Variety is the Spice of Life: A Cooking Class with Taste Buds Kitchen



It’s not easy to admit, but I was a pretty spoiled child. Not with clothes or toys, but with time. My mother gave us few chores because she was worried that a heavy roster would distract from our education. She tirelessly carted us to and from school plus extra-curriculars and showed up for parent-teacher meetings. She did our laundry and cleaned our rooms. And she cooked. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had warm meals on the table every single day, meals that we still recall fondly (and shamelessly request on home visits).

Justin and I, however, both work full-time jobs. If you glance at our blog posts or our Instagram and Twitter feeds, it would take you 2 seconds to figure out that we like to eat. A lot. Frozen packaged dinners were never going to suffice. And unfortunately, we can’t afford a Seamless habit. So we had to start cooking. Justin may have some love for the craft, whereas I HATE IT. (Single Lynn sometimes ate ice cream for dinner. No cooking and no clean up!) Over the years we’ve slowly built a catalog of easy meals that we can throw together quickly. When we heard about Taste Buds Kitchen, we thought it might be a fun way to add to our repertoire.



Cooking Class with Taste Buds Kitchen New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Cooking Class with Taste Buds Kitchen New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Cooking Class with Taste Buds Kitchen New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Making our own Garam Masala

We signed up for the Taste of India class because we like Indian food, but also because it happens to be vegan. We thought it might provide us with a nice option for a light midweek meal. All the ingredients we needed to make the Tikka Masala, Veggie Samosas and Naan Bread were placed at our Taste Buds Kitchen cooking station. The instructor performed demonstrations, which included step-by-step instructions as well as some kitchen basics (like how to hold a knife). But we received personal instruction at our cooking stations as well.

There were a couple of times when we got a little lost. But we were able to flag down either the instructor or one of the cooking assistants for clarification. I wondered why they didn’t provide the recipe cards ahead of time, but I suspect it’s to prevent over-eager students from jumping ahead. (I probably would.)



Cooking Class with Taste Buds Kitchen New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Cooking Class with Taste Buds Kitchen New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
This is how we roll 😉

Cooking Class with Taste Buds Kitchen New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Cooking Class with Taste Buds Kitchen New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The cooking stations accommodate groups of up to four people, so we found ourselves sharing a table with a stranger. But there’s nothing like getting your hands dirty and preparing a meal together to make you feel like you’ve made a new friend. We observed this at the other tables too — there seemed to be a healthy dose of conversation and classroom selfies going around. The class is BYOB — I’m sure that helped!

At the end of the class we sat down to eat the food we’d prepared, so the cost of the class includes a multi-course meal. We were provided with recipe cards of all the items we made so that we could recreate the meals at home. To-go containers were on hand in case we wanted to take any leftovers with us. Best of all: no clean up. The team at Taste Buds Kitchen takes care of that for you.

Cooking Class with Taste Buds Kitchen New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Pardon the misshapen samosas, those appear to require a little more practice!
Cooking Class with Taste Buds Kitchen New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The Tikka Masala we re-created at home a week later

All in all, it was a fun way to spend an evening. If you’re already an experienced cook looking to take your culinary skills to the next level, or if you’re expecting to learn how to make complex authentic Indian dishes, then the Taste of India class at Taste Buds Kitchen might not be the class for you. But if you want to learn how to make something easy at home that isn’t spaghetti, then this is an enjoyable way to do it. Note that the full two hours were used for instruction and the dining time was additional, so plan accordingly. Taste Buds Kitchen’s tag line is “Learn. Laugh. Cook.” We guarantee you will do all of those things. Bring some friends. Or make new ones.

Taste Buds Kitchen has locations nationwide, and it offers classes for a wide range of cuisines while accommodating many dietary restrictions. It also offers several children’s cooking classes and camps, which seem like a fun way to introduce kids to the kitchen. (Or to assist any children — and parents! — with MasterChef Junior aspirations.) Check out all their options on the schedule here.

