room for tea pop-up

Pop-up exhibits are becoming the thing in NYC, and I have fallen victim to three of them – two by choice and one because of work. The first one (Color Factory) was cool because they set up cameras to capture and email your participation to you without impeding the fun, and the second (Rośe Mansion – for work) had a bit of educational value in addition to the obvious perk of drinking wine throughout the journey. The actual Room for Tea exhibition had plenty of Instagram-worth moments (which weren’t that appealing to us), but nothing to school me in tea.

What was really interesting and contributed heavily to my tea literacy was the tea ceremony add-on. A group from 7s Art hosted a traditional Chinese tea ceremony among the hustle and bustle of the exposition. The rite, starting and ending with a guided meditation complete with closed eyes and three strokes of the gong, was both relaxing and informative. I drink tea daily and even purchased an electric water kettle recently to ensure the proper brewing temperature for my weekend amusement, but it was a delight to take part in a formal process led by experts.

Breathing in the dried green tea leaves prior to brewing, inhaling the essence during the drinking, and both sniffing and eating the soaked remainders enhanced the experience. The pot was so tiny and so cute – just enough to give each participant a shot of each pour. I was surprised at how rich the tea was with the abbreviated steeping time and how the sweetness changed with each subsequent brewing. Did you know that some teas can be brewed up to ten times? Another revelation was how delicious and fragrant jasmine tea can be without smelling perfumey. Also, we learned you can fry used tea leaves and add them to eggs and other dishes. Really want to try this!

I wish I could duplicate this experience every afternoon. It’s probably not realistic since it would involve purchasing another electric water kettle for my office, along with the tiny teapot and several other accompaniments for rinsing and draining. Instead, I will continue to enjoy my daily tea and schedule one of 7s Arts Friday night sessions for a break after a hectic week.

marc straus gallery

We considered ourselves patrons of the emerging art scene in Atlanta when we lived there. I mean very emerging or in other words, very low cost to fit our budget. None of our purchases were for investment purchases. The requirement was just that we both fell in love to some extent with the piece. It was a little tough to only bring half of our collection to NYC with us in the move, but we’ve slowly retrieved almost every piece from my father-in-law’s basement.

We’re trying to find our way in the NYC art world – visited a few galleries here and there and bought one piece, a lucite sculpture by Phillip Low from Totokaelo of all places. Of course, our art-buying budget has greatly decreased as our cost of living has increased, and our walls are pretty full, but there is still the possibility of an interesting find out there.

Enter Marc Straus Gallery. Still not quite in our price range, but closer and fun to visit with each new exhibition. Opening night brought a world of amazement. The first floor was occupied by Antonio Santin whose beautifully-crafted textile renderings took our breath away. Piping vibrant paint into textural patterns and then spraying the shadows on top for dimension, Santine creates amazingly realistic two-dimensional compositions that appear as three-dimensional folded cloth.

The second level continued the textile theme with Sutures, a group exhibition of artworks that celebrates the crafts of sewing and weaving to create colorful and textural pieces with yarn, fabric, and other materials.


Photo from marcstraus.com/exhibitions/jong-oh-sept-2018/

Jong Oh appropriates the top floors with his architectural pieces crafted from string, nails, wire, stones, and plexiglass. The precision and illusionary quality he achieves mystifies the viewer and conveys serenity and fidelity.

Check it out while you can. On view until October 16, 2018.

ohii

You gotta love a pop-up. Throw in quality coffee, helpful and friendly staff, and make-up without irritating ingredients, and you have a winner.

We were killing time before dinner with $50 in my pocket given to me by my husband to purchase “something frivolous” from his Vegas winnings, so it made sense to see what was happening when we spotted the neon “ohii” sign on Bowery. While Derek hooked us up with a latte and a turmeric latte, I perused the offerings.

My host for exploring the store had a natural makeup style I liked, and she steered me towards the Soft Glow Highlighter, which can be used as eyeshadow, blush, or contour. It has become my new go-to for an easy weekend look. The hyper-pigmented Treasure Shadow Palette took the rest of my funds, and I am really pleased with the effect. A lighter shade for under the browbone would be nice, but I just borrow from one of my other sets.

