So You Wanna Visit the Broad Museum?

Today, I dedicated 3 hours of my life to visiting Los Angeles’ latest contemporary art space, The Broad (note: it’s pronounced brode not brawd… ) Opened in September 2015, the brand new museum has already become one of the city’s most instagrammed venue, thanks to some amazing (and very photogenic) art from the private collection of philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, as well as a stunning building designed by world-renowned architectural firm Diller Scofido + Renfro. When I said I dedicated 3 hours to the museum, I should specify that only one of those was spent inside. The other two I spent lining up outside in the standby line. I learned a few things visiting The Broad, so here are a few tips for you:

BOOK ADVANCE TICKETS IF YOU CAN

Entry into The Broad is free BUT you need advance tickets. The website doesn’t really tell you when those will be available, so your best bet if you’re looking to go on a specific date is to sign up for their newsletter to be notified when spots will be released. Right now, you can also purchase tickets to the special exhibit Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life. They’ll set you back $12 but also include general admission to the museum.  

Cindy Sherman exhibit at The Broad in Los Angeles

If that’s not an option, you can do as I did and wait in the standby line. The museum opens at 11AM on weekdays, and 10AM on weekends. You can follow The Broad Standby Line on twitter to get updates on what the wait time will be like. On a weekday in June, I got in line 2 hours ahead of opening time and was the third person there. Within 20 minutes, the line wrapped around the building, so get there early, especially on Saturdays and Sundays when it’s more crowded. By 11:15AM, just 15 minutes after the museum opened I got to go in. Woohoo! Here’s my tip if you’re going to go the early morning route like I did: grab coffee and food before you get in the line. G & B Coffee at Grand Central Market is just a few steps away (153 steps along the Angel Flights tracks to be exact) and their delightful almond-macadamia milk latte is bound to make waiting a little less painful. 

 

BOOK THE INFINITY MIRROR ROOM IMMEDIATELY UPON GETTING IN

One of the highlights of The Broad, and one of its most instagrammed spot, is Yayoi Kusama‘s “Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away.” The small, shimmering, mirror-lined, experimental space will dazzle you with its seemingly infinite number of LED lights. It’s quite trippy, so it’s probably a good thing you’re only allowed 45 seconds in there – just the right amount of time to snap that perfect #infinityroom selfie!

Infinity Mirrored Room by Yayoi Kusama at the Broad in Los Angeles

To book your spot for this experience, rush to the left of the escalator in the lobby as soon as you get into the museum and enter your name and cell phone number into an iPad that’s provided for that purpose.

How to get into the Infinity Mirrored Room at The Broad

Once that’s done, get back to the lobby, soak up its cavernous look and head up the escalator to the third floor gallery, which houses most of the museum’s collections. You’ll receive a text message in approximately 45 minutes to an hour letting you know when your time in the room is up. Head back downstairs (don’t miss taking a glimpse at the museum’s central vault on the way!) and wait in line (again) until it’s your turn to spend 45 seconds in the infinity mirrored room.

How to get into The Broad's Infinity Mirrored RoomHow to get into The Broad's Infinity Mirrored Room

You can go in on your own, or with a friend/significant other if you prefer but they won’t let more than 2 or 3 people in at the time.

BRING A GOOD CAMERA

Photography is allowed and encouraged at The Broad so bring your good camera and go all out. While not as striking as its Frank Gehry designed neighbour, the museum is still a work of art in its own right. Diller Scofidio + Renfro, best known for the High Line in Manhattan, designed the 120,000-square-foot museum with the Walt Disney Concert Hall in mind and contrasted its smooth silver curves with a solid white block. Its honeycomb facade, known as the veil, softens the structure and makes for stunning pictures if you’re lucky enough to be there on a sunny day (I wasn’t… darn California June fog!)

The Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles

Inside, there are numerous fun photo opps, like the previously mentioned Infinity Mirrored Room but also a couple of pieces by Jeff Koons (always picture-worthy!), El Anatsui’s 2010 Red Block which makes for a cool backdrop to any selfie or Robert Therrien’s “Under the Table.” Here’s a couple of shots I took in the gallery. 

Keith Haring's Red Room at The BroadTulips by Jeff Koons at The BroadDouble America 2 by Glenn Ligon

One last tip about the art: the museum staff, known as visitor services associates, is numerous (seriously, there’s a small army of them here to help you) and SUPER knowledgeable.  WhileThe Broad has a pretty neat app that you can download ahead of your visit, I found chatting with the VSAs a lot more interesting!

 

SPEND AN HOUR IN THE MUSEUM THEN EXPLORE DOWNTOWN

The Broad is a perfect starting point to visiting downtown Los Angeles, especially if you’ve paid good money to park in a garage. It’s right next to Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall (tip: check out the peekaboo view from the Lichtenstein room on the third floor) and a quick walk to Grand Park (I love that park and its pink chairs!) or Grand Central Market. If you do The Broad in the morning, that’s the perfect spot to grab lunch afterwards!

Peekaboo windows into the Walt Disney Concert Hall from The Broad

Lichtenstein Room at The Broad

Have you visited The Broad yet? If yes, do you have any additional tips you’d like to share? 