Thank you to Taste Buds Kitchen for partnering on this post.



Pair it with:

Dessert at Untitled

Cooking Class with Taste Buds Kitchen New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Cooking Class with Taste Buds Kitchen New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

 

So maybe your Taste Buds Kitchen outing was a first date (well played!) and it was an absolute triumph. Or maybe you met some really fun people you’d really like to continue chatting and taking we-fies with. Or maybe you’re Justin and Lynn. Either way, following up with dessert might seem like the obvious move.

If that’s the case, make your way over to Untitled at the Whitney Museum for the Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookie. Chef Miro Uskokovic, the pastry chef at both Gramercy Tavern and Untitled, concocted a cookie made with a combination of dark, milk and white chocolate that is finished with sea salt. It manages to be crisp on the outside, but light and gooey on the inside. And believe it or not, it’s gluten-free. The cookie is served with a miniature cup of milk (that you might recall from our Instagram Stories). It’s not only considered one of the best cookies, but one of the best desserts in New York City by many.

Location:
99 Gansevoort Street

Hours:
Coffee & Pastry:
Monday – Friday beginning at 9am
Saturday & Sunday beginning at 10am
Brunch:Saturday & Sunday 11am – 3:30pm
Lunch:Monday – Friday 12pm – 3pm
Dinner:
Wednesday – Saturday 5:30pm – 10pm
Sunday – Tuesday 5:30pm – 9pm

– L.

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.

Bird Hunting in New York City: The Audubon Mural Project



Did you go camping when you were a kid? I did. Do you have fond memories of sleeping in a tent and fishing in a lake? I don’t. Camping taught me one valuable lesson: that I hate camping. Part of it probably has to do with the fact that camping in Malaysia often involves thick jungle, humid air, mosquitoes, leeches, and ghost stories. And sorry, but Asian ghosts are TERRIFYING.

I’m a city girl, through and through. Do I love nature? Sure. I’d love to go on an African Safari or visit a wildlife sanctuary. But camping out in a wooded park in New Jersey? I’ll pass. So when I say “Let’s go bird hunting!”, I’m meaning for bird murals, of course.



Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Peter Daverington. Endangered species: Bald Eagle
Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Jason Covert. Endangered Species: Brown Pelicans
Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Don Rimx. Endangered Species: Yellow-headed Blackbird

Why bird murals specifically? Because we have a ton of them. And it’s not a coincidence. John James Audubon, the name synonymous with ornithology, spent his final years in a large rural estate in upper Manhattan. The first bird preservation society, The National Audubon Society, was named in his honor. It’s since evolved into a powerful non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the conservation of all natural ecosystems.

The Audubon Mural Project is a collaboration between the National Audubon Society and Harlem art gallery Gitler &_____. Together they set out to create murals of climate-threatened birds throughout John James Audubon’s old stomping grounds in New York City. In 2014, The National Audubon Society issued a Birds and Climate Change Report, which studied how North America’s birds may respond to future climate change. It found potential impact on 314 species. So the goal is to commission artists to paint murals of each of these species to bring awareness to the issue.

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Shawn Bullen. Endangered Species: Western Bluebird and Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: ATM. Endangered Species: Townsend’s Warbler

The Audubon Mural Project is still very much an ongoing venture, with only 67 of the 314 species painted. The murals are scattered throughout the neighborhood on gates, doors and walls. Use the map above to track down all the existing murals. Just note that the ones located on gates might not be visible if the business is open, so plan your bird hunt strategically.

The Audubon Mural Project is still seeking sponsors. Donations would fund the artists and help obtain the supplies needed. If you’re interested in offering assistance, you can contact Avi Gitler of Gitler &_____.

Featured photo is courtesy of Audubon.org, Photo: Mike Fernandez/Audubon.

Note: This post is part of our continuing summer series on street art in New York City. Learn about the Welling Court Mural Project, the Bushwick Collective, or link to the others through this post. We promise the breadth of the talent will astound you!



