Murder, Mayhem and Meat Pies: Sweeney Todd at the Barrow Street Theatre



I know it sounds a bit flaky (pun absolutely intended) but when we heard that there would be a new off-Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s Tony Award-winning musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at Barrow Street Theatre, Lynn and I could barely contain our excitement.



Sweeney Todd Off-Broadway Revival Barrow Street Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Sweeney Todd Off-Broadway Revival Barrow Street Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Harrington’s, the oldest working pie and mash shop in London. Image courtesy of the Sweeney Todd Facebook page.

There were a number of reasons, of course. First, we had seen a Sweeney Todd production years ago by a traveling tour back when we lived in Arizona, and it was very, very good. But we had always regretted that we hadn’t caught it while in New York. Second, we knew from previous Off-Broadway adventures–take, for example, In the Heights–that plays and musicals at smaller venues offer a much more intimate experience. Third, we had never seen a show at beloved Barrow Street Theatre in the West Village, though we’d passed by it so many times during our other excursions. And finally, we’d read that the revival began in London a few years back and was produced after-hours at Harrington’s Pie and Mash, one of London’s oldest pie shops, and that Barrow Street Theatre had painstakingly re-created the shop inside the venue.



Sweeney Todd Off-Broadway Revival Barrow Street Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Sweeney Todd Off-Broadway Revival Barrow Street Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Sweeney Todd Off-Broadway Revival Barrow Street Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Sweeney Todd Off-Broadway Revival Barrow Street Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

And on all counts, we were not disappointed. The production was excellent, as intimate and interactive as we’d hoped. The stage design was inspired: the historic space featured tiles, grimy yellow walls, a narrow countertop, and a menu board which included daily specials. It was like actually stepping into Harrington’s. Audience members​ were seated at dining tables in lieu of traditional theater seats, and the talented Sweeney Todd cast utilized the entire “pie shop”–both upper and lower levels–as their performance area. The actors pulled audience members into the show. They also consorted with us in the lobby during intermission. (We overheard the evil judge asking a couple of audience members where they were seated. When they looked nervous, he said “At least I’m not the demon barber!”)



Sweeney Todd Off-Broadway Revival Barrow Street Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Pie available as a pre-theater meal. Image courtesy of the Sweeney Todd Facebook page.
Sweeney Todd Off-Broadway Revival Barrow Street Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Former White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses. Image courtesy of the Sweeney Todd Facebook page.

And there are real pies! As part of a pre-show experience, former White House Pastry chef, Bill Yosses, is offering theatergoers a meal of pie and mash in the theater/pie shop. Sweeney Todd at the Barrow Street Theatre is a fun update to a classic, and an unforgettable immersive theater experience.

Visit their website for additional information and tickets.

Tip: $39 lottery tickets are available for each performance and you can try your luck here. And if the interactive part of this experience scares you, shoot for seats in the front row of the balcony. You’ll have a great view but remain separate from most of the action.



Pair it with:

Savory pie at Jones Wood Foundry

Sweeney Todd Off-Broadway Revival Barrow Street Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Sweeney Todd Off-Broadway Revival Barrow Street Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Sweeney Todd Off-Broadway Revival Barrow Street Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Sweeney Todd Off-Broadway Revival Barrow Street Theatre - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Lynn and I decided to forgo the pre-theater pie (though, by all accounts, it was quite good), instead opting for a selection that our readers might enjoy sans this theater experience. But that doesn’t mean we opted out of the theme! Meat pies are sort of the grisly gimmick of the musical, so of course we visited a British Pub.

Jones Wood Foundry, an Upper East Side gem (yep, I used “gem” and “Upper East Side” in the same sentence) describes itself as a casually elegant, food-centric pub with a friendly staff, an expansive bar and a secret courtyard. And they weren’t lying. The food, particularly the savory pie, is well above what one would expect from a pub.

On this particular occasion, I went with the Pie of the Day, a delectable chicken and vegetable pie. The staff is not only friendly, but also knowledgeable​ and attentive. The bar in the front is separate from the more intimate dining area below, serving both casual drinkers and serious diners simultaneously. And that “secret courtyard”? Yeah, it’s lovely. The weather happened to be perfect on that spring evening and we took full advantage. The whole experience was so enjoyable, we couldn’t help but linger just a bit longer than we would normally find appropriate.