Legal Eats: Justices Dish Out On Supreme Court’s Food History & Traditions

Greetings from California! Before leaving Washington Thursday morning, I attended one of those only-in-DC events that reminded me why I love living in the city so much. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg sat down with Catherine E. Fitts, Curator of the Supreme Court, and Clare Cushman, Director of Publications of the Supreme Court Historical Association, to dish out about their personal eating habits as well as reflect on the food traditions and culture of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sotomayor discussing food at the Legal Eats events on March 31 in Washington, DC

The panel was a part of the Smithsonian’s ongoing Food History Programs at the National Museum of American History (same as the Battle of Paris anniversary event I attended recently). Not only was it really neat to be seating less than ten feet away from two associate justices, but they were there to talk about a topic that I could actually understand: food!

Among the tidbits of Supreme Court history I learned that evening is that its history was always intertwined with food. Prior to the establishment of the Federal City, the United States government resided briefly in New York and after the first Supreme Court meeting in 1790, the Justices went to a local tavern for dinner where they made 13 different toasts, including one to the Constitution. When the capitol moved to Philadelphia, the court did too before settling in the District in 1800. Until 1810, the Court had no permanent location and eventually began to meet  in a room in the basement of the Capitol. Back then, the Justices would all live together in a boarding house, while their families stayed behind back home. They shared all of their meals together there, until the 1930s when they finally got their own building which included a cafeteria for lawyers and staff as well as a dining room for the Justices.

Today, the Justices don’t eat together as often, though they do break bread on occasion, especially when the court is in session. One rule at the lunch-table though: no discussion of ongoing cases and an avoidance of controversial topics. Instead, the 8 (for now) of them talk children/grandchildren and sports. RBG doesn’t contribute much to those discussions, she noted and Sotomayor added that she loves baseball, but that Justice Kagan was the real sports-fan of the lot. They also talk about the latest exhibit they may have seen, including many at the Smithsonian Institutions, and books. All justices are voracious readers who love discussing their latest reads. Occasionally, they’ll invite a speaker to join them for lunch and that sounded like the most awesome guest series in town with the likes of Condoleezza Rice, Alan Greenspan, the head of the National Zoo and others (occasionally Justices from foreign countries) joining them to share a meal over what I’m sure is a fascinating conversation. Justices also always get together when a former colleagues comes to town and to celebrate each other’s birthdays. In addition to being one of the nation’s top tax law professors and practitionners, Martin Ginsburg, the late husband of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was also a talented cook who used to bake for those occasions. Today, Chief Justice Roberts will bring the cake, as well as wine to toast the birthday guy or gal. RBG, who was elegantly dressed with purple lace gloves, joked that there would always be singing though “truth be told, most of them can’t carry a tune.” She also brought up that Justices now get together when a former colleague comes back to town and before the State of the Union. Showing that she has a great sense of humour and that she can laugh at herself, Justice Ginsburg recalled the time when Justice Kennedy brought bottles of Opus Wine to that gathering, which she really enjoyed. “It was the first time I fell asleep during the State of the Union ” she joked.

Other than wine, Justices will typically bring some treats to share with their colleagues. In the past, they would be local delicacies from their hometown or regions, like salted cod from Boston. More recently, Sandra Day O’Connor used to share the beef jerky her brother would make. “It was very spicy,” noted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “I bet I would have liked it,” replied Justice Sotomayor. And of course, as was highlighted at the time of his death, Justice Scalia was an avid hunter who would bring back everything from fish to fowl, though Justice Breyer had a bit of a hard time introducing one of the pheasant he brought back to his grandchildren apparently…

A couple of other fun tidbits I noted: Justice Harlan Fiske Stone (1925-1946) was a big cheese fan and would bring a whole platter of his favourites to eat for lunch. This prompted Justice Sotomayor to mention that, if she could have lunch with any 2 justices from the past, she would pick him in addition to John Marshall and Thurgood Marshall… because you know he would bring good food! On her own food habits, Sotomayor appreciates Puerto Rican cuisine, mostly that of her mom and sister, but hasn’t mastered how to make it well herself. Ever the typical New Yorker, she mentioned being a big fan of food deliveries, though those are not easy to get through the Court’s security 😉 When her clerks come over, they will try to order in from different places so they can try new things and she also relies on them for restaurant recommendations. Justice Bader Ginsburg, on the other hand, relies on her daughter to eat properly now that her husband has passed away. On her husband’s culinary skills, RBG quipped that he “developed a fondness for the kitchen shortly after I made my first meal.”

This was definitely one of the best events I’ve attended recently. Check out a complete listing of upcoming event for the Smithsonian’s Food History Programs. They always have some good ones coming up! 

Weekend Highlights: Road Tripping in Pennsylvania and a Brewery Wedding

It’s wedding season! How many do you have lined up for the summer? Over the weekend, we headed to Berwick, Pennsylvania, to see our good friend David tie the knot at a local brewery. This being me and Berwick being in the middle of nowhere, I broke the trip up and squeezed in a little (rainy) keystone state sightseeing… 

Pennsylvania State Sign

We left the day before the wedding and spent a night at the Candlelight Inn in Ronks, in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. It rained the entire ride up but cleared up just enough by the time we got to Lancaster Central Market for a late lunch. Lancaster Central Market is the oldest continuously operated farmers’ market in the country. It’s smaller than Reading Central Market in Philadelphia but it’s in the heart of Amish country and offers a mix of produce stalls, bakeries and other more recent addition like Saife’s Middle Eastern Food and Narai Exotic Thai Cuisine. Lancaster’s German roots have made it a center for pretzel bakeries (the country’s first commercial bakery was established in Lititz in 1861) so I opted for a traditional, salted hand rolled soft pretzel. Best pretzel I ever had!

