Review: The Rubin Museum of Art’s 2017 Block Party and Sound of the Street

Cover image: Crowd at Kirtan with the Bhakti Center. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

Inside The World of Sound. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

When first walking into The Rubin Museum of Art to enter the newest exhibition, The World Is Sound, visitors are immediately asked to take part in the imagination of sound. Before entering the elevator onto the sixth floor, one question establishes our expectations for the exhibit: What is the first sound you remember?

An odd sense of nostalgia overcame me as I tried to search for my own personal answer to that question, an answer that I wasn’t sure I could articulate as definite. How does one remember sound when they have no concept of what those sounds mean?

When thinking about my experience, it wasn’t something I instinctually heard, but rather something seen and felt. The soothing vibrations of my mother’s voice as I fell asleep on her chest, the light from under the doorframe flickering to the footsteps and muffled hums of voices outside, while I curiously listened from a crib in a dark room.

Tibetan Community of NY/NJ © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

The World Is Sound asks us to interact with sound as a universal, multisensory experience. Touching the walls of the gallery to listen to mantras sung by monks visitors got lost in the chanting of the collective Om in an immersive sound installation room. Tibetan culture colored the rituals of sound while a scientific explanation behind resonant sound in our universe, maintained a tangible understanding of it. The exhibit itself poses a new question when leaving: What is the lasting effect or sound of the universe’s creation?

The exhibit was the perfect foundation for entering the annual block party, Sounds of the Street, which took place in front of the museum last Sunday, July 16th.
From the tranquil submersion of the sounds inside the museum to the energetic vibe of the streets, a universal vibration carried over. Children made their own music with pots and pans while artists on the sidewalks drew the sounds they were making.

Learning new instruments.© Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

Visitors of all ages and backgrounds enjoyed both exhibit and block party, thanks to the interactive nature of the event including various craft tables, meant to appeal to both children and adults.

Participants made art pieces from bubbles and constructed their own instruments from ordinary appliances. That inclusiveness was even available at the food trucks, like Van Leeuwen artisan ice cream, serving both classic and vegan options. Various flavors of food were available like Korilla Korean BBQ as well as the museum’s Café Serai dishing up Himalayan specialties along with wine and beer.

Beef and kimchi tacos from Korilla.© Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

The day was full with plenty of food and constant entertainment. Performances by The Blue Angels Drumline and girls from the Tibetan Community of NY/NJ, kept the crowd actively listening during the event. Meditation spaces were available along with a silent disco booth, providing individuals with isolation amongst the street.

In the final unifying moments of the event, a kirtan concert with the Bhakti Center perfectly emphasized the purpose of participating in sound.
“A kirtan is never performed alone,” Bhakti Center told the crowd as they collectively reached towards the sky, thanking the street and New York City for the constant vibrations of the day.

Live art painting on stage © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

Regardless of belief or perspective in one’s awareness of listening, many understood that sounds are most certainly felt by all.

For more information on exhibits and upcoming events, please visit the Rubin Museum of Art.

Review: AWIB Cheese and Japanese Whisky Pairing at the French Cheese Board

Cover image: Suntory Toki Whisky at the French Cheese Board © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

Story contributor Kaori Mahajan

Highball cocktails with Suntory Toki © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

Lowering my nose into my glass, the mélange of whisky and bubbles tingled in my nostrils as I took a careful sip. Although not a fan of whisky, the Highball cocktail with a twist of grapefruit and carbonated soda was really refreshing and a nice way to kick off the event at the French Cheese Board.

Once associated as a man’s drink, women have increasingly embraced whisky, snapping up nearly 37% of the market share in the U.S. From the 1980s’ powerbroker drink choice, the ladies have begun organizing their own whisky-themed events. For some, it is a desire to try something different. Typically, cheese is often paired with wine or beer, but according to Asian Women In Business founder Bonnie Wong, it was excuse to experiment with delicious French cheeses. Similar to the cheese and sake event last year, AWIB’s Japanese whisky and cheese pairing was about pushing boundaries and bridging cultures.

Dazzling display of French cheeses © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

The French Cheese Board is no stranger to unorthodox cheese pairings at its concept store in SoHo, whose events include cheese and Japanese tea as well as a 50 Shades of Grey-themed chocolate and cheese soirée, where blind-folded patrons reached in a gold mystery box of creamy goodies. Since its quirky lab incarnation in 2016, the FCB has dazzled New Yorkers with amazing towering displays of cheese, pop-ups and foodie meet-and-greets.

