Green Man Festival

Friday, May 10th, we welcomed spring with dancing, debauchery, and revelry at the McKittrick Hotel. This was the Green Man Festival. We dressed in white and spun our merry way around the Mayflower pole and enchanted forests while sucking down libations and getting caught in the pouring rain on a New York City rooftop.

There is nothing quite like a Friday night in Manhattan, surrounded by good friends, interesting people, and a Midsummer Night’s Dream environment. We stepped into a fairy tale that night that I’ve yet to truly wake up from.

Five Boro Bike Tour 2013

After over two years of thinking about it, attempting to plan it, falling short, and wishing I did it, the Five Boro Bike Tour finally came to pass.

Attending the Bike Expo on Saturday (for the primary purpose of hoarding free samples and free food) my friend Nick and I made a few friends and learned about some excellent cycling opportunities. Being from Vermont, Nick immediately bonded with the Cabot cheese representatives. On top of giving away free cheese samples, Cabot also gave away cups of delicious strawberry banana smoothie blended up in an enormous vat to break the Guinness Book of World Records for largest smoothie. They did it! and all proceeds went to charity.

Nick hopped on their blending bike and made himself a tasty chocolate and banana smoothie!

We walked away with racing gear and our bags full of free goodies and coupons.

Sunday, bright and early, I met up with my racing buddy Jeff, for a breakfast of bagels as we prepared ourselves for the 40 mile trek through Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.

Beginning in Battery Park we worked our way towards the Bronx cutting through Central Park and dodging pedestrians attempting to cross the street or jog along the paths. All of whom were in their own ipod induced worlds completely oblivious to 32,000 bikers flying by them. There were a few narrowly avoided close calls.

The bridges were the most grueling (mainly the Verrazano and the climb leading up to it). Long, steady inclines surrounded by masses of people crawling along, some walking their bikes. This left little room for maneuvering and no room for kicking it up a notch to end the pain sooner.

Excluding those two tough inclines, the 40 miles flew by! Between spectacular scenery at all of the five bridges, random bits of entertainment along the way from local establishments and New Yorkers, as well and good company, a great crowd, and free bananas, the tour was spectacular  It ended with a festival in Staten Island with live music, food trucks galore, and plenty of sunny spots to catch some sun.

Ten Cabaret Performers You Need To See

Thanks, Time Out New York! See the article here.

Ten cabaret performers you need to see

Here are ten unique nightclub artists who will move you, shock you and knock you for a loop.

Bridget Everett
When Hurricane Bridget hits the stage at Joe’s Pub or elsewhere, prepare to be blown away. She comes on like a warrior: fearless and unabashedly sizable, with a classic-rock voice that punches equally powerfully through contemporary pop, ’70s favorites and her own ultra-raunchy originals. But it’s Everett’s vulnerability—the damaged, oversharing regular gal that emerges from her hilariously wounded stories—that makes her so astonishing. Give her a microphone and a bottle of Chardonnay, and there’s nothing she can’t or won’t do.

Barb Jungr
A cabaret set by England’s Barb Jungr, perhaps the world’s greatest interpreter of the post-1960 chapters of the Great American Songbook, is akin to a religious experience. Exploring the mysteries of artists like Bob Dylan, Nina Simone and Leonard Cohen, Jungr balances the heaven of her rich, expressive singing with the earthiness of her warm, funny stories. In her too-rare New York runs at the Metropolitan Room, she has the unpretentious conviction of a reformist oracle: a true believer in the power of song to transform and explain our lives.

Justin Vivian Bond
Countercultural icon Justin Vivian Bond, who prefers to go by the invented pronoun of v instead of he or she, radiates a disarming mixture of nurture and menace: part transsexual den mother, part cultural assassin, part offhand Cassandra. In rambling personal monologues and rumbling songs (from Kurt Weill to Joni Mitchell and beyond), Bond wields a shamanistic charisma that transcends both gender and genre. Heir to—and investor in—the Weimar and Warhol traditions, v commands nothing short of fascination.

