Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving! A Day of Gratitude!

As always, I'm so grateful for many many things and many many people, including all of you who take the time to read my silly ramblings - here are just a few more:
  • The most spectacular nephew in the world, who actually looks for houses for me to buy in his neighborhood, so I can live nearby;
  • The best sister in the world, with whom I laugh more and have more fun with than should be allowed;
  • The most amazing and supportive parents ever;
  • My newest cousin, baby Sam – his parents and big sister have gone through so much, they deserve every miraculous blessing they receive, like Sam;
  • My other family: my Coterie and my GNO + 2.  Seriously.  No girl was ever luckier;
  • Summer Fridays;
  • My HD TV;
  • Another year of Roger Federer viewing;
  • Mark Rylance performing in TWO shows;
  • Being a witness at a beautiful wedding;
  • No more jury duty for at least eight years;
  • Our friendly 401(k) advisors who just helped me A LOT;
  • Drop-off laundry service;
  • My beautiful goddaughters;
  • Getting to meet, and interact with, my absolute idol – Barry Manilow;
  • My baby steps into social media;
  • Humana Festival of New Plays;
  • Having so many generous Tony voter friends who invite me to be their guest;
  • Witnessing the sublime Swan Lake last summer with Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes;
  • Reese’s peanut butter pumpkins;
  • Family photos on Facebook, especially on Throwback Thursdays;
  • Making individualized ring tones for my friends, so I smile and know exactly who’s calling/texting;
  • The Smith Museum of Stained Glass;
  • Watching The Amazing Race with Facebook friends;
  • The Public Theater’s virtual ticketing lottery;
  • My dear sweet Fellows, past and present;
  • Getting to travel to and eat at some spectacular places, sometimes on my job’s dime;
  • My curious nature;
  • Selfies on the beach;
  • Me TV;
  • Bagel Bites;
  • My neighborhood Rite Aid that now stays open 24 hours;
  • My neighborhood natural food store that ALSO stays open 24 hours;
  • Chopped;
  • Golden Girls reruns;
  • Fun work chums;
  • A fellow Queens adventurer;
  • More impossibly handsome men to accompany me to theater and ballet than I deserve;
  • And, having Thanksgiving dinner with two of the most beautiful women (inside and out) I’ve ever known, my GNO angels.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Shanghai Ballet - Butterfly Lovers

I was wandering through TDF the other day, looking for something inexpensive for this week's entertainment.  I'm seeing a show Saturday night, but I wanted something else to fill in my week.  Under the dance tab, I saw a listing for the Shanghai Ballet, performing in Tribeca.  The ticket was only $12, so I thought 'ding, ding, a winner'!  Last night was the performance.

Before I get to the ballet, I'll mention that I spent 90 minutes yesterday waiting in one of my doctor's waiting rooms, just for a ten minute check-up.  Grrrr.  To reward myself, I went to Artisinal for a glass of wine and a snack before the ballet.  Ordinarily, I don't eat before I see a show, but since I had skipped lunch and since I had been sitting in a waiting room for over 90 minutes, I figured rules were made to be broken.

The staff at Artisinal is charming - the host took very good care of me and my server was also lovely.  She gave me a wonderful wine recommendation to go with my appetizer portion of pumpkin gnocchi.  I enjoyed the wine, a very nice graves reserve from Bordeaux, immensely, and it did pair beautifully with the gnocchi.  Though I didn't get an overwhelming pumpkin flavor from the gnocchi, which was a tad disappointing.  They were delicious, don't get me wrong, just not very pumpkin-y.  I will definitely have to go back to Artisinal, though.  The wine list is amazing and they have a lot more dishes on the menu I'd like to try. 

After my brief snack stop, I headed downtown to the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, which is basically a college auditorium.  OK, whatever.  But the lack of sets and lack of complete lighting instrumentation definitely had an impact on the production.  When the dancers were towards the back of the stage, they were in complete darkness, and a different colored backdrop would've helped me with some plot points during the dance.

I read the synopsis before the ballet started - it's pretty simple.  But I think the synopsis is for a full-version done in their own theater.  Some of the descriptions just didn't match what I was seeing in this smaller touring house.  And there was one scene that completely confused me.  I wouldn't think there would be a homosexual element to a ballet based on a Chinese folk tale, but I'm pretty sure we had a romantic pas de deux between two men...