Hibiki Whisky and Camembert © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

For whisky lovers, Suntory needs no introduction. Standing alongside the top producers of Scotland and Ireland, the Japanese maker’s whiskies rank among the world’s best. Famed for its award-winning, floral Hibiki and Yamazaki, tonight the Japanese distiller showcased its top-selling classics as well as its newest star, Toki, part of Suntory’s promotional campaign which included a recent stopover at Roki Brasserie. Recently available in the U.S., Toki combines a spicy, oaky blend of Hakushu, Yamazaki and Chita distilleries.

“The pairing process was a trial and error” – said Rosser Lomax from Jim Beam Brands Co, part of the Suntory Group, who had the difficult task of pairing Japanese whiskies and French cheeses. Happily, many of them worked very well. He matched Toki with a soft cow’s milk cheese Chaource, which has a creamy, crumbly texture, bringing it to a whole new level.

Suntory Whisky including Toki, Hakushu, Hibiki and Yamazaki © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

Fans of smoky whisky would delight in Suntory’s Hakushu, a 12-year single, champagne gold malt. Far from a super smoky Laphroaig, Hakushu is a bit subtler with a sweet pear note. The choice of creamy Camembert from Normandy was really nice with the smokiness of the Hakushu worked well with the  buttery, mushroomy flavor of the Camembert.

Hibiki, known for its incredible floral bouquet and complex aromas with a hint of Mizunara, a Japanese oak, seemed an interesting choice to pair with the Rolls Royce of French cheeses, the fiery orange, nutty Mimolette. Interestingly, the honey sweet and candied citrus flavors of Hibiki cut through the cheese’s super sharp nuttiness.

Charles Duque of the French Cheese Board discussing Mimolette © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

Finally, we moved to Japan’s number one seller and Suntory’s flagship single malt, Yamazaki 12 year, which has an agreeable fruity, buttery caramel note that carries a warming cinnamon finish. Normally paired with soft fruit, it seemed natural to enjoy it with sheep’s milk Tomme Brûlée, which is often served with apricot or fig jam. The whisky and saltiness of the cheese was so well balanced that I could not help wanting more.

A cheese shrine © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

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Daring as these combinations were, AWIB’s activities also stretch beyond the casual meet-and-greet. Though AWIB’s primary purpose is to support Asian professional women through forums and fundraising, the group often includes non-members and spouses at its meet-ups. Events include test-driving Teslas and an upcoming, colorful Diwali Day event at Bloomingdales.

For more information on membership and activities, visit AWIB.

Review: French Tuesdays Bastille Day Cruise July 14, 2017

Cover image: French Tuesdays © Daniel Serrette and Magdalina

French Tuesdays: The Friday Edition

French Tuesdays

Lively and loads of dancing © Daniel Serrette and Magdalina

Mellow mists and balmy drizzles veiled the Hudson River’s Pier 40 on Friday evening as blue, white, and red bedecked revelers boarded a ship to celebrate Bastille Day with a three-hour cruise around Manhattan. The evening illustrates just how well French Tuesdays – an invitation-only global community, classy social networking phenomenon, and lifestyle brand – has reached yet another level of excellence in the event planning world with panache and flair. It partnered with Champagne Canard-Duchêne and XL Airways to host a Bastille Day celebration cruise for New York French Tuesdays members and guests.

Champagne Canard-Duchêne and XL Airways © Anne Haack for WhereNYC

“It was the consecration of the unity of France,” explained French Senate Chairman Henri Martin of this holiday’s genesis and importance in his 1880 address to the Senate. Indeed, the Storming of the Bastille fortress – a symbol of royal authority and its abuses – on July 14th in 1789 had proved a turning point in the French Revolution, and on July 14th the following year Bastille Day was a celebration of peace. Finally in 1880 July 14th was voted an annual national holiday for the Republic and today is met with celebrations around the world. Earlier in the day even the Trumps and the Macrons cemented a new and perhaps unlikely friendship in Paris over dinner at the Eiffel Tower’s Jules Verne restaurant.

The Statue of Liberty – which had been merely a distant apparition if not notably curtained by clouds thus far – emerged in all her lighted glory. © Anne Haack for WhereNYC

Flash back to the river cruise celebration in New York: a photo booth, a raffle for XL Airways tickets to Paris, music, and air conditioning graced the middle deck, leaving the top deck as open air for those who wanted to take in the views and quieter night. The crew served dinner on the bottom deck, and the two bars offered bottle service, flutes by the glass, as well as cocktails. Wine was curiously limited to a French rose.

