Author Archive

Learning Vacations in Upstate New York

It’s vacation time and also a very good time to learn a new skill.  For Manhattanites, there is a wide range of options waiting within an easy drive or train ride from the city. As an added benefit, these learning holidays all take place in areas where the scenery will wow you with its unspoiled natural beauty.

Upstate New York’s craft traditions date back to Colonial times and its natural beauty is safeguarded by “Forever Wild” Forest Preserves and State Parks that cover an area greater than Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Canyon, and Great Smokies national parks combined.

Here are some examples of learning vacations that will challenge you while allowing you to bring home a new skill:

  • Build a boat in wine country. Black Sheep Inn and Spa, in conjunction with the Finger Lakes Boating Museum, will offer a week-long boatbuilding class this summer. No experience is required, and students build a Bevin’s skiff to take home. Packages offering pottery, stained glass, glassblowing and jewelry workshops are also available.
  • The art of glass. In the Finger Lakes region, the Corning Museum of Glass offers glass-making programs for children and adults. Additionally, the Oatka School of Glass in Batavia in the Greater Niagara region offers classes in kiln-formed glass ranging from introductory two-hour Make+Fuse to advanced multi-day workshops.
  • Watercolor and more. Hudson River Valley Art Workshops at the Greenville Arms 1889 Inn in Greenville are offered in a variety of media for diverse skill levels. Whet your appetite by visiting Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s American Wing to see the Hudson River Valley School paintings.
  • Make a rustic headboard. Set in the Adirondack Mountain region of New York, the Adirondack Folk School in Lake Luzerne offers opportunities to build authentic Adirondack chairs and twig furniture as well as learn weaving, pottery, soap making and more. On tap year-round, classes range from half-day sessions to week-long courses. Most are tailored to adults.
  • Write a graphic novel or learn how to make a movie. At Chautauqua Institution, located in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, workshops include film-making, creating graphic novels and more.
  • Awaken your spirit. Also in the Hudson Valley, the renowned Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY offers classes in dance, writing, music, crafts, and other creative arts.  Practice your downward-facing dog in one of their many yoga classes to help you unleash your inner creator.
  • Cook with a chef. The Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, NY, in the Hudson Valley offers CIA Boot Camp Cooking Vacations with expert chefs. Courses include two- to five-day specialized programs such as American Regional, Italian and Asian cuisine and a classic five-day Basic Training.
  • Make a wooden bucket. Novices and aficionados can apprentice for two days with skilled cooper at Genesee Country Village & Museum, a living 19th-century country village in the Finger Lakes region and take home their own crafted bucket. The living museum also offers classes in tinsmithing, blacksmithing and cheese-making.
  • Weave an Adirondack pack basket. Students can learn to weave a pack basket or door, notepad and other Adirondack-style baskets at the Thousand Islands Arts Center (home of the Hand Weaving Museum) in Clayton in the 1000 Islands region. The center also offers classes in pottery, jewelry making, painting and other fiber arts.

Two Ways to Explore Brooklyn: By Foot and By Bus

Are you mystified about Brooklyn? Brooklyn is the second largest borough in New York City and holds a myriad of cultural and culinary attractions.  Here are two ways to explore it, one by foot and one by bus.

Local Expeditions

Local Expeditions are walks and bike tours curated and led by local residents passionate about a topic.

This walk through Brooklyn is perfect for theater lovers, music fans, and anyone curioous about Brooklyn’s past. The tour meets in front of BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, and ends at the Theatre for a New Audience’s Polonsky’s Shakespeare Center 262 Ashland Place (at Fulton Street), Brooklyn. http://local-expeditions.com/expeditions/the-downtown-brooklyn-cultural-district/

Brooklyn Academy of Music

Once described as a “regional attraction to rival Times Square,” downtown Brooklyn was a popular destination of shops, restaurants and theaters. It is now enjoying a revival with the Brooklyn Cultural District, Polonsky’s Shakespeare Center, and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (where you can drink and dine while you watch).

The tour is led by theater historian Cezar Del Valle and will explore downtown Brooklyn’s theatrical past, present and future. Sites visited  include those of the legendary Paramount and Fox theaters, the 14th and 15th largest movie houses built in America.

The walk ends at the Theatre for a New Audience’s Polonsky’s Shakespeare Center. Opened in 2013, this was the first major house for classical drama to be built in New York City since Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater in 1965.

Tickets are $30 per person.

Polonsky’s Shakespeare Center

Foods of NY

If you’re a foodie, you will love Foods of NY’s culinary tours.

