5.18.09 My Top Ten RIGHT NOW
1. FOOD Commerce
You cannot beat the location and atmosphere of this absolutely lovely West Village eatery. Thankfully the food matches the sumptuousness of the ambiance. Start with the sliced rare beef tataki with ginger, soy and shiso, so fresh and delicious. For those that are a little more daring, the ragu of odd things is a must, basically thick orecchiette pasta mixed with oxtail, trotters and tripe (it sounds disgusting but is fantastic tasting). For a main course, the whole roasted chicken for two is ridiculously moist and mouth watering. The true kick of that dish is the foie gras bread stuffing and potato mousseline which gorgeously complements the meat. Finish off your meal with the rhubarb strawberry cobbler or the bananas foster, both slightly odd interpretations of their namesake accompanied by luscious ice cream.
2. MUSEUM The Cloisters
Beautiful is really the only word to describe this secluded area north of the island and the medieval wonders it contains. I can’t claim to be a huge fan of much of the art housed in this impressive structure, that period of time doesn’t quite do it for me. But the manner in which it’s presented is unparalleled as you walk into different rooms, doors, stained glass windows, altarpieces, and other religious items are intelligently placed into rooms that completely recreate the feeling of wandering the well-preserved ruins of European monasteries. Each of the four cloisters housed in this fascinating labyrinth of a structure are filled with ambient light and a few spotlights (or as some would call it, “Met Lighting”) creating the most euphoric and calming atmosphere. I wish this place were further south and I could find myself wandering the halls every weekend, but a huge part of the magic is its seclusion, nestled all the way at the north of the island, like some castle that just sprung up from the bedrock along the Hudson.
3. ALBUM Actor St. Vincent
What a strange and wonderful sound this album has. Opening with a whisper of a voice accompanied by a chorus of more whispers, you think you’re in for a sonically quiet and meditative melodic filled listen. And yes, you do get that, in “Strangers” and “The Bed” especially, but all of a sudden the heavy distorted guitars chime in and you’re into almost a rock world. The combination is fantastic and fresh, strange and intriguing. You even get little bits of similarity to the piano work of Regina Spektor on the song “Black Rainbow,” albeit with a bit more production thrown behind the voice and an ending directly out of some crazy horror film (which beautifully is mimicked directly afterward in less harsh tones with “Laughing with a Mouth Full of Blood”). With all this push and pull, you’d be wise to listen and listen closely.
4. FOOD Fairway in Red Hook, Brooklyn
Yet another far away land that so few venture to in NYC, but you really need to be here to believe your eyes as you feel like you’ve miraculously transported to San Francisco. Looking out over the water, you can spot the Statue of Liberty to your right. Large brick structures jut out into the water and remnants of docks project out of the rippling tide. In the distance, bridges hazily appear, fog peacefully rolling in and out. So what does this picturesque scene need? Food. And what better place to supply it than Fairway. Yes, that insanely packed place on the UWS also exists in Red Hook in a by far more calm setting. Order a $10.99 lobster roll, a portabella sandwich or Philly cheese steak and take it outside to the picnic tables. Sit, enjoy the sun, enjoy the food, and enjoy feeling like you’re in a totally different city, watching the sun move lazily across the sky.
5. LOCALE Fort Tryon Park
There isn’t much that can compare to the strange beauty of Central Park, but Fort Tryon has a huge amount to offer. Where Central Park is a labyrinth of wooded and open areas, communal and private sectors, Fort Tryon is just simple beauty, more flowery, manicured and impressive. Little blue bells line the picturesque paths, beds of wild flowers spring up in an striking rainbow of hues. Wandering the paths you come upon medieval structures, bounded by knotty pines and huge flowering azaleas. Walk up the steps and you find yourself looking out over an expanse of benches lining the edges overlooking the river. Even on a rainy overcast day, this setting is a stunner and perfect to enjoy a smuggled in bottle of wine with friends.
6. BAR 515
I can’t believe I’m including this on my list, but I seriously enjoyed myself way too much not to mention it. It’s a very Murray Hill straight bar filled with girls trying too hard and men that seem overly confident. But in this slightly depressing mix of youth you find excellent music. Pop in on a Friday night for a VJ (that’s right, we’ve got videos being mixed!) that plays exactly what you want to hear, mixing new hip hop beats from T.I. and Neyo right next to some total classics of the past couple years like Shakira and Wyclef’s mashup “Hips Don’t Lie.” This addictive combination of pulsing music, beer and the inevitable shaking of your very own hips makes for a perfect capper to a long week of work. Bring your own crowd and you should find yourself having quite a good time.
7. FOOD Bombay Talkie
The concept of trendy Indian food is a bit odd to me, but it certainly works at this Chelsea eatery. Start with tart lamb dosas, crepes made of stuffed rice and lentil flour served with tomato and green coconut chutney. Though a little spicy, the flavor sits nicely on the palette. Move on from there to the pork vindaloo, pork cooked in sweet and sour sauce. Throw that over some basmati rice and onto a piece of naan and you have yourself a delicious bite. Wash it down with a specialty cocktail, clearly a very strong suit here, like the rich and barely alcoholic tasting chandrasena, made of mango puree, pineapple juice and vodka over pineapple ganite. If you’re looking for something a little smoother and less smoothie-like, go with the refreshing toofan, made of fresh mint, lime juice, pomegranite juice, sugar, Bacardi Vanilla and Cointreau finished with champagne. Fruity alcoholic beverages and Indian food truly do go together quite well.
8. LOCALE The Brooklyn Bridge
I’ve seen it many times in my life from both the Brooklyn and Manhattan sides, but you haven’t truly seen the bridge till you’ve been on it and walked across it. It’s a mess of people and bikes, constantly flowing back and forth (most people don’t seem to understand pedestrians on one side, bike on the other). I’m not well versed on the makings of a bridge, but this one has some of the most fantastic wiring systems I’ve ever seen. As you walk through them, the angles continually change, parallel and intersecting lines constantly re-informing the way the NYC skyline appears through the bars. With cars wizzing past, it feels kinda like being on the streets of Manhattan except completely surrounded by water. It’s an awesome site and definitely one of the seven wonders of New York City.
9. WEBSITE Maybe You Shouldn’t Buy That
I was always a big fan of that crazy catalogue that comes out every year with the insanely expensive gifts for the people who already have everything. I don’t know if it’s a fascination with wealth or just sheer amusement of what people think is necessary to live life. Well, my little catalogue has now become a website prominently displaying the ridiculous things for sale that people really don’t need. For instance, is there really any value in purchasing a cake encrusted with diamonds worth $1.65 million dollars? Or how about creating a golden bathroom valued at $32 million dollars. I mean seriously, what is wrong with people? I’m absolutely fascinated, especially at a time when a dollar needs to go a lot longer for many of us in the world.
10. ALBUM Enjoy the Ride Sugarland
I enjoyed the new album so much, I couldn’t help but make my way to the back catalog. This album, while nowhere near as musically intelligent as their newest release, does not disappoint. Opening strong with a poppy country tune, “Settlin’,” Jennifer Nettles sounds raring to go, her strong twang making you want to get up and line dance. Things slow down on “Want To,” a nice ballad filled with strings and guitars. My favorite has to be “Happy Ending,” mixing poignant lyrics about living life, maybe a little cliché, but so apropos, with a sing-able hook about everyone just looking for that fairy-tale ending. And I actually really like “Everyday America,” for it’s lyrics and easy listening melody, even though it conjures up Good Morning America, as the song served as the theme for quite some time.