Tuesday, October 6, 2009

NYC's Caffe Linda - really good eats if you're in the neighborhood!

145 E 49th St
(between 3rd Ave & Lexington Ave)
New York, NY 10017
(646) 497-1818
We were in town for the weekend and staying at the Waldorf Astoria on Lexington. Looking for a place within walking distance, we set off to find a good lunch.

Just one block away we stumbled upon a sweet little cafe with outdoor seating. The only thing was, there was NO ONE eating there. Being in a restaurant family - i have been told, an empty restaurant isn't usually a GOOD restaurant. However I saw the owner was working (which is always a good sign) and that he was Italian - so I got a good vibe and we decided to try it.

We sat outside to enjoy the sun with our food. The owner was very attentive and made sure we were happy at all times.

I love any restaurant that still practices the "free snack or appetizer" rule. Whether its chips and salsa, bread sticks, bread with dipping sauce - I love it - it adds to the meal and makes you feel like the establishment cares about you rather than just money.

This restaurant had a lovely version of Bread and Butter. They had two different kinds of home made, thick crusted Italian breads - one plain and one sweet with raisins. And they served it with warm soft butter and berry jam.

For a beverage I ordered an iced tea and was so pleased with just that!

The menu was extensive however we were drawn to our favorites. My meal came with a salad - which was a wonderful mixture of Arugula, Kale, Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, and Cantaloupe. My only complaint was that there was TOO much arugula - which made it too bitter to each too many leaves with each bite.

Next up was each of our plates - Our daughter, Ms Sweet-tooth - ordered the French Toast. This was a beautiful homemade bread dipped in eggs and sweet spices, topped with powdered sugar and a side of fruit.

Next up was my sandwich - Mozzarella, tomatoes and arugula on homemade foccocia bread. It was so yummy and savory. HOWEVER I would have preferred WAY less arugula and some basil instead. In fact this place served SO much arugula, i wonder if the owners had it in the garden or something. For such a bitter lettuce, they used it a bit too much for my taste -but still overall such a great sand which.

Lastly was my husbands Caprese Salad. The mozzarella they used was so soft and melted in their mouth. It was buffalo and smoked, which makes all the difference in the world. Again, the ONLY complaint...no basil. However we did ask for this as a special order, as it wasn't on their menu, and didn't specify basil, however all Italians know its served with basil! However, the salad did come on a bed of....yes you guessed it - ARUGULA! Once again - not the best choice for this salad - but again it seems it was the lettuce of the day!

Overall - this restaurant was sweet, organized, fast, well managed and the food was above average and I would even say really good. Can't say great because of the few exceptions I made above. Add in convenience and cost and I would most definitely visit Caffe Linda again when in New York.

Rating: **** Really good !

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Billy Elliot - Whats better than the movie? Broadway baby....

BILLY ELLIOT - The Musical
Director: Stephen Daldry
Music: Elton John
Choreography: Peter Darling
Book and Lyrics: Lee Hall

I once read a blog by a famous celebrity that said "Once you see a show ON BROADWAY in NYC - your life will never be the same." and I thought it was very dramatic and a bit of an exaggeration, in fact I was sure of it.

Allow me to officially on the record state - I WAS 100% WRONG. It does change your life. Seeing a Tony award winning show, ON BROADWAY in New York City DOES indeed change your life.

The culmination of many blessings and well timed events made it possible for us to visit NYC on the weekend of our daughters 13th birthday. Our daughter is a dancer and adored the movie version of Billy Elliot - as did we. We loved the story of the family struggle and the boys dancing dream come true....in so many ways we were living that story. So when word got around that Elton John had adapted the story to create a musical - we swooned at the thought of ever getting to see the show one day.

As I said - the cards played in our favor and the stars aligned and it happened. It was our first Broadway show. We felt like newbies. All dressed our best and nervous tummies. The show was sold out and people were packing into the Imperial Theater like cattle.

There are 4 boys who play the part of Billy (because the shows are so physically demanding) but the boy we saw perform was Trent Kowalik. All 3 boys won the Tony for Best Actor - so I am sure they are all brilliant - but this review is about Trent's brilliance.

The show has a wonderful variety of cast and a heart tugging and tear jerking story line of a family and community in turmoil over a miner strike and a son wanting to follow his heart and his dreams during that hard time.

Its main character immediately steals your heart with his thick Geordie accent (North East of England) and his heartfelt moments with his deceased mother. His acting and singing was nothing short of sweet and lovable and his dancing was just phenomenal. We immediately fell in love with the members of his family, his friends, his dance teacher, even the girls in the core/dance class.

Elton John composed such an amazing group of songs for this show. We purchased the sound track and I still find myself getting misty eyed during certain songs. It evokes THAT MUCH just when listening in the car! The ensemble cast does such a good job of filling the songs with strength and power and also has the amazing ability to portray the unity of the community in the story. I was blown away.

There are such strong messages and such sad and heart felt moments in this show. The first time (one of many) that I started crying, I bawled. I mean ugly, messy crying. I mean almost sobbing. My husband summed up the feeling in evoked perfectly "It was incredibly overwhelming". My husband cried and held back tears and that says tons as he rarely cries.

Everytime I kept calming myself and wiping my eyes, something would happen and I would start again. I even found myself, after feeling self conscious that I was crying TOO MUCH - I found myself looking at the ceiling trying to think of VERY BORING THINGS to get my mind off how much I want to break into tears again! (I kept whispering "Baseball, Baseball, Baseball!) It was hilarious now that I look back at it!

At the end of the show - with the overwhelmingly amazing Finale - I figured I cried almost 80% of the show. It was that moving. The sets were engaging and so amazing to watch move in and out of place. The choreography was wonderful, refreshing and made you want to get up and dance. Like I said - we were in awe for the majority of the time.

Some actor/character mentions besides the brilliant and talented Trent Kowalik who played Billy Elliot....Haydn Gwynne (Ms. Wilkinson the dance teacher), Gregory Jbara (Billys Dad), David Bologna (Michael, Billy's best friend), Carole Shelley (Billy's Grandma) and Thommie Retter (Mr Braithwait - the piano teacher). This group of actors/singers carried this show. Their strength, versatility and range was so impressive and their commitment to the characters and story was just overwhelming.

My favorite moment of this show is the finale I must say. You feel so proud of the cast, so proud of Billy the character - and so touched that you were able to watch such a special show. I found myself on my feet, clapping and crying like an idiot. But then I looked around and realized and everyone else was doing the same thing.

This show is truly remarkable and was an unforgettable 1st time experience for me and my family. I know not everyone gets the chance or has the money to go to NYC to see a show on Broadway. I am so grateful that this opportunity was GIVEN to us - literally GIVEN, or we would have not been able to swing it any time soon. But I think if you could save your money to go and see ONE SHOW on Broadway. This would be it.