It takes a while to explore (and eat your way through) Brooklyn, so a bus tour is actually a good idea if you want to cover a lot of distance in a short period of time. If Brooklyn were not part of New York City, it would still rank as the fourth largest city in the US, with 43 distinct neighborhoods with people from almost every country. With that comes an amazing array of traditions, history, and, of course, lots of fabulous ethnic foods. https://www.foodsofny.com/foods-ny-tours-2/the-best-of-brooklyn/#book-now

Table 87 Italian Cuisine

The half-day food, history, and cultural journey traverses four Brooklyn neighborhoods where you’ll learn about Brooklyn’s immigrant past and present. Areas visited include Williambsurg’s Hasidic area, Greenpoint’s Polish neighborhood where you’ll sample kielbasa and pierogies, North Williamsburg’s hipster areas with lots of street food and pizza choices, and more. All told, you’ll have six tastings of some of Brooklyn’s most representative cuisines from Middle Eastern to Italian, from hipster to traditional. Plan to come very hungry!

KROWLEWSKIE JADLO Polish Cuisine

Pick up and drop off are in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. After getting a taste of Brooklyn, you might just want to stay there a bit longer and make your way back to Manhattan by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge for its glorious views of both Brooklyn (look behind you) and Manhattan (in front of you).

Tickets are priced at $125 per person.

Love Farce? The Metromaniacs Closes This Weekend

You have only four more chances to see this romp of a literary farce on Broadway. Meter, rhyming, deceit, and fantasy all play into The Metromaniacs whirl of a show where nothing appears as it truly is. Scheming, mistaken identities and assumed personas play into the lovefest where the ultimate goal is to connect with one’s true soulmate. Set in Paris, 1738, verse- and poetry-mania have created an affinity among residents for couplets.

I don’t want to spoil the intrigue but suffice it to say that you’ll need to pay attention to the goings-on here in much the same way as you’d watch a Shakespearean comedy.

If you enjoy fast-paced language-dependent theater, you’ll have a great time. And the interspersing of current language idioms with 18th-century rhyming and cadence adds to the literary witticism and pleasure. Language nuts will have a field day!

Original Baroque music by Adam Wernick. Gorgeous costumes by Murell Horton. And the wonderful script by David Ives (Venus in Fur, The Liar, All in the Timing).

Instead of a pre-show glass of wine, have an espresso and get ready for a literary tour de force.

Tickets on sale at www.Dukeon42.org. The Duke, 229 West 42nd Street.

Dining out Ideas for Mother’s Day in Brooklyn and Manhattan – Seven Last-Minute Ideas

Still haven’t booked a reservation? You’ll thank me for these ideas.

Switch things up this Mother’s Day and celebrate with an Israeli feast at Miss Ada in Fort Greene. A twist on the traditional brunch, Miss Ada will be offering an a la carte menu with items that are a riff off of traditional Israeli dishes and savory pastries. Notable highlights include Yemeni pastries such as the Jachnun, a flaky dough coated with a date honey that has been slow-cooked in an oven overnight and topped with brown egg, tomato and schug; Malawach, a layered pan-fried bread paired with a hard-boiled egg, tomato and schug; and Ziva, a flaky pastry with layers of the malawach filled with sweet potato, fontina cheese, asiago and mushrooms. You have a choice of dining indoors or outdoors on the patio surrounded by fresh herbs and vegetables. The beverage menu features five different variations on the classic Bloody Mary and homemade kombucha. 917-909-1023. 185 DeKalb Avenue Brooklyn. www.missadanyc.com.

Celebrate Mother’s Day with the whole family at SUGARCANE, the raw bar and grill situated along Dumbo’s historic waterfront. Live jazz entertainment will be provided by NYC brass band, the Hudson Horns while you indulge on a range of seasonal brunch specials created for the occasion by Chef Partner Timon Balloo. Highlights include an acai bowl with house-made yogurt, quinoa and granola, strawberries, and avocado sorbet; and pork belly mojado with pickled onion, queso fresco, fried egg, and spiced shiso jus. Pair with wine, beer, and specialty cocktails such as the Frogroni (frozen negroni). A new kids menu is also available, in addition to mocktails such as the virgin spicy mule made with jalapeño, shishito syrup, ginger beer and yuzu. 718.473.9555 55 Water Street, Brooklyn www.sugarcanerawbargrill.com/brooklyn

