Toasted with the Children 2014

Tonight was a good night. Spent some good money on charity for the Children of Bellevue, a non-profit organization that is devoted to “leveling the playing field for New York City’s vulnerable youths” as they say but I see it as an opportunity to just spend some time (and money) with children that just don’t have the parental or monetary support in the NYC community.

Tonight was the Toast to the Children 2014 event at the Riverpark Restaurant, all the way out on the FDR, but where no normal cab knows how to get to….

It was a smaller venue than the previous location I’ve been to, which was Mandarin Oriental NYC hotel. Riverpark is more intimate but this year had definitely less people in attendance; and I’ve noticed a much “cheaper” clientele…

Venue was modern but a sort of functional labyrinth for the event, however, no one seamed to mind. The wine and food were great as usual (thank you Tom Colicchio and Staff for putting this together!). My favorites were Jonathan Waxman’s contribution of grilled shrimp with beans and grains (Barbuto), the octopus from Frankies Spuntino, the Rappahannock River Oysters, Peasant’s take on razor clams, and Colicchio & Sons (or maybe it was Craft’s) tapioca pudding… Honorable mention to Fairway market for their cheese, charcuterie, oils and spreads table which of all the tables besides Pearl Oyster Bar’s lobster roll table, had the lines.

Wine was on point this year (I wish I had a list as the french table wines were excellent) and I’m happy they had a mix of hard liquor (I took on the bourbon, skipped the vodka and gin) and beers for the event.

I was a little disappointed in the turn out for the silent auction… this year they did a digital display “silent auction” which everyone could log into via their smart phones and bid, however, response was lack luster. My recommendation of the developers, is that you need to post ALL the bidders (as if you’re looking at a clip board of who’s voted) and you can gauge if 1 person has bid or 30, but at least it gives a bit of competitive nature to the process…

I won tickets to The Killer play that I had never known about until today… I hope its good, however, even if it’s not, happy my donation goes to the Kids.

I say that the response was lack luster this year because there wasn’t the crowds I had been used to, there wasn’t demand at the live auction (Tom had to bid on his own item to get the price up! fuck you guys!), and man of the people I met had made it through donated tickets and thus those that paid didn’t show or were given access.

I hope the event continues for many years of success and look forward to several more. If you are in NY (or even if you’re not) please spend some time looking into supporting this very beneficial charity:


Celebrate MLK and Continuing to Move Forward

“Ben, make sure you play “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.”

Those were Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last words after falling to the ground from a shot through his right cheek. King had many enemies fighting for civil rights in the 60’s and because of that fight we can have proper social dialect like this from Wanda Sykes.

Poirier – Enemies feat. Face T (Dub I.D. Remix)



No Pants Subway Ride NYC

Improv Everywhere is one of my favorite public space chaos creators. They have created some interesting events such as No Shirts in the Abercrombie and Fitch store, Slo-Mo in Home Depot, Human Mirror and the MP3 experiments. But the most attention grabbing and news catchy event is this day in winter when thousands of New Yorkers strip off their pants and ride the subways, seemingly unaware that there’s anything wrong with their attire. No Pants subway ride has now gone global in 43 other cities around the world in 16 countries and I assume will continue to amass exhibitionists and voyeurs for years.

The event occurred this past Sunday, the 10th, and I accidentally stumbled upon the end result that evening stopping off at Union Square for groceries when 3000+ participants had gathered to celebrate the joint feat. I got off the 4 coming down from a museum day in the UES when I was hit by a wall of pant-less participants shouting in unison “Take off your Pants!”. Unfortunately, it’s chaotic night scenes like this that push the limits of my camera, as the XSi I have is slow with autofocus and my standard flash is equaly inaccurate in these situations. As a result, my photos are not as clear as I had hoped. I’ll need to practice more of these in the future as I work to pick up the much faster Canon EOS 5D Mark II on the wish list.

