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yk Dec 1st, 2011 10:13 AM

yk's Nov 2011 NYC Arts trip report (5 museums, 2 shows, 2 Fodorites)
<b>Who?</b> Me

<b>When?</b> Saturday after Thanksgiving, through the following Wednesday

<b>Why?</b> Mostly to see several of the big Fall exhibitions, plus catching the opening night of Faust at the Metropolitan Opera

<b>Day 1</b>
DH & I had spent Thanksgiving at my in-laws in CT. On Saturday, DH drove home (to Boston) while I took Metro-North into NYC. As usual, I stayed with my good friends near 34th St & 2nd Ave.

It was 5pm by the time I got to my friends' apt. After resting for a bit, I met up with Fodorite 111op for dinner. He suggested <b>Laut</b> in Union Square, a one-star Michelin restaurant serving Malaysia, Singapore, & Thai cuisine. We shared a chicken satay, a chicken Char Kueh Teow, and beef Rendang. 111op also introduced me to a Malaysian hot tea which was addictive. The food was excellent, and I had a great time catching up with 111op of all his recent travels and chatting about art. I was glad we dined early and were seated right away. When we left at 8, there was quite a crowd outside waiting.

<b>Day 2</b>
In need of some exercise, I walked from my friends' apartment to <b>MoMA</b>, arriving at opening time. The $25 admission is quite steep but it is a huge museum and one can easily spend an entire day there. I mostly went there for the <b>de Kooning exhibition</b>.

I'm not a fan of de Kooning, and the show didn't change my opinion. The retrospective encompasses 7 decades of his career. I think his artistry peaked in the 40s & 50s; his black-and-white abstract paintings and his Women series aren't half bad. However, to me, it seems that he went downhill from the 60s onward. He moved out of Manhattan to LI, and his paintings looked much more tranquil (read: boring). As his Alzheimer's begin to set in, the late paintings gradually dwindled to almost nothing.

I stopped on a few other floors at the MoMA to check out the permanent collection, before finally leaving at around 1pm. I decided to walk over to <b>Whitney Museum</b>. The Untitled restaurant in the basement area was still packed, so I went upstairs to see the David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy exhibition first.

I had forgotten how small the Whitney is, no wonder they need a new building. The David Smith show goes backwards in time, starting with the 1960s burnished steel sculptures which he made just before his untimely death. Although I have seen his sculptures many times, this is the first time I really paid attention to them. To my amazement, the steel surface reflects light in amazing ways. They look like a 3-dimensional Cy Twombly's squiggly line blackboard paintings on steel. My favorite piece in the show is Untitled (Candida). It appears imposing when one looks at it straight on, but walk around it, you'll notice it's razor-thin on its side.

I went back to <b>Untitled Cafe</b> and got a seat at the bar. I chose the crispy kale and beet salad (with chopped almonds and yogurt dressing). This was exceptionally delicious; I need to replicate it at home.

After lunch, I explored other parts of the museum and saw pretty much everything; including the "Singular Visions" permanent collection on the top floor, the Sherrie Levine and Lichtenstein movie on 3rd floor, and the Real/Surreal on 2nd floor.

I left the Whitney after 2 hours and walked south a few blocks to the newly-opened <b>Laduree</b> outpost on Madison Avenue. 111op had warned me about long lines - the line wasn't long when I got there but it certainly moved slowly. I finally had my turn after 30 minutes of waiting. I bought a dozen macarons and couldn't resist getting a jar of rhubarb preserve for sis-in-law.

While I was out museum-ing, my friends had gone to Chinatown to buy foods for our hot pot dinner at home. I totally pigged out that night - sliced beef, sliced pork, tofu/fish cubes, fish balls, beef balls, napa, daikon, taro... I was so stuffed that I couldn't move for an hour afterwards. But that didn't stop me from sampling a couple of the Laduree macarons. They were as good as I remembered them when I bought some in Paris in 2007. The texture of the biscuit is just right - not too flaky, not too chewy, not too soft, not too hard. And the flavor of the macaron just explodes in my mouth.

