Springtime in New York

A few little Manhattan must-see, must-eat, must-do’s...

By , Columnist

Bridget Fonger

The Cindy Sherman exhibition at MoMA

Daffodils, crocuses, hyacinth, oh my! Central Park’s trees are ruffled with pink and white blossoms, the lamp posts lining Manhattan’s streets are surrounded with shiny-faced purple pansies. The city is screaming “It’s spring! It’s spring!”

It was a good week to visit from Los Angeles, as the weather gods smiled upon the city as I frolicked from restaurant to speak-easy, from dramatic play to Broadway musical, from MOMA to the Met. Since even my New York friends had not yet heard of some of these positively must-see-must-eat-must-visit gems on the Isle of Manhattan, I thought they must be worthy of sharing, in the hopes that even one person will be able to experience a bit of deliciousness they may not otherwise have had.

Tribes at the Barrow Street Theatre

The night we were there, Mare Winningham shared the extraordinary news with my friend and me that the Barrow Street Theatre show, written by Nina Raine and directed by the brilliant David Cromer, had been extended to September 2, 2012. This is no small feat in the New York theatre landscape. It is profoundly well-deserved: pitch perfect acting from Mare, as always, as well as her well known co-star Jeff Perry (Grey’s Anatomy) and the three other brilliant cast members. Not a false note in the direction, not one inappropriate chair or shadow cast upon the set, and not one single word written by Nina that did not add momentum to the raging emotional river of this piece. This play is still with me a week later. It will be with me for a long time to come, I am certain. A must see. No kidding.

For more information and tickets, visit the Barrow Street Theatre's website.

Cindy Sherman at MoMA

I am thrilled that this exhibition, at the Museum of Modern Art, was my first Cindy Sherman exhibit as it is so exquisitely curated. It is as if Cindy, in larger-than-life form, has you by the hand and draws you from room to room, proud to share the intricately layered worlds she has been creating with such passion and aplomb for decades.

As my friend and I left the exhibit heading for the escalators she said, “Doesn’t everyone here look like Cindy Sherman?” It was true. Everyone did. The thought of it was at once comforting and almost slightly embarrassing. Are none of us our own person? Are we all that much alike, each with variations on the human frailty scale? Maybe so, but Cindy’s genius puts her at a tiny notch up on the human genius scale.

This fascinating stuff to inspire mind and heart is at MoMA through June 11.

The Steins Collect at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Picasso and Matisse have been favorites of mine since I was a young child. I also have read much written by and about Gertrude Stein, and yet this show was breathtakingly enlightening. I thought for sure I had seen just about everything there was to see, and yet at this exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum, I was consistently amazed by the treasures in this collection of Gertrude Stein and her family. There are photos, movies, and as always at the Met, beautifully written stories and histories behind the collection.

I learned a lot and was wildly inspired by all the passion — for expression and collection. One piece that stood out for me was one that Matisse did when he took his students out to Fontainebleau. He said to his students that he would not be painting the colors he saw, but what the colors he saw moved him to paint. His vision is breathtaking and transports you to his side on that day in Fontainebleau.

This little inspiring trip through time and space to Paris in the early 1900s is there for the taking through June 3.

Central Park Boathouse

The Central Park Boathouse has been beautifully renovated and the food is beyond divine. It’s a good idea to make a reservation, especially if you want a good table right on the water. The service is great, the drinks perfectly elixir-like. You cannot beat the view, weeping willow reaching out toward the romantic boaters, lake borders alighted with blossoms of every color. It is glorious for all the senses.

Little Branch

A speak-easy with a nearly undetectable sign on the door beckons you down a set of steep, narrow, rickety stairs. Something about it just feels naughty, as if it's still Prohibition. The mixologists behind the bar are brilliant. You tell them what you feel like. They ask you a couple of questions, and then they answer your tastebuds' wishes and dreams. My friend and I had similar cravings, yet ever-so-slightly different, and our drinks were absolutely unique and perfect for each of us.

The crowd is wonderfully eclectic. Great jazz music comes later in the evening. Be prepared to wait upstairs on the street for a while, and bring an ID — no matter how old you are. They almost turned away a guy from New Zealand who was clearly in his late 30s because he left his ID at the hotel.

Also, if you want to get a booth to sit and chat for a while, put your name on the wait list as soon as you walk in.

Little Branch is located at 22 7th Avenue South (between Carmine St and Leroy St), New York, NY 10014.

Eataly

You can’t go wrong here, but please take thyself to the pasta station and order the pesto lasagna. Outrageous layers of light and green. It has haricots verts in it! It is like eating spring!

And, if you have a buddy you can share two things with, order the cacio e pepe — cheese and pepper. Simple, super-pumped with flavor, molto Italiano!

Eataly is located at 200 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

Cookshop

Order anything. It’s all genius. But, the must-order: crispy fried artichokes. I’ve had them at a bajillion places. These are inspired.

When done filling up with divine yumminess, please walk across the street — as if you are going to climb the stairs to the High Line. Stop at the parking sign pole covered with yellow and red tags. This is where people leave their hopes. Read them. It will help you digest. It will make your day.

Cookshop is located at 156 Tenth Avenue (At 20th Street), New York, NY 10011.

Casa Mezcal

If you have been to Oaxaca, my friend who has been many times says “Casa Mezcal makes you feel like you are in Oaxaca.” The music is wonderful. I had a Hibiscus Margarita which was so brilliant I don’t even understand how they made it so delicious.

Case Mezcal is located at 86 Orchard Street, New York, NY 1000.

Pommes Frites

If you love French fries, drop all your dietary restrictions at the airport, and transport thyself quickly to the East Village. I am so rarely on the Lower East Side, but this will now forever be a must-visit stop for me. There are a bajillion different sauces you can order to grace the twice-fried Belgian fries. We ordered curried ketchup and the BBQ sauce. Both were perfectly yummalicious. My friend and I split the smallest order, thinking it was just an hors d’oeuvres to get us to a late dinner. We were still full later that night, and unfortunately, didn’t have room for dinner, but it was worth that tiny bit of sadness. Missing a NY dinner is a tragedy, but do it anyway.

Pommes Frites is located at 123 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10003.

The Food Network covered the genius spud making:

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Bridget Fonger is the co-author of “The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Just About Everything,” a book that helps women become happier, more passionate and fulfilled by living the “Lazy Way,” aka with less stress and more joy! Ms. Fonger has been featured on HGTV several times with her home décor and…

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