Friday, September 24, 2010

Finally Fall

Though the temperature may deceive you, it is finally fall, my favorite season. The leaves are turning color, the nights become cooler, and the vacation lull evaporates. Fall is my season, the time I feel freshest, when all is possible, probably due to all those years in school. It is the time to start getting all the things you meant to do in 2010 (or whatever year) done before the year ends. Being a fall baby, I feel in my element, in my prime, secure at my current age and ready to enter the next year. As we start to pull out the sweaters and zip-ups, we look towards approaching holidays, festivities, and family gatherings. Fall is time to harvest, to celebrate, to find meaning in our accomplishments and begin storing up for next year.

Of special note to myself (and many of you out there), fall is also the official start of the season's interesting plays and movies. Kicked off by Fashion Week and all the buzz it has to offer, we can wave to bye-bye to the mostly disappointing summer blockbusters, special effects goliaths relying more on sound and editing than story or acting. Instead of Big Stars staring Big Movies (aka Eat Pray Love), we get smaller films with actors stretching their muscles and bigger films making riskier moves, hoping to earn some Oscar buzz. The theatre all but hibernates once the Tony nominations have gone out, this summer's exception being Bernadette Peters and Elaine Strich's jumping into A Little Night Music and Al Pacino's Shakespeare in the Park performance (The Merchant of Venice - which is headed to Broadway this fall). Television returns from its hiatus, bringing old favorites, promising an even more exciting season, and new offerings, hoping to make the cut. Thanks to, I have already been enjoying my share of Glee, Nurse Jackie, 30 Rock, and Gossip Girl. Yes, as the climate changes, we return from our summer adventures, put away the white shoes, and nimbly outfitted in as many layers as the requires, begin to head to theaters, both for movies and plays aplenty. Last night, I ventured over to Playwright's Horizon on West 42nd St to catch one of their newest offerings, It Must Be Him. Starring a getting-older Peter Scolari, the play was a bit wonky, awkward, short in minutes but packed with a lot of good intentions. While I could try to describe or tell you what it's about it, in short, it's not really that kind of piece. Entertaining, it certainly was and the perfect play of which to have free tickets (thank you Quinto's trendy job). WhatI can say is that it's about a middle-aged gay man getting older, struggling for love and success, but then, that is so many plays that have "come out" in recent years. Now, what I am dying to see is Playwright Horizon's other offering Me, Myself, and I, the new work by theatre icon Edward Albee. Starring Elizabeth Ashley, whom if memory serves me right was in August" Osage County when I saw it, the play is his usually absurd story about a set identical twins each named Otto and their forgetful parents. Im ready. In all honesty, if the plot of the play was "Edward Albee drinks a cup of coffee," I'd be there. Moving a couple blocks east to the Broadway neighborhood, a lot of exciting offering are popping up there as well. The revival of Noël Coward's Brief Encounter, transferred from an Off-Broadway turn downtown, promises to sparkle, as does Laura Linney's return to Time Stands Still (which I missed last season). The mammoth Spider Man musical will finally open, come November. Let us hope that what happens onstage is half as exciting as the musical's troubled journey to Broadway, full of delays, big spending, broken promises, and big star pullouts (thanks for nothing Alan Cumming). For Big Stars in Big Plays, there's Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones in Driving Miss Daisy and Cherry Jones in Mrs. Warren's Profession, both with the potential to Most Likely Put You to Sleep. What I'm most excited about is Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the new musical based on the Pedro Almodóvar film and starring yours and my favorite Patti LuPone, alongside Sherie Renee Scott, Laura Benanti, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and a slew of other talent. If this one flops, I'm going to start watching Nascar. In movies, there'sThe Town, with my new friend Gossip Girl's Blake Lively, Easy A, this summer'sInception (which I still need to see), Devil, which I saw this week, and a pair of Facebook-tinged movies The Social Network and Catfish. While one chronicles the origins and rise of Facebook, the other serves as a cautionary tale to the excesses of Facebook. Both have been the buzz of the New York papers and advertisements and have certainly made the must-see list. Changing gears, a pair of romance-laced movies, The Romantics and Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger promise to amuse and titillate (though I'm vying for Stranger to be the better of the two). Of course, this is all the tip of the iceberg (or shall we hope). As the weather continues to cool and the first chances of snow rear their ugly heads, the Oscar and Tony races will be in full swing, cranking out would-be hits and flops. Let's hope that we the audience, are again on the winning side. While summer is for play and activity, fall is feasting, something I plan to do well into the New Year.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The One Year Blog Post

