If it smelled a bit more skunky than usual in the city on Saturday, you probably were walking within wafting distance of the annual Cannabis Parade and Rally, which started up in Koreatown and ended with an afternoon of politics and music and getting high in Union Square Park. Because what the march may have lacked in size, it more than up for in number of giant joints smoked.
Health & Wellness
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.
When NYU shuttered its Coles Sports Center, we mourned the loss of its squash courts– one of the only downtown places where you could reenact the racquetball scene from Manhattan. Problem solved: The Parks Department today opened a public squash court in Hamilton Fish Park– said to be the first of its kind in the world.
Members of the bike messenger community came together in Tompkins Square Park on Friday to mark the naming of a bench for bike messenger and photographer ‘Fast’ Eddie Williams. Friends featured in his 2004 photo book ‘Bike Messengers Life – New York City‘ joined Eddie’s son Nagi, daughter Koko and dozens of working messengers for the service. The beautiful weather allowed for a fitting sun set over the bench that sits opposite the big tree on the south side of the park, a longtime gathering spot for New York bike messengers.
Bushwick coffee shop Caffeine Underground made waves a few weeks ago when it came to light that they were serving CBD-infused coffee drinks. Now, it looks like others are getting on board with cannabidiol: Greenpoint’s Antidote Apothecary and Tea Bar has started selling CBD-infused coffee beans, with drinks coming soon. With a trend clearly in the works, I was intrigued enough to head to Caffeine Underground to try a CBD-infused latte for myself.
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the more common compounds found in cannabis. Caffeine Underground sources their infused brew from Flower Power Coffee Company, a champion of cannabidiol’s supposed health benefits. The roaster’s website stresses that “CBD is legal, has no psychoactive effects, and will not make you fail a drug test.” Unlike THC, the infamous psychoactive compound also found in cannabis, CBD is said to have more of a simple relaxing effect.
Looks like celeb chef Anthony Bourdain has gone globetrotting in his own backyard, as the New Yorker has been shooting in the East Village and Lower East Side. John’s of 12th, the old-time Italian join on East 12th Street, posted a photo of everyone’s favorite bon vivant outside of the restaurant. The caption indicated he was filming “a segment of Parts Unknown coming this fall.” Oddball painter and performance artist Joe Coleman, a fixture of the ’80s East Village scene whom Bourdain called a “friend, inspiration legend” in a post of his own, was also in on the shoot.
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).
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.
Shakaru, a reliable East Village destination for reasonably-priced sushi and Japanese fare for more than 20 years, has been temporarily shuttered by the health department.