Sunday, August 24, 2014

Not so Short '...Shorts' From Throughline Artists

Henny Russell and Will Dagger in "Napoleon in Exile," one of six plays in the "Summer Shorts" festival presented by Throughline Artists at 59E59 Theaters. Photos by Carol Rosegg.

BY TAMARA BECK

FASHIONS
change, but as the song says, "We wear short shorts." Covering everything with a tight little pair is a challenge.

The challenge is mostly met in the 2014 "Summer Shorts" festival, currently playing at 59E59 Theaters through 29 and 30 Aug. There was a time not so long ago when the Throughline Artists-produced series featured truly pithy plays. (http://www.summershortsfestival.com/throughline-artists.php)

This season, some are more a Bermuda shorts length. Only one is of a below-the-knee style. None would be considered really short shorts, which is not to suggest that most of the "Summer Shorts" in repertory on two bills – Series A and Series B – are anything but crisp and stylish.

The set design by Rebecca Lord-Surratt is all-purpose clever. It serves for the six plays with only minor alterations made by stagehands between playlets.

"Sec 310. Row D, Seats 5 and 6," written by Warren Leight, is of the comfortable, if casual style. Over many painful seasons watching the New York Knicks, three become friends, framing the story in "Sec 310..."

Miriam Silverman and Adam Green in "The Riverbed."

It's funny and extremely well-played by Peter Jacobson, Geoffrey Cantor and Cezar Williams under the direction of Fred Berner. This one is a genuine crowd-pleaser.

Neil LaBute's "The Mulberry Bush" captures the spirit of less is more. It is a neat and well-orchestrated one-act drama directed by Maria Mileaf. Victor Slezak and J.J. Kandel (also executive producer of " Summer Shorts") unravel a fascinating tale with finesse and understated daring.

Another highlight is "Riverbed,” written by Eric Lane and directed by Matthew Rauch. It uses alternating monologues to give witness to tragedy. Adam Green and Miriam Silverman imbue the story with life in admirable performances.

Peter Jacobson and Geoffrey Cantor in "Sec. 310, Row D, Seats 5 and 6."

This reviewer's favorite is "Napoleon in Exile,” written by Daniel Rietz and directed by Paul Schnee. The drama is a moving exchange between Henny Russell and Will Dagger as mother and son at a crisis crossroad.

Visit http://www.59e59.org/moreinfo.php?showid=180 to learn more about "Summer Shorts.”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Erickson Beamon and LeSportsac Want to Be Wherever You Are

Pieces from the Winter 2014 Collection of Erickson Beamon and LeSportsac. Photos by Yours Truly.

HEADS UP: Here we are, negotiating summer. What does this signify? Too many things to name. In the rag trade, however, one aspect of the season is the round of press previews of designer and brand fall-winter collections that end some time in August. Team VEVLYN'S PEN has not had much to say of late about fashion. We take this time, however, through late August to break our silence to jaw about what select brands and/or designers will have in store (literally) beginning in a matter of a few weeks through to the end of the year. Do bear with us, this is our maiden voyage into these waters outside of fashion weeks. Anchors aweigh!

WHAT happens in a mashup of Erickson Beamon and LeSportsac? An easy moniker along the lines of Urbo (Urban Bohemian) or Kimye(Kim Kanye) does not immediately emerge.

This bag has a message for you.

But what does materialize from this first-time collaboration is a 36-piece bejeweled (actual and print) travel accessories collection that is utterly fashionable and functional. The Winter 2014 collection, available beginning in October, has an answer for just about every occasion. Repurposing opportunities abound … More shortly

Visit http://www.ericksonbeamon.com to learn more about Erickson Beamon; visit https://www.lesportsac.com/ to learn more about LeSportsac/.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

PURE Study on Salt Has Critics All Shook Up

According to some, salt is at the root of many evils. Archive photo.

TALK about stirring the pot!

It's a four-letter word. Salt.

The medical community and the food community have doubleteamed over the last 30 years or so, damning salt, pillorying salt at every turn and telling everybody who has ears that too much salt is bad – very bad; very, very bad. Too much salt can make you ill. Too much salt can kill. Talk about character assassination!

Seemingly, everybody with ears got the memo: High-salt intake has been implicated in just about every ailment known to humanity with the possible exception of athlete's foot.

But imagine that the world is so consumed with avoiding salt that it is now consuming too little salt. And if that is the case, what are the consequences, particularly if high blood pressure is not involved?