I would have participated (*cough*), if it wasn’t for the 28 degrees and my fashionable thermal underwear just wasn’t as revealing as some of the lingerie bottoms flaunted around the square. Much better photos from agents are available on the IE site.

Seu Jorge – Rebel Rebel (David Bowie Cover)

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Rebel Rebel, you’ve torn your dress
Rebel Rebel, your face is a mess
Rebel Rebel, how could they know?
Hot tramp, I love you so!



NY Wine Expo introduces some great regional wines, with…

Balanced, depth, earthy, tannic, mellow, long, big, berry, finish and of course grapy. These, among other adjectives were heard throughout the lower concourse of the Javits center yesterday in NYC. Thanks to a friend volunteering at the second annual NY Wine Expo, Lisa had an extra ticket to give to me for this big, commercial and very bustling wine tasting event. Unlike the SF Bay area, wine events in NY are very much in the minority here, however, with the expanding grape fields of the North Fork Long Island and Hudson Valley regions of the state just starting to build a base and reputation for wines, here’s to more of these type of events.

The expo featured over 170 different wineries and distributors pouring hundreds of different wines, a few food purveyors, art dealers and lifestyle media outlets. I was rather unimpressed with the limited presence of NY wineries, I would have thought that being held in NY, they would have dominated the booths.

The event is held for three days, including seminars and product/cooking demos. Only being there for one day and a few hours I did get a chance to check out Martin Yan’s demo. He claimed that his knives and materials for the demo did not make it through the travel restrictions and so I sat through half of his discussion on how to use various Chinese ingredients effectively. Did you know there are 105 different flavor profiles of soy sauce?

There were some average wines and a few good ones, however, realistically after 40 or so, my pallet was destroyed and everything just melded together. I met John L. Morace owner of Podere San Luigi vineyards located just south of San Gimignano in Tuscany. I tasted several of his wines including a 1998 SuperTuscan made from 85% Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2001 100% Sangiovese and a 2000 Aprelis, all which were good. Cotes du Rhone had some excellent offerings as did the South Africans.

Here’s a list of some of the ones I remember tasting and liking enough to mention here.

I spent about 4 hours wondering up and down the isles trying only the red offerings, with only one day to taste I had to limit to wines I prefer to drink regularly. The busiest booth was actually the cheese stand which I tried to wait in line for twice, both times forgoing the food for more berry goodness.

Time Out NY, Yelp, Jet Blue, Wine Spectator, D’Angelo cigars, Tribe hummas, some artists,, a few other food stands, , and a terribly produced lifestyles magazine called “Upscale” were all non wine booths at the show. Even with all the wine pour, these extra offerings didn’t impress me enough to want to pay $95, the full price for this event. If that was a two day cost, that might be more palettable.

I appreciate greatly the opportunity to go to this event and thought I’d share some of the photos and education I’ve picked up from the event regarding wine & food pairings. If I get another discounted opportunity to go, I would.

Beyond the oldest rule of offering red with meat or white with fish or fowl, there are some general guidelines that might be useful when selecting wine to enhance a meal.

~ Select a light-bodied wine to pair with lighter food, and a fuller-bodied wine to go with heartier, more flavorful dishes.

~ Consider how the food is prepared (grilled, roasted, or field, etc.) and what type of sauce or spice is used.

~ For every food action, there is a wine reaction.

~ Sweet foods can be offset by an off-dry (slightly sweet) wine

~ High acid foods go well with wines higher in acid (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir or White Zinfandel)

~ Bitter and astringent foods can accentuate a wine’s bitterness but can be complimented with a full flavored fruity wine (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot)

~ Big tannic red wines will go best with classic grilled steak or lamb chops as the fat in the meat will tone down the tannin (bitterness) in the wine.

The full gallery of photos from the event is here.


