Bird is the Word

Written by admin on . Posted in Eat & Drink.

Fried chicken served with Southern flair

By Shani R. Friedman

Many fried chicken devotees believe that you have to travel south of the Mason-Dixon Line or north to Harlem to have your bird cooked as God intended. Chef Charles Gabriel, of Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken fame, brings a little of that Southern flair to Midtown’s Aretsky’s Patroon with his latest creation. On Friday nights for a fixed $25, diners feast on three pieces of chicken, two sides and dessert, with live jazz accompaniment.

Get your soul food fix at Patroon Friday nights, with live jazz accompaniment.

I’d postponed eating there until my friend was able to come, so by the time we finally met up, I was practically drooling. She, with a Southern family, considers herself a soul food connoisseur with strong opinions on how it should be cooked. Fortunately for us, judging by the unobtrusiveness of the restaurant’s Gibson Room, the emphasis is clearly on the food. Even the musical interludes from the piano player and bassist receded into the background.

I deliberated over the sides because, really, how can you choose between macaroni and cheese, candied yams, black-eyed peas and collard greens? I went healthy with the peas but then killed the whole notion by ordering the macaroni and cheese. My friend opted for the greens and yams.

The chicken was moist, juicy and meaty, and the pieces were well sized. But onto the true test: the skin. Instead of being heavily breaded, it was thin and crispy with a little spice. Following my tablemate’s lead, I tried the chicken with hot sauce, which was a novel way for me to eat it. I liked it that way, but the bird had more than enough seasoning for my tastes without the extra kick. Though a tough critic, my friend gave the signature dish strong marks. She was less won over by the sides, saying the kitchen should use more butter for the yams and add cinnamon and nutmeg. She also wanted more heat in the greens. The macaroni was light on cheese, which worked for me because we were eating such heavy foods. I stuffed myself on that and the peas so that I could have some leftover chicken and cornbread to savor at home.

Dessert was banana pudding. It was small and light after a big meal, which was definitely a good idea. But for me, a Southern dinner ends with peach cobbler, so hopefully the menu will have at least two items featured for summer.

Now that I have tasted the legendary Charles Gabriel chicken, I must head uptown to Harlem. Life is too short for just a one-night-a-week indulgence.

Aretsky’s Patroon
160 E. 46th St.
Between Lexington and Third avenues
Fried chicken dinner: $25

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Bird is the Word

Written by Leonard Jacobs on . Posted in Posts, Theater.

The Seagull
Through Dec. 21, Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W. 48th St. (betw. B’way & 8th Ave.), 212-239-6200; $25-$110.

Something about the handsome, enviably structured face of Kristin Scott
Thomas, now reprising her Olivier Award-winning performance as Arkadina
in Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull on Broadway, seems designed to mislead.
Arkadina is probably the most colorful and complex actress-character
envisioned by any playwright, and the great virtue of Thomas’
performance is that her lean face is unfailingly empathy inducing, no
matter what side of her we’re seeing. Thomas is then able to accent her
moment by using her lithe body, which would appear to have been gently
poured into Hildegarde Bechtler’s costumes.

Delicately, deliberately, Thomas communicates each shimmering,
stammering aspect of Arkadina, but she never has one of the aspects
contradict another. Rather, her performance is a case study of a woman
wholly at an emotional remove from who she truly is on the inside—very
much, if you will, an actress. In the presence of her son, the dark,
troubled and ultimately suicidal Konstantin, played by the gaunt, goony
Mackenzie Crook, Thomas’ Arkadina is maternal but never motherly—that
would demand an investment of care considerably steeper than the
Russian steppes. In the presence of her lover, the poet Trigorin,
played rather shallowly by Peter Sarsgaard, Thomas can be kicky as a
schoolgirl. Yet something about that face—that high forehead, those
smallish eyes, that broad mouth—tells you that Arkadina knows full well
how her relationship with the poet will end. How, indeed, all the
relationships in Chekhov’s piece will fall tragically into place.

Nuance, you see, is the ethanol of a Chekhov play. In the century since
the master’s death, there is still a reason why caffeine-driven college
professors engage their students in debates over what is “seriocomic”
and how it is to be played on stage. Ian Rickson’s direction of The
Seagull, tautly adapted by Christopher Hampton, is often so shot
through with nuance that it can be an absolute pleasure. For example,
there’s the reliably inimitable performance of Zoe Kazan as Masha,
burning in her unrequited love for Konstantin. At the same time,
Rickson’s revival occasionally stumbles is in its pacing—by which I
don’t mean it is uneven. Instead, it’s as if the director is unaware,
at least until well into Act 2, that The Seagull needs doom and gloom
to bubble beneath the Chekhovian mirth. I was so amused and diverted by
the nuance of the actors’ performances that I almost forgot what
melancholy fortunes await the characters. It’s a choice, but it seems
to me in retrospect that the comic needed a little more serio.

The production elements, too, weirdly strafe the surface. The Seagull
is lit a hair too darkly by Peter Mumford in Act 1 (even with the play
beginning at dusk), so it becomes a strain to see all the subterranean
feelings being otherwise expressed by the actors through inflections
and body language. Then, in Act 2, the rustic and rather unattractive
upstage wall is finally removed, unveiling a drawing room interior of
peeling wallpaper and chipped walls that help to fill in many of the
plotting blanks.

There is a temptation to compare this production of The Seagull to the
most recent New York revival of the play—at off-Broadway’s Classic
Stage Company a few months ago. The most profound difference is all
about age: Whereas Dianne Weist’s Arkadina at CSC body surfed wave
after wave of arch narcissism, Thomas subsumes her vanity through
spellbinding showmanship. Think of it this way: With Thomas’ long and
dreamy figure, she is like a beautiful suit of worsted wool compared to
the high-waisted Weist.

How sad, then, that Sarsgaard impresses so lightly. In the face of
Thomas’ powerhouse performance as a woman unplugged from her own source
of electricity, Sarsgaard, who also portrayed Trigorin in London, wafts
through his scenes as if motored by air, his face obscured by a bushy
beard. Perhaps the seriocomedy is hiding far beneath it.