Mother’s Day! It’s this Sunday! What to get Mom, what to get Mom, think think think… Flowers, duh, but they’re kind of a yawn, right? Sort of unthoughtfully thoughtful. Unless of course, you order her an amazingly dynamic bouquet from Flower Girl NYC. Since 2004, Flower Girl NYC has been putting together fantastic and whimsical arrangements for New Yorkers in the know. There’s a great business backstory here, too: founder and owner Denise Porcaro was a Production Designer for feature films, but discovered a creative outlet in fresh flowers. She started out crafting personalized arrangements and bouquets for a select group of clients and friends but over time, demand for her unique style grew through word-of-mouth praise and Flower Girl NYC sprouted from there.These aren’t your Granny’s old begonias and baby’s breath, either! They focus on what is available seasonally, along with custom designs that feature wildflowers, seasonal branches, unusual vases, beautiful plants, as well as handmade candles and soaps. And the finished product is refined, tasteful, lovely and totally uncommon. Coincidentally, all qualities we should remember to tell Ma she is on Mother’s Day.
Without question, the Ear Inn on Spring Street pours the best pint of Guinness this side of the Atlantic. Thick, dark, creamy, absolutely perfect. And for almost two decades, the writers of this website have loved imbibing at this dark little tavern that the New York Times once christened, “a dump with dignity.” And whether you’re new in town or have been here since birth, pretty much everyone has a story or two to tell from an outing at this old pub in West Soho. But like many old places in our city, this Federal style building has its own story to tell.Built sometime before 1812, the house at 326 Spring Street was originally the home of James Brown, an African-American United States Revolutionary War veteran. Brown originally ran a tobacco store on the ground floor of the house, but in 1817 he opened a tavern in the space. Hard to imagine, but at that time in the city’s development the house was only five feet from the existing shoreline of the Hudson. Naturally, the proximity of booze made the establishment instantly popular with the legions of sailors, stevedores and longshoremen that worked along the river.In 1890, the house was sold to an Irish immigrant named Thomas Cloke, who ran the tavern and sold beer and spirits to ships passing through New York’s harbor. Cloke ran the business there for almost 30 years, but seeing the handwriting on the wall with the Eighteenth Amendment, sold it in 1919 and got the hell out. However, business remained brisk: during Prohibition the pub/restaurant became a speakeasy, while the upstairs floors were variously a boarding house, a headquarters for smugglers, and a brothel. The bar re-opened for business (legally) once Prohibition was repealed, but it now existed without a name. It was simply called “The Green Door,” and catered to a fragrant clientele of dock laborers and wharfies, almost all of whom were hard-drinking regulars. Women weren’t allowed (and probably didn’t want to go there anyway.) And so life continued in this swashbuckling fashion until the mid 20th century, when urban blight and decay turned the once-bustling area into a nearly abandoned district.In the mid 1970s, a group of struggling artists purchased the building, and they reopened the bar in 1977. Due to Landmarks restrictions on changing signage, the new proprietors simply painted out part of the letter B in the “Bar” sign, thus turning it into the word “Ear”, which was the name of a music magazine published upstairs. And thus it has been the Ear Inn ever since: a cozy home for the perfect pint and a real conversation.
You won’t want to miss our recent talk with talented steel sculptor, Jack (Jake) Howard-Potter. Jake grew up on the Upper East Side and although he clocked some time in Colorado and Albany, at the end of the day, this town serves as both his inspiration and workshop.
Portrait of Jack Howard-Potter by Craig LaCourt for On the Real. www.craiglacourt.com.
Jake’s relentless passion for his work has led him on collaborative journeys with engineers, a retired steel worker and a boom lift or two. Most of his work is huge and displayed in public venues such as parks and installations in Georgia, Vermont, Michigan and The Great State of Texas. As we get into it, Jack Howard-Potter talks about the inspiration of the human anatomy and bending cold steel into the dance-inspired statues that make his incredibly heavy works seem visually light, fluid and airy.
We occasionally issue imperatives here about things we feel strongly about, but trust us when we say that you absolutely, positively do not want to miss New York City’s own annual rite of Spring: the flowering of the cherry blossoms at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.Located in the middle of the garden’s 52 acre spread, the gorgeous Cherry Esplanade was a gift to the United States from the Japanese government at the end of the War. And with over 200 trees and 40 different species, there is no other place showcasing this kind cherry tree variety in the world outside of Japan. Particularly spectacular is how downright Seussical a walk-through this pink canopy is, and how easy it enables one to check a jaded New York attitude at the front gate. Good luck attempting sarcasm or irony in the face of such a pure pink onslaught.Once in full bloom, these trees are vivid and gorgeous and according to the BBG real-time CherryWatch map, they’re in full bloom right now. However, their beauty is ephemeral and once flowered, the blossoms don’t last long. So, go. Play hooky, call it a prescription for mental health, do whatever you need to do– but do yourself a favor and go park under some cotton candy trees one morning this week and take a deep breath. It’s even free admission if you go between 10am-12pm.
