Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘event’ Category

Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear

In dc, event, historical, inspiration, performance, photo op, politics, recommended on October 31, 2010 at 10:01 pm

The Rally To Restore Sanity, held by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, and the March to Keep Fear Alive, hosted by Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report, collided on the National Mall Saturday. Attendance estimates range from 215,000 to 250,000 people, all of whom conducted themselves with moderate enthusiasm. (Buh dump chh.) Though the pacing of the three-hour-long event was inconsistent, the great positive energy of the crowd and the raison d’etre of the rally made it an overall success.

The guest list was extensive, eclectic and generally crowd-pleasing. As an opening act, the Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman conducted experiments on The Wave and seismic tremors with their largest sample size ever. Sam Waterston delivered an amusing poem penned by Colbert, bookended by Law & Order’s famous “dunk dunk.” Musical acts included John Legend and the Roots, who provided backup throughout the rally; Tony Bennett; Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow, performing a brand new and under-rehearsed tear-jerker; and a disappointing set by Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy. The best set was a dueling trio: Yusuf Islam sang a moving rendition of Peace Train; Ozzy Osbourne screamed and leered his way through Crazy Train; and the O’Jays, clad in matching white suits, brought both ends of the musical spectrum together with Love Train.

The weather was sunny yet pleasantly cool, the crowd’s age demographic surprisingly broad and race demographic homogeneously Caucasian. Most impressively, the throng comported itself with, well, moderation. Extremists from both ends of the spectrum stayed home, allaying my fears of screaming slogans and vicious signs. Arguing, complaining, and even fidgeting were kept to a minimum. The only animus shown throughout the rally came from the people in the cheap seats, who repeatedly sent up chants of “Louder! Louder!” until the microphone system was turned up.

Stewart was an capable ringmaster, handling himself expertly both as a professional and as a comic. Many segments of the rally mimicked Sesame Street parables, with Stewart teaching Colbert that, say, not all Muslims are terrorists and not all robots are evil, aided by the onstage appearances of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and R2D2. Stewart even sang an educational duo with Colbert. Entitled “There’s No One More American Than Me,” the song celebrated the right of all citizens to be patriotic, and gave shout-outs to everyone “from gay men who like football to straight men who like Glee.” The repartee between the two men often grew tiresome, though, and by the end of the rally, with Colbert’s fear finally defeated, I was not sad to see him leave the stage.

Stewart’s closing keynote was the most serious moment of the afternoon, but also the most meaningful. He spoke calmly and passionately about the need for moderation and thoughtful reasoning, not abject, irrational fear, in today’s society, quipping that “we live in hard times, but we do not live in the end of times.” The audience hung on his every word. Although Stewart did not prescribe methods of achieving this moderation as we move forward, the sheer fact that so many people from so many places turned out for his cause deserves great commendation.

For more photos of the rally, check out the Flickrstream of my buddy Andy Richardson, whose seat was much more VIP than mine.


New Amsterdam Market

In event, festival, financial district, food, healthy, nyc, treasure trove on September 23, 2010 at 7:57 am

The New Amsterdam Market is lower Manhattan’s answer to the Union Square Greenmarket. With more space, fewer vendors and lower prices, the Market is a great spot to mill about, sample some rich foods, and pick up absurdly cheap groceries.

Trains and traffic rattle above the old Fulton Fish Market, now replete with rows of stalls, each backed by a chalkboard advertising its wares. A few fresh produce stands, manned by gentlemen with lined faces and cracked hands, stand at the edges of the market. Local restaurants, including Jimmy’s 43 and Porchetta, have also set up shop, offering $5 sandwiches and sliders. Make your way inward, though, and there are much richer treasures to uncover. You may find yourself tearing indelicately at pizza Bianca, an oily foccaccia caked with goat cheese, or indulging in the thick, smoky and intensely flavorful bacon from Brooklyn Cured. A few tables down, you might lick prize-winning ricotta or a fun, grainy duck confit from wooden ice cream spoons. (The duck is prepared three other ways: smoked breast meat, prosciutto, and a strong salami). You can cleanse your palate with delicious agua fresca, squeezed from fresh cantaloupe and watermelon and sprinkled with chopped mint, or a surprisingly hoppy probiotic tea called Kombucha.

