Our Favorite NYC Chinese New Year Events

‘Tis the year of the snake, with Chinese New Year slithering in on Sunday, Feb. 10th. For some, this is the year’s most important holiday – a time for reflecting on its virtues of good fortune and happiness – while for others, it is a time to reflect on the deliciousness of a platter of six pork dumplings and boba tea. But no matter how you celebrate, do it joyously, as the year of the snake means business: it’s marked by steady progress, attention to detail, and major discipline for achieving what you set out to create. So go, receive some prize-filled red envelopes, party at New York’s first dim sum house, and dine on longevity noodles. Fuel up now: this is the year for making stuff happen.

Buddakan: Meatpacking’s sexy Asian restaurant can be deemed the King of Chinese New Year, fashioning guests with three major New Year events for two weeks, starting Sunday, Feb. 10th. It’s serious stuff. A kick-off, $55 prix-fixe dim sum brunch on the 10th  includes lion dancers and champagne specials, while a  behind-the-scenes, $85 dumpling-making class with Buddakan’s own chefs ends with a brunch at their communal table and a souvenir bag. And throughout the celebratory two weeks, the spot will be serving dishes associated with the holiday’s positive virtues, such as prosperity, wealth, and abundance. Expect meals like wok-tossed longevity noodles with sea urchin butter, and rock lobster and green curry.For the details on Buddakan, click here.

Talde: The hugely popular Asian-American spot in Park Slope is approaching the Chinese New Year Charlie & the Chocolate Factory– style, handing out little red envelopes to select tables. Each coveted envelope will include gift cards to Talde, and Pork Slope and Thistle Hill Tavern – the Talde team’s other BK spots. The “golden tickets” will be handed out from Fri. the 8th to Mon. the 11th, alongside a special dish being served: Yu Sheng of Hiramasa, a traditional Chinese New Year raw fish salad with  salted plum and crispy taro.  For the inside-info on Talde, click here.

LUCKYRICE & Bombay Sapphire East:  The Asian culinary-focused marketing company and gin collide Tuesday the 12th, 6:30pm-9pm, with their annual Chinese New Year party at New York’s first dim sum house: Nom Wah Tea Parlor. Special, Bombay-infused cocktails with be served, along with platters of the holiday’s traditional dishes. And if you’re not too stuffed of Asian food, LUCKYRICE will also be unveiling their new 2013 line-up for their annual festival. Check out the Nom Wah listing.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here

New York’s Best Restaurants For Big Groups

Besides being asked “when are you cleaning your bathroom” by my mom and “do you have boyfriend” by my local bodega owner, the third most popular question I’m asked every week is this: “ I’m having a party; where can I bring a big group?” And since everyone loves to eat, drink, and be merry with a core group of best friends and peripheral acquaintances – and since it’s easier for me to send a link and not discuss this anymore – I’ve gathered a list of New York’s Best Restaurants For Big Groups. This is a special list, teeming with everything from strawberry-cinnamon baby back ribs in Williamsburg, a Cuban fantasyland in the East Village, stone fireplaces in the West Village, and a really cool picture of dogs. Enjoy.

Where Celebs Go Out: Janet Jackson, Phil Collins, Graham Nash

At the At Why Did I Get Married Too? premiere: 1. Janet Jackson: “[In Atlanta,] I go to Cafe Sunflower. It’s a vegan restaurant. Everything is good there. It really is. And there’s another vegan restaurant called Veggieland — very good.” 2.Tyler Perry: “And the restaurants in the movie were, actually, on the lot, so they weren’t real. Okay. You want a restaurant?! Okay. Rathbun’s in Atlanta was right across the street from our old studio, and they had the great lobster tacos – the best I ever had.” 3.Cecily Tyson: “Pure Food and Wine here. I’m a vegan — a vegetarian. And we had one in California that no longer exists. But, Mr. Chow has always been [a favorite], in Los Angeles.” 4.Lamman Rucker: “For New York, it’s the Sugar Bar — Ashford and Simpson’s Sugar Bar is the spot. In Atlanta, it’s Cafe Circa that’s in the Auburn-Edgewood area, yeah, real cool little spot. That’s, probably, my favorite spot there.” 5.Jill Scott: “My favorite restaurant is Buddakan in Philadelphia and in New York. Oh, forget it! Nobu in Malibu.”

