Stuff to Do

Hurry! The New York International Auto Show Ends This Weekend

Schedule your time this weekend to spend at least a few hours of the 2017 version of the New York International Auto Show.  With cars and SUVs set up on the first floor, and trucks and a few SUVs on the lower level, you’ll have a lot of exploring ahead of you. Electric cars, hybrids, new SUV models, concept cars and luxury vehicles are all on display. From now through April 23, this show is a must for any car lover. Show hours: Friday and Saturday, 10am-10pm. Sunday, 10am-7pm.

Among the trends that are apparent this year:

SUVs are big news. Big ones, small ones, crossovers. Everyone seems to have a variety of versions in popular colors like blue and red. Of particular note, Alfa Romeo has joined in with the stylish Stelvio. Who knew that you could  up the raciness quotient started by Porsche’s Cayenne with an Alfa Romeo? The Stelvio is quite striking and will be available in the US in 2018.

Smaller cars are getting a visible style makeover. Just take a look at the Toyota Camry and the Honda Civic, and you’ll see what I mean. Add leather, trim, and some stylized exterior appointments and bright colors, and, poof, you have an affordable alternative to higher-priced BMW 3 series of the Mercedes C-Class. Well, almost.

Speaking of BMW, the all-new 5 Series has a dedicated area so you can decide for yourself whether the changes are significant or not. The styling doesn’t seem all that radically different, but under-the-hood shows the improvements.

Hyundai’s high-end division, Genesis, displays their attractive sedans, soon to be introduced in the US.

The new Lincoln Continental is luxurious as ever but markedly different from the Continental of yore, with sleek door handles and lines.

If you’re not in the market for a new car, or if you have kids in tow, there are plenty of other fun activities as well. Try out the Hyundai racing challenge stimulator or the Nissan interactive GTR Driving Experience.

Virtual reality stations are offered by Jaguar, Ford and Acura.

And, of course, there’s the ever-popular outdoor Camp Jeep off-roading experience. Line up early and put your driving gloves on!

Hungry? Check out Clyde Frazier, Walt Frazier’s massive basketball and sports restaurant around the corner. Cocktails are named after some of Frazier’s signature basketball quotes: “Loosey Goosy,” “Stumbling and Bumbling” and “Moving and Grooving.”  Main courses span the U.S. with mac and cheese, burgers, and blackened Scottish salmon, and add Asian accents with Thai lobster curry with jasmine rice.  While you wait, you can duck into the half court at the end of the bar and shoot hoops in this tribute to one of the Knicks’ greatest players. 485 Tenth Avenue. arkrestaurants.com/clydefraziers/

Where to go:  Jacob Javits Center, 11th Avenue between 34th and 40th streets, New York City.  Hours:  10am-7pm. http://www.autoshowny.com/.   Tickets are $17 for adults and $7 for children under 12, and can be purchased online or at the show.

A New England Getaway from New York City: Newport, Rhode Island

Photo By: Gavin Ashworth

Newport, Rhode Island looms large in the lore of 19th-century society. It was where the wealthy vacationed, where they built their summer “cottages,” and where they entertained on a grand scale. The mansions lining Bellevue Avenue offer a taste of the Gilded Age, and they welcome you year-round to explore and imagine life as it was in what has been dubbed “America’s First Resort.”

For those of us who live more modestly, Newport (https://www.discovernewport.org/) holds much appeal beyond this fantasy life of the rich and famous of the 1880s. It’s also the playground of the sailing and yachting set and known for the America’s Cup.

Newport is a walkable town with quaint New England shops, beautiful flowers, stunning buildings, and oodles and oodles of history. It also remains a beacon to what is possible: having a port that early on rivaled that of New York and Boston, and serving as a haven for religious freedom from as early as 1639. And if the fresh ocean air doesn’t capture you with its salty perfume, the friendliness of the locals certainly will. Newport will always be a place to visit again and again.

