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


Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks return to the East Side this year (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

America turns 239 this year, and you can celebrate Independence Day in New York City with live music, storytelling, baseball, comedy, dancing, and plenty of fireworks all over town. Below are only some of the highlights.

Festival of Tall Ships: Voyage of L’Hermione, New York Harbor, free, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm

Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest, Sweikert Alley, 1310 Surf Ave. at Stillwell Ave., 212-627-5766, free, 10:00 am

Stories at the Statue of Hans Christian Andersen, with Therese Plair telling “The Pumpkin Rider,” Dovie Thomasen telling “Iktomi Saves the People,” and Laura Simms telling “The Empress of Fairies,” Central Park, near Seventy-Fourth St. & Fifth Ave., free, 11:00 am

Warm Up, with Nicky Siano, Virgo Four, Cut Copy DJs, Galcher Lustwerk b2b DJ Richard, and Bobbito Garcia a.k.a. Kool Bob Love, MoMA PS1 courtyard, $18-$20, 3:00 – 9:00

Country Music Night: Brooklyn Cyclones vs. Williamsport Crosscutters, MCU Park, with postgame fireworks display, $10-$17, 6:00

Freedom Fest, with open bar, BBQ buffet, VIP viewing of fireworks, and dance party with live DJs, Pier 15, 78 South St., $109-$179, 6:30

Midsummer Night Swing: Dr. K’s Motown Revue, Lincoln Center, $17-$25, 7:30 & 9:00

Festival of Independence: Prince Rama and Salt Cathedral, Fulton Stall Market, 207A Front St., South Street Seaport, free, 8:00

Rob Stapleton’s July 4th Weekend Takeover, Carolines on Broadway, 1626 Broadway, $35-$105.75, 8:00 & 11:00

Hot Summer Nights: The George Gee Swing Orchestra, featuring vocalists Hilary Gardner and John Dokes, with special guest Lindy Hoppers, Lighthouse Bandshell, Kingsborough Community College, 8:00

Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks: Brave, East River, free, 9:20


Times Square
Friday, June 26, 12 noon - 10:00, and Saturday, June 27, 11:50 am - 8:00 pm, free admission

The second annual Taste of Asia festival in Times Square celebrates the culture and cuisine of China, Japan, Korea, India, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian nations with live music and dance, cooking and martial arts demonstrations, and lots of food. Performers on Friday include Sounds of Korea, Sirasdance, the Masayo Ishigure & Miyabi Koto Shamisen Ensemble, Saung Budaya, the Golden Rooster, Samurai Sword Soul, Behri, and Sharon Cheng, while cooking demonstrations will be led by chef ambassadors Zizhao Luo, Pitipong Bowornneeranart, Esther Choi, Brian Tsao, David Bouley, Yuji Wakiya, and many more. There will also be awards ceremonies for best restaurants, fashion shows, a dumpling making workshop, and, even better, a dumpling eating contest. On Saturday, the seventh NTD International Chinese Culinary Competition will honor the best in Cantonese, Northeastern, Shandong, Sichuan, and Huaiyang cuisines, with plenty to eat for everyone.


(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Ragnar Kjartansson’s “S.S. Hangover” sails around Harlem Meer with members of the Metropolis Ensemble (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Central Park
Begin at Charles A. Dana Discovery Center
Enter at 110th St. & Fifth Ave.
Friday, June 19, and Saturday, June 20, free, 12 noon - 6:00 pm
drifting in daylight slideshow