At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame press room: 6. Phil Collins: “My favorite restaurant? Why, have you got plans?! No, the local Indian in Switzerland, where I live. See you there!” 7. Graham Nash: “My favorite restaurant? My wife’s kitchen! [In New York,] Mr. Chow’s.” 8. Chris Isaak: “I never hung out in bars, in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a drink. I don’t drink, and I play in nightclubs all the time, so for me, to go to like, a club or a bar, would be like you on your day off going to the office. My favorite place to hang out – I go to the beach. Any time off I have, I go out to the beach, Ocean Beach, San Francisco. I’m a surf guy. Bill’s hamburgers [Bill’s Place] is about three blocks from my house, and it’s a really good hamburger in San Francisco.” 9. Anni-Frid Lyngstad (Frida) of Abba: “Viva Viva, in London.” 10. Carole King: “I live in rural Idaho, so not a lot of restaurants– there are some, but not a lot.”

New York: Top 10 Restaurants as Nightclubs

So, are restaurants really the new nightclubs? Check out these multitasking contenders.

Minetta Tavern (Greenwich Village) – A night at Minetta, complete with Barry Diller, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Harvey Keitel sightings, spawned this thesis. Your visit will confirm all the copious booze, packed interiors, and loud soundtracks of a nightclub, but you’ll also be served top brasserie eats. ● Hotel Griffou (Greenwich Village) – Stealth-posh scene-stealer serves up vintage dishes, but the elaborate array of intimate rooms is just as big a draw. Big enough to draw Leo, Chloe, and Kanye, among a glut of bold-faced names. ● Monkey Bar (Midtown East) – Graydon Carter’s latest monkeyshines lays down a hierarchical supper club scene, with banquettes for the literary elite and tables in the pit for you. Oysters named for Rockefeller, meatloaf named for Ephron. But it’s all about the scene.

The Waverly Inn (West Village) – High-wattage crowd in low-wattage light, with cozy, clubby feel that preserves the charm of the original. Still unlisted digits; go bathe yourself in the self-congratulatory vibe of the inn crowd inside. ● Charles (West Village) – Exclusive enough to start its run behind papered-over windows. But that’s how the peoples wanted it, and the unlisted number and email-only ressies just make this loungey supper spot all the more desirable. ● Delicatessen (Soho) – Corner attraction rocking enough lumber to show up a Lowe’s. Steers focus away from the food and onto the scene, which is tight, attractive, and ready to put away a few fancy-pants cocktails. And maybe eating. ● The Stanton Social (Lower East Side) – Lofty, tri-level space is sleek and energetic; draws in the Yorkville types looking to experiment with “ethnic” food. On the nightclub side, the music’s loud enough to make a Pacha DJ wince. ● Buddakan (Chelsea) – Stephen Starr’s sixth-borough export still catering to overflowing MePa mobs scarfing down fusiony fare. Stunning, mansion-esque space delves deep. Able to accommodate every single person heading over to Kiss & Fly and Tenjune later, all at once. ● Double Crown (Greenwich Village) – AvroKO design masters follow up Public success with vintage vibe, sprawling space. Come colonize another stretch of the Bowery and let the pretty people distract you from the just so-so food. ● bobo (West Village) Ring the downstairs doorbell for Boho-Bourgie dinner party scene. Kitchen still not fully sorted, but that’s alright with the frisky crowd lounging about the elegant townhouse digs.

New York: Top 10 Entrees Under $25

imageBecause the choice shouldn’t be between restaurants where Chipotle and Per Se, here are a few spots that have embraced the middle ground.

10. Moules-frites @ Schiller’s Liquor Bar (Lower East Side), $18 – Same Parisian-bistro vibe as at Keith McNally’s Balthazar and Pastis, but you’ll save yourself some cash, a two-hour wait, and any shame involved in being stingy with your wine selection (the list is divided into “cheap,” “decent,” and “good”). 9. Hamburger @ J.G. Melon (Upper East Side), $8.50 – Nothing can pack in hoards of NYC prepsters like this UES landmark’s juicy burger. 8. Romanian skirt steak @ Delicatessen (Soho), $17 – Forget that foodies critically panned it and that a neighbor urinated on the glass roof; with nothing on the menu over $20, a lively atmosphere, and plenty of swank space, it’s little surprise that Delicatessen is almost always packed.

