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.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Storytellers: An Introduction to New York City Bloggers



There is a Confucius quote that says:

 “True wisdom is knowing what you don’t know.”  

Shortly after we started blogging we realized what we didn’t know could fill an ocean.  It’s been a journey, one we explored more thoroughly in our year-end review after our first full year of blogging.  But we’ve received a lot of help and inspiration along the way, and no small part of that has come from other New York City bloggers that we’ve been fortunate to become acquainted with.  

NYC Bloggers Introduction - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
This is what we were going for…
NYC Bloggers Introduction - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Nailed it, amirite? 🙂  From L-R: Lynn and Justin (that’s us!), Jess of Used York City, Becca of Tea with B, Mary Lane of New York Cliche, Mary of Mary in Manhattan, Trudy of Rendezvous in New York

We recently had the opportunity to finally put faces to blog names, and get to know some of our peers.  We were happy to discover that they are as effervescent in person as their blogs are, and we thought we’d introduce them to our readers the best way we know how: by comparing them to food.



New York Cliche = Mozzarella Pizza from Joe’s Pizza

NYC Bloggers Introduction - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Bloggers Introduction - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Mary Lane is the blogger behind New York Cliche.  She takes all the typical trappings of life in the big city and puts her fun spin on it.  Like Joe’s Pizza, it’s a cliche, yes, but it’s also classic.  It’s a seasoned favorite that stands the test of time.

Mary in Manhattan = French Fries from Pommes Frites

NYC Bloggers Introduction - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Bloggers Introduction - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Mary is the blogger behind Mary in Manhattan, and she’s every budget-conscious New Yorker’s BFF.  Like Pommes Frites, she proves that enjoying life in the city doesn’t require a platinum card, just a ton of creativity.  Stay in your comfort zone and dip your fries in Barbecue sauce.  Or explore the exotic and dip your fries in Pomegrenate Teriyaki Mayo.



Used York City = Chicken Matzo Ball Soup from Mile End Deli

NYC Bloggers Introduction - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Bloggers Introduction - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Jess is the mastermind behind Used York City, a site that features the work of several New York City writers as well as her own.  Like the Chicken Matzo Ball Soup at Mile End Deli, Used York City is practical without being mundane. It’s a familiar resource you’ll turn to on a regular basis.

Rendezvous en New York = Ice Cream from Ample Hills Creamery

NYC Bloggers Introduction - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Bloggers Introduction - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Trudy is the blogger behind Rendezvous en New York.  Like Ample Hills, Trudy is a mix master, covering a variety of topics on her blog.  Ample Hills throws together marshmallow and rice krispies, or Ritz crackers, potato chips, pretzels and mini M&Ms.  Trudy throws out posts on food, art and local sights.  It’s an eclectic amalgamation of the things she loves. 



Tea with B = Specialty Croissants from Union Fare

NYC Bloggers Introduction - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Bloggers Introduction - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Becca is the blogger behind Tea with B, which is a blog with a slightly misleading name.  Although Becca does indeed cover tea, her blog also includes beauty, food and a host of lifestyle topics.  Like Union Fare’s specialty croissants, which include flavors like Fruity Pebbles, Matcha and Birthday Cake, Becca offers multiple on-trend flavors to suit any palate.  

And although she couldn’t make brunch, we wanted to also mention Julianne of It’s Five Here.  Hers is a fun blog that covers the bar scene in New York City as well as travels around the world.

If you’re like us, you’ve consumed, and will continue to consume these blogs (and their food equivalents!), on a regular basis.  If you’re a New York City blogger interested in attending the next meet-up, please reach out to us:
Email: letschat@madhattersnyc.com
Or on social media: FB, G+, Instagram, Twitter (yes, we just started on Twitter, come and say hi!)

Enjoy!

– L. & J.