<b>Day 3</b>
This morning, in need of more exercise to burn off the hot pot dinner, I walked all the way to <b>Neue Galerie</b> on 86th Street to see its current exhibition: The Robert Lauder collection. It took me exactly an hour to get there. I was the first person to enter the museum at 11am. By the time I was done with the first main gallery, I asked myself, "Where did all these people come from?" It got crowded rather quickly.

The biggest room where Adele's portrait hangs, is now adorned with a furniture set by Josef Hoffmann. Along the wall are several Otto Wagner vitrines displaying objects made by Wiener Werkstätte. My favorites are bonbonnieres designed by Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser. Also on display is a box given by Gustav Mahler to Alma Mahler at Christmas in 1902. The numbers 24.12.1902 were inscribed at the front of the box. It made my hair stand when looking at the box.

Apart from Viennese art, Lauder also collects other works. An adjacent room is overwhelmed by medieval armours and helmets, along with several Flemish portraits. Upstairs, we see more German and Austrian paintings including modern ones by Gerhard Richter. I liked the Freud painting and the Deer.

At $20 admission, the Neue Galerie is one of the more expensive museums in NY, especially when one considers its small size. Having said that, I have always enjoyed my visits there. Perhaps one day I will remember that its audioguide is free with admission.

Cafe Sabarsky was busy for lunch when I was done. Longing for some coffee and cake, I headed to the basement <b>Cafe Fledermaus</b>. It serves the same menu, but the ambiance is lacking. Service is unfussy and quick. I had my fill of a Wiener melange and a slice of milchrahmstrudel. My only complaint is that my water glass arrived separately and the coffee did not come on an oval platter.

I met my friend for lunch at <b>Soba-ya</b> down in East Village. It has been several years since I've been there, and they have expanded their menu by quite a bit. I opted for their Monday lunch special, which is chirashi soba (ordered cold). I really enjoyed the flavor and texture of their homemade soba.

Since my friend took the afternoon off, we went for a walk in SoHo. She successfully lured me into <b>Uniqlo</b>, a Japanese clothing store. I ended up buying several of their HeatTech clothing; hopefully they will keep me warm this winter!

We went home soon after as I needed a nap; then I headed off for <b>Carnegie Hall</b> for the Ian Bostridge, Thomas Adès recital. I had a quick dinner at <b>Le Pain Quotidien</b> nearby. The woman next to me at the communal table was eating the quinoa tabbouleh and arugula salad. As it looked good, I ordered the same. Funny though, I later ran into that same woman during intermission at the concert!

The (mostly lieder) recital was exceptional; very well thought-out and intelligently planned. I am not too crazy about lieder but Ian Bostridge managed to convert me into a fan. Thomas Ades, better known for his composing, was a brilliant pianist. It was a bit disconcerting looking at Ades - he reminds me of the Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev. The only things missing were a top hat, a walking stick, and a white silk scarf!

to be continued...

DebitNM Dec 1st, 2011 11:01 AM

As always, a delight to read your TR's!

yk Dec 1st, 2011 11:21 AM

<b>Day 4</b>
Not much walking today as I slept late and it had already started to rain. I first visited <b>Museum of Art and Design</b> at Columbus Circle.

The current main exhibit is on 2 floors: Crafting Modernism. On the higher floor, the furniture is set up like model homes. The more famous works mostly come from Whitney, but the MAD itself has nice pieces to compliment them. I zipped my way through the Korean and Japanese exhibits on the lower floors. Its Jewelry gallery currently shows works by famous artists, including Picasso, Anish Kapoor, Louise Bourgeois. Many are one-of-a-kind works, while others are made in limited editions.

Since I was in the area, I decided to go back to <b>Le Pain Quotidien</b> (@58th & 7th Ave) for lunch. This time I ordered a baked goat cheese and spinach salad.

