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Andrew W.K. Brings His Party to Irving Plaza

Four years ago, when he was serving as the Village Voice’s advice columnist, Andrew W.K. received a message from a reader trying to come to terms with the politics of his right-wing father. It’s hard to remember now, but America in 2014 was a very different place, and Andrew’s words seem to anticipate the current political divide. “The world isn’t being destroyed by democrats or republicans, red or blue, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist — the world is being destroyed by one side believing the other side is destroying the world,” he wrote. “Love your dad because he’s your father, because he made you, because he thinks for himself, and most of all because he is a person. Have the strength to doubt and question what you believe as easily as you’re so quick to doubt his beliefs. Live with a truly open mind — the kind of open mind that even questions the idea of an open mind. Don’t feel the need to always pick a side. And if you do pick a side, pick the side of love. It remains our only real hope for survival and has more power to save us than any other belief we could ever cling to.”

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On Friday night, Andrew W.K. brings his message of love, hope, and partying to Irving Plaza, where he first performed almost two decades ago. In the years since he stormed into music fans’ lives like a sweaty, white denim–clad hurricane, the singer has been rock music’s prophet of positivity. In March, he released You’re Not Alone, his first album since 2009. We caught up with the singer to talk politics, music, and the power of positive thinking.

Since Trump came into office, your advice to “Son of A Right-Winger” has continued to resonate with Voice readers. It was almost like you predicted the current state of our politics.

I haven’t read that in a long time, but it was written from a place of common knowledge, things that other people had explained to me, sharing this perspective. It was a plea for my own sanity and my own civility, and a belief in the world’s ability to be humane and restrained while also being convicted and passionate. They’re cycles, it seems, in the human experience that really have the ability to bring out our worst and bring out our best. And, more intensely, bring out our worst disguised as our best. And I’ve been as challenged by this as anyone else.

You’ve also been a motivational speaker, and so much of your music is about seizing the moment and embracing life. How did you settle on rock music as the delivery mechanism for your message?

Being the keyboard player first and foremost — and having my earliest musical education come through the piano — I was very late to the game when it came to rock music in general. It wasn’t until high school, really, that I got into that. And before rock music I had gotten into more, I guess I would say radical music, because that was the most strong departure from the traditional piano lessons I had. So that would be defined as experimental or avant-garde or modern or contemporary. That was, to me, the most exciting thing. And then I looked at the mentality of contemporary rock music as having the potential to combine anything and everything.

How so?

It was the most unrestrained and intense delivery method for the feeling I was trying to conjure up. It’s a very visceral and physical way to access a kind of primal energy and nothing else really works quite like it. All music, I think, is trying to reach a kind of core truth about being alive, a truth that can be physically experienced through our senses beyond our mental consideration into the physical, and so that’s what makes it so undeniable. But for me, almost as though I was born to do it, rock music had a maximalist sensibility that I really clicked with, just that everything was taken further. I feel like others that came before, if I may be so bold, have all been trying to get to that place together. And of course I’m extraordinarily inspired and encouraged by other people, especially those that have been doing it for a long time who are still engaged and still passionate and still determined to make that feeling happen for themselves and for their fellow humans.

So you didn’t blast Queen or Kiss records to get pumped up to make the new record?

You know, I would answer this in two ways in the most respectful way possible. One, I really do try to strip my mind of everything when making a recording, and I hope it doesn’t come off as arrogant or as insincere. Most people who record music are trying — maybe they’re not, but I know there’s other people out there because I’ve talked to them — where they’re trying to say, “OK, what can I do? What can I do? Here’s what’s been done. Here’s my chance. I haven’t existed yet. I’ve never sat down to record a song so what can I do?” And it’s not to say I understand the idea that no one is free of influence and there’s a great chain of inspiration, whether it’s acknowledged or not, but there does seem to be something sacred and respectful about going out into the musical landscape and seeing if you can plant your own seed. That’s the greatest show of respect I can show to the music that I admire: to not try to copy it. I can never be that person no matter how hard I try. Who can I be? Can I get to the place they’re getting to? And I also will say even if there were influences, I would never say them, because I think it’s distracting. People can guess themselves.

 

How challenging is it to find other musicians who have the same drive and mission as you?

Well, I would like to say with all due acknowledgment to every band member I’ve ever had, because every band member has gotten us to where we are now, but this is the best the band has ever been. And I really say that because of the practice we’ve put in at this point. You hope that doing something longer enables you to improve doing it, and this band is the best that we’ve ever been and that’s just from time. Every other band member I’ve had has been incredible and irreplaceable and unique, but as things have come and gone, and people have come and gone and come back again, we are just at a level of focus and excitement and determination. I wish I could find another word for it, but there’s a lot of plain old-fashioned gratitude that we’ve gotten to do any of this in the first place, and that we’re still getting to do it. So I’d like to think that people would be able to feel our excitement for our playing this and playing for them.

