On the Docket: Half the Sky

02/10/2012 § 1 Comment

Tonight, I definitely recommend you watch the second part of the Half the Sky documentary on PBS at 9pm.  Half the Sky, a transmedia project dedicated to transforming oppression into opportunity for women worldwide, turns its eye on 10 countries around the globe and confronts the issues of sex trafficking, forced prostitution, gender-based violence and discrimination and maternal morality with scalable solutions in the forms of health care, education and economic empowerment.  Part one aired last night, but you can stream it on the PBS website here, through October 8.

Stemming from the book by the same name written by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the documentary shares the heart-breaking and inspiring stories of remarkable individuals around the world who persevere against daunting socioeconomic obstacles to better the lives of women and girls.  I personally learned of the project via Olivia Wilde, who is a celebrity advocate for Half the Sky and was an emcee at the Global Citizen Festival that I attended in Central Park over the weekend, where I had the opportunity to see documentary stars Edna Adan and Urmi Basu speak in person about their amazing work.  It is an important, thoughtful movement and I urge you to find a way to get involved.

To learn more please visit Half the Sky.

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QC Recommends || Silver Lining {and the Brown Derby cocktail}

03/04/2012 § Leave a comment

Just a quick note to recommend Tribeca cocktail and jazz bar Silver Lining.  Located in the basement of the gorgeous Bogardus Mansion, which was built in 1850 and named for its builder James Bogardus, the originator of cast-iron architecture, Silver Lining offers serious cocktails and a menu of small plates that are so good they could stand on their own, alongside nightly live jazz music, served up in a speakeasy atmosphere.  This somewhat still-hidden gem — bustling, roomy, but never ridiculously crowded — is the product of the Joseph Schwartz/Sasha Petraske partnership (Little Branch), was recently named the best cocktail bar of 2012 by New York Magazine and is on the shortlist to become my new local. 

Personally, I’m quite partial to their Brown Derby cocktail, probably at least partially due to its Los Angeles roots (like me).  The cocktail takes its name from The Brown Derby, an iconic chain of Los Angeles eateries, founded in the 1920s.  Their most recognizable location, on Wilshire Boulevard, was actually hat-shaped (it’s since been demolished, today its dome sits atop a mini-mall in Korea Town — so sad!), while their more storied location in Hollywood was where the entertainment set went to see and be seen, with their illustrated portraits lining the walls in the dining room.

Can’t make it to Silver Lining to order your own Brown Derby? Try it at home:

1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce grapefruit juice
½ ounce clover-honey syrup (1 part water, 1 part clover honey)

In tin-on-tin shaker, add freshly squeezed grapefruit, then honey and bourbon; shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass (ideally, a 5 ½-ounce Champagne coupe).

Recipe via the Los Angeles Times, where you can watch a video of it being made by bartender Marcos Tello.

Silver Lining
75 Murray Street, Tribeca || 212.513.1234
Closed Sundays

QC Recommends: Orient Express

29/07/2011 § 2 Comments

On a bit of a lark, I found myself at Orient Express last night.  Have you been?  It was my first time and as someone who enjoys her cocktails with a bit of class and nostalgia, I found myself right at home.  Open for almost a year in the West Village, this teeny tiny bar gives you the distinct impression that you’ve somehow slipped down a rabbit hole to a bar car on the famed Orient Express, complete with ceiling-high luggage racks and a curved ceiling, as you might be able to see from my picture above.

The drinks are what you would expect from a high-end, old school mixologist: lots of interesting concoctions with a knowledgeable bar staff ready to make a recommendation based on your inclinations.  I had the Agatha II: gin, lemon juice, homemade raspberry soda water — perfect for a warm summer evening.  The ambiance was bustling, but not overloud for a Thursday, perfect for a small gathering of friends or a lively date.  As I sipped my cocktail listening to Chet Baker, I knew that this was a place I had to share with you.

To get into the mood, revisit the photos I posted
ages ago of this mighty train line in 1950.

