Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Want to know a secret?
The Secret Art Space is on Rink Street, near Vine Street, on the South Side of Bethlehem (very close to Deja Brew Coffeehouse - look for the green door).
The first-ever LV Ladyfest will be taking place there on January 2, featuring Fursaxa, Bad Temple, Ninjessa, Dark Circles, and Mad O, "a celebration of bands in the Lehigh Valley that have female musicians." Fursaxa is the only artist I'm familiar with; Tara's music is considered "acid folk." Overall I'd say they're mostly punk rock/indie but most indie groups defy classification in my mind. Check out the links above for more information and free previews of each group's music.
Randi from Comfort & Joy (105 East 3rd Street, Bethlehem) was bragging about her daughter's band, Ninjessa; she said that in addition to being insanely talented, the members are beautiful women and good cooks.
Secret Art Space is home to some of the the most free form, creative art gatherings in the area. If you have an itch for some original music (and it seems like some of you might, based on your recent comments), this would be a good place to scratch it. Doors open at 6 p.m., bands go on at 7. Cover $6-8.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
I picked up your latest issue in a plastic box outside Christkindlmarkt last week, and I'm writing to let you know that I have a beef with your "Best albums of 2009" article. I realize that Andy Hermann is the national music editor of Metromix, and he's probably never been to the Lehigh Valley, PA. But your list of the best albums (online content via NYC Metromix - TMC has not posted it online yet) does not even remotely reflect the musical sensibility of most Lehigh Valleyans.
If your intent was to educate the masses about "real" music, it falls on deaf ears. We in the Lehigh Valley have lots of opportunities to rock out to live music, but most of it is by way of cover bands. Some are more metal, some are more classic rock, others pop or punk; however, I doubt any of them covered a song from your #1 album, "Middle Cyclone," by Neko Case. If one did, I would be belly-up to the bar singing "Man-man-man, man-man-man eater" at the top of my lungs with the one other Neko Case fan in the Lehigh Valley.
But Neko Case didn't stop in our at any of our great local venues like Godfrey Daniels (7 East Fourth Street, Bethlehem), Porter's Pub (700 Northampton Street, Easton), or Crocodile Rock (520 Hamilton Street, Allentown). She did perform at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside last April. She also played two shows at my favorite live music venue in Washington, DC, the 9:30 Club, where I once took in performances by artists like Ryan Adams, Kasey Chambers, Basement Jaxx, Zero 7, Pete Yorn, Old 97s, Mindy Smith, and Keane. She never came to the Lehigh Valley, because her record company believes that there is no audience for her here.
People like me, displaced music fans, have a couple of options:
- Make regular pilgrimages to the Keswick, the TLA, Electric Factory, or a venue in New York City, pray that Zoellner Arts Center or Musikfest will book a band or two we like, and count the days until SteelStacks is a reality
- Listen to Internet radio, WXPN out of Philadelphia, or WDIY's The Blend, and read Paste Magazine, SPIN and Rolling Stone
- Do as the Romans do - enjoy covers and the occasional original song by the bands we have, and hope that somewhere near the end of the set, when they think we're all good and liquored up, that the band will go out on a limb and play a tune by Vampire Weekend
Metromix, I am disappointed. Your writers could have spent a few hours researching an article on the top 10 list of the best concerts that came to the Lehigh Valley in 2009 - it would have been easy enough, since you print their listings every week! By publishing this list, you have proven how little local content you are actually interested in providing to readers, and I think that's a shame.
Lehigh Valley Transplant
Friday, December 18, 2009
Potbelly started in 1977 when a little antique store on Lincoln Avenue in
Chicago started selling toasted sandwiches (right along with vintage stoves, old
books and other knick knacks) to boost business.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
I know of only one, and it's my friend Eric Gensel, who is a terrific photographer, former colleague, and dear friend. His company is On 3 Imaging.
