The Marlton Hotel Bar, New York, NY

I was first hauled to this spot by a crazy older man that went by the handle James-Jim-Jimmy.  But that’s a story for another time.  The bar off to the left of the entrance is a great little escape from the cold.  With a huge fireplace and welcoming sofas and chairs, you really can’t beat it on a cold New York winter night.  The bar itself, just a few steps beyond the fireplace, attracts an interesting crowd to its stools and booths.  We’ve meet some characters in just a few visits – enough to keep us coming back for more.  The barkeeps are affable and professional and we had a good time chatting with them on at least one occasion.  If you should find yourself hanging around Washington Square Park, in need of a warm up and possibly a new friend, drop into the Marlton for more than a slim chance at success.

The Marlton Hotel, 5 West 8th St., New York, NY  10011    

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New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker 2016

I’m gonna swoon here.  First, allow me to establish that I’m no ballet expert.  Though I’ve been to more than a few, and generally make a point to take in a performance or two each year, I could scarcely tell you what plie means.  But greatness is something I pride myself on recognizing on sight.  And this production is simply stunning!

The very idea that there were empty seats at the Tuesday night performance is a travesty.  My companion and I spent most of the time wowing, slapping each other’s legs in excitement, and generally (at least in my case) being transported back to those giddy days of Christmas past when my chest could scarcely keep my bursting heart caged.  No, really.  The stunning pageantry of the sets and costumes themselves are a sight to behold.  With gasps, of course.  The dancers’ execution is impeccable, right down to the children executing silent, elegantly playful moves perfectly in character.

A few words on the individual dancers from a neophyte.  The character Coffee that night was simply ravishing (either Megan LeCrone or Claire Kretzschmar, says the playbill).  Her every move an exquisitely sensual expression.  Lithe.  Indelible.  The power and grace of the Sugar Plum Fairy (Sterling Hyltin) and her Prince (Andrew Veyette) made of itself a whole other character – a ballet within a ballet.  Each time Veyette landed a jump, or Hyltin, one got the impression that he possesses the power to negate gravity:  not even the hint of a thump, landing like a feather each time.  In fact, I caught myself leaning forward as if in anticipation of a critical play in a sporting event – straining the ears and eyes in disbelief at the gentleness of each landing.  I could go on, at least if I knew what all the characters and movements were named.  Suffice to say that soon after the curtain rose an elegant older woman slipped into the seats to my right and spent the night whispering comments to herself with each difficult move, punctuated with physical spasms of delight.  I watched for her outbursts out of the corner of my eye and am quite convinced that she knew the dances, dancers, and ballet personally and expertly.  Suffice to say she exploded in emotion at the end.  So, you need not rely only simply on my thumbs up.

koch-theaterA couple of hacks.  The ground floor bars will always have a line.  Go up one flight of stairs where there are many more bars, much more space, and more than a few displays of costumes from performances past worth perusing.  You can ask for an intermission pre-order form at any of the bars and have your champagne and cookies waiting for you.  Sip your champagne, toss your head back in a haughty laugh, and wink at all the poor saps wasting their intermission waiting in line.  If, like they were for us, neither the weather nor clock are cooperating, hop across Columbia and pay Patrick a visit at PJ Clarke’s for a quick, but lovely, serving of prosecco and oysters and to swoon and chatter over the magnificent spectacle you were so lucky to have just attended.  You are welcome.

A small part of me was bummed that no photography of any type is allowed during the performance.  At least until I realized I could rely on the pre-installed recording equipment in the brain.  In our rush to constantly document everything, it was nice to recall that the explosive images the dancers and musicians created; the sense of excitement that made the air nearly vibrate; the lighting and stage-craft (Ronald Bates, Mark Stanley); and, of course, dashing brilliance of the conductor (Andrews Sill) and choreographer (George Balanchine) all married together in a perfect cocktail of memories that only my companion and I have the privilege of ever enjoying.  But you, dear reader, can take this much away:  if it’s remotely of interest, go.  Go and enjoy one of the most gorgeous of holiday celebration activities that money can buy in the finest place on earth to do so . . . New York City Ballet will never fail you.

The Nutcracker, New York City Ballet, David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center Plaza, New York City

2d Visit, Bowery Meat Company, New York, NY

After having such a great experience on the first visit, I knew I had to haul the media-porteña for a second visit soon. Arriving 15 minutes late for our 9pm Saturday evening reservation, we barely had time to hand our coats to the greet staff and say hello to Steve behind the bar (who remembered my cocktail from a month prior), before being shown to what is already my favorite table in the place: a small table in the back corner. You can see enough of the dining room if you wish, but it feels more intimate than certain other parts of the room. The table service differed somewhat from the bar service in pacing and steps, but the same high level of service persisted.

At the table the server brings by a butcher block exhibiting each of their signature cuts and explains texture, preparation, sourcing, and anything else you may want to know. We went for it again, this time with the Cote de Boeuf. I don’t mean to give the salad or Kumamotos we started with short shrift, but let’s be clear what we came here for: the beef is outstanding, cooked spot-on with the right amount of medium-rare blood and salty outer char. The brussels sprouts, the wines by the glass (we went for the Catalonian red, which the Barcelonan could not help but correct the menu’s printing of the name), and the cocktails were like a 440 Hz A-note: scientifically perfect in every way.