I have returned to Newport many times, in different seasons, and have had a wonderfully enriching getaway each visit. The regatta and racing season may not begin until June, but spring is equally delightful in this elegant seaside town. Walking past the historic and architecturally significant International Tennis Hall of Fame (https://www.tennisfame.com/) or stopping at the quirky Audrain Automobile Museum (http://audrainautomuseum.org/) for more dreaming and drooling — this all add to the appeal of the city.

Newport is the home of the oldest synagogue in the United States. The 1763 Touro Synagogue welcomes visitors on a guided tour where you learn about the beginnings of the Sephardic community in the United States and George Washington’s inspirational letter to the Jews of Newport. The letter, written in 1790, is read annually to the congregation and visitors. The synagogue sits on Newport’s Historic Hill with the neighboring Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House dating from 1730 and the 1835 Levi Gale House.

Head back towards Bellevue Avenue for a look at the sprawling campus of Salve Regina College with its magnificent Gilded Age buildings and climb along the paths and rocks of the Cliff Walk for a privileged and intimate look at the back yards of the many mansions overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The Preservation Society of Newport (http://www.newportmansions.org/) will provide a list of the openings of the various cottages so you can also explore indoors, generally on a self-guided audio tour. The Breakers, Rosecliff, Château sur Mer, The Elms and Marble House are the only ones currently open, but all will be allowing tours by the end of May. (Insider’s note: the gift shops at the cottages offer some amazing “period” souvenirs that you may decide to keep for yourselves.)

Driving along historic Ocean Drive, one of the country’s most distinguished and beautiful residential roads, leads you to the premier destination for a Newport getaway, The Castle Hill Inn (www.castlehillinn.com/). Built in 1874 as a summer house, the landmark Victorian mansion delivers an experience that conjures up a stay among the society folks of the Gilded Age. With its sloping lawn and Adirondack chairs strategically placed for optimum bay breezes as well as views of neighboring Rose Island and Pell Bridge, Castle Hill Inn regally welcomes you for a classy, peaceful stay. The resort itself has many areas: the main inn rooms and their adjacent Harbor House and chalet accommodations; a main dining room, private dining area; two bars; a spa; a living room; and a line-up of individual beach cottages and houses where you walk across the sand to arrive at your own private house with fireplace and indoor and outdoor sitting areas.

For beach lovers, no matter the season, the Atlantic Ocean-facing cottages should be your choice of accommodation. The morning air and unblemished sand invite you to stroll along the shore while you search for sea glass that frequently washes up here. It’s a short drive up the hill to the main house where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the oceanview dining room, and where a reservation for Sunday’s jazz brunch is de rigueur. If you would prefer to stay in the main inn, the bi-level turret suite with its sweeping views of Narragansett Bay is pure Victorian bliss.

Last spring, I participated in the resort’s cooking school, let by Executive Chef Lou Rossi and Executive Pasty Chef Matthew Petersen. In the Inn’s lawn kitchen which serves guests outdoors during the warmer months, we learned how to make exquisite bakery items. My favorite was twirling the dough around my finger to create a somewhat round bagel. Others were more adept than I, but that was part of the fun. I had never tried anything like that before, and I loved it. I also loved making savory quiches and fruity crepes along with croissants with their many layers and pounds of butter. As we got more inventive, we made mini versions that replicated the larger croissants, just to see if we could. After a day of rolling, pounding and filling doughy, carb-filled creations, it was important to celebrate our successes with a Champagne toast and some wondrous cocktails. Beverage Director Anthony Boi showed us a number of variations on the Bloody Mary, to perfectly complement our brunch menu. The Inn’s specialty, and a riff on a New England standby, uses tomato-flavored vodka and adds clam juice to add a bit of salt-air intrigue.