Athough I wish the music had been played live, the recording and sound design was quite good, so I enjoyed the music very much.  The dancing was very lovely throughout (these photos are from the internet and the Shanghai Ballet website (with lovely backdrops and lighting, which were not used last night - my standard disclaimer applies), most especially by the men.  Then again, their choreography was much more interesting.  But it was amazing to me how buoyant all of the men were - they had amazing lift in all of their jumps, even when done by a dancer in the ensemble.  The most exciting dancing of the evening was done by the male ensemble when they were 'attacking' the romantic lead.

The ladies were all beautiful, as well, especially the butterflies.  Their upper bodies were exquisite.  And the lead gal was gorgeous, especially in her solo at the end - I wish that she had had more solo dancing earlier in the evening.

All in all, I enjoyed myself a great deal watching the Shanghai Ballet.  I don't know that I'd go back to the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, though.  It's way the heck out of the way for me, and the ushers were completely overzealous.  I mean, I'm happy they were keeping the videotaping and photo taking under control, but they scared the crap out of me when they would run by to stop someone else.  It was hard to stay in the moment of the ballet with ushers running around the house, shining their light in the offenders' faces.  Yay for stopping the cameras, but boo for scaring the crap out of me.  : )

I think I'll lay low until Saturday's show.  Though I am starting to think about what I might try to see over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Los Angeles Trip Report - part two

Enjoy part two from my trip last week to southern California...

Friday was a pretty quiet day – I sat by the pool for awhile, did some sightseeing along Hollywood Blvd, ate at In-n-Out burger (well, I ate half a burger.  It’s been a long time since I ate red meat, so I didn’t want to go crazy, but I did want to at least taste it), met an old friend for coffee and then ordered room service for dinner (I should've taken a picture - my club sandwich was like five layers high and they brought me approximately 2000 tater tots and my sparkling water in a champagne bucket), while watching the original Karate Kid on cable.  Wax on, wax off.  It was a nice relaxing day.

Saturday, we had more work stuff to do in Atwater Village, which was fun.  We had lunch at a BBQ restaurant, Ocie’s Barbecue.  It was very pleasant, sitting outside and smelling the delicious smells from the outdoor barbecue pit.  However, they were short-staffed and very behind.  There were four of us at the table – three of us got our food after a long wait and the fourth person waited at least another half hour.  It was not good.  The management kindly didn’t charge us since there was such a fuss, but it was really sort of inexcusable.  My pulled bbq chicken sandwich was pretty tasty, though.  I just felt bad for my friend – he had to eat in the car, since we had to skedaddle back to the hotel to change into our film screening clothes…

Last year, I believe I reported on my viewing of the play Charlie Victor Romeo downtown.  Well, my co-worker chum has produced a 3D movie version of the play!  And it was screening at the prestigious AFI Film Festival!  Very exciting.  We got some VIP tickets and went to the Saturday afternoon showing.  I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned that I’m just not a film devotee.  I like theater, so sue me.  And I think Charlie Victor Romeo works better as a play.  I just do.  I’m not smart enough to put my finger on exactly why it works better for me onstage than on film, but it does.  The movie is exceedingly well put-together, the acting is good and the 3D effects are interesting.  I don’t know.  The film was very well received by the film festival and by other reviews, so it’s probably just me.  Sadly, all I got from the movie was that I wanted to see the play again…  Oh, and a picture of me on the red carpet!  Hello!  :)
After the screening, one of my work chums and I walked (A LONG WAY, it seemed) to a restaurant recommended to me by another friend, Cleo’s.  Once we got there, they were very busy, but they asked us to wait and see if any of their reservations didn’t show up.  After waiting about 20 minutes, they told us we could have a table, but we would have to be out of there in about an hour.  We shrugged and said ok.  Our feet were too tired to wander around for another restaurant.  J

Cleo’s is adorable, all dark lighting and mirrors.  It’s inside a hotel, so there’s a lot of foot traffic.  There are regular tables throughout the space, along with high bar-type tables near the kitchen.  That’s where we sat.  It was fun to watch the kitchen staff work.  Our server came by right away and took our orders, so we would at least have time to eat.  I ordered the Mediterranean Margarita, which was amazing, the cucumber and yogurt dip, and the chicken tagine. 
The margarita had mescal, housemade almond-fig syrup and lime juice.  It was sooooo good, I could’ve had more than one, if there were time.  The cucumber and yogurt dip was also grand, and the homemade bread they served with it was ever so yummy.  Soft and charred at the same time, and so good for dipping.  The chicken tagine was also delicious, though I could’ve used more preserved lemon.  But it was incredibly tasty all the same.  I loved our time at Cleo’s and totally want to go back someday.  We’ll just make a reservation next time.