First Comes Love: This Election Blows at Lynn Redgrave Theater



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

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

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

first-comes-love-b46a7372

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

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

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

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



Pair it with:

Dinner at Minetta Tavern

Minetta Tavern - First Comes Love - Mad Hatters NYC

Minetta Tavern - First Comes Love - Mad Hatters NYC

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

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

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

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

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

Location:
113 Macdougal St

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

– J.

New York Fashion Week: Hot to Adopt with Fresh Step



Four years and twenty-six days ago, I lost my cat Felix.  Everyone thinks their cat is special, but calling Felix “special” would be doing him a huge disservice.  He was uncannily shrewd.  He figured out how to open doors and drawers.  He manipulated timed feeders into futility.  And he orchestrated cover-ups: he’d once gained access to a large bag of food in the pantry, but continued to pretend he was hungry at feeding times so we wouldn’t get suspicious.  Felix gave me fourteen years of laughter, frustration, pride, annoyance, and lots and lots of love.

I’ve never shied away from the “cat lady” moniker, but it turns out maybe I should have.  The term is often used in a derisive manner, with images of unattractive women destined for eternal singlehood attached.  So Fresh Step set out to dispel the negative connotations with its first ever Fresh Step Feline Fashion Lounge and Adoption Event during New York Fashion Week.  In a space located just off the High Line, Fresh Step and actress Katie Cassidy (of Arrow, Gossip Girl and Melrose Place fame) played host to a Hot to Adopt event, where models walked the runway in fabulous fashions and the hottest accessory in town: a cat.

NYFW Hot to Adopt - Mad Hatters NYC
Our little babies, Felix and Chloe in 2007

NYFW Hot to Adopt - Mad Hatters NYC

NYFW Hot to Adopt - Mad Hatters NYC

NYFW Hot to Adopt - Mad Hatters NYC

NYFW Hot to Adopt - Mad Hatters NYC

The Hot to Adopt event was nirvana for cat lovers: upon entering, you could pledge allegiance to the feline race by donning your own pair of cat ears or branding yourself with a cat sticker.  Then you could head over to the Fresh Step step-and-repeat and strike a pose. As you waited for the runway show to begin, you could munch on cat-shaped cake pops or play with adorable kittens in a makeshift petting zoo.  All the while, drinks flowed and a DJ spun tunes.  NY Drawing Booth was on hand with a talented artist who could sketch a personal portrait or fashion illustration in a matter of minutes, which would then be printed out as the perfect New York Fashion Week keepsake (the original digital file was emailed directly to you).

NYFW Hot to Adopt - Mad Hatters NYC

NYFW Hot to Adopt - Mad Hatters NYC

NYFW Hot to Adopt - Mad Hatters NYC
Our 17-year old cat, Chloe, perched on our, okay, HER bed

All glamour and fun aside, pet rescue and adoption is a cause close to our hearts, as both of our cats were adopted from local animal shelters. Several of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals partner rescue groups and shelters were on-site during the event with adoptable cats, each one cuter than the next.  If we didn’t have an ornery (but lovable) 17-year old cat at home, we might have gone home with a more than a souvenir!  The Hot to Adopt event has since passed, but you can still visit a local shelter and add a loving fur baby to your family.  And for those unable to provide a home for a kitty, there are other ways to contribute: pet owners who purchase select Fresh Step products can earn Paw Points which can be redeemed for rewards, or donated to pet shelters around the country.  A direct donation to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals can also do wonders.  The non-profit organization is committed to transforming New York City into a no-kill community, meaning that no dogs or cats of reasonable health and temperament will be killed merely because they do not have homes.  The New York Fashion Week Hot to Adopt event reminds us we can look good and DO good.

As part of an ongoing campaign to prove that “adopting a cat is always on trend”, Fresh Step has initiated Feline Fashion Fridays, where all cat lovers can share fashionable cat pics to be featured on their Instagram page.  Share yours and tag them with #freshstep and #felinefashionfriday.  Tag us with @madhattersnyc too, we’d love to see your pics!