Castle Hill Inn

Castle Hill Inn  is a shingle-style Relais & Châteaux situated on 40 acres just at the entrance of Narragansett Bay. The original 19th-century Agassiz Mansion has seven guest rooms and suites with stunning views. Outside of the main mansion, you’ll find 26 private, waterfront accommodations in the Harbor House, Chalet, Beach Houses and Beach Cottages. Activities at the inn vary by season, but there are always outdoor exploring, wellness and cooking weekends, spa treatments, champagne brunches, stargazing, bonfires, and beachcombing. The resort has hosted many famous guests over its long history, with perhaps the most celebrated being Grace Kelly who stayed while filming High Society in 1956. The resort’s secluded seaside cove bears her name. 590 Ocean Drive, Newport, RI 02840, 401-849-3800, or 888-466-1355. (http://www.castlehillinn.com/)

Executive Chef Lou oversees the curved oceanview dining room and crafts a changing menu of farm (or sea) to table international and regional choices. The Inn’s Sunday jazz brunch is popular among locals as well as guests and should be booked well in advance. Don’t miss the decadent lobster hash topped with poached eggs as well as any of the baked goods from Pasty Chef Petersen. In addition to offering the perfected Bloody Mary, the bar features a selection of more than 800 wines, acclaimed by Wine Spectator with the “Best of Award of Excellence” for the past 10 years.

To end winter, treat yourself to a “Retreat to Romance” weekend, filled with the indulgence of a couple’s massage at the Spa and Farmaesthetics Fine Herbal Skincare products along with the healthfulness of farm-to-table dining. Stay for two nights and toast the vernal equinox with a bottle of Champagne in your room adorned with flowers. The Inn’s decadently refined Afternoon Tea adds to the romance and rejuvenation.

Families aren’t forgotten either. Castle Hill’s popular Easter Weekend kicks off on Saturday morning April 15 with the annual Easter Egg Hunt on The Lawn and throughout the gardens. Proceeds from this event benefit the Child & Family of Newport County fund. Brunch on Easter Sunday celebrates the bounty of spring in the hotel’s oceanview dining room.  For reservations, call 401-840-3800.

I highly recommend the springtime Castle Hill Cooking Class which reprises this year from May 5-7. Chef Lou Rossi and Pastry Chef Matthew Petersen will again lead guests through a two days of culinary craftsmanship. Also part of this year’s Cooking Class, wine education sessions will be overseen by Beverage Director Anthony Boi. The theme may be different from last year’s brunch focus, but it’s sure to fill your head as well as your stomach with delicious treats. Be prepared to get your hands dirty and learn the secrets of great culinary cuisine. For reservations, dial 888-466-1355.  http://castlehillinn.com/about-castle-hill-inn/social-datebook/

More Events

If you can tear yourself away from the calm and indulgent setting of Castle Hill Inn, Newport beckons with a lively dining scene.  From March 27-April 7, it’s Newport’s Spring Restaurant Week https://www.discovernewport.org/newport-restaurant-week/), a great time to sample local dining at great prices. More than 50 restaurants will be offering a three-course prix fixe lunch for $16 or a three-course prix fixe dinner for only $35.

Two of my favorites are among those participating this year. The bi-level Midtown Oyster Bar (http://www.midtownoyster.com/) is always hopping with its sailing crowd (even in the off-season) and live music at the bar. The crudos, ceviches and oysters from the raw bar are top-notch. Scales and Shells Restaurant and Raw Bar (http://www.scalesandshells.com/) just down the street is another Newport favorite, an all-seafood experience in a comfortable setting. Be sure to order their New England clambake – there’s nothing like a grilled New England lobster, except perhaps a steamed or hot boiled one. The restaurant has an extensive oyster selection that changes daily and great artisanal beers.

Grab a yellow daffodil pin and join the locals and visitors who celebrate the end of winter and the birth of spring with The Newport Daffodil Days Festival (http://daffodillion.com/daffydays/) from April 15-23. This 10-day event coincides with the emergence of half a million daffodils throughout the city. A calendar of events shows parades, bike tours to view daffodil fields, garden visits and a back-in-time lawn party at the historic Bellevue House.