My final museum for this trip is the <b>Guggenheim</b> to see the <u>Maurizio Cattelan</u> retrospective. Titled <i>All</i>, the retrospective hung ALL of Cattelan's work from the museum's oculus, like a giant funhouse mobile.

There are a total of 128 pieces, and as I go up the ramp, I get to see each one of them from various perspective. In a way, I suppose one can view it as one giant piece of composite work. However, I feel many of them have lost its punch and sarcasm by being taken out of context. Most of Cattelan's works were created for a specific site; they just don't deliver the same humor when hung in mid-air. Moreover, some of the works are so tiny that I can't see them clearly from the ramp. I still enjoyed it a lot and found myself giggling at many of the works (eg, the baby elephant hiding beneath a white sheet; or the ostrich burying its head into a particle board with wood chips surrounding its neck), but wish the installation was different.

After a short nap back home, I headed over to <b>Lincoln Center</b> for the opening night of FAUST, a new production starring Jonas Kaufmann and Rene Pape.

Beforehand, I stopped at <b>Nanoosh</b> for dinner, located just a few blocks away from Lincoln Center. I had a small bowl of lentil soup and a side of quinoa salad. I've been to Nanoosh several times now; I find their food fresh, light, and tasty, hence ideal as a pre-performance meal.

I met Fodorite MademoiselleFifi and her mom at our seats in Family Circle. Too bad MademoiselleFifi was too busy at work and couldn't join me for dinner, but it was good to see her again.

As I commented on the Opera chat thread in the lounge, the new FAUST, directed by Des McAnuff (famous for his b-way staging of Jersey Boys), was a failure in terms of staging and ideas. McAnuff tries too hard to make the opera serious and grim and relevant; it ends up being a huge disconnect between the staging and Gounod's fluffy Romantic French music.

Music-wise, the singing by Jonas Kauffman and Rene Pape was excellent. Marina "Popsy" Poplavskaya was uneven, and she seemed to be losing her voice at Act V (or was it all part of an act?).

The following morning, I left on the 10:10am <b>Megabus</b> to Boston. Bought just 2 weeks prior, I missed out on the $1 deal but my ticket only cost $5 (vs $15 on BoltBus).
The total cost for me to get home from NYC (door-to-door) was $10.55 for a distance of over 200 miles. It truly is an incredible deal.

china_cat Dec 1st, 2011 11:25 AM

Great report YK.

I went to the Neue Gallery just a couple of weeks ago to see the Lauder exhibit. I think I was inspired by your recommendation a couple years ago, its one museum I had not yet been too.

We talked about going to see the De Kooning, but then decided to skip it when our feet were too worn out.

cmcfong Dec 1st, 2011 05:36 PM

Wonderful report. I was in NYC the week before, how I wish I had had your tr to guide me.

AnnMarie_C Dec 2nd, 2011 02:58 AM

Hi yk, based on all the macarons we couldn't get enough of in Paris last November I bought a box in NYC last month. For me and DH they were not the same. Too sweet, flavors were lost, and the texture seemed off. Half the box remains. :-( Thanks for another great report!

mohan Dec 2nd, 2011 06:41 AM

Great report YK.
Laut is a cute little restaurant, not expensive and the food is pretty good. I like it there but ......Dh who grew up in that part of the world finds the taste too sweet and waaaaaay off. For authentic Malaysian food, we go to Nyonya which means mother. We usually order roti for appertizer (they used to make roti in the window, it's quite something), hoinan chicken with extra ginger and hot sauce(sambal) and chicken oil rice( delish, make sure you specify chicken oil rice otherwise you get plain white rice ), Singapore chew quai dew (wrong spelling just pronounce as such) and beef rendang. The atmosphere is quite nice as compared with other Asian restaurants and the seats are comfy.

If you like Malaysian curry, try the New Malaysian restaurant (it's actually an old restaurant ), I like their fish head in curry, You have to be able to deal with fish bones to enjoy this dish. actually everything is pretty good but the seats are too crowded.

