some marmalade, or drench them in syrup. There’s no way to mess this up. So maybe if you’re having an amazingly awful day, this is one thing you could get 100% right.

Location:
2 Lexington Ave

Hours:
Monday 7:30–10am, 12–2pm, 5:30–10pm
Tuesday 7:30–10am, 12–2pm, 5:30–10pm
Wednesday 7:30–10am, 12–2pm, 5:30–10pm
Thursday 7:30–10am, 12–2pm, 5:30–10:30pm
Friday 7:30–10am, 12–2pm, 5:30–10:30pm
Saturday 10AM–2:30pm, 5:30–10:30pm
Sunday 10AM–2:30pm, 5:30–10pm

– L. & J.

It’s a Small World After All: A Visit to Gulliver’s Gate



I’m not sure if you can tell from the pictures we’ve posted, but I’m kind of… petite. Height-challenged. Runty. Low-profile. Diminutive.  Short, okay, I’m short.

Other shorties know the troubles I’ve seen.  Trying to discreetly jump to reach something on the top shelf in the grocery store, then finally having to ask for help.  Searching for “cute shoes that provide height yet remain comfortable”. (An urban myth, by the way). Having almost every piece of clothing altered. And standing-room concerts? Forget about it.

Studies tell us that taller people are more successful, more attractive, more happy.  Shorter people are supposed to be less accident-prone (yay?), but thanks to depth perception issues, I don’t benefit from that advantage either.  Pretty bleak, I know.  But changing your point of view can be simple: enter Gulliver’s Gate.



Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Brookfield Place’s atrium, including its giant palms
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Miniature buildings call for miniature street art
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Do you see the Hamilton billboard? Yup, still sold out.



Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
A staff member tinkering with the models
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The least crowded Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade you’ll ever attend

Located in the heart of Times Square, Gulliver’s Gate is a miniature model fan’s dream come true. And for a petite girl like me, it’s a fresh change in perspective.  Sprawled before me in a 50,000 sq ft space, there are miniature versions of my favorite New York City landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Chrysler Building.  Some newer additions to the skyline are also included, like the stunning Via 57 West building.  And miniature Times Square comes replete with its own Hamilton billboard (which we FINALLY got to see last month, you can find that post here).

For travel buffs, Gulliver’s Gate is a fun trip around the world — you’ll find recognizable structures from France, India, Russia, and more.  The project is the result of a collaboration between model-makers around the world, which leaves local touches throughout.  It’s also a little bit of a treasure map: you’ll have to look closely to uncover secrets.  Interactive features are built into the models for children (or curious adults that have trouble keeping their hands off things).  With a touch of a button, you can attend a Queen concert, or see the Loch Ness monster (and accompanying miniature paparazzi trying to photograph it), or send Santa off in his sleigh.  

Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Are there miniature copies of Hillary’s emails here?
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Most of the figures in Mecca are in white, which is what men wear when completing the pilgrimage
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The Grand Palace of Bangkok



Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The Chords Bridge in Jerusalem, which is illuminated with a blue light at night just as pictured
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
I maybe look kind of tall here, right?

But it’s not just models loaded with playful features, there’s tech too.  If you want to truly immerse yourself in this fantastical universe, you could get 3D-scanned in a giant orb and have miniature versions of yourself placed anywhere in the Gulliver’s Gate world.  Want to get to the top of the Aztec ruins without killing your thighs?  This is how.

Gulliver’s Gate is currently open for previews at a reduced admission rate through May 8.  There are a few incomplete displays but there is still much to see, and if you choose to return after the official launch your admission will be discounted.  This might be a great play if you have friends and family visiting later in the year and you know you’ll be back.  The miniature universe also plans to evolve, so there will continue to be new things to discover.  Visit the Gulliver’s Gate website for additional information and to purchase tickets.