While making my way through the wonderful “Drifting in Daylight” exhibition in Central Park, comprising eight site-specific projects commissioned by the nonprofit arts organization Creative Time and the Central Park Conservancy, I heard some beautiful music coming out of the North Woods. Believing I had found number 5B on the map, which promised “a migratory performance of contemplative movement through the North Woods,” I wandered down a path until I came upon a man and a woman playing Bach on violins. There were a few other people there, so I walked over and started taking some photos and enjoying the performance. “Excuse me,” a young man said to me as the music continued, “this is a private gathering.” Not sure whether he was being serious or that was part of the installation — you can’t always tell with contemporary art, of course — I told him that this was where the map indicated the next stop was. “It’s over there,” he said with a determined annoyance, pointing to the nearby overpass. So off I went, shortly to discover a group of dancers moving silently on the asphalt road and the grass. This time, I was where I was supposed to be, watching Lauri Stallings + Glo’s “And All Directions, I Come to You,” but as I followed them through the trees by the Pool, there were two people rehearsing Shakespeare, members of New York Classical Theatre’s free outdoor production of The Taming of the Shrew. And then two other actors passed by, a man and a woman, re-creating a scene from Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums in which former spouses Royal (Gene Hackman) and Etheline Tenenbaum (Anjelica Huston) discuss how they raised their crazy kids; it is part of David Levine’s “Private Moments,” one of eight such scenes occurring throughout the park, where they were originally filmed. I suddenly didn’t know where to turn, what to see next, surrounded by a surfeit of art, yet wondering what was public and what was private. “Nothing can be written on the subject in which extreme care is not taken to discriminate between what is meant in common use of the words garden, gardening, gardener, and the art which I try to pursue,” Central Park architect Frederick Law Olmsted wrote, and indeed, there is plenty of art to pursue among the gardens in Central Park, whether part of “Drifting in Daylight” or not.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Alicia Framis’s “Cartas al Cielo” gives visitors a chance to send a message to someone not of this earth any longer (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

The centerpiece of the Central Park Conservancy’s thirty-fifth anniversary celebration, “Drifting in Daylight,” a kind of art scavenger hunt, begins behind the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, where Ragnar Kjartansson’s “S.S. Hangover” starts its musical journey around Harlem Meer, its Pegasus flag swirling in the wind, with a brass sextet from the Metropolitan Ensemble on board, playing a dirgelike composition by Kjartan Sveinsson. The 1934 wooden fishing boat has been refashioned into a boat from James Whale’s 1935 film, Remember Last Night?, which was based on the Adam Hobhouse novel The Hangover Murders about a group of characters too drunk to recall a killing. The winding path next leads to Karyn Olivier’s “Here and Now/Glacier, Shard, Rock,” a triptych lenticular billboard that evokes the history of Central Park by shifting between shots of a glacier, a broken piece of pottery from Seneca Village, and rocks, bringing them all together as they appear and disappear. As you approach Conservatory Garden, which is now in beautiful full bloom, you can stop at Spencer Finch’s “Sunset (Central Park),” a solar-powered painted ice-cream truck that offers free soft-serve ice cream that changes colors matching the setting sun. Finch, who also currently has hue-based artworks at the Morgan Library and on the High Line, calls is an “edible monochrome.” But more important, it’s rather soothing on a hot summer’s day.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Lauri Stallings + Glo’s “And All Directions, I Come to You” gracefully and dramatically moves through the north end of Central Park (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

On the south side of Conservatory Garden, Alicia Framis’s “Cartas al Cielo” sits atop a hill, a large, reflective silver orb that glitters in the sunlight. Meaning “letters to the sky,” the participatory sculpture, which is like a doorway to a more ethereal kind of Central Park, invites people to fill out a postcard to someone not on this earth and slip it into one of the globe’s mail slots. You can send a missive to a lost loved one or even an alien, as it boasts otherworldly qualities. Heading toward the Ravine, you’ll soon see nine women — Anicka Zaneta Austin, Kristina Marie Brown, Jennifer Cara Clark, Mary Virginia Coleman, Ashley I Daye, Christina Kelly, Mary Jane Pennington, Cailan Orn, and Katherine Maxwell — performing Atlanta-based choreographer Stallings “And All Directions, I Come to You,” in which the dancers, wearing long dresses of different solid colors forming a unique rainbow, fall on the grass, sit on the path, weave around trees, and invite the audience to join a group circle. Also taking place by the North Woods and the Loch, it’s fast-paced and unpredictable, especially to people who are in the area but have no idea what’s going on, just spending an afternoon in the park. Meanwhile, along North End Drive, three of Nina Katchadourian’s handwoven bird nests, collectively known as “The Lamppost Weavers,” hang from streetlamps, including one consisting of repurposed sneakers that evoke the runners passing by but don’t offer the birds much of a place to set up house. The lampposts are not exactly easy to find; nor are all eight of Levine’s “Private Moments,” which are scattered throughout the park and also feature actors re-creating scenes from Bullets Over Broadway, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm, Six Degrees of Separation, Portrait of Jennie, The Out-of-Towners, Cruel Intentions, and Marathon Man, in which one brave soul spends all afternoon jogging around the Reservoir.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s “Black Joy in the Hour of Chaos” provides a powerful conclusion to park project (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