I am not a fan of Macarons, they are very pretty to look at though. Bouchon is famous for those and other pastries. I like that place, the location is central, good coffee, delish sweets. and interesting people watching.
I recently bought spicy pumkin macaron from The Culinary Institute of Amercian in Hyde Park, NY, they are pretty good.

AnnMarie_C , I feel the same way about desserts in the USA, they are way too sweet. If you go to Asia, desserts are less sweet ( even less sweeter than Europeans) and more flavorful, Haagan daz and sodas taste different from the ones in USA.

mohan Dec 2nd, 2011 06:51 AM

also some museums including moma is 'pay as u wish' on friday evenings. Amost very museum has a free day/night one way or another. You will have to go to the website of the museum to find out. Hope this helps.

SueNYC Dec 2nd, 2011 09:47 AM

MOMA math. Consider the following. I don't know how often you camp out at your friends or how much you spend on a hosts gift but..

.for 85 dollars you can buy your friend a membership. They will have free admission and films and early viewing hours and members previews and no timed ticketing and 10-20 percent off at the gift shop and be able to take up to 5 guests at 5 dollars each and you can borrow the membership when you are visiting and and and....

Happy holidays!

panecott Dec 2nd, 2011 09:54 AM

Wonderful report, yk. You've been to a lot of places in NY that I've never been to!

And I'm glad to hear that the Megabus worked out for you. I was thinking of taking it the next time I go to Boston or DC.

yk Dec 2nd, 2011 09:59 AM

Thanks for all your comments! C_C, I hope you enjoyed Neue Galerie. Did you get a chance to eat at Cafe Sabarsky?

AnnMarie, long time no see! I'm sorry you didn't like the Laduree macarons. :( AFAIK, the Laduree NY store imports their macarons from Paris:

mohan, I tried Bouchon's macarons a few years ago (and several other stores' macarons recommended on Fodors), and I didn't like any of them. I thought either the texture was wrong, or the flavor was bland. Thanks for the recs of other restaurants.

I did look into the free admission days for most museums - they all tend to be on Friday evenings (except Guggenheim which is SAt evening). Since I was in NYC Sat thru Wed, I couldn't take advantage of the Fri night free admissions. I do have a few reciprocal memberships so I was able to get in MAD and Guggenheim for free.

emalloy Dec 2nd, 2011 10:22 AM

Thanks for the report, yk, it is always great to hear about your latest adventure.

sheri_lp Dec 2nd, 2011 02:10 PM

I agree with everyone - love your report and I'm itching to get to NYC

cat111719 Dec 2nd, 2011 04:23 PM

yk, perfect timing! I'm taking dd to NYC next week, for just a few days. Will definitely try Lauderee!

Would love to see Adele again, so may have to add the Neue Galerie to our list.

china_cat Dec 2nd, 2011 06:38 PM

Cafe da arson was too crowded, so like you we ate downstairs. I liked the food quote a lot. I enjoyed the gallery, although the collection was not my favorite. I wanted to see more Klimt, and there wasnt much.

AnnMarie_C Dec 3rd, 2011 03:03 AM

Yes, but is it the same recipe? Perhaps one of us was having a bad day :-) Nice to "see" you, too! Always enjoy your reports, yk!

china_cat Dec 3rd, 2011 05:52 AM

hmmm...somehow ipad auto-correct turned Sabarsky into da did that happen??

yk Dec 3rd, 2011 07:17 AM

Thanks again for the additional comments. C_C, for a sec I thought you had momentary dyslexia! I don't think there are that many Klimts at the Neue "normally"... perhaps 3-4?

panecott, I've taken Megabus quite a lot of times, and it's fine. I have a slight preference for BoltBus and would have chosen Bolt if the ticket prices were similar. If you do decide to take the bus, try to take the ones in the AM as delays are less frequent and traffic is lighter.

cat, have a good time in NYC!

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