Extra Credit

Harlem has an extremely rich history, and has been home to a very diverse demographic. Besides John James Audubon, its famous residents have included Alexander Hamilton, Harry Houdini, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday. More recent famous residents include George Carlin, Alice Neel and Moby. It’s an essential piece of New York City’s story. Walk around and explore, you’ll come across quite a few gems!

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Pair it with:

Dinner at Oso

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Oso is a special restaurant in Harlem that captures a magical mixture of good food, good drinks and great ambiance. It manages to feel fresh yet familiar, easy yet sophisticated. The Day of the Dead-inspired wall art is the perfect find to top off a day of mural-hunting. Oso takes Mexican street food and turns it into a dining experience.  It strives to makes sure its dishes maintain authenticity by working with a family from Puebla on the menu. The pozole was delicious, and I was particularly enamored with their Pulpo entree, which combines octopus, potatoes, stewed pimento and mandarin oranges. It’ll make you wish Harlem was your neighborhood, and this was your joint.

And here’s a random fact: it’s owned by Alex Trebek’s son!

Location:
1618 Amsterdam Ave

Hours:
Lunch
7 days 11:00 am-4:15 pm

Dinner
Sun – Wed 5:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Thu – Sat 5:00 pm – 12:00 pm

– L.

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.

Burgers, Brews and Bergman: Boutique Movie Theaters in New York City



New Yorkers know summer weather is great… until it isn’t. The stench of  _______ in the city becomes unbearable (there are so many varieties, I’ll let you fill in the blank with your favorite). We lose half our ice cream cone down our arms before we have a chance to eat it. My personal breaking point? When my skirt and my thighs become a singular entity. And when that moment hits, it’s time to find some indoor relief. Movie theaters, it turns out, are the perfect escape.

Justin and I have long been cinephiles but truth be told, our movie tastes don’t always align. I refuse to watch anything with Tom Cruise in it. I also secretly love dance movies. We stream the movies the other half isn’t interested in, and never discuss the “Recently Watched” queue as part of our unspoken marriage contract. But when there’s a movie that we’re both excited to see, we love putting down the remote and heading to an actual theater. We’re not talking about the ones with stale popcorn and sticky floors. Here are some theaters that turn moviegoing into an experience.



Metrograph

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

A post shared by Metrograph (@metrographnyc) on

Alexander Olch is a filmmaker and fashion designer, and Metrograph is exactly the space you would expect from him. Metrograph not only projects archive quality 35mm and state-of-the-art digital video, it also houses a bookstore and lounge with top-notch aesthetics. Even the snack bar looks like it jumped off the page of a design magazine. The movies are selected by a team who has experience curating for BAM and the Museum of Moving Image, so if pedigree is what you’re looking for you will find it here. They run interesting retrospectives, fun themed events and exclusive premieres. We personally love grabbing a seat in the front row of the balcony, although there doesn’t really seem to be a bad seat in the intimate space. The in-house restaurant and bar, Commissary, offers a nice place to enjoy brunch before a matinee or a nightcap after an evening show.

Location:
7 Ludlow St



Alamo Drafthouse

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Alamo Drafthouse is a Texas import that has grown from its humble beginnings as a second-run theater into a powerhouse chain with company-owned and franchised locations across the country. Quentin Tarantino once hosted marathon screenings from his personal collection at its original location, which speaks to its history supporting independent film and filmmakers. They don’t screen ads (“you’ve already paid to see the movie”) and enforce a strict movie etiquette. All the locations strive to stay true to the original unique programming with their Signature Series. They also offer a comprehensive menu of food and drinks which can be purchased and consumed during the movie. While we like the idea of a full-service dine-in theater, the reality isn’t quite as appealing if you’re trying to focus on the movie. We recommend sticking to the creative shakes or the highly rated chocolate chip cookie.

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Pro Tip: The downtown Brooklyn location is at City Point, which is also home to the new DeKalb Market Hall. The choices there are extremely varied, so your dining options before or after the movie are unbeatable.