Introducing Broadway Roulette: A New and Affordable Way to Enjoy Theater

Here’s a new way to score Broadway tickets at an affordable price with no hidden service fees and absolutely no hassle. Broadway Roulette is changing the game so that everyone can see some of the best shows in town. Broadway Roulette was created to help broaden the theater audience by making theater more accessible and certainly more affordable. With prices for the newest shows soaring into the $200-$300 range for the hottest tickets, and popular shows often sold out before you can snag a seat, Broadway Roulette is a game you really can’t lose.

The process is simple: pick your desired show date ranging from the next day to three months in advance, cross off up to four shows you’ve already seen or are not interested in seeing, select between musicals or plays, and let the roulette wheel work its magic to send you to a performance based on your preferences. The price is fixed at a maximum of $59 with a minimal $6 service charge per ticket. And it keeps getting better the more you spin the wheel: any shows that you see through Broadway Roulette are automatically excluded from future rounds so you can pick four other shows to eliminate from your selection.

Like the show listings in Playbill, variety is the name of the game and Broadway Roulette delivers with an ever-changing list of shows. You do need to be a bit of a risk-taker. By leaving the show selection to Broadway Roulette, you may not score your number one pick, but you’re guaranteed a great night of theater without standing in a Broadway rush line only to find that your show is sold out.

Finding out what you’ve “won” is simple, too.  On the day of the show, you receive an email and a text with the details of the play or musical, the theater address, and the performance time. You then pick up your tickets at the Will Call window at the theater – no need to search for someone standing outside the theater to hand you an envelope.  But, better still, there’s no need to enter a lottery every day, hunt around to find a possible discount, stand in line for half-price tickets, or rush to the box office to pay full price to see a Broadway show.

Broadway Roulette? I call this The Price Is Right.  Weekday show tickets are a mere $49; weekend prices increase to $59. Fees and handling are $6/ticket. http://www.broadwayroulette.com

Last Few Weeks — See the Rolling Stones’ Exhibitionism in the Meatpacking District

Whether you’re a diehard Rolling Stones fan or are fascinated by the history of fashion, art and pop culture, you won’t want to miss the Rolling Stones’ Exhibitionism. The interactive exhibit will play its final show in NYC on Sunday, March 12, before hitting the road for Chicago.

The exhibit spans 17,000 square feet of gallery space in the West Village’s Industria gallery, where visitors can journey through the lives of the band members and go behind the scenes to explore the band’s rise to fame. No stone is left unturned at Exhibitionism — you’ll find handwritten lyrics, concert memorabilia, instruments and a recreated recording studio. The exhibit begins with a recreation of the disheveled London flat that Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones shared when they first started out, and ends with an immersive 3D concert and backstage experience.

Along the way you’ll also get a glimpse of the influence that the Stones have had beyond the music scene since the 1960s. The Stones’ remarkable influence on pop culture can be seen in everything from fashion to famous artwork. Costumes and cover art are showcased alongside personal effects including diaries and letters written by the band members.

Tickets to Exhibitionism are $25 and are for timed entry to the exhibit. Tickets are still available for both of the final two weekends. https://ticketek.stonesexhibitionism.com/shows/show.aspx?sh=ROLLINGS17

Location: Industria, 775 Washington St (at W. 12th St.) in the Meatpacking District.

Hungry:

While you’re there, consider these wonderful restaurants for a post-show bite: Untitled at the new Whitney Museum, Santina for amazing Italian cuisine, Bubby’s for comfort food and great pastries, and The Standard Grill to ensure that you’re part of the driving, fashion-oriented scene of the neighborhood.

Then walk it off with a nice stroll along the High Line — enter at Gansevoort Street.