– 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.

Exhibitionism: The Rolling Stones at Industria



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

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



Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

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

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

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

Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

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

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

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

Exhibitionism is on display through March 12.  

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

Location:
775 Washington St

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

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



Pair it with:

Breakfast at High Street on Hudson

Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Exhibitionism Rolling Stones Industria - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

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

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

Location:
637 Hudson St

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

– L.

First Comes Love: This Election Blows at Lynn Redgrave Theater



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

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

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

first-comes-love-b46a7372

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

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

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

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



Pair it with:

Dinner at Minetta Tavern

Minetta Tavern - First Comes Love - Mad Hatters NYC

Minetta Tavern - First Comes Love - Mad Hatters NYC

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

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

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

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

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

Location:
113 Macdougal St

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

– J.

It’s 3.142 O’clock Somewhere: An Ode to the Best Pie in New York City



Pie is home. Pie is comfort and consistency, when life is anything but. I’ll take pie in any form: the crimped-edge, single-crusted oculus splendor, the vented double-crusted surprise, and even the lowly hand pie, with all the adult pop-tart binge baggage that comes along with it. And sure there’s a dark side to this obsession. My penchant for flaky crusts and sweet fillings has lead to undesirable trips to the tailor (I’m talking to you, skinny jeans), a couple of “I don’t feel so good” upset stomach moments, some unintentional excitement in the dentist’s chair (though causality or correlation has yet to be substantiated to my satisfaction), and innumerable half-hearted New Year’s resolutions.

The whole sordid affair began with a “sliver”. “Sliver” is a storied word in the familial lore on my father’s side of the family. We did not coin it. We do not claim its etymological origins. But it does have a particularly special meaning to us. It’s sort of a hereditary trait, perhaps a genetic disorder, pronounced over and over again through the generations. It may also have something to do with our Catholic upbringing and the inherent feelings of guilt and penance that the religion engenders in its acolytes.

Now, my family loves to eat. No, really, we do. But we also feel ambivalent (yes, in that uniquely Catholic sense) when we overindulge. Enter the word “sliver”. It works like this: You tell yourself, I won’t take a WHOLE piece, I’ll just take a “sliver”. But the heart wants what the heart wants, as they say. And so you have another “sliver” and another “sliver” and another “sliver”. Eventually, you’ve eaten three pieces of pie and you’re thinking about the next time you have to go to confession. Or therapy. Or both.

A famous incident in my youth still occasionally pops up, to my horror, as conversation fodder over family meals. Believe it or not, I was an inordinately skinny child (don’t let the contradictory visual evidence in our posts confound you). It didn’t matter how much I ate, I simply never put on weight. And like most children with extremely elevated metabolisms, I was constantly, insatiably hungry. What I remember most about my childhood is an acute feeling of deprivation. I was the type of kid who finished my plate, as well as three helpings of sides, and, to my parents’ astonishment, still managed to reach — Shaun of the Dead zombie-style — for that last piece of chicken at the dinner table.

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The incident in question occurred the night after Thanksgiving. My mother and late grandmother — indisputably the most dedicated and prodigious cooks I’ve ever known — had prepared a feast. Inevitably, there were plenty of leftovers. In particular, I recall the last, untouched, hermetically-sealed apple pie sitting in the refrigerator.

Late the very next night, I crept from my bedroom, long after everyone had gone to bed, propelled by the hunger pangs of a predator seeking his flaky-crusted prey. In the overwhelming silence and near absolute darkness, I drew open the silverware drawer and made off with the desired tools: a knife and a fork. Next, I made my way, ninja-style, to the refrigerator and pried open the door, a glaring blade of light slicing through nothingness. I removed my prize, closed the door and placed the pie on the counter, standing quietly, waiting for my eyes to adjust.

Shortly thereafter, I began with a “sliver”, then another and another and another. Vaguely, somewhere in my pie-intoxicated brain, I knew I’d get caught, but I convinced myself that perhaps my father or one of my brothers would be suspected.  (I hoped it would be Chris, to be honest, as I was still sore that he had absconded with me and my elder brother’s Easter baskets one year.)

