Month: July, 2006

A chance meeting

Monday, July 31st, 2006 | All Things, Friends

I decided not to make the trek out to NJ tonight, and instead planned to attend Jie Chen’s concert at Pace University. Chen is one of that breed of young — often Asian — piano prodigies: Chinese-born and the winner of the Young Concert Artists Auditions, the Piano-e Competition, the Washington International and the Missouri Southern International competitions. After work, with about an hour to spare, I decided to check out the summer sales at Century 21. Just east of the entrance doors, I ran into B, who was just then leaving work at the World Financial Center.

How serendipitous. He accompanied me into the store, and after gamely touring through the women’s European designers section, we left in search of a quick bite to eat before my concert. I encountered the problem I always seem to have when trying to think of a casual dinner spot in the Financial District. If time hadn’t been of the essence – and it weren’t in the opposite direction of where I needed to be – I would have considered Adrienne’s Pizza Bar on charming Stone Street, which was just ranked #76 on New York Magazine’s 2006 Cheap Eats list.

We ended up at The Soda Shop on Chambers Street, just off West Broadway, a quaint little place dishing up ice cream creations and standard light salad/sandwich fare, with hearty doses of Norman Rockwell Americana. The back is outfitted with an old timey candy bar: peppermint sticks, wax lips, plastic ruby candy rings, candy cigarettes. Kid heaven!

We finished our burgers next to the (fake) fireplace and walked over to the Brooklyn Bridge entrance. By that time, though, Chen’s performance had already started, so we loitered for a bit longer by the red Calder in front of City Hall Park, waiting for intermission.

Brooklyn Bridge Entrance

The concert was being held at The Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts, the principal theatre of Pace University. The 750-seat Schimmel Center is most famously home to Bravo’s Inside the Actors Studio, hosted by James Lipton. After B took his leave, I crossed over to the campus, but had difficulty locating anyone outside the auditorium. I decided to sit outside, waiting for a tell-tale stream of audience members, but when none came, I could only assume that there would be no intermission. Not wanting to burst in on the performance in progress, I headed home instead.

So I didn’t end up seeing the concert as I had planned, but I did get to catch up with a friend over an impromptu dinner. A nice evening overall.

Brooklyn Bridge Apple

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P.S. 1 Summer Celebration

Sunday, July 30th, 2006 | All Things, Arts, Events, Music

5 Pointz, down the block from P.S. 1, is the latest incarnation of the a 200,000-square space on Crane Street. The space, formerly known as Phun Factory, billed itself as the world’s largest aerosol art museum. After a landlord-tenant dispute in 2001, Pat DiLillo, the group’s founder and director, stepped down. Onetime artist Meres, ne Jonathan Cohen, took over the project, rechristening it with its new name to symbolize NYC’s five boroughs coming together as one, and continues to offer a place for graffiti artists to showcase their work. The building originated as Gimbel’s former warehouse.

On the way out on the 7, we spied three kids adding their own contributions to the rooftop, seemingly undaunted by the scorching sun.

5 Pointz

The outdoor courtyard of the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center — where the popular Warm Up music series is held on Summer Saturdays — features the new architectural installation by this year’s winner of the annual MoMA/P.S.1 Young Architects Program.

The entry by New York City-based OBRA, a design-oriented office in New York founded by partners Pablo Castro and Jennifer Lee, was selected from a field of twenty five proposals for a building project to transform the courtyard space with projected budget of $70,000. Their design, titled BEATFUSE!, is constructed of seven curved, interconnected shells made of plywood and polypropylene mesh. The project also encompasses “wooden tidal pools, water misters, and light strainers that create constantly changing shapes in the mist.” On view through September 2006.

P.S. 1 Summer Celebration

The overhead shells and cool misters provided some relief from the heat and sun, which by this point, was becoming almost unbearable. Small children and babies everywhere – in the pools, at the craft stations, in the origami tent. And on the dance floor: from our vantage point on the concrete steps in front of the DJ booth, we watched a few busting out some excellent moves to the grooves (in the heart) of Deee-Lite.

Dancers

P.S. 1 Summer Celebration

P.S. 1 Summer Celebration

At the Kevin Kinsella concert at Riverside Park South’s Pier I.

Kevin Kinsella

Kevin Kinsella

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5 Star samosas in L.I.C.

Sunday, July 30th, 2006 | All Things, Eats, NYC History

Headed into Long Island City for the Summer Celebration at P.S. 1, and while in the neighborhood, I decided to check out Chowhound and taxi driver favorite, Five Star Punjabi.

The nearest subway station was Queensborough Plaza, and from there it was a several block walk, along an eerily deserted, depressing stretch of Long Island City marked by warehouses and taxi depots. When we finally came upon the spot, though, it was unmissable:

Five Star PunjabiUpon approaching the door, we saw a sign advising us that the diner was closed for renovations — which explains the industrial dumpster out front and the piles of garbage bags in the adjacent alley… I hope. Thankfully, given the fact that we had made the trip — and there didn’t seem to be any other options in the immediate area — the diner was operating temporarily out of the fancier “banquet hall” next door.

Five Star Punjabi

Once inside, we were seated next to the white-clothed steam tables and handed round wooden paddles on which the menus were printed. We decided upon the samosas, garlic naan and entrees of butter chicken and tikka masala, which it turned out was entirely too much food for the two of us.

The samosas arrived first: hot, crisp and remarkably ungreasy, stuffed with a tastily spiced mixture of peas and potatoes. I happily could have made a meal on those alone. The chicken entrees, despite looking disconcertingly similar, were in fact, different in texture. My chicken makhani was delicious: tender chunks of buttery meat in a wonderfully creamy, spice-flecked sauce spooned over fragrant basmati rice. And the naan was warm and pillowy, with a crunchy crust of garlic.

Great find. I’ll be back at least for those samosas — maybe after the intriguing little diner reopens in the Fall.

Butter Chicken et alJust a short stroll away, we detoured into the anachronistic block of 45th Avenue, between 21st and 23rd Streets, a.k.a. Hunters Point Historic District, or according to the National Register of Historic Places, Dominie’s Hook or Bennetts Point. This remarkably preserved row of brick and stone Italianate, French Empire, Neo-Grec and Queen Anne houses, dates from the 1870 and 1880s — 15 acres among 19 buildings.

The posted sign announces the landmark status, granted in 1973:

The houses on 45th Avenue (then called Twelfth Street) were built mostly in the 1880s when Hunters Point was part of the independent Long Island City. They represent, in frame and brick, a Victorian middle-class urban building type and remain almost untouched. The nicely articulated details of Neo-Grec style cornices, window frames, iron railings and stoops recall the days when uniform building design was a proud symbol of domestic respectability.

Hunters Point Historic District

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