February Fireside Frolics at LIC Bar

The Carriage House at LIC Bar is becoming a popular venue for theatrical and literary events. Last month it hosted “The Nature of the Muse” and this month sees events that will make full use of its cosy fireside ambiance as we continue to face the New York winter.

peter poster

Peter and the Wolf

This Sunday, February 10th, sees  the return of a popular adaptation of Russian composer Sergei Prokoviev’s well-loved music for the story of Peter and the Wolf in a show designed for both children and adults. Originally commissioned for the Children’s Theater in Moscow in 1936 the music has become a favorite across the world, including inspiring a cartoon film, “Make Mine Music”, created by Walt Disney at the same time as his more famous Fantasia; and a version by The Muppet Babies:  “Skeeter and the Wolf”.

Actor Ali Silva and puppeteer Gus Rodriguez have adapted the story and are joined by the Washington Square Wind Quintet in a performance in the Carriage House of LIC Bar. True to Prokoviev’s music the five instruments (flute, oboe, bassoon, clarinet and French horn), plus puppets, portray the characters, with melodies that are instantly memorable. The performance, which promises a lot of fun, starts at 2pm Sunday, with a suggested donation of $5.

(NOTE: The performance on Saturday 9th has been cancelled due to the anticipated blizzard.)

 

 

The Peter and the Wolf cast

The Peter and the Wolf cast (plus audience)

Valentines Day


Local singer songwriter Silbin Sandovar invites you to bring “someone special” to an evening of intimate “Fireside Love Ballads” in the Carriage House at 9pm on Valentines night. Silbin hopes to be joined by singer/songwriter friends in what promises to be a low key, relaxed evening that will leave you with an inner glow, whether you are with a new love, an old flame or a hot chick.

Silbin Sandovar

Silbin Sandovar

Ghost Stories


Sunday February 17th sees the return of local actor Ali Silva’s very popular “Fireside Ghost Stories” in the LIC Bar Carriage House. In these tales of mystery, suspense and horror Ali is joined by musicians Charlie Rauh, guitar. and Concetta Abbate, violin, to offer an eager audience the opportunity to feel the comfort of the fireplace whilst being scared out of their skin by tales of horror and suspense with a Valentines twist.

The show starts at 8:30pm, be there in good time, these are becoming very popular!

Fireside Ghost Stories

Fireside Ghost Stories

Watch out for another  Fireside Ghost Stories session on March 17th, a special Irish Edition.

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Inspired in LIC

It’s been a while since I blogged. I’ve been overseas and also busy finishing my first series of “Artist Portrait” podcasts (see below). Meanwhile I’ve been listening to some impressive music making in the neighbourhood.

The Domaine Wine Bar had a Summer Jazz festival last week and I was very fortunate to catch my favourite trio (Broc Hempel, Sam Trapchak and Christian Coleman) in full swing with guest Greg Ward on sax on the first night. Greg Ward is an impressive player, a real star who travels widely around the world with his music. To be able to hear these talented artists so close to home is a real privilege.

On Wednesday we had the extra privilege of hearing jazz virtuoso Jean-Michel Pilc (http://www.jeanmichelpilc.com) perform two solo piano sets. This man is a genius of the piano. In what seemed to be a series of extemporisations, he drew from the history of western music (especially 20th century classical, jazz and popular music) in creating moving and exciting sounds from the bar’s small upright instrument. If you search for  Jean-Michel on the internet you will find video of him playing grand piano in grand spaces, solo or with small groups. Here we had him by himself, playing for  us in a little bar just by the subway entrance on Vernon Boulevard.

Jean-Michel Pilc playing at Domaine bar a vins

For me this was one of the most profound and enjoyable musical experiences of my 18 months in New York. In bar settings like this you can always expect a mixed audience, but the contrast between the sheer wonders of Jean-Michel’s playing and the loud bar crowd, who for the most part did not seem to want to listen, was a challenge to my ability to focus and just enjoy the music. Fortunately they did not get in the way of my enjoyment, I didn’t allow them to; but it’s a challenge for Domaine to attract a more appreciative audience (who might be tempted to pay a few dollars to hear an artist for whom they might have to pay up to $100 for a ticket in a big concert hall).

