Restaurants »Szechuan Gourmet

21 W 39th St

Midtown is the place for awesome Chinese in the city. I am certain of this after a recent mediocre meal in Chinatown and a stellar lunch at Szechuan Gourmet.

Across the street from previously recommended and adored Lan Sheng, Gourmet is the more well known of the two and overflowing with happy diners at all hours.

While the mouth numbing mala we experienced at Lan Sheng wasn’t here, the food is equally delicious yet unique.

My latest litmus seems to be shredded chicken in garlic and here the dish is complex, flavorful and addicting. I simply could not stop eating it long after I was full.

Another good marker of a good Chinese place is their hot and sour soup. Done wrong its a gloppy confusing mess that strikes an off chord with your stomach right away. Done right and it’s incredible: thick but not gloppy and punchy with fresh tasting tofu and crunchy bamboo shoots. Here it’s definitely done right.

Jim enjoyed the old American favorite General Tso’s which was a delicious challenge to the mall court junk that gives Chinese food a trashy name. Prices are great and the staff is efficient but doesn’t rush you. With this and it’s competitor across the street there’s no excuse to not enjoy good Szechuan in the city.

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Posted on March 22, 2012

Spend a Couple Hours »Cindy Sherman at the MoMA

February 26–June 11, 2012

While I was excited about the MoMA’s Cindy Sherman exhibit, I walked out an even bigger fan than I did going in. There’s something significant about seeing such a huge collection of her work.

I have always loved the film still series, which I was most familiar with, in which as photographer and model she took on manufactured archetypes from movies.

Later, however her work becomes arguably even more interesting – taking on existing archetypes like society women and Los Angeles hopefuls who come to life with great attention to mundane details. You can read one of her characters instantly in the way her hair is done, the scarf she has round her neck, the way she smiles at the camera.

It reminded me of one of my favorite parts of film making, when you’d find just the right accessory to make a character complete.

Visually I was most enamored with the centerfold series which boasts incredible color and are infinitely intriguing; her most mysterious works. I also adored the masterpiece portraits, lovingly displayed like the pieces that inspired them would be at the Met. Like all her work, there’s a great sense of humor to them.

Less visually appalling were the gross out ones. Vomit, plastic body parts, decay – these got the most reaction from viewers and the consensus was “grody” (some teenage girls were particularly disgusted). I however, had a much harder time with the giant creepy clowns.

This is one of the most anticipated museum exhibits this season so don’t be surprised by crowds, though we didn’t find it overwhelming.

Be sure to browse the rest of the museum too. Its worth the trip to see the feet on a pedestal in the lovely sculpture garden area.

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Posted on March 12, 2012

Restaurants »Men Kui Tei

60 W 56th St

I was glad that part of Sunday bordered on chilly because I had ramen on the brain. And you can’t really do ramen when it’s 65 degrees. Men Kui Tei is a hole in the wall midtown staple, but a clean, friendly hole in the wall that fills up quickly and has slurping ramen lovers coming in and out all day.

Since the downtown ramen explosion it’s hard to call Men Kui Tei the best but it’s a hearty yummy bowl. I enjoyed rich tonkastsu broth and perfectly toothsome noodles and liked customizing with the chili oil and vinegar. Mike had the spicy ramen that wasn’t mouth numbing but gave a kick in the back of your throat with each bite.

Yes, broth and noodles were excellent, the only thing bringing it down were the toppings. I may have become spoiled by Ippudo’s perfectly roasted pork, but here it was a touch tough and bland and the veggies didn’t taste fresh.

Still, my ramen thirst was nicely quenched and it was a perfect filler before braving crowds at the Cindy Sherman show.

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Posted on March 12, 2012

Restaurants »Lan Sheng

60 W 39th St

I had my first encounter with true Szechuan “mala” with the Dan Dan noodles at Lan Sheng. Your mouth numbs with a slightly citrus flavor that’s hard to explain

Poor Shaun thought maybe he was having an allergic reaction, which is not a crazy assumption since it’s such a new sensation if you’re not used to it. I’m just giddy that there are still food experiences out there and ones with physical reactions.

Oh and the noodles were delicious besides. I adore Dan Dan noodles. But obviously have never had them quite like these. Appetizer wise, Lan Sheng also boasts yummy mini crab soup dumplings which are worth the wait. My favorite main course had to go to the shredded chicken in spicy garlic sauce. It may sounds hum drum but it was seriously addicting, in fact, I want a dish of if right now!

Spicy in a wholly different way is the flavorful lamb cumin which is not for the faint of heart. Be sure to have rice to mellow the heat. We also split the DIY pork buns which were tasty but filling after so much Szechuan indulgence. It has a special name I’ve forgotten but you can find it in the novel of a menu easily thanks to their handy photos.

