Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Lincoln Center out-of-doors; Santa Fe - contemporary Mex / southwest cuisine; "the good & the true" at D*R*2; and 1200 miles

This summer Lincoln Center could hardly be contained ... indoors:  "Music, dance, and theater spill from our concert halls onto our plazas and into the street to fill the season's days and nights with endless excitement." Just now winding down after having provided several weeks of "jam-packed," world-class performances - "all absolutely FREE!" ... the summer of 2014 has, indeed, been a bonanza to metro area folks looking for easily accessible top-notch entertainment. 
Pete & Toshi Seeger
The only consistent problem, really, seemed to be the never-ending huge crowds, all with the same idea about attending a Lincoln Center Out of Doors event in, say, Damrosch Park, and actually locating seats inside the proverbial gates for your event of choice. Seemed to me that as many people "watched" & listened to performances from outside & beyond the rear end of the Band Shell space - feeling lucky (enough) to snag a concrete "seat" under the thin veil of trees at the very base of the park - as were actually seated in somewhat "comfortable" venue chairs within the confines of the fenced in park itself. Somehow an overflow of people (gawkers, fans, aficionados) - too much online publicity, perhaps, this year! - completely inundated (almost daily) that whole area of Lincoln Center (out-of-doors) and the surrounding streets attempting to catch a glimpse of that evening's performers. Sometimes, I guess, even (especially?) "free" simply doesn't "buy" you a ticket to your event of choice!

Roberta Flack
Nevertheless, we did manage to to get close enough - just beyond the Damrosch Park enclosures - to witness a few of the major events, including A Memorial Concert for Pete & Toshi Seeger (July 20th), featuring, among other performers, Judy Collins ... and the pop legend, Roberta Flack (July 26th). For nearly two hours Ms. Flack accompanied herself on the piano and sang many of her memorable hit songs, most notably, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" & "Killing Me Softly With His Song." Now, 70+, Ms. Flack proved particularly energetic, singing with spirit, solidity, grace & integrity, exhibiting a truly audience-centric performance for an SRO crowd of long-time fans & supporters. 

Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez
That night, fortunately, the Damrosch Park sound system came alive and carried her voice and her pianistic solo & supporting skills straight through to all of us in attendance, even those (like my wife & moi) standing at a vantage point beyond the exits, standing, that is, during the entire show while just barely glimpsing the stage where Ms. Flack & her musical team performed so enthusiastically; yet, somehow we were able to encompass it all ... even from that far away, from such a distant position in this huge open-air "house."

Pam Tanowitz Dance - From "eighth blackbird"
Other major performers & noteworthy acts featured in the Lincoln Center Out of Doors "festival," which, I'm told, also drew huge (!) crowds, included Emmylou Harris, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Cassandra Wilson, Pam Tanowitz Dance, and a tribute to Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez with the Cita Rodriguez Orchestra and special guest star, the inimitable Johnny Pacheco!

Santa Fe - Restaurant on West 71st
Pre- or post- your visit to Lincoln Center this summer (ending much too soon!), or any other time of year, you might want to head to Santa Fe (at 73 West 71st Street, just off Columbus Ave.; tel. 212/724-0822) for high quality, consistently fine Southwestern & Mexican cuisine, prepared under the guidance & supervision of executive chef, Jose Gonzalez, and his multi-talented sous-chef associates, and featuring "the savory depth of truly authentic" contemporary regional fare. The wide menu has it all, from old standbys & favorites, such as their thick, luscious & feisty guacamole, to lots of new items ... for example, fish tacos, salmon burritos, pork carnitas burritos & skirt steak chimichurri (which allured!). 

Santa Fe - Internal view
Seated in the early evening (at just about happy hour time) in the resto's rather expansive & sleekly designed dining room, it proved a bit difficult to narrow down our dinner selections to a number of items two of us could, well, manage. Nevertheless, after a bit of genuine menu scrutiny, we came up with a few winning items, including
Pomegranate margarita
(additionally) a pomegranate margarita (@ $11), a good-size Pacifico draft beer ($6), and a glass of Malbec "Tierra" sec ($10). And, questions of quenching our dual thirsts aside, we shared a large shrimp roll with a smoky-peppery, mayonnaise-chipotle sauce ... perfect, indeed, for dunking pieces of this tasty delicately prepared appetizer (a daily "special," at $11).

Shrimp roll appetizer (delectable!)
Next, we indulged in two mains ... pour moi, the grilled double thick cut pork chop, served along with sweet & hot pepper jelly, rice & black beans (@ $24); & pour la Madame, the grilled trucha enchipotlada (rainbow trout), nicely, carefully, pan seared & finished off juicily flavorful (not dried out), served with sweet potato hash &
Grilled pork rib platter
fresh herbs, and, finally, topped with their inviting, palette-tingling rather rarified chipotle sauce (@ $18.50). Both mains proved to be exquisitely tasty, full & diverse "model" platters reflecting (as advertised) uniquely inviting, particularly piquant, current southwestern cuisine!