The ship motored north along the Hudson before turning around to head south. It tucked around a cloud-encased lower Manhattan, up the East River by DUMBO, and continued north beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, eventually U-turning to head south again.

Red, white, and blue bedecked revelers boarded a ship to celebrate Bastille Day with a three-hour cruise around Manhattan. © Anne Haack for WhereNYC

This time the ship kept motoring south beyond the island, and suddenly a hush could be heard amongst the revelers. Through the gauzy twilight that had given way to a thick and dark humid night, the Statue of Liberty – which had been merely a distant apparition if not notably curtained by clouds thus far – emerged in all her lighted glory. (The copper statue was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States in the late 1800s.) Francophiles sipping French bubbles put down their glasses and walked to the stern, gazing upon Lady Liberty as though mesmerized. The shipped stopped for a spell, and for one languorously magic moment it felt like silent night.

As the vessel headed back to Pier 40, Lady Liberty faded back into the fog. The party got thumping once again, with French Tuesdays’ CEO Pierre Battu selecting the raffle winners before the ship docked at 10 pm. Sated with rose and champagne, at least two merry revelers including yours truly trotted off the gangplank and made a beeline to the West Village, capping off Bastille Day celebrations at Buvette with charcuterie and a proper carafe of red wine – French red wine bien sûr.

For more information on membership and upcoming events, visit French Tuesdays.

Review: FIAF’s Summer in the South of France Tasting July 9, 2017

Les Hauts de Janeil, Rosé, IGP Pays d’Oc 2016 FIAF Summer in the South of France © WhereNYC

Escaping the summer heat at FIAF’s Bastille Day on 60th Street, celebrating the French national holiday, we dipped into the Summer in the South of France Tasting, one of two indoor events at FIAF. Invitees were greeted at the entrance of the tasting event with a typical Provence aperitif, a pastis-eau from sponsor Ricard. With each refreshing sip, the mood grew more and more spirited.

Cocktails by Ricard at FIAF © WhereNYC

Gourmandise was a top priority for those attending. First stop, with cocktail in hand, was the fromage-charcuterie table. Guests filled their plates with a variety of cheeses from the famous French cheese maker, Président. Tastings included an array of France’s all-stars like nutty Comté, Emmental of the Alps, and the Pyrenee sheep-milk P’tit Basque, the creamy Triple-Crème Brie, and the pungent blue Rocquefort, served with toasts of French baguettes from Pain d’Avignon bakery. Charcuterie, including a pork paté and a chicken and goose paté, as well as a dried sausage from Les Trois Petits Cochons, was a huge hit.

Summer in the South of France tasting drew in crowds © Lise for WhereNYC

 

Hédonisme, Rosé, 2016 was also a hit.© WhereNYC

Tasters made their own cheese pairings with the various wines on show, which came largely from the Southern Languedoc region, promoted by tourism bureau Sud de France. For those after a sudsy thirst-quencher, there were blond and blanche varieties of the French beer Kronenbourg 1664. The sparkling Crémant de Limoux, Thomas Jefferson by Gérard Bertrand was a crowd pleaser and finished off quickly.

Looking around the room, it was obvious that attendees were in the south of France spirit, with the majority of tasters opting for traditional summer choice of rosé. Happily most of the wines retail under $17, an attractive bargain for an upcoming dinner party. Some of the favorites were the crisp Domaine Hondrat rosé with its original looking bottle, and Lot 65 French Fusion white, dubbed summer in a glass.

Upon leaving the tasting, a certain je ne sais quoi was still missing from this escape to France. Stumbling right into an authentic crêpe chef still tossing sweets at the street fair outside was indeed the grand finale of the Bastille celebration.

Review: FIAF’s Bastille Day on 60th Street July 9, 2017

Cover image:  Karen Peled and Co. dancing the Cancan © WhereNYC

Croissants and pains au chocolat by Bien Cuit © WhereNYC

Crême brûleé © WhereNYC

From one stall to another, it was a magnificent display of delightful delicacies and fragrant aromas wafting through the narrow passage as crowds of people happily trolled through the one of New York’s largest street fairs, stretching from Lexington to Fifth Ave. Brooklyn-based Bien Cuit’s pains au chocolat stacked like flakey golden bars with a sliver of sinful, dark chocolate. With a blowtorch, a woman nearby expertly caramelized the sugar coating on the tops of crême brûlées.