Pair it with:

Dinner at Gato

Gato NYC - Mad Hatters NYC

Gato NYC - Mad Hatters NYC

Gato NYC - Mad Hatters NYC

Gato NYC - Mad Hatters NYC

If you’re dressed to the nines in your Fashion Week ensemble, and you’ve just left a feline-inspired fashion catwalk, then it seems obvious that the next step should be to head for dinner at the fabulous Gato in NoHo.  Housed in a 100-year old building, Bobby Flay’s Mediterranean restaurant serves up warm ambiance and amazing food.  You can hang out in the bar and lounge area and partake from the extensive menu of bar bites, or treat yourself to a wonderful dinner where the dishes promise to surprise and delight.  If it’s available, I can’t recommend the Black Rice with Shrimp and Squid enough.  And the vegetables are not to be overlooked: the Roasted Cauliflower was mind-blowing.  Bobby Flay’s Maine Coon, Nacho, is the official face of the restaurant.  If reincarnation exists, coming back as Nacho Flay is my number one choice.

Location:
324 Lafayette St

Hours:
Bar: Open daily at 4pm
Dinner:
Sun: 5:00-10:30pm
Mon-Thu: 5:30-10:30pm
Fri-Sat: 5:00-11pm

– L.

Neal Brennan: 3 Mics at Lynn Redgrave Theater



From the linguistic dexterity and poetic brilliance of the late George Carlin to the rapid-fire, quick-witted, rage-filled rants of the inimitable Lewis Black, I’ve been lucky enough to witness comedic genius in action on quite a number of occasions. As stated in a previous post, storytelling — of which, as I see it, stand-up comedy is a specialized subset — is, in it’s highest form, an art. And Neal Brennan’s inspired performance at the Lynn Redgrave Theater served as a stark reminder of this fact.

3 Mics Neal Brennan

3 Mics Neal Brennan

3 Mics is, literally, just that — three microphones on a stage. And yet, it is so much more. It is a transcendence of the genre in both form and content. Mr. Brennan opens the show at downstage right, shifts to downstage left, and finishes downstage center, with each movement concealed by a blackout, alternating between the mics throughout the show. The first mic represents Mr. Brennan’s observations (how he sees the world), and are presented in the form of one-liner jokes. The second mic represents his thoughts (the way his mind works), and are related in stand-up formulation. The final mic is reserved for his feelings (emotional stuff, as it is simply put in the program), and is discharged in a no-frills, standard storytelling platform that makes no obvious attempts to play for laughs. Mr. Brennan covers substantial ground, from the overarching themes of race, politics, gender and sexuality to the personal trappings of family, romantic relationships, friendship, depression and self-esteem, drawing from both keen observations and deeply personal experiences. The result is sophisticated, hilarious, endearing and enlightening, and achieves something special, something rarely seen, something outlying typical description: a sense that the audience has witnessed something new.

3 Mics is running through April 9th.  For more information and to buy tickets, visit the show’s website.

Note: If you’ve never heard of Neal Brennan, you’re not alone, though you’ve likely appreciated his work without even knowing it, most notably as the co-writer and co-creator of the critical and popular phenomenon known as the Chappelle’s Show.  You can also catch his stand-up special on Comedy Central.

Location:
45 Bleecker St



Pair it with:

Dinner at Cafe Habana

Cafe Habana NYC

Cafe Habana NYC

Cafe Habana NYC

Before or after the show, make your way to Cafe Habana, located at the corner of Prince and Elizabeth Streets, just a short jaunt away.  Based on a busy luncheonette in downtown Mexico City that still, to this day, serves as a popular hangout for musicians, this Nolita outpost of the diner staple serves excellent Cuban-Mexican comfort food. Whether it’s breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner you can’t go wrong at Cafe Habana. Make sure to try the Mexican-style grilled corn  with mayonnaise, cotija cheese, chili powder and lime– it’s ba-na-nas!