How long, exactly, have you guys been playing together?

Well, the bass player, Gregg Roberts, and one of the guitar players, Erik Payne — they’ve been in the band since the beginning, since our first show we ever played, in 2001. They probably joined the band in 2000. Then there’s new members that have only been in the band for about a year.

Isn’t it a struggle to put out that much energy onstage, especially after all this time?

In some ways it feels completely surprising and baffling and quite confusing and thrilling, and then in other ways it feels completely unavoidable, like it was preordained and all that kind of feeling. I can’t imagine it being any other way. But then I can let my mind wander into all the other possibilities. It’s one of those kinds of projects where there’s many ways to look at it, and they’re all quite intense, for me at least. I can easily see it as, “How did I wind up so lucky as to be doing this?” and then I can also, at other times, see it as, “Wow, this is why all those people warned me not to do this!” So it’s continuously rewarding and challenging.

Does always looking on the bright side ever get tiring?

Well, as someone who’s a negative person by default, this party quest is about having a reason, a purpose to focus on the positive, to be more positive, to be a more strong and capable person, because that’s not how I felt already. So I had to have some kind of mission that was about those feelings, that gave me a way to experience those emotions that I could apply myself to. So not only is it not a burden to try to stay in that mind-set of motivated optimism, it’s crucial. And this is what gives me the chance to do it. So this work is what’s saving my life, basically. It’s very encouraging for one another to realize that this is a journey we can go on with comrades, with brothers and sisters, and it’s a great chain of humanity that is encouraging us and cheering us on from beyond the grave, or from heaven, or however you want to look at it. I just feel like my message is, “How can we find the meaning to life?” And that’s nothing that I possess. I’m just one of the people trying to get there myself, and do it in a profound way that hopefully resonates with more than just myself.

Andrew W.K. plays Irving Plaza on Friday, May 18.

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Living NYC ARCHIVES Technology

Has Our Delivery Culture Gotten Out of Hand?

I’ve always maintained that a great thing about New York is that, theoretically, you can get anything you want whenever you want it. Need milk at 2 a.m.? Pad thai and BBQ on the same block? Weed brought to you by models? The city provides.

New York’s delivery culture is something the tech industry has been capitalizing on for some time now. Most recently and topically, it’s resulted in the British sex toy company MysteryVibe launching an “on-demand vibrator delivery service” in New York for Valentine’s Day. That’s right: Today and tomorrow, the company is delivering vibrators in under an hour, complete with chocolates and a “tech-savvy Kama Sutra,” whatever that means.

The service certainly raises more questions than it answers. Are the delivery people being trained in discretion, or will they be like your weed hookup who sort of lingers until you relent and offer him some of the product? Who has a vibrator emergency so bad that they need one brought by in less than an hour? Who can’t just use their hand for a day?

“These days in New York City you can pretty much get anything delivered same-day … except pleasure. Which is a real shame, as when you order pleasure products online you’re really excited to try them!” says Stephanie Alys, co-founder of MysteryVibe. Apparently, it’s a growing concern: “We know from customer feedback that while people do a lot of research before ordering, they often order when they need it the most.”

MysteryVibe is hoping to expand to other cities, as well as making this a more permanent option in New York. It’s a PR gimmick, for sure, another example of the tech industry’s incredible ability to solve problems nobody actually had. But by launching it in New York City, they’re also capitalizing on our culture of delivery. New Yorkers thrive on delivery. We define ourselves by it. But it’s turning into a classic horror tale: What if we had delivery, but too much?

***

A friend who moved to Seattle from New York recently told me a horror story. She was home alone one night, and desired dinner. Not having many groceries, and not wanting to drive to the store after a long day at work, she tried to get delivery. But (shines flashlight under my face) nobody would come to her house. Instead, she could drive to a restaurant to pick up her order. The one place that would deliver was a pizzeria, which would charge her a $15 minimum and a $10 delivery fee.

A hallmark of my childhood was the folder of delivery menus by the phone. When my mom worked late, when my dad’s mini-fridge was too small for groceries, there was still dinner to be had. New Yorkers work hard, have small kitchens, and don’t own cars. Many of us also have a hard time carrying bags up and down stairs, or using stairs at all. That we can get full meals, groceries, and anything else you can get at the bodega delivered to our doors for little to no fee isn’t just a convenience. It’s a necessity.

Most New Yorkers tend to understand this, and act out of kindness accordingly. Certainly some of the kindness is out of self-preservation — there were longstanding myths of favorite takeout places that refused to deliver to demonstrated assholes — but also out of a sense of appreciation. What luck that we got to partake of this piece of New York, this thing that we couldn’t get elsewhere. I’m romanticizing a bit: New Yorkers have stiffed delivery guys and harassed service workers, too. But for a long time, you at least had to look them in the eye while you did it.