The place is laid back and clean, the is service efficient and friendly. A perfect spot to eat after seeing the Weegee exhibit at ICP. I’ll definitely go back next time I’m in the area.

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Posted on February 13, 2012

Spend a Couple Hours »Weegee: Murder Is My Business

at The ICP Museum, 1133 Ave of the Americas

I’ve been looking forward to the ICP Weegee show Murder is My Business for months and it didn’t disappoint.

The larger than life tabloid photographer, never squeamish, brought the bloody and violent truth of NYC crime to the front page with shots of recently killed gangsters (and innocents), taken sometimes before the police even arrived (his nickname came from the Ouija board because people joked he used it’s powers to know about crimes.)

His images, though gruesome, are rarely without a sense of humor though. He not only took photos of the gorey, but often captured he way New Yorkers accepted the violence around them, often convening around crime scenes with smiles on their faces.

His Coney Island images, reversely, always have an element of creepiness among the smiles and summer fun.

ICP has added a couple neat components to the show including a replica of his room and an interactive station that shows Weegee’s images next to the current locations in NYC. It’s hard to imagine people being shot in broad daylight on the steps of the chic stores in Soho and Little Italy.

Fans will be thrilled, but the salacious material should gather new fans too. Don’t forget the gift shop – I always like to get a little something from the best shows I see and they have mugs, totes, pins, and posters.

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Posted on February 12, 2012

Spend a Couple Minutes »Suno Sample Sale

242 W 38 st 3rd Floor

Today through Friday, get your colorful happy time frocks, blazers and harem pants from my favorite and one of the best, freshest labels, Suno. Everything is up to 70% off!

I got myself a spectacular psychedelic leopard print dress and picked up a tie dye silk mini skirt and wild beaded blazer (detail pictured below) for a friend. I could have gone broke in there, but had some self control.

PS – Be sure to wear stuff you can try things on over as there are no dressing rooms and the clothes read totally different on the rack compared to on one’s body.

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Posted on May 11, 2011

Desserts »Little Pie Company

424 W 43rd St and 295 Greenwich St.

Our weekly Dungeons and Dragons games allow for lots of sharing of treats and recently our friend Joey brought along a wonderfully gooey Mississippi Mud Pie creation from the Little Pie Company, which has two locations in Manhattan. Made from scratch with fresh ingredients the pie makers have been in business since 1985, no small feat for any business, let alone a specialty store in the city but with pies this good, it’s little wonder they’ve become a new classic. I’ve also heard that end of the day, they offer discounts on their unsold goodies.

I will not resist the urge to spout a local newsworthy quip that the Little Pie Company is big on taste.

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Posted on May 31, 2010

Restaurants »The Breslin

16 West 29th Street

For such a chic scene, The Breslin at the Ace Hotel sure boasts a gut busting, fat making menu. From pork rinds to pork bellies, there was much to drool over for us piggies, and we wound up sharing the salt and vinegar crisps and pork scratchings (rinds) to start with. Next came a rich bone marrow and onion soup for me while Jim dug into their famed lamb burger and nicely crispy steak fries.

But even as the rich and wonderful food fills you, you’ll not want to skimp on dessert. We shared a sticky toffee pudding that came in a mammoth bowl (but was totally doable split among the four of us) and a Chocolate Stout Syllabub with bubbled caramel and crème fraiche. My goodness yum!

The philosophy of the menu is not vegetarian friendly, you’ll find all sorts of nose-to-tail cooking here from pigs feet to head cheese, nor is the place friendly to taking photos as it’s so dim (but who cares with all the food to focus on), nor is it friendly to big groups and planners. It’s immensely popular but takes no reservations – we had no problem getting a private (literally, it had a curtain with which we could block out the rest of the world) booth because our dear friend Laura was a guest. BTW, her room was also adorable and well put together in the same rugged, quirky and stylish theme.

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Posted on February 21, 2010

Spend a Couple Hours »Wishful Drinking

At The Roundabout Theater

“It’s not like some funny Shakespeare play!” said a ninety year old, wholly perplexed and angry man in the row ahead of upon the conclusion of Carrie Fisher’s delightfully foul mouthed Wishful Drinking. Got to love the matinee crowds, right? But he’s right, it’s not like some funny Shakespeare play! It’s a sometimes sad, sometimes heartbreaking but more often completely hilarious examination of a crazy life by a crazy lady.

Fisher is my kind of person, a sarcastic strong-willed kook who takes what life gives her and rather than lemonade, mixes a stiff drink. The details of her life: mental illness, broken families, alcoholism, addiction, death and loss are not the stuff of usual comedy fodder, but in the raspy voice of the former space princess, you’ll find yourself laughing.

We saw one of the last performances (it ends today) so Fisher had perfected the timing and the pacing. Hopefully, with its success, it will be available on DVD at some point for anyone that missed it live.