Next door armed with a pair of tongs, Chef Daniel Monneaux of Le Bec Fine Foods, a friendly, but gruff character, wooed passer-bys with sizzling, steamy merguez sausages on mini hotdog buns. Then, there were the vibrant displays worthy of a street-food Michelin star. Thomas Keller Group’s Bouchon Bakery’s three-tier cake stand was like a high tea fit for the Queen.

Steps away, one couldn’t also help but marvel at the colorful bundles of creative macarons by Mad Mac.

And of course, who could forget beloved, pâtissier François Payard’s éclairs au café, each garnished with crystalized coffee beans, and the endless rows of perfectly made lemon, peach and raspberry tarts, each for a fiver.

Raspberry tarts and chocolate éclairs by François Payard © WhereNYC

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Financier Bakery © WhereNYC

Fans of the classic crêpe bretonne would delight in the sticky banana and drizzled chocolate crêpes by The Crêpe Escape. The only thing needed was a fruity-flavor sparkling water from one the Perrier gals.

Drawing inspiration from the fragrances and flavors of Provence, Sel Magique showcased some of its delicious herb-salt blends with chopped cucumbers and tomatoes.

Cheerful smiles at FIAF’s Booth © WhereNYC

In celebration of France’s fête nationale, or national holiday, FIAF’s annual Bastille Day on 60th Street is synonymous with Christmas for many Francophile New Yorkers. Far from the memory of the bloody insurrection at the fort of Bastille in 1789, the commemoration in New York had a more cheerful take, filled with great food, wine, live entertainment and prizes. Every year, FIAF hosts two very special indoor-tastings including the super-indulgent Champagne and Chocolate pairing in the Sky Room, where guests sample some of the finest chocolates from Chocolat Moderne, Marie-Belle and La Maison du Chocolat. Below in the Tinker Auditorium, patrons can enjoy Southern wines from the Languedoc and elsewhere, 1664 beer, or a refreshing, pastis cocktail by Ricard.

Confectionary and Biscuit purveyor La Cure Gourmande  © WhereNYC

While there were the traditional sights of long-legged ladies in fishnets performing cancan dance, there were also unusual additions to this year’s line-up including: It’s Showtime NYC, which honestly underwhelmed even with an improvised cha-cha-cha audience-participating climax. Away from the stage, the entertainment continued with mimes, and the brass Hungry March Band weaved the crowds with cheerful sounds.

Mimi Catherine Gasta © WhereNYC

Needing a bit of refreshment, perhaps a little drunken solace away from the sweltering heat and pushing mob, I wandered to the VIP Room tucked away in Amali for glass of rosé and plateful of baguette, bleu d’Auvergne, brie and some slabs of pâté. While there were several wines to choose from, I was particularly drawn to the refreshing, unique rosés from the Languedoc region of France. Among the wines of Provence, Bordeaux, and Loire, it is unforgivable to miss those  along France’s Southwestern coast. The 2016 Hédonisme by Gérard Bertrand and Syrah-blend Les Hauts de Janeil of the same year were everything you want with a rosé, refreshingly dry with a slight fruity afternote.

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Wines of the South were a hit in Summer in the South of France tasting. © WhereNYC

The Pays d’Oc as it’s also known has a coastal rustic, dry charm with breathtaking seaport towns like the Port Wenn-like Collioure, near the Spanish-Catalan border and the fast-growing, young city of Montpellier. Too often overshadowed by neighboring Provence, the Languedoc region offers a more affordable, but no-less-enjoyable vacation destination with great food and impressive wines like the famous Pic Saint-Loup, Minervois and Château Coulon. In an effort to boost tourism to one of France’s most underrated regions, Sud de France booth promoted its line of tours outside and showcased some amazing wines in the Summer in South of France tasting at the FIAF Tinker Auditorium.

Sud de France and Le Boat © WhereNYC

Despite crowds and summer, the buzz of FIAF’s Bastille Day celebration was exceptionally jovial with vibrance, indulgent delights and sounds that captured the free revolutionary-spirit of France without any mayhem.

Don’t miss FIAF’s upcoming First Tuesdays with wine, cheese, mingling and more.