Apps like Seamless were originally the next logical step in delivery innovation. Instead of having to yell your credit card number over the phone, or make sure you had enough cash for delivery, you just fill out a form online and get the same service you’ve always gotten. New Yorkers were quick to adapt. After all, this is what we had always done.

But most New Yorkers also sensed the stakes had been raised, especially with the boom and bust of the first dot-com bubble. In 2011, Jon Stewart joked on The Daily Show about an early iteration of the delivery tech boom — UrbanFetch, a company that would bring you literally anything in about half an hour, with a T-shirt and free cookies. He told a hypothetical story of two stoned roommates ordering, separately, Scarface and two pints of cookie dough ice cream, and “Goodfellas, two pints of Cherry Garcia, and a dildo that glows in the dark.” UrbanFetch, as you may have guessed, was not a sustainable operation. “My point is this,” said Stewart. “I miss these fucking guys. But we all knew this thing was not going to last.”

But the bubble grew again, and now, among Amazon Prime, Seamless, Postmates, and now MysteryVibe, it’s hard to imagine anything you can’t get delivered. And that’s wreaking havoc on businesses. In a recent article for the New Yorker, Elizabeth Dunn outlined how delivery apps are killing restaurants, with one restaurateur describing them as “an income stream that his business had become dependent upon but that might ultimately be running them into the ground.” Amazon Prime deliveries are made possible by atrocious working conditions. It’s not sustainable, and if it is, it’s because we’re sacrificing too much and too many.

Alys argues that, instead of things like pints of ice cream, instant delivery is actually better suited for luxury products. “There are a lot of hidden fees, especially at the lower end of the market,” she says, “So the economics might not work for a pack of condoms or an energy bar, but they can for a luxury product like a Crescendo.” So sure, it might work. It doesn’t seem like mom-and-pop sex toy shops will be put out by this innovation, cajoled into providing a service they can’t maintain.

Unfortunately, most of New York relies on delivery of that small, nonluxury stuff, and it’s become a problem. It’s too easy to just blame greedy corporate overlords or lazy millennials who don’t like making phone calls. As with most significant cultural shifts, it’s everything’s fault. A desire for convenience based on existing cultural norms, plus an increasing acceptance of doing business through middleman-run apps, multiplied by how much harder it is for most restaurants and stores to build their own online order forms instead of just signing up for Seamless or Postmates, equals a current reality in which convenience is king, and can often be instantaneous. And once that dam has been broken, who wants to go back?

A New York without delivery would look completely alien to me. But I’m starting to see a future in which something has to give, and I’m not sure what to do about that. Maybe the only restaurants that’ll deliver will be the ones that already have the capital to pay Seamless fines, perpetuating the suburbanization of the city. Maybe we’ll all be paying $10 delivery fees like a bunch of Seattleites. Maybe that was what we should have been doing this whole time. But, you know, tip your delivery guy. And maybe remember that waiting two days for a vibrator isn’t the end of the world.

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Corner Slice Is a Neighborhood Pizzeria With Outstanding Ambitions

Mike Bergemann’s tiered “bakery style” electric ovens don’t carry the same ostentatious gravitas as the five-figure, wood-fired hearths favored by Neapolitan-pizza fanatics. They’re not domed, tiled in gold or mosaics, or painted with an Italian seascape. Their temperatures aren’t adjusted by chucking freshly hewn logs onto glowing piles of embers, but instead through fine-tuning scientific-looking LCD panels outfitted with a very serious-looking assortment of buttons. For Bergemann, the separately regulated precision controls give him some freedom, enabling the enterprising chef to “bake off pastry and bread at low heat, and pizza at high heat.” Far from the imposing kitchen centerpieces helmed by purists wielding Italian 00 flour dough, these ovens are discreetly tucked away behind the counter at Corner Slice, the pizzeria he opened last month inside Gotham West Market with his former boss, New York–born noodle virtuoso Ivan Orkin of Ivan Ramen fame. And rather than making us pine for char-speckled Neapolitan pies artfully splattered with oozing gobs of mozzarella, his crisp-edged pizzas and virtuous slice-shop fare have us praising the return of the sheet pan.

If you haven’t noticed, square is the new circle. This city celebrates square slices of all stripes, from grandma and Sicilian style to thin and saucy squares to the eminently cheesy and crunchy offerings made famous in Detroit. Corner Slice is all for square pizza proliferation, though with considerable fastidiousness put to what turned out to be a deceptively finicky pursuit. “The recipe was developed over about a year period of trial and error,” says Bergemann, describing the meticulous steps he took to find the right flours and proper fermentation for his dough — all while communicating remotely with his younger brother Pete, who ultimately left his job at Austin’s Easy Tiger bakery to take up the reigns as head baker here.