But alas, the very next day the finger was squarely pointed at me from the jump. The physical evidence — flakes that had fallen from my shirt into my bed — was overwhelming. And when confronted with the evidence of my crime, what was my response? I said, It was JUST a “sliver”. Unfortunately, that’s not much of a defense for eating half a pie in the middle of the night.

So now that I’ve confessed my long sordid love affair with all things pie, I feel uniquely qualified to offer a few personal recommendations.  As you know, dear reader, Thanksgiving (or as I refer to it, Pie Season) is upon us. To usher in this baked-goodness extravaganza, I will here impart my favorite pies from around the city for your edification.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Brooklyn, NY

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Hands down, the best pie I’ve ever tasted. Period. This is the Everest Summit of pies in the five boroughs. They have an incredible selection, and you simply can’t go wrong, but it would be a criminal not to mention my partiality for the Salty Honey, Lemon Chess and Black Bottom Oat. Go there. Eat everything.

www.birdsblack.com

Bread’s Bakery, Union Square, New York, NY

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Now, everything’s good in this acclaimed bakery, from the bread to the pastries to the quiche. But everyone knows the star of the show is the award-winning Chocolate Babka. So what if I tell you that they make a Chocolate Babka pie for Thanksgiving? Whaaaat????!!!!! Yep. I won’t even bother telling you why you should place your order for this immediately, but I will double dare you to just eat a “sliver”. Goo-ood luck!

www.breadsbakery.com




Petee’s Pie Company, Lower East Side, New York, NY

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

I remember, vividly, my first experience here. I was walking along, minding my own business, when a smell wafted out of a nearby door, and I stopped dead in my tracks. While I cannot vouch for the rest of their pies — though it’s a solid bet they are delicious — the Salty Chocolate Chess is incredible. I’m not exaggerating when I say that someone — probably your mother — will be very disappointed in you if you don’t buy a slice and give it a go.

peteespie.com

Two Little Red Hens, Upper West Side, New York, NY

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

This right here is a classic, no-frills bakery: old school cake cases, pie stands, hefty glass cookie jars and the requisite odd collection of glazed ceramic hens. But don’t let its garishly folksy atmosphere throw you, there’s amazing pie to find at this uptown shop. I’m partial to their fruit pies, especially their exceptional Strawberry Rhubarb when it’s in season. If you’re in the neighborhood, a slice and a cup of joe is an absolute must.

www.twolittleredhens.com




Baked, Red Hook, Brooklyn NY and Tribeca, New York, NY

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Known for their baked goods and custom-made cakes, it would be outrageous to ignore the pies. I particularly love their Chocolate Bourbon Pecan and Pumpkin varieties.

www.bakednyc.com

Mah Ze Dahr, West Village, New York, NY

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Before the recent grand opening of their brick-and-mortar location, you could only get your hands on their pastries by ordering online or over the phone or by visiting one of their partner locations. And I may have been one of their greatest advocates. Between their acclaimed Brioche Doughnuts, delectable Dark Chocolate Brownies or incredible Lemon Ricotta Bread, you’re a winner with any choice. But my absolute favorite is one of their decadent hand pies. The Banana Nutella or the recent seasonal offering, Spiced Pear and Apple, are mind-blowingly delicious. Pick some up. Pick many of them up. Add ice cream. You’ll thank me.

mahzedahrbakery.com

Megpies Bakery, Brooklyn, NY

Best Pie New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Billed as “artisan tarts”, these hand pies are simply highfalutin’, adult pop-tarts, down to the haphazard frosting. When you have a last minute craving and can’t go out of your way to satisfy it, these are the no-nonsense, down-and-dirty answer to your pie-lemma. They have Strawberry, Raspberry, Chocolate and, my personal favorite, Cinnamon and Brown Sugar flavors. Pop these bad boys in the toaster oven for a warm, crispy treat. You’ll never consider that childish box at the grocery ever again.

www.megpies.com

This list should give you a solid head start on prepping for the holidays. (Or your next pie crawl.) If you’ve made a pie discovery or you have a long-time favorite that isn’t listed here, we‘d love to hear about it! Find us on Instagram, G+ and Facebook, or send us an email.  Sharing is caring.