Salt intake is intertwined with high blood pressure. Photo courtesy of WebMB Web site.

According to new thinking – published in no less a rag than “The New England Journal of Medicine” – that is not a good thing. Too little salt, like its polar opposite, can also cause problems.

In an article title, Urinary Sodium and Potassium Excretion, Mortality, and Cardiovascular Events, a group of researcher suggests that consuming too little sodium can also cause “cardiovascular events.”

What's that noise? The hue and cry. Talk about stirring the pot! … More shortly

Visit http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1311889 to read “Urinary Sodium and Potassium Excretion, Mortality, and Cardiovascular Events.”

Friday, August 15, 2014

Expending a Lot of Energy Trying to Shoot Sly Stallone, 'The Expendables (3)' One

Sylvester Stallone and his public. Photos by Yours Truly.

SYLVESTER “Sly” Stallone, welcome back to the top.

It's official with “The Expendables 3,” opening today in U.S. theaters, headlined by and co-written by himself.

The film – not high cinema nor aspiring to it – is purely an action flick as is its predecessors. Action film fans will likely be in heaven, too, with this entry that follows the now-familiar group of mercenaries of the film's title.

On this assignment, the specialists are tasked with keeping separated a Somali warlord from bombs he's bought from one of their own – a former co-founder no less, previously thought dead. (See trailer below).

SS and cast have been on the promotional grind the last week or so, burning up the late-night talk show circuit and other venues.

Last night, DuJour magazine cover boy SS ("The Expendables 3" costar Kellan Lutz brightened the door, too) attended the magazine's Summer 2014 issue cover party (read tidbits from the magazine interview interspersed throughout this humble report) at Provocateur, a hotspot in the Meatpacking District section of Gotham.

Yours Truly was in the house, hardpressed to get a decent photo in a crush that included Marla Maples, a former Mrs. Donald Trump, and her daughter, Tiffany Trump.

DuJour dish: SS met action film predecessor the Duke at the 1977 "People Choice Awards." “Here is the guy, coming across to me. Let me introduce myself. My name is John Wayne. Welcome to Hollywood.”

World travelers Marla Maples and Tiffany Trump stop by Sylvester Stallone's Dujour magazine cover party.

“The Expendables 3 is the one that officially gives birth to a franchise, dating to “The Expendables” in 2010. The first two films (Co-written by SS, “The Expendables 2” is the second.) have grossed nearly $600 million worldwide.

DuJour dish: Once upon a time, SS collected weekly unemployment benefits to the tune of … gasp … $30.

With each installment of "The Expendables," an interesting consideration is who will be added to the original cast of SS, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke and Jason Statham.

It is not surprising that “The Expendables” script was not met with a groundswell of enthusiasm. At the time, circumspect suits considered SS, who co-wrote and directed the original, washed up.

DuJour dish: Even Jean-Claude Van Damme initially balked, cautioning SS that the material was beneath him.

J-CVD is right, of course. Much is forgiven in Hollywood, though, if much is profitable.

DuJour dish: “I used to be vain. And very competitive.”

“The Expendables 2” brought onboard the once reluctant J-CVD, as well as Liam Hemsworth, Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis.

DuJour dish: To this day, SS who displayed Duke benevolence to Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio with less effusive results, has a photo of the JW meeting on his iPhone.

A first in the history of the franchise, with “The Expendables 3,” a female team member – Ronda Rousey – joins the cast. Others in her class are Robert Davi, Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Kelsey Grammer, the aforementioned Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz, Glen Powell and Wesley Snipes.

SS has often been viewed as, perhaps, not that bright, this misconception based mainly on his film roles. One must remember, however, that this kid from Hell's Kitchen wrote “Rocky.” Sure, he made some bad films and some bad film choices.

DuJour dish: SS is an avid painter, whose work was featured in a solo show last year at the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

Yet SS was never just a dumb actor whose glory days were behind him, though for a spell in the late 90s and early 2000s it appeared thus. The writer and painter were in there, too, a notion he touches on rather philosophically in DuJour.

DuJour dish: “I believe we suffer two deaths,” he begins. “If you feel you're a creative person, you die twice in this life. And the creative death is a horrible one that can linger for 30 years. You realize you're done. And you have no outlet for it. It's a horrible thing."

If SS experienced a death, then “The Expendables” franchise represents his resurrection. There is little doubt that “The Expendables 3” will kill at the box office. And there is to be “The Expendables 4.”