The previous weekend had seen the “First Annual Big City Folk Festival” at the LIC Bar (www.LICBar.com), all Sunday afternoon. This is LIC Bar at it’s best. A hot sunny day, sitting in the courtyard in the shade of huge willow trees and listening to a series of excellent musicians brought together under the Big City Folk Collective umbrella, by Niall Connolly (http://www.reverbnation.com/label/bigcityfolk).

I’ve often wondered how such large willows remain strong in this semi-industrial part of town, and quite a way from natural watercourses (the East River, and the Anable Basin). There are three trees, each of  which must be 30 feet tall at least, with heavy cascades of green that flow over the road and into the courtyard. The word on the street ( a phrase which, in New York, has extra relevance – as the streets are full of words) is that the tree roots tap into the public water supply, a worthy gift from the people of NYC.

I didn’t catch all the artists that afternoon, 7 hours in the sun at a bar is a long session, but I did  catch many I knew, plus two who were new to me, Jo Kroger and Chris Mills. Big City Folk is an active collective, with members swapping roles as members of each other’s bands and joing in to offer backup vocals. Whilst Chris Mills offered solo singer songwriter material Jo Kroger was supported by Jasper Lewis, a young and talented guitarist and singer in his own right. Jasper also played in the Sky Captains of Industry, one of whom, singer and guitarist Eric W Harris, managed the sound for the afternoon and also played in the band that accompanied Casey Black. Also often seen was Brandon Wilde; bass player, guitarist and singer, who appeared with his own band – The All-Night Chemists, played bass for Niall Connolly and offered backup vocals for Warren Malone.

I’ve written about Casey Black before. He’s a strong singer and songwriter who hails from Nashville, and it’s to his home town that New York is losing this talented man, who has graced our clubs and bars for the last couple of years. At LIC Bar he played with Don Paris Schlotman (bass), Peter Lanctot (violin), Eric W. Harris (guitar) and Neal Nunziato on drums, with some vocal support from Michele Riganese.  He has just played his last shows as a New York resident and is flying south to his homeland. Let’s hope we see and hear him again  soon.

Casey Black and the Big City Folk Festival band

Jo Kroger is an experienced singer songwriter who knows how to relate to her audience. She was quick to point out that she was the only woman headline performer that afternoon, and one of only three who would appear on stage. The others were Michele Riganese, who supported Casey Black and Matt Sucich on back-up vocals and Matt’s old friend and musical collaborator Jessica, who also provided vocal support to two of his songs.

Jo Kroger and Jasper Lewis

I enjoyed Jo’s music, she has a strong accurate voice and writes good songs in a classic American folk/country style with interesting lyrics. Check her out on:

(http://jokroger.com/wordpress/)

I also enjoyed Chris Mills’ style and energy (http://www.reverbnation.com/chrismillsmusic) . He’s clearly been around a while and sings from his experience of life with great craft as a songwriter. He’s quite different to Jo Kroger in that he has more of a straight line kind of style. By that I mean he sings very much on the beat rather than that kind of bluesy style that rides the beat like a jockey rides a horse, rarely resting on the saddle and flowing with the movement of the song. There’s nothing wrong with his kind of style, it’s an approach that brings focus more on the  words of the song rather than the melody and rhythms that the words inspire. He has a strong voice and brings his words home with a power that makes you listen and take notice.

Chris Mills tells it straight

It’s hard to single out any particular artist from that afternoon – Anthony Mulcahy (http://www.mulmusic.com/) writes such beautiful songs; Matt Sucich was great, renewing his partnership with his old  singing partner  Jessica; Warren Malone played a $50 Telecaster that he had rescued from oblivion; Niall Connolly was as energetic as I’ve seen him, and even more powerful as he belted out his insightful and intelligent lyrics with his all-star band of Warren Malone, Len Monachello (drums), Brandon Wilde (bass), and Dennis Cronin 0n trumpet ; Brandon Wilde’s collaboration with Len Monachello on guitar and Brad Gunyon on drums- the All Night Chemists – were a delight, Brandon writes and sings such melodic songs. (http://www.brandonwildemusic.com/)

I was sorry not to catch Kevin Goldhahn’s “Gantry” – This is an exciting band that I’ve yet to hear properly.