A year? I've been here for a year? Well, over a year now that it has taken me a few weeks to get myself up and blogging. No longer a newbie, I call this city my home, my base; the streets of Astoria and beyond have become my stomping ground. When I pass through Times Square, I am no longer accosted by the men selling bus tours, watches, and bric-a-brac to unsuspecting tourists. I have even been deemed a rude New Yorker a few times and am somewhat proud of that fact (They should learn to get out of my way). Now, there is a whole new crop of New York arrivals, myself slowly sinking into "the establishment." So much has happened in the past year, a lot of it chronicled in this blog, a lot of it kept in my heart and head and shared with some of the amazing people I have met here. My head is filled with questions like, "What have I done in a year? Where am I going? Where have I been? Was this move a good choice?" Daunting questions for someone who has trouble picking a restaurant or getting out of bed sometimes (and yes, technically, I am still in bed at this very moment. my bed and I are very close). While I don't any Equity or SAG card to show off after one year or major booking to brag of, I have myself to show off, for perhaps that's what I have been working on the most. I have grown and learned so much since being here and experienced a whole myriad of things, some good and some bad. Like a sponge, I have soaked up and tasted as much as possible. The long subway rides and audition room waits have helped add to my reading list, I have duly exercised both my Blockbuster and library card, and between my iTunes account and the library's collection, my own library of music has steadily increased, the lineup on my iPod markedly different after one year. I've seen more Broadway shows than I ever have in my life, upping my theatre and movie attendance and even meeting a few of my idols. My mouth has taken full advantage of New York's rich set of restaurants and groceries, falling in love with things like Campari, oysters, beets, Swiss chard, quinoa, blue cheese, and falafel. I have walked more than I ever have in my life, my pants fitting better for it, and I have become more than familiar with both the Laguardia and Indianapolis airports. New York magazine now has my undying allegiance, as does Chelsea Handler, Naked Juice, and the 1.5 L bottles of Poland Springs that tend to line my kitchen. This past year and in fact even now seem a time of marinating, of sowing seeds and setting my roots, a glorious harvest somewhere on the horizon. I have become hungrier for my craft, for success, for the good things in life. Loss more painful than I could have ever imagined have made me clinger tighter than ever to the beautiful people and things around me, helping me loosen up, and see what is truly important in life. I feel closer to family than ever, though now and again I do enjoy the multiple state distance between us. I look at myself and see a stronger person, more secure in who I am, where I've come from, and what I want. I'm more able to stand up for myself and to not sweat the small stuff. Closely following my one year anniversary in New York, comes my anniversary with Locale, the job that for better or worse has enabled me to live here. From the restaurant, I have learned a lot about food, wine, beer, and service, become a master in the art of bullshit. In all, I am happy I am here and don't see myself leaving for at least another year or two (is that graduate school I see lurking out in the distance somewhere?). So, let this be the start of chapter two of my New York life and what wonders await me there. Having worked Gossip Girl for the second time yesterday, I have been keeping busy and continuing to meet new and fun people in the city. Let us hope for more work and direction to come my way soon. And let us hope now and again I make it to my "new" computer to write down all that happens - well, almost everything. After all, what is anyone without their secrets?

