Can you spot Karen?
I just got back from two weeks in NY and I’m absolutely drained. If the heat hadn’t gotten me, the activity did. But I ate in some really fun places and met the nicest people. And experienced a Fourth of July Miracle!
More on all that later, but first, the reason I came back to LA when I did: The opening night of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I told you it was coming last week, and here it is! I anticipate it each year like a kid! I was practically jumping out of my skin.
For the opening, they always have a party beforehand, so kids can attend and not have to stay up past the show. (Great idea--feed kids sugar and then ask them to sit still as audience members.)
Usually, the party’s outside, in a tent, I guess so that some part of the festivities is presented like an original circus. But the parking lots at Staples are under construction now, so we partied upstairs in one of the VIP areas. (Get those kiddies started young on VIP areas!)
The food was good enough and included mini-cheeseburgers, quesadillas, chocolate chip cookies, and most importantly, popcorn…and more popcorn! We kids received goodie bags, so I was too excited to eat anyway.
Necessary digression: when I was a little girl, I loved the book, “That’s My Favorite.” The story itself, though short, is too long to recount here. Suffice it to say that the lesson it teaches is that no matter what you think a future experience is going to be, based on past ones, it can always be different and surprising. (Remember this for future writings because I refer to it always in life.)
Such was the case last night. Not only have I seen a circus almost every year of my life, which means I’ve seen around 30, but I was IN one (see last week’s column), so I was quite surprised by this edition.
Feld Entertainment is trying something new, and this time there was just one giant ring instead of the usual three. That bucked tradition, but did make it easier to concentrate on the act in progress.
There was an act with regular housecats, but no lions or tigers (or bears, oh my.) There was no star clown, but more group clown numbers. There was no trapeze family, but a second act performance by Super Silva that was even more astounding than his usual tricks.
They also added a giant screen, which was definitely helpful in some instances. But they annoyed some of us by going for an actual storyline, that was confusing and unnecessary.
The acrobats were outstanding. Don’t be late because the first real number is beautiful. (It involves yellow hats.)
Actually, get there an hour early anyway because, no matter where your seats are for the show, everyone gets to go right down to the floor and see the pre-show up close and personal. That just might be the best part to some!
Old schoolers like me were less than thrilled with some of the changes, but the kids were going nuts. And isn’t that what a circus is really all about?
Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus
Staples Center July 19-23
Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim July 26-Aug. 6
Andre Agassi will compete in Los Angeles as a pro for the last time before he retires in September
Every July, I spend a week at UCLA attending the Mercedes-Benz Cup tennis tournament. This year, the name changed to the Countrywide Classic.
I’ll still be there, because I love tennis, but I’m usually in the sponsor’s tent, dining on culinarily-creative catering . That may not be possible this year since I don’t even know what Countrywide does! (But they are always kind enough to hand out the smoothest-writing pens and cardboard paddles to fan yourself with.) So, sadly, I may not be able to review the food.
But the event itself is always amazing. Andre Agassi, the defending champ, is due to compete, which is even more special than in past years. He’s retiring after the US Open in September, so this will be LA’s last time to watch him in person. I’m definitely not missing that!
As of press time, some other scheduled name players (in order of cuteness) are Marat Safin, Tommy Haas, Robby Ginepri, Lleyton Hewitt, and Mardy Fish. Those of you familiar with me, but not with this tournament, might notice why I love it so much. It’s all guys! My dream come true. And if Andre wins again, the dream of all tennis fans will come true, too.
Countrywide Classic July 24-30 Los Angeles Tennis Center at UCLA
I was in NY for 2 reasons:
1)to visit my little mother, May Rose Salkin, the Poet Laureate of Aspen for the past 30 years, who now stays at home in Brooklyn for the summer. I figured if she can handle it, I’d give it a shot. I hadn’t been there in the summer since I was a teen!
Despite the heat, I had the best time, with Coney Island and all, and will review the fabulous restaurants I found in New York over the next few weeks.
2) to attend the Fancy Food Show at the Jacob Javits Center, which should be re-named the Karen Salkin Center for all the days and hours I just spent there.
I would love to show you pictures of all the fabulous products I discovered, but for some strange reason, the gorgons at the gate took all our samples from us as we left! Not just me, but all attendees! How insane.
