Dacia Gallery presents Nikolina Kovalenko’s Masquerade

 

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I attended Nikolina Kovalenko’s Masquerade opening last week at Dacia Gallery and her works were both beautiful and thought provoking.  I met Nikolina at a gallery in the East Village for a photography show recently where she was the Sales Consultant. When I found that she was an Artist and a rather talented one I asked her to add me to her Gallery Opening invite list . Her new solo show Masquerade (July 18-August 30th) is a series of oil paintings primarily of portraits and figures based upon the “masks” that most people wear in life. The following are my favorite pieces from the show and my interpretations of them. Of note, while I couldn’t stay long and hear Nikolina speak I did get to hear her give a tour early on of her pieces so I may have been influenced and enlightened a bit by what she shared.

After the Interview -This one represents Girl Power, but instead of using comic book Pop Art archetypes Nikolina used girls smoking cigars and wearing fedoras like guys living it up. It’s based if I remember correctly by some people reactions to finding out that she travels solo sometimes and were surprised that as a women she would(which I find odd since I know a lot of women that do) engage in something they viewed as dangerous.

The Artist - It  didn’t hit me at first but this is a self portrait. She has done a number of other like works with people’s “professions” sprouting out of their heads.

Shopping for a Face – Simply shows how people are constantly looking to buy new clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, etc to change their look so people judge them by their looks versus their personality and intellect.

Red Mirror – I like this one aesthetically,  as for its meaning to me it’s women stealing looks from one another instead of just being themselves due to the onslaught of advertising created by  a certain few that determine what is beautiful and in style of the moment.

Rubik’s Cube – This one is conceptually my favorite,  a woman getting caught up trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube with major problems all around her. It shows how we fixate and get caught up on our own stupid problems that in most cases we could simply stop worrying about, put it down and deal with real people and issues.

Fishing for a Date – This one in a nutshell is a graphic representation of dating in NY and it really made me think especially of On-Line dating

What I found rather interesting is that with all the commentary in these pieces on how we judge others, how we want to be seen by others, etc these works come from an Artist that looks more like the beautiful models that pose for the ads and magazine shoots showing how we should ideally look and yet it is she who is actually wielding the brush telling the story that like the quote goes “beauty is only skin deep”. I look forward to seeing more of this up and coming Artists work.



Dacia Gallery is located at 53 Stanton Street (Open Wed -Sunday)

Best Coffee by Grand Central

Perk Kafe 2Beans

Up until very recently there were few good options to get a good cup of Joe, an Espresso or an Iced Coffee by Grand Central. Now all of a sudden it’s not where can I go for a decent cup it’s which one and why? Since I work frequently out of Coffee Bars most of these places have seating and WIFI and due to my sweet tooth most have very good baked treats. Here my top choices…

2Beans – As the name implies it’s not only about the coffee here (Lavazza), but about the cocoa bean as well. They have an amazing selection of chocolate from all over the world. They also have very good Gelato and pastries. The upstairs is a great spot to get away or have a meeting.

Aroma - They serve a piece of chocolate with their morning brew and have good sandwiches and pastries.

Cafe Grumpy – One of my new faves for their hot coffee, bags of beans to go, and their Iced Brew. Awesome Banana Bread with Cardamon and Black Pepper.

FIKA – Good coffee and very good pastries,especially the muffins. I like this location, but like the one on 41st west of Bryant Park even better.

Financier – Good solid cup of Coffee and Espresso, very good pastries especially like their large sized Pistachio Macrons and that you get a mini financier pastry with your coffee

Gregory’s – Really like the Pour-Overs here as well as the drip. Great Banana Bread, Muffins and Cookies.

