songbird's crazy world Long Island restaurants

songbird's crazy world

life in and around NYC is insane

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Brio Tuscan Grille

Lunch with a group of my coworkers, and we wound up at Brio Tuscan Grille at Walt Whitman Shops.

I hadn't been to that shopping center in ages ... When it was still called Walt Whitman Mall ... Must say I am impressed with the upgrades.

But I had forgotten about songbird's rules for parking at Whitman at Christmastime.

Rule number one: Don't. Just don't.

Rule number two: If you must break rule number one, park at the very outskirts of the mall.

Brio is located at the center of the mall. I tried to park nearby, but after fruitless circling, I wound up parking in a distant part of the lot, near Bloomingdales, and hiking back to the restaurant.

It was worth the hike.

We shared a variety of appetizers. The fried calamari was tender and flavorful. Shrimp with eggplant was excellent. Spinach artichoke dip was smooth and creamy. I had bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella -- like eating caprese salad on the most delectable bread.

For my entree, I decided to move out of my comfort zone. I ordered campanelle carbonara, bell shaped pasta in a rich cream sauce, with bacon and grilled chicken. It was served with freshly grated Parmesan. I thought the sauce a bit heavy on the bacon taste, but otherwise very good. The pasta a la vodka and chicken piccata with mashed potatoes both looked very appealing.

And yes, we ordered dessert. Most of us got "dolchinos", small portions of dessert served in a parfait glass. I had "key lime pie", a layer of graham cracker crumbs, key lime custard and whipped cream. Perfectly sized and absolutely delicious.

Definitely worth another visit.

Brio Tuscan Grille on Urbanspoon

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This is getting old

The bomb threat made news again.  Tuesday's newspaper carried the story of an arrest made Monday - a 17 year old junior at the school charged with a misdemeanor for "unauthorized use of a computer" in October.    He wasn't charged with making the threats.  That might happen eventually.

Apparently when he was picked up by the police a couple of weeks ago, he was not arrested, but merely questioned.  The rumor mill got it wrong.

The article wasn't very detailed, but my guess is that the young man hacked into someone's computer (the school's?) in order to send the threats.

There is speculation that he had an accomplice.

There was another threat Tuesday night, but the police were apparently aware that the threat was going to be made.

Very eerie driving past the school and seeing such a heavy police presence.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Dairy Queen?

I am told that I had a deprived childhood because I never ate at  Dairy Queen. 

Well, that was recently remedied.  Dairy Queen just opened a DQ Grill &  Chill in Levittown, and we  had to try it out.

Nice sized restaurant, the parking lot is a bit small and cramped.  Typical fast food style seating, but that a fireplace along the wall?  A real fireplace?  Wow...

Menu is typical fast food, too.  Burgers, chicken, hot dogs, fries.  You order at the counter, you're handed a number, you go find a seat, and the server will bring your food to your table.  Very nice touch.

I ordered a chicken tenders basket.  (I used to love the chicken tenders at McDonald's, and was sorry to see them eliminated from the menu; chicken nuggets just don't have the same oomph.)  Six chicken tenders, served with fries, buttered toast (!) and BBQ sauce.  Good meal for the price, probably a bit better than most fast food places.  I love choosing my beverage at the Freestyle Coke machine. 

Drew ordered a burger, and his favorite -- Orange Julius.    Not something that appeals to me, but Drew says it's like an orange slurpee, very sweet. 

Our table was directly under the signs that give you a history of Dairy Queen and a history of Orange Julius, and even information about when the two companies merged.  Interesting reading.

I seldom order dessert, but this being Dairy Queen, I simply had to have a Blizzard.  This month's special is a Candy Cane Chill -- peppermint candy cane pieces and choco chunks blended with creamy vanilla soft serve.  It looked so pink and frothy!    I loved my dessert, even though the pieces of candy cane stuck to my teeth.