Maude Maggart
Maude Maggart embodies romantic nostalgia in the present tense. With full lips and long, dark hair, she looks the part of a nightclub singer in a black-and-white movie; she often performs material from the Great American Songbook era, in a voice that can move from an ethereal sigh to a gently piercing trill. Yet her classic mixture of sensuality and innocence has subtle shades of modern trouble (her sister is Fiona Apple, after all) that deepen with each new set.

Cole Escola
Blending boyish mischief with dizzy charm and the ruthless twinkle of a starlet bent on fame, Escola’s comic persona suggests a street urchin raised by the gang from The Match Game.He gobbles your attention whole, with a scrappy confidence that doesn’t try to hide how hungry he is. Having cut his comedic teeth on YouTube and the Logo Network’s sketch-comedy show Jeffery & Cole Casserole, Escola is happy to bite the showbiz hand that feeds him, but with a poignant sweetness that makes you forgive him any trespass.

Paula West
Boldly straddling the line between jazz and cabaret, Paula West fuses musical rigor with keen emotional insight; perhaps more than any other modern jazz vocalist, she harks back to the glory days of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. This has been a roller-coaster year for the San Francisco singer, marked by the release of her first CD in 11 years (Live at the Jazz Standard) and the death of her longtime musical director, George Mesterhazy. A perennial at the Oak Room for many years, she currently lacks a regular New York home—but a voice like hers demands to be heard.

Meow Meow
The international chanteuse known as Meow Meow—the alter egotist of performer Melissa Madden Gray—is a postmodern kitten with a whip-smart sensibility. Buttressed by pianist Lance Horne, she metes out her polyglot repertoire with brio and pique, moving from comedy to intensity in the blink of a long, fake lash. When not in her native Australia, she haunts the nightclubs of London, Berlin and New York (where Joe’s Pub is her usual home), spinning decadent silk into a tangled, captivating web.

Molly Pope
Self-styled as a brassy comer out of 1950s Broadway, Molly Pope teaches old-school lessons in the value of singing big. Her thrilling alto emerges like a full-on blast from the past; at a recent benefit evening of Judy Garland songs, she earned a midshow standing ovation. And her retro gumption brings a strange force to contemporary material, as she has proved as a fixture of Our Hit Parade—and is now demonstrating anew in a run of shows at the Duplex, with musical madman Kenny Mellman at the keys.

Lady Rizo
Lady Rizo, the “caburlesque” persona of actor-singer Amelia Zirin-Brown, has shed the straight-up girlie-show elements that once surrounded her, including back-up dancers called the Assettes. But there’s still plenty of tease to the stripped-down Unescorted series that she performs at Joe’s Pub. The bump and grind of her crackly retro voice (she sounds like an old blues LP, scratches and all) complements a Gypsy Rose Lee–ish enjoyment at being a naughty girl—a broad wink at femininity, with all its trappings and traps.

Taylor Mac
A Fabergé radical—beautiful, ridiculous and full of hidden tricks—the sublimely freakish Taylor Mac pilots audiences through fantastical journeys, guided only by the compass of his magnetic individuality. He is unafraid to aim at the clouds, and undeterred if some of his arrows go astray. (“Perfection is for assholes,” he insists.) Mac’s typically ambitious current project is a 24-hour concert spanning the past 250 years of American music; each show in his series at Joe’s Pub explores a different decade.

Top 25 Pizza Pies in NYC

NYC is know for having amazing pizza. Yet with every other pizza place claiming to be original, famous, or the best, picking a place to try can be a bit intense. Thank you Time Out New York for yet another amazing foodie article assisting the public in the formidable task of choosing pizza parlors.

The following words and photos are courtesy of Time Out New York.

Best New York pizza: The top 25 pies in the city

Our five-borough tour of the best New York pizza skips from legendary institutions to new-wave joints. Here are the reigning pies in Gotham.