Review: Summer Seasonal NYC Craft Beer Festival at the Metropolitan Pavilion, June 24, 2017

Cover image: Belly’s Korean-flavor slider and Alesmith beer by Tokyoracer for WhereNYC

212 © WhereNYC / Craft Beer Summer Seasonals

“This is our Flatiron Ale,” the rep from 212 Brewery from the Catskills said while pouring me a sudsy glass full. “It’s an APA made with water from Saratoga Springs, New York.” “What’s an APA?” I asked. APA, or American Pale Ale is hoppier than Indian Pale Ale. I shuddered with fear. American craft beers have a reputation of being notoriously too hoppy. Assuring me that he toned down the hops to make it more “approachable,” I took a sip. It was mellow but with a little hoppy kick at the end. Really delicious.

American craft beer has come a long way from the over-the-top-bitter hoppies. Once geared for a deranged craft-nerd palate, many have mellowed. The ultra-bitter-to-bring-you-to-tears artisanal brews such Dogfish Ale have given way to more balanced beers of Sixpoint and Brooklyn Brewery, who have come from the deep end to make inventive beer more accessible.

This year’s Summer Seasonal showcased a variety of brews balanced for the masses. That is not to say that these beers were in any way mediocre. Quite the opposite. Far from watered down, beers such as Catskill Brewery’s Darbee pale ale has an aromatic floral note, while its Foeder aged-beer had a slightly wooden sourness that would go well with light dishes.

Luke Boyle of Catskill Brewery © WhereNYC

According to brewer Luke Boyle, Catskill Brewery beers can work with a variety of cuisine, and like 212, is meant for many occasions. Similarly, Paradox Pilsner may sound complex with its name, but it is a nice bohemian-style pilsner that work at any barbecue.

Many of the local beers followed the summer citrusy love affair without going into overdrive. Personal favorites include the lemony Narragansett Beer’s Del’s Shandy,  and Gun Hill’s Citra Sour Softserve drank like a gueuzey cider.

Natives of Queens, New York, know all too well the famous Boulevard of Death, but the less-dangerous Queens Boulevard Sessions IPA was both bitter and crisp, while leveled on the hoppiness.

Narragansett Beer’s Del’s Shandy was a citrusy thirst-quencher © Tokyoracer for WhereNYC

Welcomed surprises also included Radiant Pig’s Gangster Duck Red, which drank really well, even with its ridiculous name.

 WhereNYC / Craft Beer Summer Seasonals

Paradox Pilsner © WhereNYC

There were some fun, non-beery brews. Tea cocktail mixer favorites Owl’s Brew has branched into beer with three selections involving fruity flavors. The Watermelon was a bit too sweet for my liking, but I enjoyed the sour, Blondie and That’s My Jam.

Not every craft beer followed a balanced, nuanced brewing philosophy. There were some misfires. Upland Brewery’s Iridescent barrel aged was like drinking a glass of concentrated bitter lemon extract. Full Contact by Kings County Brewers made with raspberries had impact but for the wrong reasons. Punishingly sour, it lacked balance.

Owl’s Brew © Tokyoracer for WhereNYC / Craft Beer Summer Seasonals

In search of something a bit stronger, I wandered over to the spirits counter, which could have easily been its own event. Visitors fortunate to venture here discovered brandy from Kentucky, rum from Colorado, Irish gin, peaty whiskey from Cognac, France and Vodka from Sweden.

Copper & Kings from bourbon-country Kentucky, using bourbon casks, produce a signature naturally caramel brown brandy that had a delightful warming sensation with a delicate bourbon after note. Its 100-proof Cr&ftwerk distilled in stout barrels was surprisingly mellow with a lovely cherry, chocolaty flavor.

Brandy Rocks! Copper & Kings from Kentucky © WhereNYC

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Not known for making gin, the Gunpowder Irish Gin was intense with a slightly smoky tea aroma that mixed beautifully with the thyme-infused green pepper juice cocktails next door. From the Cognac region of France, Bastille 1789 commemorated its own French-revolution with a smoky, peaty whiskey, which could give Lagavulin or Laphroaig serious competition. Scotch lovers at Summer Seasonal would still delight with samplings from Glenmorangie. While the Original was comforting and pleasant, the Nectar D’Or was a serious crowd-pleaser. Finally, the Quinta Ruban has a soft, dryness with an interesting contrast of carmel and a refreshing zing.

Glenmorangie © Tokyoracer for WhereNYC

Perhaps not as famous as Stolychnaya or Greygoose, five-times distilled Vodka Råvo from Sweden was beautifully pure and would go well with a plate of oysters.