Soft hand rolled pretzel in Lancaster, PA

There’s a number of coffee shops inside the market, including Lancaster County Coffee Rosters, but we headed next door for an elf-sized latte at Rabbit and Dragonfly, a cute bookstore and cafe inspired by the works of Lewis and Tolkien

Tolkiens Themed Coffee Shop in Lancaster PA

If it had kept raining, we could have staying for a game or chess or something, but the rain miraculously cleared away so we took advantage of that instead. Since it was a Friday, we stopped by the Green Dragon Farmers Market & Auction in Ephrata. Otherwise, we just drove around on smaller roads, passing through miles of rolling farmland, covered bridges and the occasional Amish horse-drawn buggy. 

Horse drawn buggy in Amish Country

Our last stop before hitting the road to Harrisburg was Dutch Haven. It’s impossible to miss on Route 30 and I had to try a little shoo-fly pie 😉

Dutch Haven on Route 30

In Pennsylvania’s capital, we caught the 11AM guided tour of the state capitol, which is absolutely stunning. Theodore Roosevelt called it the “most handsome building I ever saw” and I can totally see why. Its grand staircase was modeled after that of the Palais Garnier, the Paris opera house, and its dome ceiling was inspired by paintings at the Vatican, so it’s all pretty ornate! We didn’t have much time to linger and explore the rest of the city. The area around the capitol seemed pretty dead on a Saturday anyway and we had a wedding a two hour drive away to get to!

Pennsylvania State Capitol

Pennsylvania State Capitol

Pennsylvania State CapitolThe ceremony and reception were lovely, if casual, at Berwick Brewing Company. I’d been to a winery wedding before but never a brewery one. Have you? It was super fun meeting the bride and groom’s families, reconnecting with old colleagues and making new friends. One of my favourite element of the wedding: the couple eschewed the traditional wedding cake (and many other typical wedding elements you come to expect at an American wedding) for a bunch of pies. I like pies (and also didn’t have a wedding cake at my wedding… ) And I loved trying the different brews too! Check out the groom’s beer-themed wedding details! I loved that too!

Berwick Brewery Wedding Details

On our way back, to break up the return drive a bit, we stopped at Gettysburg National Military Park. It’s actually only a two hours away from Washington, DC via Frederick so I don’t know why we’d never been. We did the self guided auto tour, which took us about an hour and a half. If we had a packed a little differently, I would have loved to hike one of the trails near the battlefields. I guess that gives us a reason to come back right?

Gettysburg National Military Park

Sachs Covered Bridge Near Gettysburg

How was your weekend? Did you have to deal with as much rain as we did? 

Catch These French Films at Filmfest DC

FilmFest DC 2016

In the winter months, I try to cram in as many oscar-nominated films as I can before the awards are given out. After that movie-binge, I typically take a needed break from the cinemas. Until April and Filmfest DC

Filmfest is the District’s first, largest and only international film festival. Between April 14 and 24, 2016 Filmfest DC will celebrate 30 years of delighting Washington cinephiles with a really impressive line-up of 75 movies from 45 different countries. As always, that includes a number of films from France and Belgium. Here are some of the French(-ish) or French-language films you can look forward to this year. 

THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENTLe tout nouveau testament

The poster claims that “G-d exist… and he lives in Brussels.” Colour me intrigued, especially since the film is directed by Jaco Van Dormael who has made such great films as Toto the Hero or The Eight Day. In the story, G-d (Benoit Poelvoorde — catch him in Romantics Anonymous available on DVD on Netflix!) is alive and grumpy in the Belgian capital, where he controls the universe from his computer and torments his family, including his wife the amazing Yolande Moreau and 10 year old daughter, Ea. To get back at her dad, Ea sends everyone their death dates via SMS… and that’s just the beginning. Intrigued? You should be! The film was Belgium’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards, making the December shortlist of nine films, but falling just short of being nominated (it was nominated but didn’t win at France’s Cesars.) Watch the trailer here and catch The New Testament at AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 21 at 6:30PM or April 22 at 6:30PM. (In French with English subtitles.)

BELGIAN RHAPSODY 

Belgian rhapsody

Belgian Rhapsody illustrates the competition between the small country’s two linguistic groups – the French-speaking Walloons and the Flemish –  through the fierce battle of two brass bands vying for a European championship. The exuberant Wallo-Flemish musical comedy will be shown at Landmark’s E Street Cinema on April 18 at 8:45PM and April 23 at 5PM. (In Dutch and French with English subtitles.)

