Tag Archives: New York City

In praise of April.

NEW YORK STORIES – Food

April Broomfield is a name very familiar to New Yorkers who wish to dine on good honest cooking made from the heart and from a true love of great food. A native of Birmingham, England and having worked at The River Cafe in London, she is the executive chef and co-owner (with Ken Friedman) of The Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village, The Breslin and The John Dory Oyster Bar – both at the Ace Hotel in Midtown. I was lucky enough to dine at 2 of her establishments. I also purchased her new cookbook which is a good read and well worth buying.

THE SPOTTED PIG

Located at 314 W. 11th Street @ Greenwich St in Greenwich Village this beautifully decorated gem of a restaurant serves up seasonal British & Italian cuisine using local ingredients whenever possible. It is quite difficult to get into so I chose to get there for a lunchtime treat, there was a line starting up at 11.45  for a 12 noon opening. Whilst sitting on my own I soon engaged in conversation with a lovely couple from Florida at the table next to me, they were there for the same reason – to sample some delicious food from this reputable eatery. The exterior is adorned with herbs and plants which seems to be a signature of April’s establishments whilst the interior is full of paraphernalia related to the pig and various produce that is edging on kitsch but part of the charm of the relaxed space.

I ordered myself a Frozen Moscow Mule cocktail which was a refreshing vodka ginger beer and lime concoction perfect for a warm day. As an appetiser I chose a Devilled Egg a favourite of mine and to have it in a fine establishment was fun. Sitting in a puddle of extra virgin olive oil and scattered with snipped chives, it was delicious and creamy and simple, I scoffed them down as if I was attending a 70’s cocktail party.

Next up was the famed Chargrilled Burger with Roquefort Cheese served with an alarmingly large nest of shoestring fries. A fine meat patty cooked rare with a strong cheese to compliment sitting on a light brioche bun alongside a mess of fries flavoured with garlic and rosemary, it was absolutely fantastic and worthy of its reputation. I know my choices were not very adventurous but I wanted to sample and now I know I will return for more. If she can get devilled eggs and hamburger right I know I will enjoy anything served up. After deciding not to order dessert because I was full to pussy’s bow my dear Floridian neighbours offered me a spoonful of their treats and I must say the Flourless Chocolate Cake was a winner, rich and moist and divine, the Creme Brûlée (ordered as a litmus test) was delightful creamy perfection. So off I went into the day to explore the village determined to try out The Breslin next……

THE BRESLIN BAR & DINING ROOM

The Breslin, is situated as part of the Ace boutique hotel at 29th and Broadway. It features a hearty, meat-centric menu that emphasizes artisanal products, small local growers and farmers, and seasonality. It is known for “nose-to-tail” cuisine methodologies and offers handmade terrines, sausages and charcuterie. I entered through another forest of plants adorning the pavement noting the sign above with cute graphic symbols, into what felt like a beer tavern of which a bevy of brews featured on the menu.

I opted for another cocktail of course, known as an “High Violet” – featuring Vodka, agai liqueur, tarragon, lemon juice and soda – yum! yum!

To eat I chose another old time favourite a Scotch Egg, a delicious perfectly cooked soft boiled egg wrapped in juicy pink mince and cooked to a crunchy goodness, it was flavoursome and looked gorgeous when sliced open. Served at the same time was a tasty Seafood Sausage with Beurre Blanc and Chives, another classic, light as a feather and subtly fishy. I have come to realise that Miss Bloomfield creates food I truly love, using fresh tasty ingredients to spruce up old time fare – perfection.

So as you can tell now I am a big fan of April Bloomfield and her food philosophy. I can’t wait to go back to her restaurants and try more from the menu. At least now I have her cookbook as a reminder and as soon as I arrived home I cooked up a delicious lamb shoulder braise (see below) and look forward to cooking more tasty meals from her oeuvre.

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Winning the trifecta

NEW YORK STORIES – The Shows

There are 3 elements that need to be perfect for me to make a show shine above the rest, the play (content), the performances, and the production. It is very rare when all 3 hit the mark. Out of the 21 productions I saw in NYC only 5 made it to the winner’s circle. 3 plays and 2 musicals.

Here I will highlight the plays.

All three of them were from an off-Broadway stage, I’m not saying that the ones caught on Broadway weren’t any good, they certainly were, but they seemed to be held up by star performances with the play or production lacking.

3000 Miles by Amy Herzog.

This wonderful production has star performances by Mary Louise Wilson and Gabriel Ebert as a 91 yr old grandmother and 21 yr old grandson who seeks refuge at her apartment in the West Village of New York City after losing his best friend on a cross-country bicycle tour. Amy Herzog’s delicate and humorous play explores how these two unlikely outsiders cope with living  in today’s world.  One would think that the cross generational aspect of the play may bring up fireworks but Herzog doesn’t succumb to cliche instead drawing two fine and unorthodox characters and giving the actors involved roles to shine in. They are ably supported by the 2 women in the boy’s life, his ex-girlfriend (Zoe Winters) and a one night stand (Greta Lee). The  superb direction by Daniel Aukin never misses and his creative collaborators – costumes (Kay Voyce), lighting (Jaffy Weideman) and set design (Laura Helpern) are first class. Presented by the Lincoln Centre Theatre on the Mitzi E. Newhouse stage they certainly won the trifecta with this one, it has extended many times and won a joint Obie award for the leading actors as well as for best new American play – well deserved.

