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.

 

Making a Splash: The Coney Island Mermaid Parade



Throngs of visitors come to New York City every year to watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s such a popular event that hotel rooms along the route have the equivalent of “surge pricing” and still manage to sell out way in advance. That kind of fervor can only mean one thing: New Yorkers will stay very, very far away from it. 

New Yorkers who want to enjoy a good parade will, instead, make their way out to Coney Island for the annual Mermaid Parade. There is no need to bundle up to fend off freezing temperatures. (Quite the opposite, as you’ll see.) There is no need to claim your spot along the route at 6 am. The parade starts at a reasonable hour and covers a short route. It ends on the boardwalk, where the party continues throughout the day. It oozes a fun, laid-back vibe: just show up and have fun.



2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Rain or shine. And they mean it.

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

If you’re conjuring up images of Disney’s wholesome The Little Mermaid, thinking this is strictly an event for little girls and tweens, you couldn’t be more wrong. The Mermaid Parade celebrates the city’s creative spirit, providing its denizens with an outlet for self-expression. There are no boundaries, and is celebrated as such. Every year a new King Neptune and Queen Mermaid is crowned to kick off the parade. The notorious list has included Judah Friedlander (30 Rock), Carole Radziwill (Real Housewives of New York City), Moby and Queen Latifah. It sets the tone for what to expect from the parade quite nicely. This year’s King and Queen were none other than Chris Stein and Debbie Harry. Yup, BLONDIE, guys. Pardon me while I scream into a pillow.

Here are some highlights from our time at the 2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade:

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Confetti bomb
2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
If you look closely… it’s a mirror selfie from a sanitation truck!



All in the Family

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Politics as Usual

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Creatures of the Sea

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Crafty

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bust a Move

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Squad Goals

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

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.

If you missed the Clamilton performance on our Instagram Stories, we’ve uploaded it to YouTube. (Excuse the quality, it was shot from a smartphone on a cloudy day!)

Our summer street art series will resume shortly, so stay tuned!

– L. & J.

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



Summer in New York City is more of a feeling than a season. Even though temperatures fluctuate wildly, everyone wants to be outside. That makes it a great time for one of our favorite activities: hunting down street art. We’ve decided to do a small series of posts on it here on the blog, which we kicked off last week with our post on the Bushwick Collective.

What’s unique about the Bushwick Collective is that there’s an active curator who obtains the necessary permits and blessings. But elsewhere, most street artists still operate under the cloak of darkness. Illegal pieces are tucked into corners and slapped onto doors. And just as quickly, they can get painted over or removed.



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

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

In Alphabet City, we recently attended a mural party organized by Robert Galinsky. As an active member of the neighborhood, Robert observed that bare walls invited less desirable tagging. So even though the activity isn’t officially sanctioned, he’s taken it upon himself to curate the walls of the city-owned building he manages. On this particular occasion, he invited three artists to contribute: Funqest, SacSix and XORS. He doesn’t offer them compensation, just a space to display their craft.



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

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

A post shared by FUNQEST (@funqest) on

Funqest is an artist of Japanese heritage with a distinct, dynamic style. His recent murals are largely abstract faces built with colorful blocks and dark borders. But a quick visit to his website shows a large breadth of work beginning in 2013. Funqest dons a Japanese Gigaku mask to hide his identity. He works in tandem with a partner, who helps him execute his vision.

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

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

A post shared by @sacsix on

SacSix has long been a fan of street art, but only became an active participant less than two years ago. But even within that short period he managed to capture a coveted commission for the 2016 MTV Music Awards. His wheatpaste pieces feature icons of pop culture…. and Mr. Poop. Mr. Poop is a pigeon with a recurring guest star role in many of his pieces. The “Be Great” wall is SacSix’s largest outdoor work to date, and it features notable women of color.