By Mari Uyehara     Mon Sep 17 2012

Di Fara Pizza

Di Fara Pizza Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

In 1905, Lombardi’s opened as New York’s first pizzeria, bringing the simple Italian dish to Gotham. Owner Gennaro Lombardi helped train a generation of pizzaioli, dispatching thin-crust acolytes all over the city: Patsy Lancieri over to East Harlem with Patsy’s, John Sasso to the West Village with John’s of Bleecker Street, and Anthony Pero out to Coney Island with Totonno’s. Since then, a new generation has ushered in traditional Neapolitan-style pies (Kesté Pizza & Vino), wildly creative toppings (Paulie Gee’s) and, of course, the fried-pizza craze (Forcella). The onetime exotic immigrant food is now synonymous with Gotham, and arguing over the city’s best pizza has become a classic New York pastime. With that in mind, we trekked all over town to find out if old favorites still lived up to their reputation and if new pizzerias could rise to the fierce competition. Here are the best New York pizza spots.

25. Diavolo at Zero Otto Nove

Salerno-born upstart Roberto Paciullo made waves on Arthur Avenue when he challenged red-sauce supremacy with his standout trattoria, which opened in 2007 and spun off a Chelsea offshoot in 2011. The wide-ranging menu features baroque combinations like butternut squash, smoked mozzarella and pancetta, but we favor his diavolo, built on a thin crust, slighty puffed at the edges, with a good chew. Singed lengths of spicy sopressata mingle with swatches of oozing mozzarella and a thick, brawny tomato sauce. 2357 Arthur Ave between 184th and 186th Sts, Bronx (718-220-1027) • 15 W 21st St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-242-0899) • $14.95.

24. Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano

This Coney Island institution—founded in 1924 by Gennaro Lombardi apprentice Anthony “Totonno” Pero—was once as famous for its rude service as for its peerless pies. But with Pero’s friendly niece Louise Ciminieri now running the no-frills joint, the mood is decidedly more welcoming. Although two generations of pizzaioli have turned over, the honest pies are still a superb showcase of culinary high art: bubbling browned cheese covers a sweet tangy sauce and ultrathin crust, touched with a whiff of smoke from a historic coal oven. 1524 Neptune Ave between 15th and 16th Sts, Coney Island, Brooklyn (718-372-8606). Small $16.50, large $19.50.

23. The Saint Louie at Speedy Romeo

Pie obsessives—from Slice NY blog founder Adam Kuban to Paulie Gee’s owner Paul Gianonne—rank this wood-fired beaut in the upper echelons of the city’s greatest ‘za creations. The stacked pie, cut into squares, is smothered with tangy San Marzano tomato sauce and molten Provel—a pungent, almost-blue-cheese-like mix of provolone, cheddar, Swiss and liquid smoke, born in St. Louis. It’s blanketed with plump nuggets of anisey homemade pork sausage, crisp-edged strips of sopressata and zippy pickled peppers. Although the inspiration comes from chef-owner JustinBazdarich’s father’s hometown, this balls-out pie de resistance will stir nostalgia for anyone who has shared a pizza overloaded with toppings at cozy family-style joints in the burbs. 376 Classon Ave at Greene Ave, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn (718-230-0061). $16.

22. Margherita at Sottocasa

Chef-owner Luca Arrigoni learned to punch dough alongside pizza maestro Roberto Caporuscio (Kesté), before opening this rustic Boerum Hill restaurant in 2011. Arrigoni’s Margherita is a superb rendition: Creamy puddles of mozzarella and a simple fresh tomato sauce crown a buoyant round of dough. A wood-fired brick Acunto oven scorches the thin pizzas at the edges and lends them a hint of smoke. The old master would be proud. 298 Atlantic Ave between Hoyt and Smith Sts, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn (718-852-8758). $11.