Long live (again), Sylvester “Sly” Stallone!

“The Expendables 3” is rated PG-13 for violence, including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language; visit http://www.theexpendables3film.com/hq to learn more about the film. Visit a newsstand or store where magazines are sold for the Summer 2014 issue of Dujour; visit http://www.dujour.com/ to learn more about the magazine.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pommes Frites. This Is How Fries Are Done.

A paper cone of fries and sauces from Pommes Frites. Photos from Pommes Frites Web site.

CRUNCHY on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Beautiful golden brown, cut the old-school way.

That's how they roll at Pommes Frites, an emporium that deals solely in fried potatoes or – as we erroneously declare in the good ole USA – French Fries, and once upon a time boiling with anger, Freedom Fries.

Yours Truly discovered Pommes Frites, one week after my auspicious 'cue birthday lunch at Mighty Quinn's Barbeque (http://www.bit.ly/1vIUrrZ). At the time of my discovery, I was in search of a falafel sandwich and fries. To that end, I took myself off to the East Village again, my good luck of a week before still fresh on the brain.

Here I am after leaving Mamoun's Falafel Restaurant, (http://www.mamouns.com/) because there was nary a fry on the menu, hopefully strolling down Second Avenue between St. Marks Place and 7th Street. That's when I hit paydirt at a space a hair bigger than a storefront with very limited inside seating.

Struck by the name on the sign, I reverently approach the doors of Pommes Frites, first standing outside reading the menu and eyedropping on what the diners taking up the lone outside table are eating. That's when it hits me that the joint sells fries only, in regular ($4.50), large ($6.25) and double ($7.75), all served in paper cones – how cool is that!!! – with some pretty nifty sauces and garnish, most for a little bit extra, including free Frites Sauce (traditional European Mayo).

In deference to its location in the United States, Pommes Frites does offer Ketchup as a free sauce. But among exotic choices for $1.50 are Pomegrante Teriyaki Mayo, Blue Cheese, Sambal Olek – Hot Chili Paste, Peanut Satay and Bordeaux Wine, Figs & Sage Mayo. For $2.25, truffle lovers can get down with Oganic Black Truffle Mayo.

Pommes Frites has been doing business for nearly 18 years.

I know: decisions, decisions. To facilitate decision-making, Pommes Frites offers samples of potatoes and sauces. I select the Frites Sauce with my potatoes sample. Delicieuse!

Fried potato lovers, welcome to a little piece of culinary heaven. And heaven appears to cater to the party set, with Sunday-Thursday hours from 11:30 a.m. to 1.a.m. and Friday & Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m.

Between swallows of my sample, I ask the counter guy how long Pommes Frites has been in business, fully expecting him to say six months or a year and a half or two years. Are your ready?

Omer Shorshi, a former Israeli army paramedic and graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education, opened Pommes Frites 17 years – nearly 18 – ago. Apparently, the place is so popular that it sells the world over merchandise along the lines of Frites Tossers, Salt Shakers, Paper Cones, Cardboard Cones and Cone Inserters.

Pomme Frites! Serioulsy, who knew? How is it that I, a devotee of fries, could have lived in Gotham for eight years and been wholly ignorant of Pommes Frites. And, and, and, all of those times that I wanted on my fries Canadian Cured Cheddar Cheese & Gravy, I could have stopped in for a Poutine ($5.50-$11.00)! Clearly, I have to get out more.

Fresh cut potatoes at Pommes Frites are twice fried to achieve the crunchiness and softness for which they are known.

The fries remind me of the homemade variety I had coming up. Pommes Frites is able to master that golden brown crunch on the outside and soft (as well as done) on the inside because they fry their fresh-cut potatoes twice (in high-quality, gluten-free vegetable oil). The first time they are cooked through. The second time to achieve the golden color and crispness. Yum and yum.

Let those who have ears and a love jones for fries take themselves off to Pommes Frites for a transportive experience!

Visit http://www.pommesfritesnyc.com/ to learn more about Pommes Frites.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Article Is About You

"Echo and Narcissus" by J.W. Waterhouse. Archive image.

POOR Echo … If only she'd asked Narcissus a simple question before she went traipsing after him in the woods.

Indeed, had the lovestruck nymph inquired whether he of great pulchritude was egotistical, self-focused and vain, he may have answered in the affirmative, sending her scurrying along her merry way, preventing the tragedy that would befall the both of them. (See Carly Simon video below of "You're So Vain.")