“I speak of the immense city, that daily reality composed of two words: the others, and in every one of them there is an I clipped from a we, an I adrift… I speak of the buildings of stone and marble, of cement, glass and steel, of the people in lobbies and doorways, of the elevators that rise and fall like the mercury in thermometers… of the coming and going of cars, mirrors of our anxieties, business, passions (why? toward what? for what?), of the hospitals that are always full, and where we always die alone. I speak of the city that dreams us all, that all of us build and unbuild and rebuild as we dream, the city we all dream, that restlessly changes while we dream it, the city that wakes every hundred years and looks at itself in the mirror of a word and doesn’t recognize itself and goes back to sleep…”
-Octavio Paz, excerpted from “I Speak of the City”
I was having a Double Shack Burger, fries and a LARGE Coke (suck it Bloomberg!) yesterday in Madison Square Park and noticed something large, curious and red with a press conference happening in front of it. I’m not much into press conferences, but my interest was piqued by that red something. With a full belly and an inquisitive head, I took a walk into the park to explore this truly incredible work of art and execution in public.I think the Mad. Sq. Art blog best describes this amazing installation in public by Orly Genger. “The monumental commission entitled Red, Yellow and Blue will feature the artist’s renowned usage of intricately hand-knotted nautical rope covered in paint, creating a work that will transform the park’s lush lawns into colorfully-lined chambers. The work will remain on view daily from May 2 through September 8, 2013 in Madison Square Park. Following its New York run, the installation will travel to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum outside of Boston in October 2013, marking the first Mad. Sq. Art commission to tour.”“Genger’s work artfully transcends the perceived limits of the materials she employs. This Mad. Sq. Art commission will consist of 1.4 million feet of rope—the total length equating to nearly 20 times the length of Manhattan—covered in over 3,000 gallons of paint, and weighing over an astounding 100,000 pounds. Red, Yellow and Blue employs repurposed rope collected from hundreds of miles up and down the Eastern seaboard, bringing elements of the coastline to the urban setting of Madison Square Park. Together, three separate undulating structures of layered rope shaped on-site by the artist will redefine the landscape of the park, creating interactive environments that will invite visitors to explore both exposed and hidden spaces, encouraging them to navigate and experience Madison Square Park anew.”And from the artist herself, “For Madison Square Park I wanted to create a work that would impress in scale but still engage rather than intimidate. In context to my other installations, the rope used for Big Boss (2010) at MASS MoCA will comprise only 10% of the rope used for the project at Madison Square Park, allowing me to work at an unprecedented scale. The tradition of knitting carries the sharing of stories and the installation draws on that idea. The repurposed rope brings with it the stories of different locations and by knotting it, a space is created for the words and thoughts of viewers in New York City to complete the work, creating a silent dialogue that waves along.”
Forget about the stupid groundhog. I think we can all agree that Punxsutawney Phil is one wholly unreliable rodent, meteorologically speaking. A real flake. But Phil’s prognostications ultimately don’t matter because when you see the telltale turquoise cans of Brooklyn Summer Ale stacked waist-high at Thrifty’s on Court Street, you know that warmer days can’t be far behind. There’s lots of seasonal summer offerings in beer these days, but for On the Real, this is the beer that says beach and barbecue. This beer is a truly happy beer, but would never rub your nose in its happiness. It’s not posting grinning pictures of itself on Facebook from a recent vacation in the South of France. It’s not a douche.And it may be light on the palate with an average ABV, but certainly doesn’t lack in flavor profile; presenting itself with buttery malts, lemon notes and a crisp finish with a nice nose of flowers, citrus, honey and toast. It’s a delicious sessionable ale that for some unknown reason tastes best right out of the can. I suggest you quaff ‘em up super cold from an icy cooler, and buy more than you think you’ll need because they’re easy drinking. Summer can’t come soon enough.
We sat down recently to chat with Austrian expat and culinary wunderkind, Eduard Frauneder. Edi is one of the world’s youngest Michelin Starred chefs and over the past few years has completely taken the Manhattan food scene by storm.
Portrait of Edi Frauneder by Craig LaCourt for On the Real. www.craiglacourt.com.
He and his partner Wolfgang Ban have two smash restaurants (Seasonal, uptown’s elegant tribute to Germanic flavors and downtown’s rustic Austrian tavern, Edi & the Wolf) and most recently, a cocktail bar called The Third Man. Edi may have been born in Austria, but he is every inch a New Yorker: frank, funny and totally unafraid to share his perspectives on great food, running restaurants and what life is like behind the line.