THE MEASURE OF A MANla loi du marche

I just saw posters for this film in new York City, which makes me think it has the best chance out of all the movies on this list to actually make it to theater in Washington, DC. Vincent Lindon is always superb and won awards for his performance both at Cannes and at the Cesars. This terrific drama echoes the Dardenne brothers’ “Two Days, One Night” in its exploration of what people are willing to do to keep their jobs. Here, Lindon portrays a fifty-something former factory worker, who after being unemployed for 20 months, finally accepts a soul-destroying job as a security guard for a megastore.  The movie is co-presented by the French Embassy where it will show on April 22 at 7PM. It will also show at AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 16 at 5PM. (In French with English subtitles.) The French Embassy will be screening another film, Anne Fontaine’s The Innocents, immediately following The measure of a man, at 9PM on April 22 if you feel like a French double feature. Details here

MY KING

Speaking of acting awards at Cannes, its director Emmanuelle Bercot, who also plays the tittle character in this movie (called Maiwenn in French), won that last year. Her film focuses on Maiween who tears up her knee cap skiing in the opening sequence. As her therapist hints that the whole thing was more of a cry for help than an accident she looks back at her life with her man-child partner Giorgio (swoon worthy Vincent Cassel) and remembers the highs and lows of their life together. My King is showing at AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 15 at 6:30PM and at Landmark’s E Street Cinema on April 17 at 5:30PM. (In French with English subtitles.)

My King

 

THE WHITE KNIGHTS

But back to Vincent Lindon. He leads the Move For Kids organization in this provocative Franco-Belgian drama that looks at the darker side of humanitarian assistance. Directly inspired by real events (the highly suspect story of French NGO Zoe’s Ark whose members were arrested in 2007 for illegally trafficking children they claimed to be orphans from war-torn Darfur) The White Knight raises many questions and offers no easy answers about what is wrong and what is right… what my husband would dub an excellent but infuriatingly French film 😉 Catch The White Knight at AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 15 at 9PM or at Landmark’s E Street Cinema on April 22 at 6:30PM. (In French with English Subtitles.)

The White Knights

 

LOVE & FRIENDSHIPLove and Friendship

What is this very British love satire based on Jane Austen’s never-previously-filmed novella in letters Lady Susan doing in a list of French film you ask? Well, it’s co-produced by France, the Netherlands and Ireland. So there, French enough-ish! Plus it looks really good (I always love a good period film!) Brit Kate Beckinsale plays a widow who seeks refuge with her in-laws. As rumours about her private life begin to circulate, she sets out to find a husband for a herself, and a father for her daughter, the reluctant debutante Frederica. There’s only one showing at Landmark’s E Street Cinema on April 19 at 6:30PM so don’t miss it. (In English… no subtitles.)

3000 NIGHTS

Saying that I loved Room doesn’t feel quite right because the topic the film/book dealt with is so dark. 3000 Nights feels almost like Room and is also partially based on true stories, that of Palestinian women in Israeli prisons. In the film, Layla is unaccountably thrown into a police van and convicted. She ends up pregnant and in jail and is allowed to keep the child who grows up in a grim cell, knowing nothing of the outside world, but surrounded by love from his mother and her five Palestinian cell mates. Palestinian director Mai Masri is initially a documentary filmmaker and 3000 Nights concludes with a powerful documentary.

3000 Nights

A Palestine/France/Qatar/Jordan/UAE coproduction, the film is co-presented by the Embassy of Qatar and showing at Landmark’s E Street Cinema on April 21 at 8:30PM and AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 23 at 9:30PM. That last screening will be attended by the director too. (In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.)

MY INTERNSHIP IN CANADA

The festival saved the best for last with its closing film! Academy award nominated director Philippe Falardeau, of Monsieur Balthazar and The Good Lie fame, returns with a political satire featuring Starbuck’s Patrick Huard (one of my absolute favourite in-French film currently streaming on Netflix… watch it!!) as a former pro-hockey player whose career never took off because he was afraid to get on planes. Now an independent MP and the last honest man in office, his vote can decide the fate of legislation that could send the country to war. The PM relies heavily on guidance from his Haitian intern Souverain, who seems to know more about the ins and outs of Canadian politics than he does.

My Internship in Canada

While reviews agree that My Internship in Canada (watch the trailer here) doesn’t quite live up to its potential, you won’t want to miss this screening at AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 24th, the closing night of the festival, because it will be attended by director Philippe Falardeau and followed by a reception sponsored by the Office of Quebec. (In French, Creole, with some English dialogue and English subtitles.)

Are you looking forward to Filmfest DC this year? The list above is by no means exhaustive, just some French-ish movies that I would like to see during the festival. You can see a full list of all the films shown through April 24th right here. Let me know if you see anything good!  

Helping Raise/Raze Come to Life at Dupont Underground

Volunteering to build Raise/Raze at Dupont Underground

 

I had a ball – lame pun intended – volunteering at the Dupont Underground with some of my friends this morning. This was actually my first time in the abandoned trolley station which plans to open its doors to the public on April 30 with its first art exhibit, “Raise/Raze.” 

“Raise/Raze” was the winning  project of Re-Ball!, an open design competition for a site-specific installation in the underground space using the more than 650,000 translucent plastic balls from the National Building Museum‘s “Beach” installation. So today we helped built the installation by glue-ing a bunch of these balls together. 

Dupont Undergound

Volunteering at the dupont undergroundDupont Undergound

 

 

The making of Raise/Raze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We basically spent three hours in a small portion of the tunnel (it’s over a mile long in total) hot-glueing the balls in sets of three. Another station then turned these into bigger squares while a final station added velcro to it. Eventually, groups of up to 50 people will travel through different spaces within the tunnel and interact with the exhibit by moving the velcro-affixed 3x3x3 cubes around to create various shapes. And while I had a ton of fun with the hot glue gun there’s still a ton of work to be done… so if you have three hours to spare between now and April 24 you can help out too (sign up to volunteer here!)

