from the archives: rediscovering the hudson

alg-drums-jpgIt’s hard to imagine that we owe our fair city — and state — to the insubordinate wanderings of a Brit in the pay of Dutch taskmasters, a sailor chasing mariners’ centuries-old dream of a shorter route to the Orient. Yet 400 years ago, Henry Hudson encountered bad weather off Norway and, despite orders to return to Amsterdam, opted for a 3,000-mile detour to America instead. Needless to say it was one slow — and lost — boat to China. But he did chance upon “a very good harbor for all windes,” and a river that would eventually bear his name. Hudson’s happy accident gave quick rise to Nieuw Amsterdam and, ultimately, the Big Apple. Modern New Yorkers can tip their caps to Hudson’s pluck and celebrate the quadricentennial of his epic adventure this spring, summer and fall — while discovering the many beautiful facets of the present-day Hudson Valley. READ MORE.

 

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from the archives: horsing around

Every city likes to promote itself as a destination with “something for everyone,” but civilized Saratoga Springs, sandwiched between the Adirondack Mountains and the Hudson River three hours north of New York City, actually is one of those places. That’s why it’s one of the most popular – and famous – summertime getaways in the country. Blending innovation and tradition, Saratoga is equal parts high society and college town, without the hassle of being stuffy or too rowdy. It’s rich in American history, but there’s also eclectic shopping, the celebrated namesake mineral springs, gourmet dining and world-famous thoroughbred and harness racing. If you’re looking to get your adrenaline pumping – or the perfect lazy summer weekend for that matter – Saratoga is about as close as you’ll get to a sure thing. READ MORE.

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not quite top 100: sparks

Is there a restaurant in New York with more mobster mystique than Sparks Steakhouse, sight of John Gotti’s infamous takedown of Big Paul Castellano? Maybe Rao’s, but that’s primarily a red sauce joint – and good luck getting a table, mortals. Twenty seven years after the grisly fact a frisson of excitement still lingers on East 46th Street. Not only was the head of the Gambino crime family murdered in broad daylight, but in an act of reckless bravado both Gotti and his co-conspirator, Sammy “the Bull” Gravano, watched the scene play out in a car across the street, reportedly driving over to view the bodies before leaving the scene of the crime. The unsanctioned assassination by the ascendant Dapper Don sparked a big beef among New York’s five families: Genovese boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante was so outraged he enlisted the help of Lucchese boss Anthony Corallo in an unsuccessful attempt to kill Gotti. Ah, those were the (pre-Giuliani) days. Who gets whacked north of the Rio Grande these days? Today the only beef that matters at Sparks is of the aged, prime steer variety.  More to the point, sirloin and filet mignon. Steak master brothers Pat and Mike Cetta stick with what works and the result is a carnivore’s delight: thick-cut Jurassic-sized sirloin unadorned with anything save a sprinkle of salt and a pair of perfect sides, hash browns and creamed spinach. It’s an offer you can’t refuse – unless you go for the equally Brobdingnagian seafood. The wine list is legendary, too, full of breadth and depth, though to my mind you can never go wrong with a beefy bottle of Bordeaux.

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coffee klatch: rbc

I’m so tired of hearing people bemoan the lack of quality coffee in New York City. No, we are not Portland, people; I get it. We can barely even afford to live within the five boroughs, yet you think an artisanal, single-origin, fair-trade, organic coffee roaster has the deep pockets – as well as the chutzpah - to set up shop here? Blue Bottle aside, get over yourselves. This city is too vast, too commercial, too fast to support that kind of college town kaffee kultur. (Good luck finding your 3AM bulgogi fix in Portland, by the way.) Still, if you know where to look there is some really good brew to be found. Which is why I’m starting an occasional post on the best joe joints in town.  First up: RBC, an unassuming – almost missable – sliver of a shop on Worth Street. Not enslaved to the output of a single roaster means new batches of micro-roasted beans arrive every few weeks. (San Francisco’s RitualRoasters, Grand Rapids’ MadCap, and Coava out of, yes, Portland, are just a few of RBC’s culti suppliers.)  Some are for hand-crafted pour-overs, others are destined for the coveted Slayer espresso machine. The $20,000 toy is the only one in the city – and the object of many a java fetish. The extreme control and variable brew pressure of the Slayer allows baristas to use seasonal, single-origin coffees that wouldn’t ordinarily be prepared as espresso. Which means at RBC a cappuccino arrives with perhaps the rarest flavor of all: nuance.

