Monthly Archives: May 2012

Jim Parsons’ New Best Friend

by Louise, Community Manager

We all have a person in our lives who drives us crazy for one reason or another – they have some annoying habit that makes us wish we could disappear when they bring it out in public. That familiar situation is the basis for the story of Harvey, except the “annoying habit” protagonist Elwood P. Dowd has is a 6’2” tall white rabbit (or “pooka”) that only he can see, who is his best friend and accompanies him everywhere.

Needless to say, Elwood’s habit causes his sister and niece, who came to live with him after his mother’s death, a great deal of distress. His niece Myrtle May is dying to have an active social life, but terrified to bring anyone over to their home for fear of her uncle introducing them to his invisible leporine companion. The problem is compounded by the fact that Harvey is not merely Elwood’s friend, he also has a tendency to be able to predict the future, and Elwood is not shy about sharing his predictions with anyone and everyone. As you can imagine, all this is absolutely mortifying to Myrtle May and her mother Veta, who decide to take drastic measures and have Elwood committed to a local sanitarium. A comedy of errors ensues until nobody really knows who, if anyone, is actually sane (except for Elwood, who seems to never be concerned for a moment about his own mental health or anyone else’s).

While old fashioned (it was written in 1944), Harvey is one of those works that is timeless. There is no need for injections of pop culture humor to help make it funny for a modern audience – it just IS funny.

I was pretty excited.

Of course, being a person who loves TV almost as much as I love theater, I was incredibly excited to see Jim Parsons, most famous for playing the socially inept Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, take on a leading role on Broadway. Elwood P. Dowd is a perfect role for Parsons, who in my opinion just seems like the nicest person in the world in spite of how much of a jerk his character is on Big Bang. Elwood is also socially awkward, but in a very different way from Sheldon: Elwood is kind and friendly to a fault, prone to overwhelming flattery, likely to try to make a social engagement with you within about 30 seconds of introducing himself, and not likely to take no for an answer. Parsons takes on this role flawlessly and makes it his own, despite the fact that it was the great James Stewart who made it famous. I don’t know about the rest of the audience, but I was struggling with the impulse to go on stage on give him a big hug (no, not really – please don’t file a restraining order, Mr. Parsons!).

The cast of Harvey

The rest of the cast is also fantastic, and even if you’re not a frequent Broadway attendee, if you’re a TV lover like I am you’ll see a lot of familiar faces: Jessica Hecht (who played Susan on Friends), Charles Kimbrough (Jim Dial on Murphy Brown), Carol Kane (who is of course ubiquitous but I always remember her best as Simka on Taxi), Larry Bryggman (best known as Dr. John Dixon on As the World Turns) and Rich Sommer (Harry Crane on Mad Men). Every one of these actors does an excellent job, and together they are a force to be reckoned with. I also must mention Tracee Chimo, who was new to me but is a phenomenal Myrtle May. She embodied her character fully, with perfect facial expressions and wonderful little touches (like constantly adjusting her belt or fiddling with the buckle of her shoe) that really brought her to life. I’ll be keeping an eye on her in the future!

There is only a brief opportunity to see Harvey – it is playing through August 4th at Studio 54, with no chance of extension since Jim Parsons will need to return to California at the end of the summer. So don’t delay – e-mail me at lgeller@newyorkguest.com to plan your trip and snatch up some tickets before the opportunity passes you by!

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Making a case for The Mets

by Eileen, New York Guest Travel Planner & Resident Mets Fan

With the exception of a semester abroad in Australia during college, I’ve lived in New York my entire life. I grew up and still live in the most diverse county in the United States– Queens. I first lived in Jackson Heights and moved when I was six to Fresh Meadows, which is a little further into Long Island. Being only fifteen minutes away, the New York Mets are the only team I cheer for.

The New York Mets were born in 1962 as answer to the departure of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants for California. The departure of the two teams left a divided fan base that collectively hated the New York Yankees. The New York Metropolitans were born wearing the navy blue for the Dodgers and orange for the Giants.