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

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

A post shared by Renee Snelson (@reneexors) on

Renee Snelson, who works under the name XORS, creates hyper-exaggerated images of shoes. But the shoes aren’t just there to promote a Carrie Bradshaw-level obsession (she’s also a talented shoe designer). The images of stilettos and high-heeled boots also speak to the darker side of fashion and the struggles women have with self-image.

Robert hand-selected the artists to blanket the block with vibrant hues, just in time for the summer. But if you happen to walk by, you may notice the new art has gone up around a couple of older pieces. One is a tribute to musician Gil Scott-Heron which locals are particularly fond of. The other, a simple wall by artist Chico that reads “Peace L.E.S”, was painted a week after 9/11. The old and the new capture the spirit of the neighborhood perfectly.

Location:
E 12th St and Ave C



Pair it with:

A meal at Superiority Burger

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

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

Most people find the term veggie burger to be an oxymoron, but I’ll confess that I’m a fan. It’s a great avenue for creativity, and I’ve come across some very interesting varieties in my foodscapades. But if Justin doesn’t need to follow up a veggie burger with a “real burger”, then I know we’ve stumbled upon something good.

When Brooks Headley left Del Posto to open Superiority Burger, it caused quite a stir. He started with a pop-up, then opened his East Village joint. Lines snaked down the block, no matter the weather. Waits have eased up a little, but the vegetarian fare is still really good. Justin particularly enjoys their version of a Sloppy Joe, and the burnt broccoli side is a favorite. Give it a shot, we have a feeling you won’t miss the meat.

Location:
430 E 9th St

Hours:
Wed-Mon: 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Closed Tuesday

– L.

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



If you’re a fan of street art, then you’re in luck.  There’s no shortage of it here in New York City, and all you have to do is keep your eyes open.  (Judging by how regularly people bump into me on a sidewalk, this doesn’t seem to be as regular a practice as you might think.)  Thanks to its temporary nature, graffiti is both a literal and figurative fresh coat of paint — blanketing the city with different images, styles and personalities on a regular basis.  

Searching for street art in the city is a fun pastime of ours.  We’re fortunate that New York City attracts worldwide talents who turn our streets and alleys into art galleries.  While there are treasures to be discovered all over the city, fanatics can get a huge payoff by visiting one of the most well-known hubs where street artists go to create and collaborate: the Bushwick Collective.

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Chor Boogie
Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: FKDL



Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Phetus88

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

Bushwick is a neighborhood in Brooklyn that is easily accessible via the L Train.  A trip to Bushwick takes less than a half hour from Union Square, so a quick jaunt from Manhattan is entirely manageable.  It’s open year-round, so all you need to do is dress for the weather and bring a camera.

The Bushwick Collective is a non-profit group founded in 2012 by native Joe Ficalora, who still curates the walls in the area.  It was the natural heir to graffiti mecca 5 Pointz which fell victim to gentrification.  At the Bushwick Collective, artists submit recent work, bios and concepts for review and are awarded precious space for their ideas to come to life.  

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Louis Masai
Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Oji



Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artists: Joe Iurato and Logan Hicks
Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Adam Fujita

A broad range of artists are represented at the Bushwick Collective. You’ll find the work of Brazilian artist Sipros and Chilean artist Dasic Fernandez.  You’ll find the distinctive signature of Austrian artist Nychos.  British pop art murals by DFace will catch your eye.  But the walls aren’t simply decorative: many contain social and political messages of our times.  Take, for example, London-based Louis Masai’s “The Art of Beeing” series, which seeks to bring attention to endangered species.  Or consider the work of Adam Fujita AKA AdamFu AKA Atoms, the creative force behind the graffiti podcast My Life in Letters. His pieces are often topical, and have included political issues like national security and impeachment.

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

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Don Rimx



Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Gustavo Gutti Barrios
Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Straker

The Bushwick Collective recently held its annual block party, which provides the masses an opportunity to actually see some of the artists at work.  Food trucks line the streets, musical acts take the stage, and there is art at every turn.  It’s a fun event for those interested in a big, lively outdoor party.  (Follow their Facebook page for updates.) But be forewarned: it can get a little rowdy.  If you’re more interested in photographing the art you’re better off coming on a different day, when there aren’t as many people around.