– J.

Afternoon Tea in New York City



I grew up in Malaysia, a small Southeast Asian country that calls Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia its neighbors.  It’s a relatively young country, achieving independence only in 1957.  It was colonized by the Portuguese, the Dutch and then the British, with British rule being the longest.  You might be wondering where this is going.  This little history lesson is, quite simply, my roundabout way of justifying my penchant for afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea is still a common practice in Malaysia thanks to its colonizers, and many hotels and restaurants offer their take on it.  Some keep with the original British traditions and serve scones and sandwiches on tiered plates.  Others offer creative variations that incorporate more of the local cuisine.  Here in New York City, there are also a number of places to partake in afternoon tea.  While you can certainly find impressive spreads at the Ritz Carlton, the Plaza or the Mandarin Oriental, it can sometimes feel a little stuffy under the weight of all that tweed.  So I’ve picked out a few places that offer a more informal, fun experience.  Just in case you decide to throw your very own Mad Hatter Tea Party.

Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon

Afternoon Tea New York City - Mad Hatters NYC

Afternoon Tea New York City - Mad Hatters NYC

Afternoon Tea New York City - Mad Hatters NYC

Afternoon Tea New York City - Mad Hatters NYC

Afternoon Tea New York City - Mad Hatters NYC

Of its many charms, high on the list is that Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon is named after the OG Girl Boss, the intriguing Elsie de Wolfe.  She was an actress who became known for her self-curated costumes, she was one half of a gay power couple (her partner was an influential literary agent who represented the likes of Oscar Wilde), and she pioneered the entire craft of interior design (her impressive portfolio includes what is now the Frick Collection).  And this was in the late 1800s and early 1900s!  

Her namesake Victorian-style tea salon is housed in a brownstone on Irving Place.  The beautiful gilded wallpaper and charmingly mismatched tableware create a warm and cozy atmosphere.  The tea service, which is the only thing they offer, is a five-course affair that starts with a fruit cup, moves on to finger sandwiches, a scone, a mille crepe, and finally a small plate of finger desserts.  

In the interest of full disclosure, we’ve been visiting Lady Mendl’s for years and we’ve definitely noticed some cost-cutting measures — you now get your tea cup refilled throughout your visit instead of getting your own pot of tea, and you get a fixed selection of finger sandwiches instead of being allowed to choose from a selection of sandwiches twice.  But overall we contend that the experience is still quite enjoyable.  It feels like you’re hanging out in a really rich relative’s living room, and the measured pace of the afternoon tea is perfect for catching up with friends on a crisp fall day.  

Location:
56 Irving Pl

Hours:
Wednesday-Friday 1 pm to 4 pm
Saturday-Sunday 12 pm to 5 pm



Crosby Street Hotel

Afternoon Tea New York City - Mad Hatters NYC

Afternoon Tea New York City - Mad Hatters NYC

Afternoon Tea New York City - Mad Hatters NYC

Afternoon Tea New York City - Mad Hatters NYC

Afternoon Tea New York City - Mad Hatters NYC

The Crosby Street Hotel is the Firmdale Hotels’ only New York property; their eight other properties are located in London.  This is why, we posit, the afternoon tea here is so darn good.  We’ve always had a soft spot for the property with it’s funky and welcoming vibe, and we were happy to highlight their fun Film Club evenings in this post.  But they also serve afternoon tea ALL DAY.  I repeat: ALL DAY.  

The Crosby Bar, where the tea is served, is a quirky, cheery, modern space.  The tea service here is executed with more gastronomic flair, so in addition to housemade scones (which are excellent), you’ll get a chocolate English peppermint éclair and a smoked salmon crostini.  And for those coming down off a holiday feast (or just a really rough Saturday night), you also have the option of going with a Detox version, which is free of gluten, dairy, egg, and refined sugars.  The overall experience is a wonderful alternative to brunch, so put on your maddest hat and raise those pinky fingers.