As all teams do, the New York Mets had their highs (World Series Champions in 1969 and 1986, National League Eastern Division 2008) and lows (too many seasons to count, epic collapses from 2007-2010), but I still went to Shea Stadium and I continue to go to Citi Field and I think you should too.

Exhibit A. The View

There are only a few things that are truly breathtaking and the Manhattan skyline is one of them! Even I pause to catch a glimpse of Manhattan from the top of Citifield.

Exhibit B. The Food

Sure hot dogs, peanuts & cracker jacks and a beer are baseball game standards. Citi Field offers these delicious options but also had so much more! Walk behind center field and help yourself to delicious milkshakes from the Shake Shack. In the mood for Greek, Italian, Mexican, American seafood? Don’t worry Citi Field has it! Bored with your normal go-to beer? Don’t worry there is a stand dedicated to just beer- American, locally brewed, imported, dark, light! Oh and they have a gluten free stand! Come on an empty stomach, ye be warned.

My personal favorite is the Gluten Free Stand behind the first base foul pole! Yummy gluten free food? I’m sold!

Exhibit C. Cheaper Tickets

I realize that some of you readers may not have heard of the Mets before, some may have only heard of them in passing– it isn’t a big secret that the Mets are definitely the other team in New York. But they are here and they play on, which means they will do everything they can to fill the seats. The Mets are the most economically sound team in New York. They have giveaway nights (T-Shirt Tuesday) and sectioned off cheaper seats during more popular series. They want you to come to the ballpark without breaking the bank!

Many of my friends who are Yankee fans come to Citi Field more than Yankee Stadium, and that’s not because they had change of heart and jumped teams. It costs less to enjoy the other team than it is to enjoy their team.

Exhibit D. Citi Field

Many times I will purchase the least expensive ticket and head to the game. I’ll watch the first few innings of the game from my designated seat, however around the 4th inning I’ll get up and start walking around.
One of the great things about Citi Field is that you can now walk around and enjoy the game from any level in the stadium. While there aren’t any seats outside of the seating sections there are multiple areas where you can stand and enjoy the view. They even have cup holders on the benches you can lean on while standing. Why not walk around and enjoy the game?

Citi Field also knows how to entertain it’s fans between innings. While we do sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, we also sing “Lazy Mary” by Lou Monte during the 7th Inning Stretch while trying to catch a free t-shirt. We learned Spanish with Professor Reyes (’05-’09) and we always cheer when Cowbell Man comes around. Citi Field provides an atmosphere that constantly keeps your attention while keeping the fous on baseball.

One of the great new additions at Citi Field has been the Fan Fest behind Center Field. While this is area is the main food concourse, this is the spot for families and friends to play around in. I definitely didn’t make it through my first baseball game— my father was tired of my complaining it was too cold or too boring and we left around the sixth inning. The Fan Fest offers different types of baseball themed games— Xbox games, good ol’ fashioned T-ball. It’s a great alternative for families with younger kids who won’t sit through a full game. It’s also just a lot of fun to hang out in.

Exhibit E : It’s in Queens!

As I mentioned before, Queens is the most diverse county in the United States. It’s also the most ethnicially diverse urban area in the world with over 2.2 million residents. Of that population— 46% of residents are foreign born, from over 100 different nations, and speak over 138 different languages. We love our culture.

Queens is definitely worth exploring. The 7 subway train departs from Times Square, winds its way through the neighborhoods, makes a brief stop at Citi Field and Flushing Meadows Park, and ends at Flushing Main Street. In the mood for some Greek flare— head to Astoria. In the mood for a mix of Latin American culture- head to Jackson Heights or Elmurst (where I grew up). In the mood for some Filipino food or a very much Irish neighborhood pub- head to Woodside (where my father lived). I think you get where I’m going with this; head to Queens to see regular New Yorkers trying to live the American dream live it.