While Colorado is the last place you might think of finding some great rum, but the cola-like flavor of the Alsatian-style Amer Fleur de Joie and sustainable, spicy Montanya Oro gave a bit of tropical sunshine. Finally, the Mezcal Buen Bicho from Mexico, while starting gentle and smokey, finished with a fiery punch and literally blew smoke out of my nostrils.

While there were plenty of beers and spirits to enjoy, there were limited food options. Jerky Hut sold a variety of delicious, spicy beef jerky. Hanna’s Meatballs offered a sobering, hearty variety of home comforts.

Wisco Fresh © Tokyoracer for WhereNYC

The Wisco Fresh fried cheese curds for $8 was a bit steep, so I opted for the amazing $5 Belly Korean-inspired sliders with gochujang glazed bacon, which went perfectly with my glass of beer.

For more information on upcoming craft beer expos, visit NYC Craft Beer Festival.

Review: The Wonders of Peruvian Pisco at MOFAD, JUNE 22nd

Cover image: Pisco Cocktail © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

If you are are a true spirit connoisseur, then you know that pisco has become quite the darling of the industry in recent years. I knew I really have enjoyed this spirit in the past at restaurants and events, but I was never really quite sure of what it was. So when I heard the Museum of Food and Drink had The Wonders of Peruvian Pisco in their Spring Cocktails series, I knew I needed to investigate.

As I arrived at MOFAD, I was greeted at the front desk at with a pisco cocktail and was told it was similar to a Moscow Mule. It had ginger beer, lime, and something other than vodka, it was distinctly pisco. I sipped my drink and mixed with the lovely crowd that was eager to learn more about this spirit.

(c) Alyssa Tognetti

Diego Loret de Mola the Master Distiller and Brand Champion of BarSol Pisco © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

The speaker of the night was Diego Loret de Mola the Master Distiller and Brand Champion of BarSol Pisco. As a passionate as he was about Pisco, he taught the crowd about its origins in Peru and the different varietals of grapes that are used to produce the spirit. Later, he discussed the different processes of making Pisco and why the spirit becomes clear during the product. From there he explained the history of Pisco being added to the menus at different bars across the United States but ultimately leaving its mark on San Francisco.

Previous events at MOFAD include the Mexican Mezcal with a buggy twist. © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

 

After hearing Diego speak, the audience went back out to the main area and grabbed their second cocktail, which was the beloved Pisco Punch as we mingled and waited for the food. I did stop by the Barsol Pisco table and tried two different piscos straight. Here they asked what do I prefer whiskey or vodka to better understand if I liked more of a floral pisco or a dry pisco. Since I do enjoy whiskey more, they suggested the more floral pisco, which was very delicious. For kicks, I decided to try the dry pisco as well, but I prefered the more fragrant notes of the first.

(c) Alyssa Tognetti

Mission Ceviche © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

Mission Ceviche and Pollo D’oro both had tables for their restaurants and served up some delicious grub. I cannot say that I have really gone out to a Peruvian restaurant before, but after attending this event I might have to. Mission Ceviche served up some raw seafood that I was shocked how much I loved it, while Pollo D’oro samples a great quinoa dish. I greedily went back for seconds for each.

Sounds fun? MOFAD has a lot of great programs coming up! Learn more at MOFAD.org.

Review: “Pride Without Prejudice” Opera Party at the Greene Space, June 22, 2017

Cover Image: Justin Vivian Bond performing, © Matthew Septimus / The Greene Space at WQXR.

“What is an opera party?” I thought on the commute over to the Greene Space. It seemed intriguing if somewhat baffling of what to expect.

“Mistaken Identities”, the first of the Opera Party series, was a huge hit. © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

This was the third installment of the multifaceted Opera Party at the Greene Space, which tantalized the audience with an eclectic array of singing, drinking and cake – cleverly disguised as a piece of furniture.

Anthony Dean Griffey and Anthony Roth Costanzo © Matthew Septimus / The Greene Space at WQXR.

After a warm greeting when I arrived, I took my seat having little idea what was about to happen. The description of the event was vague, and all I really knew was that the event would involve opera and cake. The soirée began and our host and Metropolitan Opera star Anthony Roth Constanzo dived into a charming introduction of the event, which was in honor of Pride Month.

Anthony Roth Costanzo © Matthew Septimus / The Greene Space at WQXR.