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feeling far from home

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indian superfood

Exec Digital is a new digital-only magazine that randomly dropped into my in-box earlier this month. Although more geared toward “executives” – whatever that means – it nevertheless features an interesting pastiche of travel, food and lifestyle writing. One piece in particular really struck me where it counts: the belly. Chef Gurpareet Bains’ favorite curry houses around the globe made for a quick read yet left me with a fistful of notes-to-self for future reference. You can read it below or catch it in situ HERE, courtesy of the folks at Exec Digital.

International House: The Best Curry by Gurpareet Bains

Gurpareet Bains, chef to A-listers and royalty, author of Indian Superfood and most recently winner of the 2011 Chef of the Year ‘Curry Gong’ at the English Curry Awards, takes a breather from his book tour to share a select handful of his personal favorite Indian restaurants dotted around the world.

Devi, New York, USA - Average $60 per head

Only in the last few years have dapper Indian restaurants started popping up in New York. And although it is most definitely the pioneering days of curry in the US, New York just had to deliver in style…

Devi is America’s only Michelin star Indian restaurant, and accordingly worth a visit. Chefs Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur are sure to whip your taste buds into a frenzy with traditional Indian home cooking fused with the bold flavours of the new world.

I’m salivating just musing over fond memories of the grilled scallops with roasted pepper chutney and bitter orange marmalade, and the signature Tandoori lamb chops with pear chutney. Or for something a little more traditional, how about Phool Makhanee Kee Sabzee (lotus seeds and cashews in a creamy sauce) or the all-time-favourite, and must have Indian street food, Bombay Bhel-Puri?

With an ambience akin to an old worldly Rajasthani boathouse palace, this is the place to entertain and astonish. Be sure to invite your Indian business clients to a dinner at Devi. Deal done and dusted!

Cinnamon Kitchen, London, England - Average $60 per head

With London widely recognised as the curry capital of the world, restaurants on this side of the pond have a mighty high bar to aspire their standards upon – and the Cinnamon Kitchen doesn’t fail to astound. Right in the heart of London’s financial district, the Cinnamon Kitchen is located in a courtyard abuzz with activity. Start with a Cinnamon Spiced Martini in the Anise Bar, sipping it just to the left of the main dining room.

When you’re ready, the main dining room is a converted warehouse with 20 foot ceilings that reverberates a debonair ‘007’ style.  With an exceptional wine-list, a flawless brigade of staff and most importantly, award-winning chefs Vivek Singh and Abdul Yaseen on-hand, you’re really in for a spectacular night.

The menu is short; instead, it focuses on a select few dishes that they get right every single time. Although the meals are presented in an aptly contemporary fashion, with subtle hints of fusion, the food is truly Indian at heart. To start, I’d recommend the Fat Chillies with Spiced Paneer or Hyderabadi Lamb Mince.  As an entree, try Scottish Angus Fillet with Masala Chips or Seared Sea Bass with Kokum Curry and Rice (kokum is slightly sour, although less so than tamarind). The dessert menu is as equally as spectacular – so remember to leave room.

Dhaba, Claridges Hotel, New Delhi, India - Average $30 per head

Dhaba specializes in Punjabi Highway Fare. In the Indian state of the Punjab, locals consider highway eateries – better known as Dhabas – to serve up the best food…and they are absolutely right. It’s rather a kind of street food for people on wheels, who miss home cooking.

Dhaba’s menu is comprised of many traditional family recipes handed down generations. Try something suitably rustic, and typically Punjabi, such as Baingan Ka Bharta (spicy barbecued eggplant), Dahl Makhini (lentils slow cooked overnight, until rich and silky), and accompany this with flaky Tandoori Rotis and some of the more familiar suspects such as meat kebabs and  balti curry dishes – and you will be eating just as heartily as any Punjabi farmer. If you’re not sure what to order, or if you want to try a bit of everything, go for the Thali, which is the chef’s taster menu, and is very much the avant-garde thing to do.

But at Dhaba, it’s not only about the food. The ambience is also of the classic rural highway eatery, complete with a truck fresco, rustic interiors and waiters dressed in traditional Punjabi dress. There is even a thatched ceiling and walls replicating the irregular mud painted texture of a village hut. An old wireless belts out golden oldies from the silver era of Indian cinema, putting the final touches on a perfect evening. 