21. Baked Potato pie at PeteZaaz

The short menu at this urbanist slice joint reads like a list of fantasy stoner snacks dreamed up in a ganja-smoke haze. The thin, crackery crusts may lack pronounced flavor, but they’re vehicles, sturdily built to deliver baroque combos of local produce, artisanal cheeses and meats to your mouth. While other creations rotate in and out, our favorite, the Baked Potato pie, has become a signature. Gooey white cheddar, thick slices of purple potato and crispy bits of bacon are scattered atop a crisp crust. It’s finished with a cooling pool of tangy crème fraîche in the middle and smattering of sharp chopped scallion: hangover grub in its highest form. 766 Classon Ave between Park and Sterling Pls, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-230-9229). $17.

20. Vodka pie at Joe & Pat’s Pizzeria and Restaurant

A trio of young men—uniformly wearing backward caps, white tees and stud earrings—pat down rounds of dough in the front of this family-run pie shop, a required stop on the Staten Island pizza junket since it opened in 1960. The must-order pie is the Vodka. The junky favorite achieves an almost restrained elegance here: Cracker-thin crusts with a soft interior are covered with just enough of creamy vodka-spiked tomato sauce and stretchy, salty mozzarella. 1758 Victory Blvd between Manor Rd and Winthrop Pl, Staten Island (718-981-0887). Small $15, large $17.

19. Bacon pie at Best Pizza

The crews behind Roberta’s and Brooklyn Star collaborated on this stellar homage to the classic New York slice joint, here updated with backpacker hip-hop and a Williamsburg clientele arriving by skateboard. The über-thin crust has an alkaline zip, good browning and hearty chew; the tomato sauce is fresh and bright; and the thin web of punchy cheese is in perfect proportion, all earning it best-in-class status for the old-school-style pie. Take yours to the next level and add the sweet pieces of slightly smoked slab bacon, which play nicely against the full rosettes of heady basil. 33 Havemeyer St between North 7th and 8th Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-599-2210). Pie $24.

18. Plain pie at John’s of Bleecker Street

Scratched-wood booths, a bright neon-red sign and tattered floors outfit this charmingly shabby New York icon, which opened in 1929 and still buzzes with both tourists and locals. Cooked at 850 degrees in a coal-fired brick oven, the pizza has stood the test of time. A super-thin crust has just enough flop. Blanketed with sweet tomato and blistered, gooey cheese, the top-notch pie tastes of pure New York. 278 Bleecker St at Jones St (212-243-1680). Small $14.50, large $16.50.

17. Sicilian at Artichoke Basille

Forget the gloopy spinach-artichoke special that’s the namesake of this burgeoning pizza chainlet, from Staten Island natives Francis Garcia and Sal Basile. The superior order here is the Sicilian, which achieves a dexterous balance of tangy sauce, gooey mozzarella punched up with robust Parm, and a buttery, almost shortbreadlike, crust. The heaving slice is the kind of drunk food you would be just as happy to eat in broad daylight. 328 E 14th St between First and Second Aves (212-228-2004) • 111 MacDougal St between Bleecker St and Minetta Ln (646-278-6100) • 457 W 17th St at Tenth Ave (212-792-9200) • Slice $4, pie $26

16. Old-fashioned pie at Adrienne’s Pizza Bar

It’s worth braving the Wall Street clientele and dreadful trance music for the fabulous square pie at this Financial District pizzeria, from Nick Angelis of the famed Nick’s in Queens. A sheet pan of airy crust, glossy with oil and browned with char, drips with a robust tomato sauce and burnished blend of mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Load on the toppings—crisp porky pepperoni, meaty mushrooms, coins of fennel sausage—the substantial crust can handle any amount of gut-busting gluttony. 54 Stone St between Pearl and William Sts (212-248-3838). $18.50.

15. Pizza Patate at Sullivan St Bakery

It’s all about the bread at Jim Lahey’s celebrated bakery. The impeccable Roman-style square—silky dough pocked with air bubbles and sporting a baguettelike chew—would be good enough on its own. But  wisps of golden potatoes, crunchy brown just at the edges, along with curls of sweet onion and fragrant rosemary, put this virtuous slab of pizza over the top. 533 W 47th St between Tenth and Eleventh Aves (212-265-5580) • 236 Ninth Ave between 24th and 25th Sts (212-929-5900). Slice $3.50, pie $27.