TicketMaster are greedy pigs now complete with a Monopoly

I picked up tickets last week for the Thievery Corporation show this week, in a painful process that hits my wits and wallet. Not only is the process cumbersome, rot with bugs so that you could loose your virtual place in line to garner tickets, but the business is corrupt in that they siphon off tickets to their sister company which grossly over charges for the same show, and when you do get tickets on the TM site, there are exorbitant fees for the privilege to do so.

The latest fees now for tickets purchased through TM are $7.05 per ticket for the “convenience” of selling me the ticket AND $2.90 fee to “process” my order. On top of that they now charge just to print out the tickets (about $2 per ticket). We are now talking $12 per ticket on top of the artist or venue charge to watch a charge where tickets are sourced through Ticketmaster. There needs to be a review of this business and alternatives to purchasing from big broker houses.

Here’s some of the latest news on these greedy ass clowns:

TicketMaster is owned by IAC and inn January of 2008, bid to acquire for $265 million. This now puts under the same roof, the ability to initially sell all tickets, and have the opportunity to re-sell those tickets though second tier brokerage houses (such as Stubhub and ebay). What became increasingly clear is that TM was directing buyers directly to when sales become sold out. What’s not clear and still to be determined under either the $500 Million suit or the $250 Million suit, both against TicketMaster, is if they gave preferential treatment to to buy up tickets to resell at a higher profit margin. There’s different laws in Canada so they very well could have violated fair ticket sales laws there and here’s to their loss in these suits!!!

On the 10th of this month Live Nation and Ticketmaster announce a 2.5 Billion dollar merger. This merger agreement between Ticketmaster and Live Nation will produce a stranglehold in the fragile concert business which lost money on ticket sales last year (even as concert prices went up). This is not a merger that will benefit the concert goer and it’s you and me that will be seeing even higher fees on shows through these companies. New bands will find it harder to get audiences and established acts will get smaller crowds if they don’t play into the TM end game. TM has exclusive rights to sell sporting events tickets as well and this hurts not only music but live sports event enthusiasts as well.

Joe Cohen, the founder and CEO of Seatwave, the UK’s biggest fan-to-fan ticket exchange, sent out a press release on Tuesday the 10th, saying: “The combination of Live Nation and Ticketmaster will create a company that controls over 70% of the U.K. ticketing market, the country’s largest music promoter and management of over 200 of the world’s top artists. Neither party has suggested how this tie-up in any way could be in the interests of fans.”

Before TM, it was first come first serve. You went to the venue or camped out at your local Warehouse record shop to get tickets for the local show. You at least had a shot to get great seats at face value if you had the dedication to do so. Now TM sells their prime seats to ticket clubs (their partners etc.), gobbles up competitive ticket sites and strong arms the venues to resell their show tickets at their terms.

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-New Jersey called for a federal probe of Ticketmaster’s practices, said “the deal could put concert-goers nationwide at risk of permanently increased ticket prices and should not gain regulatory approval.” The Dept of Justice is looking into the merger, and I hope they find significant evidence that this would create an unfair market monopoly for this business.

Event venues signed with services like TM and Live Nation to expand their promotional reach, and sell out their events. In the internet age, these shows are primarily artist driven not venue driven, so the need for additional promotion through a national ticket service provides marginal benefit to them and they are loosing the processing fees by giving this up to TM.

Regardless, we all need to be conscious of these events and take personal steps to persuade our favorite artists, sports teams and other event promoters to host events in venues that do not sell their tickets through TM or to create tours without the help of TM services. We need to reach out to our favorite venues and encourage them to set up their own ticketing practices. Lastly, people can take a stand on the issue by not going to shows where artists have signed with Live Nation, or Ticketmaster for exclusive concerts, and avoid venues where TM has the monopoly on selling event tickets. It’s a tough sacrifice to give up the live show but maybe this economy will help cut into that discretionary spending and make it easier to make that decision.


Nunu is new chocolate in Brooklyn

Last Saturday we headed out to Brooklyn for the opening party for Nunu Chocolates in Brooklyn. I was introduced to Andy and Justine Pringle’s fine nuggets of dark caramel salted goodness via friends during Christmas and picked up a few boxes for family-friends at their Union Square holiday booth.