Ravi’s Restaurant, Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Average $10 per head

Ravi’s on Satwa Road (near Satwa Roundabout) is an institution, and arguably Dubai’s number one curry house. Set amidst the hustle and bustle of old Dubai, and bounded by spiraling minarets and the haunting sound of muezzins’ calls, this is the place to eat curry.

It’s very much a rough-and-ready diner style restaurant with Formica tables; fortunately, the tacky decor only enhances the experience of Dubai before it became an international tourist destination.

Ravi’s is frequented by the legions of Indian and Pakistani expats living in Dubai – which is always a good sign of authentic food. If you can imagine classic dishes, such as Butter Chicken, Tarka Dahl, Biryani and Naans, all served up in monumental portions, and for just a few dollars – this is Ravi’s!

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arriba, aruba

Aruba is a desert island – but certainly not deserted. Off the coast of Venezuela – yet far from off the beaten path – Aruba has a dry, rumpled landscape so overflowing with candelabra cactus that homeowners cut them down and build fences out of their spiny trunks.

When the Spanish arrived in the 15th century, they promptly turned around and left, proclaiming it useless, an “isla inutil”.  The British later did the same, leaving the Dutch as the only takers.  And they pretty much turned it over to us NYers, who have taken to Aruba in droves, making it one of the top destinations for tri-state sun seekers.

Aruba sits outside the hurricane belt and enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean. It sports a pair of wide white-sand beaches on the southern coast, lined with up-market hotels; a reasonably safe and, in places, charming capital city that reflects a little of the island’s Dutch heritage; a wild and wooly northern coast for adrenaline junkies and adventure seekers; and an efficient modern airport that can land the jets needed for easy, direct flights.  Life is good here and Natalee Holloway notwithstanding, visitors can enjoy it without the twinge of guilt that often accompanies a vacation in a developing country.

To be warmly and genuinely welcomed by the people of Aruba is instantly relaxing.  This is not your typical salt-rimmed Caribbean island. And that goes a long way towards explaining why Aruba is so popular (an unheard of 40% rate of return visits) and why everyone is smiling as though they’re letting you in on their secret.

Oh, and did I mention the beach?

This is your guide to the best of our other “outer” borough.  And just in time for the snow, too.

BEST BEACH – PUBLIC

Most of the high-rise hotel resorts are situated along Palm Beach, a seven-mile stretch of powdery white sand and ultra-lazy lounge chairs.  However, Eagle Beach is just a short walk down the coast and a lot less crowded with sun worshipers and water sports enthusiasts.  The water is cooler and at certain times of the year huge turtles come ashore to nest.  Eagle Beach is a great walk in the morning or evening and an even better place for curling up with a significant other.

BEST BEACH – PRIVATE

One of the best features about staying at the sleek Renaissance Resort & Casino is access to the 40-acre private Renaissance Island – by way of a boat launch that motors into the hotel lobby, no less! Split into halves, the adults-only beach has a stand of friendly pink flamingo (just don’t get too close), while the family beach boasts iguanas and tropical birds.  Either way, the water is crystal clear and the crowds are left behind on the mainland.

BEST HOTEL – SINGLES & COUPLES

The boutique Renaissance Marina sits smack in the middle of the capital’s harborfront, close to all the action Aruba has to offer.  Plus the stunning pool, spa, 24 hour casino and lounge areas are strictly adults-only.  By day the Crystal Theater features the “Experience Aruba Panorama,” a quick tour of the islands history, people and culture on five jumbo screens.  By night it’s home to an action-packed-and-not-nearly-as-twee-as-it-sounds Let’s Go Latin show, the most extravagant collection of singing, dancing and acrobatic theatrics on the island.  The casual Aquarius Restaurant gives new life to the buffet concept with fresh mounds of all-you-can-eat lobsters, shrimp, scallops and steaks. For a little more romance and a lot less bustle, try staying across the road at the Ocean Suites, where you’ll have nothing between you and the sea.

BEST HOTEL – FAMILIES

The Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino is at the end of the famous Palm Beach.  Boasting the largest rooms on the island it makes for the best spot to vacation with your family – not on top of them.  Together you can enjoy one of the many activities on offer, like the Banana Boat or the Bon Bini Kids Club will keep the little ones supervised and entertained all day (or night) while you take to the sun (or the casino).

MUST EAT

One of Aruba’s newest and chicest restaurants, Pinchos Grill and Bar has a unique outdoor setting suspended on a pier, out and over the Caribbean Sea.  Comfortable rattan furniture and huge overstuffed pillows add to the laid-back al fresco ambiance. The menu consists almost entirely of pinchos or kabobs, but the secret is in the dipping sauces that come on the side.  Pinchos is also of one of the most beautiful and romantic spots to watch sunsets in Aruba.

