Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category
Last weekend, Van Hammersley and I went to New York City to eat too much, drink too much, spend too much money, and look at all the beautiful people. I’m happy to report we succeeded wildly on all counts. On our first night in town we hung out in the East Village and the Lower East Side. We endured bad service, overly loud jazz, and wonderful French food at Jules Bistro on St. Mark’s. I had the mussels and pommes frites – predictable and tasty – and VH had hanger steak with a shallot sauce and asparagus risotto, which was also delicious.
We wandered around a bit after dinner and eventually found ourselves in the back room at Piano’s watching Wolff, slack jawed in utter amazement. Wolff is, as best as I can describe it, an indie electronica/technorock tuba player. He uses loops of tuba and vocal samples to create rich, layered, innovative songs that maintain a real sense of accessibility and beauty.
The lush music, combined with amazing background visuals from the movie Koyaanisqatsi (a precursor to the stunning Baraka, as well as the Planet Earth series), removed us completely from the frenetic Friday night city. We found ourselves wrapped up in a totally visceral multimedia moment. I could have watched for hours, but the night was still young at 1:00 a.m.
We moved on to the Back Room, a 1920s speakeasy style bar, complete with comfortable couches, fireplaces, and drinks served in teacups. We were actually able to get into the exclusive back room of the Back Room due to VH’s little brother’s endless social connections and general awesomeness. It was extremely exciting:
VH and I, used to our Boston 2:00 a.m. bedtime, headed back to Ft. Greene shortly afterwards. We spent much of the rest of the weekend wandering around Williamsburg. We especially enjoyed The Main Drag, a fantastic music store in which the friendly and helpful employees basically let us fuck around for well over an hour (me on keys trying to understand the intricacies of a rack synth, VH in a private practice room with an assortment of badass pedals and a beautiful guitar), and the (relatively) new riverfront park.
We had a beautiful South African dinner on Saturday night at Madiba on DeKalb in Ft. Greene after deciding to get adventurous. VH had a mutton curry served in a hollowed out loaf of bread, and I had bobotie, a traditional beef meatloaf-like dish with a baked custard topping and sliced almond crust. Both were served with an assortment of transcendent sauces, including marmalade, raita, fresh salsa, and my favorite, a creamy banana coconut. It was easily our favorite meal of the trip. Next time perhaps we’ll try the steak with monkey gland sauce. Or not.
The best part of the trip, though, was finally purchasing my dream umbrella at the Mini Mini Market on Bedford Ave in Williamsburg:
Is Memphis America’s second most miserable city?
It sure is – at least according to a new report from Forbes.com, which says only Stockton, California is worse. But things can’t really be that bad for the Bluff City, right? Well, lets take a closer look. Hmm … shockingly high rate of violent crimes? Check. Sky-rocketing sales tax? Check. Widespread government corruption. Check. Their only professional sports team, “the Grizz,” are the proud owners of the lowest winning percentage in the NBA over the past few seasons.
All signs point to fail. And yet, while on a recent business trip to Memphis, I somehow had a blast. What went wrong?
For starters, my dad went to high school in Memphis, and he’s pretty much the best person ever. So that’s something. Oh and my dad’s next-door neighbor back then was Isaac Hayes, who was kind of a big deal. “Shaft” and “Chef” we all know about, but long before his life was destroyed by Scientology, Hayes and songwriting partner David Porter were cranking out timeless chart toppers like (Sam and Dave’s) “Soul Man” and “Hold On I’m Coming.”
Really fascinating stuff, though it barely scratches the surface. If you’re ever in town, definitely check out the Stax Museum. Located at the label’s original address, it’s basically a stroll through the history of soul music, including a transplanted 101-year-old Mississippi Delta church, the Soul Train dance floor, and Hayes’ restored 1972 gold-trimmed, peacock-blue Cadillac El Dorado, displayed on a rotating platform in all its shimmering glory. Adjacent to the museum is Stax Music Academy, which provides at-risk Memphis youth with free music instruction, performance and scholarship opportunities.
National Civil Rights Museum
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous
I visit New York City fairly frequently. I have some beloved family and friends in the big city, Brooklyn in particular, and am often in need of an escape from Boston. Ever since I was introduced to the Merritt Parkway I’ve shunned the Fung Wah and the Lucky Star and driven myself. This last trip was especially fun. I went to a DIY loft show/benefit in Bushwick, spent Valentine’s Day listening to an acoustic show at the Postcrypt Coffeehouse at Columbia University, celebrated my cousin’s birthday at Union Square Cafe, and ate lots of brunch.
Brooklyn’s pervasive and overwhelming hipster aesthetic makes for truly excellent people-watching. I know this is a generalization – I just go to the especially hip areas, naturally. Every trend and soon-to-be-trend and not-even-a-chance-of-becoming-a-trend is on amazing and vibrant display (I DID see some white Ray-Bans – I think they’re still hip – see Brenda’s post). Strange and hideous 80’s glasses, fedoras, neon American Apparel sweatshirts, retina-destroying thrift store combinations, ironic mustaches, general ironic dishevelment, and lots of these guys, are everywhere. The armchair socioanthropologist in me was thrilled – as was the gastronome, the musician, and the shopaholic.
In no particular order, here are some of the new places I enjoyed for sociological research, food, and shopping.
This is a strange and lovely little acoustic listening room in the basement of a cathedral on the Columbia campus (which I realize has nothing to do with Brooklyn, but whatever). There was an enthusiastic and attentive built-in crowd, which made the performer very happy. They also responded well to being plied with heart-shaped cookies. Musician friends – this is a very good way to get people to sign your mailing list.
I almost had a heart attack wandering around Whisk. I wanted every adorable (yet useful! and not overly expensive!) kitchen item in this place. I’m sure that having a kitchen store this nice in Williamsburg is some kind of sign of the apocalypse or whatever, but fuck it. Sign me up.
Beautiful people making beautiful chocolate. Their factory is soon to be open regularly on weekends for tastings.
I can’t speak to the dinner menu here, but the brunch was incredibly cheap – $8 for amazing eggs Benedict with the best Hollandaise sauce I have ever had. It was fluffy, somehow. I don’t know if that sounds appetizing, but I assure you – it was delicious.
Another totally awesome and not-overly-expensive brunch place, this one in Prospect Heights. Best quiche Lorraine ever.
So go! And let me know how you like some of these places, and if you have any other suggestions. I am DEFINITELY absolutely undoubtedly going to write about food in Boston/Cambridge soon, it’s just a question of narrowing it down.