Hot glue-ing the balls at Raise/Raze

Raise/Raze

Eventually the space is supposed to look like this:

Rendering courtesy of Dupont Underground and Hou de Sousa

Rendering courtesy of Dupont Underground and Hou de Sousa

Right now, that seems pretty abstract and kinda hard to visualize…. but I’m sure it’ll get there eventually and I can’t wait to see the final result! I really do hope that Raise/Raze will get the ball rolling on turning Dupont Underground into a hot cultural destination in Washington, DC. Just had to close on a lame ball pun too 😉 

For more background on the Dupont Underground revitalization project, check out this USA Today article. 

Watch La Famille Belier at l’Alliance Francaise

Grab some tissues and head to l’Alliance Francaise on April 1 to catch a screening of La Famille Belier. The feel good film was quite a hit in France in 2014, but it didn’t really come out in the United States 😦 I got to watch during my Air France flight back to Washington, DC last August and while the film is technically a comedy I found myself practically bawling in my crammed middle seat during the final scenes. Here’s the trailer with English subtitles:

La Famille Belier is a coming of age tale about Paula, a musically gifted teenager who has to come to terms with allowing her voice to be heard. The reason it’s so difficult for her is that both her parents and brother are deaf. Finding her voice and letting go is particularly difficult for Paula who knows her parents are dependent on her to speak and hear on their behalf in their every day life. But it’s also difficult for her parents and I challenge you to keep your eyes dry by the time Paula, played delicately by Louane Emera, sings about flying away. That’s when you’ll need your tissues…. And speaking of Louane and tissues, I also challenge you not to be moved by her sweet blind audition from season 2 of The Voice (yep, France has it own version of singing competition too!) 

You can catch La Famille Belier, in French with English subtitles at l’Alliance Francaise on April 1.

Postcard from NYC: 5 Things I Ate Last Week

Other than a week in Portugal for Thanksgiving, I don’t have a lot of trips planned this year. At least not fun trips… So I’m determined to make the most out every single work trip I have, starting with the one I just took last week to New York City. And that, of course, includes enjoying some good eats around town. There’s no shortage of restaurants in Manhattan. If anything the options are limitless and a bit overwhelming when you don’t have a lot of free time. Since I stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown many of the spots I ended up at are concentrated in that part of town. Here are some of my favourite eats from my last “work-cation” in New York City: 

ALL THE PINK PASTRIES AT DOMINIQUE ANSEL

I’ve been a fan of Dominique Ansel since before the whole cronut craze. I actually arrived in New York on Valentine’s Day so my first stops were Ladurée and Dominique Ansel, conveniently located right around the corner from each other in SoHo. Every year on February 14, the French pâtissier turns his entire pastry case pink. I grabbed two of the chestnut-cassis-rose Mont Blanc, two Paris-New York (a twist on the classic Paris-Brest) and the most amazing caramel eclairs with pink Himalayan salt. All were pink, of course, and all were amazing! 

Valentine's day at Dominique AnselValentine's day at Dominique AnselDominique Ansel Bakery is located at 189 Spring St.

 

HIBISCUS DONUTS FROM DOUGH DOUGHNUTS

In keeping with the pink theme, I loved this ginormous hibiscus donut from Dough Doughnuts. Luckily for me, Urban Space Vanderbilt just opened a stone’s throw away from the Roosevelt Hotel and Grand Central Station. The new food hall boasts fare from 21 different food purveyors like Red Hook Lobster Pound, Roberta’s or Kuro-Obi (from the team behind Ippudo ramen, a fabulous ramen spot in Manhattan). Between Toby’s EstateOvenly and Dough Doughnuts my mornings pretty much always started right (and early… good thing UrbanSpace opens its doors at 6:30AM!) After trying the pistachio cardamom bread from Ovenly, I’m a new fan of the Brooklyn bakery and I’m definitely planning to visit their cafe on Greenpoint avenue during another trip, when I have a little more free time.

Hibiscus doughnut from Dough Bakery

UrbanSpace Vanderbilt is at 45th St. & Vanderbilt Ave, in The Helmsley Building 

 

MISO RAMEN AT TOTTO’S RAMEN

The first time I made my parents wait over an hour outside of the tiny Hell’s Kitchen ramen restaurant for a bowl of soup, they weren’t too impressed (by the wait at least). But we’ve been going back to Totto Ramen ever since. I caught a later train back to Washington, DC so that I could attend a taping of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. You can read more about that here… when I had a quick hour and a half to kill between lines at the Ed Sullivan theater, I headed straight to Totto. This is one of the best spot for ramen in Manhattan and the Miso Paiten soup with ground pork, half boiled egg, scallions and char siu was just what I needed to warm up!  

Miso Paiten from Totto Ramen

Totto Ramen is located at 366 W 52nd St.

 

EVERYTHING AT IZAKAYA MEW

A basement in the middle of k-town is probably not where you’d expect an authentic Japanese izakaya but there it is! Izakaya Mew is actually a really popular late night spot and there’s usually a consequential wait to get a table, but I was able to snag a spot at the (tiny) bar since I was dining solo. It’s probably not the best spot actually if you’re eating alone since there’s only 6 seats at the bar and no television or bar tenders to distract you but the food is amazing and varied ranging from raw fish starters (called toriaezu or while you wait…) to hot pots, grilled skewers or gyoza, grilled seafood, noodles, ramen and sushi rolls. I tried the pumpkin roll since I had never seen something like that on a menu before, the grilled hokke fish (I *love* mackerel) and shishito pepper and the shime saba (told you I love mackerel). I washed everything down with a 300 ml bottle of Itami Onigoroshi, which kinda confused my waiter… Apparently, he thought I should have ordered a bigger bottle but I thought that was pretty good all by myself 😉

Charred shishito peppers at Izakaya Mew

Izakaya Mew is located in the basement of 53 W 35th Street.

