Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘recommended’ Category

Auntie Meb’s Lemon-Cranberry-Pecan Cookies

In american, bakery, dessert, holiday, recipe, recommended on November 21, 2010 at 9:30 am

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here is a dessert recipe guaranteed to knock the socks off the host of your next potluck.

Auntie Meb’s Lemon-Cranberry-Pecan Cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and lemon zest. Beat in egg and vanilla extract until combined; set aside. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Gently stir in pecans and cranberries. Drop by large teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before removing to cooling racks. Drizzle with lemon glaze. Eat with gusto.

Lemon Glaze:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
Fresh lemon juice, to taste

Add water if desired consistency can’t be reached with lemon juice alone. Glaze should be soft, neither stiff nor runny.


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.

Sterling Renaissance Festival

In fashion, geek, historical, photo op, recommended, renaissance, smile-inducing, syracuse, theater on July 27, 2010 at 12:50 pm

When I was eight years old, my mother took me to the Sterling Renaissance Festival (or Faire) for the first time. The Faire recreates the town of Warwick in the county of Warwickshire, England, in 1585, celebrating a visit from Queen Elizabeth I. The food, the shops, and especially the performers captured my young imagination, and have drawn me back year after year. This summer, I traveled upstate to celebrate the Pirate Invasion, one of Sterling’s theme weekends. Many things have changed since that first visit, but at its core, the Faire still retains its wonderfully magical appeal.

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The Sterling Renaissance Festival runs Saturdays and Sundays in Sterling, New York, rain or shine, until August 15.


Bacon Peanut Brittle

In american, east village, nyc, om nom nom, recommended, Southern on June 24, 2010 at 7:00 am

What it’s good for: To kick off your meal of shrimp and spicy Andouille sausage piled high over creamy grits; seared brussel sprouts; complementary warm oatmeal cookies; and some of the best fried chicken in town.

Where to get it: The Redhead, 349 East 13th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues.

In this bastion of Southern comfort food, you’ll want to start out your meal with only one dish. The bacon peanut brittle isn’t brittle per se, but individual nuts lacquered in bacon fat and dark, delicious snips of bacon. Keep your eyes peeled for the few nuts that clump in twos and threes in their sugary coating; they’re the mouth equivalent of the toy in the Cracker Jack box. Savory and sweet with a satisfying lip-smacking crunch, the small dish is large enough to bring the extras home. Believe me, you’re going to want those leftovers in the morning.


In album, music, recommended on June 3, 2010 at 10:25 am

There’s glitter on the highway

And music on the PA

And everything’s all right with me.

-Take Over The World, Juliana Richer Daily

Juliana Richer Daily’s debut album, Birdsongs, has been both a long time coming and a very recent twist in the life of one very lucky girl. The unassuming three-track album earned its moniker from her childhood nickname, and mirrors the simplicity with which she approaches her blossoming music career.

The acoustic album benefits from its lack of bells and whistles. Juliana’s complex lyrics, full of teeth and fearless, rush over you, buoyed by sweeping melodies that will soar in your head and have you humming for days. Her voice, a soulful alto, is pure and truthful (and entirely untrained, though you’d never know).

You’d be wise to follow her on her brand spanking new website and her Youtube channel, chock full of beautiful covers and reinterpretations (and, I might add, 10,000+ subscribers strong). This girl is going places.

Full disclosure: Juliana and I have known each other since birth. I swear that fact does not skew my perception of her musical ability; she deserves every bit of praise I can give.

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.


In food, photo op, portuguese, recommended, restaurant on February 13, 2010 at 1:55 pm

The stage is set.

The meal:

The Chef’s Tasting Menu at Aldea

The stats:

“The cooking is precious, lusty, ultramodern, rustic and a host of other adjectives that don’t normally squeeze together but find themselves in a tight, mostly happy clutch here. Although Aldea has a clean, sleek and relatively spare look, it has a much more complex taste. One minute you’re nibbling on crisp pig’s ears. The next you’re carefully maneuvering your spoon under a translucent, quivering orb of concentrated mushroom broth — one of those liquid ravioli that the Spanish alchemist Ferran Adrià made famous — in an avant-garde consommé.” –Frank Bruni

2 stars, NY Times

Critics’ Pick, New York Magazine

Recommended by Doc John Sconzo, physician & foodie

Staging restaurant of Rochelle Bilow, culinary student

The food:

Fingerling Potato Soup

chanterelles, artichokes, sepia and sassafras

Foie Gras Terrine

caramelized bartlett pear, vanilla-pear puree, Blis maple syrup

Sea Urchin Toast

cauliflower cream, sea lettuce, lime

Shrimp Alhinho

garlic, coriander, pimenton, pressed jus


crispy Brussels sprouts, green mango, lemongrass-ginger broth

Arroz de Pato

duck confit, chorizo, olive, duck cracklings

Pre-dessert surprise!

lemon curd, citrus ice, toasted pine nuts, milk foam


gianduja crisp, passion fruit sponge, praline ice cream, hazelnut

Post-dessert surprise!

shortbread, chocolate & hazelnut, apricot jelly

The verdict:

I’ve had richer meals, and longer, but never better paced, more artfully prepared or more attentively served than at Aldea.

