“Hi Mathew, It’s Mort Berkowitz from the Feast of San Gennaro. We’re delighted to have you enter the cannoli-eating competition, which will be this Friday.” I received that voicemail from the organizer of the famous festival in Little Italy, after responding, on a lark, to a flier on Mulberry Street. I don’t technically have professional eating experience, but I have enjoyed – more or less – three meals a day over the course of my entire life, which I thought qualified me for competition.
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The McKibbin brothers are changing the game of beach volleyball, though not necessarily for their play in the sand. Instead, the Hawaiian brothers, who compete together on the pro circuit, are slowly emerging as social media stars. Riley, 29, and Maddison, 27, also known as the “Beard Bros” for the grizzly facial hair that has become a part of their brand identity, create beach volleyball content that seeks to educate and entertain. They upload how-to videos, which explain techniques such as passing, hitting, and defense; or use vlogs (video blogs) to showcase life on the professional volleyball tour. Most recently, a video on their YouTube channel, which features former NBA player Richard Jefferson and current Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton, has registered more than 93,000 views.
In the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge, a group of plucky amateurs were facing off in a game of street hockey at Rev. Joseph Moffo Rink. It was the Hammerheads against the Monstars, two teams with a bitter rivalry in the Mofo Hockey League, and the action was chippy from the outset. A defenseman for the Hammerheads jostled in the corner and emerged with the ball – a tangerine-colored sphere designed not to bounce on the asphalt. He flung it up the boards to his teammate, who raced shoulder-to-shoulder with one of the Monstars to retrieve it. They wore sneakers, not roller skates, and even though the surface was 50 feet shorter than a regulation rink, it was exhausting.
Secrets of the Rat Cave: How René Dreifuss Overcame a Crippling Car Accident to Become a Radical MMA Sensei
Through the front door of a slightly fogged glass storefront, past a couple of racks filled with issues of Jiu-Jitsu Magazine, past several cubbies stuffed with colorful shoes and socks, past a white wall with a large yin and yang symbol, through a giant keyhole-shaped archway, and down a flight of cold iron steps, is the Rat Cave. That’s where René Dreifuss, the founder of Radical MMA, a mixed martial arts studio a couple blocks south of Penn Station, is teaching his 7:30pm judo and jiu-jitsu class.
As a baseball-loving Canadian living in New York, the 2018 MLB season presents me with an important question: should I root for the Yankees or Mets? This may seem innocuous, but for most sports fans, having a favorite team is an important part of their personal identity. As such, I don’t take this responsibility lightly. The process will involve digging into the deepest and darkest recesses of my history, to figure out which of the two New York ball clubs is worth my love and devotion. It’s like my own little version of the Subway Series. Shall we?
A new Canadian-themed bar and restaurant just opened near the Bushwick-Ridgewood border. It’s called UpNorth, and features the unlikely combination of poutine and cocktails. Along with Thomas Wilson, who provides the cocktail expertise, the concept is brought to you by Harold and Marcel Simoneau, two French Canadian brothers who hail from Rimouski, Quebec, and own Noorman’s Kil in Williamsburg. As the only Canadian working for Bedford + Bowery, I was asked to visit UpNorth and evaluate its “Canadianess.” This, of course, was no easy task. It involved rigorous taste testing and drink drinking, but the result is a strangely scientific rating system that will help you, the consumer, decide how to spend your hard-earned cash. Here we go!
The wooden motif of a ski chalet has been cross-bred with the polished elegance of an upscale cocktail lounge. There are two wall-mounted ram’s heads, dark handwoven blankets hanging from the wall, a bar made of solid ambrosia maple, and tables with whitewashed pine cladding. UpNorth is a tasteful homage to the homeland, even if it’s lacking in traditional Canadian iconography (read: hockey paraphernalia).
Rating: 8 Drakes out of 10
When I arrived at UpNorth on Saturday at 5:30pm, there were six patrons, other than me and my date. The manager told me that things start to liven up around 8pm. For now, the room is tranquil, except for music humming from the speakers. They play mostly 60s and 70s classic rock (The Stones, Eric Clapton, Dire Straits), which creates the typical ambiance of a Northern watering hole. Most Canadian bars have beer-stained floors and blaring 40-inch TVs. UpNorth doesn’t, thank god.
