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Date Night: Come From Away on Broadway and Dinner at Striphouse: Too Good to Miss

comefromawayWe live so close to Broadway and world class theater, that some of us forget to take advantage of the shows and restaurants that are just a short train rider away. Here's a play - and a restaurant - that are too good to miss:

I had the opportunity to see Come From Away , a Tony Award winning new musical and dine beforehand at Striphouse, a top-rated steakhouse.

Come From Away http://comefromaway.com is not a musical about 9/11. Written by Irene Sankoff and David Hein (who also wrote the music and lyrics), Come From Away is a heartwarming masterpiece about the human heart and soul triumphing over a horrifying event. The 16-member ensemble cast stars no one in particular which in and of itself is unusual for a Broadway musical; each cast member also plays more than one character. Directed by Christopher Ashley who won the Tony Award for best direction of a musical, Come From Away has taken non-traditional risks and has earned its place on the Schoenfeld Theater stage for what will likely be a long-term engagement.

The show is not impressive for the set nor costumes nor stars with name recognition. It's impressive for its theme and its execution of that theme. So it was hard to understand why the audience began giving a standing ovation at the beginning of the show. My husband and I ran through Times Square with our dinner leftovers and made it just in time to realize that the show had a delayed start. (Note to self: no matter how good they tasted 30 minutes ago, brussels sprouts in your leftover bag do not smell good to your seat mates.) As it turned out, the hardy standing ovation was for Broadway regulars Hillary and Bill Clinton who were in the audience. We joined in, of course, and reveled in the fact that it was a great night to be at the theater.

On September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked America, 38 planes were forced to land in Gander, New Foundland, a town of 7,000 people. The passengers and crews essentially doubled the population of Gander overnight ("38 Planes.") The townsfolk rose to the occasion with endearing Canadian accents and personalities and welcomed the thousands of international passengers and crew members who were stranded in their small town for five days. They sing "blankets and bedding" as they put their daily lives aside to get toilet paper, diapers and tampons from local stores donating their entire inventories to those who had "come from away."

It's a feel-good story with feel-good music and most of the audience had a smile on their face for the entire show. Passengers fall in love, break up, become friends with each other, experience minor conflict and develop friendships with the locals. And the locals feed, clothe and house all of them. Wouldn't we all like to think we'd do the same thing- give of ourselves relentlessly and unconditionally without a second thought? The New Foundlanders in Gander and nearby towns did this with no idea of the possibility that, well, one day their story could be made into a successful, entertaining and important Broadway Musical.

My favorite song was "Me and the Sky" sung by Jenn Colella as Beverley, the first female American Airlines Captain who was grounded with her passengers and crew in Gander on 9/11. If there was an ensemble star of Come From Away, it was Ms. Colella and it was this song that brought the audience applause to life more than any other 

The standing ovation at the end of Come From Away was surely for the show and not for the Clintons as Hillary managed to sneak out undetected underneath the audience's applause; Bill Clinton, on the other hand, shook hands and let people take photos with him as he exited the theater. And he clapped for the cast and crew as he did.

And those aromatic leftovers? I can't think of another steakhouseseafood in Manhattan (or Vegas for that matter) that does steak AND seafood the way Striphouse does http://www.striphouse.com. A crowd pleaser from the second you walk through the entrance into the siren red elegant but not stuffy interior, I've never encountered a waiter who so poetically described menu specials. To start, we were talked into the half seafood plateau which came out looking so fresh I felt like we'd feel the restaurant docking any second. We indulged in a lobster claw, tuna tartare, calamari, oysters, clams, mussels, and super jumbo sized shrimp. Next, we had the NY Strip cooked to perfection as well as the Kobe/Wagyu steak special. The NY Strip was crisp and seasoned on the outside and somehow perfectly tender in the middle. The Kobe/Wagyu special was served sliced with our waiter-recommended sides. We ordered brussels sprouts roasted with Asian pears and black truffle creamed spinach which I have been craving ever since. A Wine Spectator award winner, Striphouse has a generous wine list including reserve wines (from their cellar) served by the glass. House cocktails were absolutely delectable, particularly the Hibiscus Julep and the Manhattan which came in a fun brass cup. We couldn't resist dessert when it was sold to us as one of the most famous chocolate cakes in America; the 24-layer chocolate cake. (And we counted- it's definitely 23 layers and there was probably a 24th layer in there somewhere.) It is worthy of its accolades and is served impressively non-collapsed and weighing what felt like a good five pounds. Worth every calorie consumed.

