The Winter’s Tale is running at McCarter Theatre until April 21st. Director Rebecca Taichman has trimmed the piece to eliminate redundant dialog and a more extensive cast. Her interpretation is refreshing.
Typical to Shakespearean plays, there is tragedy and comic relief. Jealousy rears its ugly head as two kings, who were the best of friends since childhood, have become enemies. King Leontes of Sicilia (Mark Harelik) suspects his pregnant wife Hermione (Hannah Yelland) of infidelity, and his friend Polixenes, King of Bohemia (Sean Arbuckle) of being the father. Read the plot here.
We begin in Sicilia, get transported to the Bohemian countryside, and are brought back to the Sicilian court in this romantic comedy of sorts. However, the romance was not between Hermione and Polixenes.
The execution of this was brilliant. The play opened in Sicilia, with all wearing dark clothing. The feelings of betrayal, jealousy, revenge, and death were dark and intense, and the set matched the mood. Harelik skillfully morphed from a loving husband and friend to a manic, green-eyed monster within a minute. Yelland and Arbuckle also had strong performances as the unsuspecting victims, and were supported wonderfully by the cast, especially Camillo, a Sicilian Lord played by Brent Carver.
The transition from the Sicilian palace to the Bohemian countryside went from black and white to surreal colors. The set was vivid with large, colorful butterflies, a backdrop of a blue sky and green rolling hills, bold lighting, and cut outs of sheep, along with a stuffed one placed around the stage. The shepherds were all wearing rich colors, and the mood shifted from dark to light, echoing the love that Florizel (Todd Bartels) had for Perdita (Heather Wood). Bartels and Wood were easy to connect with, as they convinced you to root for their characters as a couple.
The old English dialog was a bit quick in the beginning, so I highly recommend reading the plot before you attend. The characters wore 21st century clothing, which made it more relatable, yet the language retained the essence of Shakespeare. I liked that the actors pulled double duty with each having a role in Sicilia and Bohemia. The three musicians who initially performed backstage, came out to play amongst the actors, so they had dual roles as well.
Anyone who has seen Taichman’s previous works (Sleeping Beauty Wakes and Twelfth Night) knows her genius, and attention to detail. I saw this with three friends, who all agreed that this was a wonderful production with extraordinary performances, and the cast received a standing ovation.
In my affected British accent: “I implore you to see Rebecca Taichman’s brilliant production of The Winter’s Tale at the McCarter Theatre. You shan’t regret it”, especially if you’re a fan of the Bard!
Before Oprah brought Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz to your home via TV, there was Dr. Ruth Westheimer giving advice on the radio. But she wasn’t talking about diets or social behavior.
Dr. Ruth’s groundbreaking show started as a 15 minute pre-recorded program, but gained an audience. While it was considered risqué at the time, the show went live, and catapulted her into celebrity. In the meanwhile, Westheimer’s expertise as a psychosexual therapist has expanded to books, computer software, games, home video, newspapers, television, and her own website.
Whether or not you’re a fan of 50 Shades of Grey, you should check out Dr. Ruth on Wednesday, April 17th, when she’ll be speaking about her life, career, and I’m sure sex, all in a way to inspire us thanks to SmartTalk. The performance at the State Theatre begins at 7:30 PM, and tickets are still available, so pay her a visit and hear what the good doctor has to say.
Spring is finally here, which means people are itching to get outside. Princeton sidewalks will start to fill with shoppers and tourists as the temps heat up. All that walking around works up an appetite, and since there are so many eateries in town, why not stop for some food and beverage?
Luckily for us, we can still stay connected with the great outdoors by selecting a restaurant or a shop with outdoor seating. Many say food tastes better when enjoyed outdoors, so this may be why Princeton has a number of sidewalk cafes, making dining al fresco a breeze (pun intended). Here is a guide of outdoor dining in Princeton. If I’ve missed a restaurant, please add it in the comment section below.
Agricola – A new restaurant in town offering New American food, and can seat 14 outside.
Alchemist & Barrister – This is an old favorite with section that’s more like a sunroom located next to the passageway connecting Witherspoon Street and Palmer Square East.
Blue Point Grill – This is one of the best seafood restaurants in the area. They have space heaters and are partially covered by awnings.
Camillo’s Cafe – This Italian restaurant is at the back of the Princeton Shopping Center. They have tables covered by an awning along its side.
EFES Mediterranean Grill – Enjoy Turkish cuisine on Nassau St. Limited seating.
Gennaro’s Restaurant – Italian fare served just north of the borough on the northbound side of Rt. 206.