Location:
79 Crosby St

Hours:
Daily 7 am to 1 pm



Tea & Sympathy

Afternoon Tea New York City - Mad Hatters NYC

Afternoon Tea New York City - Mad Hatters NYC

Afternoon Tea New York City - Mad Hatters NYC

Afternoon Tea New York City - Mad Hatters NYC

Afternoon Tea New York City - Mad Hatters NYC

Tea & Sympathy is an authentic British-run spot in the West Village where expats can find comforts of home like bangers n’ mash and shepherd’s pie.  The tiny restaurant is charmingly covered in English kitsch.  What you’ll get here is basic food service: they offer no bells and whistles.  Some patrons find the service brusque: the eatery openly states on the menu that they discourage lingering and that they may require patrons to “relocate” to different tables if the need arises.  Those waiting for a table have to self-police: they don’t take a number to text you later, in fact, they don’t even take a name.  But the terse service isn’t in any way impolite, it’s just unapologetically British.

If you’re looking for a no-frills version of afternoon tea, then this is it.  Everyone in the restaurant is there for the food.  Their afternoon tea includes finger sandwiches, scones and a selection of cakes.  The scones are exactly the way they should be: firm on the outside and still fluffy and crumbly on the inside.  The tea selection is also excellent: I fell in love with their Apple Mango tea so I popped into the store next door and picked up some loose leaf to brew at home.  And I may have picked up some Walkers crisps while I was at it.

Location:
108 Greenwich Ave

Hours:
Monday-Thursday 10.00 am to 10.30 pm
Friday – Sunday 9.30 am – 10.30 pm
(call for afternoon tea hours)

– L.

 

Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King at Cherry Lane Theatre

Standing in the small bend on Commerce Street in the West Village, waiting for the doors of the Cherry Lane Theatre to open, I take a quick glance around and note that Hasan Minhaj’s demographic is mostly what you’d expect: young and ethnic (myself included – well, definitely ethnic, young, not so much) .  And unsurprisingly, he starts out his performance acknowledging the “brown people” in the audience.  I cringe a little, fearing we’re in for a stale series of immigrant jokes that panders to a growing minority.  Thankfully, it pulls out of that treacherous territory quickly.  

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Hasan Minhaj is probably most familiar as a correspondent on The Daily Show.  But his background is varied, and it includes experience as a storyteller on The Moth (which we’ve featured on the blog here).  Hasan’s time with The Moth serves him well in this endeavor, as his one-man show, Homecoming King, falls into a comfortable nook where storytelling and stand-up comedy overlap.  He comes across like that really funny friend who’s telling you a good story over dinner.  The tales are deeply personal, a trademark of the millennials who have consistently shared, posted, blogged and tweeted throughout their lives.  While some jokes land better than others, it’s clear where Hasan succeeds is in getting his audience to invest in him and his journey, as they collectively sigh, cry out and laugh at his shenanigans.  He exposes himself as a mean older sibling, as a coward, as a vindictive ex, and we can all relate.  He touches on hypocrisy and bigotry, but the themes that are core to his story—seeking acceptance from our parents, having our hearts broken by a first love, chasing impossible dreams—are universal.  By the end of the show, when he proudly recalls being mentored by an idol and landing the gig at The Daily Show, the audience is fully rooting for him and sharing in his success, and that is no small feat.

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Homecoming King is on an extended run at the Cherry Lane Theatre through January 30, 2016.  The theatre, which is situated on a charming street in the West Village (okay, I agree, they’re all charming and we hate everyone who gets to live there), is the longest continuously running Off-Broadway theatre and their mission is to “cultivate an urban artist colony, honor our groundbreaking history, and engage audiences in creating theater that illuminates contemporary issues, and at its best, transforms the spirit.”  The intimate setting enhances the experience, and it is a good match indeed.

For more information on the show and to buy tickets, visit their website here.

Tip: General Rush $20 tickets are  available at the Cherry Lane box office from 2 hours before showtime. Limit 2 per patron, subject to availability.

