Monday, August 31, 2015

A Shining, Shimmering, & Splendid Disney on Broadway Tour

Broadway and I have a history. Two years ago, I walked the entire length of Manhattan's Broadway over eight hours, which you can read about here. On that walk, I encountered many different neighborhoods, from the Broadway Bridge to Battery Park City. But let's be real, what most people think of when they talk Broadway are the shows - the theatres, the glitz, and the glamour. Unfortunately, the joy of that part of Broadway can get lost because of its location in Times Square, where crowds are quite overwhelming.

Luckily, Walks of New York's newest tour brings this part of Times Square to you in a way that isn't overwhelming - in a way that allows you to see past human Hello Kitty, human Elmo, and human Spiderman, past the equally annoying shoving or stopped-in-the-middle-of-the-sidewalk tourists, and past the excessive advertising. The Disney on Broadway Tour focuses on the history of theatre and performance in New York as well as specific Broadway houses and shows.

A few Saturdays ago, Ryan and I had the opportunity to go on a tour with Joe, our guide, who has been on stage on Broadway three times. The other guests in our small tour group were a little intimidating - three of them from different groups were seeing a show or two a day during their respective week-long visits. I hadn't seen a show since seeing and falling in love with Once in the fall. These people were showing me up, big time.

I was happy to discover that Walks of New York's tour was appropriate for whatever level of Broadway nerd you were. Joe went through the history of Times Square, complete with visuals so we could compare what used to be with what was right in front of us. He talked about the good times, the hard times, and the Broadway of today. Because of Joe's experience in the theatre, he was able to provide us with inside information about what it's actually like to be a performer on Broadway. We walked by several theatres and learned what iconic shows were in each and were even told some ghost stories (which you know are my favorite). 



Joe then took us to New Amsterdam Theatre, the oldest surviving Broadway theatre, currently the home of Aladdin. This is also where I saw Mary Poppins a few years back. The theatre historian took over the tour at that point and spoke to us about the incredible history of the New Amsterdam. The first show ever was a Midsummer Night's Dream in 1903. The production wasn't that good, but the theatre's insides received rave reviews so people came from all over to see the decor. The historian spoke about the beautiful Art Nouveau decorations that were once sadly covered up completely with black paint back in the day when the theatre was temporarily turned into a movie theatre. The theatre closed in the 1980s and was in complete disrepair before the City of New York and Mayor Giuliani worked with Disney to revive the theatre and with that, Broadway, in the 1990s.

My favorite thing I learned on the tour was that there was an additional 700-seat theatre within New Amsterdam Theatre, where the Midnight Frolics (performed after the famous Ziegfeld Follies) were held in the 1920s. Ziegfeld didn't want audience members going out into the streets and spending their money elsewhere so he created a reason for them to stay in-house. These shows were quite racy for the day and thus extremely popular, with the ticket price rising from a nickel to $5 within a few months. We were asked where we thought this additional theatre was, and no one guessed that it was (spoiler alert) *on top* of the theatre we were sitting in.

What makes this tour stand out from the competitors is the chance to see and play with props from Disney's Broadway shows - Beauty & the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Newsies, the Lion King and more. Yes, I said 'play with.' I may be 30, but my inner child is still wildly at large. We were first shown the props and given insider tips about how the props and costumes came to life on the stage. For example, Belle's friend, the bureau, from Beauty & the Beast looks a little drab in person, but with the right lighting is a perfect representation of the vibrant character we remember from the animated feature. The beast's boots in the same show were revealed to be running sneakers made to look like boots with the beast's paws and claws breaking through the leather.




We were limited in our time in the Disney Prop Studio but we made the most of it. We wore the clothes of Mary Poppins and Bert, tried on heads from the Lion King (worth $7,000 each!), climbed into clamshells from the Little Mermaid, and dressed like birds. The lion heads were a lot lighter than I would have thought and the wings were a lot heavier and hurt my arms a little.




Walks of New York's Disney on Broadway tour has not only inspired me to audition for a part in Disney's next Broadway show (which has to be Frozen, right?!), but also to see more shows myself. While I think 6 or 7 shows a week would be too much for someone actually living here, I could certainly return to the theatre more frequently than I have been lately. Even if I have to sit in the audience.

xo

Thank you, Walks of New York, for hosting us on this walk. At the time of this post, The Disney on Broadway experience is $72 for adults and $65 for the kiddos. Opinions are always my own.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

My Struggle with Port Wine

Since I've turned 30, I've acquired a taste for red wine - but I've only been 30 for three and a half months. During my first 9 years (okay, 12) of drinking, I tried many reds and whites, but only ever loved one: a Malbec in Buenos Aires which led me to try walking eleven dogs at once, as the dogwalkers in BA do. I blamed my distaste for wine on my "oversensitive sour taste buds" which also made me deny Sour Patch Kids and lemonade, unless diluted with tons of water.

When my sister, Katie, and I went to Porto, Portugal in March (while I was still 29), I knew I was going to have to suck it up and try port wine because that's what you do in Porto. You travel across the river to the town of Vila Nova de Gaia and have a tasting at one or more of the 17 port wine manufacturers located there. We'd been on the river by boat the day before so we chose to walk across one of the seven bridges that morning.

The manufacturers in Gaia are all within a few blocks of each other but we still had quite the journey to get to the one we were told to try - Ferreira Cellars. We may very well have gone the wrong way, but we found ourselves on the steepest decline of steps and pathways we encountered in all of Iberia. This is saying a lot because Lisbon is basically San Francisco in this regard. We joked that we could have just taken the gondola down but acknowledged that both of us would have been too nervous because we are our mother's daughters, after all.




