This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

UNION SQUARE CAFE 30th ANNIVERSARY

Danny Meyer

Danny Meyer is celebrating thirty years of Union Square Cafe with a series of special culinary events

Who: Danny Meyer and the Union Square Hospitality Group
What: Thirtieth Anniversary of Union Square Cafe
Where: 21 East 16th St. at Union Square Park, 212-243-4020
When: March 16, June 15, August 31, November 9, $99 (plus $65 for optional wine pairing), 5:30 - 9:45
Why: Restaurateur Danny Meyer has a lot to celebrate these days. His Shake Shack franchise recently had a very successful IPO, and now his signature restaurant, Union Square Cafe, is turning thirty. Meyer, who was twenty-seven when the eatery first opened, will be celebrating with, among other events, four quarterly seasonal dinners, featuring a prix-fixe menu designed by chef/partner Carmen Quagliata, highlighting classic dishes from the last three decades, with an optional wine pairing. The winter menu consists of Yellowfin Tuna “Mignon” with Wasabi Crisp, Sweetbread Ravioli with Winter Roots and Black Truffle, Roast Peppered Duck with Meyer Lemon and Endive Marmalade, and Banana Tart 2.0. In addition, the restaurant will host Morning Market Meetings with Meyer and Quagliata beginning May 20 ($75, allocated by lottery), wine spotlights, and Greatest Hits Chef’s Table Menus from the Union Square Cafe menu archives (starting at $55 for three-course lunch and $85 for dinner). The restaurant is scheduled to relocate at the end of the year because of rent hikes, so this is your last chance to experience the sophisticated casual charm of one of New York City’s most beloved dining establishments.

LUNAR NEW YEAR 4713: THE YEAR OF THE RAM (or GOAT or SHEEP)

year of the ram

Sara D. Roosevelt Park and other locations
East Houston St. between Forsythe & Chrystie Sts.
February 19-28, free - $115
www.betterchinatown.com
www.explorechinatown.com

Gōng xǐ fā cái! New York City is ready to celebrate the Year of the Wood Goat (aka the Year of the Ram and the Year of the Sheep) this month with special events all over town, in all five boroughs. The sixteenth New Year Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival will explode in and around Sara D. Roosevelt Park on February 19 at 11:00 am, with live music and dance, speeches by politicians, drum groups, lion, dragon, and unicorn dancers making their way through local businesses, and more than half a million rounds of firecrackers warding off evil spirits and welcoming in a prosperous new year. The Flushing Lunar New Year Parade takes place February 21 at 10:00; following the parade, there will be a family festival at the Queens Botanical Garden ($2-$4, 1:00 - 4:00). Also on February 21 ($5-$12, 1:00 – 4:00), Asia Society will present its annual Family Day: Moon over Manhattan, featuring lion dance and kung-fu demonstrations, live music, and arts and crafts. The New York Chinese Cultural Center will present a Lunar New Year program with folk dances, paper cutting, calligraphy, and lion dances at the Bronx Museum of the Arts on February 21 (free, 2:00 - 4:00). One of our favorite restaurants, Xi’an Famous Foods, will be hosting a culinary Lunar New Year concert at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on February 21 with MC Jin, Wanting Qu, Clara C, Esther & Lara Veronin, the Shanghai Restoration Project, and Mree, benefiting Apex for Youth ($50-$165, 6:00). There will be a performance by Chinese Theater Works, a zodiac-themed scavenger hunt, and sheep meet-and-greets at the Prospect Park Zoo February 21-22 ($6-$8). The Museum of Chinese in America will give Lunar New Year walking tours on February 21-22 ($8-$15, 11:00 and 1:00), followed on February 28 ($10, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm) by its Lunar New Year Family Festival, with lion dances and workshops, food tastings and demonstrations, storytelling, calligraphy, balloon animals, arts and crafts, and the Red Silk Dancers. The sixteenth annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival will wind its way through Chinatown, Sara D. Roosevelt Park, and Columbus Park on February 22 starting at 1:00, with cultural booths in the park and a parade with floats, antique cars, live performances, and much more from China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and other nations.