Eric is responsible for the portraits on this blog, which are scheduled to appear alongside my first Lehigh Valley Style column in March. I am sincerely grateful. Also, special thanks to his beautiful wife Kinsey, whom I've known since high school, for the inspiration to use the Brew Works bar and for her patience!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Last week I joined a group of commercial real estate brokers and developers on the West End of Allentown for a walking tour of 19th Street and a preview of what's to come.
Frank Shipman gave us an update on what's going on in the former Shanty Restaurant. The building will soon be a salon and spa with a full-service restaurant. He is looking for a distinctive eatery to lease the 3,000 square foot frontage of their space. Then we visited the Civic Theatre (527 North 19th Street, Allentown), where my family will be enjoying the annual production of "A Christmas Carol" on Friday night. We heard about the West End Alliance's efforts to improve the quality of life in their urban neighborhood. The Alliance put together "19 Fun Facts About 19th Street," an inspiring list for any neighborhood, let alone one in Allentown! A few tidibits I didn't know: The Allentown Farmers Market attracts 25,000 people weekly, and the West End has its own dinner theater, Pines Dinner Theater (448 North 17th Street, Allentown).
When I saw the sign for Step in 4 Mor (1823 W Allen St., Allentown - a block off 19th Street) when I was turning around to go home, I pulled in to the parking lot. Niki told me about the store, which is owned and operated by her friend, Muhlenberg College alum Stephanie Morffi. I'd seen her ads, and I've been told that if I liked Shuze, that I should check out what Steph's got going on in Allentown. Steph and Vino, her adorable dog, were inside the store when I stepped in. Steph's done a great job selecting beautiful, of-the-moment shoes. I picked up a pair of Sam Edelman ballet flats with a crocodile-patterned leather and leopard-print fabric lining, and definitely selected an outfit to go with them today so that I could break them in! The store also has a fully-stocked wine fridge, some perfect housewarming gifts for holiday parties (including a girlie flask with hot cocoa mix), and great accessories you might just want to gift to yourself.
Check out little Vino, posing on the zebra-print settee!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
It has become customary that my dad, sister, and I bear the selfish Black Friday crowds at the Lehigh Valley Mall for a few deals and steals, but this year I want to focus my energy into seeking out unique gifts while helping our local economy at the same time.And today even the Chamber of Commerce asked for businesses to pledge to shop locally:
The pledge is simple: businesses, whether they are members or not, pledge to shift 5% of their spending from out of the Valley to back in. According to our statistics, if every business in the Valley took this pledge, an additional $100 million would be spent in the Lehigh Valley.I realize that not everything on your list is going to be available in an independently-owned local business, but to the extent that it's possible, give it a shot. It might mean one extra trip in the car, but maybe you'll start a new holiday tradition of shopping in a downtown area, or discover a whole new shopping experience. If you have already done some local shopping, how did it go? Did you find anything completely surprising or unique?
Saturday, December 12, 2009
The Great Good Place argues that "third places" - where people can gather, putFor people living in big cities, open space and community gathering spaces are key. Apartments are small and many people don't have cars or prefer not to use them to get around. So their little neighborhood joints become part living room, part kitchen, part remote office, part conference room. The people who work at these businesses, and the other people who hang out there regularly, become a second (or third) family.
aside the concerns of work and home, and hang out simply for the pleasures of
good company and lively conversation - are the heart of a community's social
vitality and the grassroots of democracy.
In a region like the Lehigh Valley, it's easy to get into a rhythm of driving from home to work and back again without getting to know your neighbors or spending any significant amount of time anywhere else. There are a lot of private clubs in the area, where mainly locals meet for cheap eats and drinks, gambling (shh...) and sometimes entertainment. But what about those of us who are new to the area? Especially if we aren't the kind of person to hang around a coffee shop and strike up conversations with complete strangers who might just be there to pick up something to drink and head back home or to work?
Do you have a Third Place? Would you nominate some of the best Third Places that might be a good place for a transplant to meet other like-minded individuals?
