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Beer Table: Putting the College Keg to Shame

beerCaramel. Mustard. Dried tropical fruit. Animal. Cigar smoke. Bitter earth. Sausage in a glass. Hedonistic.

These are just a few of the words used to evoke the flavors of the beers available at Beer Table, an intimate pub that’s classy and chill in equal pours.

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Save the Deli

Until recently, I had not heard of David Sax’s book Save the Deli (released on Monday), but his project is near and dear to my heart.  The full title of his newly released treatise is Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen. Sax’s quest, which is charted on the book’s companion blog, brought him to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and throughout Europe. The search for the ideal Reuben is a noble pursuit, once undertaken by one of our own writers. And I am warmed to read that, at journey’s end, Sax concludes that the superior deli center of the world is not NYC, but Los Angeles.

Save the DeliAn LA native, I’ve always maintained that, when it comes to good old Jewish comfort foods, the cured meats, matzoh balls, kreplachs, and half-sours at Canter’s on Fairfax or Langer’s near MacArthur Park outshine the monstrous piles of cold cuts at Carnegie or overpriced offerings at Katz, NYC institutions that seem content to rest on their laurels.

But then I attended the book’s launch party—an extravagant free deli buffet—at Ben’s Kosher Delicatesen (209 W. 38th St, 212-398-2367) last Monday. Not only did the event make one hell of a case to “save the deli,” it was a firm reminder that NYC is—thankfully—not out of the running. Not nearly.

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“Offices” Brings Corporate Chaos to the Stage

F. Murray Abraham and Daniel London star in Ethan Coen's <em>Offices</em>

F. Murray Abraham and Daniel London star in Ethan Coen's Offices

Paranoia, suspicion, alienation, terror, and torment—this is the world of the office. And playwright Ethan Coen (Oscar-winner for No Country For Old Men and Fargo) fearlessly plumbs the depths of this cubicle culture in the hilarious off-Broadway production, Offices.

The show is a triptych of blisteringly funny one-act plays; the whole performance clocks in at 90 minutes. Each story bounces through a series of brisk and brutal episodes, in which Coen’s characters bluster their way through water cooler power struggles, go to pieces over end-of-the-quarter anxieties, and ultimately, with something of a wink from an author setting down his misanthropy for a moment, find release and redemption.
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Freshmen Night out in the City

Sexxx in the City partyOn the subway platform at 116th and Broadway, five well-dressed young women in matching heels tried to apply makeup to each other. Some 95 blocks downtown the doors had just opened at the Chelsea club and restaurant Duvet for “Sexxx in the City,” a monstrous gathering of NYC’s newest undergrads that began, somewhat notoriously, as an all-invited bash in the cramped Carman double of one Stephan Vincenzo (CC 12), which the Facebook savvy folks at Columbia ResLife managed to break up weeks before a single freshmen arrived on campus. The aborted kickback then developed, with help from some New York natives, into what promised to be “the hottest party of the year.” That promise notwithstanding, Stephan warned all invitees in a mass e-mail that the bar would be alcohol free, “but,” he hastened to add, “can you say Pre-Game lol.” And judging from their success with the makeup, these ladies clearly could.

At Duvet, the freshmen were herded, abattoir-style, through a line that rounded itself up and down the 21st St sidewalk, giving partygoers a taste of the shove-and-be-shoved intimacy of the goings-on inside. Bouncers who knew full well that this was an event for college freshmen called out: “Twenty-one? Anyone over here twenty-one?” Inexplicably, a gaggle of girls shot their hands up and rushed to the front of the line. One could not remember her address; another, in a flustered attempt to produce the birthday printed on her plastic, claimed to have been born in the year 2000; yet another offered to pay to get the confiscated I.D. back (it was a legit driver’s license, apparently it just wasn’t hers). Meanwhile, a young man in a button-down pink shirt, the collar popped, sneered: “Why is the place called Duvet? Isn’t that, like, French for ‘ass-shower’?”

Inside, patrons were stripped of cigarette packs, purses were raided, dubious bottles of Coke and Vitamin Water hastily consumed (apparently a lot of 2012ers can say “Pre-Game lol”). By the time the party had started, over 1100 attendees had, per instructions on the event’s Facebook page, RSVPd to get their names on a guest list that promised reduced admission. Cashiers, however, extracted 20 bucks from everyone at the door, responding to the odd protest with a curt: “Yeah, yeah, everyone’s on some list. That’ll be twenty.”

The Duvet’s bar—dubbed the “ice bar” for its translucent white tabletops and counters—served up a small menu of grenadine-soda-and-fruit-juice specials that nobody seemed to go for. On the dance floor, one DJ hollered, “Columbia? NYU? Fordham? Where you at?” eliciting whoops of enthusiastic collegiate pride from the sweaty-faced, hip-grinding crowd. Those not on the dance floor relocated in packs to the large white canopy beds, looming over the crowd and lavishly dressed in white curtains. Some stood up and danced on the beds and tabletops to the encouraging white flashes of a camera. Others departed in droves as early as 11, hustling to the exits in conga lines that weaved their way through the dance floor like violent veins. Still others stuck around and withdrew into their iPhones, Blackberries, and Sidekicks, hurriedly texting away in the corners of vacant booths, leaning on empty barstools, idling near the bathroom door, and looking up every now and again to see if anyone had recognized them yet.

Of course, no single party or event could possibly unite an entire class. And, indeed, as many people seemed to fit in with the crowd as people seemed overwhelmed by it. But it was noble and encouraging that the folks at 11th Floor Entertainment—the group of students that organized the event—went and put something together, something that, in a single night, seemed to capture all the chaos, confusion, exhilarating ups and dispiriting downs of those first tastes of college life. It seems inevitable for Sexxx in the City to go down in the collective history of the Class of 2012 as the first major “one of those nights.” May it not be the last.

Sam Reisman

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