Drew didn't order an ice cream treat, but tasted mine.  Drew didn't really care for it.  He would have chosen different mix-ins for his Blizzard. 

So now I have been initiated into the joys of DQ.  And I know we will be back.

Dairy Queen on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 19, 2014

OMG, Billy Joel!

So back in January we saw Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden.  Great concert.  Loved every minute of it.

My only disappointment of the night was the lousy seats, up in nosebleed territory.

Couldn't wait to do it again.  Which is easy, because he's taken up residency there, booked one show each month for the foreseeable future. 

So this time I bought the tickets from Stub Hub, Section 113.  That's rear stage, but only 9 rows back, a better view than some of the floor seats.  Much better than last itme.

Although for concerts, I suppose you shouldn't really call them "seats".  Their more like "here's your assigned place to stand and dance, with a chair for you to leave your stuff on while you do."

Better food choices at that level, I discovered.  We had hamburgers and French fries.  The burgers were amazing, perfectly cooked, with a yummy cheese sauce.  Fries were decent.  And Drew was pleased, because he saved $10 by using his Chase credit card to buy the food -- Chase is the Garden's sponsor.

Opening act was Jamie Cullum, a British singer/piano player who was obviously influenced by Joel -- his performance style reminds me of Joel back in the 1980's.  Very interesting jazzy/blues cover of Rhianna's "Please Don't Stop the Music".

And then it was time for Billy to take the stage.

Some of his patter was the same as what we heard the last concert...he looked at his image on the screen and said "hi Dad" because he looks just like his father now.

Loved his comment about the lyrics to "The Entertainer". 

Here's the lyric:

But I know the game, you'll forget my name
I won't be here in another year
If I don't stay on the charts

He told the audience "I haven't had a hit in 17 years, and you're still here.  Thank you."

The set list was different from what he played in January.  He's got so many hits he can't play them all, and he also likes to do songs that weren't hits...

Part of his shtick these days is to allow the audience to choose which songs he will play.  He gave us that option three times.  We chose "Vienna", "The Stranger" and "the Entertainer".

This being the Christmas season, his set list was expanded to include a few Christmas songs, including "O come All Ye Faithful", "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and (in the middle of "River of Dreams") "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer".  He even donned a Santa hat for awhile.

He spent most of the night at the piano, which rotates so the whole audience can see him.

No guest stars this time around (he had Mellencamp in the November concert), but we did get a performance from his roadie Chainsaw, who sand AC/DC's "Highway to Hell".  Interesting.  Billy accompanied on the guitar.

Billy stood up for  "Uptown Girl" and "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me", twirling the microphone stand like a pro.  But when he walked across the stage, you could see he was limping...

A great evening.  I would love to do it again.

Of course, everyone in the audience whips out their phones to take fuzzy pictures and video.  Here are my fuzzy pictures of the night:

The view from our seats:


And, of course, Billy Joel:

The set list:

Miami 2017
The Entertainer
The Stranger
Movin' Out
Where's the Orchestra?
She's Right On Time
New York State of Mind
Highway to Hell
My Life
Sometimes a Fantasy
Don't Ask Me Why
The River of Dreams
Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
Piano Man

Uptown Girl
It's Still Rock and Roll to Me
You May Be Right
Only The Good Die Young

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What are you doing New Year's Eve?

I think the plans have finally come together. 

Since we're such a small group, and since no one wants to spend gobs of money, we will be partying at Drew's house.  The plan is to order Chinese takeout for dinner from one of the local restaurants.  And everyone will throw in a couple of dollars to buy chips, appetizers and soda.  Drew has the champagne for a midnight toast, none of us are really big drinkers anymore so we don't need any other wine/beer/cocktails.

I feel like I'm back in my college days.

but then again, those days were fun.

And I've got a killer recipe for cocktail meatballs, haven't made it in years, but just might try it again....

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Carnegie Part 2

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?


An old joke, but a revered institution.