MUST DO – ADVENTURE ON LAND

There is no better way to explore the island than on one of De Palm Tours off-road safari adventures.  A full day’s tour in one of their customized Land Rovers brings you along the wild, barren north coast, where you’ll see an Aruba few people know:  the fascinating Gold Mill ruins, impressive volcanic rock formations, the elegant Alto Vista Chapel, and the Fontein and Guadirkiri caves.  Your tour ends at De Palm Island, a private water park off the coast.  Leave the kids to play in the water slides while you wade into one of best snorkeling experiences in the Caribbean.  Surrounded by a soft coral reef, the water is teeming with tropical fish, including schools of majestic blue parrotfish.

MUST DO – ADVENTURE UNDER THE SEA

Hands down the coolest ride in Aruba is the 90-minute guided tour aboard one of Atlantis Submarines’ giant passenger subs.  Dive down over 100 feet to the Barcadera Reefs and see the remains of two spectacular shipwrecks. Along the way you get up close to some amazing sea life:  colorful schools of tropical fish, huge sponge gardens and the fascinating beauty of the coral fields.  Position yourself near the captain for the panoramic view and you’ll understand why Jacques Cousteau had one of the coolest gigs imaginable.

BEST BIRD WATCHING

The Aruba Ostrich Farm provides a personal encounter with these giant flightless birds.  Try feeding one of these prehistoric creatures, or better yet, get on top and attempt a ride.  A working breeding farm, there’s also an incubator for the giant eggs and makeshift hospital where you can see the adorable babies fresh out of the shell.

BEST DRINK

Forgo all those candy colored rum drinks with the paper umbrellas and plastic swords loaded with fruit. Locals reach for Balashi, a crisp cool beer the island began brewing when the cost of imported suds got too high. Nothing goes down better on a dry hot day.  And hops-heads can even take a free tour to see how it’s made. (Reservations required: [email protected])

BEST SUNSET 1

If you happen to still be out exploring the desert or the north coast of the island when the sun starts to sink, there is no more beautiful place to enjoy the view than at the quirky Alto Vista Chapel.  Amid rock formations and cacti, the small chapel built by missionaries in the mid-1700’s is reached by a long winding road that goes high above the sea.

BEST SUNSET 2

When the massive cruise ships come to town they are a sight to behold.  Docking right in town, these floating cities are a beautiful backdrop to the setting sun.  Blue Bar at the Renaissance not only serves a mean variety of cocktail treats, it also overlooks the pool and the harbor, making it an ideal spot to cuddle up on their cushy sofas and watch the sun sink behind the boats.

BEST BAR

Hosting two gigantic palapas on the white sand beach, overlooking the Caribbean sea, Moomba Beach Bar is a hidden gem offering a little a bit of everything:  the largest cocktail menu on Aruba, a wide variety of cold beers and a great casual menu with salads, sandwiches, burgers and snacks. Once you learn that Moomba is an Aboriginal word meaning “let’s get together and have fun,” you’ll realize that this is perhaps the most appropriately named spot in all of Aruba.  Grab a beach chair, get your feet in the sand and enjoy the live music.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Like the more famous parties in New Orleans and Rio, the month before Lent is Carnival time. The entire island participates in street parades with colorful costumes and floats, music, dancing, and the election of the Carnival Queen.  The Sunday before Ash Wednesday is an all-day celebration that takes over the streets of the capital, Oranjestad. 

BEST BONUS

Aruba is one of only three islands that provide pre-clearance for US citizens, allowing flights from Aruba to enter the US as domestic flights.  After check-in, head through passport control and security.  When you arrive home, the only wait you’ll have is at the luggage carousel. For more information:  CLICK HERE.

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in residence

Since we are taking a break from all the food porn, let me take a moment and fill you in on my posh digs at The St. Regis, Atlanta.

The story of St. Regis begins at the forefront of New York’s Gilded Age, where an elite group of supremely wealthy families rose to form the country’s first aristocracy.  The leaders of this new social class were the Astors, with matriarch Caroline Astor at the helm of high society. Visionary and tenacious, “The” Mrs. Astor created the first true expression of New York society by hand-selecting those with whom she associated – forever after known as the “400.” This new experience of exclusivity made even the wealthiest and most renowned eager to become a member of her inner circle.

