Color Me (Locally) Caffeinated

Strolling through Nolita, you might find several of your average bodegas, a one-off pizza place and other quotidien storefronts, but then you wander down Mott Street and something slightly new and different catches your eye. Nolita Mart & Espresso Bar, just about six weeks new, is the brainchild of the super passionate James Wong and his effervescent wife Selina Ho.

Not your average market, you enter and are warmly greeted by a beautiful coffee bar made from reclaimed wood out of an old barn from Albany, artfully decorated for the holidays with the most elaborate and professional looking paper snowflakes you have ever seen. You walk past the display case filled with delectable croissants and pastries from Colson Patisserie and discover a bounty of gourmet and local food finds in the market section at the back of the store. With everything from McClure’s Pickles, Feather Ridge Farm eggs, Anarchy in a Jar jams, Rao's pastas and sauces and Ciao Bella gelatos, this store is a haven for local foodies.

Now, there's something I've left out but really I just wanted to save the best for last. Nolita Mart & Espresso Bar is one of few vendors in the city, and the only one in Nolita, that sells Stumptown Coffee and employs Stumptown-trained baristas. These people take their beans seriously. With coffee as a New Yorker's life-sustaining elixir, it's no wonder that Stumptown, the Portland-based roaster, has risen to the top of the pack as one of NYCs most cherished coffee producers. I was invited to Nolita Mart to try a latte, made with super creamy milk from Battenkill Valley Creamery (a brand also sold in the back of the store), and I must say that I'm converted. Easily the most awesome latte I've ever had in my life - no joke. It even had what looked like a fern drawn into the foam on top.

Next time you develop a taste for awesome coffee, which let's face it is always since you live in the city, I'd highly recommend a trip over to Nolita Mart & Espresso Bar for a nice cup of joe and buttery croissant. While you're there tell James and Selina I say hello!


...And Then I Wrote a Blog Post About It

It's not often I leave the NYC borders these days (well except for a cruise to the Bahamas coming up this Saturday - eeek!). However I actually took the New Jersey Transit out to a small town called West Orange, NJ last Sunday. Now, what awesome thing brought me out there you're probably thinking? Well, it wasn't just for the original greasy spoon in a diner car called Gamburgers, but it was a fabulous one-man show called ...And Then I Wrote a Song About It.

...And Then I Wrote a Song About It is the brainchild of writer Eric H. Weinberger, lyricist Sammy Buck, composer Daniel S. Acquisto, director Igor Goldin and actor Nick Cearley. It tells the story of a young man in the city in the late 70s and early 80s trying to make it as a performer when all his family wants from him is to marry a nice girl and get to his job at his father's meat store on time every morning. Well, his plans are very different from what's expected of him and he meets life-changing people and experiences unique New York events at a time when many circumstances of a 20-something's life were very unpredictable. And he pretty much sings a song about every one of these people and experiences. 

At a certain point in the middle of the show, I had to stop and remember that it was only one actor putting on this whole production, and you have to recognize how big of a feat that is. Complete with triumphant energy, loads of compassion and a hint of melancholy, the show will leave you feeling lucky to have the opportunities you've had and excited about the possibilities still to come. It's a subtle reminder that the people you might shrug off on the subway could have phenomenal life stories that are just waiting to be told.

Playing at Luna Stage until December 19, ...And Then I Wrote a Song About It is a great show and I would totally advocate for a NY Transit ride to go see it! If you are planning to go, let me know as I might be able to get you a deal on tickets, tbd :) Oh, and you should totally hit up Gamburgers.

From NYC, take a train from NY Penn to Highland Ave - they are infrequent on the weekends, but quite direct. (More often and less direct on weekdays.)


AWESOME GIVEAWAY REPEAT: 2 Tickets to Time Stands Still!!

It's time for a giveaway repeat! Time Stands Still is an amazing show and MUST be seen! The cast, including mega-star Laura Linney with Brian D'Arcy James, Eric Bogosian and Christina Ricci is changing January 30th, and you don't want to miss them.

The show tells the story of a war photographer dealing with the realities of real life back at home. It's a very poignant and intelligent story that gives another whole perspective to the politics and realities of war and brings a personal angle to it.

The production is running some special ticket offers and has amazing seats available from 12/26-12/29 (during a time when you may have some out of town visitors around who you'd like to impress....hint, hint). Check out this website and see for yourself!

One lucky reader will receive two tickets to see Time Stands Still on a night of his or her choosing before January 30, 2011. The tickets must be picked up at the box office the day of the show. There are 4 easy ways to win and each separate comment counts as an entry. You may enter the contest a maximum of 4 times. Please include your email in any comments so I know how to contact you if you are the winner.

1) REQUIRED - Follow this blog by clicking on the button on the right panel and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.

2) Leave a comment below letting me know why you want to go to this show and how you heard about this contest.

3) Follow me on Twitter @yaelleah and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.

4) Tweet or blog about this event and let me know with a comment below with a link to your tweet or blog.

A winner will be chosen using Random.org on Friday 11/17. You have until Friday 11/17 at 12 p.m. EST to enter the contest. Good luck!

