Saturday, October 31, 2009

We Missed Stevie Wonder

If we were still living in New York City this year, we would have stayed home a month to pay for two concerts that took place in and around New York. First for us would have been a short flight to Norfolk, VA to see Stevie give a three-hour concert that was described as "a perfect concert." I cry.

Second concert on our list would have been the first night of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary show at Madison Square garden. The amount of music legends in one room . . . unfreakinbelievable: Paul Simon, Jerry Lee Lewis, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band, Billy Joel. There were tributes and dedications. John Legend dedicated a song to Marvin Gaye. Stevie Wonder did a "stunning" homage to Michael Jackson with "The Way You Make Me Feel." I cry. Stevie also did duets with Smokey Robinson, John Legend, Sting, and B.B. King. Oh Beejeezus. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band did a version of "New York State of Mind" with Billy Joel. Once in a lifetime event. We should have been there.

Night two of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary show also had some incredible talent. Aretha Franklin paid homage to our favorite city with her version of "New York, New York." Also performing were Annie Lennox, Lenny Kravitz, Jeff Beck, Metallica, Lou Reed, Ozzy Osbourne, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen again, U2 and a surprise appearance by Mick Jagger.

If anyone hears that Stevie Wonder will be performing on the west coast, please let us know ASAP!!!

Party Animals

If we were celebrating Halloween in New York, these are the people we'd party with - people dressed in creative costumes, not the predictable of-the-moment fad that people our age and younger can't help but wear every Halloween, people who can shake their tooshies to both "Monster Mash" and Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On.

Lost in the Wilderness

This great quote on the exterior wall of the Rubin Museum has new meaning in our lives. At this moment in time, we are very lost. I suppose this means we will be finding ourselves soon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Living Large in New York

You haven't seen rich people until you've lived in Manhattan. They're a separate breed from other "wealthies" in the rest of the United States. Just walk into Bergdorf and observe the folks with personal shoppers. It's actually quite startling if it's your first looksie in Bergdorf, then quite amusing. Or walk down Madison Ave or walk by Columbus Circle and see the long lines of personal drivers waiting in shiny black Mercedes for hours until their bosses wearing Tom Ford suits are ready to be driven just one block away. So where do these wealthies live? They live in the Dakota-esque buildings with doormen wearing suits nicer than your nicest suit. They live in the big fat large condos - in the West Village, the lofts in SoHo, the large condos on the Upper West side overlooking Central Park.

It's always insane when we see real balconies in Manhattan. Our balcony was the glamorous fire escape with a view right into someone's messy bedroom in the opposite building.

Not big fans of the expensive, trendy SoHo neighborhood, but we'd love to live in any of the spacious lofts there.

There's so many elegant as Cary Grant apartments on the Upper West Side, especially the buildings closest to Central Park. You can lick the sidewalks there. It'd be a great place to raise a family.

The coveted top units. We'd always look up at apartments like this and wonder what the rent must be like and how great it'd be to have some margaritas on top outside during the warm months. And we'd wonder if the people living in these gorgeous apartment appreciate living there, just as Andie asked Duckie in Pretty in Pink.

This apartment was one block from our apartment. We always passed this apartment on the way to the Chelsea Market. We like the look and charm of the older buildings in New York, but hell we were ready to pack our bags and roll our stuff across the street here. It didn't matter that it's right across from the hospital.

This multilevel top story apartment with the spiral staircase in the LES stood out since it was the only one with a modern design on a street, and area, consisting of mostly older buildings. The people who built this definitely wanted to be "seen."

We once went to an open house in the West Village to torture ourselves. Sometimes we're sick like that. It just looked like a typical New York apartment from the outside but when we went in, we fell in love. It was two bedrooms (gasp), had its own separate kitchen (almost fainted), had a huge living room and dining space, had gorgeous brick walls throughout the apartment. The apartment was also the only apartment on the third floor so there were windows on all sides. It was love until the realtor told us the rent was $4,000/mo. Don't get us started on apartments in DUMBO right by the Brooklyn Bridge or the ones at the Brooklyn Heights Esplanade.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Restaurant Advertising

Jekyll and Hyde Club might not be the kind of place we'd go to drop money for a meal, but we have to give it to them for their eye-catching advertising gimmick.

