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.
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.
To me, it was never quite Hanukkah until I devoured my grandma Ud’s sizzling-hot latkes, smothered in applesauce and sour cream. These days, fried potato pancakes have gone gourmet, so you can celebrate the Festival of Lights with some two dozen versions at the sixth annual Latke Festival, taking place December 15 at the Metropolitan Pavilion. This year’s menu includes Veselka chef Tom Birchard’s Pork Goulash Latke with Prunes & Red Beans, Delicatessen chef Michael Ferraro’s Sweet Potato Latke with Duck Rillette & Black Truffle Vinaigrette, Toloache chef Julian Medina’s Potato Pancake with Beef Short Rib Chorizo & Chipotle Crema, Baz Bagel chef Bari Musacchio’s Latkes Dill-Luxe with House Cured Gravlax, Sour Cream & Dill, B. B. King Blues Club & Grill chef Wenford Patrick Simpson’s Potato Pancake BBQ Chicken Slider, Benchmark chef Ryan Jaronik’s French Onion Soup Latke with Gruyere, Beef Gelée & Beef Carpaccio, PRINT chef Gabe Stulman’s Caraway Spiked Latke with Brats, Beer Mustard & Crispy Onion, Tres Carnes chef Sasha Shor’s Smoky Poblano Latke with 16-Hour Texas Smoked Brisket, Ancho Chile-Tamarind Date Molé & Hot Pink Pickled Onions, and Hill and Bay chef Eric Perlmutter’s the ChutzSpud. Among the judges voting for the best latke — there is also a people’s choice award — are former NBA commissioner David Stern, Saveur editor in chief Adam Sachs, and food writers Marion Nestle, Joan Nathan, and Meryl Gordon. Proceeds will benefit the Sylvia Center, a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to inspire young people and their families to establish independent healthy eating habits — so that they may lead healthy and productive lives.”
Hey, you got chocolate in my dance piece! Well, you got your dance piece in my chocolate! Chocolatier and choreographer Megan Sipe combines two great tastes that taste great together in The Chocolate Dances, and interactive performance that incorporates dance, theater, and music with handcrafted chocolate confections that are both worn and eaten. On December 14, Sipe, who hails from Idaho, will present the latest iteration of The Chocolate Dances at a dual costume party and tasting at Celebration of Whimsy on Clinton St. in Manhattan. Every audience member will be treated to a costume, a quartet of truffles/bon bons, cacao nibs, chocolate callets, a chocolate mustache, and chocolate raspberry birthday cake. Tickets are $45 general admission but only five bucks more for prime seating. There will be live music by Juana Aquerta, Giacomo Lamparelli, and Alesio Romano, dancing by Cara Heerdt, Catherine Murcek, and Maya Orchin, and special theatrics by Andrew Broaddus and Fritz Donnelly. Sipe (Hour of the Beast, ahy-duh-hoh-uhn), who is also a Pilates instructor and a creative movement teacher, “uses chocolate to bring people together, to celebrate dance and create joy,” which ain’t a bad mission in life.
Over the next few weeks, Christmas trees and menorahs will be lit all over the city, accompanied by live performances, seasonal treats, special guests, and family-friendly activities, all free. Below are only some of the many highlights as the Big Apple prepares for the holidays.
Park Slope Holiday Tree Lighting
Fifth Ave. at Third St.
Saturday, November 29, 6:30
Live music by Amy Miles, carols by Opera on Tap, crafts, puppet shows, cookies, marshmallows, hot chocolate, popcorn, children's activities, Santa and Frosty the Snowman
Fifteenth Annual Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square
Dante Park, Broadway between 63rd & 64th Sts., Time Warner Center, David Rubenstein Atrium
Monday, December 1, 5:30 - 9:00
Emcee Billy Porter, ice sculpting, live performances by Arlo Guthrie and family, Alice Farley Dance Theater, Golem, Spuyten Duyvil, Batala NYC, the Lucky Chops Brass Band, M.A.K.U. SoundSystem, the N’Harmonics, Uptown Vocal, the Cafe Wha? House Band, the Jazzmeia Horn Quartet, Bach Vespers, Annika, Hungry March Band, Raya Brass Band, Shinbone Alley Stilt Band, Dylan Meek, Elena Ayodele Pinderhughes, the Hot Sardines, Yaz Band, Mariachi Real De Mexico, the Suzi Shelton Band, the Big Apple Circus, Chinese Lion Dancers, Kinky Boots, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, dance groups, WNET characters, a screening of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, food tastings ($1-$4), Sesame Street’s Digital Playground & Walkaround Abby Cadabby
The South Street Seaport’s Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony
Fulton St. at Front St.