The results ($2.75–$4.50 per slice, $18–$24 per pie) are compelling and refreshingly unique, eschewing the bready density of Sicilian slabs in favor of something more compact, like a stockier relative of the classic grandma style and Roman bakery pie. Thin yet sturdy and wildly bubbled in places, it’s simultaneously spongy and crispy, with a light chew and a long-lasting yeasty note behind every bite. The crust’s mild tanginess is most pronounced when covered with just a splash of tomato sauce redolent of garlic and Sicilian oregano, as in the bare-bones tomato pie, though this dough stands on its own as a harmonious vehicle for whatever toppings you choose to pile on.

Hot soppressata is a favorite, hailing from midtown’s own Salumeria Biellese. Sliced wafer thin, it softens in the oven, imbuing everything it touches with a spicy, fatty sheen. Ricotta, hand-dipped in Connecticut by Calabro Cheese, gives the white pizza serious heft, its intense creaminess offset by a touch of garlic. Liberally spiced fennel sausage, made in-house from heritage pork, improved every slice it appeared on, including one mingled with onions, sauce, and melted cheese, and another interspersed with fiery pickled cherry peppers on a cheese-less tomato base. With the greenmarket in full swing, the kitchen is getting inspired, so you might find pies laced with garlicky kale, broccoli rabe, or flowering Japanese mustard greens. It’s clear that Bergemann, who previously ran Orkin’s Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop at the other end of the market, shares his mentor’s attention to detail.

Squeezed into a quiet section at the north end of the sprawling complex, past Uma Temakeria’s sushi hand rolls and the Cannibal’s butcher station, Corner Slice winks at pizza parlor nostalgists under its glowing neon signage. It drips with an earnest, old-fashioned aesthetic, staffed by friendly faces surrounded by towers of stacked pizza boxes waiting to be filled. The brothers Bergemann may get fancy with their market special slices, but they and their team make the mozzarella for their standard cheese pies fresh daily. Root beer flows freely on tap from a cheeky barrel keg stood upright behind the counter. Plunk a scoop of ice cream in the sweet suds for an excellent float ($6.50), or opt for other frozen treats like an affogato ($5.50) and tart lemon ice ($3). From the bakery side, there is babka-like semolina chocolate cake with a whisper of orange zest and a generously crumb-topped coffee cake (both $3.75).

Corner Slice took over what was a Blue Bottle Coffee outpost, and Bergemann keeps the java flowing starting at breakfast, which is when rows of soft, olive oil–pistachio muffins, apple crostatas, and salami lard bread rule the display case. Another strong play is the breakfast sandwich ($6), a pile-on of scrambled eggs, zingy peppers, and lush mozzarella on a sesame semolina roll. Then there are Corner Slice’s lunchtime sandwiches ($11.50-$13), served on golden-brown focaccia that makes even a simple pairing of mozzarella and peppers sing. Leagues above your average gloppy, muddled parmigiana subs, Bergemann’s feature quality ingredients like grass-fed beef meatballs and intensely flavorful porchetta. If you’re lucky, your first bite will send a shiver across your palate as the tender meat and crackled pig skin melds with the briny slap of a bracing, anchovy-infused salsa verde. How two slices of bread can contain such a melee of flavors is anyone’s guess. So is how far Bergemann can take his four-sided gambit.

Corner Slice
600 Eleventh Avenue, 212-956-9339
cornerslicenyc.com

 

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Best Weekend Food Events: Gallow Green Brunch, Cheese Pumpkin Party, and National Pizza Day

Gallow Green Opening Weekend Brunch
The McKittrick Hotel (542 West 27th Street)
Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The McKittrick Hotel’s rooftop lounge Gallow Green is now open for the winter season and offering a weekend brunch. Drinks include hot cocktails like mulled wine, while an updated menu features wood-fired items like specialty pizza and a tarte flambe with bacon.

The Long Island Cheese Pumpkin Celebration

Jimmy’s No. 43 (43 East 7 Street)
Saturday through Monday

Celebrate the Long Island cheese pumpkin (a type of pumpkin beloved for pie-making) with a weekend of activities dedicated to the regional vegetable, including a panel discussion, tastings, and a dessert competition. Guests can also sample Blue Point beer brewed with the pumpkin, and a five-course dinner featuring chefs from Cookshop and Rosies will be offered on Monday. Tickets for the events start at $15 and are available here.

A Taste of Tel Aviv
Archestratus Books + Foods (160 Huron Street, Brooklyn)
Saturday, 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Tasting Table editor Devra Ferst is hosting a cooking class dedicated to the flavors of Tel Aviv. Select dishes include shakshuka with merguez, fresh hummus, and chocolate tahini truffles; R.S.V.P. here.

