Monday, December 6, 2010

From the Met to Broadway and the Dinners in Between

Last week was a very busy week for me.  In addition to taking all those fun photographs of the holiday windows and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, I took full advantage of offers around the city for rush tickets, student rush tickets, and lottery tickets for incredible shows both at the Metropolitan Opera and on and off Broadway.  I saw my first opera ever, Carmen.  It was amazing, and I'm sure quite scandalous for its time.  I was already familiar with almost all of the music, and seeing it performed in this incredibly beautiful and famous opera house by the seriously talented cast was the experience of a lifetime.  Paying only $20 for an orchestra seat made it all the more satisfying :)  If you are a fan of opera, a fan of Carmen, or even bored, please check out this clip of the super talented Elina Garanca singing the famous Habanera.  She is very talented.

I also saw my second opera last week!  I went back for more of the $20 rush tickets deal, and saw La Boheme, perhaps the world's most popular opera.  It is the opera on which the musical Rent is based.  It's the same general story, except La Boheme takes place in Paris while Rent takes place in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  La Boheme also ends more tragically than Rent does.  I was far less familiar with this opera than Carmen, but fell in love instantly with the lyrical music.  It was touching, breathtaking, heartfelt, and certainly another experience of a lifetime for me.  You can see part of the performance here.  A different actor performed this song when I saw it, but he was equally talented.  Also here is a very short clip from the beginning of Act II, which was my favorite act, I think.  The set was incredible, they had a horse-drawn carriage on stage, along with a man on stilts, and so much more.  The music was also more carefree and fun than some of the more dramatic and emotional scenes that came later on.

I also saw my first Broadway musical last week! I used my student ID to get a student rush ticket and sat in the 2nd row! That's a pretty sweet deal!  I saw Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, a musical based on a film which I had never heard of, but I hear now that it's supposed to be pretty funny so I guess I'll check it out, haha.  I enjoyed the musical overall, but didn't love it the way I've loved others before.  Some songs were great (my favorite was Model Behavior), and some were so-so, although I am glad I got to see Patti LuPone perform in this show, as she is a Broadway legend.  You can watch some clips from the show below!

I have attempted quite a few Broadway lotteries in the past... and I have FAILED at all of them.  The Merchant of Venice was no exception.  I failed at my first attempt at the lottery.  And I failed at my second attempt.  Luckily, though, before my second attempt, I met someone also attempting the lottery who only needed 1 ticket, but put down 2.  He said if he was picked I could purchase his second ticket for myself.  He was picked, and I was not.  Making new friends is fun :) I got to see The Merchant of Venice starring AL PACINO thanks to a new friend I made (see, it helps being friendly to strangers).  The show is currently sold out until Christmas, and is closing shortly after the New Year, so I knew my chances to see it would be limited.  Although our seats were in the last row of the mezzanine, the theater is small, and the mezzanine rows are very steeply arranged, so we had a great view of the stage without any blockage (I'm short and people's heads are ALWAYS blocking my view... except for this time!).  If you get an opportunity to see this show before it closes I can't recommend it enough.  It was wonderful!

I also saw my first Off Broadway play last week (yeah, I know I saw A LOT of shows, haha, thank goodness for rush tickets!).  It wasn't really that far off Broadway so I'm not sure why it's considered Off Broadway, but in any case, it was a great performance!  I saw The 39 Steps, based on Hitchcock's film, but performed in a far more comedic way (a spoof) with only 4 actors performing all of the roles, and minimal sets making for a truly entertaining evening!  I also highly recommend this show if you get a chance!  I'd love to see it again.  Here's a look behind the scenes...

A night at the opera or at the theater usually is accompanied by a meal.  Not always, but it's common.  Especially when waiting for rush tickets, you can spend hours in line and then have an hour or two until the show begins in order to feed yourself before it's too late.  Now that I've shared some of the great shows I've been lucky enough to see last week, I will share some of my eats before the shows!

Bouchon Bakery
10 Columbus Circle (3rd Floor)
(between Central Park W & Broadway)
New York, NY 10019
(212) 823-9366

I wandered down to the Time Warner Center before seeing Carmen, figuring that I could purchase a delicious and quick meal at Bouchon Bakery.  I had been there before and had enjoyed the TKO (Thomas Keller Oreo) which is definitely a much more refined (and larger) version of everyone's favorite cookie.

TKO (Thomas Keller Oreo) $3

This time I opted to try the Quiche Lorraine, which I remember was featured on Food Network's Best Thing I Ever Ate (the Guilty Pleasures show).  I LOVE quiche, and was ready to be blown away by this one.  I wasn't.  It was very good, but it wasn't the life-changing quiche I was expecting.  Some of the bacon was slightly undercooked (read: chewy as opposed to crispy) and I didn't really taste any cheese (one of two major components making a quiche "Lorraine").  It wasn't a bad quiche by any means, but it was not the best quiche ever.  Good, but simply not great.  I would happily go back to Bouchon and give them another chance, because of Keller's reputation, I will not write him off based on a single quiche experience.  Take note: crispy bacon = good bacon.  That is all.