The singing and chatting began, treating us to live performances and a banter to follow. Two guests, Justin Vivian Bond and Anthony Dean Griffey, appeared on stage with Justin Vivian beginning with a song and before explaining to the audience about the close relationship between opera and the LGBT community. Anthony Griffey followed next with a brief opera number. After each sang individually, the two artists sat down together at a vanity that had been on stage as a prop to discuss preparing for a performance. Surprising us all, the vanity they sat was actually the cake mentioned the event description, with fondant used to give the cake (a plain cake with peach and icing) a more furniture-like appearance. Very clever! The two artists happily tucked into the gâteau and shared with some in audience as they gave their final performances. Anthony Roth Constanzo and Justin Vivian Bond sang a musical duet while Anthony Griffey concluded with an extended version of the song he had treated us to earlier.

A final duet with © Matthew Septimus / The Greene Space at WQXR.

Afterwards, both guests and performers mingled, taking in the cozy, laid back atmosphere of the Greene Space. The party then spilled over from the performance space to the reception area where the cake was displayed and eventually devoured by the end of the night. Even for those who knew little about opera,  it was a wonderfully, charming event and quite enjoyable.

Don’t miss the upcoming The Beer-Changing Magic of Brewing with Hops on July 19th at the Greene Space.

Review: Porchlight’s Second Anniversary Celebration June 6, 2017

Cover image: The Sherry Fine and Heart Attack & Vine© Tokyoracer for WhereNYC / Porchlight

Where could one go to sip a cocktail with a little Southern charm in New York City? Porchlight is the answer for sure.  Located on the far Westside of Manhattan, in the remnants of Hell’s Kitchen, it’s a quiet, unassuming get away with a little rustic feel.

Porchlight © Tokyoracer for WhereNYC / Porchlight

Part of high-end restauranteur Danny Meyer’s empire, Porchlight is a step away from the usual fine dining suspects. His armada of flagships include: the Michelin-starred Gramercy Tavern, The Modern, and the minimalist Untitled at the Whitney Museum; the more relaxed and casual, Porchlighthowever, still follows Meyer’s ethos of hospitality.

Part of its charm is its off-the-beaten-path location. While the Hudson Yards, just to the North, is in the midst of a massive, skyscraper makeover resembling the skyline of Dubai, Porchlight is a Bohemian sanctuary, reminiscent of a grittier, cutting-edge New York. But once you enter Porchlight’s doors, you can detect Meyer’s unmistakeable presence with the warm welcome.

Our evening at Porchlight was full excellent food and great drinks. The décor was dark but intimate, and the lighting draws patrons to the bar to get a taste of various libations. The bar bites were delicious from Chef Anton Nocito’s essential Southern comforts like Hush Puppies, to fried chicken bites and mushroom sliders, there was something for everyone to enjoy. Adding to the effect with a certain quirkiness, Tara Linhardt’s Bluegrass Jam gave their folky twist on modern songs, setting the mood for the night.

Cocktails with a Southern twist © Tokyoracer for WhereNYC / Porchlight

The drink cocktails by head bartender Nicholas Bennett were excellent and bravely combined new flavors. The Sherry Fine was a smooth drink that Gin lovers would appreciate. For those looking for something a bit sweet and simpler, Porchlight’s Whiskey & Cola cocktail was a pleasure. Much of drink selection reflected seasonality, and with summer, comes vibrance and refreshing mixes. The Frozen Negroni was a perfect heatwave remedy that would sooth anyone on hot summer day.  Finally, The Heart Attack & Vine had a great array of flavors, which was yet still easy on the palate. Very clever.

© Tokyoracer for WhereNYC / Porchlight

All of these elements together transported us from the New York streets to a warm and friendly Southern shindig. If you’re craving a splash of the Deep South in NYC, without being gimmicky, definitely put the Porchlight on your radar.

© Tokyoracer for WhereNYC / Porchlight

Porchlight is located on 271 11th Ave.

Review: Annual Sake Lecture & Tasting: 20th Anniversary Japan Society June 5, 2017

Cover image:  Chiyonosono Junmai Daignjo Koshu 1997 by Chiyonosono Sake Brewing © WhereNYC

“Where is the sake industry today?” Sake World editor and our host John Gauntner asked the audience at the sold-out event at the Japan Society. A charismatic figure, with a shock of gray hair, he is the official sake ambassador to the U.S. Since its inception twenty years ago, John Gauntner has dutifully hosted the annual sake event at the Japan Society, covering a range of themes and bringing award-winning chefs like David Bouley and Japanese pottery expert Robert Yellin.