Location:
445 Albee Square West



Nitehawk Cinema

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Nitehawk Cinema was one of the first New York City theaters to offer the dine-in experience and actually had to overturn a prohibition-era New York State liquor law to do so. There are many aspects that are similar to those you would find at Alamo Drafthouse, including the paired seats and the ordering system. Nitehawk also offers its own film series, which include the popular brunch and midnight movie offerings. Lo-Res is the in-house bar located on the ground floor of the theater, which offers the full Nitehawk menu. The food offerings didn’t blow us away, and they are very strict about making no substitutions or amendments. Again, we recommend sticking to snack foods like the gourmet popcorn or the tater tots. Save space for a meal at one of the many choice eateries in Williamsburg.

Location:
136 Metropolitan Ave

All of the theaters mentioned in this post offer online booking with the ability to select your seats, which is a nice option if you’re worried about a show selling out, or if you’re particular about where you like to sit. The creative programming relies on a healthy mix of new releases and older favorites.

On a lovely day, I will argue that there’s no better place to be than New York City. But on the not-so-lovely days, turn these theaters into your sanctuary from the nasty weather raging outside.

– L.

Falling in Love with Astoria, Starting with Welling Court Mural Project



Not so long ago, I sat across from a colleague at work–for the purposes of this post, let’s call him “Scott”. Scott owned an apartment in Astoria. And I used to tease Scott about his choice of residency mercilessly. This was mostly because Scott had a mouth on him, and making fun of his neighborhood was one of the few things, besides trashing his beloved Yankees, that would get a rise out of him. And I won’t lie, I enjoyed getting a rise out of him quite a bit.

“We’d do Happy Hour up there where you live, Scott”, I’d say, “but my passport has expired”.



Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Fast forward to our recent journey to Astoria to explore Welling Court Mural Project, after an Instagram friend (thanks, Susan!) reminded us that we couldn’t possibly exclude it from our summer series on street art. (This post links to others in the series.)

We don’t make it out to Astoria often, and shortly after we arrived I was quickly reminded: boy, was I ever wrong to ridicule this neighborhood. For the uninitiated, Astoria is a northwestern neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens. It’s incredibly diverse, with inhabitants represented from all different walks of life. And, contrary to my previous trolling, it is just a short subway ride away from Manhattan. (Approximately 30 minutes from Union Square, even less from Midtown.)



Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Welling Court Mural Project is an annual multi-block, art beautification event. The most recent one took place this past June, for the eighth consecutive year. It’s an incredible celebration of art as well as the culture and diversity of the neighborhood, and it beautifully exemplifies the symbiosis that can be found between artists and communities.

Though Welling Court Mural Project feels a little more low-key, random and spread out than, say, Bushwick Collective, that is absolutely not, in any way, meant to infer that the art is any less ambitious, complex or meaningful. Welling Court Mural Project, with its picnics and potlucks, exudes a vibe that’s a little more intimate, subdued and local. Support is welcome in the form of monetary assistance, supplies or time. You can find a map of the art on their website, but we particularly enjoy just wandering around on an urban treasure hunt of sorts. There are so many gems to discover.



Extra credit: Socrates Sculpture Park

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

If you’re making the trip out to Astoria for Welling Court Mural Project, we’d encourage you to also pay the Socrates Sculpture Park a visit. The former landfill was co-opted and transformed into an outdoor museum and exhibition space. The beautiful waterfront property is ideal for picnics and morning strolls. Besides thoughtful art exhibitions (the current one features Jamaican artist Nari Ward), the park also offers a number of free events and programs throughout the year.  Enjoy outdoor cinema or any number of fitness programs, gratis.



