May 17, 2022 – Pangea Supper Club, New York City
T Spoon Phillips joined on stage by Doug Pierson and Rob Meador to play some Spoonville tunes for the first time in 15 years!
More at tspguitar.com
We had to cancel our annual St. Pat’s show due to the 2019 NYC COVID lockdown. Last year, we had to do a short cyber set. But for 2022 we are BACK!
Let’s hope their awesome corned beef sandwiches are back for St. Pat’s too!!!
“The perfect bar!” – NY Times Home – Freddy’s Bar (freddysbar.com)
627 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 718-768-0131 – 8 PM SHARP!!! with Hot Burlesque later that evening!!!!
The Highland Shatners had to cancel last year’s annual appearance at Freddy’s Back Room, in Brooklyn, due to the COVID-19 Emergency. And this year we gathered as best we could for a mini set. Not too shabby for a parcel of lads who haven’t played these songs for a year, let alone met up in person.
The Highland Shatners coalesced from a larger collection of musicians who performed for an annual event at La Mama ETC of Scottish music and poetry, to raise money for the Burns Night Supper of a now extinct Scottish society in New York City.
The band’s set lists typically contain traditional and modern Celtic music, together with Paisley Pop tunes from the ’60s and ’70s and, appropriately enough, songs from the original Star Trek series.
Although it has been some years since they performed with any frequency, the Highland Shatners continue to play each St. Patrick’s Day at Freddy’s Back Room in Brooklyn, NY. Come by for a good time, March 17, 2022, and a spectacular corned beef sandwich too!
And their set at Joe’s Pub in the New York Public Theater was well attended and greatly received.
Granted they may be an acquired taste. And the shows may be a bit rough-edged when it comes to tightness and the vocals and strings all being in tune, over the years since front man Don Rauf moved to Seattle, so that they do not get much in the way rehearsal or gigging to stay honed and sharp.
But the current line up of Life in a Blender has been together over 20 years. And their many fans are more than happy enough to sing along to the old favorites and soak up the new songs imparted with gusto from the quirky, cathartic perspective from inside the Blender.
According to their official Wiki – Transatlantic Sessions is the collective title for a series of musical productions by Glasgow-based Pelicula Films Ltd, funded by- and produced for BBC Scotland, BBC Four and RTÉ of Ireland. Each half-hour episode features a core “house band” led by Shetland fiddler Aly Bain, and special guests, recorded at a unique location, such as a stately manner house.
The 2017 American tour was an almost-three hour extravaganza featuring some of the finest musicians ever produced in the UK or Ireland, along with many special guests from the USA, most of whom have appeared at various Transatlantic Sessions in the UK.
Jerry Douglas – Steel Guitars, Vocals (USA)
Aly Bain- Fiddle (Scotland)
John McCusker – Fiddle, Whistle (Scotland)
Michael McGoldrick- Pipes, Flute, Whistle (England)
Donald Shaw – Accordion, Piano (Scotland)
Russ Barenberg – Guitar (USA)
John Doyle – Guitar, Guizouki, Vocals (Ireland)
Daniel Kimbro – Bass (USA)
James MacKintosh – Drums (Scotland)
Mary Chapin Carpenter (USA)
Rosanne Cash (USA)
Sarah Jarosz (USA)
Declan O’Rourke (Ireland)
Aoife O’Donovan (USA)
John Paul White (USA)
Karen Matheson (Scotland)
Look for Transatlantic Sessions on BBC, PBS, and Youtube
Stopping by for an excellent meal, I learned about their summer Solo Fest, starting this week.
Each evening will feature solo performers, beginning with Amy Stiller on Wednesday, July 13, in “Just Think,” a semi-autobiographical journey of the only non-famous member of a very famous family.
All Solofest offerings are at 6 PM and cost $10, which goes to the artist, plus a $10 food or drink minimum.
That is a spectacularly great price for the chance to see Arturo O’Farrill, the multi-Grammy-winning composer and leader of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, playing alone on the baby grand piano in an intimate setting. As he will on Friday, July 15.
And on Tuesday, July 19, the cafe’s own Robin Hirsch will present “The Whole Word Passes Through” with tales of the many fascinating people, both famous and obscure, who have crossed the threshold of the Cornelia Street Cafe.
This former Oxford, Fulbright, and English-Speaking Union Scholar never disappoints when it comes to his prose or his extemporaneous storytelling.
The festival runs through July 27, with music, comedy, theater, and political satire. See the cafe’s official website for the full line up and the many other performances taking place this summer.
