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A Notable Pierogi Shop Comes From Overseas to Greenpoint

(image courtesy of Pierozek)

Greenpoint is a place where you can do your laundry while playing pinball, score affordable old-fashioned doughnuts, eat a nice dinner, and catch a metal show in the back of a bar. But in addition to all that, Greenpoint is very much a Polish neighborhood, with no shortage of traditional food. As of this week, the north Brooklyn neighborhood has a newcomer, in the form of Pierozek, a cafe serving up a modest but nourishing menu of borscht, beer, and most importantly, handmade pierogi, which will be crafted on the premises.

Though Pierozek, which opened on Manhattan Avenue this past Wednesday, is a newcomer to both the city and America, that’s about the only thing new about it. Pierozek’s Polish counterpart, PierozeQ, has been serving up traditional dumplings in the city of Częstochowa, in southern Poland, since 1999. PierozeQ’s chefs, Marzena Gęsiarz and Zofia Kuśmierska, have been cooking there since the beginning, and are assisting Pierozek’s owners in recipe development.

According to Greenpointers, Pierozek’s owners, married couple Alexandra Siwiec and Radek Kucharski, wanted to open the restaurant as a way to help maintain the neighborhood’s cultural roots in a time where traditional Polish spots are starting to fade away.

“As Polish-Americans working and living New York City, it was a very natural decision for us to bring Pierozek to life in our hometown,” Siwiec said. “We wanted to keep the Polish pride alive in our neighborhood.”

The couple is far from new to the world of Greenpoint hospitality; they also helm Early, a coffee and sandwich shop offering a Polish street-food sandwich called a zapiekanka. They also opened the now-closed bar Nights and Weekends, which Siwiec reopened in 2017 (and later closed) as the cafe One Bedford. Siwiec even already had her hands in the space at 592 Manhattan Avenue that is now Pierozek—in 2017 it was The Gentry, a poutine-focused spot she opened with chef Gillian Clark.

Pierozek’s Greenpoint menu is straightforward and classic, featuring familiar pierogi fillings like potato and cheese, pork, sauerkraut and mushroom, and spinach and garlic, which are topped with onions and served with sour cream. Those with a sweet tooth are catered to as well, with strawberry, blueberry, and sweet cheese pierogi options also available.

(image courtesy of Pierozek)
(image courtesy of Pierozek)

In addition to pierogi, Pierozek also offers croquettes (patrons can choose from meat or sauerkraut and mushroom) and red borscht, with combo options pairing the savory beet soup with either croquettes or mini pierogi stuffed with mushrooms.

Pierozek, located at 592 Manhattan Avenue, is open daily from 11 am to 7 pm.

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The Activist Whose Family Owns One of the City’s Most Beloved Mexican Restaurants Still Faces Deportation

Marco Saavedra. (Photos: DJ Cashmere)

On the way to his asylum hearing at 26 Federal Plaza this morning, Marco Saavedra first stopped across the street at the African Burial Ground National Monument. The site is the final resting place of an estimated 15,000 Africans, many of them enslaved. He “took a moment of silence to breathe in the place that we’re in,” he later told journalists. It was a characteristic moment for Saavedra: using the spotlight cast on him to point to other injustices, and remaining distinctly aware that the land upon which we live has a complex history. More →

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Performance Picks: Live Animal Comedy and a Carnival of Debauchery

THURSDAY

(image via Vital Joint / Facebook)

Petting Zoo: The Wildlife Stand-Up Show
Thursday, November 7 at Vital Joint, 8 pm: $10

Some might say performers and animals have quite a bit in common, what with their primal energy and general lack of regard for doing anything other than what they’ve planned on doing, like perform or eat grass. These two similar species will be converging tonight in a very special show, and we don’t mean that metaphorically. Petting Zoo features not only jokes by familiar comedic faces like Dan Licata (who now writes for SNL), Charlie Bardey, Maggie Crane, and Mariah Oxley, an actual professional animal handler will be in appearance to show you a gaggle of furry, scaly, feathered, and otherwise non-human friends.