So unlike many Manhattanites, we actually crossed the bridge to Atlantic ave for the newly opened shop; sadly it’s not made of chocolate. however, we were greeted with wine and chocolates none the less. The space is set up like a chocolate den with a long farm house table for working via wifi, swilling hot chocolate and noshing on their absinthe tinged chocolates (among others cocca goodness). Check it!

NuNu Chocolates [529 Atlantic Ave. between Third and Fourth avenues in Boerum Hill, (917) 776-7102]


Wine tours in upstate NY

The last time I went on a wine tour on the east coast was out to Northfork Long Island and the best part of the experience was the scenic drive and just getting some familiarity with LI. The wines were average at best and those that I thought were good, turned out to be sour as my taste had blurred throughout the day.

This past weekend some friends organized another wine tour, this time upstate NY to some of this countries oldest and newest wineries. We started out with taking the Metro North to Salisbury Mills station near Washingtonville, NY. We had a limo service pick us up in a party bus and take us to the first spot on the tour: Brotherhood Winery.

It just happens that this past weekend Brotherhood had their 10th Annual Grape Harvest Festival which included food, craft merchants, bands and long lines at the tasting counters. We were only able to taste one selection of their wines and because of the crowds we were offered a spit of a taste from a small jello shot cup. Smelling the sausage w onions and peppers stand as we walked in, I knew I’d be devouring one of those savory links but we also shared in some of the best food of the festival from the Reggae Boy Cafe with jerk chicken and oxtail soup (check them out in Poughkeepsie, NY).

It was here I realized I wasn’t in “Kansas” anymore as I was surrounded by families, kids and even dogs draped in “Palin Country” and “McCain 08” gear, some of it even ripped up from their front lawns. A few sharp hells of hate against Obama further disturbed me but we weren’t here to canvas but to take in what good, was offered from these upstate wineries. Ultimately I did not like any of the Brotherhood wines that I tasted but I’m sure there’s some gems in there, I never got the opportunity to get there.

Back in the bus with some carnival sweets, we headed to Glorie Farm Winery, located up on a ridge overlooking the valley. A great view for a very small tasting “shack”. Glorie offered a few key wines that I would have bought and locally grown apples as well. It was $5 to taste 5. Of the ones offered, the Seyval Blanc Estate Reserve, Glorie De Chaunac Oak and the Cabernet Franc was a close third.

With a few bottles down, some scenic pics in the memory card, back on the bus we crammed to head to Stoutridge Winery just down the road. The property is the largest of the four wineries we saw and the newest as it has been rebuilt in 2001 from a vandal’s fire. We met Stephen Osborn and Kimberly Wagner, the owners of the winery and received more than our share of lecture before tasting on the gravity-flow winery that uses minimalist winemaking techniques. I think Stephen over sold his wines in the lecture and they just didn’t live up to the description; I would have preferred letting the wine speak for themselves with a follow up on the detail.

I didn’t have any favorite wines at Stoutridge but I did like their hard pair cider so it’s good to see that they are branching out into other areas that could work for them. I would have spent some time on their patio drinking other wines but as we were on Tim’s schedule we needed to make it to the last winery for a taste and get back to the station for our ride home.

We took a drive this time up another ridge to Benmarl Winery which is self proclaimed America’s Oldest Winery where Andrew Jackson Caywood first planted and bottled wine in the Hudson river valley. Now Marlboro, NY, Benmarl is the most romantic of the 4 wineries we visited, located up on the ridge with a beautiful grassy knowel for enjoying the wines or the blues that’s typically played through the summer.

We enjoyed our time at Benmarl so much we blew off the train tickets, bought a case of wine and started popping corks! Over all a fantastic trip up north bearing more fruit than my Northfork excursion. I’d recommend this trip over the long island one any day and was a much more enjoyable drive around the valley.