Location:
216 W 44th Street

Hours:
Daily 9 am – 10 pm



Pair it with:

Brunch at Gotan

Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

We’ve griped about food choices in Midtown many times before.  We regularly cry about chain restaurants and bitch about overpriced food.  So when we find a gem like Gotan, it’s truly something to celebrate.  

Gotan is located in Midtown proper, so we’re not even sending you on a little trek.  It’s a surprisingly large space, with bar seats up front and tables in the back.  The coffee is good (they serve Counter Culture, one of my favorites), and so is the food.  And guess what?  The weekend brunch here is a steal.  You heard me, a bargain brunch in Midtown.

If you order off the brunch menu, you’ll receive orange juice, coffee and an entree for under $14.  Or order off the a la carte menu, which is still reasonably priced.  The avocado toast and the breakfast plate hit the spot.

Location:
20 W 46th Street

Hours:
Mon – Thu 7 am – 5 pm
Fri 7 am – 4 pm
Sat 9 am – 3 pm

– L.

Four Score and Seven Years Overdue: Our Visit to Hamilton on Broadway



In the summer of 2007, while Justin and I were still living in Phoenix, we made our annual pilgrimage to New York City with great anticipation.  Our trips always included an ambitious list of restaurants to tackle, as well as a sampling of plays and musicals.  That summer, we were excited to check out an Off-Broadway production we had read about called In The Heights.  

At the 37 Arts Theater in Hell’s Kitchen (since renamed the Baryshnikov Arts Center), we were seated in the second row, close enough to see the beads of sweat on the performers’ faces and watch the spit escape from their lips.  It was everything we’d hoped it would be: exciting, fresh, funny, captivating.  We were so enamored with the performance that we waited after the show to speak to the creator, a young upstart named Lin-Manuel Miranda.  But there was no one else waiting, and we questioned ourselves.  Was this not done?  Were we not supposed to approach the cast?  We suddenly felt starkly like out-of-towners, clueless about the lay of the land.  He exited the theater, and we lost our nerve.  We stood there and watched him go by.



Hamilton on Broadway NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Hamilton on Broadway NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Hamilton on Broadway NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Crowds gather to collect cast autographs before and after the show



Hamilton on Broadway NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Hamilton on Broadway NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Do we have Hamilton glow?

Fast forward almost ten years later, and here we are, in our seats at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.  We purchased our Hamilton tickets NINE MONTHS AGO, after taking out a small loan against our future unborn child.  At this point, Lin-Manuel Miranda is a bonafide celebrity with a number of Tonys, Grammys and, oh yes, a Pulitzer Prize under his belt.  He’s performed at the White House on numerous occasions.  He’s chased down in the street.  

The core of what made In The Heights a success is what makes Hamilton a success, just on a much grander scale.  In broadest terms, it’s an American immigrant story.  It draws on the time-honored thematics of ambition, adversity, determination and perseverance.

But what makes Hamilton unique is its historical framework. Ron Chernow, whose biography set the ball in motion, acted as the historical consultant for the production.  The bold decision to cast multi-ethnic, multiracial actors to play what were predominantly white figures essentially said, in one fell swoop, that the history of this country belongs to all of us.  Hamilton celebrates the notion that we all have our personal histories and a place in our shared history.  And dammit, that music is catchy.

These New York City streets getting colder, I shoulder
Ev’ry burden, ev’ry disadvantage
I have learned to manage, I don’t have a gun to brandish
I walk these streets famished
The plan is to fan this spark into a flame
But damn, it’s getting dark, so let me spell out my name




Pair it with:

A meal at The Smith

Hamilton on Broadway NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Hamilton on Broadway NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Hamilton on Broadway NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

When a restaurant calls itself an “American Brasserie”, you never really know what to expect.  But what you hope for, is The Smith.  The fact that it’s been around since 2007, has grown to four locations, and still pulls in massive crowds is a testament to its quality.  New York City is a harsh mistress, and even the best among us have had to call it a day.  But The Smith sticks to a simple, winning formula: a great space, great people, and great food.