The eighth and final project, Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s “Black Joy in the Hour of Chaos,” is the most powerful. On the Great Hill, taking place on a parachute in colors evoking the flags of Africa and with multiple translations of the phrase “black joy” running around its perimeter, five actors, a violinist, and a cellist, all wearing fatigue pants and red hoodies, mix dance, music, theater, and spoken word as they provide a full-frontal assault on the race war dominating the country, asserting their individual and group identity as they invoke such names as Michael Stewart, Sean Bell, and Freddie Gray. At the end of the riveting performance, people are asked to help lift the parachute, but once it’s raised, it’s dropped again, not remaining up, as we still has quite a way to go before inviting everyone inside the big tent. It’s a compelling experience, and one that puts a provocative cap on a thoroughly engaging exhibition that highlights the diverse nature of Central Park and of New York City and recalls what the Olmsted brothers wrote in 1903 in a report on parks in Portland, Oregon: “All agree that parks not only add to the beauty of a city and to the pleasure of living in it, but are exceedingly important factors in developing the healthfulness, morality, intelligence, and business prosperity of its residents. Indeed it is not too much to say that a liberal provision of parks in a city is one of the surest manifestations of the intelligence, degree of civilization, and progressiveness of its citizens.”


The new Dutch herring arrives in the city on June 18 (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Grand Central Oyster Bar, Grand Central Terminal, lower level, 212-490-6650
Russ & Daughters, 179 East Houston St., 212-475-4880
Restaurant Aquavit, 65 East 55th St., 212-307-7311

The new herring is here! The new herring is here! After being sampled by Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the Hollandse Nieuwe Haring from Scheveningen has been air-expressed to New York City, where it is available at three prime locations for approximately three weeks. The Grand Central Oyster Bar is serving the Silver of the Sea from a special cart (marked De Haringkoning — the Herring King) in a cozy nook by the bar, accompanied by chopped egg, diced raw onion, and seeded flatbread, along with genever (Dutch gin) as desired. Each bite is a delectable taste sensation that should be slowly savored, never rushed. You can also delight in the new catch at Russ & Daughters, where the marvelous matjes herring, two fillets attached at the tail, is available for takeout at the counter, although you should strongly consider ordering in advance; there’s a reason why their latest book is called Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House That Herring Built. Tickets are also still available for the Russ & Daughters Herring Pairing at the Astor Center on June 24 ($79), with Fung Tu chef Jonathan Wu preparing special herring dishes accompanied by sparkling wine, vodka, and other cocktails, along with live music by Matt Bauder’s Hearing Things. And Aquavit’s annual Herring Festival continues through July 10, with a herring plate available as an appetizer (five types of herring) or a main course (nine types) as part of a $52 prix-fixe meal. Advice columnist Ann Landers once said, “If you want to catch trout, don’t fish in a herring barrel.” Well, for the next few weeks, fishing in a herring barrel is definitely the way to go.