My wonderful colleague, Jeanette wrote an amazing blog on all of her top recommendations along the 7 line. I suggest enjoying lunch at one of those establishments, heading to Flushing Meadow Park to see the Unispehre and enjoy the general calming effect parks have, and then catching a baseball game. It’s a $2.25 fare— what is there to lose?

Want to book a package including Mets tickets? Eileen would love to help you! E-mail her directly at efitzgerald@newyorkguest.com!

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Say Yes to Arno!

by Sal, New York Guest Concierge

If you want casual dining, or if you simply desire a glass of wine with great appetizers, Arno is the place. Upon walking in one immediately notices an environment that is a clean standard for fine Italian dining: plenty of table space, dark tone wood textures and a divine wine display at the bar.

My first visit to Arno was intended to be a short lunch stop for a glass of wine and perhaps a snack at the bar, but this was not the case. One of the managers, Marian, had stepped away from her table to welcome me and my guest to Arno and she offered up a suggestion for the cheese platter, served with an eclectic choice of cheeses and a small ramekin of honey. DELISH! I wish I had taken pictures. I was there during their lunch hours and the restaurant area was quiet, but very tranquil. It was the perfect space for the mood that I was in. Small talk about wines and cheeses kept me entertained and then the enthusiastic Marian insisted that she take me and my guest on a tour. She could not have been more proud of her restaurant, and it showed her through grace and smile. She showed us the upstairs private dining area that offered the perfect amount of seclusion if one wanted to have a private party and still stay a part of the main dining area. There are still some changes that are happening to the upstairs table section that Marian was ecstatic about and I am eager to see the end result on my next visit!

After the tour from upstairs, I was amazed that the two very large dining rooms have an beautifully designed wall of panels that open to make the two rooms become one very large space. I thought it stopped there and I was already excited to know that there were options for privacy for whatever size group of 2 or 20, but then there was downstairs. This place is HUGE! She took us down the stairs and showed us a few more private dining areas that were always available for hosting the largest of events or dinners. And the amazing thing was is that they do not charge to use the space, just for the food. I accused Marian of sitting on a throne of lies, there is no way a restaurant of this size does not charge for the VIP privacy downstairs and not charge extra, but they in fact don’t.

I made a reservation for a few weeks later to actually sit in the dining hall and it could not have been more perfect. I was greeted by a hostess who recognized me and immediately brought over Marian who was excited to see me and my new guest. She sat us down and made sure we were quickly attended to. Our server was a boisterous man with a personality to match. One of the more memorable things was how he managed to pick up details about my guest and I while he took our orders. I could imagine this being a joy for any visitor of the city to have a server who showed so much interest in you and your history. This really made for an intimate dining experience with a staff that offered genuine service and care. The food itself you can tell was delicious as my guest and I kept passing our forks to each others’ plates. We shared a very large appetizer of Calamari that left me nervous that there wouldn’t be room for the entrée. But I was wrong, the portions were very appropriately sized and our server dazzled us with his presentation and excitement to make sure everything was to our liking. For such a New York staple environment that seems pretty standard, we were having a jolly good time! Now to finish up with our excitement of the evening before we left to our show, we noticed that Arno likes to play tricks on you. While you dine, they wheel a multi-level cart of DESSERTS around you and other patrons just to taunt you. Clever clever! We couldn’t have even made up our minds, so we took about 4 different desserts off that tray! On our way out we got a fond farewell from our server, the owner and finally, the lovely Marian. How could I not want to go back?