Joe – Another great spot for bags of beans, coffee hot or cold and some tasty treats, especially the Ring Dings…

Le Colombe at Zuckers – Why all Bagel Joints don’t have great coffee like Le Colombe served here is beyond me. Great Bagels and spreads and some nice spins on classic treats like Red Velvet Twinkies

Perk Kafe serving Stumpton’s – While it’s a handful of blocks away from Grand Central, it’s close enough to make this list especially since they serve Stumpton’s which is one of my favorites. They also have awesome Chocolate Almond Croissants that they get from a spot in Soho and great Banana Bread

Best Sexy Shower Gels, Soaps and Scrubs

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You work out hard sweating it out in the gym, yoga studio, the road, pool etc, you watch what you eat to stay fit and expose yourself to the sun, wind, and rain when running, biking, skiing, swimming, surfing etc. You’re also at least semi-Green trying to do your part to make the planet a better place. So why would you then want to douse yourself with chemicals tested on and harming animals to clean your skin and hair? I sure don’t, so I use products that are at least primarily all natural with limited exceptions. The list below are my favorite spots to both buy gifts for the ladies in ones life and for the stuff that I use to groom this savage beast. Of note, most of these goods are premium priced,some more the others. However, I have noticed they are usually fairly concentrated, so you use less, making them a better bang for the proverbial buck then they seem.

Aesop – Ultra high end all natural stuff from Oz. I love Shampoo’s with mint and eucalyptus to wake you up in the morning and they have a number of them.

Bliss – The folks at Bliss Spa make some great soaps. The Big Blue Bar and the Mint one are my faves. They also have a great foot lotion.

Fresh – I primarily come here to buy soaps and hand and body lotions as gifts that are made from Brown Sugar, Sake, Roses etc…They also have some great Perfumes and Colognes…one I’ve found that works particularly well for me…

Kiehls – The Grapefruit body wash is great as is the oatmeal scrub bar. Their Clean Hold Gel is how I keep my hair looking styling without being “Something About Mary” stiff. Facial Fuel helps as well some mornings.

L’Occitaine
– Another spot I go to primarily for gifts especially their Lavender line for the ladies.

Lush – Their Ocean Salt is my go to favorite scrub…smells like a great cocktail. The Iced Blue, Dirty and Sea Vegetable(made with Seaweed and Sea Salt) are some of my favorite hard soaps.

Malin Goetz – I believe they have their own shop but I get their goods at high end Barber Shops with boutiques like Fellow Barber. Their Peppermint Shampoo and Scrubs are epic

Molten Brown – Great place for gifts of high end bath gels, hand lotions and the like. I often have a bottle of their Eucalyptus or Templetree on hand.

Rituals – Another spot that has some great Icy Cool products for the skin and scalp. Their bath foam gels are great as well and they have plenty of lines to choose from.

NYC’s Best Gelato and Ice Cream

ArteGelato Jeni's

Morgensterns

     We are currently experiencing an Ice Cream Renaissance like the world has never tasted before. Salted Caramel, Spicy Chocolate and Fresh Peppermint are becoming standard while flavors like Brown Butter Bacon, Chocolate Cherry Rocky Road , Licorice and Lavender are new taste sensations. Below are my current favorites and some of my favorite flavors. Of note, I’m a Chocolate vs a Vanilla guy, love Mint, I’m nuts…I mean love nut based flavors like Pistachio, Hazelnut etc and love finding new twists on the classics

Coolhaus - While known primarily for their Ice Cream sandwiches sold out if their trucks and carts which are epic(they offer about 5 differ types of cookie everyday…) I usually by their stuff by the Mason jar. Dirty Mint, Mint Julep and Brown Butter Bacon are some of my faves

Cones – Has been around for a while selling delicious Gelato, try their  Corn and the Dulce Con Leche

Grom – I’m partial to their Pistachio and Hazelnut

Hay Rosie – Limited batch production down out of Brooklyn. You can get 7oz mini-boxes at Cool Story in NYC. So far I’ve had the Bananas Ferrari (bananas, brown butter, brown sugar and malted milk crunchies) and the Chocolate Malt with honeyed peanut butter swirl. This a new major contender to watch…and eat…

Ill Laboratorio Gelato – while their basic flavors are great it’s their special flavors like Fig, Rosemary, Juniper Berry, Lavender Honey,  and Licorice that I usually go for. Usually in one if their tubs where you can get up to 4 or 5 different  flavors

Jacques Torres - They make some of my favorite chocolate, my fave hot chocolate, have amazing chocolate chunk cookies and a few years ago stated an ice cream line which is awesome. The Wicked Chocolate being my favorite. Their chocolate chunk ice cream cookies sandwiches are incredible.