14. Square pie at L&B Spumoni Gardens

Since 1939, this Bensonhurst original—where muscle-bound Brooklynites with deep accents gather in the outdoor patio—has served one of the best Sicilian slices in town. Candy-sweet tomato sauce is generously slathered over tall, doughy rectangles with a crunchy browned bottom. It’s finished with squares of melted mozzarella and zippy strands of Parm. 2725 86th St between 10th and 11th Sts, Gravesend, Brooklyn (718-372-8400). Slice $2.25, half tray $19, full tray $36.

13. Bee Sting at Roberta’s

Among food cognoscenti, the composed plates at indie favorite Roberta’s may have eclipsed its pies of late. The wily pizzaioli here rotate playfully named creations on and off the dinner menu as the seasons change; but our favorite of the signature pies, the Bee Sting, is a brunch mainstay (you can order it off-menu at other meal times). Fitting, since like breakfast sausage drenched in maple syrup, this excellent pie showcases the classic combo of savory pork with sweetness, here punched up with a spicy kick. On a foundation of stretchy mozzarella and velvety tomato sauce, a drizzle of honey melds with paper-thin coins of hot soppressata and chili flakes for a spicy-sweet-tangy mélange. 261 Moore St between Bogart and White Sts, Bushwick, Brooklyn (718-417-1118). $15.

12. Meatball pie at Nick’s Pizza

Nick Angelis’s classy Queens pizzeria—done up nicely with tall arched windows, bronzed tin ceilings and a gleaming copper espresso machine—defies New York’s pizza categories. It’s neither Neapolitan-style (pulled from a wood-burning hearth), nor old-school New York (baked in a coal-fired oven). But the ’za—built on light, thin crusts scorched on the bottom in a regular ol’ gas-assisted oven—is excellent all the same. The meatball pie, topped with flat, brown slices, may not look like much, but those tender full moons are packed with beefy flavor. Spread atop supple rounds of mozzarella and an oregano-fragrant tomato sauce, it’s our favorite version in town. 108-26 Ascan Ave between Austin and Burns Sts, Forest Hills, Queens (718-263-1126). Small $15.50, large $17.50.

11. Sausage pie at Denino’s Pizzeria & Tavern

“In crust we trust” is the pizza-box slogan of this family-style pizzeria—a Staten Island fixture since 1937 that keeps Frank Sinatra on the jukebox and friendly locals at the granite bar. The toppings are fine: The sauce is sparse and sweet, the cheese is mild, and the sweet Italian sausage is properly juicy. But it’s the unique crust, browned to perfection in a roaring brick oven, that endows this pizzeria with a mythmaking legacy: A flat round, crunchy with breadcrumbs, sports a crackling crenulated texture unlike any other in the city. 524 Port Richmond Ave at Hooker Pl, Staten Island (718-442-9401). $14.50.

10. Regular pie at Rubirosa

Born of pizza royalty at Staten Island’s lauded Joe & Pat’s, Angelo Pappalardo did a turn in fine dining (Esca) before planting a flag for the forgotten borough in Nolita. Pappalardo does the family legacy proud with these expertly charred thin-crust pies. As at the original, the Vodka version is unimpeachable, but you shouldn’t miss the outstanding plain pizza, crafted from a 50-year-old recipe: Generous discs of lush mozzarella and a thick swatch of bright tomato sauce hug a pliant crust that crackles at the edges. 235 Mulberry St between Prince and Spring Sts (212-965-0500). Small $16, large $24.