Gabriel Ebert & Mary Louise Wilson in their award winning roles

Lonely I’m Not by Paul Weitz

This play was recommended to me by a New Yorker. It was not on my radar but she assured me it was a very good play given a top notch production. The reviews were good and the theatre just around the corner from my apartment. I was given a discount code and at the last minute decided to venture along – 30 minutes and $30 later (a bargain) I was sitting in an excellent seat at the Second Stages theatre. To my delight in walked director Mike Nichols and his beautiful wife Diane Sawyer and they plonked themselves down 2 rows in front of me – distracting at first (did Mike laugh? what did he think of it?) but soon this excellent play grabbed my attention and I was delighted to see a top notch show.

Featuring the stage debut of TV & film actor Topher Grace (That 70’s Show) the play was written by Paul Weitz best known as a film screenwriter (Amercian Pie, About A Boy). A contemporary dysfunctional love story – a riff on the Hollywood rom com. The boy, Porter, was a Wall Street broker who suffered a meltdown and four years later is holed up in his LA apartment. Set up by a friend he goes on a blind date (literally) where he meets the girl, Heather who is blind and a workaholic determined not to let her disability get in the way. So they meet, they date, they fall in love, they fight…  The story might have an element of cliché but the finely drawn characters and excellent acting by the whole cast had me enthralled, laughing, crying and on the edge of my seat. Topher Grace (a real surprise) and Olivia Thirlby as his blind girlfriend create totally believable characters and the deft direction by Trip Cullman once again aided by fine collaborators of which particular mention should go to set designer Mark Wendland and projection designer Aaron Rhyne – the production used words, projections and holograms to great effect giving it a contemporary cinematic feel. I left the theatre happy that all 3 criteria had been met and also wondering whether Mike Nichol’s liked it as much as I did and would he direct the film version? here’s hoping 🙂

Olivia Thirlby & Topher Grace perform a rocky romance

A clever set uses words to help tell the story

Cock by Mike Bartlett

An acclaimed English import as far as play and production go but with an American cast. One could imagine that recasting could ruin the trifecta but it sure hasn’t. With a provocative title that is unable to be printed in some New York press it is also known as “The Cock Fighting play”!!

English playwright Mike Bartlett bounced onto the West End scene when this production originated at the famed Royal Court theatre. It is performed on a purpose built setting in which the audience sit on plywood benches with very thin cushions, the show is performed in the round and the meticulous direction by James McDonald choreographs the action as if you were indeed watching a cock fight play out. What are they fighting for? The love and affection of John (Cory Michael Smith) who decides one day that he does not want to live with his  boyfriend, known as M (Jason Butler Harner), anymore. He meets a co-worker known as W (Amanda Quaid) and they start up a heterosexual relationship which leads to all sorts of conflicts and confusion. M insists on dinner party showdown  in which his father F (Cotter Smith) is in attendance for support.A decision needs to be made and the tension till that final moment is breathtaking. Using no props or settings whatsoever the extremely talented cast perform their roles to perfection in a production of a very profound, funny and moving play. The audience are all in close proximity (check out the setting below) and although at times it can be startling you soon become engrossed in the drama unfolding in front of you. Theatre doesn’t get much better than this. “Cock” is playing an open ended run at the Duke Theatre on 42nd street, go see it if you are in town.

Fighting for love in the ring of life – The fine cast of Cock

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Let’s go on with the shows…….

NEW YORK STORIES – The Shows Pt 1.

I was in New York for a total of 29 days and 28 nights. I managed to catch 21 productions in total. Some shows were brilliant, others downright stinkers. I was there whilst the Tony awards were being presented – live. Fun that I had seen a few of the productions that were nominated and honoured. I’ll give my opinion of them all in coming posts but let me  just say that Lloyd Webber & Rice musicals need good productions and that playwright Kenneth Lonergan should not write & direct he also needs a good script editor…………

The Tony awards red carpet

Stinker # 1

Don’t cry for me Ricky Martin.

Lonergan should begin again.

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Food glorious food, what is it we live for?

NEW YORK STORIES – Food Pt 1.

I love food and I love dining out. New York is a mecca for good affordable eateries, one can be clever and eat at famed dining establishments without breaking the budget. I made it my mission to sample a few. The trick was lunchtime outings sitting at the bar chatting to the excellent bar staff sampling the fare from a cheaper menu sometimes fix prix, smaller portions which was a godsend – it became a regular occurrence on my agenda. Oh and did I mention the fabulous cocktails? Here’s to the ladies who lunch…..

Cocktail with a view at Roberts atop the Museum Of Art & Design (MAD) Columbus Circle

Del Posto, The Dutch, The Spotted Pig, The Breslin, Locando Verde were major highlights. In the early evening a bar sitting afforded you a spot that within a few hours saw hungry diners queueing outside leaving you to head into the night full of fine food and a few tasty cocktails, very jolly indeed!! Famed Minetta Lane Tavern was a superb experience and pizza at Pulinos on East Houston in the East Village along with fresh organic fare at Prune across the road have etched fond food memories on my palate.

I’ll attempt to share a few of those experiences in coming New York Stories food posts – something to salivate over.

Minetta Lane Tavern

April Bloomfield’s acclaimed The Spotted Pig

Herbs aplenty surround the exterior of The Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village

The Dutch in Soho, I ventured there 3 times.

A late night pizza at Pulino was my first meal on arrival – bellissimo!!!

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Babs is back at last…..

I have been away from my post for quite some time, after an arduous time on a Julian Assange telemovie and a well earned and very exciting month long holiday in fabulous New York City. I will be posting about that wonderful trip in little spurts and get up to speed on whats happening in the world of showbiz.

Watch this space…..

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