There’s plenty of smokin’ good ’cue at annual BBQ Block Party in Madison Square Park (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

There’s plenty of smokin’ good ’cue at annual BBQ block party in Madison Square Park (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Madison Square Park
23rd to 26th Sts. between Fifth & Madison Aves.
Saturday, June 13, and Sunday, June 14, 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
Admission: free; $9-$12 per plate of barbecue
Fast Pass: $125; BigPiggin’ Pass: $265

The immensely popular and ridiculously crowded Big Apple Barbecue Block Party is upon us, as pitmasters from around the country gather in Madison Square Park and serve up some damn fine BBQ. The thirteenth annual event, being held June 13-14, features some old favorites as well as some up-and-comers: Mike Mills of the 17th Street Bar & Grill (Murphysboro, Illinois; baby back ribs with baked beans), Tim Love (the Woodshed Smokehouse, Dallas/Ft. Worth; lamb brisket with borracho beans), Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q (Decatur, Alabama; pulled pork sandwich with spicy mustard coleslaw), Mike Emerson of Pappy’s Smokehouse (St. Louis; baby back ribs with baked beans), Jimmy Hagood of BlackJack Barbecue (Charleston, South Carolina; pulled pork with coleslaw), Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, Texas; Texas beef rib with pickled southern vegetables), Patrick Martin of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint (Nashville; Western Tennessee whole hog sandwich with coleslaw), Garry Roark of Ubon’s Barbeque of Yazoo (Yazoo City, Mississippi; pulled pork shoulder sandwich with coleslaw), Scott Roberts of the Salt Lick Bar-B-Que (Driftwood, Texas; beef brisket, sausage, and coleslaw), Brad Orrison of the Shed Barbeque & Blues Joint (Ocean Springs, Mississippi; pulled whole hog sandwich with baked beans), John Wheeler of Memphis Barbecue Co. (Horn Lake, Mississippi; baby back ribs with baked beans), Drew Robinson of Jim N’ Nick’s Bar-B-Que (Birmingham, Alabama; smoked pork hot links with pimento cheese), Samuel Jones of the Skylight Inn (Ayden, North Carolina; chopped whole hog sandwich with coleslaw), and local purveyors Jean-Paul Bourgeois of Blue Smoke (pork spare ribs with pickled peppers), Charles Grund Jr. of Hill Country (beef brisket sandwich with sweet and spicy pickles), John Stage of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (beef brisket with BBQ beans), and Bill Durney of Hometown Bar-B-Que (Jamaican jerk St. Louis ribs with Caribbean slaw). The lines can get extremely long, so the best way to enjoy the event is to go with a bunch of friends, get on different lines, and then gather somewhere in the park to devour your meal (while also checking out Teresita Fernandez’s new mirrored installation, “Fata Morgana”). Each plate of ’cue will run you between nine and twelve bucks, with desserts from Sugaree’s and Robicelli’s. The FastPass is no more, so if you want to go VIP, you need to pick up the BigPiggin’ Pass, where for $275 you get your food brought to you in the comfort of the hospitality tent. Saturday’s music lineup consists of the Reed Turner Band at 1:00, Shook Twins at 2:45, and Andrew Combs at 4:30, while Sunday’s is Whiskey Shivers at 1:00, Nikki Lane at 2:45, and Jonny Fritz at 4:30.


Chef and co-owner Miguel Franco makes a dish to order at Burlap Sack (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Chef and co-owner Miguel Franco makes a dish to order at Burlap Sack (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

507 Third Ave. at 201 East 34th St.

“I want my food to hug people,” Burlap Sack Potato Eatery co-owner and chef Miguel Franco says on a beautiful spring day, the doors of his new restaurant open onto the busy intersection of Thirty-Fourth St. and Third Ave. And what is more comforting than the spud, the versatile starch that is the world’s number one vegetable crop. “Everybody eats potatoes,” Franco, formerly of Dos Toros Taqueria, adds, explaining why he and partner Jared Ringel, cofounder of the business development agency First Dynamic, chose to make potatoes, a member of the nightshade family that is low in calories and rich in vitamin B6, potassium, copper, and vitamin C, the staple of their menu. They were also heavily influenced by poutine, the late-night Canadian staple beloved by people with a buzz on, which combines French fries with brown gravy and cheese curds. At Burlap Sack, diners get to choose the type of potato base — baked traditional or sweet, baked medallions, traditional or sweet fries, or tater tots — then select toppings and combos including grilled chicken or steak or ground miniature turkey meatballs, cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella, or Parmesan cheese, vegetables (broccoli, scallions, chives, diced onions, garlic, olives, pico de gallo, sauteed mushrooms), and sauce (chipotle aioli, garlic aioli, red pepper aioli, buffalo, queso, sour cream, or “Dad’s marinara,” a recipe from the father of a silent partner).

