Month: February, 2007

Great N.Y. Noodletown

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007 | All Things, Eats

We decided to kick it old school Chinatown for this Thursday’s lunch at Great N.Y. Noodletown. This cash-only restaurant on Bowery has long been a fixture of the after hours downtown dining crowd — long before Congee Village burst onto the scene, New York Noodletown (as it was then known) was a beacon, serving off-duty chefs and restaurant workers, post-gig musicians, jet-lagged tourists and late-night revelers until 4AM. (Oh, the stories…) New York   magazine named it one of their go-to places for “late night munchies.”

The ambience — such as it is — is created by the roasted meats and whole fowl hanging from hooks in the steamy front window, creaky chairs, perpetually crowded communal tables, high-school cafeteria lighting, and menus permanently slid under glass tabletops. But you’re not here for the ambience.

New York Noodletown

The restaurant is just up the block on Bayard from New Green Bo, and specializes in classic Cantonese cooking: Hong-Kong style noodle soups and roasted meats (though I prefer the char siu  at Big Wong on Mott — perhaps out of habit.) The salt-baked items — soft-shell crab, squid, shrimp — are reliably excellent, and their “Roast Duck with Flowering Chives” has some diehard devotees.

Foodies and locals rave about it. Great N.Y. Noodletown is one of food critic and Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl‘s 25 favorite New York City restaurants. Top Chef winner Ilan Hall loves it (and Florent, too — my kind of guy, though fellow TC contestant Sam Talbot is one of the ten sexiest chefs in New York… er, according to Zink  magazine.)

Today, I was in the mood for a steaming bowl of congee with lean, marinated pork and preserved egg. Here, it’s done right with the chunks of blackened egg and slivers of seasoned pork slow-simmered in the congee until the ingredients mesh together beautifully — not merely tossed into the plain rice base at the final moment. So good, so comforting. No fried dough cruller today, though.

Noodletown Congee

Great N.Y. Noodletown or New York Noodletown… it’s always been just “Noodletown” to me.

Bayard Street

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Gray Matters

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007 | All Things, Film

I met M for a preview screening of writer-director-producer Sue Kramer’s Gray Matters, starring Thomas Cavanagh (of Love Monkeycanceled after three episodes), Heather Graham (of Emily’s Reasons Why Notcanceled after one) and newly pregnant Bridget Moynahan (of Six Degrees — assumed canceled until ABC announced its return to the television schedule on March 23.)

We went into the theater knowing precious little about the movie plot, and after checking our names at the door, we spied the promotional poster with the tagline: A romantic comedy about a brother, a sister, and the girl of their dreams.

What the…?

I turned to M — MLF — brow furrowed quizzically. She glimpsed over, sheepishly at first, and as we dissolved into nervous, incredulous giggles, she began: “I swear, I didn’t know…!”

Gray Matters

Undaunted, we took our seats and settled in as Kramer introduced her film. As she spoke, it was clear that her directorial debut was a labor of love; M later explained that the filmmaker, who has a husband and a daughter, made the romantic comedy to honor her gay sister. Kramer described the film as “a postcard to New York City,” and revealed that the film’s central whirlwind romance was inspired by her own and her parents’ marriages; as she told it, it was love at first sight for both couples. Aw.

With such sweet intentions, I was prepared to like the film. Cue opening panoramic shots of the Manhattan skyline (corny, but still pretty) and an opening dance sequence by siblings Graham and Cavanaugh (ditto, but Cheek to Cheek  remains one of my favorites.) So far, not bad. For a while, things seemed to glide along amiably enough, but then… well, think Woody Allen by way of Nora Ephron, with about half the wit. Maybe I’m just not a fan of Graham’s, but her Wide-Eyed Perky Blonde shtick felt particularly grating to me here. When Gray and her creepily co-dependent surgeon brother scout out Moynahan in Central Park, the (hetero) pair fall in love, and dash off to Vegas in record time, setting off a chain of events that leads to Gray’s eventual discovery of her own true sexuality: a gratuitous hot tub scene, a Gloria Gaynor sing-along (the whole song!) and the infamous kiss, viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube by the GOGA-loving masses. To cap off the sitcom-ish feel, the scene of Gray’s too public outing seems to have been lifted almost directly from a decade-old Ellen  episode.