Tuesday, December 2, 5:45
Live music, family-friendly activities, more
Winter Village Tree Lighting
40th - 42nd Sts. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Tuesday, December 2, 6:00
Details to be announced
Eighty-Second Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting
Rockefeller Plaza, between West 48th and West 51st Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues
Wednesday, December 3, 7:00 - 9:00
Musical guests to be announced; tree will remain lit through January 7
Central Park Conservancy’s Eighteenth Annual Dana Holiday Lighting
Charles A. Dana Discovery Center inside the park at 110th St. & Malcolm X Blvd.
Thursday, December 4, 5:30 - 6:30
Flotilla of more than twenty illuminated trees on Harlem Meer, live ice carving, photos with Santa and his elves, Christmas carols, and hot cocoa and cookies
Christmas in Richmond Town: Traditional Tree Lighting
Historic Richmond Town, Staten Island
441 Clarke Ave.
Sunday, December 7, 5:00
Festivities begin at 11:00 am ($2 per person, six and under free) with shopping village, carolers, storytelling, Santa Claus, tours, Bell Choir, horse & carriage rides ($2, two and under free), free Christmas tree lighting at 5:00
Carl Schurz Park Holiday Tree Lighting
East 86th St. at East End Ave.
Sunday, December 7, 5:00
Christmas carols, Cantori choir, Orbital Brass, candlelight, candy canes, and hot chocolate
The Park Avenue Tree Lighting
Outside Brick Presbyterian Church, Park Ave. at 91st St.
Sunday, December 7, 6:30
Annual lighting of trees along Park Ave. Malls between 54th & 97th Sts., starting with tree outside Brick Presbyterian Church
Mad. Sq. Holiday 2014
Madison Square Park
23rd - 26th Sts. between Madison & Fifth Aves.
Tuesday, December 9, 3:30
Live performances by Audra Rox and cast members of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, horticultural workshop with a red twig dogwood planting led by Gardener Steph, Reading Rangers storytelling, Gingerbread Boulevard, seasonal treats from Hill Country Chicken, SD26, and Frittering Away, tree lighting at 5:00
The Washington Square Park Tree Lighting
Washington Square Park Arch at Fifth Ave.
Wednesday, December 10, 6:00
Live music by the Rob Susman Brass Quartet, songbooks for caroling, Santa Claus
Holiday on the Hudson
West Harlem Piers Park, West 125th & Marginal Sts.
Saturday, December 13, 5:00
Live music by the All-City High School Chorus, holiday decorations workshop, more
Zuccotti Park Holiday Lighting
Broadway & Liberty St.
Saturday, December 13, 5:30
Live music by the Manhattan Dolls and Metropolitan Klezmer, sweet treats, more
World’s Largest Menorah
Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn
December 16-23, 6:00
Live music, hot latkes, gifts for kids
World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorah
Grand Army Plaza, Manhattan
Fifth Ave. between 58th & 59th Sts.
December 16-23, 6:00
Greenwich St. and Park Pl., TriBeCa
Front & Adams St., DUMBO
Varick & King Sts., SoHo
One of our favorite new food carts is Kaya NYC, which we discovered on its very first day a few months back on Greenwich St. and Park Pl. Owner David, who hails from Hong Kong and earned a finance degree from Baruch a few years ago, had been helping his father at his restaurant in Brooklyn and eventually decided to start his own mobile place, working with his girlfriend, Kristy, a retail banker. “We always dreamed of having our own food-service establishment, and we always thought that there is no real authentic Asian food in the city that can really represent our cuisine. We are disappointed with the image of Chinese food in America,” he told us, explaining that there’s a whole lot more to Asian cuisine than “cheap” fried chicken wings, pork fried rice, and General Tso’s chicken. He and Kristy brainstormed and decided to serve extremely tasty steamed buns called gua baos, small, light, doughy fold-over circular sandwiches stuffed with shredded red curry chicken, crushed peanuts, and cilantro; pork belly, scallions, cucumbers, and hoisin sauce; stir-fried beef, onions, greens, and homemade barbecue sauce; Peking duck, scallions, cucumbers, and hoisin sauce; and fried tofu, pickled carrots, cilantro, crushed peanuts, and a sweet-and-spicy sauce. They also make terrific popcorn chicken that comes in a cone, vegetable spring rolls, and tea eggs, and they’ve just added a new fried bao with popcorn chicken that we can’t wait to try. Various combos range from eight to eleven dollars, a great deal for such unusual food. “Our goal is to serve New Yorkers with real, authentic Asian cuisine and change the perception of Asian food,” David added. The small cart changes locations daily, from TriBeCa to SoHo to DUMBO and now Williamsburg as well. All items are made fresh to order, and there are Taiwanese sodas and the yogurt-based Kaya Refresher to wash it all down.