Marumoto Sake Brewing© WhereNYC

 

Sake / Japan Society

Taking a bow. Representatives of over 11 breweries of © WhereNYC

Gauntner said the in the 1990s, New York had just a couple of shops that had a decent range of sake; however, today the city has embraced Japanese rice wine.

John Gauntner © WhereNYC

Tasting events such as these at the Japan Society, speciality shops such as Sakaya in the East Village and the rise in trendy, authentic Japanese gastropubs, or izakayas, and ramen-yas have boosted sake popularity. Distributors as well as sommeliers, according to Gauntner, are taking sake very seriously, meticulously pairing it with non-Japanese dishes. On average, according to Gauntner, consumption in the U.S. grows 10% a year, with around 5,000 kiloliters imported from Japan.

Sake / Japan Society

The beautifully balanced Yuho Junmai-shu “Eternal Embers” was a favorite © WhereNYC

Both a combination of tasting events such as this and the explosion of authentic trendy Japanese restaurants such as ramen-yas and gastropubs, or izakayas that dot New York City have helped boost sake’s popularity. Finally, craft sake breweries like Brooklyn Kura, one of 15 in America, with the help of the industry in Japan have also begun to take off.

Dassai 23 “Migaki Niwari Sanbu” Junmai Daiginjo was the top-end crowd pleaser. © WhereNYC

While hot house sake, or atsukan, still enjoys a special place in our hearts, New Yorkers now enjoy an incredible range of different sakes including sparkling to aniseedy premium drinks. At the tasting, reps happily bantered with patrons, hopping from table to table and clammering to sample the goods. There were the reputable big names such as Dassai 23 and the award-winning Kirin Hizou Shu Daiginjo, neighboring the more modest Shichida Junmai Daiginjo by Tenzan Brewing.

The prized Kirin Hizou Shu Daiginjo was a superb treat. © WhereNYC

While sake’s popularity in the West, particularly the United States, has grown to a roughly 30%-share of the export market, it has had an adverse effect in Japan. Mr. Gauntner said that since 1998, Japanese consumption of sake has dwindled with many sake producers going under. Since 1997, about 586 breweries in Japan have disappeared. Oddly while production is down to almost 60% since the end of the 20th century, the number of sake pubs and high end premium sake have spiked. The paradoxical relationship between the success and demise of the sake industry stems from poor local demand and rising foreign interest. Too often viewed as old person’s drink, many younger Japanese are drinking far less these days.

Vintage sakes or koshu like this Tentaka Daiginjo had a deep, dry sherry taste. © WhereNYC

Meanwhile rice-producing regions near Sendai are still contending with the fallout from the Fukushima disaster of 2011. Even with the success of its export market, Mr. Gauntner said, the breweries cannot only rely on it.

The Japanese government has come to the rescue promoting sake tourism. And younger brewers taking over the family business are giving traditional sake bottles a makeover with sleeker labels and logos to attract younger buyers while making it more accessible through online sales. There are more single source and rice-to-bottle breweries such as the Chikurin organic sake by companies such as Marumoto Sake Brewing. And tasting rooms and sake workshops have also renewed public interest. Flavors

Some sake reps really got into character! © WhereNYC

Those who frequent izakayas after work know that there will always be cheap sake, but the different varieties that one should also enjoy may differ from one region to another. Surprisingly, there were quite a lot of aged vintage sake, or koshu at this tasting event. Once a rarity, koshu has made its own niche in the market. Unlike red wines, aged sake’s value may not appreciate in monetarily but these vintage brews certainly pack a massive punch of flavor. Tentaka’s vintage 1989 had deep, bold dry-sherry notes with a long finish.

I particularly liked the 10-year Hanagaki Daiginjo Koshu and 2013 Shousetsu Junmai Daiginjo, simply because I found their flavors more accessible. The 1997 amber Okonomtasu Tokubetsu Junmaiginjo and Hoyo 1984 from Uchigasaki Shuzoten had an intense whiskey-like characteristic, which also had a pleasant fragrance. While all were very enjoyable, they may not be for everyone’s taste.

Though sake consumption in Japan has waned, John Gauntner remarked that perhaps its trendy appeal in the West, in cities like New York, will finally rekindle the Japanese love for this underrated beverage.

For more information on upcoming events, visit the Japan Society.