Location:
Troutman St at Saint Nicholas Ave



Pair it with:

For large groups: Tutu’s

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

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

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

Roberta’s is Bushwick’s most famous resident and it’s a lovely place, but there’s usually a wait.  Tutu’s is a quaint little place nearby.  Thanks to picnic table seating in the back room, it accommodates large groups nicely.  Tutu’s is the definition of casual dining, with a nice selection of burgers.  Time generally moves more slowly in Bushwick, so don’t expect super speedy service.  On the plus side, that means you won’t feel rushed out the door either.  Settle in and make a night of it.

Location:
25 Bogart St

Hours:
Sun-Thu: 11:00 am -1:00 am
Fri-Sat: 11:00 am – 4:00 am



If there are just a few of you: Arepera Guacuco

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

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

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

This Venezuelan arepa joint has a bustling open kitchen that appears to work as rhythmically as the loud music blaring over its speakers.  There are a number of creative arepas on the menu, including a vegetarian and vegan option.  The Pabellon, which has shredded beef, cheese, sweet plantains and black beans is sublime.  The Mariscada, a tomato-based seafood stew with an arepa on the side for dipping, is also an excellent choice.  And don’t miss the popular cocada, a delightfully refreshing coconut milkshake.

Location:
44 Irving Ave

Hours:
Mon-Thu: 12:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Fri: 12:00 pm – 11:30 pm
Sat:11:00 am – 11:30 pm
Sun: 11:00 am – 10:30 pm

– L.

 

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.

TNT Supper Club presents Will at Vulture Festival 2017

One of the side effects of starting this blog is that our days off are now few and far between. But when we do take a day to relax, we often spend some part of it in front of the television, with our feet up and our hands reaching into a tub of snacks. It feels like our natural resting state. So when an event brings together television and food, we can’t say yes fast enough. TNT Supper Club did just that, and in a big way.



A Shakespeare for today

TNT Supper Club Presents Will at Vulture Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

TNT Supper Club Presents Will at Vulture Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



TNT Supper Club Presents Will at Vulture Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

TNT Supper Club Presents Will at Vulture Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

We attended the inaugural TNT Supper Club event as part of Vulture Festival, which is an annual weekend extravaganza that brings together all things pop culture.  (In case you missed it: Part One of our Vulture Festival experience involves Kevin Bacon.) To celebrate its new original series Will, TNT hosted a fabulous dinner at West Edge in the Meatpacking District. Will captures the life of a young William Shakespeare in London during the 1500s. If you’re flashing back to a boring English Lit class, or worse, Leonardo di Caprio playing Romeo, then you’re in for a surprise.

In Will, the young bard is in his twenties, and London’s theatre scene is exploding. It’s an exciting tale of fame and fortune, love and friendship, which we can all still relate to today. And a young, attractive cast doesn’t hurt. (They were among the guests at the dinner.)



Culinary poetry in motion

TNT Supper Club Presents Will at Vulture Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

TNT Supper Club Presents Will at Vulture Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

TNT Supper Club Presents Will at Vulture Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Speaking of dinner, the multi-course feast that evening was presented by James Beard Award-winning chef Jamie Bissonette. With 16th century London as his inspiration, he developed a veritable feast that included appetizers like a divine Roasted Beet Salad and entrees like Curried Lamb Pie. The dessert, a Chocolate Pudding with ice cream and a crumble on top, was the stuff of dreams, so much so that Justin felt compelled to approach the congenial chef, shake his hand and offer his appreciation.