Orient Express
325 West 11th Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 691-8845

Quite Continental Recommends: The Diversion Project

23/06/2011 § 5 Comments

My Google Reader is a bit of a bear.  I am subscribed to way too many blogs and the sheer volume of material that accumulates in a single day can be daunting sometimes — but I can’t help it!  So usually, I will flip through everything as quickly as possible and “star” anything I want to come back to, not paying much attention to what site it is.  (For those of you who don’t use Google Reader I realize this may not make sense, but I promise I won’t go on much longer about my beloved RSS feed…)  I recently noticed that I have unwittingly managed to star every single post The Diversion Project has posted in the last three months, which is pretty damn near irrefutable evidence of my blog-crush.

Jules, the lady behind The Diversion Project, has an amazing eye.  Mainly focused on interior design and decor, the blog’s aesthetic is impeccable and coherent, even though I have trouble labeling for you.  It isn’t modern, it isn’t country house, it isn’t traditional, it isn’t regency, it’s somehow all of them at once…and every single image tends to make my head explode (and more than a few end up on my Tumblr).  The Diversion Project hits all the high notes for me: an amazing juxtaposition of surfaces and finishes, luxurious accents mixed with the rustic and vintage, dramatic uses of color, a masterful balance of the feminine and masculine. It is a great source of inspiration for me and because I was so sure you would love it as well, I wanted to pass it along.  Do check it out.


All images via The Diversion Project

Quite Continental Recommends: Tiny’s and the Bar Upstairs

24/05/2011 § 1 Comment

Just a short note to notify you of a wonderful little gem that has just opened up in my neighborhood, were you ever in the area (and if you go, I do expect an invite).  Tiny’s and the Bar Upstairs is a darling pink Tribeca townhouse that is still in previews for dinner, but has been open for lunch for a few weeks yet.  Recently, I managed to secure a last-minute reservation and arrived a bit early to enjoy a drink at the bar.

The space is rustic, with its exposed brick, well-worn furnishings and tin ceilings, and is decorated with an arty Americana sensibility.  Brought to you by Matt Abramcyk (Beatrice Inn, Smith and Mills) and Sean Avery and Henrik Lundqvist (both of the NY Rangers hockey team and Warren 77), Tiny’s has a comfortable, unpretentious vibe.  There are just a small cluster of tables in each of the three dining areas, and a tiny bar is nestled on the second floor.  The small, but varied, preview menu offered basic American fare with an emphasis on comfort (for example, the crab dip comes paired with Ritz crackers, sitting on a paper doily).  I thoroughly enjoyed the roast chicken, which was served atop warm croutons and alongside a grilled, lightly dressed romaine heart.

If you are looking for a cozy place for a casual dinner or drink or quiet date, I definitely recommend Tiny’s and the Bar Upstairs.  Just don’t be surprised if you see me there.  This just might be my new local.

Tiny’s and the Bar Upstairs
135 W Broadway
New York, NY 10013
212-374-1135

Images via Tribeca Citizen.

Quite Continental Recommends: Sleep No More

12/05/2011 § 5 Comments

Sleep No More: the style of the 1930s, the mood of Stanley Kubrick,the feel of a haunted mansion,
the sounds of Hitchcock,the drama of Shakespeare

Cherie, I have an amazing recommendation for you!  Last week I had the excellent fortune to experience Sleep No More, produced by British theatre company Punchdrunk.  Here I am not using the word experience lightly, as Sleep No More is not a play viewers passively watch while sitting in an uncomfortable folding seat, waiting for intermission.  As an “immersive presentation,” Sleep No More thrusts its viewers into a macabre, 1930s-styled hotel to move about as they like.  Simultaneously, performers drift throughout the hotel among the audience members.  There is no stage to speak of, aside from whatever room you are standing in, and that is exactly where the actors perform a series of virtually wordless interpretive dance pieces.  Once done, they immediately depart, leaving it to you to decide if you’d like to follow them to their next scene.

Interestingly, a firm grasp of Sleep No More’s story – based loosely on Shakespeare’s Macbeth with overtones of Hitchcock’s Vertigo – is not essential to the experience.  True, the performers recreate major scenes that those with some familiarity of the play will recognize – Banquo’s ghost appears at the royal banquet, Lady Macbeth scrubs at imagined bloodstains, the witches conjure, etc. – but it would be an impossible attempt to string together the tragedy in its entirety.  (Another innovative feature of the immersive production is that there is no true linear storyline, no beginning and no end — you come to realize the actors are on a constant loop and that the play simply begins when the viewer enters the space, and ends when the viewer decides to leave.).  Instead, the story serves as a secondary element, something like a backdrop of a very sinister mood.