What I'm Reading: The End of the Affair - Graham Greene
What I'm Watching: Eat Pray Love, All About Steve, Alfie (the original), The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, A Little Night Music (with Bernadette and Elaine), Gossip Girl
What I'm Listening to: "Bulletproof," Fleetwood Mac, Jeff Buckley, The Scissor Sisters

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Tale of Two Restaurants

Last week, blessed with both Thursday and Friday night off, I decided to treat myself to a couple of wonderful dinners with friends. To start my dining excursion I met my good friend Esther and a Locale regular at LIPS restaurant on the Upper East Side. Not always located on UES, this is not your average restaurant. Part show and part dinner, LIPS specializes in the very best of "drag dining." All of the servers, bartenders, hosts, and, of course, performers are drag queens. Clearly, this was a "must" on my NYC to-do list. After a few failed attempts and some botched planning, we settled on Thursday as our date with LIPS. Formerly situated in the West Village, I expected something kitschy, campy, draggy, bitchy, and maybe even a little dingy and musty (what do you think is happening under all that makeup, hair, and padding?). While the décor was certainly draggy, it felt more like Medieval Times on ecstasy, very faux glamorous, disco balls a shining. Situated in its new location across from the Outback Steakhouse most often frequented by Liza Minnelli, its new neighborhood gives it distinctly, corporate, unbelievably conservative feel. If I am at a drag show in New York City, one wants tits, dicks, drugs, and swearing, right?

As we made our way to our table, not only did we realize that we were arriving late to the part, but also the memo that everyone else in attendance would be a white girl under the age of 20. Now, we all love young white girls, but they are not my typically accompaniment to a quality drag show. When asked if we were celebrating anything special this evening, I simply retorted, "Thursday." Unbeknownst to us, everyone seemed to believe this was the perfect location for a bachelorette or 18th birthday party as opposed to a dressed up Thirsty Thursday. "Oh Jesus," I thought, as I ordered a Frozen Cosmo, their signature cocktail. This drink proved a metaphor to the restaurant itself: tacky, supersweet, icy, and overpriced. The food was a big OK, living somewhere in between good bar food and average hotel fare. My sole with crab was tasty, but only so because of lots of butter and salt, with unfortunately unexciting texture. Esther found her pasta primavera, the only vegetarian option on the menu, decidedly bland and leaving her wanting more. As for the service, well you know I love me some queens, but they did seem a little preoccupied (we didn't arrive early enough for the balloon show - who eats dinner before 9 anyway?). As one of the only males in the room, I feel I received more than my due personal attention (aka one of them humped me), but how do you raise a fuss with a 6 foot drag queen when your friend doesn't receive a dessert menu? The show itself was entertaining, the highlight being Jesse Volt's fabulous Joan Rivers monologue and Morgan Royale's dead-on Mary J. Blige (it was celebrity impersonation night). However, I was left wondering where would these "girls" be without their glitter, gowns, and jewelry? One has surely never had this thought about yours and mine favorite Tiffany Simone Alexander. At the show's conclusion, Ester and I quickly found the check and attempted to make a somewhat quick getaway, dessert or no. After dishing out more cash than I anticipated, we ventured to our next venue, New World Stages, for the final round of Karaoke Idol, starring my good friend Alissa (who as first runner up, was ROBBED). Causing our usual mix of mischief and ruckus, we popped in and out of the bar, saying hello to friends and locating Esther's dessert just in time for Alissa's fabulous performance. Sure she had the prize in the bag, I politely excused myself, noting the next day's early film shoot. Though perhaps not wowed, this was a fun night in NYC, one I won't soon forget, and a bonding experience for me and the dessertless Esther. She now is working in a macaroon shop and doing quite well.