(For other great dining options in the area, you can also check out the food pairings here, here and here which are all in close proximity to the theater.)

Location:
17 Prince St

Hours:
9am to Midnight

– J.

Isaac Oliver at Joe’s Pub



Storytelling, at its apex, is an art. It requires the philosophical contemplations, critical observations and the communicative dexterity of a writer, coupled with the intuition and instincts of a performer. It has existed from mankind’s earliest days, long before the first written word, as the primary narrative mode to disseminate ideas: communicating historical accounts, outlining philosophical theories, expressing ethical concerns, and challenging cultural norms.

Though much of my exposure to the social significance of storytelling originated with an elective class on folklore I explored at university, it wasn’t until my first trip abroad, to the United Kingdom, that I began to truly appreciate it as art. From cabbie to bartender, a newly minted acquaintances on the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow or on a bus in Dublin, the wit and mirth of the oral tradition were on full display in all its grandeur.

Isaac Oliver Joe's Pub NYC

Isaac Oliver Joe's Pub NYC

In similar fashion, Isaac Oliver, the award-winning writer, performer and playwright, enlightened and entertained us one late Saturday evening at Joe’s Pub, a cozy dinner theater on Lafayette Street in the East Village. He was promoting his new novel, Intimacy Idiot, ostensibly a collection of personal essays detailing his experiences while searching for love and intimacy in New York City. He performed excerpts from his novel on stage, either alone or with actor Daniel Loeser, masterfully captivating his audience–an incredible feat considering attention spans endure for less than the amount of time it takes for a traffic light to turn–with tales so magnificently absurd they could only be true.

I’ve read reviews citing comparisons between Isaac Oliver and many renowned writers and performers. Only the comparison to a nascent David Sedaris rings true. In fact, if pressed for a concrete opinion on the matter, I would liken Oliver to the wit and showmanship of Sedaris and the candor and immediacy of William Burroughs (particularly with how he addresses sex and sexuality–indeed, he pulls no punches on that account). Opinions may vary, but there’s no doubt about his talent.

Isaac Oliver returns to Joe’s Pub in April and June.  You can find additional information and buy tickets here.

Location:
425 Lafayette St

Pair it with:

Dinner and dessert at Lafayette Grand Café and Bakery

Lafayette Grand Cafe Bakery NYC

Lafayette Grand Cafe Bakery NYC

Lafayette Grand Cafe Bakery NYC

Lafayette Grand Cafe Bakery NYC

Famed chef and restaurateur Andrew Carmellini’s bistro in NoHo offers excellent, regional French cuisine as well as an in-house bakery helmed by rising star Pâtissière, Jen Yee. From hors d’oeuvres to mains, the meal exceeded expectations (particularly the mind-blowingly delicious wood-grilled local trout with autumn vegetable salad and saffron), but as we’ve come to expect (see our previous post), Jen Yee stole the show yet again with her incredible iteration of a classic: the cheesecake.

Location:
380 Lafayette Street

Hours:
Dinner
Monday-Saturday 5:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Sundays 5:30 pm – 10:30 pm

– J.

Not a Photo at The Hole

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This proverb is often used when discussing art (let’s admit it, usually when we see something we don’t enjoy).  Art appreciation truly is a subjective, personal experience.  We’ve definitely seen our fair share of pieces that have induced that squinty-eyed, cocked-head pose, with a virtual question mark poised neatly above our heads.  While we may not all agree on what constitutes art, whether it’s good or bad, or where it’s headed, we can (hopefully) agree that there’s an abundance of it and we’re better off for it.  We’ve featured street art as well as the more conventional kind found in museums here on the blog, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t also talk about another way to access great art in the city: private galleries.