Blood Sausage Making Workshop
Estonian House (243 E. 34th Street)
Saturday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Learn to make traditional blood sausage in time for the holidays.  Instructors will lead a class on the easiest – and cleanest- way to make this dish, which is traditionally offered at Christmas. Additional blood sausage will be available for purchase. Reserve a $15 ticket here.

National Pizza Day Deal
Rossopomodoro (118 Greenwich Street)
Saturday, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Rossopomodoro is celebrating National Pizza Day with a free portafoglio (folded) style slice. The restaurant will offer the deal out of the back of their kitchen from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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Here Stays the Neighborhood: In Washington Heights, Bodega Pizza Spins Thin-Crust Pies

Among the tags, sketches, and declarations of love permanently scrawled in Sharpie on Bodega Pizza’s bathroom walls, one customer’s optimistic sentiment reads, “This proves that gentrification comes & goes but culture remains forever.” It’s a contemplative assessment of the lively pie parlor, a longtime dream of Washington Heights resident Jose Morales.

Until the beginning of this year, the L-shaped room was home to Apt. 78, Morales’s boisterous nightlife venue and community hub that ultimately proved unsustainable. He gave the façade a mustard-yellow makeover and installed a custom-built wood-burning oven. In late June, it re-emerged as another kind of cultural nucleus, albeit one that centers around simple, modestly priced Neapolitan pizzas rather than impromptu dance-offs.

With help from Rome native Francesco Bentrovato, head pizzaiolo Eziquiel Marquez (most recently of 10 Devoe in Williamsburg) bakes a selection of ten-inch signature pizzas ($12–$16) with occasionally winking names, like the Jay Z–themed “Picasso Baby” pie, with wide flaps of pepperoni, or the “Summer of 86,” a nod to Mets fans that lays broccoli rabe over spicy pork sausage and cherry tomatoes. These aren’t archetypally puffy and airy pies, however. The kitchen keeps crusts cracker-thin, and Bodega Pizza’s sweet sauce is the standard margherita’s most prominent feature. In a concession to contemporary diets, you can order whole-wheat or gluten-free crusts, and the menu lists two vegan pizzas (opt for the Vegan 2.0, which eschews fake Daiya cheese).

New York City will never have enough pizzerias. But while classic slice joints proliferate in these upper reaches of Manhattan, Bodega Pizza’s Neapolitan wares are a timely and welcome addition to the neighborhood. So while ordinarily I might be loath to recommend an interborough trek here from a pie haven like Staten Island, Bodega Pizza’s fun and personalized take on this populist staple roundly merits the trip. Of Marquez and Bentrovato’s fifteen char-dappled options, the pies with the most involved recipes are the best place to start. Chief among them are the “Tribe Called Fresh,” decorated with caramelized onions, sweet Italian sausage, and pepperoni, and the “Paid n Full,” a funky number slapping together punchy gorgonzola, prosciutto, peppery arugula, and thick shavings of parmesan.

Then there are the “Dongan Place” and the “Feliz Cumbe,” two pizzas that nod to the neighborhood and might be the duo’s strongest efforts. The former, named for an elbow-shaped street near Fort Tryon Park, melds a piquant combination of tomato, mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, soppressata, roasted red peppers, garlic, and basil. The latter pie balances Latin and American flavors and approximates the love child of pineapple-packed Hawaiian pizza and buche’ perico, a Dominican-corn and smoked-pork stew. Who knew that the sweetness of corn and pineapple could be so complementary?

Aside from pizza, the pickings are somewhat slim, and most feel like variations on a doughy theme. The restaurant’s brief “bites” section is where you’ll find bulky, oven-warmed panini filled with bold pairings like broccoli rabe, sausage, and asiago, or vegetables amped up with roasted garlic. There are also savory calzones to dip in cups of marinara. They hit the table burnished and overstuffed; a gooey mess of mozzarella and ricotta lies inside. Two salads offer diners their only reprieve from cheese and carbs. Neither is particularly revelatory, but a modest $9 gets you an arugula salad brimming with sliced pears and crumbles of gorgonzola. To drink, there are mason jars of tart sangria and a dozen mostly domestic craft beers on tap.

The lone dessert, a crispy, crescent-shaped calzone filled with chocolate-hazelnut spread and topped with a scoop of ice cream, is stealthily listed among the rest of the dishes (it appears above the salads and below the other calzones, for some reason), though fair warning: It’s very sweet. The restaurant’s walls, meanwhile, are lined with groceries like cereal, beans, and coffee, which Morales tells the Voice will be for sale starting next month. Until then, you’ll have to settle for tantalizing single installments of Bodega Pizza’s individually wrapped candies, which are pulled from a glass display case overlooking the bar and accompany each check.