The more obscure foods are worth a taste test as well. Nettle butter, a pea green paste, is lemony and fresh. A flat, doughnut-shaped Ruis bread, crumbly and nutty, pairs beautifully with thinly-sliced Cheddar and cucumbers at the Nordic Breads stand. Sweet hot mustards from School House Kitchen are zestfully kicky (and they’re launching in Whole Foods this week!) Last weekend, the Anthony Road Wine Company held a grape-stomping demonstration in wooden vats, and invited patrons to get their feet dirty. (This writer’s opinion? Feels like stepping in a lot of seaweed.)

The best part of the New Amsterdam Market (after the food, of course) is the people. Since the Market is a bit of a hike from the nearest subway, the crowds are enthusiastic but not oppressive. The merchants are eager to engage, unlike the Union Square Greenmarket, where cramped space and forced expediency can press you to pay for your nasturtiums and get the hell out. Through pick-up conversations with New Amsterdam vendors, I learned how to process and harvest cocoa beans, where to take classes on killing pigs, and a few neat descriptors for cheese (Cabo is sweet and nutty, Landaff is sour and rustic). I’ll be back for the conversations, and to try a bit more of that bacon.

Jell-O Mold Competition

In brooklyn, dessert, event, exhibit, food, funny, geek, science, smile-inducing, treasure trove on July 2, 2010 at 1:12 pm

To properly celebrate America’s birthday, certain foods are required. The most inscrutable of these culinary staples is Jell-O, an old-timer from the 1950s. Omnipresent yet ignored on many a picnic table, Jell-O manifests itself in various questionable yet patriotic shades, and is packed with similarly questionable fruits. Has the once-proud dessert been sequestered to this sad fate forever?

Never fear! The brave folks in Brooklyn will not let the gelatinous dessert go wobbly into that good night. Recently, down a small, forgettable Park Slope side street, several score amateur Jell-O enthusiasts gathered in the Gowanus Studio Space for the Jell-O Mold Competition, to showcase their imaginative gelatin creations and vie for prizes.

First, there were the obvious edible creations. Along with the predictable shiny apple pie  and red velvet cake, artists assembled Jell-O sushi with chopsticks, slid oysters melting on the half-shell, and carved up a delicious trio of multi-flavored fruit wedges molded into the hulls of peeled grapefruits. For the more culinarily adventurous folk, beef- and pork-flavored Jell-O were carved into taxidermy on wooden plaques. (The flavor was dead on, but the consistency was uncannily, unpleasantly reminiscent of jellied gristle.)

Food wasn’t the only source of inspiration. Piles of translucent, horse-pill-sized pharmaceuticals abounded, as did giant LEGOs, floral plates, and lithographs of the Brooklyn Bridge. A vibrantly blue and silver model of the Brooklyn sewage plant drew laughs, while Jell-O-cum-explosives, complete with a video presentation of said explosions, failed to inspire. The entries showed a huge variance in quality, from the impressive cloth-draped and olive-bedecked display shrine for Bloody Mary Jell-O (molded in the shape of the Virgin herself), to wimpy Styrofoam lunch trays supporting globs of what may have been octopi Vikings, but may also have been last year’s meatloaf, grown sentient and resentful with time. My favorite eats included fruity Jell-O Superballs dispensed from a quarter machine, and an impressive full-sized Tiffany lamp, supported by a sugar paste structure and lit with real bulbs. The most inventive creation, edible drinking cups made with vegan-friendly agar agar, could be filled with your drink of choice and then munched on as well, for a multi-faceted imbibing experience.