 

THE NOVA SCOTIA BAGEL FROM MIKE’S BAGELS

For the record, I am and will always be team Montreal when it comes to bagels… but, you know, when in New York…. I happened to be in West Harlem/Washington Heights checking out some of the Audubon Mural Project street art and ordered Mike’s Nova Scotia (still gotta give Canada some love!) bagel, an everything bagel, toasted, with lox, red onions, capers, tomato & scallion cream cheese. It was almost enough to convert me. Almost… #TeamMontrealBagel

The Nova Scotia Bagel from Mike's Bagel

Mike’s Bagel is located at 4003 Broadway (at the 168th street metro)

 

BONUS: ALL THE WINE AT LA COMPAGNIE DES VINS SUPERNATURELS

I really wanted to check out this wine bar in SoHo, especially since I never got a chance to go to the Experimental Cocktail Club before it closed. Here’s a little background. Paris, and France in general, isn’t known for its cocktail culture (unless you count a kir royal as a cocktail…) but Frenchmen Romée de Goriainoff, Olivier Bon, and Pierre-Charles Cros sparked the new wave of the craft cocktail trend when they opened the insanely hard to get into speakeasy l’Experimental Cocktail Club in the Sentier neighbourhood in Paris. That spot was followed by a few others, including Beef Club which makes a mean steak tartare. They gave it a shot in New York City, but their location is currently closed for relocation. But they also opened a wine bar last year (there’s one in Paris as well, rue Lobineau in the 6eme, and in Neal’s Yard in London).

La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels - New York, NY Picture courtesy of Experimental events

La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels – New York, NY Picture courtesy of  the Experimental Group

There’s a selection of 600 wines, with a strong emphasis on French ones, and most of the by-the-glass options are poured using an Enomatic wine dispenser. If you know your wines, try the mystery wine, a $15-ish unidentified glass of wine that you can correctly guess to win the whole bottle (typically in the $100 price point). Try it!!! 

La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels is located at 249 Centre St. in SoHo. 

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I’m going back to New York for another (even shorter and busier) workation in April… any recommendations??? Those in midtown are always particularly appreciated 😉

 

Postcard from New York: Going to A Late Show Taping

Attending a taping of the Late Show with Stephen ColbertHere’s something free and unique to do if you have a spare afternoon in New York City: attend the live taping of a late (or late-late) night talk-show! I say afternoon, because a) while the shows air in the evening, tapings typically happen earlier that day b) even though you have to book your tickets in advance, there’s a lot of waiting around in lines involved before you can actually take your place in the audience. Here’s what my experience attending a live taping of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” was like.

But first, why The Late Show with Stephen Colbert? I actually watch the show every day and I absolutely love Stephen Colbert. I love his smart humour, and think his guests tend to be more interesting than those on other shows. Also, I was busy all week with work commitments and his late show is the only one that tapes on Fridays when I finally had some free time 😉

The first step if you want to see any late night talk-show  (Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers or Trevor Noah also shoot in New York City) is to go online and get (free) tickets. I knew exactly when I would be in New York and stalked the Late Show’s website for available tix, which are typically released a month in advance and go REALLY fast. I booked my spots for February 19th on January 11 to give you an idea of the timeline. Once you’ve got the tickets, you should clear out your calendar for that entire afternoon. Attending a live taping is a BIG time commitment and involves a lot of waiting around. Even with your pre-reserved tickets, you still need to queue to physically claim said ticket on the actual day of the taping and seats are first comes first served starting at 2PM. My ticket instructed me to get in line “no later than 3PM” but I showed up at the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway (between 53rd and 54th) at 1PM to get decent seats. Each show is overbooked, and reserving a spot is no guarantee that you’ll get in. At 2PM, the line started moving, as Late Show staff checked my reservation and my I.D. They gave me a numerical ticket (111/400… not bad!), stamped my hand with a black CBS logo and instructed me to come back at 3:45PM. 

CBS logo

That gave me about an hour and half to grab a late lunch. Luckily, I knew of two great options in Hell’s Kitchen, within a 5 minute walking distance: Danji and Totto’s Ramen, both on 51st street between 9th and 10th avenue. After standing an hour outside in the middle of February, ramen seemed like the best option to warm up!

Pre Stephen Colbert Late Show RamenTotto's Ramen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At my assigned time, I headed back to the Ed Sullivan theater and waited another 10 minutes lined up in numerical order based on my ticket. Our bags were scanned before we got to queue some more, this time at least in an indoor area inside the theater. Another pro-tip: if your bags are too large, they’ll make you check them so pack light. And I was able to go in with a bottle of water. That time of the waiting was possibly the worse because you’re crammed into a rather small room with 150 other people with 2 TVs cranking out old Stephen Colbert skits as only distraction. FINALLY, a young lady with a microphone welcomed us and reminded us of a few things: mainly, we’ll be filmed (duh!) and we’re not allowed to use our cell phones. I’d attended a few tapings of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart before so I knew the drill. No tweeting, snap-chatting, instagramming and NO photography whatsoever in the studio! Womp womp! 