Location:
38 Commerce Street

Pair it with:

Dessert at Dominique Ansel Kitchen

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There is no shortage of quaint, picture-perfect restaurants to dine at in the West Village.  So pick one, then head to Dominique Ansel Kitchen for something sweet before the show.  Dominique Ansel, who created and patented the famous cronut, opened this outlet as a “hybrid bakery”, where pastries are prepared so that they can be enjoyed in the timeliest way possible. For the Chocolate Mousse, that means it is made-to-order, created once requested.  And for the Honeycrisp Apple Blossom Tart, that means it has been allowed to sit for the right amount of time prior to consumption.  There is bleacher seating inside, which gives you a great view of the expansive, open kitchen as you make your way through that life-altering tea-ramisu (tiramisu made with black tea instead of coffee?  What??).  So build in some time and leave some room in your belly for the creative, delightful desserts offered here.  You won’t regret it.

Location:
137 Seventh Avenue South (between Charles and W 10th Sts.)

Hours:
Mon – Sun : 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

– L.

 

The Curious Case of the Hess Triangle (or something to see on the way to dinner)

“Hey, hey, easy kids. Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes… or perhaps you don’t want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?”

-Clark Griswold, National Lampoons Vacation

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There’s something uniquely American about making a pilgrimage to the site of a reputed curio. The offbeat, quirky, secretive and inexplicable have this magnetic quality for us. One finds oneself drawn to these oddities, if for no other reason than the satisfaction of being compelled to utter the words: “Well, you don’t see that every day.” Now, mind you, there’s no need to drive cross-country to see something out of the ordinary (like, for instance, Cawker City, Kansas where the World’s Largest Ball of Twine actually happens to reside). You don’t even have to leave Manhattan for that matter. You simply have to venture over to the southwest corner of Christopher Street and Seventh Avenue in Greenwich Village where you’ll find the Hess Triangle, a small mosaic tile demarcating the most diminutive parcel of private property upon which taxes are paid to New York City. The odd triangular parcel, inscribed with the proclamation PROPERTY OF THE HESS ESTATE WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN DEDICATED FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES, is the all caps RESULT of an eminent domain dispute between a landlord and the City of New York. If there’s a better exemplification of the pugnacious character of the New York psyche, I’ve not heard it. And don’t forget to commit the fairly minor offense of trespassing by planting your foot squarely within the boundaries of that triangle and snapping a pic for posterity. You better believe I did. For the rest of the story behind the Hess Triangle, there’s a great article here.

Pair it with:

Dinner at the Spotted Pig

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Simply cast a net haphazardly out into the murky depths of the Interwebs and you will undoubtedly bring back a trove of reviews and articles regaling April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman’s beloved West Village gastropub. It’s a foregone conclusion there will be a reference to the Michelin star it has been awarded for 7 years straight. And you’ll almost certainly be made aware of the many celebrities who frequent the establishment (I’m talking to you, Aziz Ansari!), but none of that matters. What matters is The Spotted Pig always seems to hit that sweet spot, the nexus where food, drink, ambiance, culture and company come together perfectly. An evening spent in its cozy dining rooms, with its friendly and efficient staff, conjures such questions as: Why did I think Deviled Eggs should only be served in the summer and on checkered tablecloths? Can a burger be elevated from a greasy diner classic to a sophisticated “dish” while not just retaining but improving upon its character? (Yes.) And last but not least, where has Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Gnudi with brown butter and crispy sage been my whole life? For further gushing, read this review from our friends over at The Infatuation here.

Tip: The Spotted Pig does not take reservations and sometimes the excruciatingly long wait at peak times can be brutal. I suggest slipping in and putting your name in when the kitchen is *semi-closed, between the tail end of the Bar Menu hours (4-5pm) and the start of dinner (5:30pm). It’s the perfect amount of time to have a drink. If it’s past 5:30pm and you still haven’t been seated, order some of their amazing small plates at the bar (the Chicken Liver Toast is a good play). And again, the staff is very friendly and accommodating, so getting your bill transferred once you get a table is a snap!

Location:
314 West 11th Street, at Greenwich Street

Hours:
Brunch: 11am – 3pm (weekends only)
Lunch: 12pm – 3pm
*Bar Menu: 3pm – 5pm
Dinner: 5:30pm – 2am

– J.