Echo became but an echo of her former self, of course. But in time to save countless others a lot of botheration in a world culture that seems more rampant than ever with narcissism, a team of scientists has hit upon a methodology that can identify narcissists.

If you have suspicions just ask a single question along the lines of, “Are you a narcissist,” with Echo's meaning in mind.

Based on nearly a dozen experiments of more than 2,000 people of various ages, it was revealed that narcissists are quite open about their condition. The findings of the study, titled Development and Validation of the Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS), are published in the journal, “PLOS ONE”

“People who are narcissists are almost proud of the fact,” says study co-author Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University. “You can ask them directly because they don’t see narcissism as a negative quality – they believe they are superior to other people and are fine with saying that publicly.”

How narcissistic are you? Come now, we all harbor a little narcissism just as we do envy. Take the test, http://www.bit.ly/X1xjpCMore shortly

Visit http://www.bit.ly/1qWAeIw to read an abstract of “Development and Validation of the Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS)” or to read the article it in its entirety.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

At Mighty Quinn's Barbeque, It Is Mighty Slow and Mighty Good

Mighty Quinn's Barbeque birthday special: beef brisket, dry&vinegar claw combo, burnt end baked beans and pickled red onions and pickled cucumbers. To wash it down, a wheat beer. Photo by Yours Truly.

FOLLOWING is the account of how Yours Truly discovered in Mighty Quinn's Barbeque some powerfully good eats – in New York City:

It's Saturday morning, around 9:30, on the second of August. I note the time because I am not in the gym where one can normally find me at this hour on this day. Today is different. It is my birthday.

I slept a little late because I started celebrating at 12:02 a.m. with some words to my Maker and some horseplay with a sly cat. Then I decide, because it is my day, to watch some TV, specifically a western on the cable channel, Encore Westerns. Was it about 5 a.m. when I turned in?

But now it's almost time for me to get going, except that I don't, because it is my special day. The next hour or so is dedicated to reading birthday wishes and generally lazing about. Then my stomach emits a low growl.

So what to eat? I decide against a burger, something French and brunch, before I settle on 'cue, barbecue (aka Barb-q, BarBe-Q, BBQ, Barbeque, etc.) for the uninitiated. Not sure whether the 'cue thing dates to an Independence Day craving or a recent article on the science of it all (http://www.bit.ly/1pZKwFW).

But where to get good BBQ in NYC? Two cuisines that do not exist in good abundance in Gotham are barbecue and Mexican.

What would I do without Google? How have I survived these years?! I googled “Best Barbecue in New York City.” Of the myriad links that pop up, I choose one that leads to a Gothamist article from last year (http://www.bit.ly/1oLjIN7).

A careful reading strongly suggests that the casual dining joint, Mighty Quinn's, is the best bet. It is geographically desirable and culinarily enticing.

According to the Gothamist taster, much of the best BBQ in NYC is in Brooklyn. It just so happens that Mighty Quinn's has two locations in Brooklyn as well as one in Clifton, NJ. There are three in Manhattan, including the East Village location where I am standing in, what is to my mind, a long, cafeteria-style line.

Meats at Mighty Quinn's Barbeque are cooked long and slow. Photo from Mighty Quinn's Barbeque Facebook page.

It is the mini chain's first brick and mortar venue, constructed to alleviate the long lines that were customary at that first Brooklyn stand. I am thinking that those lines must have stretched to Philadelphia at about the same time that I spy a coven of people with hungry eyes standing in a corner not far from where I am taking up real estate. Soon enough, I learn that that is the end of the line and to where, to be fair and very likely to avoid fisticuffs, I must relocate myself.

Grudgingly, I mumble my excuse mes until I am at the end, then realize I can use this time to vet the menu. In my mind's eye, dancing are images of Louisiana and Texas 'cue plates – main dish and two sides for a reasonable price. At Mighty Quinn's, however, it seems to be an a la carte affair and it ain't nominally priced.

Immediately, I am disgusted and distrustful, thinking that like too much in Gotham, here's yet another hustle. Somebody learned how to smoke barbecue Texas-Carolina style, named it Texalina 'cue, then decided to charge a bunch of yankees (not the baseball team) an arm, a leg and two holes in the wallet for what I am certain will be a pedestrian eating experience.