Bodega Pizza
4455 Broadway, 917-675-7707
bodegapizza.com

 

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Best Weekend Food Events: Taste of Tituss, the Science of Pizza, Little Big BBQ

Taste of Tituss Pride Celebration
The OUT Hotel (510 W 42nd Street)
Friday, Saturday, and Monday

Actor Tituss Burgess is hosting three days of Pride parties, with all proceeds from this weekend going to GLAAD and Equality Florida. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star will launch his very own pinot and rosé wines, beginning with a three-course dinner (with wine pairings, naturally). The event includes a performance by Burgess himself. There will also be a rosé barbecue brunch on Saturday and an evening pinot party on Monday at XL Nightclub. Tickets start at $29. Reserve them here.

Brooklyn Makers Market

Williamsburgh Savings Bank (175 Broadway, Brooklyn)
Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Nearly 120 Brooklyn artisans will gather under one roof to showcase a broad sampling of the borough’s unique food scene for Brooklyn Makers Market. Some of the tasty businesses will include Drunken Fruit, maker of candy for grown-ups, and bakery Pie Corps NYC.

Pride Brunch
Riverview (2-01 50th Avenue, Queens)
Saturday, 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer will celebrate his sixth annual LGBT Pride Brunch, which is open to the public and free to attend. Members and allies of the LGBT community will be able to feast on brunch and catch a show at the event. Reservations are encouraged. RSVP at EEhrenberg@council.nyc.gov.

The Science of Pizza! With Ninja Turtles, Donatella Arpaia, and Pete Genovese
Liberty Science Center (222 Jersey City Boulevard, Jersey City, NJ)
Saturday, 12 p.m.

Donatella Arpaia and Pete Genovese are joining the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for a look behind the science of pizza. The event includes a pizza-tossing contest, as well as a special catapult designed to launch toppings onto a giant pizza thirty feet away. Afterward, you can check out the Liberty Science Center’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Secrets of the Sewer exhibit. Cowabunga, dudes!

Little Big BBQ
SolarOne (24-20 FDR Drive Service Road East at 23rd and East River)
Saturday, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.

A selection of meat-centric chefs will join up for a friendly cook-off, which includes competitions for best ribs and side dishes. The waterside barbecue bash includes chefs from Blue Smoke, Fletcher’s Brooklyn BBQ, and Hill Country. Tickets start at $45 and include all-you-can-eat food and drink. Reserve yours here.

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This Week in Food: Candy-Making, Inspiring Foodies, Square Pizza Crawl

‘Wabi and Now’: Shiho Sakamoto’s Wagashi Workshop and Tasting
Kosaka (220 West 13th Street)
Monday, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Learn how to make wagashi, a Japanese sweet, with candy-maker Shiho Sakamoto. Guests will learn how to use fruit and mochi to create the unique treat. A traditional green-tea tasting is also included in the $45 ticket. Reserve yours here.

Square Pizza Crawl
Herald Square (Broadway at 34th Street)
Wednesday, 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Share your love of pizza on this food crawl, which spotlights square-shaped slices this month. Each guest will get one slice per location before running along to the next pizza parlor and chowing down on another. The locations for this Manhattan-based crawl will be revealed the day of the event. Score your $25 ticket here.

Dining Out, Eating In, Living Well
92 Street Y, (1395 Lexington Avenue)
Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Grab a chair and listen to New York Times writer Florence Fabricant and author Sara Moulton share tips on the city’s top restaurants and bars. They’ll also talk about how you can turn dishes made in your home kitchen into restaurant-caliber delights. Tickets are $32. Reserve yours here.

Jazz Night
Home Sweet Harlem (1528 Amsterdam Avenue)
Thursday, 6 p.m.

Looking for some uptown funk? Fuku Tainaka and the Chris Johansen Trio will perform an evening of jazz at Home Sweet Harlem. The restaurant will offer a special food and drink menu throughout the evening, featuring specialty cocktails like mimosas and Bellinis in addition to beer and wine.

Josephina Taco Pop-Up
The Pines (284 Third Avenue, Brooklyn)
Thursday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends

The backyard of the Pines has been transformed into a seasonal pop-up called Josephina. Feast on tacos made with wood fire–grilled masa tortillas, and check out other local goods during Josephina’s weekend markets. The pop-up will also feature a series of guest-chef meals and other food-focused events.

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This Week in Food: Pizza Pop-Up, Free Ice Cream, and Brunch Eats

Vic’s Pizza Party Pop-Up Featuring Ends Meat
Ends Meat (254 36th Street, Brooklyn)
Monday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Vic’s chef Hillary Sterling will fire up Roman-style pizzas with salumi from Ends Meat butcher shop. Pizzas at the pop-up include a white pizza with saucisson, red pizza with pecorino, and another red pizza with ‘nduja. All pizzas will be available for $5 a slice.