Bonus points for the Bluestone Lane coffee which Derek loved enough for us to search it out for purchase later, the helpful barista who offered to give us some beans to try at home, and my velvety turmeric latte. The popup is temporary, but the products will be available at Urban Outfitters.

carmine street beers

Given the choice, I will usually choose wine over beer. I can drink almost any beer in a pinch, but I only appreciate a few. My preferences range from tart sours to heavy stouts. With the deluge of IPAs, it’s a good thing to have a neighborhood place with craft beers I want to drink.

My session started out slowly with a Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers Cranberry Berliner. I couldn’t have necessarily picked out the cranberry flavor in it but enjoyed the sour and tart. For round two, I balanced out the 3.5% ABV of the first with the 10% ABV Finback Brewery Between the Dead Stout. It commenced with coconut on the nose, mixed with chocolate as the first taste, and a bit of a bite on the finish.

Derek had a couple of IPAs – a Finback Bellwoods collaboration and a Grimm Lambo Door.

wanda the movie

I’ll admit that the main reason I wanted to see this movie is that it is my namesake. As a 46-year-old woman named Wanda, I asked my parents how they came up with my name. They have always said they just liked it, and I have had no clue as to the origin until now. I received an email from the Alamo Drafthouse, our cinema of choice, advertising the movie Wanda. Not A Fish Called Wanda, just Wanda. The film was from 1970, just 2 years before I was born, so maybe there is a connection.

Regardless of the initial reasoning, viewing this film was the right choice. Props to Barbara Loden as the writer, director, and lead actor. The picture delivers beautifully framed shots, compelling personalities, and an engaging plot. Wanda is not a character most people would respect for her brains or her ethics, although she has a pretty face (see below – isn’t she beautiful?!?). Born in a coal town and willing to leave her children in an uncontested divorce because she believes “they will be better with him”, she finds two more paramours before the night is out and begins her adventure.

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I won’t give away the ending, but you come to love the child-like innocence that is Wanda and root for her to rise from the ashes of her birth. It not likely the movie Wanda had anything to do with my naming, but I’m glad the title enticed me out to Brooklyn to see this masterpiece.

staycation 2018: day 4

Day 4 evolved into an Asian theme beginning with a viewing of Crazy Rich Asians at the Alamo Drafthouse. We love this place because we can have a beer or cider with our popcorn and movie. We don’t normally order the other food items, but branched out today since we needed a little more than popcorn. They were about what we expected for movie theatre fare – decent queso with slightly stale tortilla chips, overly gingered pork dumplings (a featured snack to go with the film), and the standard popcorn. The movie was an adorable rom-com that drew a couple of tears out of me at the pivotal plane scene (that’s all I will say to avoid spoilers). The all-Asian cast did an amazing job giving us a peek into a world in which most of us have no experience. I felt transported to Singapore with the stunning scenery and into the world of the rich with the exquisite outfits.

This pooch kept trying to back into my bathroom stall after the movie. It just seemed like a strange thing to see, so here is the documentation for your viewing pleasure.

dog alamo drafthouse crazy rich asians brooklyn

We had an hour to kill before our planned sake tasting at Chambers Street Wine, so we perused the elegant Japanese dining accessories at Korin. leaving with two sets of chopsticks and a sake set. This still didn’t take up enough time, so we decided to find a happy hour. Our first stop was Serafina, but neither the menu nor the hospitality at the bar seemed inviting. We bolted and headed to Two Hands, an Australian cafe on my to-try list. Two Aperol spritz’s later, and I was gazing out of the window while Derek went to get the check. Something about the scene reminded me how crazy it is and how lucky I am to live in NYC. Nothing spectacular in my view – just a sense of being in a city of greatness. You forget as you continue through daily life, but moments like this bring you back to what you are truly grateful. Also, I love the neon signs in the Two Hands bathrooms and the glow they emanate under the door as the only clue as to which door you should open.

