Monday, February 25, 2013

Rigoletto and the Rat Pack

Whoa, it's been a while. Generally, when I know I'm not going to make a substantive update for a while, I at least throw in a picture of my cat to tide things over. These last couple of weeks, I didn't have time for even that. It's been a mess of writing and procrastinating around here, but I just met a deadline today, so things are looking up. It's a shame though, because my cat has been especially photogenic lately.

This weekend I went to see a production of Rigoletto at the Met. I actually saw the same opera there when I first moved to New York and thought it would be a good idea to buy tickets to eight operas all on weeknights. I saw some good things that year. I also skipped out on the second intermission of several shows because weeknight operas are tough. Anyway, I was up for seeing it again because it's a show I really enjoy. I also was curious to see this new production which is set in 1960s Vegas. One of my favorite things about opera is the methods they take to keep trying to make classics that have been around for a couple hundred years feeling fresh. It's also a testament to the universal themes that they can really be transplanted (with reasonable success) to any time and place and be just about as ridiculous as the original storyline.

Granted some settings are more ridiculous than others. There was apparently a version of Rigoletto put on in Munich that was Planet of the Apes themed. So that's where we are innovation-wise.

I admit, I kind of wish I'd seen this one. 
 The Met version was somewhat less eccentric. I actually thought the staging worked very well. There was some wonderful Overlook Hotel style casino carpeting and plenty of flashing neon lights. The Duke had a playboy/lounge singer thing going which seemed appropriate. The last act also involved a car on stage which even given the 30 minute intermission that preceded it was fairly impressive.

Perfectly encapsulates all the things I don't like about Vegas.
I don't have too much else to say about this show. Mostly, I think I don't feel too much like writing after finally getting that book turned in. I took an awesome picture of Dinah laying down next to a power drill, but sadly it's on Sam's phone. That probably would have helped make this post better.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Astoria, blanketed

The good thing about most of my readership being far afield, even if it does limit how much I can get away with talking about local eats, is that hopefully you aren't sick of snow pictures at this point. If you are for whatever reason sick of snow pictures though, feel free to stop reading, because this post is pretty much just that. I'm really a fan of snow for the first day or so after it falls (ie before it transforms into a dirty, trash-studded, slush pile), so after the blizzard we got Friday, I spent some of Saturday frolicking in it down at Astoria Park. Now that it's a rainy Monday, the snow is either in dirty heaps or forming large puddles at street corners that must be waded through, but at least I have the memories (and photographic documentation) of the powdery white times.

Walking home from a party with a friend during the blizzard Friday night. This was a bit after midnight, but the sky looks like dusk, which I'm attributing to the city lights reflecting off the snow. 
Astoria Park on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning.

I realize all of my pictures of the park make it look like I was the only one there. In reality, there were a ton of kids sledding or building snowmen (something I would have attempted had I thought to bring gloves), but I opted for thoughtful empty snow pictures instead.

Me, after a nice snow frolic. 

And again, after Sam had caught up with me (his frolicking was more contained due to lack of proper snow boots)
 Hope those to the north and those who actually own things like cars and houses that must be dug out aren't having too many headaches with this one!

Friday, February 8, 2013

David Burke Kitchen: A review

Normally, I don't really do restaurant reviews on here. And reviews of restaurants no where near Astoria no less! While I like talking about food in great detail (who doesn't?), it seems a little silly to pass judgement on a restaurant in NYC when so much of my readership doesn't live here. However, I'm making an exception because this place had some really fun, innovative food. So even if you're not planning a New York food trip anytime soon, it's still interesting to read about. No? Well, at the very least, it's interesting for me to write about, so there's that.

I went to David Burke Kitchen in the Jane Hotel last night as part of the third week of restaurant "week." It was chosen, as all of my restaurant week selections in the past have been chosen, based on two criteria:
a) Restaurants I can't (or won't) afford when it's not restaurant week.
b) Any place where I can get a reservation after 5:30 and before 10.
After I narrow it down based on these items, I just look through the menu until I find the most exciting one. This year's winner: David Burke Kitchen.