Perhaps what was most unexpectedly enjoyable about the evening was that we were seated at communal tables. This can make for an unbearably awkward evening, but fortune smiled upon us and we found ourselves meeting and dining with some lovely people. As they plied us with plates of polenta and turkey (and for those non-teetotalers, unlimited beer, cocktails and glasses of wine), we chatted about life, work, and, of course, the latest television shows we were catching up on. It made for an enjoyable evening all around.

Will premiers on TNT July 10.  

– L.

One Degree from Kevin Bacon at Vulture Festival 2017



We share New York City with a lot of celebrities, which means on any given day you might run into Jonathan Groff on his way to Hamilton (which I did!). Or you might find yourself waiting​ in line behind Famke Janssen for your takeout (which I also did!). And you might spy Michael K Williams in your subway car (yup, totally happened). I even walked by George Lucas on his way to Starbucks. (No judgment, George.)



One Degree from Kevin Bacon Vulture Festival 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Image courtesy of Vulture Festival
One Degree from Kevin Bacon Vulture Festival 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Image courtesy of Vulture Festival

It might be a little silly, but I read a long time ago that John Lennon loved how New Yorkers were always so relaxed around him. He captured that sentiment in the lyrics of his song, New York City:

Well nobody came to bug us,
hustle us or shove us
so we decided to make it
our home

So I always try to give the celebrities their privacy. I usually make crazy eyes at Justin to alert him (just so he can vouch for me when I tell the story), then furiously text all my friends. But bottling up my inner groupie is an effort. So once a year, I get pretty excited about letting my freak fangirl fly at the Vulture Festival.

We attended the Vulture Festival last year too, so you can read a little more about what it’s all about here. This year we had a couple of events lined up, the first of which was an interview with Kevin Bacon.  



One Degree from Kevin Bacon Vulture Festival 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Kevin Bacon and New York City

Kevin Bacon’s career has spanned many years and covers the stage, the small screen and the big screen. Everyone has a favorite Kevin Bacon movie, and because his range is so wide, it’s rarely the same one. He’s a die-hard New Yorker, and I’m not saying that because he’s lived here since the age of 17. When asked about his favorite restaurants, he refused to divulge them because then they would get crowded.  Classic New Yorker move.



One Degree from Kevin Bacon Vulture Festival 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

One Degree from Kevin Bacon Vulture Festival 2017 - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Kevin Bacon and Fame

The interview was refreshingly conversational, and Kevin Bacon was surprisingly real. He talked honestly about fame: “There are two types of actors: the ones who want to be famous, and liars.” He confessed that when he achieved fame, he struggled with the fact that it wasn’t for what he wanted to be famous for. There was an anecdote about how he felt starring in Tremors (a favorite of Justin’s, it just so happens) wasn’t something he fully appreciated at the time. But he has since changed his opinion, so much so that he’s currently developing a television series based upon it. He’s funny too: he joked about not having enough coke to pick girls up at Studio 54, and nepotism on this latest project (it was directed by his wife, starred him and his daughter and was scored by his son).

Vulture Festival calls itself a “pop culture extravaganza”, which might come off as a little bombastic. But these kind of up close and personal experiences are pretty hard to beat, and the talent keeps getting better each year (Neil Patrick Harris! Sarah Jessica Parker!). All event attendees also had access to their lounge, which featured amazing eats, live music and DJs throughout both days.

If you’re a fan of pop culture, there’s really no event like it. Stay tuned for Part Two of our experience there later this week. And Los Angeles take note: Vulture Festival is coming to you this November for the first time!

– L.

An Explosion of Color: Chihuly at the New York Botanical Garden



If you’ve ever been to Las Vegas, you know that everything there is magnified and exaggerated by a factor of 1000, and it’s easy find yourself with whiplash from taking it all in.  I have somewhat mixed feelings on the “More Is More” mantra, but one thing I remember being notably impressed with was the stunning ceiling of glass flowers in the Bellagio. I didn’t know it then, but that was my first experience with Dale Chihuly’s masterful craft.