Burlap Sack has moved into a Murray Hill corner with quite a history (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Burlap Sack has moved into a Murray Hill corner with quite a history (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Everything is freshly made except for the tater tots, and all ingredients are carefully sourced from organic, free-range, non-GMO farms; Franco, who hails from Colombia and has an engineering degree, and New Jersey native Ringel (along with another silent partner, a childhood friend of Ringel’s) hope to add egg, tofu/tempeh, and pork options soon, as well as other surprises, all of which are gluten-free. They spent more than six months trying to find the right location, ultimately deciding on a spot that has seen many businesses come and go. Franco knows the area well, having stayed there as a child many times when his family traveled to New York City to go Christmas shopping at Macy’s. Franco and Ringel answered some additional questions shortly after the restaurant officially opened.

twi-ny: What are your personal favorites combinations?

Jared Ringel: Hand-cut sweet potato fries, grilled chicken, sautéed peppers and onions, pepper jack and cheddar cheese, scallions, broccoli, pico de gallo, pickled jalapeños, chipotle, and garlic aioli.

Miguel Franco: Baked potato, grilled steak, pepper jack cheese, sautéed peppers and onions, sautéed mushrooms, olives, pico de gallo, pickled jalapeños, red pepper aioli and sour cream.

Burlap Sack offers unique spins on potato dishes (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Burlap Sack offers unique spins on potato dishes (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

twi-ny: What about with patrons?

JR: With over three thousand different possible combinations, there is no one customer favorite dish. We will say that the most popular base is one of the baked options, as people have embraced it as a healthy lunch option. Beyond that there is no clear-cut favorite combination. People love the fries too, though. There’s not many places that hand-cut, double-fry, and fry-to-order.

twi-ny: How has the neighborhood taken to the restaurant?

JR: The Murray Hill community has been amazing since before we opened. Business owners and neighborhood patrons would stop by to check out our progress while we were in construction. Since we’ve opened, our customers have told us they’ve been anticipating the opening for some time and that the food has exceeded their expectations. Some of our regulars bring new coworkers and friends every time. It’s great to see support like that.

twi-ny: Of course, you realize you’re in a space that has been through a slew of changes over the years, to ice-cream and frozen yogurt shops to a Colombian deli and a Pie Face that took off in the middle of the night.

MF: I’m confident we can break that curse. I love cooking. I want to create a memory with every bite.


egg rolls egg creams empanadas

Museum at Eldridge Street
12 Eldridge St. between Canal & Division Sts.
Sunday, June 7, free, 12 noon – 4:00 pm

The fifteenth annual Egg Rolls & Egg Creams block party is adding quite a twist this year, bringing together not only the Jewish and Chinese communities of the Lower East Side but also the Puerto Rican community. Taking place June 7, the festival will include food and drink, live music (klezmer, salsa, bomba, and plena) and dance, history, culture, and lots more. Among the highlights of the festival are the kosher egg creams and egg rolls — and new this year, empanadas — as well as yarmulke and challah workshops, tea ceremonies, Yiddish, Mandarin, and Spanish lessons, Hebrew and Chinese calligraphy classes, mah jongg, cantorial songs, Peking Opera, Chinese and Puerto Rican mask making, face painting, and free tours of the wonderfully renovated Eldridge St. Synagogue, which boasts the East Window designed by Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans. In past years, the festival has included performances by the Chinatown Senior Center Folk Orchestra, Qi Shu Fang’s Peking Opera, the Shashmaqam Bukharan Jewish Cultural Group, Ray Muziker Klezmer Ensemble, and Cantor Eric Freeman, some of whom will be back again for this year’s multicultural celebration.