Along the East River next to the historic South Street Seaport, Industry Kitchen is your choice for waterside dining with a view. Mother’s Day brunch will be served a la carte from Executive Chef Braulio Bunay, the creator of the 24kt gold pizza. His creations for mom include braised short rib pizza with fontina, shaved asparagus, BBQ sauce, cheese stuffed crust; and the Golden Rose with sweet ricotta cake, chocolate dome, warm raspberry rose coulis, and his signature 24kt gold leaf. Pair with wine, beer, cocktails, and a view of Brooklyn. 212-487-9600  70 South Street www.industry-kitchen.com

For moms seeking something sweet, Dante, the Australian-American cafe in the West Village, will be offering three special pastries in honor of Mother’s Day, supplementing their weekend brunch menu, frangipane tarte with fresh berries and mascarpone, lemon and coconut drizzle cake with vanilla gelato, or macadamia and white chocolate blondies with caramel apple buttermilk gelato. For lighter options, Dante’s brunch also features a number of veggie-centric dishes such as the Green Breakfast Bowl with quinoa, peas, green beans, avocado, arugula and soft poached egg, and the Salmon Bowl with cucumber pickles, avocado, baby kale salad, dill and soft poached egg. Celebrate with a cocktail creation like the Salty Dog with Absolut, fluffy pink grapefruit juice and black lava salt.  212-982-5257. 79-81 Macdougal Street www.dante-nyc.com.

New American restaurant with South American influences, Fifty has a special Mother’s Day brunch. Executive Chef and Ecuadorian native Luis Jaramillo will utilize fresh, seasonal ingredients to prepare dishes that include from those found in Ecuador. Menu highlights include house-baked Nutella babka French toast with berries in syrup, whipped cream, and salted pistachio; and seafood bloody Mary ceviche with shrimp, octopus, fried calamari and celery. I recommend the Spritz Me Up cocktail with pama pomegranate, amaro montenegro, and prosecco to complete the celebration. 212-524-4104. 50 Commerce St. www.fiftyrestaurantnyc.com.

For a Mother’s Day dinner, book a reservation at The Milling Room, a seasonally inspired American restaurant just off of Central Park. After a beautiful spring day in the park with mom, stop in for a la carte options prepared by Executive Chef Phillip Kirschen-Clark. Highlights include salmon belly crudo with blood orange, radishes, scallion; and spicy vongole bucatini with Manilla clams, garlic, white wine, Thai chili, miso and breadcrumbs. Kick off spring with a specially priced rosé, a perfect finish to the meal, such as Ployez-Jacquemart Extra Brut Rosé 212.595.0380. 446 Columbus Ave. www.themillingroom.com

At celebrity hot spot Philippe by Philippe Chow, you can treat Mom like a star this Mother’s Day Executive Chef Philippe Chow has been serving traditional Chinese cuisine for the past 12 years, catering to the many well-known influencers and celebrities including Cardi B, Rihanna and Anna Wintour. For Mother’s Day an a la carte menu will be presented family-style with dishes such as chicken satay, Peking duck and green prawns. For dessert, a slice of lemon cake with summer berries topped with black sesame ice cream is a special creation for Mother’s Day Pastry Chef Terri Dreisbach. 33 E 60th Street 212-644-8885 www.philippechow.com/nyc

How to Celebrate Mother’s Day in New York City

It’s not too late to buy your mother a tasty gift for Mother’s Day, or, better still, to take her out to celebrate the fact that you exist because of her!

This Mother’s Day, legendary Katz’s Delicatessen on the Lower East Side (and now in Brooklyn) has launched two new packages, specially made to celebrate mom. You can either bring the feast to her with Breakfast in Bed a perfect in-bed food rush with New York bagels and lox, Katz’s signature coffee mug, a T-shirt which makes a perfect sleep shirt, and a limited edition egg cream candle. If mom isn’t the stay-in-bed type of person, I’d suggest taking her to dinner at Katz’s instead for their Mother’s Day Dinner . She’ll get a full taste of New York City local dining with one of Katz’s famous pastrami, corned beef or brisket sandwiches with all the fixing;, a cup of matzoh ball soup; rugelach for dessert; and a take-home Katz’s Deli apron and egg cream candle (it’s always good to give your mother a real present as well as food!). 205 East Houston Street, at Ludlow Street. 1-800-4HOT DOG.

If you live outside of New York, or even if you do live in the city and don’t feel like trucking downtown or over the bridge, Katz’s will send these packages straight to your door through their nationwide shipping service, free with orders over $100.  Instead of sending a salami to your boy in the army, you’ll be sending a pastrami to your mother at home. Yum!