year of the goat

On February 22 (free - $25, 11:00 – 3:00), the China Institute’s Chinese New Year Family Celebration boasts lion dance and kung-fu performances, gallery tours with receptions, and dumpling and lantern workshops. Dr. Hsing-Lih Chou has curated a Lunar New Year Dance Sampler at Flushing Town Hall on February 22 (free, 2:00). The New York Philharmonic gets into the party spirit with Yo-Yo Ma leading a Chinese New Year musical evening on February 24 at Avery Fisher Hall ($45-$115, 7:30); the program includes the U.S. premiere of Zhao Lin’s Duo concerto for cello, sheng, and orchestra, conducted by Long Yu. Earlier that day, the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company and students from the National Dance Institute will perform traditional dances on Josie Robertson Plaza (free, 4:30). The annual Lunar New Year Festival at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is set for February 28 (free with suggested museum admission, 12 noon – 5:00), with puppet shows, martial arts demonstrations, dances, storytelling, tea presentations and ceremonies in the Astor Chinese Garden Court, and activities inspired by the exhibition “The Art of the Chinese Album.” And the Queens Zoo will honor the goat/ram/sheep February 28 - March 1 with scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, live live performances, calligraphy workshops, and meet-the-sheep programs.

FUNLAND: PLEASURES & PERILS OF THE EROTIC FAIRGROUND

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

”Jump for Joy” is one of the highlights of immersive “Funland” exhibit at the Museum of Sex (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Museum of Sex
233 Fifth Ave. at 27th St.
Daily through spring 2015, $17.50
Portal of Love: Sunday, February 15, $25-$30, 10:00 pm - 4:00 am
212-689-6337
www.museum.museumofsex.com

When it comes right down to it, sex, in all its iterations, if done right, should be fun, if a little dangerous. And that’s the premise behind the Museum of Sex’s playful interactive exhibition “Funland: Pleasures & Perils of the Erotic Fairground.” Bompass & Parr, the jelly-loving London-based conceptual art duo of Sam Bompass and Harry Parr that has celebrated death in the architectural design competition Monumental Masonry, created a multisensory church organ promoting the wonders of whisky with the Flavour Conductor, and built the cake-inspired nine-hole Crazy Golf course on Selfridge’s roof, has now transformed a section of the Museum of Sex into a kinky carnival where visitors get to shed a bit of their inhibition and have a rousingly bawdy good time — while getting to release orgasmic endorphins in public. “Funland” comprises a handful of amorous attractions that add tantalizing twists to fairground favorites, all set in a luridly lit amorously red setting, with a carny, carnal soundscape by Dom James. Begin with “Foreplay Derby,” in which challengers roll balls into a hole in order to make their assigned gold phallus cross a finish line first; the winner just might get whipped by a seductively clad museum worker. “The Tunnel of Love” is a hall of mirrors that leads to a sculpture of a G-spot that is also a Theremin that plays music when you wave your hand over it.

“Grope Mountain” is a three-sided climbing wall where you have to grab on to casts of sexual body parts and orifices in order to successfully make it across. And in “Jump for Joy,” visitors remove their jackets and shoes and spend several minutes bouncing around a room of giant inflated breasts, like kids playing in a balloon room; be prepared to exit somewhat dizzy and winded. The exhibit also includes a vitrine that offers daringly shaped edible delights and the “Erotic Picture Palace,” which shows NSFW old movies and carnival footage, including The Rotascope. Professor Vanessa Toulmin of the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield puts it all in cultural context in her essay “As Graceful as They Were Disgraceful: Eroticism and the Fairground,” in which she writes, “Despite the attempts by moral puritans to tame the baying crowds, the elements of untamed sexuality, the Baktinian world of the carnivalesque remained beneath the veneer of the modernistic fairground roundabouts and carousels. . . . However, it was entry into the sideshows that revealed to the visitor the full frontal erotic reality of the female nude. . . . The sideshows of the twentieth century were a continuous link to the bacchanalia of the medieval and preindustrial European fairs, offering sex, nudity, and the wonders of gay Paree for a penny or a dime.” The Museum of Sex offers its own whimsical twenty-first-century take on bacchanalia for $17.50 plus tax.