It was also at this time that Lady Astor’s son, John Jacob Astor IV, sought to develop a new style of luxury, focused on tangible advancements in the comforts afforded the wealthy. These innovations debuted inside Astor’s classic Beaux Arts landmark, The St. Regis New York, when it opened off Fifth Avenue in 1904.  Before his death aboard the Titanic, Astor was able to fulfill his vision of creating a hotel where gentlemen and their families could feel as comfortable as they would as guests in a private home. This was in no small part due to the acumen of Lady Astor, who helped cultivate a sense of luxury and refinement in all aspects of the hotel’s operation. Fresh flowers were brought in daily, an English-style butler and afternoon tea services were implemented and exclusive social gatherings such as a midnight supper all created an air of grandeur inside the St. Regis.

Set in the exclusive community of Buckhead – near virtually all the good shopping, natch – Atlanta’s St. Regis oozes a Southern charm that might even have pleased Lady Astor herself.  On entering the 26-story building you’re greeted by a pair of dramatic, curved staircases that serve as the centerpiece of the hotel’s lobby. Two magnificent fireplaces, like those found in traditional Southern estates, create an inviting atmosphere, along with opulent crystal chandeliers casting a warm hue over the rich hardwood floors.  You don’t feel like you’ve just arrived at a hotel; you feel like you’ve come home – well, a lottery-fueled dream of home anyway. Macassar ebony furniture, leather-wrapped writing desks and luxurious ivory bed linens are just a prelude to the spacious five-fixture marble bathrooms.  And then there’s your personal butler, trained in the English tradition, should you need anything.

After a few hours lounging in the Remede Spa or the 40,000-square-foot outdoor oasis that is the Pool Piazza (or both) follow in the footsteps of Caroline Astor and take high tea, with an assortment of tea sandwiches, freshly baked scones, tea cakes, seasonal jams and chutneys, petit fours and other delightful desserts, in front of the fire in the elegant Long Gallery.  If you prefer your afternoon repast a bit more substantial, the Special Selection in the Bar and Wine Room is a smoky bourbon with butterscotch and crème brulee on the nose and a long cherry finish.  (The result of a collaboration with Woodford Reserve Distillery, The St. Regis is the only hotel in Georgia to create a namesake blend.) It pairs perfectly with the aged cheddar, 1000 island chow chow and BBQ sauce-topped house sliders.  It’s also a fantastic prelude to Mark Alba’s seven-course truffle menu across the lobby at Paces 88.  Oh, no … I’m talking about food. Again.

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from the archives: leaf peeping

Something happens as soon as the first chill stirs the autumn air. People instinctively reach for sweaters, the scent of cinnamon and cider wafts through the breeze like a narcotic, and everyone succumbs to the intractable pull of a yearly ritual: piling into their cars to go and watch the leaves turn color.

Don’t wait until the last minute, however, or you’ll find yourself up a tree — without a place to stay. As thousands of leaf peepers across the Northeast suddenly realize their time to spend a lazy weekend glimpsing the fall foliage is running out, a desperate, road-clogging migration begins.

Here’s how to savor the few short weeks of tranquility — and nature’s radiant colors — before the crowds arrive. READ MORE.

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finger food, finger fun, finger lakes

The Finger Lakes region in Upstate New York is well-known in certain circles for its spirited – and often wonderfully bizarre – summer festivals, which celebrate everything from peppermint, garlic and balloons, to pirates, dog artists, and road racing.  And let’s not even mention the rutabaga curling.

Here are a just a few of the choice festivals that can keep you occupied through the summer and beyond.

Eric Canal Pirate Weekend: A full weekend of pirating adventures, including the Pillage ‘N the Village Bed Race Regatta, the Pirate & Kazoo Band Parade, a Pirate Window Painting Contest, canal boat rides, Goonies in the park,  walking tours, pirate tales, live music, food, children’s games and more.  Palmyra, NY, August 6 – 8.

Garlic Festival: Where else can one feast on food laced with fresh garlic,  enjoy farm vendors and garlic farmers ready to sell their wares, watch garlic cooking demonstrations, and mingle with a fun bunch of garlic-loving people? At the Fox Run Vineyards 18th Annual Garlic Festival – the second largest garlic festival in the world.  Penn Yan, NY, August 7 – 8.

90th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment: A commemoration and celebration of the passage of the 19th amendment that gave women the right to vote in the part of the country that got it all started – the Finger Lakes. Susan B. Anthony House, Rochester, August 21.

