Smokin’ on the Shore
In the world of barbecue, competition burns hotter than an open pit in Abilene. It seems anyone who is even slightly familiar with the culinary tradition has an opinion about the marriage of smoke and meat—dry rub or wet, spicy or sweet, pork or beef and so on. But at “Grillin’ On the Bay,” the city’s only major BBQ contest sanctioned by the New England Barbecue Society (NEBS), the judges’ taste buds are the only ones that really matter. And on Saturday, March 31, cooking teams will flock—“rain or shine”—to Sheepshead Bay for the chance to take home the title of grand champion and a whole lot of bragging rights.
Now in its second year, the event isn’t reserved for pit masters and pork flesh alone. On the contrary, the public is encouraged to come and watch the BBQ battle while munching on smoked savories provided by the mesquite-mongers at Atom’s Ribs and White Trash.
“People are supportive of each other, but everyone wants to step over everyone else’s back to get to the stage,” said Matt Fisher, the event’s co-organizer. “There’s some trash-talking going on, but it’s friendly. The best part of the barbecue world is that everyone is very genuine and open.” It’s a good thing, too, because the 24 competing groups are each allotted a 15-by-15-foot space from which to work their magic.
Saveur food editor Todd Coleman, EatingforBrooklyn.com blogger Pete Hassler and freelance writer Paul
Lukas are among the gutsy arbiters slated to be in attendance. Each team will enter a chicken, pork, fish and “chef’s choice” dish. Last year, a crew from the Purple Turtle catering company in Fairfield, Conn., took home top honors, but, said Mr. Fisher, everyone is a winner when the proceeds benefit a great cause like the St. Mark’s Sports Association for kids.
The Sopranos: Resurrection
Drea de Matteo’s Adriana crawls on a damp forest ground, screaming “No! No!” as she scrambles from Silvio’s ominous gunpoint. Tony whacks his own cousin, Tony B., played by Steve Buscemi, with a shotgun blast to the face to save him from being tortured. Vincent Pastore, or Big Pussy, asks for a last swig of tequila and pleads not to be shot in the face before Tony, Paulie and Silvio lay him down to sleep with the fishes.
The Sopranos’ death scenes are some of the most memorable moments in the HBO mobster show’s six-year run. To honor them, all of the actors mentioned above, together with Sopranos creator and executive producer Terence Winter, will get together for “The Whacked Sopranos,” a discussion of “the fine art of whacking” at the Museum of Television and Radio on March 28.
“Death has hovered over the series from the very beginning, since Tony’s panic attack,” said Ron Simon, the curator of radio and television at the museum. “In those final death scenes, the actors take on a major theatrical performance …. We’re asking: ‘How do you think about the death of your character? How do you approach it as an author and an actor, but also as a person? You’ve lived with this character, and now you have to lose them …. ’” Real Sports guy and Sopranos fan Bryant Gumbel will moderate the discussion, which will also include actors David Proval and Annabella Sciorra, who were whacked or self-whacked as Richie Aprile and Gloria Trillo, respectively. Mr. Simon is also curious how fans have reacted to the actors after their characters’ death. Us, too. It’d be weird to watch Big Pussy walk down the street, when he should be at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
With its constant hordes of tourists, the stretch of Bleecker Street that winds from Sixth Avenue westward to Eighth is a drag often wisely avoided by locals. But it’s too easy to forget that some of the city’s most charming specialty shops line that street: Murray’s Cheese, Amy’s Bread and, of course, the recently face-lifted Rocco’s.
Nestled between Carmine and Cornelia streets, Rocco’s is a pastry shop and espresso café with both takeout and table service. It’s got the look of an old ice-cream fountain; the glass cases show off everything from pornographic-looking “Baba” pastries to old-fashioned cream puffs and éclairs. The best dessert at Rocco’s, however, is the cannoli, which you won’t see on display. Each one—plain or chocolate-dipped—is made to order, with the not-too-sweet ricotta cream piped in just for you. They are possibly the freshest in New York, and undoubtedly among the most delicious.
Rocco’s also has an assortment of gelatos and Italian ices; this writer recommends the classic Straciatella gelato (vanilla with chocolate shavings) and the Cremolata Italian ice (vanilla with almond). But go on a weeknight or a Saturday: By Sunday evening, Rocco’s is often tapped of its most heavenly delights.
Poetry Springs Eternal
One needn’t suffer endless New England winters to celebrate spring’s lasting arrival, but observing its onset through the eyes of a poet who did can be enlightening. A veritable skinny dip for the mind, Emily Dickinson Rendered plunges pallid visitors headlong into April’s luster.
Located on the grounds of Wave Hill, a public garden and cultural center in the Bronx, the exhibition brings together selected works by 10 contemporary visual artists “who have been drawn to Dickinson’s observations about nature through her writing.” Dickinson makes an excellent muse, considering her reclusive habitat; the poet’s reflections on the season are especially keen.
“She was very active in her own garden, so much of her poetry was informed by her connection to nature,” said Jennifer McGregor, the curator at Wave Hill. Ms. McGregor cited one of her favorite works: “Stacy Levy has a piece, made of nylon strings, that’s in the window …. As the sun sets, they pick up the light in a way that focuses your eye to the sunset, in the same way one of Emily Dickinson’s poems does.” (The poem that Ms. Levy was referring to, No. 1114, describes the sunset as “The largest Fire ever known.”)
But some of the show’s most arresting pieces dwell al fresco. Brece Honeycutt’s “When they come back—if Blossoms do” divines creative connections between several Dickinson poems and the corresponding plants in Wave Hill’s Wild and Flower Gardens. Moreover, free admission on Tuesdays and Saturday mornings makes Emily Dickinson Rendered an accessible muse for modern-day artists locked in by fear of high prices on the street.
“How strange that nature does not knock, and yet does not intrude,” the hermetic Dickinson once wrote. And O, how right she was!