DBK (the only thing I don't really like about it is the name. We get it. You're a celebrity chef, but can't you be a bit more creative?) is a farm-to-table restaurant. In addition to having locally sourced food, they also really play up the farm theme with cute little red gingham napkins and photos of farmers hugging animals on the walls (which is somewhat less weird than it sounds). The menu is extensive, and even better the restaurant week menu covers almost all of the options (usually they limit you to about three). For the first course, I had the pretzel crab cake served with beer foam and frisse. I didn't taste the pretzel too much, but it made an interesting presentation. Sam got the smoked pastrami salmon served with bagel fritters and garlic cream. It was essentially an elegant, deconstructed lox bagel. There was one starter that wasn't on the restaurant week menu that intrigued us both (and Sam said he would have tried had it been an option). It was a playful take on the children's snack "ants on a log" but the log is bone marrow, the ants are snails, and the peanut butter stand-in is pickled onions. Not exactly my favorite things, but I do admire it conceptually.

Not your average crab cake! You'll note this is a promotional photo from David Burke Kitchen. I avoided taking any photos last night for fear of being fodder for this blog
The main courses were a bit more traditional, but still very well done. Sam had some short ribs with cavatelli (which was creamy and amazing), and I had the pork chop with mango chutney and cumin bacon. The pork chop was perfectly fine, but the bacon was quite possibly the best bacon I've ever had. I don't know what farm they get it from, but I need to go there.

For dessert I had an oatmeal sundae with rum soaked raisins and sour cream ice cream that was delicious and surprisingly better (to me) than Sam's malted chocolate cake. It was warm and comforting and perfect for a very cold day. Much like this one, only now we also have snow to contend with.

I guess that's all I have to say about food for now, or at least the food served at David Burke Kitchen. If anyone is planning a trip up in August, you should definitely take advantage of it during the next restaurant week. Or I guess you could pull out all the stops and pay full price, but that's never as much fun.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cold and horses

Back in the fall, I bought a groupon for a horseback ride with apple cider upstate. It seemed like a lovely fall activity at the time. But then most outings are lovely in the fall and many of those got in the way. In the end, we weren't able to schedule it until this past Saturday. There was no apple cider to speak of which I think is fair in February, but we did enjoy a nice ride. The only downside was that it was 19 degrees outside, which is a temperature that really no amount of hot cider can help.

Nevertheless, it was a nice day. I'm reminded every time I leave the city, how much nicer things are when they're clean and spaced out. Which I guess is a sign I shouldn't be living in a city at all, but I do enjoy the convenience of 24-hour fruit and vegetable markets. The road out to the farm was lined by rocky cliffs with beautiful ice falls on them. The only downside of small town New York is that there are apparently no coffee shops open on a Saturday morning. We followed the iphone to the one that was listed in downtown Walden only to find on arrival that the space was for rent. The only thing open for us to have for breakfast (or rather for Sam to have for breakfast, because I had gotten up early and eaten at home) was a gas station convenience store which gave us the bounty of last year's girl scout cookies and trail mix.

The farm didn't have too many long trails, but we took the horses (mine was Jupiter) over an icy trail to a field. We saw many deer in the forest, most of them alive, and then one that was dead and torn apart by coyotes. The law of tooth and fang is alive and well both in the city and without. By the time we got back, I couldn't really feel my feet, but overall it was still a lot of fun! And here are some photos of the occasion (having an iphone on hand again does have its advantages):

In addition to horses, this particular farm also had llamas, goats, pigs, two very large, but friendly mastiffs, and these little guys. Cows are so cute when they're small.

Not great posture on my part, but I do enjoy the iphone's many filters, so I'm posting it anyway.
Jupiter in all his glory. Apparently, none of the horses like him, but he gets on well with the llamas. 

Another gratuitous calf picture. 
As you can probably tell, this was not on the farm, but rather back in the city in Times Square.  We were in the area for lunch on Sunday, and I'm not sure if it was because it was early on Superbowl Sunday or because it was 20 degrees, but it was remarkably empty, so we stopped long enough to savor that. 
 Hope everyone had a nice and relaxing weekend as well! The Superbowl commercials were a bit of a let down, perhaps, but overall it was a nice one.