Before I tumble over the cliff, though, Better Judgment hauls me back. It is my birthday. And I am hungry, after all. It is now nearly 2 p.m. And I am in no fit mood to go huntin' up lunch elsewhere. Besides, I want 'cue and I ain't going to Brooklyn – on a weekend!

All unpleasant thoughts are banished. I will pay the people the high price they want for their 'cue and never come back again. Self-intervention complete, I consider the menu.

It is what one should expect from a 'cue joint, with a few interesting departures. Here are Single Serving and One-Pound quantities, naked or covered (no sandwich or sandwich), of Beef Brisket, Burnt Ends, Pulled Pork, Spare Ribs, Half Chicken, Wings and whatnot. And then there is the Brontosaurus Rib, which an inquiry reveals is a long, rather than short, beef rib. I declare, the meat-bone combo can be a lethal weapon!

Sides run to Slaw (Dry and Vinegar), Burnt End Baked Beans, Sweet Corn & Edamame Salad, as well as Buttermilk Broccoli Salad with Bacon and Sweet Potato Casserole with Maple & Pecans. In a category called Pickled Add-Ons are Cucumber, Celery, Red Onions and Chiles.

I decide on the single serving beef brisket ($8.95) and a small side of slaw ($3.10) and burnt end baked beans ($3.10). First, I confirm my worst suspicion that everything is a la carte. True that, mutters the laconic Meatcutter. Inhaling, I remember the intervention. Only in New York!

But when I get to the loquacious Sides Guy, I learn that the slaw and one pickled add-on (red onions, plus a cucumber thrown in by Sides Guy as a gesture of hospitality) come with the meat.

Subtract at least $3.10. Things are looking up, back on really good mood. Pep has returned to step. Song in heart is a ditty, not a dirge. Varnish is returned to happy. Birthday girl can eat a horse, or rather, a cow! Picking up my meal tray, I proceed to the Drinks Station.

Who is that masked man? Mighty Quinn's Barbeque Pitmaster Hugh Mangum hiding behind a Brontosaurus (Beef) Rib. Photo from Mighty Quinn's Barbeque Facebook page.

The FireStone: Union Jack IPA (CA) is a beautiful muted, gold color with a slight bitterness. It's good, but my palate doesn't want the bitter edge. A sample of the wheat beer reveals a brew more the hue of what one would expect of an IPA. It is lighter, with a more even, less bitter finish. Sold! (drat, I don't remember the name)!

Final stop before seating is the register where I part with around $20. Not bad for 'cue meat, two sides, add-on and a beer in New York City, but bad for the East Village a fellow diner and longtime villager gives me to know.

A moment of silence (and grace), please before the birthday lunch … It must be noted that MQ's is not stingy with its portions. In fact, part of that beef brisket was the star attraction of my lunch on Tuesday.

During the initial tasting, I try the beef brisket without the barbecue sauce. It is tender, succulent and bursting with understated flavor. It's as MQ's p.r. puts it: “the perfect harmony of smoke, flavor and time emerges.” Pitmaster Hugh Mangum, who spent some formative years in Houston, knows what he's about.

Now for the sauce: smokey, a bit sweet – subdued, not overpowering; I appreciate that it is not too salty, though for this palate it is a touch sweet. Yet, the sauce is quite delicious.

The slaw is merely competent. It would have been wiser to have either the dry or vinegar instead of half&half. Palate-pleasing pickled parts. The burnt end baked beans – yum. I learn while diving into them that they contain meat – I don't need to ask, for I know it is pork.

From the sound of it, the Mighty Quinn's Sweet Potato Casserole with Maple & Pecans can go savory or dessert. Photo from Mighty Quinn's Barbeque Facebook page.

In theory, I do not eat pork and do try to avoid it on all occasions. But sitting here on my birthday with this very satisfying meal, I am not removing the battery of napkins protecting my garments from 'cue residue in pursuit of porkless baked beans. After all, I do like pork, and this pork goes in the direction of the sublime. I just don't eat pork – in theory.

Before I pick up my romance novel, I spend a few minutes more savoring my birthday lunch, sans interruptions from damsels and dukes, basking in my good fortune in finding such fine BBQ, served by a friendly and courteous staff, in NYC. Thank you, Gothamist.

And thank you, Mighty Quinn's Barbeque. You do Texas and the Carolinas proud.

Visit http://www.mightyquinnsbbq.com/ to learn more about Mighty Quinn's Barbeque.
 
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