portal of love

The museum also has a large yet intimate new café/den/bar appropriately called Play, where you can grab a drink or dinner while perusing a book from its extensive sexually charged library. For Valentine’s Day weekend, MoSex is hosting “Get Steamy” specials, with “The Full Treatment: 3 Aphrodisiac Shooters,” a trio of vodka-infused cocktails (Lychee Libidinal, Pomegranate Virility, and Citrous Oxide); bath and body packages; and extended hours, remaining open till midnight on Friday and Saturday. And on Sunday night from 8:00 till 4:00, “Portal of Love” will feature modern burlesque and genre-bending performances by ill-Esha, BRANX, Brightside, Of the Trees, PartyFoul 5000, Soohan, the Bill Wurtzel Trio, House of Screwball, Groucho Fractal, Magic Mike, Cat Wolf, Wild Torus, Kevin Karpt, Evelyn Von Gizycki, Lindsee Lonesome, and the Merry Pranksters, live painting by Joness Jones and Harrison Lance Crawford, and workshops led by Val Tignini (“Kundalini Rising”), David Young (“Guided Dual Flute Meditation”), Richard Anton Diaz (“Activating Sexual Energy”), and Jane Bernard (“Intuitive Thinking”). You can also check out the other exhibitions at the museum: “The Eve of Porn: Linda Lovelace” examines the controversy surrounding Deep Throat and the treatment of its star, while “The Sex Lives of Animals” is an engaging and educational exploration of animal sexual behavior.

WINTER RESTAURANT WEEK 2015

winter restaurant week 2015

Who: More than three hundred restaurants throughout the city
What: Winter Restaurant Week
Where: All five boroughs
When: February 16 - March 6, three-course lunches $25, three-course dinners $38
Why: Reservation lines are now open for Winter Restaurant Week, in which hundreds of New York City eateries offer three-course prix-fixe lunches for $25 and dinners for $38. (Some restaurants do only lunch or dinner, and others offer the deals only on weekdays.) Many of the prix-fixe menus are available online so you know just what you’re in for. Among the many restaurants are such favorites as ‘21 Club,’ Aureole, Bann, Barbetta, Charlie Palmer Steak, City Crab, City Hall, Darbar, DB Bistro Moderne, Delmonico’s, Dévi, Dos Caminos, Esca, Estiatorio Milos, Gotham Bar & Grill, Haru, i Trulli, Il Mulino, Le Cirque, Les Halles, Mercer Kitchen, Monkey Bar, Nice Matin, Nobu, Petrossian, Red Rooster, Rosa Mexicano, the Russian Tea Room, Shun Lee Palace, Tao, Tribeca Grill, Victor’s Cafe, the Water Club, and the Water’s Edge. As a bonus, if you register your American Express card, you will receive $5 back each time you charge at least $25 at a participating restaurant.

CHOICE EATS 2015

It can get pretty crowded at the annual Choice Eats festival (photo by twi-ny/ees)

It can get pretty crowded at the annual Choice Eats festival (photo by twi-ny/ees)

THE VILLAGE VOICE CHOICE EATS EIGHTH ANNUAL TASTING EVENT
Metropolitan Pavilion
125 West 18th St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Friday, March 13, $65-$99, 6:00 – 10:00 (21 and older only)
choiceeats.villagevoice.com

Tickets are now on sale for the eighth annual Village Voice Choice Eats festival, but you have to move fast if you want access to tastings from more than fifty New York eateries. Last year’s festival was a smash sellout, and for good reason; we thought it was one of the best food events of the year, with generous, unlimited samplings of signature dishes, sides, and desserts from some of the city’s most innovative chefs, along with complementary craft beer pairings and specialty wine and liquor. This year’s event, taking place March 13 at the Metropolitan Pavilion, includes dozens of cool names, many new to the event and others longtime favorites. Among those signed on so far are 2 Duck Goose, 606 R&D, Awadh, Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter, Brooklyn Kolache Co., Butter & Scotch, Casa Mono and Bar Jamon, the East Pole, Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue, Gloria's Carribean Cuisine, Huertas, John Brown Smokehouse, Littleneck, Mable’s Smokehouse, MAX, No. 7, the NoMad, the Queens Kickshaw, Spicy Pot, Thai Rock, and Tuome. We’ll be sure to return to Butter & Scotch’s table, which we declared best in show at the 2014 event, which took place at Basketball City; this year they are celebrating the launch of their first restaurant space. Although the lineup so far contains a generous helping of Brooklyn’s world-famous (or infamous) artisanal offerings, all five boroughs will be represented. General admission at 7:00 is $65; we have never been fans of extra pay for extra play, but the huge and enthusiastic crowds surging through the aisles of Choice Eats can feel overwhelming and make the Early Entry tickets ($85, 6:30) very attractive, while the VIP passes ($99, 6:00) come with a gift bag and private VIP lounge (pssst, with its own facilities, ahem) as well. You can also purchase a Choice Eats / Choice Streets combo ticket ($115-$170), which will also get you into the May 5 food truck fest at the Intrepid.