Although there have always been arguments about culture being only for the elite or art being corrupted by the super-rich, we (who are neither elite nor rich, much less super-rich!) have found no such barrier to entry, and we regularly enjoy visiting the multitude of galleries here in the city that have allowed us to get up close and personal with some stunning pieces of artwork.  For free.  There are bigger players like the Gagosian Gallery who have featured such heavy-hitters as Takashi Murakami and Roy Lichtenstein, but we submit that smaller galleries should not be overlooked. Gems can often be uncovered in these more experimental spaces.  Such was our experience recently when we visited the Not a Photo exhibition at The Hole.

DSC01360-ANIMATION

 

DSC01359

IMG_20160102_131809

DSC01377

The Hole describes itself as a “contemporary art gallery in New York City representing emerging artists” where “filling a hole in the downtown community” is their goal.  Not a Photo, which opened on November 29, 2015 and runs through January 17, 2016, features works by artists who use photography as a means to an end: the end being a much more complex, dynamic composition than a photograph.  The pieces selected for the exhibition manipulate photos in different ways: Adam Parker Smith gives you a woman on canvas with long blond human hair blowing in a breeze (produced by an electric fan next to the canvas) which adds texture and dimensionality to an otherwise basic portrait.  Ryder Ripps exhibits a painting where he digitally manipulates a selfie from an Instagram account of a self-help fitness model and renders it in paint. Susy Oliveira contributes a photographic sculpture of a bouquet.  The exhibition is simple, yet provocative.  Catch it while you can.

More detailed descriptions of all the artists and their pieces can be found on the gallery’s website here.  

Location:
312 Bowery (between E Houston and Bleecker Sts)

Hours:
Wednesday – Saturday 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Pair it with:

Brunch at Estela

DSC01293

DSC01332

IMG_20160102_122628

DSC01329

The artists at Not a Photo render basic photographs to the point where they are unrecognizable, and the chef at Estela does the same to well-known dishes.  Estela was a critical darling when it opened in 2013, then went on to achieve more notoriety when President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama dined there in 2014.  In Pete Wells’ New York Times reviewhe said “The cooking is almost familiar, but not quite, and it’s the little differences that get under your skin.”  And he’s absolutely right.  While burrata has been on the menu of every trendy restaurant, the one offered here feels unique: it’s served on bread in a green liquid that we licked clean off the plate.  (We actually cried out when the waiter tried to clear it before we had drained it completely.)  A delicious green liquid sounds like an oxymoron to us too.  And if it’s on the menu, order the French Toast.  There are different iterations but ours happened to be the one pictured above.  There’s a caramelized top much like the kind you find on creme brulee, and it sits in a vanilla bean custard that is to-die-for.  It’s unlike any French Toast we’ve ever had.  It’s, I don’t know, Not French Toast.

Location:
47 East Houston Street (between Mulberry and Mott Sts.)

Hours:
Sunday to Thursday
5:30pm-Midnight
(Kitchen closes at 11pm)
Friday and Saturday
5:30pm-1am
(Kitchen closes at 11:30pm)
Saturday and Sunday Brunch
11:30am-3pm

– L.

The City That Gives You Lemons, Also Gives You Lemonade

New York City has mood swings. Really, really bad ones. One moment it can be sweet, seductive, nearly—dare I say it!—tranquil and the next it can be capricious, defiant, and impossibly, impenetrably aloof. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that you have a better statistical chance of winning the Powerball Jackpot (1 in: 292,201,338 in case you were wondering) than predicting which mood you’ll encounter on any given day. This can make planning an infuriating exercise in futility.

Such was the case during one of our recent excursions. We set out late on a Sunday morning with an established agenda: a whimsical visit to a nearby gallery, followed by a properly gluttonous brunch. So easy! And yet the City, from the get-go, simply wasn’t having any of it and wasted no time gesticulating a spirited rendition of it’s signature, passive-aggressive response: thumbs in ears, fingers splayed, eyes glaring, blowing a raspberry.