The next night was quite the different experience. After a day of extra work on Law & Order: SVU, I had plans to meet my good friend Ali (Velma Von Tussle in Millbrook's Hairspray) for dinner. Taking advantage of a special deal on, we decided on Essex Restaurant in the Lower East Side, serendipitiously close to the day's film shoot. Finishing filming a bit early, but without enough time to go home, I wandered around LES for a while, before deciding to step into the restaurant. Soft, loungy music playing, candles already lit, I informed the hostess who I was and that I would be camping out at the bar. After an extended bathroom trip that not only included emptying my bowels but also changing clothes, I reemerged fresh and ready to dine. Citing a corner barstool, I opted for a glass of Brüt and whipped out my usual ensemble of book, notebook, and magazine. After cautiously sipping my first cocktail (I didn't want to overshoot the runway after all), my dining companion arrived just as I was polishing off my glass. Escorted like VIP to our table, my suitcase in tote (it was a "wear 1, bring 2" day at L&O), we settled into our little corner table on one of the restaurant's upper decks. I immediately knew this was going to be the perfect quiet (well except for our respective cackling), intimate dinner after a long day's work. Oozing with gossip and lots of long time no sees, we eventually opened our menus and began to plan our dinner. Drinks, the first and most important matter settled, I decided to stick to Champagne while Ali cocktailed it to her heart's content. Eyeing their oyster selection, we couldn't resist starting with 6 of each, raising our glasses to a very fun evening. After more gossip and storytelling, we finally decided on our dining strategy. After trading favorites ("I'm feeling the duck" "I had salmon for lunch"), sharing stratagems ("If you do the scallops, then I'm doing the crab cake), and pairing palates, we established the course of the evening. "To start," I said, "We are going to share the scallop appetizer and the trio of tartares, and you know what, we better get the calabaza salad as well for something green? Then for the entree, we are going to split the duck." "Medium?" she asked. Mischief in our eyes, we replied, "Medium-rare," throwing caution and credit card balances to the wind. The oysters were delicious, slipping down our hungry throats with the coolest of cool, dressed up with hot sauce, red wine vinaigrette, or simple lemon juice. It was decided that in this battle of East Coast vs. West Coast, the West was the winner, as Ali snagged the majority of those rocky wonders (smart girl). A tray of ice and empty shells remaining, we exchanged our defrocked mollusks for our round of appetizers, thinking that perhaps our eyes were a little bigger than our stomachs. The scallops were perfectly cooked, soft, melting in my mouth, complemented by summer peaches, water melon, croutons (which I could have done without), and balsamic. Ali's trio of tartare was a little intimidating, served with tortilla chips to encourage dipping. The salmon was fresh and lemony, the tuna spiced with just enough scallion and horseradish, both sitting well on a crunchy tortilla chip. The steak tartare, while good, was a little too extreme for both of us, looking a little too much like dog food, and not tasting quite good enough to forfeit our remaining calories (as if we were counting). The salad was unique and yummy, arugula and mixed greens served with sheep's milk cheese, pumpkin seeds, and roasted pumpkin. Creamy and rich, the salad was good, but probably didn't belong amongst all of our summer seafood. Next time, we will know the wiser and order in November. Slowly eating, gabbing away, we finally finished our appetizers to see our duck was on its way. I informed the waitress that would be needing a midcourse of tobacco and nicotine, and to please keep the duck warm. Of due note: smoking kills and if we were at the Locale under my own supervision, a customer's entree never arrives until the appetizers are finished, cleared, and silverware replaced. (Become a fan of Locale on Facebook and read our smashing new review!) After puffing away, taking in the cool (thank God) night air, we returned to the table to gorge on our duck. The duck was tender, perfectly cooked and dressed with a soy-ginger sauce. The accompanying bok choy was yummy and refreshing, though the egg roll was a little to be desired. Then again, perhaps it was crispy and delicious 10 minutes before when it arrived at our table. Licking up the last bits of duck and sauce, we settled for dessert in a glass for our final course, Ali trying their Blood Orange Mojito while I opted for their Green Zinger (green tea vodka, lime, mint, and Pimms). Buzzed, but not falling down, we saddled up with our server Valerie, and headed out into the New York air. Decidedly content, we caught our appropriate trains, one returning her to Brooklyn, one taking me to Queens, having experienced a marvelous, if perhaps a little expensive, evening together. That night I slept very well, waking Saturday refreshed by my two days of galavanting, ready for another long day at the Locale.