Tuesday, July 16, 2013

From PS1 in Queens ... to MoonDance on Pier 84 ... & More!

Summertime in the New York area this year is, well, hot &
MoMA PS1, Long Island City, Queens
humid ... or, as my mother used to say, very close And while the living ain't exactly easy, it is, indeed, replete with all kinds of wonderful choices, unique activities, all manner of possibilities - cultural, entertainment, culinary and more. Our first choice, during the past few weeks, centered on MoMA's PS1(22-25 Jackson Ave., Long Island City),
and entailed an outing to this MoMA branch in Queens for two essential reasons: the "culture" (the art) & the culinary. 

M. Wells Dinette, PS1
Actually, in terms of our trip out to PS1, the culinary proved the greater motivating factor; that is, we were (for a long while) intent on dining at M. Wells Dinette, the new bistro-like restaurant on the main floor of the building and established by French Canadians (from Montreal, I believe).  The focus appears to be on all things fresh (vegetables, soups, salads) and, primarily, on an ever-changing variety of meat plates.  The resto is housed in what was the original public school ("PS-1") cafeteria and has the odd feel, now, of a school lunch room cum bistro (see photo). It is a bit noisy dining there & chatting amidst the elongated cafeteria-type tables and the extra high ceilings, but the food is excellent (the menu changes almost daily) & the service is as friendly & helpful as your sweetest & most approachable (or, on our  visit, avuncular) 1st-grade teacher.
Pork Chop w/truffles & mash potatoes

We were two couples and we each began the meal with an inviting, interestingly spiced, large bowl of gaspacho (@ $8) which proved a great starter for this outing and what would come next ... and after that!  (I highly recommend the gaspacho and would opt for it again if it happens to remain on the menu.) Two of us, next, had selected the pork chop with truffles & mashed potatoes ($16) ... which proved very tender & very tasty, an enjoyable dish reflecting a harmoniously constructed "take" on a somewhat traditional theme. My wife chose the liver & onions ($16) entree with snippets of bacon bits atop the veal liver; also a nicely prepared plate reminiscent of yet another (traditional) hardy theme. The 4th entree that arrived was an interesting amalgam of foie gras & rabbit pate (@ $18), a country French dish that, in terms of the natural blend of the two major components, metamorphosed into, well, none other than an epicurean delight! 

Petit Cochon
As a complement to our food choices we ordered what turned out to be a refreshingly smooth bottle of Petit Cochon, a rose from the Languedoc ($32; 2012, Domaine Rimbert); we savored the mixture of grape varieties -  Grenache, Syrah & Cinsaut - blended within this lovely wine from the south of France.

Coupled all around with cups of rich & robust black coffee, we ended our "school cafeteria" visit with a dessert suggested by our waiter: an extra large "bowl" of raspberry-inflected creme brulee ($15) which we four shared. 

Indeed, both the creme brulee & the resto, itself, scored a solid hit with the four of us.

Moonrise - Hernandez, NM; c. 1941
And our visit to the museum proved equally worthwhile, with lots to see, to savor, to linger over & discuss. Tops were the  large rooms full of stark, powerful, enigmatic Ansel Adams black-&-white photos. Entitled by the curators - "The Politics of Contemplation" - these celebrated photos depict the harsh elements of nature, highlighting stunning contrasts between earth and sky ... AND focusing on such things as "Yosemite's grand mountains, melancholic forests, falling rivers, operatic geysers, and sci-fi moonrises [from Expo-1: New York]." 

Brodno People - Pawel Althamer (Warsaw)
Also impressive was an installation called Brodno People, actually a series of sculptures - in metal, soft medal, plastics, celltape & LED light - created by Pawel Althamer (Polish; born 1967) and a group of his neighbors who lived in an apartment block in the Brodno neighborhood of Warsaw. The installation-sculptures depict (see photo) these people - "in a range of techniques and styles" - in self-portraits posed as a group of robots, cyborgs & astronauts as if in a science fiction film ... "each figure an imagined persona from a dystopic future."

MoonDance Sponsor
Salsa w/Los Hermanos Colon
On a somewhat lighter, more "swinging" note, MoonDance (2013; July 14th - August 11th; & FREE!) began this past Sunday evening on Pier 84 (at W. 44th St.). A wide variety of people - old & young, experienced dancers & beginners, dancers from every ethnic group - come out & "boogie" along the Hudson River. Sponsored by City Winery and supported in every way by Dance Manhattan, MoonDance provides you with your "chance to strut your stuff under the stars ..."  in a program series featuring alternating evenings of swing, tango & salsa. Live bands start playing at 7:00 pm and free dance lessons, courtesy of Dance Manhattan, begin at 6:30. 

George Gee Swing Orchestra
The irrepressible George Gee Swing Orchestra kicked off the MoonDance series on this hot summer evening and my wife (a superb, intuitive dancer!) and I were out there for better than an hour doing the swing, the Lindy Hop & a mixture of the two ... with cool, penetrating Hudson River breezes preventing us - and all on the dance floor -  from the damaging "rages" of the latest New York area heatwave. Come on out and join the festivities next Sunday evening (July 21st) for salsa with Los Hermanos Colon!
7th Ave. South @ Bleecker
Finally, if you happen to find yourself hungry in the West Village - prior to, or just after, a movie, say, at the Film Forum - consider walking a few blocks back uptown for a light lunch or early dinner at Hummus Place.

Falafel plate
This little culinary gem at 71 7th Ave. South, at Bleecker (actually one of three Manhattan locations), features everything Middle Eastern:  from falafel (5 balls served on tahini & green sauce; @ $4.50) & shakshuka (a substantial omlette-type "stew of tomatoes, peppers & eggplant topped with 2 eggs over easy"; $8.95) ... to crunchy salads & silky hummus of every (popular) Mediterranean provenance ... along with some pretty fabulous desserts (try the kadaif @ $5; "dry kadaif topped with vanilla-infused ricotta cheese, halva shreds & honey date"). A wide variety of hot & cold drinks is available, as well ... an incomparable "house" mint tea ($2.50), "homemade" lemonade, Turkish coffee ($2.50), espresso & a short list of beers (@ $5), from Brooklyn Lager to Heineken to Goldstar (a bottle beer from Israel). 
Those fluffy pitas!

Best of all, perhaps, are the unusually thick & fluffy pitas you will surely consume & strategically apply to remnants of anything accidentally left on your plate! 

Simply do yourself a favor & give Hummus Place a try when next you're in the neighborhood!


  1. What a great way to spend a hot summer in NYC. My father has told stories of the hot nights in NYC in their cold water flat in the 50's. He is now in Montreal, Canada but his pictures, some in MOMA's collection,New York tell stories of the time.

    The idea of a restaurant in a school really sounds great. There is a true food culture in Montreal...it is interesting to hear it has migrated to NYC as well.

  2. Thanks for your comment ... you really ought to try the resto at MoMA's PS1: M. Wells Dinette! And check out the MoonDance series at Pier 84, off West 44th Street.

  3. Andrew: Terrific photos (by your father) that you've linked readers to. Thanks so much!