While the crowd waited for the judges to review the entries, five or six kinds of free Jell-O shots were on hand. The mixologists were enthusiastically inventive, if a bit heavy-handed with their herbs; tough sprigs of rosemary and acerbic strips of orange rind overpowered two of the jiggling shooters. Still, most of the drinks were popular and disappeared quickly: the delightfully zingy Hair of the Naval; Hot Sh*t (its real name), a dark pudding laced with cinnamon and topped with cream; Summer Salad, a gelatinous vodka watermelon; and the non-alcoholic yet pungent Kir Royale.

If this event was any indication, Jell-O will certainly live to fight another day.

Coney Island Mermaid Parade

In american, event, nyc, smile-inducing, street food on June 23, 2010 at 9:40 am

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In the sweltering New York summer, there is one place on everybody’s mind: the beach. Just a hop, skip and an N-train ride away, one beach above all features the craziest cast of characters: tattooed and dread-locked vegans, Latina mamis and the boys who want them, babies screaming in the heat, all muddled in the sandy, boozy cocktail that is Coney Island.

Last weekend, the usual suspects were there. Bare torsoed men showed off beer guts and whittled waists, skin either bronzed or a pimply alabaster. Septuagenarians with rumpled faces and crooked smiles sported sun hats and looked dazed. Ladies drew stares with creatively exposed breasts and stomachs and rolls of fat. The plasticky smell of sunscreen permeated the air, wafting over bespectacled faces and questionable yet enthusiastic dye jobs.

On Saturday, though, the high-wire crackle of amusement park energy was cranked up a few notches. A new cast of characters appeared: a pink haired pirate, a glut of Viking hats with horns, the occasional kilt. A crush of humanity stood six deep all along Stillwell Avenue, from the subway to the Cyclone, holding their cameras aloft. Little girls perched on Daddy’s shoulders and strained their necks. Grown men clamored up lamp posts and fire hydrants. What were they climbing to see?

The Coney Island Mermaid Parade, of course.

From what this blogger could glimpse, the parade was a mish-mash of flatbed pickups and pedestrians- a low-budget, sticky-sweaty Greenwich Village Halloween parade, if you will. Both on and off the parade route, the outfits were fantastical: pinup girl hairdos and 50s rockabilly fashion, goth girls with paper Japanese parasols, Day-Glo wigs and neon sequin stretch bikinis, fishing nets, feathers, leather, cleavage and torsos smeared in glitz and grease paint. Everything was homemade, without the glossy finish of so many NYC parades. As more and more bystanders poured out of the subway station, the throng started scaling chain link fences to bypass the impossible-to-navigate parade route.

The parade, still cocooned in the impassable crowd, looped up onto the boardwalk that overlooks the coastline. Sensory overload set in: sweat, wood, water, sunsparks off the ocean dazzled. Hawkers hawked mango flowers on sticks and dried snacks in plastic bags. The beach was hopping too, with sunbathers packed to the shore, trying to sip summer in through their pores. Obese little boys, tummies protruding from oversized swim trunks, hopped about the sand, past stoic little girls dressed as Ariel in ratty red wigs, clutching Mom’s hand. All shades and shapes of people, all showing too much skin, welcomed in the first official day of summer with salt and sun and the oom-pa-pa of the Hungry Marching Band winding into the distance.

This article was picked up (in a very small way) by the NY Daily News. Thanks, guys!

Egg Rolls & Egg Creams Festival

In chinatown, chinese, event, festival, food, jewish, lower east side, nyc, religion on June 9, 2010 at 5:16 pm

This is Eldridge Street, a tiny block tucked away in the nebulous intersection of Chinatown and the Lower East Side. Two very different neighborhoods, housing two very different populations, came together to celebrate this shared space at the 10th Annual Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Festival, hosted by the Museum at Eldridge Street.

Certain parts of the festival were dedicated to either Chinese or Jewish cultural heritage. Music demonstrations, like this Chinese group and a Klezmer ensemble, played throughout the afternoon.