Hinds Plaza – This is next to the library and has several tables. During warmer weather the tables have umbrellas, and the Farmers’ Market provides musical entertainment around lunch time. You can grab your lunch from any nearby merchants like Olives, Sakura, Red Onion, Iano’s, or from stands at the market, and sit and eat. It’s almost like a food court… just the best one ever!
Ivy Inn – This Nassau Street pub just expanded their menu and has seating in the back.
La Mezzaluna – Italian food with a few tables out on Witherspoon.
Main Street Bistro & Bar – They have the Clocktower Cabana Patio Bar in the courtyard of the Princeton Shopping Center. They serve food and tropical drinks. It’s like being on vacation.
Mediterra – Feast on Mediterranean cuisine while overlooking a courtyard with a circular fountain and Palmer Square West. Very European! They’re looking into heating (infrared) that will work with their new retractable roof.
Mehek – Indian restaurant offering a few tables on Nassau Street.
Metro North (Princeton) – It’s on the outskirts of Princeton and offers more space with seating for 50.
Mistral – Courtesy of the owners of elements, this new eatery will open in weeks, and will be on the corner of Witherspoon and Hulfish with a large patio for 40.
Nassau Sushi – On Nassau Street but has outdoor eating in the back off to the side. You can get glimpses of Nassau depending on where you sit.
Palmer Square – While there are no tables, there are benches available. You can sit and enjoy a sandwich and drink if you don’t mind a more casual meal.
Panera Bread (Nassau St.) – They have a new pasta menu. Limited seating on the sidewalk.
PJ’s Pancake House – Serving more than just breakfast to a few tables on Nassau Street.
Princeton Soup and Sandwich Company - A handful of tables on Palmer Square East and Hulfish.
Small World Coffee (Nassau St.) - Limited seating on the sidewalk.
Thai Village – Thai food with some tables on Nassau Street.
Thomas Sweet (Nassau St.) - Shares a few tables with Zorba Grill recessed off Nassau.
Tiger Noodles – Most popular Chinese restaurant in town located on Nassau Street with recessed outdoor dining.
Witherspoon Grill – Sit at the back of Hinds Plaza and watch people walking along Witherspoon Street or popping into the library.
Yankee Doodle Tap Room – Another great Palmer Square location to eat al fresco. This beautiful patio is quite popular, serves New American cuisine, and has umbrellas and space heaters.
Zorba’s Grill - Shares a few tables with Thomas Sweets recessed off Nassau.
The Yankee Doodle Tap Room of the Nassau Inn dates back to 1937, and is rich in history. It has been patronized by both town and gown over the decades, but its apparent relationship with Princeton University is evident based on the photos of famous grads on the wall. The recent addition of First Lady Michelle Obama’s photo joins Brooke Shields as the only two females hanging in a sea of famous faces.
The rustic tap room has booths along the walls with oak tables that have names and initials carved into them, which is a reminder of the 19th century traditions of the university. On my recent visit I sat at the booth where Einstein carved his name. Even as a resident, it never gets old for me. I love the history here, and this restaurant is a great place to be surrounded by things like the original Norman Rockwell mural behind the bar given to the tap room by the artist.
The Yankee Doodle Tap Room was included on New Jersey Monthly’s list of “The Top Tap Rooms: Great Jersey Bars for Beer Connoisseurs”. That’s probably due largely to the 19 craft beers on tap, and they’ll be adding more kegerators to boost that number to 22!
I was invited to sample the new spring menu, which hasn’t been listed yet. As we sat waiting for the first dish to arrive, I was told that the executive chef, Michael LaCorte, had recently returned. CIA grad LeCorte worked at a few restaurants, including The River Cafe with celebrity chef David Burke before working at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room. He left to start the (now 4-star) restaurant Verve in Somerville with a friend, and is now back to share his skills once again with the Princeton crowd. Not only do we get a new menu for spring, but also a “new” chef.
Five dishes were brought to the table, one at a time. The New American cuisine featured wonderful colors, varying textures, comforting and classic flavors, and were beautifully plated. Despite the cozy atmosphere, make no mistake, they offer fine dining.
First up was a crab cake over apple slaw. This will be listed under small plates. After the first bite I knew I was in for a treat the remainder of the sampling. There was no heavy filler. This was mostly crab held together by a golden crust. The seasoning didn’t overwhelm the flavor of the crab. I enjoyed the soft center and crunchy exterior paired with the crisp and slightly tart slaw that cut the richness of the crab cake. One of the best I’ve eaten!