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What to Watch at This Year’s DOC NYC Festival

Imelda Marcos in “The Kingmakewr” (Photo: Lauren Greenfield)

Cult leaders! Despots! And a man who goes by the name of Mr. Toilet. One of the city’s most popular film fests, DOC NYC, starts tonight, bringing over 130 feature-length documentaries– many of them premieres– to screens in Greenwich Village and Chelsea. With a total of more than 300 films showing through Nov. 15, it can be hard to decide what to see. Lucky for you, we’ve been living on a steady diet of popcorn lately and can tell you what’s worth watching. More →

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Politicians Press the Flesh at a Kinky Party Supporting Asian Sex Workers

(Photo: Sarah Wang)

Nudity, leather, kink, heavy makeup. It was a celebration of desire and sexuality, of BDSM and marginalized voices. On stage, burlesque dancer Viva Lamore took off the last layer of her Japanese maid dress and proudly showed off her body in leather dessous, earning rounds of cheers and applause from the audience. Meanwhile, rhythmic sounds of whipping from the corner turned several heads in the crowd—a petite Asian girl in a red shiny leather dress continuously lashed a grey-haired white man’s back. More →

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Claywoman, An Ancient Alien With a Cult Following, Talked Impeachment With Some Celebrity Friends

Claywoman is withered and weathered, like something literally molded from clay and, by degrees, dried out. She’s the 500-million-year-old extra-terrestrial performance persona of the actor Michael Cavadias, andreappears every-so-often in public to much niche buzz. Last week, in the cabaret backroom at Pangea, she hosted an unscripted conversation with comedian Bridget Everett, which ranged and rambled from menopause to climate change.  More →

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Art This Week: Riffs On History and Hyperreal Sculptures

Yvette Mayorga
Homeland Promised Land, 2019
Acrylic piping on canvas
24h x 24w in
60.96h x 60.96w cm

A Part of US
Opening Thursday, November 7 at Geary. On view through December 20.

The first thing an onlooker might notice about the works of Yvette Mayorga is the color, which draws you in with its fluorescent brightness and candied hues. Next, you might notice its unique style, consisting of acrylic piping on canvas instead of brushstrokes. Paired with the colors, the works almost resemble elaborate baked goods or confections—even her sculptures, made of glazed porcelain, could look good enough to eat. Mayorga isn’t just looking to please one’s sweet tooth; her work (on view starting Thursday at Soho gallery Geary) also provides commentary on the so-called American Dream, which isn’t quite so dreamy for everyone. 

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Errol Morris Made a ‘Fucked Up Movie’ About Steve Bannon, and Bannon Apparently Liked It

Errol Morris reads a protest leaflet while his son Hamilton Morris looks on. (Photo: Daniel Maurer)

“I know you’ve already paid to get in here,” Errol Morris told everyone who had just watched American Dharma, his new documentary about Steve Bannon. “But you can all, right now, leave en masse.”

It was an unusual offer. But the Oscar-winning director of The Fog of War and The Thin Blue Line had just learned that a protester had handed out flyers to everyone in line at Film Forum on Friday night. “There are real-world consequences to giving Steve Bannon another platform,” the leaflets read. “Please re-consider supporting this film.”

Vice’s resident drug correspondent, Hamilton Morris, who was moderating the Q&A, asked his father if anything like this had ever happened before in his career.

“Where I show up at a screening and people are distributing hate literature?” his dad said, still getting over the shock of having read the flyer. “Basically, this is a thinly disguised form of– what’s the expression again? I know; I’m familiar with it; that’s it– Fuck you, Errol!”

The reviews for American Dharma— in which Morris goes deep into the swamp with Trump’s former campaign manager and White House strategist in much the same way he did with Donald Rumsfeld and Robert McNamara– have been mixed. The negative ones haven’t exactly used the words “Fuck you,” opting instead for headlines like “Errol Morris Lets Steve Bannon Off the Hook” (The New Yorker) and “Errol Morris Gets Played by Steve Bannon” (The Daily Beast).

“What does this mean: got played?” Morris asked the crowd at Film Forum. “Was I his dupe? Was I his bitch?”

Though not all reviews have been negative– the Times acknowledged that while the film “offers no comfort” to Bannon’s detractors, it succeeds as a “psychological thriller, with Bannon its implacable villain”– it’s clear the negative ones have stung. “The reception to this movie,” Hamilton Morris told his dad, “has made you more miserable than any movie I can remember. It’s really put you in a bad mood.”

“Maybe they don’t like it because the movie sucks,” the director allowed, before going on to blame what he refers to as the “I Want My Mommy election” of three years ago. “The easiest, most convenient explanation is that everybody was driven crazy by the 2016 election. Everybody wants to pretend– well, let’s just say a lot of people want to pretend– it never happened. They want it to go away. And somehow I may be wiping people’s face in it, and they don’t like that.”