Ferreira was founded in 1751 by Dona Antonia Adelaide Ferreira who became the richest woman in Portugal. We were told that Ferreira was the most Portuguese and the most authentic of all the manufacturers in Gaia. In case you are unfamiliar, port wine is typically a sweet dessert wine. It has to have been made in the Duoro Valley in Portugal in order to be called port. Port-like wines are produced elsewhere globally (Australia, France, Argentina) but the European Union forbids them from being dubbed as port.

We ordered both a white and a red tasting - white, because we thought I'd be better able to handle it and red, because that was more traditionally what port was all about. The white tasting was on the menu as "Smoothness" and the red was "Intensity".




I determined that I liked a honey wine best out of the whites we were given. But even with some favorites, I noted that I would "never ever ever ever" order port. I have never made more sour faces in my life. Katie and I started out trying to analyze the wines and figure out what they tasted like and how old we were when they were made, but this became more difficult the longer we drank.



When we got to the reds I said, "I don't want to do this. This is like torture" - but I ended up liking one of the reds too. Well, no. I don't want to say that I liked it. I want to say that it was "fine" and that my face didn't turn into a sour Skittles commercial immediately. I did find, the more we drank, the easier the port was to drink and the second sip of each wine was much better - well, more tolerable - than the first.

Friends who know more about port than I do saw my pictures of the tasting and decided that the reason we didn't love it like we should have is because each tasting was basically a regular sized glass of wine and it should have all been much smaller. Katie and I probably should have split our tasting with six or seven more people in order to get the correct serving size.

Needless to say, after drinking WAY more port wine than anyone needs in one sitting, we were not going to make it back up the sharp incline without hurting ourselves. Katie referred to the climb back as "the biggest hill in the whole world" so I said, "if that gondola is less than 10 euros, we are taking it back up". I don't remember the price but we ended up in our own private gondola a minute later. We weren't nervous after all because of our port wine muscles. It was a short but fun trip and much better than the climb would have been at that point. We carefully walked back across the bridge and bid adieu to Gaia and port wine for the rest of the trip.




I do wonder what my 30-year-old self would think of port wine since my tastes for reds have changed in just a few months' time. This gives me yet another reason to return to Portugal. Hopefully sooner rather than later, in case my tastes change back.

xo

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Tribute to Tribeca

Being able to spend five days of each week in Tribeca has its benefits. The "Triangle Below Canal" does indeed turn into Triberia for a few months in the winter, with its whirling impossible-to-move-forward-in wind tunnels. But the rest of the year, I count myself lucky to work in an area of town where I am not dodging tourists and instead am dodging yoga moms with strollers, puppies, and celebrities. We also have some of the best restaurants in town, which I may not even know about if I didn't walk by them every day. Here are my recommendations for Tribeca, though this list could be much longer:

When you have extra money burning a hole in your pocket and have made a reservation ahead of time: Head to Bâtard, voted the best new restaurant in New York by several publications and confirmed by me earlier this year. Caitlin and I did a three-course meal but there are options for more courses and additional cheese plates if your tummies are larger than ours. Bâtard's food is like nothing I've ever eaten and the presentation is gorgeous.




When you need comfort food and a celebrity sighting: Go to Bubby's on Hudson for comfort food like fried chicken and waffles, pancakes, mac n' cheese, and PIE. Bubby's is open late and 24/2 over the weekend. Ingredients for their delicious recipes (which they say they "steal from grandmas") are sustainably sourced. If you're lucky, maybe Jeremy Piven will open the door for you or Josh Groban will wish you a happy birthday! These are two things that I've experienced, at least.

When it's sunny and you have time for a long lunch: Find the tiny and charming Smith & Mills on Greenwich Street and North Moore. It's so tiny and charming that they don't have a kitchen and cook everything on a hot plate, hence the extra time needed. Their avocado toast is the best in town (now with a fried egg on top if desired) and the bathroom is an old elevator.


When the boss is buying lunch: Head over to Little Park, with seasonal dishes, local ingredients, and an ability to make *me* drool over vegetables. The fried local cauliflower with pistachio and herbs and the duck confit hash with trevisano and pomegranate are pictured below. The chocolate-rye cake and hazelnut ice cream are pictured in my dreams every night.




For a fun group outing with a theme: Bring everyone to Bar Cyrk for a pizza as long as the table and circus-themed everything, including decor to make you feel like you're in Coney Island. Menu items include the Slidewhistle chicken sliders, the Knifethrower grilled cheese, Popcorn (Yes, Popcorn) Soup, and plenty of fun cocktails to try after 5.



When you need a coffee with a side of leather goods: May your way to Shinola, fresh from Detroit, with a branch of The Smile as its in-house coffee shop. Buy a monogrammed leather notebook while you wait or stare at the same blue leather watch you've been courting for months but are scared to buy because it's more than you spend on anything except for flights. You'll want everything in this store, including this amazing wall decor:



To celebrate the start of the weekend: Take yourself to Church Street and Belle Reve, a new venture from the team behind Employees Only, Macao Trading Company, and more. Though I order from the beer menu at most places, I've had only cocktails here because it's fun to order something called "The Grandpa" or "Uncle Billy" and they do the ice right. The bone marrow fries are legit.



When all you need is a good bagel: Zucker's has the best bagels in this part of town. I'd recommend a turkey club or a BLT with avocado on an everything and a tomato and cream cheese on an everything for later. If you don't eat everything bagels, you are doing everything wrong.



Next time you're in the West Village, head just a little further downtown and give Tribeca a try! And if you're going during a weekday, you'd better text me so I can join!

xo
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