I usually enjoy the Sky Captains of Industry, I like their ironic Sci-Fi style, with skilful lyrics and performance. On this occasion I must say that I found them to be too loud, and distorted. The crew had a reasonable quality PA for the afternoon and Eric W. Harris had managed the sound mix and volume well for everyone else. Then suddenly the volume rose, the sound was distorted and I couldn’t hear the words; we had to go inside the bar, but even then the  distortion in the sound spoiled what I believe to be a good band. I know that this sounds rather curmudgeonly, maybe it is – I do like to hear lyrics though, and also love purity of sound. Deliberate distortion can be an art with intruments, but overloading voices into a small PA is something else.

However, everyhing else was superb. So congratulations to Niall and the BCF crew for putting together the first of what could become an annual event.

Niall Connolly belting it out

ARTIST PORTRAITS

I’ve just finished uploading the last of the first group of six “Artist Portraits” podcasts onto the web. In these interviews with local musicians we talk about their lives, their musical experiences and their development as musicians. The interviews include excerpts of the music they talk about and some full length recordings of their own music.

The podcasts can be downloaded from www.earthsounz.podbean.com or from http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sometime-in-long-island-city/id523786622?mt=2

You can also hear them directly in this Blog (click on the link beneath the photo):

Michele Riganese

Artist Portrait – Michele Riganese

Jeneen Terrana

Artist Portrait – Jeneen Terrana

Little Embers

Artist Portrait – Little Embers

Matt Sucich

Artist Portrait_ Matt Sucich

Warren Malone

Artist Portrait – Warren Malone

Shelly Bhushan

Artist Portrait- Shelly Bhushan

FOOD AND DRINK CORNER

I’ve made some return visits to a couple of lower-priced restaurants in the Hunter’s Point are over the last few weeks. Casa Enrique is proving to be a popular eating place locally, judging by the numbers in there as I’ve walked past. I took some friends there a few days ago and we were worried that we might not get seats, so we reserved our table for 7pm. As it happened this was not necessary as there were only four other tables occupied when we arrived. However, when we left there was a line at the door of people waiting for vacant tables! There were 5 of us that night and we enjoyed a range of dishes, starting with two servings of freshly prepared Guacamole ($8 each), mild and medium spiced at our request and with offers of more chips if we needed them (a nice touch – it’s so frustrating to run out of  chips). The restaurant makes a point of letting you know that the dishes are prepared to order, so it’s important to have some kind of starter. Between us we had the Lamb Shank (“Delicious, and so good to have the meat  falling off the bone”) – which no doubt was not prepared to order, it needs long slow cooking to get it to taste that good ($20); I had the Cochinito Chiapaneco, Pork Ribs with chilli, rice and beans ($16), very tasty and interestingly spiced beans; The Market fish (Striped Bass) was very nicely prepared and presented, clearly cooked to order ($22).

As always the service at Casa Enrique was pleasant and unhurried. The surroundings are plain white, with little decoration. We sat at the rear of the restaurant, where the ceiling is low. With plain wooded tables and chairs the acoustics are quite “lively”, which makes loud diners with high pitched voices  intrusive at times, as well as the clash of cutlery on plates. This could be remedied  with some softer furnishings in the space; maybe plain, lightly-decorated rugs on the wall, or painted acoustic tiles on the ceiling.

We had to resist desserts as we were returning to our friend’s for those, but we would definitely have had their most delicious flan. At present Casa  Enrique only have a restricted liquor licence, which meant we took our own wine; not really a problem, and also cheaper (they don’t charge corkage).

At a  lower price level, the  local Filipino restaurant Ihawan2 (http://www.ihawan2.com) beckoned us again as a prelude to a late night social event in the city. This time there were just three of us, choosing the oxtail in peanut sauce (Kare Kare), the Combo Barbeque and the Bicol Express (spicy belly pork in liver sauce). Filipino cuisine is new to me, I found the mixture of ingredients, flavours and textures interesting and tasty. Belly pork can be quite fatty and I prefer it crispy (as in their grilled version), rather than soft in this dish: but that’s  just my preference. Two of us had drinks and the check for three came to just over $45 – a good, reasonably cheap meal to start the evening. This is a restaurant which will grow in popularity as it becomes more well known in the neighbourhood.