The Eldridge Street Synagogue (built in 1887 and recently restored) was open to the public, with cooking demonstrations in the basement and  tours given regularly.

But of course, everyone came for the food! (What better to bring people together?)

Egg creams, made while you waited, were  popular.

The best parts of the festival, though, were those in which the Chinese and Jewish worlds blended, making it difficult to tell where one ended and the other began. Children could decorate their own yarmulkes, and kids of all origins got in on the fun.

Chinese grandparents and great-grandparents tossed and stacked and rearranged clicking tiles in mah jongg with impressive dexterity…

…but still made time to show newcomers how it’s done.

This fair was tiny, only a block long, but the air was joyous, the turnout impressive and the day beautiful. Tiny celebrations like this give me hope for cultural relations the world over, and make me proud to call myself a New Yorker.

LED Lightsaber Battle

In event, geek, movie, nyc, recommended, science on May 30, 2010 at 11:46 pm

At 9 pm on a recent, innocuous Saturday night, Chrystie Park was overtaken by several hundred warriors. Some donned Halloween-style costumes and makeup; some sported long black cloaks and heavy goth gear; but most wore street clothes. One important difference set these young people apart from the masses: their gleeful faces were lit with the ethereal glow of their lightsabers, illuminating the park with electric blues, reds and purples. This, my friends, was the one and only LED Lightsaber Battle of New York City.

The battle was organized by the interactive art group Newmindspace, but on-the-ground organization was nigh on impossible, turning the park into a joyously raucous free-for-all. Individual fighters (usually strangers) engaged one another in combat, fighting, dying and bonding afterward in the space of minutes. New York Jedi, the city’s preeminent Jedi group, conducted skill demonstrations for onlookers (like this guy, but with self-control). The park’s heightened energy level surged and ebbed as onlookers drew to the sounds and sights of the epic, amicable fray.

Just as dance-offs beget break dancing circles, this mêlée begat a dueling circle. Several fighters distinguished themselves as they strutted and struggled in expert hand-to-hand combat: one young man who spun two lightsabers above his head and around his body with practiced skill; another in a Utilikilt who won the approval of the crowd immediately with his Braveheart-esque genre-crossing appeal. One confrontation devolved in hilarity as each opponent lost a leg, then an arm, and so on (and kept fighting!) till one was laid out dead on the ground. The clashes continued apace until a hoard of Jedi charged the dueling circle, roaring with lightsabers held aloft, moshing a hundred strong at the evening’s height.

Whether you are a dedicated Star Wars die-hard with your hand-made PVC lightsaber mounted on your bedroom wall, or a newbie who likes the idea of releasing your inner Jedi for an evening, I highly recommend rallying your friends to join next year’s Lightsaber Battle. Whether you plan to be a participant or a spectator, may the Force be with all of you.

Healthy Environment Healthy Children

In children, event, nyc, storytelling, trendy, west village on May 20, 2010 at 11:52 am

On a beautiful evening in May, a tall, middle-aged gentleman stood outside an unmarked door in the West Village. He wore an oversized black coat, a gold signet ring on his left hand, and a clear plastic earpiece wired down his back. His voice was businesslike but personable when I asked him about his job.

“It’s a job. Just like any other job. As long as you know your job. But you gotta be a people person, gotta know people.”

Does he do this job full time? He laughs.

“Sometimes. Full time sometimes. I do this a lot.”

A black Expedition pulled up to the curb, and the man stepped into the street to open the door. A blonde emerged, all black leggings and chunky platform boots adorned with zippers. He firmly welcomed her and directed her to the coat check and registration rooms, both behind other unmarked doors. She thanked him and strutted away.