Jeni’s Splendid – I’ve seen Jeni’s in pints and finally got around to trying some. Non standard flavors are they’re thing and even when basic they amp it up. I really enjoyed their Salted Caramel, they put so much cacao in the Dark Chocolate it’s almost fudge and Bombay Milk Chocolate has Coconut and Curry Powder in it! I liked it, your not going to want it every day …but if you like curry go get yourself some

L’ Arte del Gelato – Some of the best Gelato in the city, dense, creamy delish. Large assortment of flavors. I recently had the Spicy Chocolate(packed some heat) Cherry, and Banana and all were off the charts. The Chocolate with Orange is incredible as well.

Meat Ball Shop – Why am I listing a Meatball joint? Quite simply because while they have some of the best meatballs in the city or yo Momma’s kitchen( let the hate mail from my Italian friends begin:)  their ice cream sandwiches are as good. Chose from 5-6 cookies(you can choose a different top from the bottom!:) and the same amount of flavors Chocolate, Vanilla, Coffee, Mint and some specials. You can also make a Root Beer float…yum:)

Morgenstern’s Finest  - This place is so damn good it has me coming after mid-morning coffee and before lunch for a couple of scoops! The Chocolate Cherry Road is incredible, love their Caramel variations (ie Sesame)and they have some very tasty toppings that include Black Fudge…Hot fudge with licorice that is insane! Oh their Sorbets are pretty amazing too…especially Jungle Bird

Odd Fellows – Amazing ice cream in not your standard flavors like Miso Cherry, Caramel Chorizo, Buttermilk Bacon etc…

Shake Shack – Great burgers and Chicago Sports dogs, but don’t miss out on the Custard Concretes…flavors change regularly

Sundaes and Cones – My favorite Coconut Ice Cream in the city, love the Banana as well. Come here for the great Far East  flavors like Sesame and Wasabi.

Van Leeuwen - Another one of my faves. I usually go to their brick n mortar in the E Village, but they have 11 trucks out and about. I love their Mint and really wish they would add the Coconut Chocolate Chip as a standard instead of a special. Palm Sugar is another great one.

Remember, the secret to enjoying these tasty treats is to enjoy them in moderation and find a fun way to burn them off when you finish licking them up

The Park Sports Bar & Grill by the beach in Long Beach, NY

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I had a bud in from out of town with his son, son’s teammate and another family for a Lacrosse tournament  on Long Island looking for a spot to catch up and watch the World Cup afternoon match. Since it was a beautiful beach day and The Park Sports Bar & Grill is located right across the street from the LIRR …it was the perfect spot for us to gather. The Park Sports Bar & Grill has at least 2 dozen large(some huge) plasma screens, a long bar up front, large tables for groups, high bar stool tables and a back lounge area. Waitress’s are young and cute…kinda reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where all the girls in Monks are good looking and Elaine wants to make a case…but more importantly, service was prompt and professional.

The menu is huge with both a wider variety and better then your usual Sports Pub Grub. We started with Boneless Buffalo Wings, Mussels Fra Diavlo, and the Nachos with Chili. Needless to say the teens at the table demolished everything. They have over 30 beers on tap to choose from and we enjoyed a number of them including the Victory Summer, Brooklyn Summer and The Park Ale Grapefruit Schofferhofer which is a Lambic. Next up came the main courses with the Lacrosse superstars eating sliders, pizza, and more Wings…this time on the bone smothered in BBQ sauce. A couple of us had the tasty Fish Tacos(3 loaded with fish) that came with a bowl of Rice and Beans(liked the beans…but not the rice) and a couple of the ladies had salad. Actually, come to think of it, the lady at the table had the Fish Tacos…it was my bud eating the nice healthy looking salad:)

If you’re looking to hit the beach this Sunday, but really want to catch the World Cup finale…here’s your spot. I have my fingers crossed for a long Indian Summer to combine some beach time with Football by the beach this September as well.
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The Park Sports Bar  and Grill is located at 20 W Park Ave in Long Beach

Central Watch: For New Watches and Repairs with Service Extraordinaire

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The “keepers”(the things that you slide the watch band into to hold it in place) on my Luminox watch first one, then the other broke and fell off my watch band. The rest of the band and watch are in perfect shape. This was at least the 2nd if not the 3rd time my “Navy Seals ColormarkLuminox “keepers” succumbed to salt water and the elements. This might not be such a big deal if when these things fell off it was in my pool or a friends…but it always happens while in vacation in places like Spain’s Costa Brava or Brazil. Since I already replaced the entire band for $50.00 2 or 3 times…it was getting to the point of maybe just buying a new watch with a different band. I went to the store where I purchased it and all they had was the same band I had…nothing else in stock.