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Danielle and I had lunch at General Zapata (15 East 4th Street, South Side Bethlehem, a.k.a. GZ) last week. I'd been there a couple of times before (notably, once with the gang from RenewLV) and even ordered some quesadillas for a little office open house we held last Friday night.
The restaurant's name pays tribute to the former Zapata's Place (ZP) on Stefko Boulevard, where Rick worked for 10 years. Rick told me that even the hot sauce on each table is an homage to ZP's owner. Rick's extended family operates Amigo Mio (545 Cleveland Street, Allentown), a place known as much for its incredible food as it is for its strict rules (open 6-9 p.m., cash only, long waits because staff is limited). In addition to great Mexican, General Zapata's also includes cuisine from Rick and Carmen's Puerto Rican heritage. Rick makes the tortillas from SCRATCH, people. That means they are seriously fresh and chewy, not rubbery from refrigeration like the kind you get at many Mexican places. He also sources his beef and some other ingredients locally.
GZ open its 30-seat Mexican/Caribbean fusion dining room in May. When it's full (as it's been many lunches and dinners since it received a positive review from The Morning Call), it's tough to get in. I adore this size of restaurant; many are BYOBs and usually, the owner's in the back cooking up a storm or in the front, making sure everyone is comfortable. Sette Luna (219 Ferry St., Easton) started out about that size (before expanding into the space next-door). Sagra Bistro (620 Main St., Hellertown) seats about 30 in the dining room. The Cafe (221 W. Broad St., Bethlehem) probably seats about 50 in two separate, intimate rooms. You get a cozy feeling in a place that size. I know there are other restaurants this size - did I miss any gems?
Speaking of Mexican, Danielle told me that Fiesta Ole is opening where Fuddrucker's was (2955 Linden Street, Bethlehem), and then I read about it in Retail Watch. She is not the first person to tell me that Fiesta Ole is good stuff. But Mike at Beyond Scrapple (and Capri) panned it, so I'll need to investigate for myself. There are now three locations (in addition to Bethlehem, at 1116 Chestnut Street, Emmaus and 1808 MacArthur Road, Whitehall) in the Valley and two in Reading.
Monday, December 07, 2009
The second annual Nazareth Area Holiday House Tour (to benefit the Nazareth Center for the Arts) is Saturday, December 12, 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. In addition to the Nazareth Center for the Arts, nine other properties in Nazareth and Bushkill Township will be included on the house tour. Each home will feature art by a local artist and live music. Tickets are $20.
The Center's blog has more information about the house tour, and lists a few upcoming events. Their current web site is a bit sickly. When you're in Nazareth visiting the Center for the Arts, check out one of these great restaurants (just one or two blocks from the new Center for the Arts):
- Rios Brazilian Steak House (a meaty bonanza at 127 South Broad Street)
- Hana Sushi (just opened last month at 6 Belvidere Street)
- Main Street Garden Cafe (lunch only, 52 South Main Street)
- Bistro on Main (replaced Dutch N Such at 47 South Main Street)
Sunday, December 06, 2009
I was thinking to myself that it might be the only Middle Eastern restaurant in Easton. Both Olive Branch Cafe & Restaurant (355 Broadway, Bethlehem) and Petra Mediterranean (81 W Broad St, Bethlehem) feature Middle Eastern dishes, but I think Allentown has cornered the market on real Middle Eastern food in the Lehigh Valley: Damascus Restaurant (449 North 2nd Street, Allentown); Habibi Sweetheart Restaurant (1429 Lehigh Street, Allentown); and Aladdin Restaurant (651 Union Boulevard, Allentown). I know there are some loyal LVT blog readers who are big fans of Middle Eastern cuisine - what's your favorite? I know that Petra's food is a little Moroccan and a little Jordanian, Habibi is Jordanian, and Phoenicia will be Lebanese. From where in the Middle East do the others originate?
Also, does Easton have room for another fabulous restaurant? (Sort of a rhetorical question.)