Quiche Lorraine $9.50

Bar Boulud
1900 Broadway
(between 63rd St & 64th St)
New York, NY 10023
(212) 595-0303

Before seeing La Boheme, I decided to head directly across the street from Lincoln Center and try Bar Boulud's Pre-Theater menu.  I had been here before, over a year ago for lunch for Restaurant Week, and selected a prix-fixe menu this time as well.  $42 for 3 courses is a great deal for the food here (and considering my orchestra ticket to the opera only cost me $20 (for a $100+ seat), I didn't feel so guilty about indulging in this meal).  While Bar Boulud is known for its charcuterie and wine selection, I didn't partake in either during this visit.

First of all, I must say (and this may seem silly) that the butter served here is of superior quality.  I love butter and olive oil served with my bread, but there are few occasions when I really take note of the quality.  It stands out.  This is damn good butter.  Damn.  Good.  I'm actually tempted to ask them where they get their butter from (in case I want to jump start the road to a heart attack).  Before I even had my first course, I was served complimentary gougeres (cheese puffs).  They were perfect.  Still warm, light as air, and cheesy.  Oh so cheesy.  The perfect gougeres.

Because the evening was so chilly, I selected the soup out of my three choices for the first course.  It was Soupe de Topinambour, a Jerusalem artichoke veloute, with smoked bacon and a watercress custard.  It too was perfect.  Seriously.  It was one of the best soups I've had in a long time, silky, rich, perfectly seasoned, and completely comforting.  I was relieved I had saved one piece of bread which I used to sop up every last drop.  There is a recipe in my PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED Cafe Boulud Cookbook for Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Sage Croutons.  I can't help but wonder if it's the same basic recipe but replacing the croutons with the watercress custard.  I will have to try it and see :)

For my entrée, I was torn between the duck confit and the beef short rib ravioli.  Both were alluring, and in the end I went with the Raviolis de Boeuf, braised beef short rib ravioli, porcini confit, butternut squash, sage, and Parmesan.  The dish featured four large raviolis filled with unctuous beef, topped with meaty mushrooms, mushroom foam, long strips of fresh Parmesan, a little butternut squash, and finally some crumbled crispy sage.  It was very meaty, both from the beef and meatiness of the mushrooms, very comforting and delicious, but I secretly wished I had gotten the duck confit.  Perhaps next time!

Dessert was another winner.  I selected the Tarte au Noix de Pecans et Chocolat, a chocolate pecan tart with caramelized pears and chocolate vanilla ice cream.  The crust was slightly thicker than I would have expected, but it was the perfect texture, not too firm or dry (which can be the case with a thicker crust).  The chocolate was more of a background note to the pecans, which was fine because there was chocolate drizzled all over the plate, and the nuttiness of the tart was excellent.  The pears were slightly gingery and tart, an excellent foil to the sweetness and nuttiness of the tart.  The chocolate vanilla ice cream was a nice balance of both swirled together in one perfectly creamy scoop.  It was served at the exact texture it should have been, soft enough to easily slide a spoon through, but not melting all over the plate.  This was a lovely dessert.

Wondee Siam II
813 9th Ave
(between 53rd St & 54th St)
New York, NY 10019
(917) 286-1726

I saw a matinée performance of The Merchant of Venice followed by an evening performance of The 39 Steps, so I definitely needed to eat something between the shows.  I didn't want to spend a lot of money, but I needed something that would warm me up on a cold night and satisfy.  I decided to try Wondee Siam, a small chain of Thai restaurants in the city.  While I would normally have selected the Pad Thai or pineapple fried rice, two staple Thai dishes I generally can't resist, I wasn't insanely hungry, but rather just needed something to hold me over and warm me up, so in addition to a pot of tea, I selected the Wondee Sampler, an appetizer tasting.  It ended up costing a couple dollars more than the other options I was considering, and probably was a bit less filling, but I decided to go with variety in this case.  It had juicy, super tender beef sate, chicken sate, steamed vegetable dumplings (with crushed peanuts inside), crispy Thai spring rolls, and curry puffs, which I have been anxious to try since some foodie friends enlightened me to their existence recently.  I enjoyed everything on the platter, although I found the dumplings a bit difficult to eat.  They were so soft that it was almost impossible to pick them up to bite into without them falling apart.  I ended up cutting them into pieces.  Otherwise, I really enjoyed the rest of the items on the platter.  I would love to try some of the entrées here, as I found the variety of appetizers on the platter to be consistently flavorful, and the prices are very fair, especially in this neighborhood.

Wondee Platter $11.95


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