chocolatecakeCome From Away: Gerald Schoenfeld Theare, 236 W. 45th Street, New York, NY. Tickets available online  at the box office or by phone at telecharge 212-239-6200

Striphouse Midtown: 15 W. 44th Street, New York, NY. Open for lunch and dinner weekdays, dinner weekends. 212-336-5454 

The Vibrant Dishes of Vietnam at Vietnam's Central in Scarsdale

vietnamscentralBalance between sweet and salty, fresh and fermented, cooling and warming, with hints of mint, cilantro, lemongrass and fish sauce.... Yes, I'm describing the vibrant cuisine of Vietnam as prepared at the new Vietnam's Central in Scarsdale. Our local Westchester communities offer a vast array of international restaurant choices. When it comes to Vietnamese cuisine the choices are not too great. How joyful it was to note the new Vietnam's Central which recently opened on Central Avenue in Scarsdale at the site of the former Pagoda Restaurant.

I was warmly greeted by the gracious owner and Chef Tuong Bui, aka Tom. The space, which seats about 70, is simply decorated with leather booths, banquettes and free standing tables. Bamboo screens, a tin ceiling, light wood floors and sheer white curtains give the room a clean, light appearance. There are no distractions as you concentrate on the terrific dishes offered. Tom describes his restaurant as eccentric and unique: "My menu combines traditional and creative dishes. In the future, I hope to open other similar dining spots." Owner Tuong Bui learned his craft from his mother and his brothers, who own restaurants in Dallas. Tuong moved on to Tribeca and most recently to Scarsdale. "I like the space in Westchester. It is not as congested as the city. My mother's instruction was hands on. She would let me cook on Sundays. She would give me the ingredients and I honed my skills under her guiding hands and I learned to cook our very diverse cuisine."

At Vietnam's Central Tom works with his wife Kim Doan and his sister in law Nhu Doan. "We do not overcook our food, and we use many raw vegetables. Our meats are cooked medium rare. Everything is cooked to order so we can adjust the spicing or eliminate ingredients upon our guest's requests. Most important is treating our guests well. My favorite part of my work is meeting many people and observe them enjoying their experience here." When asked whom he would like to serve, his answer was "Angelina Jolie and Richard Gere. They are both very successful in their careers and use their money to help people around the world."

van spring rollOur tasting was a selection of many dishes which first appealed to our eyes, then to our sense of smell and finally to our taste. Our exceptional starters included Van Spring Rolls. A rice paper wrapper encased mixed greens, a choice of chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu with lemon zest and a sweet orange sauce. It is a favorite of Tom's child Van. Exceptional lemon shrimp followed. The large shrimp were lightly breaded and fried and served with a house made lemon sauce. Lemon zest and the white part of the lemon beneath the skin lent a mild, smooth and very lemony taste. We cleansed our palate with a lovely calamari and avocado salad. A creamy mild avocado sauce acted as the base for mixed spring greens layered with lightly breaded fried rings of calamari. A light vinaigrette completed this refreshing salad.

Among the soups, the classic "pho" is a specialty of the house. Here, it is prepared with a broth that simmers with beef bones for 8-10 hours. Rice noodles, cilantro, onions and scallions add flavor and a choice of chicken, shrimp, beef or pork are offered. The dish is garnished with bean sprouts, basil and lime. The summer day of our visit reached in the mid nineties so we will sample this flavorful bowlful on a cooler day. Hot and sour soup and chili noodle soup are other options.

A starter of catfish mango was quite delicious and is only offered when green mango is available. The catfish filet is lightly breaded and fried in canola oil. Topping the fish is a chopped mixture of green mango, cilantro, shallots and chili sauce, creating a perky and delicious dish. The Vietnam's ribs were a favorite. As you pick up the sesame seed encrusted ribs, be sure to keep your plate beneath them, as the succulent meat will surely fall right off the bone and into the plate. Served with pickled daikon and cucumber they were a taste to behold. A future visit may include Vietnamese beef carpaccio marinated in lime juice with crushed peanuts or charbroiled pork and fried shrimp rolls that are assembled at the table.