The exhibitors make up these samples, at no small expense, I’m sure, so the buyers and press can go home and try them. Taking them from us makes no sense and ruins relations for the companies who are paying a pretty penny to get their products seen.
But I, being the genius that I am, set up my favorites to show on “Karen’s Restaurant Revue.” I’ll let you know when that is so you can take a look at the fanciest foods.
Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory is right under this bridge. .
And lastly, my 4th of July in Brooklyn. As I predicted in this column 3 weeks ago, none of my NY friends were fun enough to celebrate. I love them, and they’re fun at other times, but not this holiday.
On the other hand, my mother’s friends, Sylvia and Luis Reichman, were good enough to take us to brunch, which is always the way to start off a holiday.
Everyone told me that the big thing to do in NY on the 4th is go shopping, which sounded strange, but when in Rome… So I tried, but Kings Highway, a big shopping district, was a ghost town. What were my friends thinking?!
On my Spring trip, I had discovered the best ice cream in the world at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, under the Brooklyn Bridge, which is my favorite structure, by the way. Always fascinating. I begged my mother to go there with me, but even my own mother deserted me. This day was making me want a twin even more than I already do.
So, I ventured to the bridge on my own, figuring everyone would be in Coney Island (the other side of Brooklyn) for the fireworks. Two minutes into the trip, I realized I was starving and felt weak, and couldn’t get to the fabulous ice cream fast enough.
When I got to the area, it was a zoo. Turns out, all of Brooklyn (and Jersey, Philly, etc.) gathers there because there’s a giant deck where you can watch the Macy’s fireworks! Who knew?!!!
All the cops were unusually nice, and by some miracle, I got to park right in front of the River Café, which is adjacent to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, which is on the deck. I couldn’t believe it! (And neither can the Nervous Nellies of New York, who say you can’t park anywhere, anytime.)
It was 8:55PM, and I ran around to the front of the ice cream bungalow, thinking I’d grab a cone in time to watch the show. Then the reality--there was a line of about 60 people! And to make it worse for me, everyone seemed to have friends or family with them, which made me a tad lonely, although I knew I didn’t need another person to help me eat or see.
I talked a little to the guy behind me, Jorge, though we didn’t even do names at the time. His girlfriend, Sophia, showed up and said she thought they had just vanilla left. I said, “Oh no! I have to have Peaches and Cream!” And went on for 5 minutes about how delicious it is.
I finally got to the door at 9:25, just as they were about to close it, and the fireworks started. Everyone around me crushed into the place, but I made the executive decision that, although I was starving, craving the ice cream, and COULD make it through the door, the fireworks were more important because how often am I going to get to see the Macy’s ones in person? And so close-up?
So, I very reluctantly dropped off the line and stood on the top step of the stoop to watch. The girl next to me, Faith, said she was desperate for ice cream and that she was the first to get shut out. I was telling her my journey there, and that I had to give up the ice cream I had dreamed of since April, when I saw her look behind my back and gasp.
So, I turned around and saw a cup coming toward me and heard someone say “Peaches and Cream.” It was Jorge, who had gotten inside and surprised me with it!!! I couldn’t believe it! I thanked him profusely and tried to re-imburse him, but he just walked into the night. A truly kind, generous stranger! I said, “A fourth of July miracle,” and started crying, (as I’m doing now even writing about it.)
Faith said, “Don’t cry, you’ll get me started, too.” I said she must share my good fortune. At first, she protested, knowing how much I wanted the ice cream, but I insisted. I knew how much she wanted it, too.
So, we got an extra spoon and happily chowed down. Sharing it made it taste that much better. And I’m a firm believer in paying it forward.
And one of the managers came out, and gave us cards for a discount on our next visit. Lahsen lived up to it, and more, when I returned 2 days later with my mother. He gave me a taste of the ice cream as it was being made, before it’s frozen. I don’t even love vanilla ice cream, but that is the best substance I've ever tasted!
Later that week, I was perusing a Reader’s Digest of my mother’s. It said NY is the most polite city in the world. I would not have believed it if it weren’t for my true Fourth of July Miracle.
Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory at Fulton Ferry Landing Pier