Steel Pulse on the River

Steel Pulse is one of the UK’s best, certainly the most popular, reggae bands and one of my favorite groups of all time. “Handsworth Revolution” is regarded by many critics (including me) as the a high point of British reggae and 1986’s “Babylon the Bandit” won the Grammy for Best Reggae Album. Their style is very accessible to both reggae purists and mainstream “Bob” listeners of the genre. I’m a big fan of their classics “Ku Klux Klan”, “Macka Spliff”, “Soldiers”, and “Roller Skates” but there’s not a bad track to listen to from any album or live set.

This Wed, I went with friends Russ, Trudi, Mike and Anna to the River to River concert at Rockefeller Park (Battery Park City). We threw out the blankets, popped the coolers and took in a great evening of free SP reggae. Much respect to the organizers, the residents and props to Steel Pulse for a great show. Forward the bass!

One of my Favorite tracks by SP – a must jam to:

Short Cell phone clip of them live… MUCH better to just check them out when you can…


New Orleans & Jazz Heritage Festival 08

This past weekend several friends from around the nation gathered in the still broken community known as the Big Easy for the NOLA Jazz Festival. To a certain extend only one of the two iterations of this nickname are still true: The French Quarter is still one big open speak-easy, however, its no longer true that it’s easy to find work here.

I landed late on Wed, however, not late enough and endured a long 2 hours wait for some friends to come through. We checked into my corporate staple – the Marriott, on the boarder of FQ and the Central Business District. Without even claiming space we’re already out on the quarter looking for a hole to get some local grub and a few beers.

We make our way down most of the main strip of Bourbon and right past the tourist wonder of Port of Call to Saint Peters and hit Yo-mamas. $4 – 28 oz draft Abita‘s (the local amber brew), and the best 1/2 lb burgers sided with a fully dressed baked potato as big as your foot. Yo-mama’s doesn’t cater to that handgrenade or hurricane slaying crowd, just bar goers that like their drink strong, and their companions with no bull shit. We went back almost every night and ate here twice. Definitely love the Bull Fighter with extra jalapeños (however back at the hotel, the mates didn’t).

The wed night crowd was light but noticeably less douchebaggy or fratty but we still took down the quarter closing out several bars and getting a good feel for what’s going to be a party, what are the jazz spots and where do we go to meet the people wanting to stay on the strip but away from the tourists. We ended our night at the Old Absinthe House bar on the corner of Bourbon and Bienville; built in 1806 this is where Pirate Jean Lafitte and Andrew Jackson planned the victory of the battle of New Orleans on the second floor. No green fairy for us but the spot is great to get away from the frey watch those that do partake (we ended several nights here as well).

Starting late in the morning on Thursday set the tone for the rest of the week. We had some more friends come in later this afternoon so we went down to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop for some beers on the patio. Lafitte’s is the oldest functioning bar in the US and rumored to be the oldest standing building in the entire Mississippi Valley. Good mix of locals and like minded tourists… until the yuppiest of clans showed up chatting up their latest sailing adventures and next trips to Cape Cod we stayed for a few hours before the tide turned.

We sampled the hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s, which when you think of the stumbling tourists around the quarter, it’s hurricane’s their usually clutching to keep their tilt sideways. The drink is synonymous with O’Brien’s, created during World War II and one of the most sought-after tourist souvenir.

We witnessed some film cameras in and around the quarter catching the “reality” of Bourbon St. I found later they were there for a Central City show with Luda and Widespread.

The weather turned out to be perfect during the weekend (far from the T-storms predicted).