The scene repeated itself for the next few hours. The gentleman, along with a half dozen other bouncers, stood guard outside the brick building, hands clasped behind their backs. They looked like they could stop trouble in its tracks, but mostly they opened the doors of yellow cabs for single women tottering in their heels. Everyone was there, from pretty young things in the trendiest platform stilettos, to perfectly coiffed bottle-blonde housewives in designer dresses, to gracefully aging matrons and their mustachioed husbands of how many years. Couples smiled nervously as they approached from up and down the street, the young women gripping their dates’ arms delicately but assertively. Single men in sharp suits were hard-pressed to unglue their eyes from their Blackberry screens. Sharp jaws, cheekbones and designer labels abounded: YSL, Dior.

Against this steady stream of well-heeled guests stood another group. They slouched in tight circles, dressed in white coats and checkered pants, pinching cigarettes between two fingers and shifting their weight from one foot to the other. The men’s hands were scarred; the lone woman wore a bandana and no makeup. They laughed hurriedly, privately, with each other and didn’t linger long; there was work to do inside.

This unusual crowd had gathered for the second annual benefit for Wellness in the Schools, the nonprofit organization of Chef Bill Telepan that supports healthy public school lunches, and The Greenhouse Project, dedicated to integrating environmental science education in New York City’s public schools. The event featured twenty or so chefs from some of the city’s best restaurants (Commerce, Gramercy Tavern, dell’anima, Babbo, Hearth, Candle 79), each preparing one or two small dishes for guests to sample; a sort of free-form tapas meal.

The benefit was held in the Stephan Weiss Studio, an open gallery space, warehouse tall and twinkling. Upstairs, a brightly-lit sunroom was dominated by an intimidating table strewn with baskets of crackers and wedges of crumbly cheeses. Glass doors opened onto an outdoor patio studded with wide wooden benches and draping trees. Multiple full bars were stockpiled with fleets of glinting wine glasses and highball tumblers, which kept the customers satisfied and the bussers busy.

For an event meant to emphasize the importance of good food, the benefit did not disappoint. Dishes ranged from the expected (delightfully simply hamachi ceviche and lox bagels) to the inventive (charred avocado with a delicate peanut butter crust). Playful textures were mastered by Alex Guarnaschelli from Butter (the crisp of her flatbread pizza’s crust contrasted with the smoothness of the toppings) and Telepan himself, whose vibrant carrot and peekytoe crab soup highlighted salty shavings of both ingredients. Even SchoolFood, the organization responsible for all breakfasts and lunches in NYC’s public schools, had a table, serving up baked triangular chips and various bean salads with a south-of-the-border twist. The most memorable dish of the evening, the miniature lamb meatball sliders, came as a golden brioche bun hugging a bright red meatball, spread with cool cheese and a cucumber sliver perched on top.

Dinner was excellent, but dessert was sinful. El Diavolo, a surprisingly thick chocolate mousse sprinkled with nibs of bitter cocoa, shocked with its aftertaste of hot pepper. Udon spoons from Levain Bakery cradled monster cookies wedges, chock full of nuts and chocolate chunks; shot glasses of milk were on hand as chasers. For non-chocolate-lovers, the best dessert by far was a pop-in-your-mouth cracker bejeweled with berries and mint, with a zing reminiscent of Now And Laters; a deconstructed summery fruit salad, if you will.

The steep price of admission wasn’t the only fundraiser of the evening. A silent auction featured, among many items, a guitar autographed by Sting. A competitive live auction (but all in good fun!) held even more prizes, including a backstage package and special tickets to the New York City Ballet, a dinner party at the Fatty Crab for thirty of your closest friends, a weekend in the Hamptons with Alec Baldwin, a helicopter ride with Cameron Diaz. All fetched admirable prices.

To cap off the evening, Eric Lewis, an intense young musician with silver metal gauntlets strapped to his wrists, mesmerized the crowd with his ferocious musical stylings. I cannot recommend this man enough. He lunged at his piano, banging out Mr. Brightside, The Diary of Jane and Smells Like Teen Spirit in rich, roaring tones of rockjazz, yet still satisfied the old-timers with Sweet Home Alabama. His driving sounds carried the well-to-do, well-fed guests and their exhausted servers out of the studio space, into the cool May air and the waiting night.