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Chihuly’s ceiling at the Bellagio, courtesy of Chihuly.com

If you happened to read our post on Chuck Close, you might notice some parallels here.  We’re​ drawn to artists who aren’t just pioneers in their field, but who have also overcome diversity on their way there. Chihuly’s path wasn’t a straight one.  He suffered the loss of a sibling and a parent early in life.  And after he had cultivated a successful career in the art of glass sculpture, tragic accidents left him with one blind eye and a dislocated shoulder.  As a result of the latter injury, Chihuly was unable to hold a glass blowing pipe. But he refused to stop creating, and assembled a team of glassblowers from around the world to execute his vision.  Now he likens himself to the conductor of a symphony.



ICYMI – Shots from our Instagram Story on the day of our outing.  There was also a duck video.  Find us on Instagram so you don’t miss any more duck videos: @madhattersnyc

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Blue Polyvitro Crystals outside the Metz Library (AKA the rock candy display)
Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Sapphire Star
Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Red Reeds on Logs at the Reflecting Pool
Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Float Boat and Koda Studies #1 and #2 at the Native Plant Garden

Like most artists, Chihuly is constantly extracting beauty from everything around him.  The idea for one of his installations, Float Boat came to him on a trip to Finland when he was standing on a bridge over a river.  He decided to throw glass spheres into the water to see which ones would shatter. When the pieces were retrieved and placed into skiffs, he was struck by the contrast of the contemporary glass forms against old wooden boats.

Memories of his mother’s garden have also been a great source of inspiration.  It seems only fitting that his kaleidoscopic creations have found homes in many botanical gardens over his career.  The current exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden isn’t his first, but is in fact a triumphant return after 11 years.



Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Sol del Citrón

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
White Tower with Fiori



Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Glasshouse Fiori
Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Scarlet and Yellow Icicle Tower

In an interview, Chihuly once stated that his motto is, “If big is good, bigger is better. If one is terrific, twelve is even better.”  Like I said in the beginning, I’m not entirely sure that’s true.  But if there were one artist who might convince me, it would be Chihuly.

The Chihuly exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden will run through October 29, so that it can be viewed as the seasons change here in New York City.  Additional Chihuly programs will also run throughout the course of the event.  Information can be found on the NYBG website here.  

Tip:  If you take the train from Grand Central it’s a short 20-25 minute ride. It drops you right in front of the Mosholu Gate entrance to the NYBG. On the weekends take advantage of the City Ticket, which offers a reduced rate. 

Location:
2900 Southern Blvd

Hours:
Tues -Sun: 10 a.m.–6 p.m
See website for exceptions



Pair it with:

A meal at Zucker’s

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Taking the train from Grand Central is usually our preferred way to get to the New York Botanical Garden.  While there are a number of options to meet any commuter’s needs in the terminal itself, another fantastic option lurks just around the corner.  A skip, hop and a jump away you’ll find the Midtown branch of Zucker’s Bagels and Smoked Fish.

Zucker’s serves traditional New York style bagels — hand-rolled and kettle-boiled just as they are meant to be — with that crisp exterior and hefty, satisfying interior chew.  Try any number of their bagel sandwiches, like the classic Zucker’s Traditional with Nova Scotia salmon, cream cheese, beefsteak tomatoes, red onion and capers.

Zucker’s also partners with many local vendors, from their produce to their pickles to their snacks and coffee.  That means coffee lovers can get a La Colombe Draft Latte on tap here, and dessert lovers can top it all off with a Fat Witch brownie.  (We are both.)

Location:
370 Lexington Ave

Hours:
Mon – Fri: 6:30 am – 7:00 pm
Sat – Sun: 6:30 am – 6:00 pm

– L.

Photo Essay: Unlocking Canal Street’s Secrets via Jane’s Walk



There’s really no end of things to explore in New York City, but insiders know it takes some digging to uncover what’s hidden beneath the city’s surface.  Citywide events like Open House New York and Jane’s Walk make urban exploration attainable to the masses.  They feed our never ending curiosity by giving us access to sites and experts that would normally be out of reach.