Pair it with:

Brunch at Queens Comfort

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Falling In Love with Astoria Welling Court Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

When our resident Astoria expert, kindred spirit and blogger-in-arms, Lauren from Girl in Gotham City invited us to meet up with her for brunch at Queens Comfort, we were quite excited. Like me, she’s a donut hound, and Queens Comfort partners with one of the better purveyors, Donut Diva. But, of course, we weren’t there just for that beloved breakfast dessert. She pointed us to their Instagram account beforehand, and we were giddy with anticipation of the bizarre, Texas State Fair-meets-Saturday Morning Cartoons take on seemingly staid and predictable comfort-food dishes.

If logic informs your decision-making, you’ll never find yourself answering in the affirmative to the following questions:

Is it reasonable to eat a Cap’n Crunch Crusted Chicken Sandwich?
Can something vegetarian be ridiculously unhealthy?
Should I eat something as dubious as the Deep Fried Guacamole Onion Rings?
Is Oreo Brioche French Toast worth miserably flunking my next cholesterol test?
Should I wash all of that down with a Nutella Glazed Strawberry Donut?

Now, sure, I would never recommend eating these types of things on a regular basis, but every once in awhile, you have to live a little. Queens Comfort is a great place to do just that and with a heaping helping of flair. And besides, if we made good decisions all the time, what fun would that be?

If you missed our Instagram Stories from that weekend, we threw a couple of clips into this quick video:

Pro Tip: Queens Comfort does not accept reservations. Show up 15 minutes before open and get in line to ensure you make the first seating. Getting there early is its own reward, as James Avatar (whose story is a worthy read in its own right) offers a dazzling display of showmanship. The self-proclaimed “barker” and host of Queens Comfort is the perfect introduction to the wacky, childlike joy that awaits. BYOB and cash only.

Location:
40-09 30th Ave

Hours:
Tue-Fri 11am–4pm, 5:30pm–9:30pm
Sat 10am–3:45pm, 6:00pm–9:30pm
Sun 10am–3:45pm

– J.

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between at the Metropolitan Museum of Art



Like many women, I’ve had a somewhat turbulent relationship with my self-image. Thanks to a particularly nasty bout with eczema when I was younger and constant weight fluctuations, it was difficult to feel comfortable — much less confident — in my own skin. Age helped me navigate those treacherous waters, but fashion was mostly what kept me afloat. Despite how I felt about my body, I always found ways to have fun with how I dressed.

Being in New York City is a dream for fans of fashion. The city is filled with arbiters of personal style who offer boundless inspiration on a daily basis. It plays host to New York Fashion Week, which draws the fashion elite from all over the world. And it’s home to The Met’s Costume Institute. The annual spring exhibition is something I look forward to, and I was particularly excited to learn that Rei Kawakubo would be the subject this year. She is only the second living designer to be granted the honor.



Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons Art In-Between Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons Art In-Between Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons Art In-Between Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons Art In-Between Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons Art In-Between Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
I’ll take one of each, thanks 🙂

Tokyo-born Rei Kawakubo is the founder of Comme des Garçons and Dover Street Market, and has been a reluctant influence in the world of fashion. Her designs are often considered too avant garde to be wearable, and push the boundaries of translating fashion into art. But her designs also challenge the relationship between our bodies and the clothes that cover them. Many of her fans live outside the space occupied by tall, blonde beauties in skintight dresses.

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between is an exhibit that highlights the dualities of her designs and all the spaces in between. It draws from collections as far back as 1982 and juxtaposes such ideas as Absence/Presence, High/Low, Self/Other and Clothes/Not Clothes.



“I wasn’t limited to the confines of a pattern. Not being educated, not being taught how to design, I was able to visualize in a completely different context. And I still seem able to draw upon the unconventional.”
– Rei Kawakubo, 1993

Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons Art In-Between Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons Art In-Between Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons Art In-Between Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons Art In-Between Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons Art In-Between Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
When you match the display!

The exhibition also features the work of her longtime collaborator, hairstylist Julien d’Ys. The two have worked together for decades, so it’s only fitting that the exhibition features his work alongside hers. He’s said that Rei Kawakubo often gives him only one word to work with, like “bird” or “silver”. His headpieces in the exhibit are equally as captivating.