Thrown into the mix is a slumming Sissy Spacek, as Gray’s kooky bowling/rock-climbing shrink, Molly Shannon as Gray’s kooky co-worker, channeling… well, every kooky Molly Shannon character, and Alan Cumming as a Scottish cabdriver, who at one point is forced by contrivance to don a black cocktail dress, a string of pearls and a dowdy hat. (Naturally, this drag get-up fails to elicit the suspicions of any of the sophisticated lesbians in the girls-only bar.) Add it all together and it totals a 9%(!) approval rating.

Later, at the afterparty at sleekly swanky Manor (ne  Pink Elephant), M and I kicked back with icy tumblers of Jack and Coke Zeros. I can’t remember the last time I heard Bell Biv Devoethe 56th greatest song since you were born. I’d recognize that intro anywhere.

Union Square Park

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Factory Girl redux

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007 | All Things, Arts

February 22 marks the twentieth anniversary of Andy Warhol’s death, and to commemorate, The Carrozini von Buhler Gallery presents Andy Warhol: In His Wake, a group tribute exhibition of works by artists from Warhol’s Factory, artists who documented Warhol, and several who have been influenced by him. Through March 14, the MePa gallery will be transformed to recall Warhol’s infamous Silver Factory with aluminum foil and silver paint, disco mirror balls, mylar balloons, and silver tinsel streamer drapes.

Warhol Exhibit

William John Kennedy‘s trippy photographs of Warhol standing in a field of black-eyed susans succeeded in capturing a more private, vulnerable side of the artist, revealing a hippie-esque quality to Warhol that belies the artist’s known obsession with modern machinery.

Warhol Exhibit

Visual artist, illustrator, children’s book author, performer and gallery owner Cynthia von Buhler oversaw the festivities and stole the show with her tongue-in-cheek work. In a room accessible via a cut-out wooden door was a kinetic arcade of interactive sculptures, paintings and machines. The “Little Blast-O-Past” touts itself as a “Super Memory Inducing Dispenser.” The “Cynth-O-Matic” vending machine celebrates celebrity and commerce by dispensing plastic capsules containing actual samples taken from the artist’s body (menstrual blood, pubic hair, eyelashes, nail clippings, etc. Ick.)

Warhol Exhibit

Cynth-O-Matic

In the main gallery space, von Buhler depicts Warhol’s disembodied mannequin head inside a fortune-telling machine (a la Zoltar in Big.) Her “Self-Portrait as Saint Sebastian (aka Self-less, She Who Has No Self)” explores the ways in which women are brought up differently from men, and the impact the differences have on their confidence and life goals. The provocative sculpture depicts a nude martyred woman, staring up in reverence at a glowing bottle of Mr. Clean — a Warholian altar of ironic product worship.

Just adjacent, a framed photograph of Andy Warhol and Rob Halford (Judas Priest) by British-born rock photographer Steve Joester.

Warhol Exhibit

Joester also had on display a pair of collages of Warhol and Mick Jagger, in an obvious tribute to Warhol’s style, and perhaps to Jagger, who was a frequent visitor of the Factory in its heyday.

Black and white photographs and colorful, Warhol-influenced art covered the walls as revelers of all ages mixed and mingled. I spied Factory artists Billy Name (in-house photographer and designer of the Factory), Ultra Violet (hard to miss with her shock of purple hair), and Ivy Nicholson (pictured below), who was a celebrated fashion model before she joined up with the original 231 East 47th Street Factory in 1964 to become one of Warhol’s starlets. (Subsequent Factory locations include 860 Broadway, near Union Square — now a Petco.)

Ivy Nicholson

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