7. Open filet mignon grilled taco with roasted poblanos, onion confit, rice and beans @ Manana (Upper East Side), $23 – Good eats and eurotrash eye candy come together at this Mexican spot from the folks behind Serafina and Geisha. 6. Steak frites @ L’Express (Flatiron), $19.50 – Nothing like hearty protein and carbs at 4 a.m. 5. Dutch-style pancake with pears and Canadian bacon @ Prune (East Village), $14 – A must for brunch, the baked pancake is so good it’s not only worth the wait, but worth dealing with the diminutive spot’s stern no-substitution policy. 4. Chicken dolsot bibimbop @ Bonjoo (East Village), $12.95 – Cheap enough to order as take-out, the traditional Korean chicken bibimbop is served sizzling hot in a heavy stone bowl. 3. Zucchini and heirloom tomato lasagna @ Pure Food and Wine (Flatiron), $24 – Not for nothing does outspoken meat lover Giselle Bundchen have a house account at this surprisingly satisfying raw and vegan spot. 2. Grilled mushrooms, mozzarella, pesto & spinach panino @ ‘inoteca (Lower East Side), $11 – Carbs, vino, a bustling corner LES location, and communal seating make this a perfect before-the-bars meal. 1. Sweet & crispy jumbo shrimp at Buddakan (Chelsea), $24 – A sceney spot with eats, cocktails, and décor likely to impress even the most jaded New Yorker.

Domaine de Canton Bartending Semis @ Buddakan

Hurry! Get to Buddakan asap for Domaine de Canton‘s 2009 Bartender of the Year semi-finals in NYC. Watch the fiercest booze givers around mix, shake, and stir their way to a chance for the $10,000 Grand Prize. The event runs until 5pm and there will be no one around to drink the feats of their labor but you. That’s a good thing.

Industry Insiders: Comedy Queen Caroline Hirsch

Laugh Legend Caroline Hirsch of the eponymous Caroline’s on bringing the funny, luring tourists, and laughing off a recession.

Point of Origin: I was born in Brooklyn and moved to Manhattan when I was, I think, 24 years old and went to City College and FIT, which is how I ended up in retail. I was working at Gimbels, which was going out of business, so as market reps, we were out, too. Because I was collecting unemployment, I had a little time to look around. Then I kind of fell into this business, the business of comedy — it just happened. Bob Stigley just loved to go to a comedy club called Freddy’s on 49th Street, and before long, he and a couple of other friends wanted to open a cabaret. Bob decided to use a woman’s name for the cabaret we planned to open in Chelsea, and that was the start of Caroline’s.

As a buyer, you had to know what people wanted to buy, and it was the same with talent. We went for the best talent we could afford. Mark Shaman came in and played piano; there were some great stand-ups, and there was a lot of enthusiasm. But it just wasn’t happening with a young, hip crowd — and to be successful in this business, you need the 20- and 30-year-olds who go out a lot, unlike the 50- to 60-year-olds who don’t. It was the time when David Letterman had just gone on to television after Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. He was continually introducing a slew of young comedians, so every time somebody like Jay Leno came to town to do Letterman’s, he’d say he was playing Caroline’s. So by the seat of my pants, we won. I promoted things I liked, and because we didn’t have any money for advertising, we tried marketing and publicity with newspapers and television shows. We had people come in and review our shows. Comedians would get press by talking about the club.

When in 1987 Wall Street was crashing, we opened at the Seaport in April. It was one of Wall Street’s biggest depressions, but even in a recession, people have to laugh. When the CEO of A&E came to me and wanted to do a stand-up comedy show with a New Yorker, I produced the television program, Caroline’s Comedy Hour, starting in 1989. We stayed at the Seaport for five years and then came uptown. This is the best decision I have ever made in my business career. People walk up and down the streets around Times Square, they see a poster outside, and even if they don’t know the name of the comic, they saw that person on TV, and make a reservation to come in. The television show went on until 1995.

Occupations: I miss it and am working on another show now, but, meanwhile I’m producing new artists on DVD.

Not the Web? Actually, right now, Caroline’s is a site where people come to get information about the club, but this will be relaunched as more of a content site, and I’m working with a lot of people — talents before anybody else knows they’re talents — to get the job done. We’re working on a lot of stuff.

Any non-industry projects in the works? We do our fair share of fundraisers here that I support personally. We do a stand-up fundraiser every year in honor of Madeline Kahn with her husband to raise money to fight for ovarian cancer research called “Stand up for Madeline Kahn.” Another is for the Scleroderma Research Foundation, a big fundraiser in conjunction with the New York Comedy Festival, which I also produce. We do other work for charities who find that it costs so much to rent out space in a hotel — it’s cheaper to do an event with comics and me!