So I took to the Internet and did some research which led to most people buying a NATO (brand) band (actually what Bond wore as his band for his Rolex in the Connery era). Thing is they came as 22 and 24mm…of course my model of Luminox was 23mm. Grand Central Watch came up as a service provider for both the watches and the bands. Since they are centrally located and I knew friends who have gone to them in the past I tried them first. As soon as they saw it they immediately knew my issue. As a Luminox dealer they’ve seen this plenty of times before. Initially they offered to put on spare keepers for free. I was pretty impressed by this, especially in this economy considering that they had a willing to pay prospect. I told them I really appreciated that but, then would just be back again and I would prefer to do my part to keep a great service oriented businesses like this in business and go with a NATO band. After going through their stock it turned out they had a like band…Blue Black to match my watch, 23mm! and by Luminox made for my watch! It was exactly what I was looking for and I was good to go.

Of note, they have been around for over 60 years and  do everything from replace batteries and watch bands, to test for water resistance to repair Rolex’s and other like high end brands. They also sell new watches. Superior service, great location and fair prices make Grand Central Watch a winner.

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Grand Central Watch is located  at the 45th Street Passageway (Next to track 38) Grand Central Terminal New York

Laduree: Macarons Par Excellence

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Every… single…  time I’ve walked by Luduree while strolling along West Broadway it has had long lines of primarily ladies waiting to get in. Once while I was across the street looking over two “modelesque” looking girls were talking about the Macarons and I asked if they were “waiting on a long line,,,,so good? They responded “oh yes, when in Paris we always go”. So how could I eventually not. Finally I walk by and there is no line outside, just pretty well dressed girls inside buying sweet treats inside. The pastries looked fairly enticing especially the giant Strawberry, but I was here for the legendary Macarons(please note, they have a full menu for Breakfast, Lunch, Brunch, and Dinner).  I check out the flavor assortment and after I see Pistachio and Chocolate Coconut ..sold! I order up.

Chocolate Coconut ,Orange Blossom, Rose Petal, and of course the Pistachio. The intensity of the flavors are unreal and more then lived up to the hype. Pistachio tasted like I was eating the nuts themselves and the Rose burst with flavor. The real beauty here is that since the taste is so intense you only need a couple at a time to satiate your sweet tooth while keeping the calories off.

While paying I look over and notice the place is much bigger then I expected with a very fancy dining room with a leopard print rug, bright blue banquettes and Greek statues and there is a garden in the back. This is definitely where pretty girls in pretty dresses come for a sweet treat. The Macarons taste so good they even made me feel kinda pretty…might even buy some for someone that’s pretty special…

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Laduree is located at 398 West Broadway

Currywurst Company: German Beers and Gourmet Brats by the Beach

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A bit hungry after a day at the beach and looking for something different then my usual faves before I jump on the LIRR back to the city I decided to give Currywurst Company a shot. For some reason I expected a small place with a take out counter and was pleasantly surprised by a schmal Beer Hall by the beach complete with  brick walls, large wooden tables and plasma screens for the games.

The waitress asked if I wanted a beverage while I wait from their selection of over 20 German beers,  3 of them on tap, I choose the Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier (Wheat). She pulled out a little glass, perfect for a petite cute Fraulein like she…but I opted for a big boy size (a pint…of note, they have Boots here and a Boot Club!) While looking at the menu I had the opportunity to speak with Lothar Miller the Owner, great guy, we shared a bunch of travel stories in Central and South America.