9. Slice at Sal & Carmine Pizza

Upper West Siders poured a little marinara out when legendary pie maker Sal Malanga passed away in 2009. But his brother Carmine and grandsons Luciano and George still carry on the family tradition for this hole-in-the-wall pizzeria, which opened in 1959. From the outside, Sal and Carmine looks like any no-frills slice joint, but step into the back and you’ll see vintage Christian Dior adverts and Walasse Ting prints hanging on the shabby walls—a touch of unexpected refinement in a seemingly generic spot. Likewise, there’s more than meets the eye with the humble slice. The stiff crust, thin layer of concentrated sauce and shredded mozzarella form something greater than the sume of their parts: a flawless harmony, hitting all the right notes of saltiness, tang and chew. 2671 Broadway between 101st and 102nd Sts (212-663-7651). $3.

8. Montanara Starita at Don Antonio by Starita

Pizza dream team Roberto Caporuscio (Kesté) and his mentor Antonio Starita—who opened their midtown gem in February 2012—weren’t the first to unveil the montanara. But theirs takes top honors in this fried-pizza-crazy town. Here, a round of dough is plunged in roiling oil to develop a fluffy, moist crumb and a darkly tanned exterior—the Italian-stallion kissing cousin to that sweet country-fair favorite, funnel cake. With melted pellets of smoked buffalo mozzarella and rich tomato sauce, the flavors of smoke, fruit and cream mingle together in a wood-burning oven. 309 W 50th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (646-719-1043). $12.

7. Regular pie at Di Fara Pizza

No pizza is worth a two-hour wait. But pizza pilgrims don’t trek to this far-out Brooklyn neighborhood for the ‘’za alone. Sure, the pie here is wonderful, one of the best in the city as it has been since 1965: The chewy, charred crust is topped with swirls of bright tomato sauce, a lacing of superior mozzarella and grated Parm, snips of basil and a golden sheen of olive oil. But the pizza obsessives—a motley cross-section of camera-toting tourists, rotund goodfellas and young Brooklynites—are here to watch Dom De Marco. He’s the last of a generation of dough-pushing titans—including Gennaro Lombardi, Patsy Grimaldi and Anthony “Totonno” Pero—who were devoted not to building pizzeria empires, but to making pies, day in and day out. Moving at a glacial pace, DeMarco hunches over each pie, ladling sauce and sprinkling cheese, seemingly oblivious to the hungry hordes: Make time to witness the twilight of an era before it’s gone. 1424 Ave J at 15th St, Midwood, Brooklyn (718-258-1367). Slice $5, pie $28.

6. Brussels-sprouts-and-pancetta pie at Motorino

Given his background, the ascent of Mathieu Palombino—a Belgium-born, French-trained toque—to become one of the city’s most heralded pizzaioli wasn’t a predictable one, but his stature since opening his Williamsburg pie shop in 2008 is now undeniable. His East Village pizzeria—the lone location since the flagship shuttered in 2011—showcases a first-rate crust: stretchy, fluffy at the edges and splotched with char on the bottom. Faithful renditions of Neapolitan forms are first-rate, but it’s the brussels-sprouts-and-pancetta pie that deserves entry into the pizza pantheon. Thick with fior di latte, the creative round gets a fresh hit of bitterness from sleek brussels sprouts leaves, slight heat from thin garlic slices and smoky pork from tender pancetta cubes. 349 E 12th St between First and Second Aves (212-777-2644). $16.

5. Margherita at Kesté Pizza & Vino

In a city lousy with Neapolitan-style pizzerias, Kesté broke through the noise when it started slinging its own superb rounds in 2009. Chef-owner Roberto Caporuscio is the president of the U.S. branch of the highly regarded Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani—the certifying organization for aspiring Neapolitan-style pizzaioli—making him a veritableprofessor of pie. His ingredient list is a lesson in proper sourcing: a slow-mixed dough made Caputo 00 flour, a simple, sweet San Marzano tomato sauce and pools of homemade mozzarella. And his puffy crust—speckled with tiny, burnished bubbles—is a winning testament to years spent mastering technique. No matter what you top it with, this world-class pie sings. 271 Bleecker St between Cornelia and Jones Sts, New York, NY (212-243-1500). $13.