It’s taken some time, but I’ve learned to accept who I am and what I’m comfortable in. Do I still want to be the girl with the super long legs in the jeans that fit her like a glove? Sure, sometimes. But do I want to be the super cool Comme des Garçons girl in a leather jacket and a poufy skirt? All the time.

If you missed it, you can read our post on last year’s Costume Institute exhibition, Manus X Machina here

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between is on display through September 9 and access is included in your admission to the Met.

Location:
1000 5th Ave



Pair it with:

Soba at Cocoron

Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons Art In-Between Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons Art In-Between Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons Art In-Between Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Cocoron is a Japanese-owned restaurant that specializes in homemade soba noodles. It has stealthily grown its presence in the Lower East Side with a health-centric focus by using only the highest-quality ingredients. Hot and cold soba options are available, which makes it a wonderful year-round option. You can choose to have your soba noodles served in a soup, or dipping style. The dipping style offers a more concentrated broth, which can be watered down at the end of the meal to be consumed on its own.

Cocoron has always offered several vegan options, but has since expanded to offer gluten-free noodles as well. The staff is keenly aware of potential food allergens, and can provide a detailed guide to their patrons who have strict dietary restrictions. They also consistently experiment with flavors, offering specials like the Thai-influenced Tom Yum soba, the Korean-influenced Kimchee soba, and the Nepali-influenced Nam San special (named for the Nepalese chef who created it). We’ve been patronizing the joint for years, and we’re happy to report that they’ve recently opened a third, more spacious location. Cocoron strikes the perfect balance between something familiar and something experimental.

Location:
Multiple locations

– L.

 

Blink and You’ll Miss It: Street Art Helps a Neighborhood Say Goodbye at Market Surplus



Things move quickly in New York City. What’s here today may very well be gone tomorrow. You’ll wake up one morning and find this fickle city has reinvented itself overnight. Your favorite bar is now a Pier 1 Imports. That bodega, where you buy your egg and cheese on a roll every morning before work, now serves tall, grande, and venti something-something-somethings. Oh, and that legendary theater where you saw that incredible set by Black Keys? Yeah, that’s gone. I have it on good authority it’s gonna be another high-rise luxury condo project. And so goes, for better or worse, the perpetual metamorphosis of this great metropolis.



Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Hanksy AKA Adam Lucas. Look closely for a map of the Lower East Side.
Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Buff Monster
Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Anna Laurini

Our recent visit to the Market Surplus is just such an example of the city’s transience. It was a three day flash exhibition held at the historic Lower East Side building formerly home to the Essex Market. It’s a building which, sadly, is scheduled for demolition in the coming weeks.

Market Surplus was the brainchild of New York-based artist, Hanksy, who worked, with the assistance of the developer, Essex Crossing, to bring to fruition his vision. The goal was to produce typically outdoor, semi-permanent, large-scale murals within the confines of this impermanent interior space, all with subtle or explicit thematic references to the neighborhood.



Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Elle
Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: BK Foxx. In memory of Mark Clemente, who battled drug and alcohol addiction. He passed away due to liver complications earlier this year.
Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Pixel Pancho
Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Faust

Although Hansky (Hank See as he playfully signed his work in this case) was a contributor, he was only one of many. He brought with him such renowned street artists as Buff Monster, Elle, Faust, NDA, BK Foxx, Owvbics, Pixel Pancho, Sonni, and L’amour Supreme. Market Surplus was meant to come together quickly and disappear quickly, sans the usual hype and promotion.

It was quite a spectacle, seeing so much art crammed into what was, until very recently, just another vacant space. But it was also an impressive show of community. There were neighborhood kids running around. Locals were taking photos and telling stories from days past when they visited the market. A group of dancers were being filmed for a music video. Even the artist himself, Adam Lucas, was on hand to discuss his work as well as the larger exhibition. Donations were accepted to benefit the LES Girls Club. Sure, the building, as well as the art within it, will soon be gone (if not already), and that is certainly a loss. But it’s a loss that the neighborhood can overcome, so long as the culture and community don’t go along with it.

