Why This Monday Rocks: Tonight’s Top Events

So it’s the first day of the work week and there are four more days to go. I get it. But why ruminate when you can start to make Mondays the best night of the week? This weekly column is devoted to finding the best events across NYC hosted by individuals and places that are doing amazing, crazy, wild, sexy things on Monday nights. And I am here to honor them. From Tony Award-winning shows to chocolate desserts, here are tonight’s top events.

Watch dogs show off their stuff:
Shampooed, manicured dogs and their owners get competitive tonight and tomorrow at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, where 3,000 dogs of 187 breeds stroll across the carpeting as they’re judged across seven divisions, such as toy, terrier, hound, and sporting. Expect lots of owners in pencil skirts and bowties, and nonstop canine cuteness. Airing live from Madison Square Garden tonight, 8pm, CNBC & Tuesday, 8pm, USA. All info here.

See the reunion concert of a Tony Award-winning Broadway show:
In the Heights – the exuberant 2008 musical about three days in the life of Washington Heights residents – returns to New York for a one-night-only concert performance featuring nearly all of the original cast. Written and starring renaissance man Lin-Manuel Miranda (our interview here), this is one of Broadway’s most ebullient shows. A must for not only theatre-lovers, but simply anyone who loves this city. Tonight, 8pm, United Palace Theatre, 4140 Broadway. Tickets & info here.

Eat tons of rarely available chocolate:
Chocolate Week 2013 continues on until Wednesday the 13th, just before V-Day. Participating restaurants and chocolatiers –  such as French spots A.O.C. in the West Village and Bar Tabac in Cobble Hill – are offering special, rarely available desserts like chocolate lava cake and chocolate creme petit pot. Couple this with Valentine’s and there is absolutely no hope for a diet. And that’s just fine. From now until Wednesday the 13th. All details here

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New West Village Bakery Brings Back The Charm

Spending the morning at a little corner café with a good book and steaming coffee sounds like weekend bliss – until you look around and realize your escape looks like more like a laptop-scattered, Facebook-festered battlefield than the picture of neighborhood quaint. But on the corner of Waverly Pl. and Christopher St. sits a newcomer who offers that 19th-century charm: Bien Cuit, flanked with whitewashed wooden tables, long, front windows, buttery ham and cheese, and chocolate croissants – and no connection to technology. And since we know Bien’s Wi-Fi-less days are temporary and numbered (sigh), it makes a day spent there even more pressing.

If you’re a Brooklyn resident, you’ve probably heard of the café before, most likely linked with words like “the bread,” “pastries,” “like Paris,” and “addiction.” With its first location in Cobble Hill, the owners seek to maintain the same vibe as Bien’s BK counterpart.  However, when placed in the West Village, the café-bakery takes on a whole different feel, more European, as if a page from a Bronte book was brought to life.

Though the menu teems with savory-sweet breakfast pastries like almond paste-poppy seed tebirke, maple yam Danish, and almond croissants,  the desserts and sandwiches hit the flavor extremes, with options like banana chocolate bourbon tart, and porcini and parsnip and roast beef sandwiches. And perhaps the best part is that everything, including the bread, is homemade and baked on-site at the Cobble Hill location, so every sandwich is guaranteed to have that fresh bread. Plus, since all the goodies are delivered fresh from across the river twice a day daily, they’ll most likely always have your favorites there waiting for you. But then again, as word gets out (whoops!), they’ll run out. So moral of the story: Go.

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Tour de Brooklyn: A Borough Grub Crawl

Last weekend Bon Appetit magazine teamed up with Belvedere Vodka and Chase Sapphire to take a tour of the ever-expanding Brooklyn Food scene. Focusing on three key neighborhoods, Cobble Hill, Williamsburg, and Red Hook, the tours worked to really highlight some of the areas’ best food options, while making it walker-friendly.

I was lucky enough to join Friday’s Cobble Hill grub crawl and started out at Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli’s Italian inspired restaurant Frankies 457 Spuntino. The joint was packed inside, but luckily we ducked out into the garden to sip a berry-ripe lambrusco and nibble on seasonal crostini. The way the tour worked was that they had four groups of people intermittently going to one of the four spots where we stayed for about 45 minutes. Frankies proved a good place to start, but our next stop felt a little awkward.

Dessert before dinner, anyone? Not that I am actually complaining. Given our tour took us to Kim Ima’s brick-and-mortar location of Treats Truck and to a pile of luscious peanut butter and chocolate sandwich cookies, it was a win-win situation. We followed that up with Clover Club and had a lovely punch by cocktail goddess Julie Reiner, who was actually there explaining her drink, giving us a recipe, and then pouring up their house drink comprised of raspberries and Dorothy Parker gin. We ended the night at Seersucker and sampled chef Robert Newton’s sinful fried chicken, fluffy biscuits, pimento cheese, and the Thirsty Owl Riesling that they have on tap. All together, the tour did highlight some of the hottest spots in the neighborhood right now.

On Saturday they covered Williamsburg and smartly chose Rye for cocktails, Maison Premiere for oysters, and Brooklyn Winery for a tour and wine tasting. The other two places I was less impressed with and would have skipped, one of which was Allswell because, frankly, it’s not anything special. Same for the jaunt to the Meatball Shop; while it’s delicious, there’s nothing Brooklyn about it given its two other locations in Manhattan. Sunday’s food crawl took place in Red Hook and did the neighborhood well by hitting up Stumptown Coffee Roasters, trying St. John Frizell’s southern-style Fort Defiance, eating Korean breakfast at The Good Fork, filling up on smoked meat at Mile End, and dancing at the historical bar Sunny’s.

Overall, the folks behind the tour did well to give a broad sampling of the neighborhoods that you can easily walk around in. The only other location I would have included is Prospect Heights where you can easily indulge in seasonal nibbles from The Vanderbilt, cocktails at Weather Up, ramen at Chuko, and oysters at Cornelius—but I guess that’s a good excuse to do that one on my own. 

New York Openings: Pok Pok NY, Parish Hall, Ken & Cook

Pok Pok NY (Cobble Hill) – Portlandia export with drinkable vinegars, killer Thai wings.

Parish Hall (Williamsburg) – Egg peeps dedicate a whitewashed hall to Northeastern cuisine.

Ken & Cook (Nolita) – Breezy "industrial brasserie" rocking creative pastas, super-fresh raw bar.

New York Openings: Burger on Smith, Yefsi Estiatorio, Jin Ramen

Burger on Smith (Cobble Hill) – Comfort food smithy hammers out elevated wings, fries, burgers.

Yefsi Estiatorio (Upper East Side) – Classic mezedes from a Cypriot chef with a stacked résumé.

Jin Ramen (Harlem) – Taiwanese accents on classic Japanese, with sake on the side.