4. Anise and Anephew at Paulie Gee’s

Chef-owner Paul Giannone may be Brooklyn’s only pizzaiolo to make appearances in the pages of both gourmet glossies and the AARP’s magazine. While his peers looked toward retirement on the horizon, the then-56-year-old left a career in IT consulting to follow a lifelong passion, opening a rustic pizza tavern in 2010. Creative wood-fired pies—like the Hellboy and Greenpointer—on artfully scorched crusts won over legions of fans, and beat out young bucks for TONY’s 2011 Food & Drink Award for Best Pizza. His homage to anise is a masterwork. Fennel four ways might sound like overkill, but Giannone’s gentle melding is a symphony. Milky fior di latte plays off sweet anisette-spiked cream and tender braised fennel, while superlative Berkshire guanciale and fennel fronds punch it up with pork and fresh herb flavors. 60 Greenpoint Ave between Franklin and West Sts, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (347-987-3747). $17.

3. Regular pie at Patsy’s Pizzeria

History hasn’t dulled the shine of this legendary pie shop. Opened in 1933 by one of New York’s pizza OGs, Pasquale “Patsy” Lancieri, the spot served as training ground for Patsy Grimaldi, and a haunt for Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Behind the iconic neon-red sign, the joint still turns out excellent thin-crust pies. Each pizza—pulled from a coal-fired oven with old-school bona fides—has the perfect ratio of scorch-spotted crust, tangy sauce, creamy mozzarella and salty Parm. Head straight to the East Harlem original: The leaden versions at the spin-off locations just don’t compare. 287-91 First Ave between 117th and 118th Sts (212-534-9783). $12.

2. Clam pie at Franny’s

Before there was Roberta’s or Paulie Gee’s or any of the locavore Italian joints that have proliferated recently in Kings County, there was Franny’s. The trailblazing Prospect Heights spot, run by husband-and-wife team Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens, opened it in 2004. It practically pioneered the nouveau-Brooklyn-pizza genre: ambitious pies made with righteous ingredients and time-honored techniques. Among its superlative options, we adore the stunning clam pie. The chewy crust—blistered with a hearth-scented char—is cloaked in lush cream and studded with fresh, meaty clams and pristine parsley leaves. Chili flakes lend a balancing spice. 295 Flatbush Ave between Prospect Pl and St. Marks Ave, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-230-0221). $17.

1. Pie with basil at Lucali

In the annals of New York’s pizza history, the pie maker has been better known as a humble flour-dusted artisan, not a swoonworthy celebrity toque. Credit Mark Iacono, a veritable pizzaiolo lothario, for figuring out how to embody both. The mythology of the Carroll Gardens native combines acts of small-town heroism (he turned to the pizza biz to save the space that was once his childhood candy shop) and classic bad-boy romance (who could forget his headline-making knife fight over a mafiosa wife in 2011?). And his transportive pizzeria—romantically staged with tobacco-stained walls, dangling boxing mitts and strumming guitar music—demands waits up to three hours. Locals vie with the likes of Beyoncé and Jay-Z (who skipped the Grammys for a slice) for one of the weathered-wood tables in view of Iacono, brawny in a white tee and punching out dough by candlelight. But its wild popularity is more than hype: Iacono’s pizza is flawless—a thin and crispy crust boasts a char-speckled bottom and pleasant chew. He blankets it with two types of mozzarella (buffalo and low-moisture), plus long gratings of Parmigiano-Reggiano, all boosted by a bright, long-simmered sauce. Then he showers the round with a bouquet of basil rosettes, giving each transcendent bite an anisey perfume. 575 Henry St between Carroll St and 1st Pl, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (718-858-4086). $24.

Birthday Weekend

This past Saturday, June 16th, was my 23rd birthday. While not a particularly special age, I have not truly celebrated my birthday since 5th grade when I took my friends to a pottery studio to paint. Not even my 21st birthday. For that I was stuck in a hotel in NJ for corporate training. This year, with my friends being so spread out, I decided to attempt at gathering them together.