There isn’t an item on the menu I cannot recommend. But my favorites include the kale caesar salad, with just the right amount of avocado and grape tomatoes; the smoked salmon plate with toasted bread, chopped red onion, herb cream cheese, and large capers on the stem; and the richly luscious sea scallops, when they have them.
My go-to entree has been the crusted salmon, which is always excellent. But I only recently had the chicken breast for the first time. Was I ever missing out? It is so tender and juicy and flavorful that it may make you rethink ordering more exotic fare when dining out around New York City. It really is that good.
Mr. Hirsch is understandably proud of the wine list, which offers some interesting and quite reasonably priced selections from around the globe, many of which you are unlikely to taste elsewhere.
I am a new and enthusiastic fan of the Skyline Red, from Idaho, of all places. This blend of several grape varieties is velvety to the point of buttery, with plump dark berries, and integrated oak that is spread throughout, rather than just providing the fruit bowl.
There is also the Cafe’s own label, which appears on a refreshing chardonnay of grape skins, with orchard fruits ripening over time, and on a juicy plum of a pinot noir, both with nicely mild oak and extremely moreish.
And just last night I had a very interesting white wine from France – Perle Bleue, made with a grape used for Cognac and Armagnac. I am not by nature a white wine drinker, but this was extraordinary. Not sweet, but not particularly dry, it had a wisp of sea salt on the nose, and arrived on the palate like an ocean wave, with a vibrant splash that quickly subsided into a relaxing, lingering finish. Itself moreish, but in a curiously enigmatic way.
I cannot speak much to the beers. When people ask me if I am a beer snob, my reply of “Beer is an English word for something made in England by Englishman,” usually shuts down the conversation rather quickly.
But the cafe currently has Bell’s Two Hearted Ale on tap. This Michigan brew is one of best beers in America, with a medium body that is dry yet malty and buttressed by a crisp hoppy edge that remains firm but not overbearing. So it is on par with an English IPA and therefore not the face-puckering astringent grapefruit juice typical of American craft brewing.
But I of all people would be remiss if I did not mention they have some nice Cognac brandy available, which is reminiscent of typical cafe digestifs in France – grounded and pleasant at a decent price. And they also have Brenne, the French single malt whisky.
Made with French barely in French stills in the Cognac region, Brenne is aged in new oak from the Limousin forest, and finished in casks that had previously aged Cognac.
A pure malt spirit of high quality, it is hard to believe it is a scant 7 years old. The telltale toasted marshmallow and wood spice of French oak are further enriched with the orange zest, white pepper, and maraschino cherries of the cognac finishing.
Its youth is revealed by the bubble gum vanillins and lactones on the nose, and the relatively quick finish. However, single malt this young would normally be a blend of various casks, to cover up the rougher edges of immature spirit and smooth out the uncouth tannins. Brenne is bottled as single cask whisky! – astonishing, since it shows none of the harshness normally experienced in younger malts.
If you haven’t already figured it out, the Cornelia Street Cafe is a veritable jewelry box of sensual pleasures and sensational Jazz, poetry, and other artistic expression. It is well worth the time if you are in Greenwich Village, and well worth the effort to get there if you are not.
Open every day except Christmas Day, with 700 shows a year.
But don’t just take my word for it. Here is what Trip Advisor has to say on the cafe.
And that is one man’s word on…
Painting by Stephen Magsig
Whether you are tourist or a native, so many sites of historical interest often go unnoticed in the whirling stimulus of New York City. This map will let you see what is just around the corner, or provide reasons to visit areas you might not think of at first, when out for sightseeing.
When you zoom in, whole historic districts are illuminated.
Clicking on a an individual site brings up a breakout box, with information and a photo of the site in question, and a link to the official landmark designation.
(click photos to enlarge)
The fourth-generation family enterprise has been in the business of “appetizing” since 1914. Their thriving sliver of a shop on Houston Street features smoked and kippered fish that temps from behind the left counter, while sweets are longed for from behind the right counter. It is one of the last holdouts from a time when the neighborhood was dotted with similar shops.
But while the cafe offers traditional Jewish fare from indulgent delicacies like caviar to kibbutz comfort food like kugel, it is a thoroughly modern concern, with a hip, multicultural staff and clientele, reflecting the demographics of today’s Lower East Side, although the menu is focused very much on tradition, and quality.
Even the coffee is excellent, if pricey at $3. There was none of the citrus sourness too often infecting boutique brews these days. It was nutty and robust, while the acidity was understated, so I had no inclination to add milk. But I did eventually, just to see. It actually took a good deal of milk to make a dent in such a deep, dark roast, but with the proper ratio it transformed into a luscious café con leche. Left black, it is full-bodied, with a taste akin to espresso, making it the perfect companion for my chocolatey desert.