I'm sure the boss didn't mind that the driver was parked here illegally while getting his pastrami sandwich if he saw how many people were taking photos of the car, which includes their web address as well.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ruben's Empanadas

Sigiri Sri Lanka Restaurant was closed so we decided to lunch it at a small empanada take-out joint Ruben's Empanadas in the East Village (122 First Ave., near 7th Street). Ruben's Empanadas has been hand wrapping and baking empanadas out of their Brooklyn Factory since 1975. All empanads are about $4. We ordered their lunch special - $7.38 for one empanada, rice and beans, cup of coffee, and a bottled water.

We were starving so we very pleased when we saw the huge plate of rice and beans included in our empanada lunch special. Unfortunately, the rice and beans were too dry and turned out to be too much to finish.

We were equally pleased when we saw the size of the empanada.

However, the taste was lack luster. Although the spinach tofu empanada was proportionately stuffed and tasted decent, the other empanadas tasted flat. My ham and cheese empanada (not pictured) was very disappointing. It looked nicely stuffed from the outside, but when I broke it in half, there was hardly any filling. Did it evaporate? Where did my filling go?

The empanadas were so flavorless and dry that even madly dipping them into the hot sauce didn't help. There are so many places to eat in the East Village that we wouldn't go back even if they offered $1 lunch specials.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The $3 Lusso Sangria

We miss unplanned, relaxing 3 pm Sangria happy hours. We miss dirt cheap $3 Sangrias that taste like 15 bucks and that are served all day even more. We miss Lusso's Sangrias! And don't ever call it fruit punch for adults.

Drinking a happy hour priced drink without the loud happy crowd in New York City is priceless.

Painting of Lusso in Lusso.

Fond memories of walking around the NYC streets and seeing bargain drink signs everywhere will never fade.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Housing Works Thrift Shops

There's many things to like about Housing Works thrift shops: chic eye-catching window displays, great bargains (although it can be hit and miss depending on the day), high-end fashion merchandise at greatly discounted prices, 40 to 50% off sales on already slashed prices, and an absolutely fantastic mix of unique furniture pieces, most at affordable prices. Because New Yorkers are such savvy, quick shoppers, the best furniture pieces always have a "sold" on them.

But the best thing about shopping at Housing Works is that purchases help their efforts with AIDS and homelessness. Housing Works is the largest community-based AIDS service organization in the U.S. and since 1990 has been providing housing, medical and mental health care, meals, job training, drug treatment, HIV prevention education, and social supports to thousands of homeless and low-income New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS.

Although Housing Works has seven locations in New York City (and one in Haiti), we've only been to our neighborhood Chelsea location on West 17th Street and the store in Brooklyn. We're not sure what the other stores are like, but we have a feeling the West 17th store is the best (the Brooklyn store, for example, was much smaller and carried a less diverse merchandise).

If we were staying in New York for the long haul, we would have absolutely bought this shelf/storage unit. This swiveled around 360 and has a full-length mirror on the back as well as coat hangers on one side. A good looking functional piece and a good deal for $50.

In any other state, a man wearing this jacket might look a bit special or even criminal. But we're pretty sure a man in New York could style this and pull this off any time of day to any place.

This barber's chair was expensive at almost a thousand dollars but if you have the money, like many people in New York do, then what a great buy.

And even if you walk out of the store empty, it's always a fun visit - listening to workers singing to an old Madonna hit or watching customers furniture battle or observing girls stalk other girls for boots and dresses. Housing Works also has some great events. I really wish I could be at their Bride on a Buck 2 event. I'm sure the event will be nutty and the dresses will be sold out in under an hour. Someone should definitely tape the scene of women at the fiercest moment - bargain shopping competition.

After a Housing Works visit, walk across the street to Angel Street Thrift Shop. That's where I scored my Phillip Lim coat. Fun times shopping in New York in the fall!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Manganaro's Hero Boy

As we mentioned in our older post before we left New York, we have a few more food-related posts that we just didn't have any time to do while we were in a frenzied pace to see and visit every crack and crevice in New York while we still lived there. We'll start with a place and its sandwiches we're craving right now: Manganaro's Hero Boy in Hell's Kitchen (at 494 9th Avenue).

Manganaro's Hero Boy is a working person's place and has been in business for over 50 years. When we went during lunch on a weekday, we saw a steady mix of white collar and blue collar folks. The restaurant serves the sandwiches cafeteria style and has a large seat-yourself dining section to the right. The portions are huge, the prices are reasonable, and the food is satisfying. Our kind of place. Most people will recommend their chicken parmigiana hero and their traditional lasagna, but we decided to order their meatball hero and the prosciutto, mozzarella & tomato hero, which turned out to be very good choices. The large meatballs were very moist, the traditional style tomato sauce was mellow, and the nicely melted cheese was plentiful.