I left the restaurant not weighted down by my gorged stomach, but on an ethereal foodie high.


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.)


Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC

In american, exhibit, museum, music, nyc, recommended on December 28, 2009 at 9:57 pm

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex, a branch of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH, opened in Soho one year ago. Before the museum sadly closes on January 3, I highly suggest a trip to rekindle your love of music, youth and dreams.

The Annex is a wonderful homage to rock ‘n’ roll music, deeply respecting its roots, and focusing on the progression of the genre throughout American history. The museum’s exhibits covers the greats, of course (the Beatles, the Rolling Stones), but also ventures into more recent territory: London’s punk rock movement through the Sex Pistols and the Clash, the birth of hip hop with Grand Master Flash, and even modern artists like Amy Winehouse and Coldplay all receive attention. More than anything, the museum acts as a conduit through which to remember the importance and power of this revolutionary art form, whether you’re sixteen or sixty.

Upon entering the Annex, all visitors are given a state-of-the-art headset to hear the myriad television screens stationed throughout the museum. Sensors in the headphones detect which screen you’re standing nearest to (and thus which screen you’re most likely to be watching), and plays the soundtrack to that television’s film clips. The system allows you to individualize your experience, lingering over Tina Turner but skipping Billy Joel, reading each letter written from Paul Simon to Art Garfunkel but buzzing past Madonna’s corset from the Blonde Ambition tour. The Annex succeeds entirely thanks to this technology, continuously piping iconic songs to your ears and immersing you in the music.

The winding exhibits consist of these television screens flashing clips of rock ‘n’ roll shows, and, near them, costumes pieces or musical instruments used in those performances. The collection of artifacts is extensive and evokes wonderful memories: Johnny Cash’s boots, Elvis Presley’s sequin-emblazoned jumpsuit, Elton John’s sunglasses, James Brown’s velvet cape, Bruce Springsteen’s studded leather jacket. Scribbled drafts of song lyrics, set lists once taped to the stage at CBGB’s, letters from John, Paul, Ringo and George to their fans, are barely legible on yellow pad and crumpled loose leaf paper. An alcove devoted to guitars ranges from Clapton’s simple acoustic to metallic silver and Day-Glo green electric contraptions. The space is used marvelously, creating the thrown-together, haphazard sense of an underground concert space with exposed brick walls, white paint, graffiti and band posters.

The museum’s final, self-contained exhibit is entitled “John Lennon: The New York City Years,” a tribute to John Lennon’s experiences in New York created by his widow Yoko Ono. The exhibit is housed in a bright white room, with John and Yoko’s art films, interviews and concert footage playing on the four walls and glass cases of artwork and song scribblings placed in the center. At the entrance hang John’s iconic New York shirt and belt buckle; at the exit, the brown bag of his bloody clothing, given to Yoko after his death. More than a few spectators cry.

The Annex pays homage to its hometown, New York City, as a significant player in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, with a fun room devoted to the city and its venues. An interactive, rainbow-lit map of Manhattan lets you locate hundreds of famous performance spaces and read about their varied histories. From hip hop and R&B way uptown, to folk music in the Village, to punk and New Wave on the Bowery, the Annex encourages visitors to explore the city for themselves and make new memories of rock ‘n’ roll. Before the Annex closes its doors forever, go visit this wonderful museum and get inspired to do just that.


The Lord of the Rings at Radio City Music Hall

In movie, nyc, performance, recommended, sneak preview on December 19, 2009 at 6:48 pm

On October 9 and 10, 2009, Radio City Music Hall screened The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring with live orchestral and vocal accompaniment. Live accompaniment allowed the audience to experience Peter Jackson’s work in a whole new way. The soundtrack felt brand new, the film pristine, the resultant experience a marriage of the immediacy of theater and the technical capabilities of cinema.

The event was a huge technical undertaking. The 21st Century Orchestra, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, the Collegiate Chorale and soloist Kaitlyn Lusk had to coordinate their playing and singing precisely with the film projected behind them. The live music resonated in the cavernous hall of Radio City, rendering the film’s huge battle scenes more visceral and terrifying. Similarly, the film’s quiet moments were made all the more poignant for the clear voice of the two boy soloists, and the strong performance of Ms. Lusk, who wore an orange dress and sang in a clear, pure soprano.

The intensity of Howard Shore’s magnificent score almost overpowered the movie dialogue. As a remedy, the film was shown with subtitles, at times distracting but generally harmless. In fact, like reading song lyrics for the first time, the subtitles actually allowed the viewer to recognize bits of dialogue never heard properly before.

The audience, almost all fans who know the film, was enthusiastic to a fault, cheering and clapping, and even preempting many of the jokes. Applause erupted at the arrival of each beloved character and each pivotal moment in the film, infusing the evening with an intensity not to be found in any commonplace movie theater.

Elijah Wood and Howard Shore made surprise on-stage appearances on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively, to the great joy of the crowd. Even better, though, was the image that appeared on the screen at the end of the performance:

I already have my tickets.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers will be performed at Radio City Music Hall on October 8 & 9, 2010. Tickets are on sale now at