Jane’s Walk is named for Jane Jacobs: journalist, author, activist and all-around local legend.  She fought tirelessly to protect the authenticity of New York City neighborhoods.  Jane was a pioneer in promoting diversity and supporting local economies.  Tides Canada initiated Jane’s Walk to promote her ideas.  The Municipal Art Society of New York organizes the event locally in New York City, and has done an amazing job shepherding its growth.  One weekend a year, they offer a number of free walking tours led by local citizens.



Uncovering Canal Street Secrets Jane's Walk - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
A view of the new Jenga Tower against a Beaux Arts building and 33 Thomas St (rumored to be an NSA spy hub)
Uncovering Canal Street Secrets Jane's Walk - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The entrance to the trendy Haus nightclub
Uncovering Canal Street Secrets Jane's Walk - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The Canal Street Station Post Office Art Deco building built in 1937

On the most recent Jane’s Walks event, we joined licensed New York City tour guide Robert Brenner on a tour of Canal Street.  Most people associate Canal Street with Chinatown, but locals know it’s a major thoroughfare that cuts through Lower Manhattan.  Robert kicked off the tour with a cold open about the street’s sordid past, then led us on a walking tour of some of the city’s most amazing landmarks.



Uncovering Canal Street Secrets Jane's Walk - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
A bright fire escape located next to the old Pearl Paint building
Uncovering Canal Street Secrets Jane's Walk - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Cortlandt Alley, one of the city’s famous backdrops often used in music videos and photo shoots
Uncovering Canal Street Secrets Jane's Walk - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Exotic fruit stalls in Chinatown – don’t sample the wares unless they are offered to you or you might get charged!

Robert’s tour included picturesque (read: Instagram-friendly) corners, as well as juxtapositions of the old and the new.  The variety of architectural styles we came across in this short walk would thrill any urban architecture fan.  As with all good tours, he included personal anecdotes and associations to long-forgotten landmarks.  Robert also helped all of us cement our insider status by showing us a secret passageway in Chinatown.  (We’ll be sure to show that one off the next time we have friends or family visiting.)  He gives you homework too: he pointed out several places to explore later.



Uncovering Canal Street Secrets Jane's Walk - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Captivating street art along the route

Uncovering Canal Street Secrets Jane's Walk - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Uncovering Canal Street Secrets Jane's Walk - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The abandoned old Loew’s Theatre, whose terracotta facade is designated as a New York City Landmark

True lovers of New York City aren’t afraid of its grittier side.  There are so many stories lurking in its cracks and crevices, and walking tours of the city are a great way to discover them.  The Municipal Art Society of New York offers tours throughout the year hosted by historians, professors, and other qualified guides.  Whether you’re a visitor looking for an in-depth tour, or a local looking to learn more about your neighborhood, their website is a great place to start.  And Robert Brenner, our guide for this walk, hosts multiple tours, including one on Gritty Old Times Square.  You can learn more about him and seek out his services here.

What secrets will you uncover?



Pair it with:

A meal at Aux Epices

Uncovering Canal Street Secrets Jane's Walk - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Uncovering Canal Street Secrets Jane's Walk - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Uncovering Canal Street Secrets Jane's Walk - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

When you move to New York City, you dream of having a neighborhood joint like Aux Epices.  It’s a tiny space that’s easy to miss, but still manages to channel a ton of charm.  They don’t advertise, it’s strictly word-of-mouth.  Owner-operators Mei and Marc are the Malaysian and French couple behind the eatery, and the marriage of their cultures is reflected in their food.  Located on Baxter Street right off Canal Street, where Chinatown and Little Italy meet, Aux Epices offers the kind of fusion fare that perfectly highlights the melting pot that thrives in New York City.

Location:
121 Baxter St

Hours:
Daily: 11am – 10pm

– L.