Currywurst’s menu is pretty big and of course has the namesake Currywurst where you choose your Wurst and your level of heat(from mild for little girls to my stomach is made from the steel of German Tiger II tanks!), an entree selection(Gulasch, Sauerbraten, etc), sides(Fries w/mayo, Red Cabbage salad, Cucumber salad, etc) and a Gourmet Brat selection that drew my attention. It was a tough choice between the Boar, Buffalo and Elk but went Boar w/spicy mustard. It comes with sauerkraut, some of the best I’ve had. I also got from the side selection some fries with the smoked paprika mayo(they also have Bacon, Chili, etc) Everything was great and I’ll be back. The Elk with cheese wrapped in bacon…may just have to try one of those next…
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Currywurst Company German Grill is located at 10 West Park Ave in Long Beach (right across from the LIRR Train Station)

I have a “Cool Story” for you…

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Every look through a Magazine and think you wish you could try on, touch, taste this or that right there and then? Story is a store that is kind of like a living Magazine that changes every 4 -8 weeks like an Art Gallery changing its theme. The current theme is Cool and geared towards giving you the goods you need to maximize your Summer. They currently carry everything from Bathing suits to Iced treats, Air Conditioners to Candles, Suntan lotion to Cocktail Bitters. My favorites included…


Books -Summertime, a variety of Cocktails books, Grilling guides, Cool things to do books and even Dogs Underwater etc

Clothing for Men includes the Onia(Bathing Suits, Linen shirts, T’s) and Good Life(high end Hoodies and Sweat Shorts) lines that I’m big fan of. For the Ladies  KamaliKulture – loved the polka dot Bikinis…

B.Jelly Candles (with jewelry in them, think Cracker Jacks) with names like Surf Shack(beachy) and Main Squeeze(citrusy)

Soap- Not Soap Radio(Liquid Soaps) Colorful bottles with equally colorful names like Bathing with Sharks that’s blue, has Royal Jelly in it and has Shark in it’s name…cool

Swell Bottles to keep beverages cool(& hot) that come in cool blues. Perfect for water, Ice Coffee, hot coffee…or the big ones hold a full bottle of Vino…Might need one of these for the roof

Grady’s Ice Coffee – grab a cup there or take home either the concentrated liquid bottle or like I did bags in a can…

Ice Cream – Hay Rosie ice cream boxes(7oz)….Banana  Ferrari was some of the best Banana I’ve ever had and has caramel crunchies. I need to try the Batman(chocolate based and dark…like a Knight) and the Popcorn Sriracha…

Cocktail Gear – Mini shakers with Anchor skewers, Juice Sprayers(you stick it in a lemon, Lime etc…spray the juice in) and Bitters from Hell a Bitters

    Cool story is a very cool concept store loaded with goods to bring as a House gift that your Host/Hostess will not soon forget, cool gifts for the kiddies or even your dog, Summer B-day gifts or quite simply a treat for yourself. Oh if you like Ice Cream you really need to get a box of the Hay Rosie…they are $7…but well worth it.
 

This Is Story is located at 144 10th Avenue and the Cool Story goes till August 17th

The Hummus & Pita Company

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In between searching for a book at The Strand and checking out the new Artists supply store Jerry’s just south of Union Square I was getting hungry and looking  for a spot preferably somewhere new to grab a bite. While walking south on Broadway I see across the street The Hummus & Pita Company. I like Hummus, Pita bread and the goods that usually get stuffed into one so I popped into a surprising big open spacious place. Tables come high and low and it all looks like re-purposed wood.
You order cafeteria style in a phased approach. First you choose your Pita, white or go healthy with  whole wheat(you can go bowl or platter if looking to watch the carbs for your beach bod) next you pick a filling… Shawarrma, Chicken Thigh,  Steak , Veggie, or Falafel . Next up is the namesake Hummus, go regular, Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato, Jalapeno, etc. followed by a great selection of fillings, Tabbouleh, Fried Eggplant, Spicy Carrots, Israeli Salad, Top it off from the Toppings section Tomato, Cucumber, feta, pickled etc too many to list. and last but certainly not least choose a Sauce, Chimmichurri ,Tahina, Harissa to name a few.

 

I went Shawarma in a whole wheat pita(was hungry and figured I’d burn the carbs swimming laps) regular hummus to try(will go jalapeno when I return) Israeli salad and topped it with the works splashed with some some Chimmichuri on top. Nutritious, delicious, and filling. To drink they have Izze Sparkling Juices , a selection fountain  sodas, Water and bottled Beer. I like the Izze line and had their Grapefruit to go with my meal. For those looking for a great spot for a quick bite and who like their Hummus and Middle Eastern meats and salads add The Hummus & Pita Company to your go to list.

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The Hummus & Pita company is located at  815 Broadway