Where to Eat Now in New York City: Healthy and Not So Much

Hawaiian poke is a newish trend in New York City – it’s healthy, fresh, and relatively inexpensive.  Try Pokeworks on 37th and 6th, next to a restaurant that’s anything but healthy, Chick-fil-a. You start by picking your fish – tuna, salmon, shrimp (or even chicken), add toppings like seaweed, pineapple, and garlic flakes, and create a personalized bowl that’s far superior to those quinoa or salad bar things.
Sushi Nakazawa and O-Ya – two splurge-y restaurants for sushi and fish.  You can request no meat dishes and have an outrageous omakase (chef’s choice) meal.  Sushi Nakazawa is on Barrow Street in the Village.  O-Ya is in Murray Hill. Both feature superstar food talents, Chef Daisuke Nakazawa, a protégé of Japan’s acclaimed Jiro Ono and the O-Ya team from Boston,  Tim and Nancy Cushman.
Chicken is high on everyone’s list for healthy foods.  Le Coq Rico in the Flatiron District is Antoine Westermann’s tribute to the bird.  He brings his French-Alsatian expertise from Paris to NYC with chicken sourced from the farms of New York.  Roasted, it’s a healthy alternative to that breaded or fried version. I’d save my calories for Chef’s wonderful Ile Flôtante. For pure, unadulterated rotisserie chicken in a luxe setting, visit Rotisserie  Georgette on East 60th Street, where the owner’s many years of experience working with Daniel Boulud is in play at this sophisticated midtown restaurant.
When I’m craving something decadent, I love ordering fried chicken. It’s not something I do every day, and I realize that’s it less-than-healthy, but it’s always wonderful. My go-to is the tiny, quirky Birds and Bubbles on the Lower East Side. You go down a narrow metal stairway to a very narrow restaurant where Southern food is the star. Sarah Simmons, most recently of City Grit fame, has brought her North Carolina upbringing to NYC and paired her amazing dry-brined, fried chicken with Champagne. Who would have thought? It’s pure brilliance.

I always like finding the small bistros that really make you feel at home.  Little Frog sits quietly on busy East 86th Street, an authentic French bistro from people you should know from their time at Balthazar, and also from Minetta Tavern.  Order all seafood – try their amazing oysters — or splurge on the fab coq au vin, and you’ll have a wonderful cozy meal. It’s a quick walk from the new Second Avenue subway stop, too.

Indian cuisine has always been notable for offering wondrous vegetarian dishes, and NYC has a Michelin-starred one that takes Indian cooking to a new level.  Tulsi, on East 46th Street, brings cooking from Goa, mixes it up with street food, resulting in a showcase of unusual takes on somewhat familiar dishes.  Here, it’s worth saving room (and calories) for dessert as well. The creations from Chef Eric McCarthy (yes, that’s really his name and he IS from Goa) are anything but ordinary.

Finding a good restaurant after going to Carnegie Hall just got a little bit easier with the return of Jams to New York City. The original California cuisine restaurant of the 1980s, Jonathan Waxman’s Jams is now on the West Side walkable from the Theater District as well as Carnegie Hall. The airy room is a great choice for sampling their signature Jams chicken and pancakes with caviar and smoked salmon, both from the menu of the original restaurant.

For that special-occasion, serene but sensational dinner, book a table at Gabriel Kreuther.  The former chef at The Modern, Chef Kreuther serves up a meticulous menu of Alsatian dishes that are as beautiful as they are delicious. If you don’t want to have the full set menu every night, there’s a separate bar with its own menu where you can order the tarte flambée, a pizza-like creation with sweet onions, smoked bacon and fromage blanc that put this chef on the map.  The restaurant is an oasis across from Bryant Park and has an extraordinary wine list, too. Walk next door to the amazing new handcrafted chocolate shop.

And speaking about wine, how about a wine bar and a tapas bar that’s so small that you’re advised to arrive by 5:30?  Desnuda on the Lower East Side on East 7th Street will thrill you with its tiny space and its chef’s prowess and creativity. Tea-smoked oysters are sensational — it looks like they’re being cooked in a bong — as are the ceviches.