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Screening at the Tribeca Film Festival



Have you ever been in the situation where you’re walking down the aisle of a grocery store, a certain song plays over the speaker and you find yourself overcome with emotion?  Maybe it triggered the memory of your first boyfriend, or it reminded you of a particular place, or the lyrics were particularly relevant to a recent event.  If you’ve ever stifled sobs in the dairy aisle while deciding between skim and 1%, you’re not alone.

There’s a well-studied link between music and memory, but for many of us that extends to books, television shows and movies as well.  They can evoke powerful emotions. I can distinctly remember how I felt when I finished Wuthering Heights, when Mr. Big’s real name pops up on Carrie’s phone, and definitely when I watched Reservoir Dogs.



Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Fans wait patiently outside the venue in hopes of a celebrity encounter
Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Michael Madsen on the red carpet

As a self-professed movie lover, the Tribeca Film Festival is something I look forward to every year.  It’s always exciting to see the festival picks, but it’s also a fun time in New York City.  The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in an effort to revitalize the flailing New York City economy after 9/11.  Backed by the star power of names like Robert de Niro and Martin Scorsese, the inaugural festival launched in 2002 and has continued to grow exponentially each year.  Now it’s a time of celebrity sightings and fan geekdom throughout the city.

There are hundreds of screenings that take place during the Tribeca Film Festival, from shorts to documentaries to features.  There are also an impressive number of talks and special events.  Cinephiles are like kids in a candy store.  (Or Homer in a pie store.  You get the gist.)

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

This year’s festival featured a special screening of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs on 35mm print in honor of its 25th anniversary.  Reservoir Dogs is a movie that was well ahead of its time at its Sundance Film Festival debut in 1992, and still holds up today.  The banter is still engaging.  The plot is still relevant.  And yes, the acting and directing are still fantastic.



Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Not a bad place to watch a movie, right?

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

(Yes, I totally geeked out in my Reservoir Dogs finest.)

The screening was followed by a talk with Quentin Tarantino himself (Mr. Brown), Harvey Keitel (Mr. White), Steve Buscemi (Mr. Pink), Tim Roth (Mr. Orange) and Michael Madsen (Mr. Blonde).  It was great to hear tidbits about how Harvey Keitel had to pay for Quentin Tarantino to fly to New York City so that local actors could audition (which led to the discovery of Steve Buscemi).  And it was fascinating to learn that Michael Madsen was incredibly nervous about the now-iconic dance scene, so much so that it was never rehearsed — then amazingly, shot in one take.  

It’s a fan experience we were fortunate to have access to, thanks to the Tribeca Film Festival.  Movie buffs, be sure to sign up for advance notice so you can pre-game ahead of the next festival.  If you haven’t yet watched Reservoir Dogs, I suggest you remedy that right away.  If you have, tell me your favorite line.  Here’s mine:

“Yeah, but Mr. Brown, that’s a little too close to Mr. Shit.”




Pair it with:

Something from Mister Dips

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Mister Dips is nowhere near Tribeca, the Beacon Theatre or any other Tribeca Film Festival location.  But we’re also talking about Reservoir Dogs, and in my version, Mr. White, Mr. Brown, Mr. Pink, Mr. Orange, Mr. Blonde and Mr. Blue all go to Mister Dips.  (Poetic license, it’s a thing.)  

Mister Dips is located in an Airstream trailer at the William Vale Hotel in Brooklyn.  It offers a small-but-tight menu of burgers, soft-serve and floats and serves up a fantastic view on the side.  Andrew Carmellini is behind the venture, so I wasn’t surprised that the burger was good.  Or that the waffle fries were fantastic.  What DID surprise me, though, was that the Green Label burger is probably the best veggie burger I’ve ever had.  And after we downed all that? We still found room for a Jacker-Crax cone. Heck, I’d let you cut my ear off for one of those.

Location:
Vale Park at the William Vale Hotel

Hours:
Daily: 12-9pm

– L.