So how come the only times I've been inside those hallowed halls involve humor?

Seriously, the first time I saw a performance at Carnegie Hall, it was PDQ Bach, Peter Schickele's wonderful parody of classical music. That has to have been 25 years ago. Drew is a big fan ...

And here we are, years later, attending an oratorio called "Not the Messiah" by a relatively unknown composer named Eric Idle. Two nights only, we saw it on Tuesday night.

I apparently had a deprived youth, because I was not Monty Python fan until recently, and I've never seen Life of Brian.  I'm sure I missed a lot, but I thoroughly enjoyed the performance. 

I mean, you're in Carnegie Hall, there is a full orchestra, the women in black formals, the men in white tie and tails. There is a huge chorus, the men in tuxedos, the women in black. The first violin tunes the orchestra, the conductor takes the stage ...and then you hear the familiar strains of the Monty Python theme song. You just know it's going to be an interesting evening. Four soloists (from Broadway and/or opera backgrounds) join Idle on the stage, and for the next two hours you are treated to a mixture of pop, rock, flamenco, Gilbert & Sullivan ... as the story unfolds.

Some of the best moments --

-- a girl dressed as a Judean shepherd takes the stage with three "sheep" (puppets) as Idle sings some naughty lyrics about sheep.

-- Idle's song about wanting to be a girl is hysterical.

-- at the end of the first act, the entire company is singing about how Brian is "the One". Several people are waving candles. The shepherd shows up, waving a Chanukah menorah (well, it was the first night of Chanukah!)

-- Idle's Dylan impression is spot on.

-- Brian and Judith have a very, interesting, duet.

-- Loved the hats on the mariachi band.

Of course, the evening ends with "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life", which becomes an audience participation number.

Guess I have to find a DVD of the movie now.

Just as an aside -- Carnegie Hall contains a small museum with exhibits describing how it was built, how it was almost demolished when Lincoln Center was built, how Isaac Stern convinced the powers that be to preserve such an important site, and all the famous folk who performed at Carnegie Hall. Not a very elaborate museum, the entire display fits in one room, but very interesting.

If you want to read more about the oratorio, here is the  NY Times review.

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Carnegie Part 1

Who eats together at the Carnegie Deli? (With apologies to Adam Sandler) the answer is NOT Bowser from Sha Na Na and Arthur Fonzarelli.

Two delis opened in NYC in 1937. -- the now-closed Stage Deli, located on 7th Avenue near 54th Street, and the Carnegie Deli, located on 7th and 57th. The rivals were known for oversized sandwiches named for celebrities, Jewish delicacies such as matzoh ball soup, and cheesecake. All the things that I am genetically programmed to seek out.

We liked the late Stage Deli, we ate there several times. It was very upsetting when the place closed in 2012.  A piece of Old Nw York was gone.

But fear not, the legacy lives on at the Carnegie.

Neither of us had ever been there before. But with tickets to an event at Carnegie Hall (more about that later) and without any other ideas for dinner, we figured we'd give it a try.

The crowded, cramped room with celebrity photos covering the walls seemed familiar. If you're claustrophobic you might want to skip this place, the tables are thisclose together.

But the food ... A bit overpriced (as expected), but we were not disappointed. I had my usual pastrami on rye -- so much meat piled on the bread that the sandwich threatened to fall apart when I picked it up.  The pastrami was tender and tasty. Drew ordered tongue, which he said was much leaner than at other delis. It being the first night of Chanukah, we also ordered potato pancakes -- three enormous pancakes served with sour cream and applesauce. I liked them, but Drew said they were a little greasy -- an overabundance of the "miracle of the oil".

In most delis you will be served pickles and cole slaw while you wait for your order. Here there is no cole slaw. But the pickles -- very sour, very garlicky, very good.

Alas, no room for dessert. Iguess we will have to come back for some cheesecake.

Carnegie Deli on Urbanspoon

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