Sunday, I had originally planned to sit by the pool all day, but the sun was a little too strong for me.  I sat outside for a couple of hours, but then got a tad overheated.  I decided to head out and try another recommended restaurant for lunch – I could get some food and some air conditioning at the same time.  I walked a couple of blocks and went to Loteria Grill.  It’s a fun, airy space with a giant piñata on the ceiling.  My server was charming and brought me some chips and salsa right away.  I ordered a margarita, got out my Nook and enjoyed my afternoon.  The salsa had a rather deep, dark flavor – I think it had chipotle in it, and it was pureed.  It was very good, but not as fresh-tomato-y as I’m used to.  I ordered an appetizer instead of an entrée because I knew we had plans for dinner as a group.  I got the toquitos dorados.  They were really delicious, with shredded chicken.  The shell was crispy and the chicken was fresh and yummy.  There was also crisp lettuce, some crema and some cotija cheese on top, which gave a nice contrast.  It was also served with guacamole, which was also delicious.  Not too much cilantro.  I like a little, but too much masks the flavor of the avocado.  I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch.  HOWEVER…
When I asked for my bill, it came to me promptly, with my meal total on it along with suggested gratuities at the bottom.  OK.  I’m a good tipper, no worries.  I gave the server my card to pay the bill.  When he came back, I looked at the total and gave a more than 20% tip.  As I was putting that bill into my wallet, I opened the little case that had my original bill in it.  Then I noticed that they had already added a 20% tip onto the total!  My credit card total was for 20% more!  Isn’t that illegal?  Can they just add a tip on there?!  I immediately crossed out my tip, wrote zero, initialed the tip and the new total, and left.  That just totally ruined my afternoon.  I had so enjoyed the food and the atmosphere, then they tried to rip me off.  Clearly, they thought I was just some ordinary tourist who wouldn’t check their original bill.  Hrumph. 

After a little liedown and more cable tv (I watched Pitch Perfect, a perfectly cute movie with a gratuitous vomiting scene.  Ick), my work group and I went to Wood & Vine, a very cute little place near Cleo’s and almost at the famous corner of Hollywood & Vine.  Our server was adorable and we discovered he was from New Jersey.  We ordered some delicious appetizers (truffle chips and bruschetta with garlic butter and burrata), and then I got the pan-seared scallops with red quinoa, corn puree and a pomegranate reduction (along with some pomegranate seeds).  It was AMAZING!  They describe the restaurant as ‘small plates,’ but the scallop dish was quite filling.  There were two gorgeously large scallops on top of soft quinoa.  And the pomegranate reduction was  So tart and wonderful alongside the soft scallops.  Thumbs way up for that dish.

Monday, one work chum and I decided we wanted to see a beach before we left on the redeye.  We hopped onto Santa Monica Blvd and drove it straight to the ocean.  Well, Ocean Blvd.  We parked near the Santa Monica Pier and just had a grand day.  The weather was GLORIOUS – we strolled along the pier, listened to some music, ate some greasy carnival-type snacks and just had a grand time.  After we had seen what we wanted on the pier, we walked along the beach.  Oh, what a beautiful beach.  The water was cold and wonderful, and there weren’t really a lot of people.  Lovely.  After we walked for awhile, we went back up to the pier area and walked along the other side of the beach, where we found some youngsters performing their Michael Jackson medley (moonwalk and all!), and some very muscle-y guys on the original Muscle Beach.  Then we crossed the highway and walked into Santa Monica, where the Third Street Promenade is very charming, with shops and restaurants and a cute mall with a lovely little market inside.  Sort of like Chelsea Market, only smaller.  I totally want to go back again someday when I have some disposable income.  We grabbed a slice of pizza, walked back to the pier and soaked up the ocean beauty for a few more minutes before heading back to Hollywood to pick up the rest of our gang to head to LAX for our redeye flight home.  Note to self:  never take the redeye again.  Too much jet lag, both coming and going. 
More photos of sunshine below.  It was quite a shock to my system to come back to SNOW.  Blech.  I think a trip to California will have to be a yearly thing in November...