To start, not one but two buses jumped the schedule. Then, once we descended the steps into the subterranean depths of the station to switch to a train, we immediately noted the ubiquitous MTA Service Advisories, with their prosaic, Helvetica-esqe typeface, haphazardly posted along the platform declaring numerous “service disruptions”. Finally, when we reached our destination—significantly later than anticipated, mind you—the door to the gallery was locked.

Peering through the glass into the dimly lit space, with only the faintest light penetrating the threshold and illuminating sparkling flecks of wafting dust particles, there was the reception desk, with its seat pushed in, empty. We read the stenciled hours of operation on the glass: Wed-Sun, 12-7pm. Then, we revisited their website on our smartphones. Same hours posted there. It was Sunday. It was past noon. What gives? Only after L. (clever woman that she is) called the gallery’s number, was it revealed on their voicemail that they had abruptly changed the days and hours of operation: Sunday—Closed.

We skipped ahead to brunch where the massive number of calories soon extinguished the fire of exasperation in the pits of our bellies. We emerged somewhat pacified, but as we made our way through the East Village down into SoHo, we discovered the following masterpieces along the way:

DSC01126 (1)

IMG_20151227_114201

IMG_20151227_122358

DSC01195

Well, then.  I guess we ended up in a street gallery instead.  Whaddaya know. A…

DSC01279

Pair (what you thought was) a bust with:

Brunch at Narcissa

DSC01084

When considering the innumerable brunch options New York City has to offer, you will undoubtedly cross paths with the trendy concept of “farm-to-table” cuisine. Now, as this article artfully conveys, the term and its well-intended meaning should be taken with a substantial grain of salt, but that’s not to say it should be dismissed outright. Take, for instance, Narcissa, the joint venture between hotelier, residential developer and restaurateur André Balazs, and Michelin-starred chef John Fraser located in The Standard hotel. Named for a now-retired dairy cow residing on Balazs’ Hudson Valley farm, Locust on Hudson, Narcissa’s entire concept is founded upon the symbiotic relationship between Fraser and the farmers, the restaurant and the farm.

   “We’re able to take the term “farm-to-table” to another level. I work closely with the farmers, and we have a continued dialogue about what we would like to grow and the harvesting process. For instance, they can harvest some ingredients “young” or “overwintered,” which can impact their flavor profiles. You are not just sourcing from them, but also part of the process.”
– Chef John Fraser, from 2014 Life+Times article by Kai Acevedo

DSC01087

IMG_20151227_110306

Though Fraser’s skill with vegetables is well-documented, he’s also received much praise for his Skillet Burger, having made numerous Best-Of lists in 2014. The generously seared, short-rib and brisket patty is topped with mashed guacamole, Manchego cheese and seasonal greens, then slipped between a toasted brioche bun.  It is as satisfying and filling as it sounds, and it was just what the doctor ordered that Sunday.

For menus and other information, visit their website here.

Location:
25 Cooper Square (corner of 5th St and Bowery)

Hours:
Lunch
Monday – Friday: 11:30am to 3:00pm
Dinner
Sunday – Thursday: 5:30pm to 11:00pm
Friday – Saturday: 5:30pm to 12:00am
Brunch
Saturday – Sunday: 10:30am to 4:00pm

– J.

The Patricia Field Boutique

The term “Fashion Icon” can conjure up so many varied images, and nowhere is that more true than in New York City. New Yorkers have long had the privilege of having an array of unique style idols to look up to, and Patricia Field is an undisputed member of that class. Best known for dressing Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte, she taught legions of style mavens to mix the high with the low, the hard with the soft, the masculine with the feminine. And it’s that keen eye and sense of whimsy that you can find on full tilt in the unique store that bears her name.

DSC01169

It has relocated several times, but the current (and final) iteration of her boutique is located on the Bowery, which was also home to CBGB before it closed in 2006, another pioneer that contributed to the East Village’s distinct identity.  The space feels part art gallery, part costume shop, with the cool factor turned up on high.  It’s the kind of place where anything goes, and although I’ll admit my aesthetic is slightly more restrained nowadays, I can’t help but think the 15-year-old me would have KILLED for the bejeweled Barbie doll head necklace I saw there.