From the entrees, we sampled the grilled marinated pork chop. The marination on the pork brings out flavors of honey and lemongrass. Salt and pepper calamari served on a bed of iceberg lettuce was another fine choice. Sautéed with onions and scallions and generously seasoned, it was tasty and simple.

stir fried noodle chickenVietnam is an important exporter of rice and we enjoyed their jasmine variety. In Vietnam, rice appears at every meal in the form of rice noodles, rice paper, sticky rice or fried rice. We loved the jasmine fried rice with vegetables and chicken. Unlike Vietnam's Chinese neighbors, no soy sauce is used in this dish. Stir fried egg noodles with a variety of crisp, lightly cooked vegetables was a dish of many textures. Rather than pouring it over all of the noodles, the homemade sauce should be used as a dipping sauce in order to savor the many levels of taste. Yet to be tried are the many vegetarian choices. Tofu in the flavor of shrimp, beef, fish or chicken is available in many dishes. Even the pho can be prepared in a vegetarian manner. Everything here is prepared to ensure freshness.

Desserts include a Vietnamese version of caramel flan with a caramelized coffee syrup, halo with ice cream and nuts, evaporated milk on shaved ice and an intriguing taro pudding. This coconut flavored taro confection was served warm and topped with crushed peanuts. It was truly a dessert soup, soothing and unique.

Whether you are a veteran of Vietnamese cuisine or a newcomer, I believe you will find your dining experience at Vietnam's Central very pleasant. Owner Tuong Bui indicated that his singular goal is "to leave you wanting for more." For me, his goal was fulfilled, as I plan to return very soon.

Vietnam's Central
694 Central Park Avenue
Scarsdale
914 723 7222

www.vietnamscentral.com

Recipe:

Vietnamese Salt and Pepper Shrimp {Serves 2}

salt pepper shrimpIngredients:
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 scallion cut into knuckle sized slices
1 onion cut into small wedges
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup canola oil
Salt and crushed black pepper to taste
¼ ounce butter
Lettuce in small wedges

Process:
Wash and dry shrimp and lightly dip in flour. Heat oil in wok or skillet. Stir fry onions and scallions. Add shrimp and stir fry until golden. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper to taste. Drain off excess oil. Toss in butter until it melts and mingles with the ingredients. Serve with lettuce wedges.

Become a Music Together Teacher and Begin a Fulfilling and Flexible Career

musictogetherMusic Together, the award-winning, international early childhood music and movement program developed in Princeton, New Jersey, is offering an exciting three-day Teacher Training Workshop at Starlight Starbright Music, 78 Garth Road, July 21-23. Participants who successfully complete the three-day training become eligible to teach Music Together classes, either at an existing location or by applying for a license to open and operate a Music Together center of their own.

Being a Music Together teacher is a flexible, fulfilling, and exciting part-time career choice. The thousands of successful Music Together teachers around the world are musicians, actors, dancers, stay-at-home parents, educators, and retirees. No formal academic degree is required to become a Music Together teacher.

The upcoming three-day workshop provides opportunities to learn about how to assess children's rhythmic and tonal development, techniques for presenting Music Together materials, strategies for lesson-planning, and much more. There will also be live early childhood music demonstration classes on each day of the workshop, teaching children and their parents using the Music Together curriculum.

Since 1987, Kenneth K. Guilmartin, Founder/Artistic Director of Music Together, has been a pioneer in teaching parents and caregivers how to nurture their children's musical growth. "Our mission is to enable children and the adults who love them to become comfortable with musical expression and to develop musically at their own pace," says Guilmartin. "Childhood music development is a natural process, just like language development. Every child is born with the ability to make music. Our teachers provide the right environment to nurture and support that music making. We welcome teachers to the Music Together community who are passionate about music education and supporting the bond that music creates between young children and their parents and caregivers."

The cost of the three-day Music Together Teacher Training is $475. Graduate credits, CMTE credits, and CEUs are available. For additional information and to register, visit www.musictogether.com or contact Chris Marietti at (800) 728-2692 x326 or cmarietti@musictogether.com.

Music Together is an internationally recognized, developmentally appropriate early childhood music and movement program for children from birth through grade two. First offered to the public in 1987, the Music Together curriculum, coauthored by Guilmartin and Dr. Lili Levinowitz, is based on the recognition that all children are musical. All children can learn to sing in tune, move with accurate rhythm, and participate with confidence in the music of our culture, provided that their early environment supports such learning. Music Together offers programs for families, schools, at-risk populations, and children with special needs in over 2,500 communities in 41 countries. The company is passionately committed to bringing children and their caregivers closer through shared music-making and helping people discover the joy—and educational value—of early music experiences. More at www.musictogether.com and www.facebook.com/musictogether.