Note: This post is a continuing part of our summer series on street art in New York City. Find the work of many other talented artists in earlier posts below:

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Chasing Rainbows at the Bushwick Collective: The Ultimate Street Art Destination in New York City

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

It’s My Party And I’ll Paint If I Want To: A Street Art Mural Party in New York City

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Sun, Surf and Street Art: A Visit to Coney Art Walls




Pair it with:

Brunch at Chef’s Club Counter

Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Market Surplus Street Art Flash Pop-up - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

If you’re as food-obsessed as we are, you’ve probably read listicles, watched Instagram stories and participated in Twitter chats about what the next Avocado Toast is going to be. But we have a confession to make: we’re not ready to move on. And hence we found ourselves at Chef’s Club Counter. We were there for one reason: the Breakfast Plates from Chef Alvin Cailan’s (of LA’s Eggslut fame) guest menu that will soon be part of his new venture Paper Planes.

I went with a safe choice, The Farmer: sautéed asparagus served with 7-grain toast topped with fresh avocado spread and a sunny side up egg. Lynn, being uncharacteristically adventurous (that’s usually my role) went with The Fisherman: Smoked salmon spread on 7-grain toast topped with a sunny side up egg, red onion relish, pickled mustard seeds and chives. And you know we had to share a side of the Hash Nuggets, or as Lynn ridiculed, “fancy ass tater tots”. Okay, she’s right. But you know what? All of it was delicious, even those “fancy ass tater tots”. So there!

On a shameful side note, if you are the kind of person who would consider eating ice cream following brunch (cough: Justin), then it might be important for you to know there’s a carnival-themed Chef’s Club Counter pop-up of Brooklyn’s OddFellows Ice Cream located in the adjacent space for the summer. But only if you’re that kind of person.

– J.

 

Up on the Roof: The Theater of Disappearance by Adrián Villar Rojas at The Met


“When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space”
– Up on the Roof, The Drifters, 1962

There are very few things New Yorkers love more than the following (in no particular order of appreciation): soaking in the sun, lounging on rooftops and imbibing a few cocktails. Offer any of these things, or all of them at once, and you’ll find hoards of the city’s faithful congregated.

The Met’s Cantor Roof and its incredible ongoing series of installations is, perhaps, a nonpareil example of this. Most recently, Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas was honored with reimagining the space, and let’s just say he made the absolute most of it.



Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Villar Rojas added a new pergola, a grand tiled floor, a bar, public benches and augmented Botanical arrangements. Set within this and atop the black and white chessboard pattern of the tiles, were introduced sculpted replicas, in black and white, of nearly 100 objects from The Met collection, including human figures, furniture, animals, cutlery, and even food.

On our recent visit, it was with little difficulty that I ignored the awe-inspiring views of the city, the long lines at the bar or the security officers scolding those who venture a smidge too close to the sculptures. (Okay, that was us. Photo evidence below.)

Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Just showing some New York hospitality 😉



Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
This the flipside of the piece above!

Instead, I focused entirely on Villar Rojas’ engrossing creation. It was a doomsday chess match of sorts, or at least that was my initial thought. However, it occurred to me shortly thereafter that the installation also reminded me of something else. It brought to mind images of the archaeological sites depicting the aftermath of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, particularly Pompeii’s The Garden of Fugitives. And upon closer examination, the figures, animals and inanimate objects were fragile, desiccated, dusty, entombed in their final resting positions in remarkably similar fashion. It was at once beautiful and eerie, and it made for an insightful and memorable visit to The Met once again.