Rating: 6 jars of maple syrup out of 10 (before 8pm)
Food and Drink
I ordered the large Deluxe Poutine ($12) which is tender bits of smoked meat, cheese curds, onions, and mushrooms slathered in gravy, atop a bed of French fries. Poutine is usually served out of food trucks and in walk-up restaurants, the perfect eats for a drunkard stumbling home from the bar. The appeal of UpNorth, I think, is that you can eat poutine while getting drunk at the bar. To drink, I ordered a Molson Canadian ($6). My date ordered a small vegetarian poutine ($9), which is a similar dish with porcini gravy. Her Rose is a Rose cocktail ($14) was made with Dillon’s Rose Gin, cucumber, elderflower, pomegranate, and soda. The whole thing cost $46, and I tipped $8 (because my date was watching).
Rating: 10 Wayne Gretzkys out of 10
The most nostalgic part of the experience was the selection of Canadian chocolate bars. They serve Aero, Caramilk, Crunchie, Coffee Crisp, and other chocolatey treats you’ve probably never seen before. I hadn’t seen that combo of candy since Halloween ’06, when I splayed my loot bag all over the living room floor for inspection. The WIFI password is “ilovepoutine,” if you happen to live next door to UpNorth and can’t afford your own. And the bartender, who is from Connecticut, which is not in Canada, did look vaguely like Geddy Lee, the lead singer of Rush.
Rating: 8 Kid Rocks out of 10 (he’s not actually Canadian but that would be quite the twist!)
UpNorth, 17 Wyckoff Ave., 718-456-1700; open Mon-Fri, 4pm to 4am, and Sat-Sun, 2pm to 4am (brunch coming soon).
The tryouts for the New York City Roller Hockey League are about to start at Paul L. McDermott Rink, a patch of street hockey heaven on the corner of FDR Drive and East 96th Street. Nearly an hour before puck drop, there’s a relaxed Sunday atmosphere, as cars whoosh by on the freeway. Using push brooms and leaf blowers, league organizers clear the playing surface, made up of blue-grey plastic tiles. The boards aren’t scuffed like most public rinks, and there’s a burnished green scoreboard in the southeast corner.
You might think an adult dodgeball league is merely a Hollywood fantasy, like in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. But NYC Social has created a league that combines your passion for weeknight binge-drinking and throwing objects at your enemies. It’s not for anyone taking the game too seriously though, says Frank Del Cervo, a representative of NYC Social.
“We want people of every experience and skill level to feel comfortable in the league, even if you’ve never seen a dodgeball before,” says Del Cervo.
Whether you’re rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles or New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII this weekend, or just want to see if Justin Timberlake screws up the half-time show again, Mr. Throwback has the vintage sports apparel to give you the appearance of an authentic football fan. The popular East Village store, which boasts more than 92,000 Instagram followers and recently upgraded to a more spacious spot on East 9th Street, is the brainchild of Michael Spitz (aka Mr. Throwback). We spoke to the Long Island native about everything from getting fired by the Knicks to wearing Air Jordans at his wedding. He also gives his (somewhat offensive) Super Bowl pick.
Austin Rogers is working behind the bar at Gaf West, a cozy little Irish pub in Hell’s Kitchen. It’s a pleasant surprise to find him here, knowing that the 39-year-old bartender just won $466,000 over the course of a brilliant run on Jeopardy! from September to November. The native of Pound Ridge, NY, has also become a cult figure for his delightfully subversive antics on the otherwise humorless gameshow. He’d wager frivolously, punctuate his correct responses with nifty celebrations, and wisecrack with the often-serious Alex Trebek. He did it while displaying near-encyclopedic knowledge and, most importantly, winning. Again. And again. And again.
Keep your eyes peeled. A new poster, featuring rapper Big Daddy Kane, claims that “real MCs” are absent from the world of modern hip-hop. Zeps, a hip-hop artist turned children’s book author from Brooklyn, is the guy who made the poster, and according to him, there’s a new trend to blame for the disappearance of authentic artists. It’s that thing where, instead of singing during live performances, rappers just yell sloppily over the studio version of their song. He said his poster should be considered a public service announcement.
It reads: “There is a horrible new trend among today’s rappers: RHYMING OVER VOCALS LIVE. This is unacceptable. You are ruining the essence of live hip-hop, it’s lazy and means you have no stage presence.” The 36-year-old has been putting up signs with this message for a few years, and said that there’s a whole generation of rappers who think this style of performing is cool. But according to Zeps, it’s taboo and makes you look foolish.
Pourt, an upscale java joint at 35 Cooper Square, got a bit of attention (including from B+B) when it opened in late January, for using a business model that incorporates a pay-to-stay work area. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Its windows have been papered over, and a message on its website quells any hope that the shop is undergoing upgrades.