At Chambers Street Wine, a store with unique and wonderful wine options, we tried two sakes. Both were delectable, but the second one was unlike any other we had tried.  It tasted like the essence of a strawberry blossom – slightly sweet and flowery. We stopped by Tomoe and grabbed the sushi and sashimi platter and a seaweed salad to enjoy at home. The generous and delicious fish was even better when we could cut it into smaller, more manageable bites, and we were able to savor an amazing bottle of sake for around the same cost as a generic carafe if we had dined-in at the restaurant.

chambers street wine sake

After watching two episodes of The Affair, we decided to embark on one of our treasured adventures we call second dinner. This just means we were still a bit hungry and allowed ourselves to splurge on spaghetti and meatballs and red wine at the Italian place next door. We would be gigantic if we did this all of the time, but it’s staycation. We came back and watched the season four finale. I can’t believe what happened, but I won’t elaborate on it here since you may not have seen it yet.

staycation 2018: day 3

One of the keys to a fantastic staycation or vacation is the ability to pivot when needed. Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night to Derek reading, which meant he could not sleep. We didn’t really have to leave for the Cloisters at 10:00, so I decided we would sleep in a bit.

I was craving Ethiopian, but there seems to be a dearth of this cuisine in NYC, especially for lunch. There may be lots of great places, but no one is writing about them. We tried Meskerem several months back, and it was fine, but we wanted to find something better. Injera has gotten some press, as well as several spots in Harlem, but all dinner-only. Derek volunteered to research the genre while I showered. He found Awash, which took us over to the East side, somewhat on the way to The Met. We walked a bit over a mile, only to find the restaurant closed. Time to reboot. Fish Cheeks had caught our attention on the way over, so we decided to go back and revisit it. Some of the dishes we have had here before are so amazing, it was hard to not reorder them, but we ventured into all new plates this time. Happy hour starts at noon, so we began with six $1 oysters, served with fried shallots and a spicy sauce that was uniquely Thai, and discounted glasses of wine and beer. Next came a raw shrimp with spicy fish sauce, basil, and garlic appetizer, a side of morning glory (described as a Thai watercress ) sautéed with Thai Chiles and fish sauce, and a whole fried snapper, covered with chili peppers, red onions, and fried kefir lime leaves and shallots. All excellent choices for an authentic and delicious Thai meal.

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Next was The Met. I wanted to see the Heavenly Bodies exhibit (catholic costumes), and Derek was excited about the Souls Grown Deep outsider art sector. The outfits were exquisite with their gold accents and precise embroidery. So beautiful, but hard to imagine necessary when the church’s mission should be to help the poor, feed the hungry, etc. We paused for a refreshment on the rooftop while taking in the Huma Bhadha sculpture. Cast in bronze, the colors and textures were mesmerizing while at the same time creepy. On to the outsider art in the modern department. Many of the artists are from my home state of Alabama, and their assemblages are pretty amazing. They used such elementary objects and made them into beautiful pieces.

existing conditions cocktail menu

1st round – Professor Plum + Banana Justino

existing conditions cocktail menu

2nd round of Saratoga Paloma + The Remedy

After the museum, we decided to skip The Pool and go for Existing Conditions, which was more in our neighborhood. I had been excited to share this place with Derek, but it just wasn’t his thing.  He appreciated the fact that the fizz lasted the entire Saratoga Paloma, but the rest didn’t impress him. Oh well, hopefully, the rest of the staycation will appeal to both of us. This cocktail lounge probably won’t be your food destination, but the inventiveness of the beverages are worth a trip. I thought every drink we ordered was amazing.

staycation 2018: day 2

I’ve been dying to try Korean BBQ in Murray Hill Queens, so it seemed a natural choice for day two of our staycation. An easy 20-minute ride from Penn Station and a walk across the street gets you to Mapo BBQ. Make sure to show up hungry, because the dishes do not stop. It’s not easy to order only one entree. I hear it is possible, but we always end up getting pressured into buying one per person. There were nine different banchan sides – the classic kimchee, two types of seaweed, potatoes, potato salad, pot roast, tofu, broccoli, and salad. Lettuce, marinated onions, bean paste, and a sesame oil salt and pepper sauce were delivered to the table to make wraps. The beef is grilled over hot charcoal right next to you. And the steaming hot dishes keep coming – a fluffy egg in broth, sweet corn kernels, and a spicy tofu hot pot. We had way too much food but wanted to experience everything, so we also ordered the mul naeng myu, icy cold buckwheat noodles in a beefy, vinegary broth. Once is enough for us with this dish. The quality of the meat was impressive, and the coals provide a deeper flavor than the electric grills you find in Manhattan, but we will probably not venture out very often for this feast (especially since it the round trip costs $15 per person and trains only run every hour).