Attending a taping of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert

IMG_6023IMG_6022

Finally, I sat down at my seat, on the fifth row, right in front of the band area. There’s pros and cons to sitting on the main level of the theater. The main pros are proximity to the stage, the host, and the guests but on the con side cameras do get in your way and you can’t see the beautiful projection on the ceiling of the theater. Around 5PM, comedian Paul Mecurio came onto the stage to get us pumped for the main show coming up. He reminded us quickly of our purpose today as audience: to laugh, preferably loudly, at Stephen’s jokes. He made a few jokes of his own and pulled a few people onto the stage, including a software engineer from Google and his friend who was an opera signer and had an absolutely beautiful voice. Then Stephen Colbert came in for a quick Q&A. The questions weren’t riveting but he did mention that his wife was in attendance with some of her girlfriends, which was pretty cool.

At around 5:45PM, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, the house band, came onto the stage to play a few tunes and before I knew it the taping was finally starting!! I will say Jon Batiste and Staying Humans are pretty awesome in person, even with an extra human tap-dancing in the “percussion” areas. I took a couple of screen shots of the show afterwards, which included special audience members from the Coast Guards, Chelsea Handler in a tight little white number, an awesome segment on Marco Rubio’s “Morning Again in America” ad that included references to some of my favourite Canadian things like DeGrassi and Poutine, Zosia Mamet and a performance of The Lumineers’ new  song Ophelia. 

Coast Guards members in the audience of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
IMG_5790Chelsea Handler on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert

About the guests – when you book tickets to the show, you have NO idea who the guests are going to be. Like, when I saw Jon Stewart in Washington, D.C., I had no idea that President Obama would be his guest… the day AFTER I got to be in audience. I don’t even remember who the guest was when I went… I just remember that it wasn’t Obama 😉 I’m pretty happy with who I got to see, though honestly I would have been happy with anyone, as just getting to be in the audience was quite the treat. One of the highlights of the show that evening though was the cute interaction between Colbert and his wife (“darling”), either during the taping or during the commercial breaks as well as his interaction with us the audience the few times that he had to re-tape a segment (quite a few times actually). Otherwise, the guests pretty much just ignore the audience 😦

After the show wrapped, Colbert did a few reshoots, including Zosia’s name, which he had mispronounced. He explained to us that earlier in the day, the building next to them had a sewers issues that had prevented them from being able to do their rewrites in their typical offices and that was one of the reasons the show’s taping appeared a bit frantic and disorganized. He chatted up with his wife a bit, asking her where she and friends were headed for drinks afterwards and that was that. I myself headed to Casellula for a post-Late Show glass of vino. Overall, I had a blast at the taping, it was so fun to see behind the scene of a show I watch everyday though it was a lot of waiting around, and definitely required some advance planning. Here’s my last pro-tip if you’re planning on being in the audience like I was: wear warm clothes! The theater is FREEZING so much that the staff is walking around in their coats. I definitely wished I’d worn a warmer sweater 😉

Have you ever attended a show’s tapping, whether in New York or Los Angeles? How was that experience for you? 

Postcard from Philadelphia ~ 5 Free Things To Do in the City of Brotherly Love

We’re spoiled here in Washington that most of our museums and historical attractions are completely free, making DC a very wallet-friendly destination for tourists and locals playing tourists. Like Washington, and just a quick bus or train ride away, Philadelphia is also rich in history and pretty affordable to explore, so long as you’re willing to put up with some lines 😉 Here are a few budget-friendly things to do in America’s former capital… 

VISIT AMERICA’S MOST IMPORTANT HISTORICAL SITES

Bonus: they’re all conveniently located within a square mile. Between 1790 and 1800, while the Federal City (<– DC) was under construction, Philadelphia got to be the temporary capital of the United States. Before that, it played a key role in the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers gathered there to sign the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (though of course, to actually see those, you have to come here to DC!) . The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and Congress Hall are all right there, right next to one another, and yes, they’re all free to explore, though you’ll need a timed ticket to get into Independence Hall, so get there early in the busy summer season (like 8:30AM).  

Liberty Bell in Philadelphia

Not as related to US history, but pretty cool nonetheless, is Dream Garden, a stunning mosaic made of 100,000 pieces of Tiffany Glass that graces the lobby of the Curtis Center, just a block away from Independence Hall along Washington Square. Since it’s in an office building, you have to visit it during business hours or before noon on Saturdays. 

 

WALK MURAL MILE

With over 3,000 public murals, Philadelphia is one of the top city for street art in the US. There’s a concentration of 17 of them over a 2.5 miles route downtown that’s known as Mural Mile. You can check out my blog post for more information on doing a self-guided tour. The recommended route starts at 7th and Chestnut, steps away from the independence visitor center so you can easily combine it with a visit to the city’s most famous monuments like the Liberty Bell. While on tour, make a detour and swing by Rittenhouse Square Park, where you will find the original La Colombe coffee shop location. Grab a glass of still or sparkling water… it’s free there!! 