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Fresh, Fun & Flavorful: Ed’s Chowder House

by Maeva, New York Guest Concierge

I almost felt like a tourist this past Sunday as I took the train to Columbus Circle for the very first time. The sun was shining, the air was cool, and the birds were whistling. It was a beautiful day for Brunch at the Empire Hotel’s on site restaurant, Ed’s Chowder House Restaurant and Raw Bar. Though it is known for its plethora of tasty crustaceans and seafood, without needing my epinephrine pen, this allergy prone gal gave the place a shot! (Pun intended). When I walked through their main entrance, the atmosphere reminded me of the charm of a renaissance coastal villa. It felt fresh, plenty of room for groups, and window corner tables for couples. Sections could even be partitioned for private dining. All that was missing as I looked out the window was the pink sandy beach and the hawking of nearby seagulls.

The menu was arranged quite simply and categorized by Raw Bar, Shellfish Platters, Chowders, Appetizers, Brunch Specials, Ed’s Favorites, and Simple Mains. I was surprised with the variety of eclectic dishes to choose from, but when my eyes landed on their Eggs Benedict (two poached eggs, with smoked salmon, Canadian bacon, and hollandaise on a bed of toasted English muffin & home fries) I felt like this would be their test. Eggs Benedict is my ultimate comfort food, especially on a weekend. As I spoke to the waiter about all my food allergies, he kindly made me aware that everything is made-to-order, so if I wanted my dish gluten free, salt free, or dairy free, all I have to do is ask. So of course I told him to keep the shellfish away, unless of course he’d want to give me the Heimlich himself! He also suggested that I should try their wild mushroom chowder with porcini cream & crispy leeks – the only soup option without clams or loaded with crab and shrimp. The soup was very earthy, and the scallions and leeks were a flavorful combination.

My Eggs Benedict almost made me cry; it was too pretty to eat. But who was I kidding, the minute I took a bite my palate was doing its happy dance. By far, this was the best Eggs Benedict I have ever eaten without feeling like a complete slob. The prosciutto was a nice addition to the dish. My fish-only vegetarian friend went wild over their medium well Tuna Steak and Asparagus. It was so good, my friend only allowed me one bite to taste. I know what to order next time I make a visit.

By the time we both finished our food, our bellies were really full. I didn’t even get to finish my Mimosa, but I didn’t want to leave without peeking at their dessert menu. The item that jumped at me from their list of sweet liquid treats and cake assortments was the Coconut Rice Pudding and Mango Sorbet- Yummy, yummy in my tummy!

It was a worthwhile experience eating Sunday Brunch at Ed’s Chowder House Restaurant and Raw Bar. I’m definitely looking forward to my next visit, this time to sample their dinner menu!

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The Top 10 NYC Aerial Views Photos!

This month we asked you for photos you took while looking down on New York City (in the literal sense only, of course) and we loved what you sent! When you live and work in NYC sometimes you go for years without seeing these kinds of views. We are having trouble picking our favorite – so please vote for yours!

Scroll down to see all the candidates!

#1 by Allen Brown

#2 by Ana Laura Soria

#3 by Lali Galuppo

#4 by Laura Ghisalberti

#5 by Linda Brown

#6 by Linda Brown

#7 by Luca Martignoni

#8 by Michelle Scott

#9 by Michelle Scott

#10 by Thais Yamanishi

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A First Look at The New Algonquin

by Michael, Director of Hotel Sales

I worked at the Algonquin many years ago and was drawn to it for the nostalgia and history it represents. At the time, it was a quirky hotel on club row surrounded by much more up-market hotels, but the Gonk (as we so lovingly referred to it) represented so much more than a hotel…it was an experience…it was stepping back in time where the spirit of the those that sat around the Round Table so long again were still there. Granted the names and faces were different, but the spirit was still in play. To that end, it was with great trepidation that I went to see the new renovation as I heard so many of the iconic elements that made the the Algonquin the Algonquin were stripped away. However, what I experienced upon entering the new Gonk quickly alleviated my fears—it’s not just a renovation but also a restoration. They have masterfully combined the timeless elegance of yesterday with the modern convenience of the 21st century.