Pair it with:

A meal at Blake Lane

Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Theater of Disappearance Adrian Villar Rojas Met Museum - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

It’s no secret we’ve thrown shade on the food options on the Upper East Side on more than one occasion. But we have to admit, recently they’ve been stepping up their game. Blake Lane is a perfect example of that elevated gamesmanship. It’s a simple, casually elegant, California-style restaurant that serves salads, sandwiches and bowls, as well as cocktails, of course! And though the now ubiquitous “bowls” are surely good, we went with their “plates” (read: mains). And boy, were we surprised. Lynn went with a curried trout on black rice that was absolutely delicious, and I dug into a shrimp creole topped with enormous, perfectly cooked shrimp and just the right amount of heat (read: tissue required). Given this latest experience, maybe it’s time to give the fresh, new Upper East Side a whirl.

– J.

Sun, Surf and Street Art: A Visit to Coney Art Walls



Coney Island is a destination whose season bookends the New York City summer. While there are the requisite roller coaster rides and bumper cars, it’s so much more than an amusement park. It’s home to the New York Aquarium and the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. There’s the beach and the boardwalk. Fireworks on Friday night. And let’s not forget legendary annual events like the Mermaid Parade and the Coney Island Film Festival. Countless memories are made here.

And it’s for this very reason that Joseph J. Sitt brought Coney Art Walls to life. The President & CEO of Thor Equities felt Coney Island had lost some of the shine he remembered from his youth, and he wanted to help bring it back.



Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Marie Roberts
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: D*Face


Artist: Crash

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Work in progress, Artist: Alexis Diaz
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Nychos

Coney Art Walls is an outdoor street art museum that features many incredible talents like Nychos and D*Face. Instead of painting murals on a building, the artists get to display their work on freestanding walls placed throughout the space located between Surf Avenue and the boardwalk. Shipping containers house food vendors, so visitors are free to enjoy quick bites while surrounded by some of the most amazing contemporary art. New pieces have been added each season since its inauguration in 2015, and they mingle with ones from prior years. The unmistakable Coney Island Parachute Jump and other roller coaster rides provide a unique backdrop for the outdoor gallery.



Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: The London Police
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Miss Van
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
When retro beauties present themselves, you photograph them! Artist: Eine
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artists: Icy & Sot
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Chris Stain



Coney Art Walls is part of our summer series dedicated to celebrating street art in New York City. In case you missed it, be sure to check out earlier posts in the series which include:

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Chasing Rainbows at the Bushwick Collective: The Ultimate Street Art Destination in New York City

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

It’s My Party And I’ll Paint If I Want To: A Street Art Mural Party in New York City

As a reminder: The best way to get to Coney Island is always using the subway. This is, in fact, one of those cases where your subway fare is a steal! Take the D, F, N or Q subway to Stillwell Avenue, which puts you right in the heart of the action. Just build in a little bit of time for the travel, it takes approximately 45-60 minutes to get there from Manhattan.

Any street art lover will not regret traveling out here to experience the amazing public art space, which has found a home in a classic New York summer destination.

Location:
3050 Stillwell Avenue

Hours:
Daily 12 pm – 10 pm



Pair it with:

A hot dog from Nathan’s Famous

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

There’s a certain mystique to the original Nathan’s Famous near Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. Forget, for a moment, that over its legendary 100-year history it has survived Prohibition, founding family squabbles and damage from Hurricane Sandy. Disregard the fact that the neon signs are the originals from the 20’s or that it holds one of the oldest post-Prohibition beer licenses in New York. Ignore the anecdotes about the famous names attached to it, like Al Capone, FDR and Frank Sinatra. Pooh-pooh the annual July 4th International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Sure, that’s fascinating, but it’s all just noise.

Focus instead on what truly makes it special and quintessentially New York: the all beef frankfurter in natural casing. A dog in a roll. Simple. Don’t add a bunch of garbage. Just meat and bread.

Many New Yorkers will swear that even though you can get Nathan’s hot dogs all over the city and in your grocery store, the ones at the original Coney Island location taste better. There’s no science to it, but we’re inclined to agree.

Location:
3050 Stillwell Avenue

Hours:
Sun-Thu  9 am – 11 pm
Fri-Sat  9 am – 12 am

– L. & J.