Hoff Barthelson Seniors Perform Graduation Recital

sopranosFour graduating sopranos from Scarsdale High School gave a recital at Hoff –Barthelson on Monday night June 19, presenting a delightful array of classical and contemporary selections. The concert was the culmination of years of music and voice lessons at Hoff-Barthelson, celebrating their considerable accomplishments.

The performers included sisters and twins Josie and Louisa Blatt with Jane Glaser and Caroline Kaufman. Each performed as a soloist, in duets and as a group when they sung Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and completed the concert with a medley of Disney songs.

Along the way, there were two songs from Hamilton, the Musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, a musical rendition of the poems of Emily Dickinson, and a performance of Carole King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" by Josie Blatt who played the piano to accompany herself singing the well-loved song.

Louisa Blatt used her powerful voice and dramatic presentation skills to sing Franz Schubert's "Die Forelle" in German as well as "Happy to Keep his Dinner Warm" from the show, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." Jane Glaser charmed the audience with her rendition of Carmichael's "Skylark" and Caroline Kaufman gave a beautiful and moving performance of the song "Reflection" from Mulan, also by Lin Manuel Miranda.

The concert was a treat for everyone lucky enough to be there. Bravo to the vocalists.

Young Magicians to Stage SHS Performance on June 15th

nothingupmysleevesScarsdale is about to get a little more magical. For his Senior Options project, David Calamari will be presenting a magic show titled "Nothing Up My Sleeves", the proceeds of which will go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The show will feature his magic as well as the magic of other young performers. I've had the privilege of seeing some of David's magic firsthand and asked him a couple of questions about his process and the upcoming show. The show will be on June 15th in the SHS auditorium and you can purchase tickets online by clicking here.

When did you first become interested in magic?

I became interested in magic when I was three years old. My uncle showed me a trick where he took a coin, placed it in his hand, and made it disappear. He didn't tell me how it was done, and that kept me interested. My parents could see my interest and they bought me a magic kit for my fourth birthday. My dad then began taking me to Tannen's Magic Shop, the oldest magic shop in the country, which is in NYC.

How do you learn and develop new tricks?

I learn magic primarily from other magicians, and from reading books. Learning the trick is only part of it, the next part if finding a way to present it in a way that doesn't make it seem like a challenge to the audience, but rather some experience that I am sharing with them. I do enjoy learning other magicians' magic, but I also enjoy creating for myself. I go about this in a lot of different ways depending on what I'm going for. Recently, I have been using magic to show things I think about, and how I see the world, but not all of my material is like that. I try to have a wide range of emotions when I do a show, so at one point, the audience is laughing, and at another point, they are carefully listening to a compelling story. My inspiration comes from many different places, usually not other magicians. I have taken ideas from movies to create magic, I have made a routine out of a board game, so there is never an exact science to creating. Whenever I have an idea, whether it be a concept for an entire routine, or just a small moment of something that I want to adapt, I write it down in a notebook or on my phone, and later combine and play with those ideas to create something new.

Do you have any favorite tricks?

That is a really hard question. My favorite trick is always changing, because I don't like doing the same thing for a long period of time, so I am constantly changing what I am doing, to keep myself from getting bored. Each time I am doing new material, my favorite thing to perform usually changes.

Do you get your inspiration from any specific sources?

Not really. I never get inspiration from one specific source. I get inspired by a lot of things. Movies, books, personal experiences, and other magicians sometimes.

What advice would you give to someone interested in learning magic?

My advice to anybody interested in magic would be to read books to learn magic. I have found that this is the best way to learn really good magic. Also, go to an actual brick and mortar magic shop instead of buying things online. The number of shops that are around today continue to dwindle, which is not good. Magic shops are incredible places to meet new people, share ideas, and learn from others. You really can't get the same experience with an online magic shop.

What was it like to rehearse for your show? Is there anything you're particularly excited to show off?

Rehearsing is a little stressful. I have put together several new bits for this show, so I have never done them before. I am really excited about doing them, but also a little nervous. I am beyond honored to be raising money for such an amazing cause, so that eliminates some of the nerves because I know everyone is coming to have a good time. I am really excited to show off a couple of illusions that I have put together, because stage illusions are totally new to me. It was an interesting learning process, as staging and lighting and body movements have a lot more to do with illusions than other things I have done in the past.

Remember to go see David and other magicians at their show on June 15th in the SHS auditorium!

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