Next, a spring mix salad including arugula was served. There were fried medallions of goat cheese, slices of strawberries, and a sprinkling of sliced almonds on the salad, and a drizzle of a balsamic reduction. It was delicious! The combination of sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy, warm and cool, and the peppery undertones of the arugula were balanced nicely by the strawberries. I was told that shrimp, chicken, or hangar steak can be added to this salad.
I LOVE mushrooms, so I couldn’t wait to dig in when I saw the wild mushroom risotto. It was perfectly creamy and the risotto was cooked through (one of my pet peeves). There was a touch of white wine in the dish, and it was topped with shavings of Reggiano Parmigiano, plus there was a drizzle of demi glace. It was heavenly, and I’ll announce it as my favorite. The risotto will be under starters.
Then came a cracked peppercorn crusted pan seared salmon filet on top of green beans, topped with a tarragon sauce, with orange segments and a side of basmati rice with chick peas. The salmon was perfectly cooked. It was moist and buttery accented by the tarragon. The orange segments added the necessary brightness to balance the rich fish and sauce, and the crunch of the green beans was a nice contrast. The rice and chick peas were a good accompaniment to this entrée.
Last but not least were the pan seared sea scallops served with sautéed baby spinach, a tomato marmalade, and basmati rice with chick peas. The scallops had a nice golden crust (but could’ve been just a tad bit crisper for me), and were perfectly moist inside. The flavor was pure and delicious. The tomato marmalade provided a good acidity against the scallops. This is also under entrées.
Perhaps I’m a little biased because this dishes are amongst my favorites, but then again, I might also be more critical because of this. No matter how you look at it, I thought these would be fantastic additions to the Yankee Doodle Tap Room spring menu. It’s a pity they’re tucked inside the Nassau Inn, because they’d get more exposure if it would have a street entrance like the other restaurants in town. I think this will be a restaurant to watch with Chef LeCorte being back, especially since I hear he’s working on a killer burger.
The United Front Against Riverblindness (UFAR) is a non-profit organization led by Executive Director, and Chairman by Dr. Daniel Shungu. UFAR works in partnership with other organizations to combat riverblindness in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Last weekend they held their 4th annual African Soirée, which is a dinner and auction, to raise funds for their cause.
The check-in area already had an African marketplace ambience, with diashikis on racks, shoulder bags and other items for sale. The check-in table had a photo of a war canoe with about 30 people seated on it, and in front of it was a 3D model representing it.
Once inside, teens wearing colorful dashikis passed flavorful hors d’oeuvres. The tablescapes beautifully re-created African villages, each with a mini thatch roof hut in the center and wooden female figures surround it. Everyone received a hand-crafted figure as a gift.
Drummers and percussionists from The Garvey School/Egun Omode Shule started playing, and had the audience participating by singing and clapping. Once we got warmed up, female dancers came in ranging from approximately 14 down to five years of age. They all danced perfectly synchronized, including the little ones.
Soon after, the dinner buffet opened. I saw some dishes I’ve never heard of, but did recognize many. Plantains, peanut soup, goat stew, cassava, bitter greens and more were offered. People were buzzing about the new flavors as they tasted the exotic foods.
We celebrated former Princeton Township Mayor James Floyd’s 91st birthday with a cake, and another former Princeton Township Mayor, Michelle Tuck Ponder was the auctioneer of the evening. Quilts, artwork, and clothing were auctioned off for the benefit.
The planning committee consisted of Elsie McKee (below left) and Susan Lidstone (below right), and they did a fabulous job! Overall, it was a wonderful cultural experience for an important cause. I hope to see you there next year!
Bonnie St. John will be speaking as part of the SmartTalk series at the State Theatre in New Brunswick this Wednesday. She is a remarkable woman who has challenged herself, and has become an Olympic athlete. Not that everyone has the discipline or talent to become an Olympic athlete, but what makes her MORE unique is she is an amputee. While amputee olympian Oscar Pistorius is in the news for all the wrong reasons at the moment, Bonnie St. John is spreading positivity.
She is the first African-American to win medals in Paralympics competition. In 1984 she won two bronze medals and one silver in Innsbruck, and she spoke at the 2002 Paralympics in Salt Lake City. Bonnie is a magna cum laude Harvard grad AND Rhodes scholar. She’s worked in the White House during the Clinton administration, and has authored six books.
This is just a sample of her work, which is probably why NBC Nightly News selected St. John as “One of the five most inspiring women in America”. You can still buy tickets to see her on March 11th at 7:30. Use the promo code “Bigpromo” to get 20% off. I’m also giving away two tickets to see her. Just write that you’d like to see her in the comment section, and I’ll announce the winner tomorrow. Good luck!