Next on the agenda the Color Factory, a travelling interactive exhibit. Celebrating color as well as serving up perfect instagrammable moments snapped by strategically-placed, QR code-triggered cameras, the project was an ideal outing for us. We never take photos, so it was helpful that the venue took them for us. The shot where I am drowning (I really could not get the orbs out of my face!) in the balls just may make it to our holiday card, which has a tradition of featuring quirky photographs. Bring your sweet tooth, because there are various treats throughout the rooms – mochi ice cream, macaroons, candies, raspberry soda, and gelato.

For a little snack before the play, we ran by Sake Bar Hagi 46, a Japanese izakaya in the Theatre District. Staying the course with our standbys, the fried squid legs, takoyaki (octopus balls), and veggie yakitori, we also ventured out by ordering the sautéed mushrooms. They were good, but I agree with Derek’s assessment that they would be improved with some salt or marinade and a bit of a char on them.

On to Broadway. Mean Girls took the best parts of the movie and updated for the stage and today’s top issues. Just a quick plug for the lotteries – try and keep trying for the ones that seem interesting. I won tickets to Shakespeare in the Park on my first try, but this one took a while. If you are like us – enjoy a play here and there, but are not die-hard fans, it’s worth the wait (and minutes it takes to enter – still keeping fingers crossed for Hamilton!). Also, don’t miss the double sippy wine cups. Although, after drinking three-quarters of one I was dying to go to the bathroom at intermission. If you are counting the minutes until waiting in the ladies’ room line, know that intermission comes past the halfway mark – not as expected at the end of the vengeance song. Keep holding – the good news is that the line moves quickly. Our tickets were in the front row, which I would recommend trying at least once. You are able to see what’s really going on in the orchestra (the conductor was adorable), the wigs, the pantyhose that creep up below the midriff tops, and the funny forehead microphones.

existing conditions

As a fan of the shuttered Booker and Dax (shared space with Momofuku Ssäm Bar), I have been eagerly awaiting the opening of Existing Conditions. My high expectations of creativity and deliciousness were completely met.

Our first round leaned towards the vegetal with a Carrot Vodka Soda, a carbonated blend of vodka, carrot juice, orange syrup, and clarified lime juice and the OG Celery, a riff on gin and juice with celery, parsley, orange syrup and lime. My Turkish friend couldn’t turn down the Edessa, a rye drink with Benedictine and sherry infused with urfa biber, a Turkish chile. There aren’t enough savory cocktails, and I applaud bars like this one and the George Washington bar for proving that vegetables are a worthy mixer. Each of these was the perfect blend of savory and sweet without being muddled.

OG Celery, Carrot Vodka Soda, Edessa at Existing Conditions

OG Celery, Carrot Vodka Soda, and Edessa at Existing Conditions

The theme of the next series of libations was fun with fruit, with a Strawberry Carborita, a carbonated margarita with all of the fruits – lime, orange, and strawberry – clarified; the Joy of Mango, consisting of mango rum and clarified Jamaican pepper sauce; and a Canary, saffron-infused gin combined with fino sherry and yellow Chartreuse (so I broke the fruit theme). Tangy and sweet, each went down almost too easily

The planning and precision that go into these cocktails come out in distinct and well-balanced flavors. Our server, which I’m pretty sure was one of the owners, told us that each potion had to pass two tests to make it to the menu – one, would you drink three of them in a row, and two, will the beverage hold up to 30 minutes of sipping.