One of the primary requirements of any travel is getting good food and lots of it. In no particular order I sampled (around NOLA and at the Festival):

Fried Crab Cake w/ Smoked Tomato & Jalapeño Tartar
Soft shell crab po boy
Dozens of raw oysters
Oyster and Crawfish Po Boy from VertiMarte
Crawfish Etouffe
Pheasant, Quail, and Andouille Gumbo
Half the menu at Emeril’s NOLA
Cajun Jambalaya
Beignets and Cafe au Lait at Cafe Du Monde
Hot Sausage Po-Boy
Grits, biscuts, chicken fried steak, gravy and other brunch at Cafe Fleur de Lis
late night gyro at Ali Ba Ba’s
… Fortunately! no lucky dogs

Saturday, we picked up round trip bus tickets from a local hotel, which seems to be the best option getting there and started drinking on the way. The line to purchase tickets wasn’t that bad, and we saved on the ridiculous Ticketmaster over charge which I always recommend. There’s so many artists playing in over 10 tents or stages, you really need to spend at least 2 days at the festival to get the most of the music there. Saturday’s headliners were: Jimmy Buffett, Steel Pulse, The Roots, Bobby McFerrin and Marcia Ball. Jimmy’s stage area was packed and not accessable if you didn’t get there hours before his show. Steel Pulse and the Roots were off the hook. I also caught a few riffs of Kenny Wayne Shepherd but don’t remember any of the other great festival artists I heard.

The weekend before NOLA was hit by thunderstorms, rain and consequently caused serious mud and “fun” for many of the participants. Since we’d been here for 3 days, and mass consumption of alcohol has worn our stamina thin. The cooling mist of the auto tent and shade offered a few hours of relief as did the glorious food options.

That evening we rallied and caught the Parliament show which has been one of my top bands to check out live before they stopped performing. More than expected they were off the hook.

New Orleans is still feeling the effects of Katrina. The pain is hidden in the eyes but the life and spirit still carries on strong in the music, food, people and community. I’ll definitely be back for the festival and more food. Here’s a few more pics from the weekend.

“New Orleans is one of the last places in America where music is truly a fundamental part of everyday life. People get together on the weekends and parade through the streets just playing songs; 12-year-old-kids learn funk on the tuba; everyone dances. Life elsewhere in the world simply isn’t as celebratory. If we allow the culture of New Orleans to die by leaving its musicians marooned around the country, America will have lost one of its great treasures.”

-Damian Kulush of OK Go


Black Tie Wedding

I was looking for weeks for an alternative to that small print on our friend’s wedding invitation “Black Tie”. What does that really mean? Can I get away with a black suit? Do I have to buy this tux I won’t wear again? … Ultimately yes, was the answer so I went out to Syms and picked up a clean Joseph Abboud Tux and some Boss shirt and accessories for the gig.

After going through the same pain I’m going through in picking a spot, the bride picked the Union Club for their digs – the oldest and most exclusive of the leading men’s clubs of New York. Founded in 1836, it is the city’s oldest social club and its male membership has been largely drawn from the city’s most socially prominent Protestant families.

The wedding was commenced on an upper floor where we joined the party late, just a few minutes before the wedding party started walking down the isle. The ceremony was short and sweet but the highlight for me was not the actual commencement but when the priest during the ceremony asked one of the youngest of the flower girls to provide for the crowd what do kids her age worry about.

Her response was “Global Warming”.

Not the response the priest was looking for and it resulted in a spirited laugh from the crowd. Also ironic is that there a many disbelievers among the largely Republican crowd on the global warming “theory”.

The wedding started with an open bar in a nice foyer/room with a grand piano with light “jazz/lounge” music playing. We enjoyed some petite h’orderves and Chivas Regal. A cordial staff ushered us to the dining area after meeting many of the other family and friends of the wedding couple. We were all seated with our mutual friends while we had an excellent 4 course meal topped with Fillet Mignon.

The meal was excellent and when the band started up in the Greek cross shaped main hall the guests reluctantly waddled out to the marble entry way to sway to some latin, pop and jazz music. Over all the wedding went off without a hitch, all the guests had an excellent time, the food, venue and staff were all excellent.

Congratulations to Andrea and John and many happy years!

A clip from Trading Places as this was how I felt entering the Union Club: