Secret Summer 2016 was a hot one. I’m not talking about the weather, which did get up there in the high 90s. I’m talking about Lucky Chops, a brass band whose sassy, high-energy performance was scorching. All six members played like they were having the time of their lives, and their positive vibe was infectious. The crowd went wild for the group’s spirited take on pop classics like Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There”, and band member Leo P really put his back into it with his crazy booty shakes. Whoever said band camp is just for geeks hasn’t been to this jam session, because all the cool kids were dancing to the beat of a horn and saxophone. Not even a little rain could stop this party.Read More
In less than two weeks’ time, Secret Summer NYC will be hosting its second annual farm-to-bar cocktail festival on August 14th from 4-10 pm at the Foundry in LIC, Queens. I covered last year’s event and was pleasantly charmed by how the industrial space had been transformed into a whimsical Shakespearean playground overflowing with the most delicious food and drink. I can honestly say it was the best summer party I’ve ever been to in NYC and would highly encourage you to buy tickets at this link before they sell out. Judging from the preview event I attended, I’m confident they can pull it off again. Artisanal cocktails crafted by Bespoke Solutions and featuring the stunning herbs of Farm.One, a hydroponic farm in Manhattan (my mouth nearly burned from trying their “toothache” herb!), will be like no drinks you’ve ever had. Plus this year will feature a good lineup of live entertainment–Coyote + Crow, Lucky Chops, Ida Blue, DJ Ryan Vandal, aerialists Roxie Valdez and Ellie Steingraeber, and the one I’m most looking forward to, the Secret Summer Street Ballet troupe! Van Leeuwen will be back with their ice cream truck, because nothing says summer like eating an ice cream cone outside. Take a sneak peek with the pictures below, get your boho chic on and buy a ticket today!Read More
One of the best parts about summer is being outside, and my favorite seasonal activity is attending Moma PS1’s Warm Up dance party. Warm Up is held every Saturday in the summer and features experimental music and DJs. Guests can drink and mingle in the outdoor courtyard, and the price of admission also includes access to the modern art exhibit inside. The party gets better towards the end of the day, where people start getting a little more buzzed and a little more into the music, and the courtyard turns into a huge dance floor.Read More
On a hot summer day, the last thing I want to eat is a bowl of ramen, especially one with a thick tonkotsu broth. But it’s not everyday that I’m in Long Island City, Queens, and I figured I should take advantage of my trip out here and stop by the super popular Mu Ramen.
Luckily, it seemed like visiting during the ramen off-season was a good call, and we only waited 30 minutes on a Sunday at 6:30. (The restaurant doesn’t take any reservations other than those for the Chef’s Counter tasting dinner.) We were pretty efficient in our approach to ordering–going just for the restaurant’s signature dishes, the “okonomiyaki” and the house bowl of Mu ramen.
I now understand why the “okonomiyaki” was listed in quotes. It really has nothing in common with its Japanese roots. The Japanese version reminds me of a big, messy omelette, but Mu Ramen’s is like the Kendall Jenner of the Kardashians, beautiful and refined in a line of trashy vixens. These petite, silver dollar pancakes were more like sweet and fluffy corncake blinis, topped with some smoked fish and salty roe, and wearing a wreath of orange and yellow flowers. There was some depth to this Instagram beauty, luckily, and it was a perfect, dense bite that was filling and fulfilling because of the way it engaged all of the senses.
The Mu ramen also defied expectations, as the oxtail and bone marrow-based broth was actually of a lighter weight than the cloudy, heavy soups that seem to be all the rage. Rebellion is a recurring theme here, as the Mu ramen did a lot of things differently from a traditional ramen. Instead of a pork chashu, a brisket was used, a decision I didn’t totally agree with, as I felt this cut of meat was a little too lean and stringy for the purposes of ramen consumption. The pickled cucumbers were unexpected, adding a tang that brightened up the broth, and bringing some good texture to the dish. I thought the thin al dente noodles were perfect, and they could do no wrong wrapped around my chopsticks with a little bit of everything in between.
From the few things I’ve had so far, Mu Ramen isn’t trying to make a classic bowl of ramen noodles. It experiments with embellishments you wouldn’t have considered, and that seems to be paying off. This little preview was such a tease, I’ll have to come back for the proper 11-course tasting menu and stay for the whole show.
12-09 Jackson Ave (between 47th Rd and 48th Ave)
Long Island City, NY 11101 (917) 868-8903
Everyone loves a good party, but it’s even better when it’s full of surprises. It’s this spontaneity that made Secret Summer so charming and memorable. The whimsical garden cocktail party was held at The Foundry on Sunday, August 2nd, where guests wearing their summer best were mingling amidst mischievous performers breaking out into song and dance. At first glance, it seemed like any other summer soiree, but not everything was what it seemed, and while curiosity killed the cat, here it paid to open Pandora’s box.
There seemed to be surprises at every corner, including the entrance to the party itself. The Foundry in Long Island City, Queens looks like a nondescript, industrial warehouse from the outside, but if you push back the green ivy, you’ll discover a beautiful, modern space with an inviting courtyard patio hidden inside. As guests strolled down the back entrance into the secret garden, they were met by a merry band of revelers called The Mechanicals, a reference to the six-man troupe that performs in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The band’s playlist certainly kept guests on their toes–a Beatles song could very well be followed by an 80s hit from The Cars.
In the courtyard, fairies were playfully running about, encouraging guests to join in on the fun. We stumbled upon the notorious Puck and his friend Cobweb, and I was a little worried that he might be up to his schemes. Would he put an ass’ head on me? Luckily the two of them were nothing but gracious and posed for some pictures. One of the dancers beckoned towards Ruoxi to join her in some impromptu moves, but he was feeling shy and declined the offer.
Maybe he needed to loosen up with some drinks, of which there were many! Six bars were set up inside, featuring picture perfect farm-to-table cocktails mixed by Andrew Maturana and his team from Rapt Affairs. The cocktails here were distinctive in that they didn’t rely on sugary mixers or bitters for flavor. Maturana’s Farm-to-Bar program utilizes all-natural and seasonal herbs, fruits, leaves and roots to extract the most from their drinks. There’s definitely a lot of skill and technique that went into mixing the cocktails. The “Filth & Villainy,” for instance, featured a fresh tomato water dashi clarified through a cheesecloth for several hours, and another drink used a fresh corn milk that the team made from scratch.
There was a good variety of liquors represented to please any palate–Queens Courage Gin, Cachaça 51, Herradura Tequila, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Whiskey and Stoli Vodka. The “Beast of Burden” cocktail with Queens Courage gin and ginger beer was especially refreshing, as was the “Morango”, which featured the cachaça mixed with tasty market strawberries. While the “Goin’ To the Country” drink wasn’t quite my cup of tea, the use of sesame oil was very unique. Even if things didn’t quite work, the taste was never boring.
There were even more drink stations set up outside. I absolutely loved the adorable, old-school Volkswagen that served as the bar for Rekorderlig Cider, a cider made from the pure spring waters of Vimmerby, Sweden. The fruity cider was vibrant, crisp and clear, particularly the Strawberry-Lime and the Pear. Drinking a glass really did feel like Sweden on a summer day. Those with a VIP pass received exclusive access to the Oyster & Champagne room, where you could enjoy fresh Montauk oysters with a glass of Perrier-Jouet. The room is definitely worth the splurge, as nothing beats eating sweet oysters and drinking endless champagne in a shaded area during the summer time.
One of the best surprises was discovering a face painting station in the main room. I decided to get into the country maiden fairy pixie spirit and had some pink flowers painted on the side of my face. This is something I normally wouldn’t do, especially outside of Halloween, but I just couldn’t help myself with all these wood nymphs and steampunk musicians running around. A not so pleasant surprise? A close call with one of the big, bouncy balls from the ginormous beer pong station. I was a little frazzled at first, but this was quickly remedied with another cocktail.
Naturally, with all this drinking and interactive experiences, you’re bound to get hungry, and there was plenty of food from Chef Varon Carillo‘s grill. The produce was sourced from local purveyors such as Eckerton Hill, Caradonna, Paffenroth Gardens and Bodhi Tree, and the quality and freshness of the grilled vegetables showed, as they were especially delicious.
The grilled meats and seafood were also fantastic, and of course, they were sourced locally and responsibly. It was love at first bite when I ate the chunky and tangy pork sausage, which was humanely raised and garden-fed by Joe the Grower in upstate New York. The chicken breast, a pleasantly tender and slightly sweet cut of meat, came from a private farm and coop called Goode Farm in Northeast Westchester. (I’m starting to sound like I’m on an episode of Portlandia, aren’t I? Being extra vigilant about where everything on my plate came from.) I’m not sure of the origins of the shrimp, but these spicy and sweet treats were easily the best items at the grill. The secret was out about the good food, however, and the line stayed ridiculously long all throughout the night.
After watching what fools these mortals be, performances courtesy of the Shrunken Shakespeare Company, and enjoying the delicious scoops of ice cream from the Van Leeuwen truck (that banana nut was to die for, and I loved how real and authentic the earl grey and ginger tasted), we awoke from our midsummer night’s dream and proceeded to head back to Manhattan. There was one more trick up Secret Summer’s sleeve, a free Lyft code to get you home safely! The show is over, say goodbye…