That isn’t how the film’s critics would put it. Even the favorable Times review noted the true complaint– that the film “gives a platform to a man charged with abetting the spread of hate.”

Morris isn’t exactly a pugilist in the vein of Michael Moore. As he told the crowd at Film Forum, his interviewing style adheres to a “two minute rule” (“let someone talk for two minutes without interrupting and they’ll show you how crazy they really are”) and he generally seeks to create “a situation where someone wants to talk to me, is willing to talk to me, and might tell me something that I don’t know.”

Even if Morris didn’t go into American Dharma looking for a fight, he does clash with Bannon here and there. When Bannon voices disbelief that the director of The Fog of War voted for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, Morris confesses he was afraid of Trump and Bannon, and he thought she was the best hope of beating them. He shares his belief that Trump’s immigration policy is motivated by racism and hate, rather than being a matter of “maximizing the value of your citizenship,” as Bannon puts it. He gets Bannon to admit that in the early days of Trump’s presidency, they flooded the zone with executive orders in order to overwhelm the media and ram them through. When Bannon dismisses white supremacists as an insignificant fringe element blown out of proportion by the press, Morris tells him, “There’s something incredibly perverse about saying neo-Nazis are a creation of the mainstream media.”

Despite this pushback, Bannon is never forced to defend himself at length. Instead, he whinges about the mainstream media’s coverage of Trump and revels in campaign-strategy victories such as the weaponization of Bill Clinton’s rape accusers. He presents himself as a working class hero, and depending on which echo chamber you inhabit, the film’s spectacular ending can either be seen as an illumination of Bannon’s own destructiveness or a validation of his prediction that a corrupt system will soon go down in flames.

It’s not surprising, then, that Bannon actually liked the documentary, a confession that was met with groans at Film Forum. “Oh, let me make it a little worse,” Morris added. “He liked it a lot.” A Trump voter in the crowd, who during the movie had aww-ed over childhood photos of Bannon, announced that she also liked it a lot. “I’m weary of people all bonding over shitting on the president and the 600 million [sic] who voted for him,” said the woman, who looked to be in her sixties. “And it’s old. This [movie] isn’t.” To that, a younger audience member responded, “You’re old!”

American Dharma, which continues at Film Forum this week, had a rather tortured route to the screen. Morris spent nearly a year seeking distribution, and in February tweeted, “Fuck ’em, I will distribute the movie myself.” (It was eventually picked up by an indie startup, Utopia.) Last year, it premiered at the Venice Film Festival just a day after a New Yorker Festival talk with Bannon was canceled amidst a boycott threatened by Judd Apatow, Jim Carrey, and others.

(Cinetic Media)

Defending himself then, New Yorker editor David Remnick said that “to interview Bannon is not to endorse” his “‘ideas of white nationalism, racism, anti-semitism and illiberalism.” Not surprisingly, Morris expressed a similar sentiment as he addressed the mystery person who had distributed the flyers outside of Film Forum. “Deplatforming Bannon isn’t going to make it go away. I’m terribly sorry, whoever you are out there.” Then he added nervously: “Is he going to kill me? Is he out there? Is he waiting for me to leave the theater?”

Some have argued that Bannon, who proved to be a master media manipulator while at the helm of Breitbart News, hardly needed more press attention. But Morris had personal reasons for profiling the man whose right-wing documentaries made him “the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement,” per Andrew Breitbart. Bannon “became a filmmaker after seeing The Fog of War at the Telluride Film Festival,” Morris noted. “I suppose properly speaking, hearing that, I should have gone somewhere and killed myself.”

Instead, Morris decided to talk to Bannon about some of his other favorite films. He staged the conversations inside of a reproduction of the Quonset hut from Twelve O’Clock High, the World War II movie that Bannon became enamored with during his first week at Harvard Business School. (“Of course all populists, all men of the people,” Morris mocked, “go to Harvard Business School, to Goldman Sachs, and of course they take money from extraordinarily filthy-rich, fascist billionaires. It’s the new man of the people; I would call it the full-of-shit man of the people.”)