DSC01148

DSC01153

DSC01166

It’s been announced the store will take its bow in early 2016, so make haste to this paragon of counterculture and take some bonafide Patricia Field memorabilia home with you.  Whether you want your own Carrie nameplate necklace straight from the source, or a purse shaped like a cartoon bomb with a Chanel-esque chain strap, there is surely something you can pick up to add extra oomph to your ensemble.  Sprinkle some of that Patricia Field magic on the next time you’re throwing an outfit together and you’ll find yourself pushing those personal style boundaries and taking yourself less seriously.  You know, dressing like a New Yorker.

Location:
306 Bowery (Between E Houston & Bleecker St)

Hours:
Sunday – Thursday 11:00 am-8:00 pm
Friday & Saturday 11:00 am-9:00 pm

Pair it with:

Brunch at Lafayette

DSC01244

DSC01248

If visiting the Patricia Field Boutique makes you long for those Sex And The City days, take a 5-minute walk to Andrew Carmellini’s  Lafayette Grand Cafe and Bakery.  Gather your girlfriends and get dressed in your Sunday best, then wax nostalgic while you chow down on divine egg white frittatas and Nicoise salads, just like the girls would.  Or, pull a Miranda and head over to the bakery counter, pick out some eclairs and macarons, then head home and binge-watch Sex And The City on HBO Now.

Location:
380 Lafayette Street (at the corner of Great Jones Street)

Hours:
Weekend Brunch
Saturday & Sunday
10:00 am – 3:00 pm
For weekday or dinner hours, visit their website here.

– L.

The Moth StorySLAM



I’ll confess: I’m a planner. I download maps and menus. I read reviews.  But you know that Yiddish proverb, “You plan, God laughs”?  That’s what this city does too.  You’ll be walking through Central Park on your way somewhere and be mesmerized by a group of a cappella singers.  Or you’ll be heading to a favorite dinner spot and be pulled into a small little cafe you’d never noticed before.  This city seduces you with its endless possibilities.  And Moth StorySLAMs very much embody this sensibility.

For those of you who may not be familiar, The Moth is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art of storytelling.  They host competitions all over the country where, similar to an open-mic night, people get on a stage and tell a story.  Each event is assigned a generic theme (for example, “betrayal” or “joy”), and the stories are tied to the theme.  The stories have to be true, and they have to be yours.  And boy, some of them are fantastic.  

Moth Story Slam - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Moth Story Slam - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The Moth StorySLAMs are a great way to feel a connection to the experiences of the other 8 million plus people calling New York City home. The stories run the gamut — they can be funny or sad or absurd, but they’re always real.  You never know quite what to expect, and the evening is pregnant with promise.  You could get a complete dud, or be so moved that you’re compelled to approach the storyteller afterwards to let him know. 

If you’ve never heard of The Moth,  you can listen to a sampling of stories on their website here.  (Warning: this is highly addictive.)  Or if you’re itching to tell your story, you can learn how to do that here.

For the times and locations of upcoming New York City events, visit their website.

Tip:  These events are really popular so buy your tickets ahead of time online (they go on sale one week before the show, at 3pm ET) and show up early to ensure a good vantage point.



Pair it with:

A late dinner at The Smile

Moth Story Slam - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Moth Story Slam - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Many events in New York City are held at the Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe so if you happen to attend one there, we recommend heading to The Smile afterwards.  Located only a 5-minute walk away in NoHo, The Smile has good food and great ambiance.  It was featured in Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, which gives it instant cred as a hang (not that it didn’t have any before).  It’s the perfect place to get some grub and talk about all the stories you just heard.

Location:
26 Bond Street

Hours:

Monday to Friday 8am – 11pm
Saturday 9am – 11pm
Sunday 9am – 10pm

– L.