Friday evening, began with dinner at a delicious local Greek restaurant called Kefi. The entire table order Souvlaki. Mine was with pork and incredibly flavorful. The meat was tender and smoky creating the perfect mix of flavors with the tzatziki sauce.

After consuming a wonderful meal ending with lemon and mango sorbet, we headed to the Little Kitten’s apartment on the Upper West Side for some homemade concoctions while we waited for the arrival of friends in transit. By midnight everyone had arrived including the infamous Minxy from Boston, two of my cousins and the ever ridiculous Doctor.

Once gathered, we headed out to the bar Prohibition, with live music every night, it’s one of Little Kitten’s favorites. The band this evening was quite good and the place was packed with people pushing up against each other, groping on the dance floor and enjoying their respective beverages.

Upon entering the bar, Little Kitten made her grand appearance by falling in her stripper heels. True to their nickname, these heels are 6 inch deadly platforms that should belong to Jenna Jameson. The bouncer, eying Little Kitten after her fall, made note of her name while checking IDs and wished her a wonderful night when leaving hours later.

My favorite quote of the evening came from a surprise guest, V, who I had not seen since graduation. While us lovely ladies were hanging out there was a group of gentlemen close by. She looked at them as said, “Hi! Why is there no beer? Don’t you see us. Buy us beer.” Mind you V is usually incredibly polite and she has no recollection of saying any of this. We did end up with a round of beer.

After Prohibition we headed to Jake’s Dilemma before drawing the evening to a close and making our way back to the apartment. The Little Kitten had one more tumble in her porn star heels at the apartment. She giggled throughout the whole spill.

Saturday morning began with a delay as we all showered, chugged water and popped some Advil before heading out for a delicious brunch at Max Brenner in Union Square. After a round of White Russians and chocolate martinis, Minxy, the Little Kitten, my two cousins and I enjoyed our scrumptious breakfasts of sweet treats and savory delights. I indulged in the Huevos Rancheros Sunrise Burrito with chorizo sausage and pepper jack cheese. I also had a side of Black and Tan Beer Battered Vidalia Onion Rings with Dark Chocolate Ranch Dressing. Heaven. Absolute, pure, white light, bliss. Best onion rings of my life and the sauce was incredible. It didn’t really taste like chocolate or like ranch, but some sultry, spicy concoction. Yum!

After brunch, my cousins departed and Minxy, Little Kitten and I lounged in Union Square for a while absorbing the heat from the sun. We slowly meandered our way into Chelsea stopping by a few stores and and an ice cream truck along the way. Upon reaching the High Line, we climbed up the stairs and onto the raised tracks that once held subway cars now covered with grasses, trees and flowers.


We followed the greenery for a while lavishing in the vibrant life surrounded by so many steel and glass buildings before leaving the high road for the shores of the Hudson as we found ourselves on a long line leading into The Frying Pan. The line moved swiftly and we were soon seated at a large table sipping on our drinks, Minxy with Jack on the rocks of course.

View of Manhattan from the Frying Pan, courtesy of Minxy.

As we consumed our drinks and the order of calamari I could not resist getting, the leftover pitcher of sangria from the group before stared at us longingly, willing us to drink it. Once all those who were privy to the true owners of that pitcher left, Little Kitten, in one bold move, grabbed the pitcher and filled her glass with sweet white wine with blueberries and pineapple. Minxy soon followed suit though my doubts about table sangria prevented me from joining in, I gave them credit for their bravery.

We soon walked over to Bathtub Gin, a prohibition style bar hidden behind a secret wall in Stone Street Coffee Company. Probably one of my greatest finds, this little nook offers a dark and romantic atmosphere with a cocktail selection that will make your head spin.

I wet my palate with a delicious wine cocktail made with elderberry liquor and a whole bunch of delicious stuff I wish I could remember. It was a mouth sensation that tickled my taste buds.

We ended the evening with sushi near the Little Kitten’s apartment and some free samples of gelato from a very nice man eager to get us to try the chocolate whiskey brownie. It was a wonderful weekend.