Chef Gonzalez

Following our mains, we were, as they say, simply full-up; and so we decided to walk a bit (just a few blocks), down & over to Lincoln Center Plaza ... where we made a bee-line for the gelato cart - L'Arte del Gelato - a veritable oasis in "creams" (fresco ogni giorno!), parked, during summer months (May to August), off the plaza, in the rear of Damrosch Park, awaiting patrons to just snag one of their favorite (most creamy) gelati to lick around, bite into ... & indulge in!

Saul Reichlin / Milos  Dobry
PS Just two weeks ago, we purchased highly discounted tickets to The Good And The True & saw this recently "imported," understated production from the UK (originally produced at the Svandovo Theatre, Prague). Currently running at the D*R*2 Theatre (103 East 15th St.), the show features two deeply riveting and emotionally powerful intertwined monologues - "authentic testimonies" - adapted (in English) by Brian Daniels and directed by Daniel Hrbek, focusing on the lives of the athlete Milos Dobry and the actress Hana Pravda, two well-known Czech personalities & historical figures, both caught up in World War II, the Holocaust .... the death camps.  

Fortunately, these two strong-willed individuals survived Auschwitz, death marches, satellite camps, near starvation ...  and could serve as eye-witnesses to the remarkable events that they experienced first-hand. The two separate but interconnected monologues prove tender, touching, hopeful; they are extremely well spoken, well presented, darkly tender, at times humorous ... performed in a straightforward, low-key mode & minimalist stage setting.

Hana Pravda
  Indeed, it might well be worth your while to see this dramatic event before it closes,  shortly, in order to witness these two wonderful actors - Saul Reichlin & Hannah D. Scott - and their deeply felt, psychologically realistic, but also profoundly matter-of-fact & understated, portrayals of Milos Dobry, the celebrated Czech athlete, and the internationally acclaimed actress, Hana Maria Pravda. (Note: Ms. Hannah Scott was a late addition to the cast, according to production notes, recruited when a visa difficulty delayed the British actress Isobel Pravda (Hana Pravda's granddaughter) from participating.  

1200 Miles - Restaurant & bar
It might also be worth your while to visit 1200 Miles - Restaurant & Bar ... where we - four of us - thoroughly enjoyed a late summer Restaurant-Week-lunch (3 courses @ $25) prior to visiting the DR2 Theatre and attending the drama described above. Situated in a completely remodeled bright & airy space, at 31 West 21st Street (between 5th & 6th Ave.; tel. 212/510-8722),1200 Miles - where you just might want to eat if you're in the mood to experience an "authentic Mediterranean journey in food & drink" - is a large & friendly establishment with more than sufficient room between tables within which to enjoy your meal without extraneous noises occluding your own conversation(s). And the food, itself, top-notch, well-prepared, attentively served! 

View of front entrance
We four began with the de rigueur appetizer (to be followed, of course, by entrée & dessert), two of us having ordered the singularly appealing "wedge salad," that, as they note on their special menu, contains "little gem" lettuce, peas, carrots, radish, spiced walnuts & Cabrales (a fatty blue cheese from Spain) dressing. The other half of our party of four tried out an equally tasty & appealing burrata, replete with tomatoes, peaches, basil, and a balsamico-based dressing.

Black garlic fettuccini
Entrées were attractively plated, interestingly prepared & flavorful (with light but penetrating spicing), as well! Three of us ordered the pan roasted bluefish, which featured a mix of padron peppers, mussels, long island corn & asparagus pesto. My selection, though, was not only unique among the members of our small luncheon party ... but the black garlic fettuccini, in and of itself, was just a solidly unique item, a house specialty prepared with "summer" vegetables, chanterelles, pine nuts & grana Padano (this last, a grainy-textured pale-yellow cheese, with an intensely sweet flavor, from the Valley of Padano, Italy). A simple & attractive dish, on the one hand; but, a gigantic hit on the other! Wow, I can almost still taste the lingering diversity of its essences ...

Chocolate-espresso parfait
Desserts, coffee* & espresso were soon ordered and this finale proved outstanding for us all - rich & sweet, again nicely "packaged" and/or plated, indeed luscious - a perfect antidote to the two preceding (mainly) savory courses. We sampled (& shared) our four desserts ... and, simply, indulged: in the chocolate-espresso parfait, with pistachio praline & Chantilly cream; the summer stone fruit zabaglione con biscotti; and the vanilla bean panna cotta configured with shortbread crumble, vin cotto & berry sorbet. Once again, wow (!) ... three particularly memorable, delectable desserts! 

Rosé / Sicilia, 2013
(*Note that coffee & tea are not included with the special Restaurant Week lunch menu ... at any participating establishment, as far as I am aware.) 

Garnacha maximo, 2012
Further, though, I should mention that 1200 Miles did offer a small "specially selected" list of wines per glass to accompany each lunch, if desired; that is, a 5-oz glass @ $9.75 ("one selection per lunch" at this special price point), including a wonderfully dry rosé di regaleali, Sicilia, 2013, an arneis, ceretto, Piedmonte, Italy, 2012, a garnacha, maximo, Spain, 2012, a flor do crasto / quinta do crasto, Duro, Portugal, 2011... among several other possibilities! Naturally, we all unhesitatingly partook ... and we enjoyed the wines, in full! Indeed, this was a luncheon "deal" wholly worth our collective while & a resto worth visiting ... and visiting again.