The runaway star of Sleep No More is the production design.  Punchdrunk took over three cavernous warehouses in Chelsea and has ingeniously transformed them into the McKittrick Hotel, a foreboding collection of over 100 rooms distributed over 6 floors, dressed with a baleful and decaying 1930s panache.  The lighting is minimal and is accompanied by a constant stream of music – some of the era, some modern – that lends well to the pervasive grimness.  Every room is meticulously curated, with every single element deliberately tended to, down to the smallest detail.  I vividly remember noticing the smell of certain rooms — the pungent scent of mothballs, of moss, of earth — as I walked through a children’s hospital, a graveyard, a taxidermist’s shop, nightclubs, dining rooms, a ballroom, bedrooms, sitting rooms, libraries, offices and gardens.  It’s worth the price of admission alone to have the opportunity to explore the dark and demented world of the McKittrick Hotel, and especially since you are able to do so at your own pace.

After arrival and “check-in” at the theatre/hotel, we found ourselves in a nightclub, complete with cocktail waitresses in glittering, deco-era gowns proffering drinks and a languid jazz chanteuse backed by a three piece band onstage.  The vibe was classy, but undeniably creepy.  We were then divided into small groups and ushered into an elevator for entry into the hotel.  In an interesting twist of fate, I was immediately separated from my companion.  After the elevator operator made clear the rules — at the McKittrick we were not allowed to talk, to use any mobile phones, or to remove the eerie, bone-white Venetian carnival mask we had been given at check-in — he brought the car to rest and opened the door.  My companion, being closest to the door crossed the threshold, but as he departed the operated barred me — and the rest of us — from leaving with him.  As the elevator doors closed again I watched a pitch black hallway swallow him up as he looked over his shoulder, watching all of us disappear with what I am sure was a shocked look on his face (I couldn’t tell for sure because of the mask, you see).

An immediate sense of unease settled over me.  I knew I wasn’t in any real danger, but I didn’t know where I was, what was going to happen, or how to find my compatriot.  The rooms were dark and there were sinister-looking artifacts everywhere.  There was more than a little blood.  Others had their friends to cling to as they experienced the McKittrick, but I couldn’t, I had to go it alone.  By the end of the night, I came to believe the best way to experience Sleep No More is alone.  It was simply amazing — an experience unlike any I’ve ever had in the theatre (and in real life, thankfully).  I didn’t sit down for two hours.  I walked up and down flights of stairs, felt my way through darkened mazes, followed strangers into creepy rooms and wandered through deserted halls.  I pulled books from shelves, opened drawers and read medical records.  Wearing my mask, I sometimes joined the crowds around the very talented performers, who generally didn’t acknowledge the audience, unless they happened to be in the way or were incorporated into the drama for a few fleeting moments with a hug, a touch, a look.   The masks and the pervasive sense of detachment immediately called to mind Eyes Wide Shut, only there was more murder, bathing and dancing, and less sex.

I emerged at the end — at the same jazz club where it all started — to find my compatriot fortifying himself with a few cocktails as he waited for me.  As we compared notes we realized that we had completely different experiences.  There was only one scene the both of us had witnessed, and we both were there for two hours.  I am hesitant to give away any of the vignettes I witnessed, lest you go to see this for yourself and feel you are missing something if you don’t see the same things, but I feel this pretty much sums it up:

Me: “Man, that was quite a bit of nudity, wasn’t it?”
Him: “What nudity?!? I was busy reading books in the library!”

Sleep No More is only in New York through 9 July.  I urge you to get tickets immediately.  I’m definitely contemplating going again, to see if I can’t find more of what the McKittrick is hiding in the shadows.

Sleep No More
The McKittrick Hotel
530 West 27th Street
New York, New York 10001

Image 1 via Quite Continental
Images 2,3,4,5,7  via Daily Front Row.
Image 6 via New York Times.