Photo By: Daniel Krieger

If a scene is more your speed, head to the back of the NoMad, to the NoMad Bar in the city’s newly coined NoMad district (north of Madison Park), where the bar is lively and the menu is pure comfort.  In cold weather, the perfectly indulgent chicken pot pie with foie gras and truffles is a knockout, as is Chef Daniel Humm’s Humm dog, a hot dog unlike any you’ve had before. Trying to eat healthy?  The carrot tartare, originally on the menu at sister restaurant Eleven Madison Park, is an exceptional vegetarian dish, with the consistency and ingredients of its meat-based counterparts sans the meat.  Add a touch of caraway seeds, horseradish, apples and … because we’re talking about carrots after all.  It’s pretty and delicious.

And, finally, one of the newest “hot” restaurants on the Manhattan scene is in Midtown, just behind Bryant Park. Coffeemania is NOT a coffee shop.  Rather it’s a Euro-Russian-American eatery that’s chic and has unusual choices in both beverages and food. The menu is so creative that you can eat healthy (or not, as you wish).  I love the hamachi tartare (very healthy) but also the bone marrow (definitely not healthy) and the warm borscht. Teas from around the world are as creatively curated as the wine list.

Happy eating!

Off-Broadway is Good for Laughs and Talent – See These 2 Fab Shows

You don’t have to be Jewish to love Not that Jewish.  In fact, the play is really a celebration of family values, family love, and family challenges.  Monica Piper, the writer, is a comedian who has written for the likes of Mad about You, Rugrats and Roseanne. She’s also a stand-up comedienne who began her career teaching English but quickly segueing into the world of improv via Second City in Chicago.

So what has being Jewish got to do with the show?  Well, the cultural richesse passed down from generation to generation among Jewish families lends itself to the creation of language and ritual fodder, making for neuroses, laughs, and, of course, family entanglements.

The play travels the life path of Ms. Piper’s beginnings as the daughter of a comedian through her passages as a single mother, as an adult encountering the old age issues of her parents, and through the successes of her career. It is both humorous and tender, touching and riveting, while hitting a chord with anyone who has endured the rituals of family.  Do you need to be Jewish to understand it?  Not really.  The touchstones are relevant to all, although knowing some of the Yiddishisms will certainly enhance your experience.  (A glossary is handed out along with the Playbill to help you understand the intricacies of this rich, rich but dying language).

Ms. Piper performs the 90-minute show seven times a week at the New World Stages at 340 West 50th Street.  Tickets are available at www.telecharge.com. www.notthatjewish.com.

For Spamilton, it does help if you’ve seen Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliant history-making show Hamilton. www.hamiltonbroadway.com. The inside jokes take life from knowledge of the play, its foibles, its characters, and its songs.  They also incorporate a dose of pure Broadway, including some of the nuances that assume a fairly broad knowledge of what makes theater on the Great White Way endearing as well as annoying (or trite).

Written by Forbidden Broadway creator, Gerard Alessandrini, Spamilton is the consummate parody of a popular show. It exploits every nuance, every endearing or annoying gesture that you’ve come to love or hate about Broadway and about Hamilton in particular.

The show, which is extending its reach to Chicago this month, concurrent with the opening of the real Hamilton in that city, depicts all of Hamilton’s lead characters, from the Schuyler sisters to George Washington, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton himself with a frighteningly close degree of talent and dexterity.  The rapping is unmistakable. The lyrics implausibly phenomenal. If you are familiar with Hamilton, you will be howling non-stop while also remarking at the extraordinary talent of the cast. These actors are so good that you could easily imagine them assuming the Broadway roles of the characters they spoof.

My recommendation?  See this show after you’ve seen Hamilton. Or at least after you’ve listened to the cast album a few times. But given the luxurious price of these tickets compared to the inflated Hamilton ones, you can easily see this show over and over and gain something new from it each time. I can’t wait to see it again. And this time I know I’ll be in the room where it happened, up close and personal, and not perched in a mezzanine seat at the Richard Rodgers Theater.

Spamilton plays eight shows a week at the Triad, 158 West 72nd Street, on the Upper West Side. Tickets are cheap. A two-drink minimum is required, as this is, after all, a cabaret, a cozy room where it will happen. http://www.triadnyc.com/buy-tickets www.spamilton.com.

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