In Bannon’s favorite scene from the Gregory Peck film, General Savage (a name Morris found fitting) demands that his soldiers set aside their fear of death in order to defeat the Nazis. Bannon relates this fulfillment of dharma– which he defines as “the combination of duty, fate, and destiny”– to Trump’s rejection of the counterproductive “emotionalism” that drives modern politics. “The permanent political class that control our country is going to stay exactly like it is until you have true disruption,” he says in the film. “It can’t be a pillow fight, you need some killers. You get some killers, you’re going to see some change.”

If Morris doesn’t push back against this idea on camera, it’s because he thinks the irony of Bannon’s reading of Twelve O’Clock High is self-evident. “1949 is the defeat of fascism,” Morris said of the year the film was released. “2016– hmm— is about the promotion of fascism. To me, that’s a kind of sad irony… so this antifascist metaphor becomes turned around 180 degrees. Strange. And I found it was true of almost all of the movies that I watched with Bannon.” (Bannon’s other favorites include Bridge On the River Kwai, Paths of Glory, and Chimes at Midnight.)

In another scene picked by Bannon, from John Ford’s The Searchers, a former Confederate soldier played by John Wayne (“kind of an outcast,” in Bannon’s words) declines to save two women who have been abducted and presumably raped by Native Americans, since the women “ain’t white anymore, they’re Comanche.” Morris doesn’t confront Bannon about it on camera– and instead lets him say merely that he likes the way Wayne’s character never gives up– but at Film Forum he noted that it was telling that Bannon chose “one of the most racist and dark scenes in all of John Ford: They’re not white, they’re Mexican. They’re not white, they’re Chinese.”

Clearly, the relationship between Morris and Bannon wasn’t exactly a “toothless bromance,” as the Variety review put it. That said, they do connect at certain moments. When Morris says he thinks John Milton’s Lucifer “has certain Bannon-esque qualities,” Bannon responds with a laugh and says he often uses the line “better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” When Morris calls Trump the “Fuck You president,” Bannon initially chortles, agreeing that “you have to tell the establishment ‘Go fuck yourself,'” but he draws a line when Morris says Trump’s attitude is one of “You want health care? Fuck you! You want clean drinking water? Fuck you!”

Despite such moments of levity, Morris said he generally found his interview subject “humorless,” as evidenced by the time Bannon was reading a book titled The Great Wall. He apparently failed to laugh when Morris quipped, “The Great Wall, it’s so successful: No Mexicans in China!”  

Even if Morris found Bannon humorless and “hypocritical,” he admitted to liking him on a certain level. Unlike his least favorite interview subject, the glib Donald Rumsfeld, Bannon “has the decency to be tortured,” Morris observed. “Something drove him crazy. Perhaps it was his failure as an investment banker, perhaps he didn’t achieve all that he had hoped to achieve. I don’t want to resort to pop psychology here. At a certain point he got very, very, very angry. Maybe he was angry all the time, and Breitbart, Cambridge Analytica, the internet, all gave him a vehicle to that anger, and all of the sudden he’s in the driver’s seat, he’s in the catbird seat, as Trump’s campaign manager.”

“At the heart of all this was a desire to destroy everything,” Morris said of Bannon’s motives. “I call Trump, in the movie, the Fuck You president. He is the Fuck You president. Fuck everything: fuck you, fuck the state, fuck the Constitution.”

“This whole thing is a fucked up movie,” Morris said, growing strident. “But it’s the country!”

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Take the ‘A’ Stairs: New Entrance Extends First Ave L Station to Alphabet City

Monday morning at 9am, a shiny new entrance to the First Avenue stop on the L train opened to the public. What’s been years of seemingly little progress on the L is finally showing some results. The entrance is located at 14th Street and Avenue A, giving easier access to residents of Stuy-Town and other areas east of the First Avenue stop.  

The new opening is for Brooklyn-bound L trains, and the entrance has two sets of stairs, clean white tiles and an abundance of bright lights. It’s the first of many improvements on the docket for the First Avenue stop, including sidewalk restoration and two elevators to increase accessibility. 

“For years we’ve been thinking, ‘Wow, it’d be such a great idea to have an entrance here,’” said Tim Cramer, who lives on 12th Street and Avenue A. He rides the L train about three times a week. “I think it’s a really amazing thing. Out of all the stuff they can be doing in the subway they did something here and I think it’s fantastic.”