Quite Continental Recommends: Weather Up Tribeca

23/03/2011 § 4 Comments

Just wanted to pass along a bar recommendation, ma chere, were you ever in my neighborhood and in need of a classy cocktail or three.  There’s no signage, so be prepared to look for it a bit.

Weather Up Tribeca, sister to Weather Up Prospect Park, is definitely worthy of your attention.  Most notable is the bar’s posh interior with a vibe completely free of pretension.  Open just 6 months, the bar offers a tiny menu of nouveau American fare (e.g., caviar, potato chips, broccoli rillettes with peekytoe crab) that is very well done and a perfect compliment to the excellent cocktails.  Your truly enjoyed a Kensington Fix (Gin, Amaro CioCiaro, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup) but Weather Up also offers cocktails of the bespoke variety.  Just give your bartender a bit of direction and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

All images via NYMag Grubstreet.

Weather Up Tribeca
159 Duane St (between West Broadway & Hudson St)
New York, NY 10013

Quite Continental Recommends: BAMcinématek Deneuve

15/03/2011 § Leave a comment

Currently, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is showing a 25-film tribute to the amazing Catherine Deneuve.  Running through March 31, the festival includes films such as Belle du Jour, Manon 70, and Repulsion, among others.  Last week I had the good fortune to catch Les Parapluies de Cherbourg.  If you’ve already seen the film, you’ll remember it as the rather odd, completely sung, vibrantly colorful film that features a 20 year-old Catherine Deneuve in a story about young lovers in the small port town of Cherbourg.  And if you haven’t seen it, how could you refuse it after that description?

Playing to a packed house on a stormy night, a story about an umbrella shop seemed quite apropos.  The bright colors were a dream!  I immediately had a desire to wear pink with orange, and found myself thinking about the color blocking, stripes and use of contrast of Prada S/S 2011.  See what I mean?  J’adore!

Image via Vogue Paris

More from Les Parapluies…

If you can make it, do drop by BAMcinématek Deneuve.

BAM
30 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217-1486

Quite Continental Recommends: Vintry Wine & Whiskey

23/02/2011 § 4 Comments

I live in lower Manhattan, which can be on the quiet side as far as nightlife goes.  Finding classy places to knock back a few, that aren’t completely dead after the happy hour rush, can be a bit of a task — but you are in luck!  I was recently introduced to a gem of a bar that I wanted to share with you, in case you ever found yourself in my neck of the woods.  And if you are, I expect an invite.

Stone Street, in Lower Manhattan, is a short cobblestone street lined with landmark buildings, bars and restaurants.  In the summer months the street is filled with benches and tables for open-air drinking and dining.  Stone Street is not a destination I frequent, as it tends to be a bit touristy and all the bars are virtually the same tavern — and sometimes a girl wants something a bit classier than a pub.

Vintry Wine & Whiskey is an excellent alternative.  A small sliver of a room with a beautiful wooden bar and interesting woodwork, Vintry feels rustic, refined and cozy.  Open for about a year and a half, the bar offers — you guessed it — only wine and whiskey.  If you’re worried you might be limited in your options, please rest assured — they have 80 wines on taste (not to mention the 300+ they have by the bottle) and 100 different whiskies.  Aside from their wine and cocktails, Vintry also has a small plates and cheese menu — a good move, because when this lass gets into her cups, food is an essential supplement.

Yours truly enjoyed a Gingerade (Jameson 12 yr old irish whiskey, muddled ginger, Peychaud’s bitters, fresh lemon & ginger ale) and sampled a few cheeses and the toasted almonds.  As you would expect at a bar as specialized as Vintry, the staff is quite knowledgeable — if you wander in with no idea what you would like to have, they will ask a few questions and soon you will be thoroughly enjoying a new wine you’ve never even heard of.  My only qualm with Vintry would be that the noise level can be a bit high when the room is crowded, making it difficult for a group of three or larger to have a conversation without raising their voices.

In the mood for wine or whiskey?  I’d recommend Vintry.  You might even see me there.

Vintry Wine & Whiskey
57 Stone Street
New York, NY 10004
Tel: 212.480.9800

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