When the bill came, my companion nearly fell out of her seat. I didn’t even flinch. To me, it was like a Ferrari: it was worth every red cent I paid for it and I look forward to happily shelling out in the future for one of the consistently finest meals I’ve had in years.

Address: 2d Visit, Bowery Meat Company, 9 East 1st Str., New York, NY

 

Locanda Verde, New York, NY

It’s taken a while to do this particular review. The problem is that when I started this blog with Nate, I planned to NOT review things I didn’t care for. That is, no negative reviews. Having worked in the service industry for many years I know everyone has a rough night here and there and, at any rate, people like different things. However, I’m laying this down as a marker just so that I (and my friends) don’t fall for the hype again.

Upon returning from a truly decadent trip to Spain over my birthday, we wanted to have a fancy dinner out to celebrate the aging that happened while I was gone. After a bit of research, I settled on Locanda. We had a 9pm reservation on a Saturday night in July – obviously the place would be busy. However, I was not prepared for how jarringly loud and mall-esque the place was. Look up the antonym for “intimate” in the thesaurus and there should be a picture of this place. I almost ran back out the door, if not for the exciting things I’d read about the food, I would have.

It was hard to eat anything between screaming across the table at one another over the din of the people seated six inches to each side of us. Of course, the eating came to a halt when I pulled a huge long blonde hair out of my lamb – actually, out of my mouth. I’m not blonde and my date has black curly hair. This came from the kitchen. It was foul. The server seemed to need a lengthy explanation of the situation. I attempted to oblige him as discreetly as possible as I saw no reason for all the other folks sitting on top of us to be grossed out as well. In the end, the only thing comped from my check was the chocolate sundae thing that they give free to anyone who claims birthday. It took forever to get the check, pay and get the heck out of that place and I will certainly never go back and cannot recommend a visit. What a bummer.

Address: Locanda Verde, 377 Greenwich St., New York, NY

Bowery Meat Company, New York, NY

I had read about this place in Bloomberg and checked out their website. We stopped off here at 9pm on a Saturday night. It was no shock that waiting for a table for two would take an hour. We were able to snag two seats at the small bar, which are full menu service, first come, first served.

The bartenders, Steve and Brendan, were great: excellent service, well-made Manhattans (I’m a bit particular about those), sincere menu suggestions, and just plain good fun. Brendan kept us primed with amuse-bouches: house cured salami with a bacon-infused crostini and great little arancini. After a short deliberation (and another cocktail) my buddy and I split the 20 oz. chateaubriand, medium rare.

When the food came, we felt brilliant! The steak had the perfect crisp saltiness, almost crust-like, on the outside and gorgeous red in the center, laid out in six perfect slices with white baby potatoes and brussel sprouts and a side of a magical, piping hot mushroom sauce. The potatoes in particular were a hit for me, with a lite “whang” (as my dear old Papaw would say) of garlic on the outside, rich and buttery inside. The steak itself was just perfect: a great piece of meat, rich, delicious umami flavors, succulent and easy to cut and chew. We almost fought over the last piece. It was that good. They could have charged me double and I would not have complained (at $125, maybe just a little).

From start to finish – the greet stand, the barkeeps, the décor (including the huge canoe hanging over our heads), the cocktails, and most especially the food – it was a fantastic experience and I will go back soon. If you have the time (because it’s worth making an experience of it) and appetite, I strongly suggest you stop in.

Address: Bowery Meat Company, 9 East 1st Str., New York, NY

Virgola, New York, NY

Blink and you might miss it. I’m very hesitant to review this little gem because, well, it’s so tiny I’m afraid I won’t get a seat next time I go. They don’t take reservations – they don’t have to. Their menu consists of charcuterie, cheese, vegetables, and a few seafood small-plates to go with the featured oysters. Usually, I order a few rounds of the oysters of the day – $1-1.50 for the chef’s choice of whatever they got a good deal on. The oysters are properly shucked, fresh, and accompanied with fresh grated horseradish, as well as the usual cocktail and mignonette. The place is a no-brainer and one of my favorite little spots for now and I can’t wait until they open up a location in the East Village.

Address: Virgola, 28 Greenwich Ave, New York, NY

Tertulia, New York, NY

Tertulia is what happens when a celebrity chef feels hemmed in by his creation (Boqueria) and longs for a place of his own. Seamus Mullen went for it with Tertulia, which claims to focus on cuisine from the Asturias region of Spain. I’ve never been to that part of Spain, but the menu is full of dishes I do recognize. And love. This is also the only place outside of San Sebastian that I’ve found proper Spanish sidra, poured correctly, no less. They do a fine pulpo, albóndigas, and the best arroz negro I’ve had . . . other than mine, of course. The tapas and tablas are well chosen and executed. I’ve always wanted to get the chuletón – beef rib steak – but have never been able to muster the appetite for its girth. If you have a real love of Spanish food and drink, you can’t go wrong here. Make your reservation today.

Address: Tertulia, 359 6th Ave, New York, NY