No Pants Subway Ride 2010

In event, nyc, recommended on January 15, 2010 at 10:27 pm

I’ve been accused of being high-maintenance in the past. Whether or not that is true, I will admit that even I have reached a new zenith in personal upkeep (or nadir, depending on your point of view): On Sunday, January 10, 2010, I matched my eyeshadow to my underpants.

In my defense, I had very good cause to do so. The No Pants Subway Ride, organized annually by the shamelessly creative improvisational comedy group Improv Everywhere, was held for the ninth year that day, and I was participating. This year, forty-three cities in sixteen countries joined in the public stunt, including cities in Australia. In New York, the birthplace of the event, some 5,000 stalwart and steadfast participants rendezvoused in six locations in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, with a singular goal in mind: to take off their pants.

The concept behind the No Pants Subway Ride is simple: what would you do if, when riding the subway, your fellow passengers stood up one by one, calmly removed their pants, and got off the train at the next stop? Furthermore, what if, a few stops down the line, other pantsless people boarded your train and rode to different stops? Finally, what if all of these people’s paths (all strangers, mind you) miraculously converged on one final destination? What would happen?

Over 8,000 individuals RSVP’d to the No Pants Subway Ride Facebook event to find out. I joined my friends at Foley Square, the flagship meeting location in downtown Manhattan, at 3 pm on Sunday the 10th, where a chattering crowd (fully clothed) had already gathered. An Improv Everywhere agent with a bullhorn greeted our cheers, and announced basic rules for the ride: Act normally. Be polite. Deny any knowledge of what is going on. If asked, say that you forgot your pants at home or you were feeling hot, and admit that yes, you are a bit cold.

The agent divided up the crowd into four teams by birthday month, with each team assigned to a different subway line. The teams were then divided again by the last digit of each rider’s cell phone number, making ten sub-teams, one for each subway car on a single train. Within those teams of ten or more people, team leaders chose who would take their pants off first, second, third and so on. The division process was chaotic at times, but the presence of multiple Improv Everywhere agents and veteran no-pantsers cleared up most of the confusion.

I was assigned to the sixth car on the 1 train, heading north from Chambers Street. I was to take my pants off at the fourth stop, along with three others in my car, exit the train and wait on the platform for the next train to come. I would board the next available 1 train and ride it to 42nd Street, where I would transfer to the south-bound N, with a final destination of Union Square.

The moment our team boarded the subway car, my heart rate surged and my hands started shaking. After the second de-pantsing, our fellow passengers began to take notice. A young man seated across from me smirked and shook his head. At the third stop, I worried that I would offend the people I was sandwiched between by removing my pants, but there was nothing to be done for it: the doors closed, my adrenaline spiked, and I fumbled out of my jeans so quickly and awkwardly that I pulled my boots back on the wrong feet.

At my stop, the subway platform was dotted with normal New Yorkers bundled against the winter cold, save for their bare, goose-pimpled legs. No one spoke to anyone else. Some people leaned against pillars and stared into space as they waited for the train; others read books or magazines. My refuge was my iPod. I blasted Breaking Benjamin on a loop through the whole train trip, to make me strong, and to keep me from smiling and giving away the game. Other useful tactics included clenching my stomach muscles and biting my tongue.

By this point, pants-wearing individuals (those foolish people) had begun to notice something was amiss. Riders on passing trains stared, pointed, laughed and took pictures from their car windows. The second train I boarded already contained pantsless riders, who made up a good two thirds of the car. (If I could have changed one thing about the event, I would have shifted the timing so more pants-ful people were riding the lines with us. As it was, the pantsless dominated the subway cars, leaving the pantsed to stare in wonder, or just to ignore us.)