SNOWDAY FOOD TRUCK: NATIONAL MAPLE SYRUP DAY

Socially conscious Snowday Food Truck will be in Flatiron District giving out free treats to celebrate National Maple Syrup Day (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Socially conscious Snowday Food Truck will be in Flatiron District giving out free treats to celebrate National Maple Syrup Day (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

SNOWDAY FOOD TRUCK: MAPLE TREATS FOR THE CITY BEAT
Fifth Ave. at 20th St.
Wednesday, December 17, free, 11:30 am – 3:30 pm
www.snowdayfoodtruck.com
www.purecanadamaple.com

This past summer, we had one of our favorite grilled cheese sandwiches ever, a maple-infused version from Snowday on Governors Island. The farm-to-truck mobile eatery, which was named Rookie of the Year at the 2014 Vendy Awards, is sponsored by Drive Change, an organization that “builds and operates locally sourced food trucks that hire, teach, and empower formerly incarcerated youth.” On December 17 from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm, Snowday is teaming up with Pure Canadian Maple Syrup to celebrate National Maple Syrup Day by giving out free samples of maple grilled cheese, maple bacon popcorn, mulled maple cider, and, one can only hope, maple snow cones, despite the cold weather. As the Pure Canadian Maple Syrup website points out, “Pure maple syrup sourced from the maple tree not only tastes better than processed sweeteners made from corn syrup, it is also better for you.” You can read more about its nutritional values here, but we’ll be at the truck on Wednesday because their food is just so freakin’ good.

AM AT THE JM: CHRISTIAN BOLTANSKI IN CONVERSATION WITH JENS HOFFMANN

Christian Boltanski,  “Monument (Odessa),” six gelatin silver prints, three tin biscuit boxes, lights, wire, dimensions variable, 1989–2003 (© Christian Boltanski / Courtesy of the Marian Goodman Gallery, New York)

Christian Boltanski, “Monument (Odessa),” six gelatin silver prints, three tin biscuit boxes, lights, wire, dimensions variable, 1989–2003 (© Christian Boltanski / Courtesy of the Marian Goodman Gallery, New York)

Think Coffee
123 Fourth Ave. between Twelfth & Thirteenth Sts.
Friday, December 12, free, 8:00
www.thejewishmuseum.org
www.thinkcoffee.com

For years, we’ve been fascinated by Christian Boltanski’s “Monument (Odessa),” which is part of the permanent collection of the Jewish Museum. The wall installation consists of six photos of children, surrounded by wires connected to more than two dozen lights, above three rusted tin boxes. It makes one instantly think of the Holocaust, of lighted Yahrzeit remembrances in synagogues, of the six million. However, Boltanski, who was born in France in 1944, has stated, “My work is about the fact of dying, but it’s not about the Holocaust itself.” On Friday, December 12, at 8:00 in the morning, Boltanski, who built a mountain of clothing at the Park Avenue Armory for “No Man’s Land” in 2010 — an immersive work that also evoked the Holocaust — will discuss art, memory, “Monument (Odessa),” and more during the Jewish Museum’s latest downtown edition of “AM at the JM,” a free morning talk, with free java, at Think Coffee by Union Square, hosted by Jens Hoffmann, deputy director of exhibitions and public programs at the Jewish Museum. “A good work of art can never be read in one way. My work is full of contradictions,” Boltanski told Tamar Garb in 1997. “There are many ways of looking at the work. It has to be ‘unfocused’ somehow so that everyone can recognize something of their own self when viewing it.” This coffee klatch should make for quite a heady way to start the day.