Friday, February 1, 2008

Jessica and I on that whole New York “dinner and a show” thing

I’ve heard of this NY “dinner and a show” thing for years now and have often wondered what it would be like. My career as a struggling artist exiled me to the retail and weekend nanny industry for years (this has ended, having traded in the cliché artist retail job for the cliché artist office job) As is the case with retail and weekend nannying, my work schedule severely cut into my ability to attend shows that started at the typical 8 o’clock time. For the first time in my not incredibly young life, I’m on schedule with the masses and promptly end my workday at 5pm. Hence the time excuse no longer applies. However, post-experience, I have a new one. You need some serious cheese to do the “dinner and show” thing!

In honor of this blog launch, Jessica Miller-Rauch and I decided to go on a hot date and do just that. Because we like to think ourselves unconventional, we chose to have our virgin-NYC date experience in the great borough of Brooklyn. To BAM we went! But FIRST to Thomas Beisl for Austrian fare. This cozy little Viennese bistro has the fortunate circumstance of being located right across the street from the most important performing arts institution in the borough. Hence, it was the perfect restaurant to begin our journey. We arrived just before the Theater rush and took a seat in their dining area which really is an indoor porch replete with heat lamps and tent ambiance. For starters we split two items (since that’s what people do on dates. We decided not to feed each other in order to not incite suspicion from our other halves). First up were fried mushrooms and chicken liver mousse with cranberry compote paired with Grüner Veltliner. The wine complimented the mousse well. The mushrooms might have been better served by a sizable stein of lager. For entrees, we had braised beef cheeks with spätzle and chicken paprika with spätzle. The beef was perfectly cooked but a little under-salted. Nothing tragic though. I loved it almost as much as the glass of Zweigelt I had with it. Zweigelt is the premiere red wine grape of Austria, first developed in 1922 at the Federal Institute for Viticulture and Pomology of Klosterneuberg, Austria by the soon to be director of the institute, Dr. Fritz Zweigelt. Zweigelt is a cold weather grape (resistant to frost) hence is successfully grown in such regions as its homeland as well as Canada and Hungary. It is delightfully light on the palette, well-balanced with nice fruit. It stood up to those beef cheeks well! The cheese strudel that followed capped off the evening nicely.

2 glasses in, we were officially warmed up for some proper music-experiencing. On the program was Joanna Newsom and the Brooklyn Philharmonic. Newsom is a classic example of a classically trained musician taking a pop medium to new heights. Her music is multi-textured, beautifully structured and, of all things, through-composed! The first half she played with the orchestra backing her as she performed pieces off her second release "Ys". The songs were interesting, but I felt that the orchestra kind of got in the way. In what seems to be the plague of big-production classical music-making, it felt like the orchestra and band could have used a couple more rehearsals to really have exquisite give and take. It seems to me that in order to put new music into production, it might be better to think small. The concert got better after the orchestra exited the stage and we were back with just the band. My gauge? Well, the first half, I was on the verge of falling asleep in my starchy food/wine induced barely conscious state. The second half I couldn’t have fallen asleep if I tried. Newsom has a gorgeous voice-clear as a bell and child-like in timbre with a whimsical and unique vocal style. She does this really cool squeaky thing that I want to learn how to do! Anyway, enough vocal-nerding. Her songs are very melodic. A whole lotta times I couldn’t figure out what the hell she was saying, but it didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment of her performance. Hm. Long pieces through-composed pieces.. sung in an un-intelligible way… Sounds like opera! The audience was rapt and it gave me hope for the future of our youth and their ability to concentrate on something for more than a minute. Yay good art!

All in all, the evening was grand. If I could pair music with our restaurant experience, I most likely would’ve picked Elisabeth Schwarzkopf singing Viennese operetta arias, but Joanna Newsom made a fine substitute. Hm, to pair a wine with Newsom… Definitely a honey mead.


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