As my team leader had predicted, the fun really started when it came time to transfer trains. The magnitude of the event came to light, as hundreds upon hundreds of college kids and pre-teens, model-pretty women and nerdy gamers exited their trains, all people you’d expect to see roaming the 42nd Street station on a lazy Sunday (only, y’know, missing a certain garment.) Underwear choices were fun but not outrageous: boxers and briefs on both men and women bore basic solid hues, dots, stripes, and cutesy patterns. The more daring wore lace, Hawaiian prints and silky Bugs Bunny patterns; superhero boy shorts were a popular choice. (I sported black and pink sequins.) Best were the well-heeled businessmen, striding confidently from train to train, briefcases in hand, spiffy in suits, ties, pocket squares and boxers. Skin and hair, cellulite and bone abounded; the terrifically varied bare legs of pantsless riders pouring through the station turned more than a few heads. A few choice quotes overheard from onlookers:

“What the hell is going on?”

“What’s the occasion? Why is everyone in their underwear?”

“Is this a fundraiser?”

“This has gotta be some Facebook shit.”

The first trains of pantsless riders began to arrive at Union Square around 4:15 pm. From here, the pretense of not knowing about the stunt broke down, as people in their underwear thronged in the main concourse of the station and spilled out into the watery daylight above. In the park, a huge No Pants party raged. There were pantsless conga lines, a No Pants Dance-Off. Some brave pantsless souls climbed to the upper levels of Filene’s Basement, a large discount department store overlook the south end of Union Square, and danced in the large glass windows, much to our delight below. We converted several bystanders, who removed their pants to the crowd’s cacophonous approval. Best of all, a group of Pants Evangelists (presumably also from Improv Everywhere) had set up tables by the subway entrance. They handed out pamphlets entitled “The History of Pants!” and “Welcome To Pants!”, and offered free trials of pants for those curious about the lifestyle. Men bearing sandwich boards (“Are You Missing Something? Ask Me About Pants!”) wandered through the crowd.

Just as suddenly and inexplicably as the pantsless had come together, so too did they depart. No official afterparty was held, though the establishments surrounding Union Square received their fair share of pantsless patronage throughout the night. The beauty of Improv Everywhere lies in its ability to bring strangers together to elicit emotions (confusion, shock, mirth, joy) in others, and to demand no more than that from its participants. I believe I can safely say that the No Pants Subway Ride of 2010 was a unequivocal success.

(And me? Will I continue to coordinate my makeup with my undergarments? We’ll see.)


Le Fooding d’Amour

In event, France, french, nyc, recommended on September 29, 2009 at 5:58 pm

On September 25 and 26, Le Fooding d’Amour made its American debut at the P.S. 1 Contemporary Arts Center in Queens. From what I can discern, Le Fooding is a collaboration between Parisian and New York chefs, with the goal of bringing haute cuisine to the masses. Practically speaking, this means throwing big parties. If this is Le Fooding’s only goal, it is certainly succeeding.

Starting at six p.m., a murmuring crowd of friends and new acquaintances entered the inner courtyard of P.S. 1, a green expanse covered by a giant Dr.-Seussian chocolate-colored mohair tent and dotted with small circles of lawn chairs. The crowd was a melange of fashions, ages, races, and nationalities: everything from Upper East Side foodies to well-dressed French tourists. The DJ spun an adorable mix of old school French and American favorites, favoring artists like Arletty and Sinatra.

Each evening of Le Fooding featured six chefs from famous, high-end restaurants, each presenting a small dish in white tents around the perimeter of the P.S. 1 courtyard. The dishes were prepared by teams of cooks working as assembly lines, often creating dozens of uniform plates at a time. The chefs remained artistic and almost impetuous at their work, and were utter gentlemen with their customers. Veuve Clicquot flowed freely throughout the evening, and mixologists prepared cocktails like the Wild Cherry Mojito, a rich, icy drink with Belvedere vodka, intense marascino flavor and lashings of mint.