The lobby still maintains its “parlor” like feel…often referred to as an oasis of serenity in a city that does not know how to spell serenity. The Blue Bar has been both expanded and updated—it will no longer be a dark bar serving wonderful cocktails but the new bar will create an experience, and those who often asked “why is this called the Blue Bar?” will never have to asked again. Much to the dismay of many, the Oak Room is no more. After having help launch the careers of Michael Feinstein, Diana Krall, Harry Connick Jr, Jaime Cohen to name but a few, it has now been transformed in to quite an elegant breakfast room to serve the many business travelers during the week. But just wait: new happenings are planned for the space that will put this iconic room back on everyone’s weekend’s itinerary.

The famous wallpaper that was designed by the illustrators of the New Yorker magazine is gone. However, what is lost in nostalgia is gained in the perception that the once dark hallways appear to be that much bigger and more inviting. Guest rooms still have that residential feel however, all the modern conveniences have been installed. The really most exciting improvement is the bathrooms. Those they thought the bathrooms was not user friendly are in for a surprise—the new bathrooms feature walk-in showers, ample lighting, and a functional sink area where one can place their personal items

All and all the Gonk is positioned to continue its grand heritage and will once again, welcome those travelers looking for some thing a bit different than saying in a big box hotel. The ghosts are still there…even Matilda is still in the house but one thing has changed…for the first time since 1902, an automatic ice maker has been added for guest convenience. Fear not though, guest can still call down to have ice delivered to their room complimentary as in days past.

Want to be one of the first to stay at the new Algonquin? E-mail us at info@newyorkguest.com for exclusive package deals!

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Love, Lies and the World’s Most Awkward Dinner Party

by Louise, Community Manager

The name may make you blush (it makes me blush) but don’t let that stop you from going to see Cock, the new Off Broadway production written by Mike Bartlett, now in previews at the Duke Theater on 42nd Street. I just saw this show and spent most of my ride home staring pensively out the subway window, reflecting on it.

The Duke has been set up to look like a cock-fighting arena, with five rows of seats arranged in a circle around a small, round area that serves as the stage. There is no set and there are no costume changes; the actors let you know where they are and what they’re wearing in any given seen through their dialogue and interactions with one another – and it works. Much of the time the actors are slowly circling the stage, facing each other, much like they are about to start fighting at any moment. The scenes end and begin with a bell, letting us know that the “round” is over. The simple production allows you to look past the superficial aspects of the experience the characters are having – what the dining table looks like, the color of the sheets on the bed, the food they are eating – and focus simply on the conflict at hand.

And the conflict has the complexity of a thousand complicated set dressings. The main character, John, finds himself in love with two people at once – his long term boyfriend, and a woman he recently met who has caused him to question his sexual identity. John’s boyfriend forces the issue by strong-arming John into arranging a dinner with him and the woman, and then to make matters worse, invites his father to join them. What results is emotionally charged, excruciatingly awkward, at times extremely funny, and totally riveting.

While we may never have been in a position where we had to choose between two potential life partners – one from each gender, no less – we have all been in situations where we have a choice to make that we feel will affect our entire identity, and if we choose wrong we’ll no longer be ourselves. That’s what makes this play so relatable, even if you’ve never struggled with your own sexuality. There is a moment where John rightly points out that one’s entire identity should not be tied to sexual orientation the way it seems to be, which is absolutely true, but in that moment he is also telling us that his choice is not between the man and the woman, his choice is much deeper than that. And that is an internal conflict to which we can all relate.

Strong performances are given by every member of the four person cast, who do a spectacular job remaining fully committed to their performance despite being able to see and hear essentially everything the audience is doing. I’m not an actress, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how distracted I would be by everyone. It’s such a huge risk going out there every night knowing that if you disappoint the audience you’ll definitely be able to tell, and that gives this play an extra level of intensity too. The characters are bearing their souls, but so are the actors.

For a unique theater experience I highly recommend seeing Cock. Feel free to e-mail me at lgeller@newyorkguest.com with your questions or for customized travel packages including tickets to the show!

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