Click here for the rest of Wishful Drinking

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Posted on January 17, 2010

Spend a Couple Hours »R Kelly

We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!! We are seeing R Kelly live!!

God help me but I do love him.

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Posted on October 12, 2009

Spend a Couple Hours »The Quilts of Paula Nadelstern and the Treasures of Ulysses Davis

quilts folk art museumThe quilts of Paula Nadelstern make for a dazzling exhibit of exceptional craftsmanship at the American Folk Art Museum. You are greeted with a huge creation on the lobby level that boggles the mind. Upstairs, more vibrant quilts using different techniques are on display. The labor intensive art is even more impressive when you learn that Nadelstern, a Bronx native makes all her quilts in a small apartment as she says on her own site:

“Historians have suggested that the block-style method of quilt-making evolved in response to the cramped quarters of early American life. My family's living arrangement in an urban environment created similar considerations which, unwittingly, I resolved in much the same way. For over twenty years, my work space in our two bedroom apartment was the forty-inch round kitchen table”.

The most interesting look into the artist's craft is the segment along the hallway that shows the reverse side of the quilting, the literal toil to make such geometrically perfect images on the front. Be sure to peek into the kaleidoscopes by various artists too.

Upstairs is a much smaller, but equally fascinating, collection of hand carved wood sculptures by Southern barber Ulysses Davis. He not only captured historical and religious figures but created mythical creatures some of which would make Father Lankester Merrin tremble if he dug them up in Iraq.

Davis, who (like many folk and outsider artists) rarely sold his work,?never looked to his craft for financial gain. As he once said “They're my treasure. If I sold these, I'd be really poor.”

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Posted on June 29, 2009

Spend a Couple Hours »Richard Avedon at ICP

richard avedon at icpThe Richard Avedon show at ICP will inspire you to add some glamor into your life with the parade of enviable cinched waists, hats by Paulette and Lilly Dache, arm candy like Gardner McKay and Mike Nichols, and of course gowns, suits, and coats by decades of the worlds best designers like Dior, Gres, Fath, Balmain, Patou, Carnegie, Cardin, and Galliano.

The photos of familiar names like Audrey Hepburn, Suzy Parker – who poses on one of my favorite photos with Chanel, and Lauren Hutton – also in a favorite shot, smoking a joint on the beaches of the Bahamas – sit next to a long list of new names, at least to me that I have had tons of fun researching since: China Machado (our first non-Caucasian covergirl), Sunny Harnett (a statuesque blond that managed to look high class 1980s in 1954), Henrietta Tiarks (one of “the best known debutantes of the 50s”), and Emilien Bouglione (the beginning of a long line of circus performers).

Also on view are neat wire miniatures in costumes photographed by David Seidner, it was in this corner that we saw gray haired grand dame (who we all fell in love with in Unzipped) Polly Mellen, who disappeared as quickly and surely as she came.

A gorgeous, huge book accompanies the show and includes more photos but has a hefty price tag ($85). Sarafina and I settled instead for the $2 winking eye of Jean Shrimpton button.

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Posted on June 1, 2009

Spend a Couple Hours »Odds Costume Rental Sale

odds costume rental saleThere are days in my little life that go down forever in my personal shopping history (remember the $5 sale at that weird Off Fifth in Worcester, Stacy?) and Tuesday was definitely one of them. Odds Costume Rental is closing its doors, a sure tragedy in many respects, but the warehouse wide sale that accompanies the bad news is one of the most mind blowing and heart stopping experiences for fans of costume and vintage. I am indebted to Diane for the tip and am thrilled to pass it on to you.

From 1930's evening gowns, to layered embroidery gypsy skirts, from police uniforms to Carmen Miranda hats, the place will make your head spin with the possibilities. There are even racks and racks of men's stuff, though I didn't peruse them with any detail.

The prices are not dirt cheap, but extraordinarily reasonable for the exceptional quality and uniqueness of the garments. The only downside of the experience is that “insiders”, mostly performers and friends, seem to get slightly better deals than people like me that just wear this stuff on the stage of life. It was a little heart breaking to see one of the in crowd get lots more than me for the same price, but hey – $85 for a fully beaded flapper dress, $30 for the cutest, weirdest 80's poof dress this side of Betsy Johnson?I really can't complain can I?

There is a dressing room, in which you must be prepared to bare it all with a gaggle of other shoppers and it's only right that you put back the pieces you decide not to buy – I can't imagine the head ache abandoned dresses give the boisterous ladies who run it. Plus, they'll yell at you if you make their day more difficult.

The sale goes on until July 1st, and if I had infinite cash and time (and arm muscles – hauling this stuff still has me shakey) I could go back every day until then. But, fortunately, I do have some self control, and I'll just send everyone I know there every day instead.

Phew, I'm still buzzing from the thrill.

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Posted on May 25, 2009