The new entrance will alleviate some congestion at the stop and save a lot of riders that long block of walking. “It’s very good for me,” said Bestabe Marin, who works as a home helper in the East Village and uses the 1st Avenue station a lot. “I used to take the bus, but now I can have the train close and easy. I’m so glad.”

(Photos and video: Kai Burkhardt)

The new improvement to the station is a welcome addition to what will soon be a bustling hub. After some initial controversy, congestion on 14th Street has been eased by a well-received new busway that bans cars during rush hour. And now, a Target that opened in 2018 and a Trader Joe’s currently under construction are sure to bring more shoppers to the L stop. 

With the Avenue A entryway up and running, the staircases on First Avenue will close in about a week for repairs, according to EV Grieve. But maybe this opening marks the beginning of the end. Though there’s still a lot to accomplish before the project’s summer 2020 deadline (such as elevators at 1st Avenue and other stations), it’s looking hopeful. The L train project is set to finish three months ahead of schedule. After countless headaches and delays, could the L train finally be on the right track?

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Ruffian’s New Offshoot Adds a Tropical Touch to Aperitivo

This week, the hospitality team behind Ruffian (the recently designated Michelin Bib Gourmand) opened their offshoot project, Kindred, an East Village restaurant with nods to the coastal Adriatic regions of Italy, Slovenia and Croatia.

While they wait for gas, Kindred is currently operating as a wine and cocktail bar with a small selection of snacks: smoked olives, onion dip with flatbread, a crostini plate and chicken meatballs. The menu will be extended in upcoming weeks, to offer diners an incentive to spend more time in the tastefully decorated space. 

The decor in the East 6th Street location is minimal and clean, evoking the feeling of a sun-soaked Mediterranean getaway. The bar and dining room are separated by a white-washed brick wall, calling to mind Italian aperitivo culture—one where diners are encouraged to socialize while sipping cocktails at the bar before even looking at the food menu.

Charlotte Mirzoeff, director of the cocktail program and head bartender, was heavily influenced by the laid-back nature of Italian aperitivo tradition while crafting the mixed-drinks. “Aperitivo culture is catching on because it’s more sustainable,” she said. “It’s not going to three different restaurants or bars and being shit-faced by the end of the night.”

At the same time, you’ll find more than just Aperol Spritzes here. The cocktail list is compact but lively, featuring six creations with complex, layered flavors and tropical vibes. A staff favorite is the Isola Mai Tai, which features Belizean rum, cachaca, pineapple, pistachio syrup, lime, basil and celery. “When you think of coastal regions anywhere in the world, you’re like, ‘I want a piña colada or a margarita,’ tropical- style drinks,” Mirzoeff said. “So I wanted to steer Kindred’s cocktails away from plain-old Italian aperitivo and give it this more coastal identity.”

During happy hour (weekdays 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.) and late night happy hour (Friday and Saturday 11 p.m. to 12 a.m.), there’ll be three additional cocktails—an Italian style Daiquiri, a rum and pineapple drink called Jungle Bird and a sparkling aperitivo cocktail—at reduced prices.

Kindred isn’t solely focused on cocktails—the restaurant stays true to its Ruffian roots with a wide selection of natural and orange wines. The list of around 70 wines from the featured waterside regions is focused mainly on by-the-glass options, but the bottles also sit at reasonable price points, with very few bottles exceeding $100.

“What’s great about the Adriatic region is that you get fantastic value in the quality of wines, particularly with older vintages, but at a very good price point,” said Alexis Percival, partner and co-director of the beverage program.

Once up and running, Kindred’s full menu will serve a little bit of family tradition to the East Village. Chef de Cuisine Amy Mattulina (Maialino, Charlie Bird) says the handcrafted pasta dishes will start off with her grandmother’s recipe for potato-based gnocchi, paired with a simple tomato sauce. In addition, there’ll be large-format dishes like “fish in a blanket” and a whole hen roasted with Calabrian chili oil and preserved lemon. Smaller plates will include fried chickpeas, fried ravioli, seasonal roast vegetables, radicchio salad and a warm grain salad, all keeping to the theme of Adriatic cuisine. 

Reservations are available on a limited basis, something that the small space at Ruffian doesn’t allow for. But only a small number of tables are set aside each night for reservations. Mirzoeff wants people to walk in and socialize, true to the name Kindred. “It’s an homage to community and an homage to bringing people together.”

Kindred is open Sunday, Monday and Thursday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Beginning November 11th, Kindred will be open 7 days a week.