We didn’t try the food, but I am anticipating it to be prepared with the same imagination and care as the drinks. Will definitely be back soon.

postmates + caviar

One of the perks I like to offer as a manager is to make sure each member of my team has a fun and unique birthday treat. With thirteen of us, I have to do my legwork – figuratively and literally – to find new ideas. When someone mentions a dessert they really like, the mission is to make it happen.

The latest birthday desire was for a Carvel ice cream cake. Because the Carvel store is all of the way downtown around Bowling Green, a delivery service was my choice because they are set up to keep the cake frozen on its two and one-half mile trek. I tend to use Caviar, but since they didn’t offer Carvel, I went with Postmates. We had ordered Cafe China from Postmates a little over a year ago, and it went relatively well – I think we were missing the pea shoots, but they were removed from the bill, so no big deal.

I placed the order on Tuesday, excited to be able to surprise my youngest and most enthusiastic associate on Friday, the day before his 29th birthday (yes, his actual 29th). On Wednesday, it became apparent that more of the team would be available on Thursday, so I tried to change the delivery date. Surprisingly, with the technological advances we have made (it is 2018, right?), Postmates does not allow any changes to be made to the order – not the items, the address, nor the date/time of delivery. You can cancel the order, but you “might” still be charged the service fees. My fear with cancelling my order and changing it to a Thursday delivery was that I would be under the window of time to place the order and miss the cake opportunity entirely. Not the end of the world – we just went on with the plan for Fudgie the Whale (I don’t know who came up with the idea of a whale-shaped ice cream cake, half-chocolate, half-vanilla, slathered in fudge and covered in chocolate crunchies – but they deserve a prize.) to be delivered on Friday between 11:30 am and noon.

Fast-forward to 11:21 am on Friday. An email with the subject “Your delivery from Carvel has been cancelled” arrives in my inbox.  The body states “Delivery Cancelled. Looks like this merchant is not open right now. Your account has not been charged and we apologize for the inconvenience. For more details see our Help Center.” I go to the Help Center to look for a contact number or email. Neither is available. Not willing to concede defeat, I call the Carvel store. Strangely enough, “this merchant that is not open right now”, is open. I explain the situation to the person who answers the phone. It seems that the tablet they use for Postmates orders is having issues. It’s unclear whether or not they ever received the order from Postmates, but Postmates should have known this well before the delivery time. They could have also got on the phone with Carvel to try and fix the situation. Instead, I have to be my own hero in this episode. Turns out, there is a Fudgie the Whale available at the store, so I ask them to hold it for me, jump on the subway, and go pick it up. Kudos to Carvel, because the dessert survived the steamy, twenty-minute cab ride back to the office without a scratch.

Postmates’ inattention to the order cost me about an hour out of my day, so I contacted them the only way I could find after a bit of searching, via an online form (my least favorite form of communication) to express my dissatisfaction. Basically, my message to them was that I was frustrated and would not be ordering from them again because the service was not reliable.  Postmates response was as follows:

Hi Wanda, 
Thank you for reaching out!
Wanda, I just want to deeply apologize that you’ve experienced issues with our service. It makes us feel extremely regretful that you would no longer like to use our service anymore. It is never our intentions to have you feel as frustrated and angry with us. We work extremely hard to make sure every experience you have with us is a very positive and pleasant one so I’m so sorry that this has not been the case. We believe in second chances, I hope you do as well.
Have a great day, Wanda! 

The response is enthusiastic enough, and they used my name several times, but their deepest regret seems to be that they lost a customer, not the fact they did absolutely nothing to try and delight or even satisfy a customer. When they contacted me to find out how satisfied I was with their customer service, I expressed my surprise that they sent such a generic response and did not offer any way to entice me to give them the second chance in which they believe.

Caviar is not perfect by any means. They are sometimes late. They sometimes leave something behind. They make mistakes. The differences are their flexibility and customer service. I can easily contact them to make changes to the order or ask for a status update. Response time is immediate and focused on getting me what I need. Once, I accidentally sent the order for my team lunch to my home, and the delivery person brought it the mile to my office (and he made the offer to do so before my husband gave him the additional tip).

I’m done with the soapbox but hope this information keeps someone from having a bad experience like mine. BTW – definitely try a Fudgie the Whale – it’s delicious!