Just check out the size of this heartburn-inducing hero. The only downer was the soggy bottom caused by the tomato sauce. They should serve the sauce on the side so you can spread and dip at your digestive pace without turning the bread "prematurely wet."

The prosciutto was simply stunning. How can one not love prosciutto? More importantly, how can a place screw up a prosciutto sandwich? Yes, odd, but many surprisingly do (too little meat, too dry, too much unnecessary sauce barfed on it). Thankfully, Manganaro's gives you a simple prosciutto sandwich done right. The meat tasted fresh and the portion was perfect.

The size of the heros are enormous, but not disgustingly tiresome the way a Carnegie sandwich is. So yes, you can actually eat the whole thing as long as you pace yourself right. The sandwiches were pretty good deals for $8 and $9 considering the portions. We were surprised that some rather large men could only finish half their hero. Tackling Manganaro's famous six-foot heros would probably be not so easy. One thing to know about Manganaro's besides their food is that they're located next to Manganaro's Grosseria and Ristorante. It's the same name, same family from the same blood line, but completely separate entities.

The decades long bitter family feud between Manganaro's Grosseria and Ristorante directly next door to Manganaro's Hero Boy is widely known. There's even a sign at the Grosseria that states "Manganaro's Foods is not affiliated with Hero Boy." The two separate Manganaros are owned and operated by feuding brothers. I'm sure their uncle James Manganaro who started working at the Grosseria as a young boy at the turn of the century and who gave the boys the business wouldn't be pleased with the War of the Manganaros. While the Hero Boy is more modern and has the larger scale cafeteria feel, the Grosseria, which is an old world Italian specialty food store and small restaurant in the back, make you feel like you've stepped back in time, like you walked in a scene of The Godfather. The Grosseria looked like the kind of place we'd want to eat at . . . with charm and history . . . BUT . . .

Both Manganaros were featured in Anthony Bourdina's No Reservations (separately, of course). We didn't have enough time to eat at the Grosseria, but we've read many unhappy reviews of bad treatment by the Grosseria proprietors. And we can also attest to a slightly rude treatment there. If you're in a nasty competition with your family members that run a food place next door that sells similar old school Italian food, why would you treat your customers like shit? Because when you make them feel unwelcome, they're going to go next door to Hero Boy instead where the service is quick and straightforward but certainly not rude or mean. As much as we wanted to try Grosseria, there's just too many places in New York City to discover and go back to, and a place that can't respect its customers on a basic level is just not worth the time (which is why we skipped Kebab Cafe).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Spike Jonze Retrospective at MoMA

Another thing we missed in NYC was the first-ever film retrospective of Spike Jonze at MoMA, one of our favorite New York museums. Jonze even participated in an opening night discussion with Maurice Sendak on October 8th. Sigh. MoMa had asked Jonze ten years ago if they could do a retrospective on him and he declined saying he thought it was too early for a retrospective at that time and asked them to ask him ten years later if they still wanted him.

Although he doesn't have many film credits under his belt (obviously a man of quality over quantity when it comes to film work), he certainly has many fans, like us, of his earlier music videos. This list has a few of his video work, although the list is astonishingly missing Weapon of Choice by Fatboy Slim. And we also loved Sky's the Limit by Notorious B.I.G.

We're looking forward to seeing Where the Wild Things Are and how Jonze tackled the difficult task of adapting this beautiful childrens' classic picture book with so few words.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Stevie Wonder Concerts this Month - New York

We keep missing Stevie. For crying out loud, we have a wonderful framed Stevie concert poster and we've never been able to see him perform live.

He'll be one of the performers at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 25th Anniversary concerts on October 29th and 30th at the Madison Square Garden. Other performers will include Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, U2, Paul Simon, Metallica, Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Friends, and Simon Garfunkel.

In addition to the the anniversary concert this month, Stevie has lined up concerts in neighboring cities. We would have gladly taken a quick 1 hour 15 min flight to Norfolk, VA.

No news of him ever coming this way.

Friday, October 2, 2009

New York City Wine & Food Festival

Wish we could be there. The second annual New York City Wine & Food Festival from October 8-11. Locations include some of our favorite areas like DUMBO and our neighborhood haunt - the Meatpacking District/Chelsea Market. The multitude of events look really impressive, although expensive. Then again, 100% of the net proceeds benefit hunger relief via the Food Bank for New York City and Share Our Strength. What really bums us out about this one is that Anthony Bourdain will be take part in this year's festivities. Really wished we could have ate some grub and talked some smack with him.