Free Ice Cream Cone Day
Participating Häagen-Dazs Shops
Tuesday, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Häagen-Dazs will give away free one-scoop ice cream cones to guests for their annual free-cone day. There will also be prizes for fans who participate in the shop’s “ice cream social” on Twitter. To find the closest participating location, scope out the Häagen-Dazs web site.

Friuli in Your Glass
Eataly (200 Fifth Avenue)
Wednesday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Eataly is honoring the food and wine of Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region with a walk-around tasting featuring over thirty producers from the area. Bites include Montasio cheese and Prosciutto di San Daniele, among others. Admission ($40) give guests full access to all wines and pairings, along with a copy of Eataly founder Oscar Farinetti’s Vino, I Love You.

Village Voice’s Brunch Eats
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum at Pier 86
Wednesday, 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Enjoy breakfast for dinner at the Village Voice‘s first-ever Brunch Eats breakfast-for-dinner food event, which offers three hours of unlimited tasting. Participating restaurants and bakeries include Dough, Ess-a-Bagel, and Distilled among others — check out the full menu here. Complimentary brunch-appropriate drinks, like Bloody Marys and mimosas, will also be available. Tickets are $60 for general admission and $85 for VIP. Reserve yours here.

Film and Food: In Search of Israeli Cuisine
Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn)
Thursday, 6:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Michael Solomonov and Saul Bolton are teaming up for a modern Israeli tasting menu at the Brooklyn Museum. The menu — based on Solomonov’s Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking — includes dishes like grilled eggplant, tabbouleh, and chicken pastilla. Israeli wine, beer, and limonata are also included. After the meal, guests are invited to a screening of the documentary In Search of Israeli Cuisine. The tasting starts at 6:15 p.m. and the film screens at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $68 and include a copy of the book. Reserve yours here.

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Covina Brings Cozy California Touches to Murray Hill’s Park South Hotel

Sometimes, it is not the weight of a new opening that burdens a chef’s conscience, but rather the weight of a Ferrara pizza oven. At Covina (127 E. 27th Street; 212-204-0225), chef Tim Cushman’s freshly made pizzas aren’t the only thing on the menu, but they are integral to the chef’s goal of offering casual, shareable plates.

A Boston native whose love of music pushed him westward to California, Cushman tailors his menus to reflect his travels. Located in the Park South Hotel — the same building that houses the chef’s sushi hideaway, O Ya — guests are just as likely to find a Mediterranean-style hummus plate with seasonal crudité as they are to find gulf shrimp with smoked Oaxacan Pasilla chile sauce and cilantro. There’s even a station devoted to cranking out prosciutto for topping Cushman’s piping-hot pizzas. Paying homage to Murray Hill’s longtime Indian community, the restaurant will also offer a lamb shawarma sandwich during lunchtime.

“There’s a lot of iterations of American restaurants these days, but [Covina is] through a California set of eyes with Mediterranean influences,” says Cushman.

Co-owner Nancy Cushman explains how a West Coast sensibility has influenced Covina’s fare: “With this menu, we always use the word ‘crave-able.’ It’s kind of all dishes that we would want to eat for dinner — but all on one menu. I think California has a way of doing a mashup of different flavors and cuisines in a way that kind of makes sense, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Those dishes include a wood-grilled, chopped-chicken salad, house-milled farro farfalle (all Covina’s pastas are handmade), and a selection of grilled meats including a 32-ounce, bone-in tomahawk ribeye served with dashi au jus.

So what differentiates Covina from other restaurants? “The way the menu is put together… and the different flavor combinations that you have access to,” chef Cushman explains, noting there are Israeli, Turkish, and Indian flavors found all over the menu. “Those flavor combinations work for me, so when I’m creating a menu, I make sure all those flavor combinations don’t clash.”

In addition to the main dining room — which provides guests with full view through the open kitchen — a café located just through the front door offers a selection of coffees and pastries. And should guests feel like they’re in a kind of hideaway — there’s good reason. The main dining room was converted from some of the hotel’s guest rooms — and the name Covina loosely translates to “cove.”

Get a first look at Covina, currently open for dinner service:

Prosciutto is sliced by hand on this machine.
Prosciutto is sliced by hand on this machine.
Hummus with seasonal crudite
Hummus with seasonal crudite
Pepperoni and soppressata pizza
Pepperoni and soppressata pizza
Chocolate Budino with cocoa nib crumble and coffee cream
Chocolate Budino with cocoa nib crumble and coffee cream
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Speedy Romeo Fires Up Brooklyn-Bred Pizzas and Burgers on the Lower East Side

No sleep till… Manhattan?

