Monday, June 04, 2012



My friend Jeffers scored tickets to a "culinary adventure" on Sunday evening and invited me along. The theme was "The eve of the 1939 World's Fair in New York City" and black tie/period costume was encouraged.

Period costume for 1939? I was stumped. It was the end of the Great Depression. FDR was president. Both Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz were big movie releases. Germany invaded Poland. That was pretty much all I knew of 1939. How to translate that into a costume?

Enter: the little black dress. Scour: cheap wholesale jewelry stores south of Herald Square for faux-vintage jewels and accessories. Find: seamed stockings at an old-school hosiery store.  

Results: 1939-ish enough. Lessons learned: seamed stockings are surprisingly difficult to get on straight!  And, if given 5 minutes and 19 bobby pins, I can fashion a pretty convincing up-do.

In between class acts...a rabbi (?) dances to his own beat.

The event was held at the McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea, which is of course not a hotel at all. It's the very elaborate set of the interactive theater experience, Sleep No More, which has been playing in New York for over a year to enthusiastic (and packed) audiences.

The folks behind Sleep No More partnered with Underground Eats and chef Marc Murphy to create Sunday's festivities - entitled "Absurdity at the McKittrick." In their own words:
"This is not a seated dinner, it is literally a moveable feast: you will explore two different environments of plenteous passed plates reflecting the period, interactive stations, and theatrical serving concepts. Live music and free-flowing period cocktails will set the mood."
Sign me up!  Jeffers and I arrived at the appointed time and took our place in line with other well-heeled strangers. A man, dressed as an old-fashioned bather, exited a cab holding a beach ball. Another, dressed as Salvador Dali, exited a town car filled with cauliflower (a historical reference lost on me, until Google filled me in later).

The doors opened with fanfare at 6:30pm, and we were ushered into a dark hallway, which led to a really dark hallway, which twisted around and made sharp turns until we reached another dark hallway, which finally opened onto a room containing a giant table of crudites, next to which sat a man forlornly peeling carrots. And so it began.

A bugler with a pencil-thin mustache...and a charming chanteuse.

After the crudites room came other spaces to explore - a lounge area (pictured above), the hotel's lobby, and other nooks & crannies. And food stations - there was food e-v-e-r-y-where. Lobster, shrimp, suckling pig, charcuterie and aged cheeses, grilled sausage, pickled vegetables, cod sushi, goat cheese & mushroom profiteroles, fava bean canapes arranged on chess boards, and cubes of filet mignon on passed plates.

Tuxedo'd barkeeps liberally ladled three kinds of punches: the watermelon one was good, the Scotch & scorched orange even better, and the Spiced Rum? I could've married that punch.

As we ate our way around the hotel space, we ran into some 1939 figures of note: "Albert Einstein" was happily posing for pictures, and "Josephine Baker" was always ready for a dance. Two 1939-ish bands played in each of the main rooms; if Gelber & Manning had sung for hours without ceasing, it would've been all right by me.

Gift bags in hand, the walk back
to civilization begins.

But all good things must end, and Absurdity must, too, apparently. The suckling pigs were wheeled away, the cubes of filet and other savory foods were transitioned out, and trays of bite-size lemon meringue pies and chocolate truffles were passed around instead. Gelber & Manning packed it up, leaving just the other band to entertain. "Josephine Baker" led us in one last enthusiastic dance.

Then we drifted away - past the crudites man (now up to his shins in carrot peels) - down the dark & winding hallways - out into the light of West 27th Street, with 10th Avenue beyond, and the Empire State Building glowing blue beyond that.

A crazy-fun night of time-travel and gluttony. 
                             Completely out of my ordinary. 
Appreciated all the more for it.

Sleep No More - carved in stone
on the sidewalk outside


Rosanne said...

OH MY!!!
I SO would have loved to tags along to THAT event! I guess this is just another of the myriad of unique things to d=enjoy n the Big Apple....I will now go eat my bowl of Cheerios....and chanteuse is word that NEEDS to come back into everyday vocabulary....just sayin'.

Rosanne said...

and evidently I need some breakfast protein because I can't spell....:)

look a little closer said...

this looks so awesome! i still have to see SNM. I can't believe i haven't yet!