Head north on Broadway to the Lincoln Square location, where you’ll find classics on the menu like French Toast or Grilled Chicken Paillard.  The best part: they take reservations, and you don’t have to book nine months in advance.

Location:
1900 Broadway

Hours:
Mon-Wed: 7:30AM – Midnight
Thurs & Fri: 7:30AM – 1AM
Sat: 9:00AM – 1AM
Sun: 9:00AM – Midnight

– L. & J.

2017 Macy’s Flower Show at Herald Square



It might not come as too much of a surprise to learn that I was kind of a weird kid.  For a portion of my youth, my family would drive down to Singapore where we’d meet up with extended family members and venture on a vacation together.  Riding high on the success of a couple of short cruises to Indonesia, the adults tossed around Disneyland as an ambitious follow-up. I remember thinking to myself, “But Disneyland sounds so boring, it’s just going to be a bunch of kids running around.” 

Did I mention?  I was seven at the time.

I continued to feel the same way about circuses and amusement parks.  But as I matured it was only a matter of time before I was drawn into the fantastical landscape conjured up in books like Water for Elephants and Night Circus.  The allure of discovering oddities and meeting eccentric characters seemed infinitely charming.  And the sense that it was fleeting, terminally impermanent, only added to its mystical quality.

2017 Macy's Flower Show Herald Square - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Macy's Flower Show Herald Square - Mad Hatters NYC Blog




2017 Macy's Flower Show Herald Square - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Macy's Flower Show Herald Square - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Macy’s seems to have capitalized on that very same magic when it selected the Carnival theme for this year’s Macy’s Flower Show.  At its flagship store in Midtown Manhattan, the retail behemoth treats its visitors to a spring festival every year that takes place independent of the weather forecast.  In fashionable tradition, talented floral designers put together awe-inspiring installations and arrangements throughout its grounds.  (Which, by the way, is about 1.1 million square feet!)



2017 Macy's Flower Show Herald Square - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Macy's Flower Show Herald Square - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

In addition to the impressive floral designs, the Macy’s Flower Show also anchors several fun events throughout the store.  Visitors can learn how to make bouquets or attend a special cooking event.  Don’t miss this year’s GODIVA event, where Chef Thierry Muret will create a chocolate sculpture while spectators enjoy a live jazz performance.  All the Macy’s Flower Show events can be found here.

Macy’s has occupied its Herald Square location on 34th Street since 1902, and the building has been a National Historic Landmark since 1978.  The Macy’s Flower Show is a great time to get reacquainted with a slice of New York City history which, when we’re not shopping for shoes, we often take for granted.  

Location:
151 W 34th St

Hours:
Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m




Pair it with:

Dessert at Bibble & Sip

2017 Macy's Flower Show Herald Square - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Macy's Flower Show Herald Square - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Macy's Flower Show Herald Square - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Macy's Flower Show Herald Square - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The population of Midtown Manhattan is largely made up of two demographics: the people who work there, and the out-of-towners.  So when it comes to food, chains that offer the professionals something quick-and-easy and are simultaneously recognizable to visitors tend to win out.  But venture just a little bit off the beaten path, and you’ll be rewarded.  

May we suggest Bibble & Sip, a quaint, family-run bakery that offers great French-style pastries with Asian flair.  An example of this happy marriage can be found in their wildly popular cream puffs.  The pastries come in flavors like vanilla, matcha and black sesame, and have crunchy exteriors to contrast the gooey interiors.  You’ll also find interesting combinations like their Pistachio Cake with matcha white chocolate mousse and raspberry gelee.  Our personal favorite?  The banana bread infused with earl grey.  Coffee fans also shouldn’t miss the specialty matcha jasmine and lavender lattes.

Oh, and the alpaca theme throughout the store is pretty darn cute, too.  

Location:
253 W 51st St

Hours:
Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday–Sunday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m

– L.

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.

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.