New York State Festival of Balloons: Witness the thrill of dozens upon dozens of hot air balloons unleashed upon the Finger Lakes. The Labor Day Weekend-festival is coupled with crafts, live entertainment and great food in Dansville, the community where Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross.  Dansville, NY, September 2 – 5.

Vintage Grand Prix Festival: Motor enthusiasts from all over the world come to celebrate the Finger Lakes racing heritage at the home of the rebirth of American Road Racing. Along with the Grand Prix Festival are major Stone Bridge Driver Events, which are rally races, tours and runs that take place around the original road course that started on the streets of Watkins Glen.  Watkins Glen, NY, September 10.

Slice, Dice and Spice NY: Slice, Dice and Spice NY is a cooking competition designed to show the culinary talents and assets of the Finger Lakes region. Nine teams consisting of four foodies and one professional chef from around the Finger Lakes on each team will compete in an iron-chef like competition at the New York Wine and Culinary Center.  Canandaigua, NY, September 13 & 19.

Dundee Scottish Festival: Due to its strong Scottish heritage and a landscape reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands, it was only a matter of time before Dundee hosted a Scottish festival. Their first ever Scottish festival will offer bagpipes, Scottish cuisine, music, dancing and merriment, with bands like North Sea Gas from Scotland (pictured) and The City of Washington Pipe Band from DC.  Dundee, NY, September 18.

Naples Grape Festival: Can people spend a whole two days celebrating a grape? Apparently they can in Naples, NY – the area credited for creating the grape pie. This one-of-a-kind festival includes everything from grape pie contests and grape foods, to wine tastings and music. You can also get up close and personal during the grape stomping.  Naples, NY, September 25 – 26.

Newark Valley Annual Apple Fest: Step back in time to the 1800’s in Owego, NY – voted as the country’s coolest small town – as exhibitors dress in period costumes to provide a glimpse of how people lived 150 years ago. Demonstrations include blacksmithing, open hearth cooking, spinning and weaving, black powder shooting, soap making and more. Lots of music on multiple stages featuring bluegrass, folk,  and celtic bands. Owego, NY, October 2 – 3.

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le grand macabre

If you knew that the end of the world was imminent, that a comet was about to crash into our planet and obliterate it forever, how would you choose to spend your final hours? That’s the question posed by György Ligeti’s opera Le Grand Macabre, receiving its long-delayed New York premiere under the steady baton of Alan Gilbert and the impeccable New York Philharmonic.

Having raised the issue, Ligeti  offers an answer that may seem oddly consoling: people will spend their final moments doing pretty much whatever they have done before. They’ll jockey for power, they’ll revel in stupidity, they’ll engage in posturing, and they’ll get drunk and screw. In his absurdist treatment of our collective foibles, Ligeti manages to make the unthinkable approachable by rendering it comical.  It’s a Rabelaisian world where two opposing parties, both completely corrupt, pursue the same crooked policies.  And the arrival of the sinister, demagogic Nekrotzar – the Macabre of the title, who’s eerily secure in his faith and hell-bent on destroying the world – sets the  whole topsy-turvy carnival in motion. The overture alone – scored for 12 pitched car horns, snippets of Beethoven’s “Eroica,” ragtime, laughter, jazz, and Viennese waltzes – is as good an indication as any that you should buckle up tight; its going to be a bumpy, wild ride.

“The threat of collective death is always present,” Ligeti told Claude Samuel in a broadcast interview, “but we try to eliminate it from our consciousness and to enjoy to the maximum the days that are left to us.”  With major earthquakes rumbling, volcanoes spewing, and the Mayan calendar predicting our imminent demise in 2012, this is timely stuff.   It reminds us of how precious and fleeting our presence is here on earth – and how much effort we spend fanning the flames of our own fears rather than embracing the mysterious miracle of simply being.  And it’s rather baffling that Ligeti’s opera, which premiered in Sweden in 1978 and immediately assumed iconic status in Europe, has never before been performed in New York.  (You might not know Ligeti’s name, but you’ve certainly heard his music:  Kubrick inserted three of the composer’s composition into 2001: A Space Odyssey – without his permission! – and later did the same in The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut.)  There are just two performances left, tonight and Saturday evening.  If you happen to be stuck  in town this holiday weekend, you couldn’t be luckier:  party like its 2012 and beg, borrow or steal for a ticket

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