Just up the East River from us is a little riverside bar at Anable Basin. It’s hard to find places in New York where you can sit at a table right next to the water drinking a cool beer and eating a tasty barbecue snack. The Anable Basin bar and Grill (http://anablebasin.com/) is just that, a bar and a grill in a kind of makeshift building with classic all-in-one bench tables that sit next to what is a mini marina, where you can park your yacht or dinghy. You can also walk or drive there, to the end of 44th Drive, next door to the Waters Edge restaurant (white tablecloths, and which looks like it suits large groups of well-off diners). It has a beach/island feel – casual with a small, but interesting selection of beers and wines and a short menu of international barbecue specialities – Brazilian Steak (Pikanya), Bosnian sausages (Chevapi – with a delicious ajvar relish), Bratwurst, Bison Burgers, salads, corn and vegeburger. This is a peaceful venue, a place to sit and watch the fish jump, the geese beg for scraps and the occasional boat passing by. It’s as close as you’re going to get to a beach bar in New York, and then you also get the impressive Manhattan skyline, especially when the sun is going down. It may not be the Pacific but it sure is peaceful. I note that they advertise “speciality cocktails”, well I might just have to go down there again.

The mooring at Anable Basin Bar and Grill

Some news from Cranky’s (http://www.crankyscafe.com/). It’s sad to see that Lindsay and Cranky’s have parted company. She’ll be missed. Meanwhile I’ve tried a few more of their lunchtime dishes and can throughly recommend their flank steak salads – either straight (with warm corn, tomato etc) or as a steak caesar. The chef Alan has created an exquisite marinade for the steak that makes it melt in your mouth. He’s also created an excellent caesar sauce for the salad – straight caesar, chicken or steak. It’s good to see that the “Eating Theater” evenings are continuing and proving very popular.

I note that there are a couple of new eating places appearing in the Hunters Point area. “Cyclo”, a new Vietnamese Noodle and Sandwich cafe is just about to open, on 46th and Vernon next to Petey’s Burger, and “Spice”, one of a chain of successful Thai restuarants on the site of the, often empty, previous Thai cafe on Vernon Boulevard.

That’s it from me for another week – watch out for new “Artist Portrait” blogcasts over the next few weeks.

Italian again, Creole and Filipino in LIC.

Since I last wrote about the local restaurant scene I’ve tried out a couple of new places, Italian and Filipino, and returned to some old haunts.

Italian restaurants are in the majority in the Hunters Point area of LIC, not surprisingly when the area  has such family connections. I’ve always been intrigued by the little Italian Club on Vernon, Societa’ Sant’ Amato Di Nusco. Recently Queens Buzz have featured the club and provided helpful stories about the club’s origins (http://queensbuzz.com/societa-sant-amato-di-nusco-cms-691).

Manducatis Rustica is part of a family of Italian restaurants in Hunters Point (Manducatis, Manettas and Manducatis Rustica) which were part of the community before Gantryfication and remain as stalwarts of Italian family dining.

I haven’t yet been to Manducatis (Latin for “you eat”) at 13-27 Jackson Ave, corner 47th Avenue and Jackson (www.maducatis.com). This is has an unappealing exterior that, I understand, is no indication of the restaurant behind the (rather grey) net curtains. However, I have tried, for the first time, Manducatis Rustica, (http://www.manducatisrustica.com ) on Vernon Boulevard. This restaurant is hard to get a sense of from the outside, it doesn’t have a big “street presence” and looking through the windows is like looking into someone’s house, peeking through the curtains and wrought iron. In that way I guess you have to already know that it’s there, as it’s a little north of the main Vernon Boulevard restaurant area. The welcome, however, is warm – especially from owner Gianna Cerbone, (Mamma Gianna), a tireless stalwart of the local community.

Manducatis Rustica

Manducatis Rustica is both a gelato shop and a restaurant. They’ve good reason to be proud of their gelato judging by the three flavours I tasted so far. the restaurant itself has a homely feel, although the mix of brick walls and office-style ceiling lights is rather odd and makes the place not as attractive as Manetta’s down the road. The food and wine, however, were good; honest, homestyle Italian cooking that is unpretentious, well cooked and tasty. I enjoyed a starter of Atlantic (as opposed to New Zealand) mussels, cooked just right in a tomato sauce followed by Orecchiette broccoli rabe & sausage, a nicely presented and flavoursome dish, with very tasty italian-style sausage and  crisp, sharp greens that set off the textures of the “ears” and meat very well. This was a well thought- out dish that did not overwhelm with heavy sauce, providing instead a fresh mix of flavour and texture.