But I am getting way ahead of myself, as that was the jewel at the end of a satisfying meal.
As a waspy Ohioan growing up a long way from the sea, I never liked fish of any sort. But I had always wanted to try matzo ball soup, after hearing about it in countless movies and TV shows. I have since become something of a connoisseur, so of course I had to order it, despite the 95 degree heat outdoors. Thankfully, the cafe’s AC is top notch, and it’s been ages since I tasted this centerpiece of Jewish bobeshi cooking. It was a great way to end my matzo fast.
Traditional but not typical, R & D’s matzo ball soup ($8) is made with a dark and savory bone broth. Russet colored and flecked with herbs, with a smallish ball of dense matzo accompanied by buoyant arcs of celery and a rogue piece of carrot that lounged against the side of the bowl.
It is incredibly salty! Stunning really. But my pallet adjusted quickly, and all that salt was balanced with the subtler flavors in the broth, accented by the tannic crunch of fresh celery.
The menu listed chicken in the ingredients, but I didn’t see any. And then I realized it was in the matzo ball. That is a nice touch, as it imbues much more personality than found in the usual bland wad of pithy dough.
Each bite provided a schmaltzy satisfaction, enhanced by the occasional little morsel of dark chicken meat. And the matzo ball was not salty, so it proved a toothsome counterweight for the broth, which took on more chickeny taste as the ball was sliced up. I only kept from drinking the last ounces because of all I had yet to ingest.
While I still avoid the fishiest of fishes, decades of living in a deep water port have expanded my tastes, so I followed the soup with “the Classic” smoked salmon plate ($16) and was enraptured.
This fish is delish, and oh so rich. Silky yet firm, thin yet massive and melting with tenderness. It was lightly smoky – think Oban rather than Laphroaig, both of which are available by the glass at market prices for diners who like to pair smoked fish with smoked single malt whisky.
Being late in the day and intent on desert, I had my lox with pumpernickel bread, rather than one of their bagels (which are sourced from the Bagel Hole right here in Park Slope.) And I indulged in the tangy pleasures of the salmon, alone or as a tier in a stack of onion, tomato, capers, and cream cheese.
The menu refers to this fish as gaspe nova smoked salmon. Once upon a time that would have meant wild salmon from the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec that was prepared like traditional Nova Scotian “lox.” Today it means high-quality farmed salmon from Norway (where my favorite sashimi comes from,) which is smoked in Brooklyn, to approximate the gaspe nova lox experience. And it was terrific! The same can be said about the quality of everything that passed my lips.
The July tomato was meaty and tasted like it came straight from a garden, or at least the farmers market. So good, I ate most of it by itself. The onion was crisp and kindly, and every bit as fresh as the tomato; the cream cheese earned its qualifier, and the capers were plump and popping with flavor. My only complaint is that the smidgen of dill wasn’t nearly enough for the ample supply of fish. But I do know it has gone missing from local bodegas, so perhaps they are trying to stretch their current supply. Also, the bread was so mild it was basically a delivery platform. Next time I will try their old-fashioned shissel rye, as this salmon should stand up to it nicely.
Although they have a well-stocked supply of spirits and wines, I had one of their soft drinks, concocted at the soda fountain from seltzer and various flavored syrups. I enjoyed the cucumber soda ($5.) It was a good choice for the meal, softly flavored with essence of jasmine, fennel, dill, anise and lime, and garnished with a long slice of fresh cucumber, which when eaten was an ideal palate cleanser between the lox and the “babka french toast,” ($10) full of gooey chocolate spread, and served with fresh strawberries and sour cream.
Even with the very adult coffee, the babka was almost too much for one person – almost. But I did get a good look and whiff of the fruit compote blintzes, and I am definitely having them next time, after a knish or perhaps some latkes, and another smoked fish plate. I have always wanted to see what sturgeon tastes like.
Yes, one pays some premium to sit down to delicacies that can be had at the Houston street shop for less. But many things well worth having are available only at the cafe. And the AC is awfully nice, even though the seats at the counter seem made for one sprier and smaller than I. But otherwise, the environment is quite enjoyable, as is the cheerful, young wait staff, for their fashions and body art if nothing else.
I just happened to pick up some rugelach at the shop to take with me to Martinfest in a couple of days, and I was feeling a bit peckish. So I thought I would finally check out Russ & Daughter’s cafe, to see what it was like.
I am glad I did, even if I am also glad it is not closer to home or near my usual thoroughfares. Otherwise, it could be far too habit-forming.
And that is one man’s word on…
127 Orchard Street, above Delancey