Are you funny? I have a great sense of humor, but I’m not funny. But I know what’s funny. You must be funny to be on stage.

Favorite Hangs: To unwind, I go out East to my house at the beach. I look forward to that, and go out for the long weekends in the summer. I don’t go to clubs anymore. We’ve been going for 25 years, where else is there to go? For me, it was a different world before I opened Caroline’s. We went to Studio 54, Limelight, Xenon, every single night. I don’t’ miss it. We had fun then, but I don’t miss the whole scene. Now there are a whole bunch of young clubs, but you have to understand that things have changed. There is no club where, at the stroke of midnight, you have to be! When I had the club on 8th Avenue, we’d go to Limelight afterward. Or we’d go to Mr. Chow’s for dinner, then to one of the clubs.

Industry Icons: All of the icons. I just didn’t want to be any of them. I didn’t want to copy anybody else. I just wanted to do it better. We didn’t have a club like Caroline’s when we started this one. We had showcase clubs where people came to try out material before they went to Vegas or Atlantic City. Jay Leno had an hour and a half of material, so I developed the club with an opening act for him, a lead-in. The people we have here are really professionals. Bill Bellamy is coming in this weekend, and he has a polished hour-and-a-half stand-up; it’s different than the showcase clubs. The caliber of entertainer who works the club is really, really funny, and I laugh at the same joke a hundred times.

Who are some people you’re likely to be seen with? Comics like Joy Behar and Susie Essman are girlfriends of mine, and I still see Carol Leifer, who is an executive producer for CBS right now, and of course, Judy Gold. Those are pretty much my girlfriends, and they all make me laugh.

Projections: The future is a big place. Now we’re partnering with Comedy Central after five years of doing the New York Comedy Festival. It will begin to air next year in a multi-year contract with the network. We have a wonderful line-up in various venues all over New York, from the day after the election, November 5 until November 9. For instance, I met Craig Ferguson many years ago in Montreal. He really took off on The Drew Carey Show and will be performing in the New York Comedy Festival at Town Hall, as will Joel McHale. Frank Caliendo will play Carnegie Hall, as will Kat Williams. Mike Mencia’s mind will implode at Avery Fisher Hall, where Brian Regan will also play. Sarah Silverman will be at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Tracey Morgan will be “Coming Back Home” at the Apollo on November 8 — and panel discussions will be held at the Paley Center with the writers of The Daily Show and Conan O’Brien’s show. And something at the 92nd Street Y to watch will be “We Have A Winner” with Lizz Winstead, who co-created The Daily Show.

What are you doing tomorrow night? I go to restaurants where people know you, usually in the neighborhood. I leave work and go to dinner at Buddakan tonight, and tomorrow I might try to stop by a new place in the neighborhood where L’Impero used to be in Tudor City, Convivio. Although Convivio is now a no-name restaurant today, Michael White is the chef, so it won’t be no-name for long.
New York Comedy Festival Tickets Town Hall Theatre Tickets New York Tickets

Openings: JetBlue’s Terminal 5 @ JFK

It hardly need be pointed out that we pine longingly for the days when airline travel was all sexy and glamorous, and political correctness hadn’t outlawed the use of the “stewardess” (though, mind, we’d never dream of referring to her as “toots”). But those groovers over at JetBlue, apparently understanding our considerable pain over the matter, have decided to open the terminal of our dreams this fall at the interminably construction-riddled JFK International Airport. Built adjacent to the venerated but tragically moribund Earo Saarinen 1962 TWA Terminal — perhaps trying to absorb some of the hope for the future that it once inspired — the new Terminal 5 will be spacious, light-drenched, and a shining symbol of the once great modern ideal.

But, oh, most glorious and wonderful of all, especially for those of us who’ve never really felt quite right sidling up the bar at the airport Bennigan’s — JB T5 will be a flying-foodie’s paradise. To wit, Mark Ladner of Del Posto will head up Italian trattoria AeroNuova, Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr of Pastis and Balthazar helm the menu at La Vie brasserie, Buddakan and Izakaya’s Michael Schulson will oversee the pan-Asian Deep Blue; but our restaurant of choice for T5 epicurean adventures will undoubtedly Roberto (Rosa Mexicano) Santibanez’ Revolucion, because, of course, nothing will help you sleep through another bad airplane flick like a couple of magnifico margaritas and a chips-and-guacamole doggie bag.