Orecchiette broccoli rabe & sausage

PJ had a tasty salad and Rigatoni with meatballs and we enjoyed the house wine. We didn’t need dessert but managed a simple selection of three delicious flavours of sorbet. It’s a place to which I would return (note, though, that it is closed on Mondays). One day maybe we’ll starve ourselves and go for the full Italian menu; with the antipasto, primi, secondi and dessert options.

I went to Manettas for the fourth time the other day and, once again, came away convinced that this is one of the best eating experiences in the neighbourhood. The place was packed with family groups, some celebrating birthdays and anniversaries and we were lucky to get a table for seven reserved the same day – in fact a pleasing effort from owner Rose-Ann in enabling us to eat in the main dining room, when the side area (near the display case full of tempting desserts) had seemed to be the only option (although not a second class option, just a brighter setting closer to the entrance). We had a mix of antipasto options and salads, then large pizzas and a variety of entrees which were well liked by everyone. I had the John Dory (sometimes known as a St.Pierre), a fish of mainly Southern Hemisphere origin that is less common this side of the globe. The fish had a fresh texture and was nicely cooked, not too long, not too short, with some quite strong herb flavours that were marginally a little powerful for the subtlety of the fish – yet did not prevent me from enjoying the dish, one of the many specials available on the night. Another guest had the pork chops, which looked interestingly prepared, and were also well liked.

Strangely Manettas does not have a website, perhaps underlining its reputation locally as a place that does not really need to advertise. I guess, too that it does not provide a delivery service. Who would want their food delivered rather than a pleasant night in the  special environment that the owners have created here?

The Dawning of a New Awning

Talking of welcomes, I’ve become aware of the differing impressions given by the exteriors of local restaurants. It’s good to see that Cranky’s have upgraded their awning and entrance to underline their transition from coffee shop to full service French Creole restuarant. The new black and white awning is much more classy than the previous drab and faded red, and they have ditched the canvas and plastic door entrance. I’ve eaten at Cranky’s a few times recently and am pleased that they are extending their Creole cuisine into the lunch menu, including a very tasty crabcake sandwich and “Po’boy” shrimp sandwich. It’s was also good to attend one of  their “Eating Theater” nights where customers were entertained by a very professional group of actors, who performed two short plays set in a restaurant. These evenings were highly successful, advance bookings were essential and well worth the owner’s experiment, especially since they had to stop regular music sessions. I understand that the theater group will return in June/July. Meanwhile check out the delicious Gumbos (soup and main), for which the ingredients are cooked fresh to order. You can’t beat shrimps and mussels cooked just right, especially when the spice mixes are prepared with such finesse.

Eating Theater

Whilst we’re talking about welcoming exteriors, here’s a contrast: Dominies Hoek (http://www.dominieshoek.com), next door to Cranky’s, has one of the most colourful and interesting exteriors. They’ve recently opened a new bar (just called Dominies) in Astoria, ( 34-07, 30th Avenue, NY11103) which is already building a reputation for fine Jazz helped by the Hempel, Trapchak, Coleman Trio, who have a regular session there. Check their video filmed at Domaine Wine Bar (http://www.domainewinebar.com).

Dominies Hoek on Vernon Boulevard

In contrast, how about this? Skinny’s Cantina must win the prize for the least welcoming greeting for potential customers.

Keep Out?

From Sushi to Filipino

Just up 50th Avenue from the Vernon Boulevard subway station exit sits a small restaurant which, until recently was an Asian sushi bar. It is now the sister to a same-named restaurant in Woodside: Ihawan2 (http://www.ihawan2.com) and now serves a Filipino menu. I hadn’t been there in its previous incarnation but we popped in there one evening to try it out. Our yardstick for a cheap meal with a drink is that the check comes to $40 or less. Between the two of us we paid $33, including two drinks. I had an grilled eggplant (with sambal paste) starter (an unbelievable $3) and the grilled marinated pork belly ($8) which was a very large portion. PJ had a salad and the barbeque chicken, also a large portion. The food was excellently cooked and interesting. The setting of this restaurant is clean and modern, unpretentious and friendly. This is certainly a local venue that is a welcome addition to the variety of cuisine, and is well worth a second  visit. I had  no previous experience of Filipino cuisine and would like to experiment more, with minimal damage to the bank balance.