The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park celebrates mothers with an indulgent “Mom and Me” spa package. After choosing between two treatments, a 60-minute Signature La Prairie Facial or a 60-minute Swedish Massage, your mother will spend the afternoon enjoying a special Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea in The Star Lounge with a Champagne toast, savory sandwiches, and other treats personalized with her  initials to make her feel extra special. 50 Central Park South. 212-308-9100 http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/new-york/central-park

If you feel like taking a 30-minute drive outside of the city, The Ritz-Carlton New York, Westchester is also offering a special Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea with a specially crafted menu. Moms are welcomed with a complimentary glass of Shramsberg Blanc de Blanc wine and then a high tea experience that only the Ritz-Carlton could do: a choice of loose leaf tea, fresh homemade scones, housemade jam, and an assortment of savory sandwiches like smoked salmon with dill and asparagus, or cucumber with mint cream cheese on caraway bread.  For a sweet finish, the decadent petit four collection will bring a smile with chocolate opera cake, fresh fruit tarts, French macaroons, and madeleines.

You can add to Mom’s perfect day with a treatment at the Ritz-Carlton Spa such as a Radiance and Renewal facial, or the 90-minute Spring Equinox Spa Treatment, a three-part series of full-body dry brushing, a detoxifying algae wrap, and a massage. 3 Renaissance Square, White Plains. 914-467-5717.

How about surprising your mother with an elegant and indulgent weekend hotel staycation. Make sure you’re enrolled in Hilton’s Honors Program as you select from the Hilton hotels in New York City that are offering discounted stays, a taxi credit, discounted tickets to the Roundabout Theatre, and special meal discounts at restaurants including Lincoln Ristorante, BLT Steak, ATRIO Wine Bar & Restaurant  https://travel.hilton.com/en_us/offers/savor-nyc-weekend

If your inclinations take you somewhere outdoors, New York Hilton Midtown will put together a Mother’s Day picnic for you in Central Park. Stop by the hotel’s gourmet market, Herbs N’ Kitchen, to pick up your picnic basket filled with a blanket, housemade meats, and treats from local vendors including sandwiches, salads, New York cheesecake, and sustainable wine.. 1335 Avenue of the Americas. 212-586-7000.

One of my favorite restaurants near City Center, Carnegie Hall and the Theater District, Molyvos is a wonderful choice for a pre-theater or post-theater Mother’s Day celebration.  An authentic Greek tavern, Molyvos will present a three-course prix fixe menu with specials like jumbo lump crab cake, slow roasted Vermont baby lamb, and the restaurant’s own distinctive Greek dessert, tres leches baklava.  871 Seventh Avenue. 212-582-7500.

We wouldn’t want to forget the great restaurants in Brooklyn also celebrating Mother’s Day. My choice for the perfect place is Olmsted, a lauded sliver of a restaurant with a cozy garden in the back. Bring your mother here for lunch or dinner where a prix fixe selection of the restaurant’s many favorites will be on the menu including their inventive breakfast egg roll, duck duo with crispy duck sausage and duck scrambled eggs, and krapfen (Austrian donuts filled with pear jelly).  For dinner, you can expect more deliciousness. As of this writing, reservations were still (surprisingly) available. http://www.olmstednyc.com/ 659 Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. 718- 552-2610.

Broadway News: A Good Cause and Good Eats

For Broadway nerds like me, The Actor’s Fund and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids are important organizations, providing much-needed health and other services to the Broadway community.

At this year’s recent Easter Bonnet Competition at the Minskoff Theater, the casts of Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen performed a brilliant version of “Together” as an ensemble, as their entry into the competition. The competition raised $5.8MM for this worthy cause. Thank you to the members of the Bucket Brigade who help collect donations at the theaters. And to presenters Nathan Lane, Bernadette Peters, Victor Garber, and Andrew Garfield.

And, if you’re looking for some nearby places to eat — here are a few to consider:

Opry City – at 47th Street and Broadway, a four-story tribute to Nashville and country music with a two-floor restaurant, two music stages, and a shop.

Junior’s — expanding their Broadway cheesecake and deli empire into a mega-space at 49th Street and Broadway. The original Times Square location is still on 45th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.

Tender Steak and Sushi — in the Sanctuary Hotel, a polished loungey restaurant offering up solid Asian and American fare. There’s also a bar where you can dine on a more casual menu. 47th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue.

Haven Rooftop — also in the Sanctuary Hotel, a year-round rooftop bar and restaurant that’s in high demand, particularly during the warmer months

Planning a trip to NYC?