A winner has been chosen! Congrats Kim! You are the 12th commenter and lucky winner of 2 tickets to see Time Stands Still on Broadway! Enjoy the show and thanks to everyone who entered! Stay tuned for more giveaways in the new year :)


Now You See Him, Now You...

When smushed into the far back corner of an overheated 6 train, nose way too close to something, let's just say, overripe, and having to stand on my tip toes to reach the ceiling pole, I often wish I was a master of escape. If you have ever been intrigued by the real master of escape, Harry Houdini, I would highly recommend a visit to the Jewish Museum before the exhibit Houdini: Art and Magic disappears.

In this well-organized compendium of photos, video, diaries and magical contraptions (including THE Chinese Water Torture Cell and THE straightjacket), you will learn more about the Hungarian-born boy turned Wisconsinite locksmith apprentice, turned worldwide magical wonder than you ever wanted to know. You will see images from perhaps one of the most disturbing tricks around, which involves swallowing needles and thread, and then pulling the threaded needles back out. Yeah, it makes me cringe too. You will also have the opportunity for a photo op with the master himself.

Head over to the museum on Saturdays for free admission. While you're there, be sure to check out the other exhibits, including the display of menorahs from the museum's permanent collection.


TDF - It's More Than TKTS

If you haven't figured it out yet, I love theater. Thing is, if you love going as much as I do, it can put a pretty heavy strain on your wallet. Fortunately, I've found many ways to win tickets (pay attention to Facebook and Twitter people!!), but there are always shows I just can't find giveaways for or that out of town visitors specifically request. This is when I'm glad to have discovered the Theater Development Fund.

Some of you might know TDF as the organization that runs the big TKTS booth in Times Square where you can buy day-of discounted tickets to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. TDF is so much more than just TKTS. I recently signed up as a member for an annual fee of just $30 for a year and now have access to all sorts of tickets for even cheaper than they are sold at TKTS. Bonus - I can buy them in advance!! For example, I purchased two front orchestra tickets to see Rock of Ages and only spent $77 including all fees!! It really can't get much better than that. 

Some caveats - you don't always get a choice of where your seats are, but in my experience, they have been surprisingly good. Also, not everyone can join TDF. You have to be one of the following (and provide proof): full-time students, full-time teachers, union members, retirees, civil service employees, staff members of not-for-profit organizations, performing arts professionals, members of the armed forces or clergy. If you fall into one of those categories and love theater, I would recommend signing up asap. It's just a short application and you have to send in a letter proving that you qualify for membership. You can purchase up to 10 tickets for each show on your account, so tell your friends. They won't want to miss out on the cheap tickets either!

Awesome Extra: TDF also has a great guide to Broadway and theater for newbies. It will answer all of your questions - check it out

It's RAINing Beatles

Go ahead. Name me someone who doesn't like the Beatles.

Of course, none. Moving on.

If you want a night to relive the 60's (even if you never actually were alive in the 60s), head over to the Theater District and pick yourself up a ticket or two to see Rain - A Tribute to the Beatles. The one you want to hold hands with will love you eight days a week after you bring them to see this spectacle of timeless music, nostalgic multimedia presentations and spot-on costumes and sets.

Thanks to the awesome folks at the Times Square Alliance, I won two tickets to go see Rain, and I brought my Dad in town from LA. I'm not going to lie and not tell you that my presence in the theater brought down the mean age by a fair sum, however, no matter your age, you will love this show. It's rare that you get asked to stand up, dance, clap and sing along to a Broadway show. Also, the actor who is supposed to be playing Paul McCartney is definitely his doppelganger - he's even won awards on how much he sounds like the superstar. 

Our friends at Stage Rush are currently doing a giveaway for a couple of tickets, so I would definitely check that out. To purchase tickets, head over to Theater Mania for discount codes. Enjoy!

Gilty Souvenir Shopping

The online shopping mega-giant (that I happen to be madly in love with) Gilt Groupe, launched its take on the "daily deals" craze by starting Gilt City. The awesome thing about Gilt City is that the website offers tickets to completely exclusive events that you would have no way of even getting invited to otherwise. Thanks to a Twitter contest, I won tickets to an event Gilt City hosted with Surevolution. Surevolution is a great purveyor of sustainable goods from around the world and my friend Perry and I were able to peruse some eclectic and exceedingly interesting pieces of jewelry, furniture and home goods while sipping organic wine from Chile.

Gold and silver bracelets and napkin rings
Me with some sustainably-made bags
Perry and I enjoying the event
Gold and silver leaf bangles
My favorite spiky bangles
One of my favorite bowls
I purchased a small aluminum bowl with a leaf pattern from India as I needed something to store rings and small knickknacks on my dresser and every time I look at it, I feel like it was a souvenir I picked up on an exotic vacation. On the way out, we were given gift bags with a beaded bracelet, some Kahina eye serum and an invitation for a free subscription to Indagare, a luxury travel website.

Me with my gift bag and bowl
Perry modeling the Indagare brochure
Thanks Gilt City for inviting us to this great event! I'll definitely be back for more. If you want to join Gilt City and have the opportunity to attend events like this, sign up here. I'd also recommend following @GiltCityNYC to stay on top of any future giveaways.