Blogcast

At last I have ventured into podcasting. Check out my first effort: http://earthsounz.podbean.com/feed/ or on itunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sometime-in-long-island-city/id523786622

LIC Arts Open

This is the time of year  when LIC opens its doors to local artists who show off their talents. Check out the website:

http://www.licartsopen.org/

Live Radio in LIC

Remember radio? Sitting at home around the fire on a winter night? Remember how you were able create images of characters; how the actors, music and sound effects created dramas in which you were a participant by virtue of your imaginative powers?

Have you ever been to a live radio show, watched the actors with their scripts, seen how sound effects are produced?

I was fortunate to be invited to a rehearsal of such an event the other night, an event that takes place in LIC next weekend (Sunday Feb 26th, 8:30, LIC Bar). So this short blog is not such much a review, more of a preview of a scary event in the neighbourhood.

Local actor Ali Silva has been creating monthly, Sunday night “Fireside Ghost Stories” at the LIC Bar (www.licbar.com)since Halloween last year, performing them in the Carriage House annex; an ideal setting with its fireplace, rustic artifacts and cosy atmosphere. She extends this successful format this week with a live reading of 2 episodes of CBS’ radio show “Suspense” that will engage your imagination in a  way that is guaranteed to chill you and make you want to draw closer to the fire.

"Suspense" by the fireside in the Carriage House

This very popular radio series ran from the 1940s through to the early 1960s and was the highlight of many a listener’s week. At 8:30 pm on Sunday 26th February Ali will be joined by other actors and two musicians to recreate two stories, both by Lucille Fletcher; “The Furnished Floor“;  and the other, probably the most famous of these radio plays, the 1943 story “Sorry Wrong Number“.

This classic tale creates for us Manhattan in the 1940s. A lonely bedridden woman (originally played by Agnes Moorehead, and later by Barabara Stanwyck in the 1948 movie) is alone in her apartment; she attempts to phone her husband and gets a crossed line, overhearing what appears to be a murder plot. She panics but is unable to get anyone to take her seriously, frustrated by other’s perceptions of her as a lonely neurotic  woman who is just imagining things. Check out the audio excerpt: ” Hello Operator “.

Ali Silver - Actor and Director

New York apartment dwellers will identify with the play’s central character and perhaps also with the disbelief she faces as she tries to get help. Radio has a great capacity to enable our imagination to enter a frightening situation, more so than live theatre or movies. To stage a radio play “live” stands between live theatre and radio and as such offers us the advantage of real, seen, faces without the distraction of settings, costumes and make-up. It challenges actors to credibly change character with their voice, whilst standing there with just a script and minimal props.

James Reiser - Actor

The Carriage House context, being small and almost domestic in its ambiance, lends an intimacy to the performance. It is physically separate from the bar with no distractions from sport or customers’ conversations. The fire offers dramatic lighting and the physical immediacy of the actors brings an added dimension of intimate intensity in this genuinely scary play.

Ali Silva is a very talented actor and director. This is no amateur production, the actors: Ali, James Reiser, Sherri Quaid (also Foley artist and sound effects) and Gus Rodriguez and musicians Charlie Ruah and Concetta Abbatte are all expert in their craft. Gus also produced the event and the complete production will be available as a Podcast, engineered by Anthony Cekay (http://anthonycekay.com/).

Gus Rodriguez - Actor and Producer

Concetta Abbate (violin)

Sherri Quaid - Actor, Sound FX & Foley Artist

Charlie Rauh (guitar)

If you’re prepared to be scared on a dark Sunday night and to be chilled in front of a roaring fire, come down to the LIC Bar at 8:30pm on Sunday February 26th;

Performance to a packed audience


UPDATE:

This was a very popular performance – the carriage house was full and people were listening  from the other side of the doors!

You can now hear a podcast of the performance at http://page4music.com/2012/03/18/podcast-ghost-stories-by-lucille-fletcher/

Catch them again on Sunday 25th March :

http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/404776782884520/