Mural Mile in Philadelphia

CATCH A FREE PERFORMANCE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST FULLY FUNCTIONING PIPE ORGAN

Located in the Grand Court of a former Wanamaker department store (one of the oldest chain of department stores in the country) the 111 years old, 7 stories tall and 287 tons instrument is now one of the main reason to go shopping at the Macy‘s City Center. Grand Court Organ concerts are performed twice daily, Monday through Saturday (at 12PM and in the evenings). I found out about the organ in this Smithsonian Magazine piece and I’m definitely glad I did. 

CLIMB THE ROCKY STEPS 

If you’re not up for the exercise of the 72 steps hike leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, you can at least snap a pic with the statue of Rocky near the bottom of the stairs. Admission to the museum is a steep $20 but you can save a few bucks if you visit on the first Sunday of every month and after 5PM on Wednesday, when the museum charges a “Pay What You Wish”  admission fee. Also more affordable on the first Sunday of every month is the Barnes Foundation down the street on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, though tickets are limited and given on a first come first serve basis, so you’ll want to get there before 9AM. Next door to the Barnes Foundation, the Rodin Museum has a $10 suggested admission but is actually “Pay What You Wish” every day so you can leave less than that if you’re on a tight budget. The garden around the museum is free year round too. I know, it’s not as good as our Smithsonians here, but at least there are a few ways to see the art for free or close to free 😉

Rocky Statue in PhiladelphiaBarnes Foundation

Rodin Museum in Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLORE ONE OF THE GREATEST FOOD HALL IN THE COUNTRY. 

I hesitated to add Reading Terminal Market to the list because while it’s free to walk around and see all the different food stalls, you’ll have a hard time not reaching out for your wallet to purchase a bite or two or five. At Reading, you’ll find pretty much every type of cuisine you can think of, from Asian to Cajun but the most interesting are obviously the only-in-Philadelphia options like the family-run restaurants offering traditional (and very cheap) Pennsylvania Dutch fare (try the apple fritter at Beiler’s Donuts!), authentic Philly cheesesteaks at Spataros’ or decadent cannolis at Termini Brothers Bakery. And if the food isn’t free, the wifi is… so at least there’s that 😉 

Termini Brothers Cannoli

Reading terminal market

 

BONUS: SNAP A SELFIE WITH ROBERT INDIANA’S FAMOUS LOVE SCULPTURE.

Yes, there are LOVE sculptures all over the world now (including one, en español/Italian, right here in DC), but this one, installed in 1976 is probably the most famous one of them all! The park where it’s located, which everyone calls Love Park though it’s official name is JFK Plaza, is currently undergoing a major renovation. I can’t wait to see what it looks like when it’s done! For some more great instagram snaps, head down to Elfreth’s Alley, America’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street. 

Postcard from Philladelphia: Mural Mile

I didn’t venture too far for my first trip of 2016. Philadelphia is just an hour and half away from New York by train and less than two hours from Washington, so my NYC bestie Caitlin and I met up halfway for a quick early January birthdays day-trip in the City of Brotherly Love. Neither one of us had visited the new Barnes Foundation so we had agreed to make the new-ish museum our first stop (purchasing tickets for timed entry in advance is highly recommended). Afterwards, however, we took a break from the Renoirs to explore the open air “museum” that is Philadelphia’s Mural Mile. 

With more than 3,000 murals, Philadelphia is one of the top cities in the US for street art (according to this Huffington Post ranking, it’s # 2 in the country!). Most of the edgier and more interesting work is located in neighborhoods that tourists rarely venture to, like the Market Street corridor in West Philly, Point Breeze or the up-and-coming Fishtown. But not all and there’s a concentration of 17 of them over a 2.5 miles route downtown that’s known as Mural Mile. The recommended route to see them all starts at 7th and Chestnut, steps away from the independence visitor center so you can easily combine it with a visit to the city’s most famous monuments like the Liberty Bell.

Philadelphia's Mural Mile Map

While organized tours are available,  you can easily walk Mural Mile on your own using the map above from the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program’s website or this curated Google Map. Caitlin and I leisurely meandered through the streets, admiring the architecture of the city as well as the murals. Good thing it was unseasonably warm that day 😉 

 

Philadelphia's Mural Mile: A Taste of Summer by Ann Northrup

This lush mural about food as art by Ann Northrup is on the side of Vetri Ristorante, a landmark northern Italian restaurant at 1312 Spruce Street

Philadelphia's Mural Mile: Winter-Crystal Snowscape by David Guinn

Winter: Crystal Snowscape by David Guinn, one of four murals in the “Four Seasons” series painted by the Philadelphia based artist around town

Philadelphia's Mural Mile: Meg Saligman's 'Philadelphia Muses'

Meg Saligman’s ‘Philadelphia Muses’ is located near Avenue of the Arts, Philadelphia’s cultural center

Philadelphia's Mural Mile: 'Women of Progress' by Cesar Viveros and Larissa Preston

‘Women of Progress’ by Cesar Viveros and Larissa Preston shows the progression of women in various roles and professions over time. It’s painted on the side of the New Century Trust, an organization that highlights the contributions of women to society.

Philadelphia's Mural Mile: Gimme Shelter by David Guinn

Philadelphia native David Guinn painted “Gimme Shelter” near the Morris Animal Shelter on Lombard Street

They may not be the edgiest – or even the most colourful – but all of the 17 murals of Mural Mile give an insight into Philadelphia’s history, its communities and their creativity. They also sure look better than plain brick walls … and I can’t think of a better way to discover a new city!