Despite all its reported cachet, it’s still a hard sell to draw Manhattanites across the river to Brooklyn. At least that’s what Justin Bazdarich and Todd Feldman, co-owners of Speedy Romeo have found. Since opening their first location in 2012 in Clinton Hill — the Brooklyn neighborhood that they both call home — the restaurant has become well known for thin-crust, wood-fired pizza, grilled steaks, and more. While the duo regularly host a crowd that includes locals and those who’ve seen Speedy Romeo on a number of best-of lists, they could barely coax their own families across the East River. So their new, second space at 63 Clinton Street on the Lower East Side already has at least a few potential customers.

“I see friends and family in New Jersey who haven’t been to the Brooklyn restaurant, and they say they’re definitely going to come to the Lower East Side,” Feldman says. “And I’m like, ‘You know you can just drive across the bridge to Brooklyn for five minutes, and you’re there?'”

“I understand it,” Bazdarich says. “I live near the Clinton Hill restaurant, and I don’t have any desire to come into the city — to travel 45 minutes — when everything we need, we’ve got in Brooklyn. But we need to do all these Manhattan people a favor. If they won’t come to us, we’ll come to them.”

So, like their namesake racehorse, they’ve got a good jump out of the starting gate. Those familiar with the Brooklyn location will recognize favorites like the excellent cheeseburger, made with Angus beef and topped with the fascinating (and perhaps not for everyone) Provel cheese and “speedy sauce.” There’s also the Saint Louie pizza, topped with that same oddball cheese as well as Italian sausage, pepperoni, and pickled chilis, and served sliced in small squares rather than big, NYC-style slices.

New additions to the Manhattan location include the Paul’s Boutique pie which was made specially for the new location and named for the Beastie Boys album whose cover was photographed a few blocks away. The pizza is loaded with pastrami from their Lower East Side neighbor Katz’s, plus a dijon béchamel sauce, smoked sauerkraut, fontina cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and a seeded “everything” crust. Much like the Saint Louie, it’s the sort of polarizing pizza that people will try as a dare… and end up hooked or left confused.

Peekytoe crab crostini with a nasturtium vinaigrette and spring vegetables
Peekytoe crab crostini with a nasturtium vinaigrette and spring vegetables

Like the Brooklyn location, Speedy Romeo is only cooking things up on a wood-fired grill or in the wood-fired pizza oven. The oven was a simple red when it arrived at the restaurant, but soon got a paint job to better resemble Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. “It’s a rock ’n’ roll oven,” Feldman explains.

For diners looking for more than pizza, the dishes coming off the grill offer some smokey bites. The wood-roasted artichoke, dressed in a lemon aioli with spring greens and mint, for instance, is a meeting of winter and spring that will still leave room to let you pack in another slice (or, for the more ambitious, a steak). That wood-fired fare has also inspired the cocktail menu, which is the biggest difference between the two outposts, as the Brooklyn spot only has a beer and wine license. With a full liquor license, the Clinton Street space has taken a cue from the cooks to develop a creative drinks menu, featuring a “non-smoking” and a “smoking” section.

The Meadowland
The Meadowland

“We want the kitchen to incorporate its mise en place into the bar,” says Feldman. He adds that they’re kicking around ideas that include smoked pineapple and more. For now, though, it means drinks like the Meadowland on the non-smoking side of the menu, featuring gin, elderflower, maraschino, lemon, grapefruit, and orange zest. On the smoking side, there’s the Diver Down with Lapsang rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, CioCiaro, and a brûléed cinnamon stick.

The liquor store sign in the kitchen came from across the street, after construction workers were "bribed" with a meal.
The liquor store sign in the kitchen came from across the street, after construction workers were “bribed” with a meal.

Manhattan’s Speedy Romeo — a consolidation of two former restaurants — seats about 50 and is decorated with reclaimed windows from Pennsylvania, movie theater benches from the Czech Republic, and a liquor store sign in the kitchen that used to hang across the street, but was taken down during construction. It turned out to be a hot item with lots of people trying to get their hands on it, but the Speedy Romeo guys finally snagged it with what they do best.

“We bribed the construction workers with a meal in Brooklyn,” Feldman reveals.

Todd Feldman (left) and Justin Bazdarich, co-owners of Speedy Romeo
Todd Feldman (left) and Justin Bazdarich, co-owners of Speedy Romeo

After an initial period where Speedy Romeo will serve only dinner Tuesday through Sunday, they’ll gradually add lunch and brunch service, with menus similar to the Brooklyn space. As for how they think their outer-borough success will play out in the new location, Feldman is confident this is the right place for them.

“There’s a Brooklyn feel to it, in a way,” he says. “But we’re with the big boys now. And if we were going to do it, the Lower East Side was where we were going to do it.”