Before guests reached the main culinary attractions, they were greeted by the bread and cheese tent, provided by Cheeses of France and Balthazar Bakery. Of all the tasty choices, Saturday’s Bleu really shone: wonderfully bright and creamy, tangy but not too acidic. Munching on Brie and Livarot, guests could explore the intimate nooks and hiding places inside the giant mohair tent, or the smaller concrete alcoves along the museum walls, with yellow lighting and low plastic stools.

As renowned as the chefs were, a few of the dishes failed to excite. Friday’s mini Henry IV casserole by Yves Camdeborde was a basic broth of meat and clear, gooey balls of gelatin; Wylie Dufresne‘s grilled chicken neck had little meat and less flavor. On Saturday, Daniel Boulud & Olivier Muller‘s couscous included many components and three types of meat, but failed to take flight. Alberto Herraiz‘s chicken skewer in a bowl of thick chilled cilantro sauce benefited from the oily crunch of its chopped peanut garnish, but grew old after a few bites.

But never mind these disappointments; the rest of the cuisine more than compensated. On Friday, David Chang‘s innovative take on Bo Ssam, a traditional Korean dish, featured shredded pork topped with a savory red sauce to add kick. The buttery lettuce leaf sheath meant the dish could be eaten daintily with a fork or rolled up and devoured. In another tent, William Ledeuil doused a pork rib in sweet sauce and served it with a pool of baba ghanouj-style puree that was stuck through with lemon. Elsewhere, Sean Rembold‘s fried corn was faintly crisp on the outside and doused in a wonderful creamy pepper sauce, sprinkled with crunchy leaves and slivers of green pepper. Friday’s star was Christophe Pele‘s barbecued sirloin steak, two cubes of medium rare beef in a zingy jus. Topped with spring greens and flecks of onion, the steak was tiny, delectable and left you wanting more.

Saturday’s dishes were larger and required more prep time, resulting in longer lines at the tents. Interestingly, five of the six featured some type of steak. Julie Farias‘s beef head taco might sound intimidating, but the light, pleasingly grainy corn tortilla was full of tangy vegetables, leaving the savory meat almost as an afterthought. Like the bo ssam, the tortilla was the size of a compact disk, great for munching while walking. Also great for walking was the adorable, delectable burger by Lee Hanson, Pat La Frieda, and Riad Nasr, no larger than a baseball when topped with its tiny dark-golden bun. Served with two crunchy shamrock-shaped pickles and a handful of crisp pommes frites, the plump burger was juicy and topped exquisitely with caramelized onions.

As delightful as all the preceding dishes were, they did not hold a candle to the last two. Inaki Aizpitarte‘s steak with charred aubergine was almost indescribable. More art than food, the dish featured swabs of black beans and sour cream on the edge of the plate, with purple-stained vegetables in the center, concealing the delicately-sliced steak beneath. I barely remember the taste; I just know I’ve never tasted anything like it before. In the same category was Stephane Jego‘s simmered beef and chilled camembert meringue. The dish tasted like a deconstructed pizza: the beef was intense, dark and juicy, and garnished by a triangle of oily crust. The camembert meringue, a dollop of sea green foam, played comic to the beef’s straight man with its citrus bite. Tastier and more inventive than anything else at Le Fooding, these two dishes were the ones to stay for.

Both evenings were topped off with (what else?) ice cream. Nicholas Morgenstern‘s unobtrusive cart had the power to bring out the kid in sophisticated foodies, who were lining up for frozen treats half an hour before the stand opened. The flavors were icy and inventive: vanilla bourbon, salted hazelnut gianduja, and Dirty Breakfast, a light banana ice cream with muesli and granola spooned over the top. Guests grabbed a cone (or two) and ended their well-fed night on a sweet note.


What To Do This Weekend!

In event, list, upcoming on September 11, 2009 at 10:11 pm


Get your Dutch on.



Get your Italian on.

Drink more.


Chase and munch.

Chase and munch more.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Well? Get to it!