Yes, Hill Country is a restaurant, but no hostess will seat you and no server will come by to take your order. Instead, arriving patrons are given a meal ticket, which they carry into a Texas-style market. At one counter, they order meats by weight, watching as pitmasters pull their selection from smoking pits fueled with Texas post oak and the menus of lesser barbecue restaurants. The menu includes the signature moist brisket—juicy, fatty morsels that New York Times’ reporter Pete Wells is said to order a pound of every time because it shows “Hill Country’s rotisserie barbecue pits at their finest.” Whatever meat guests choose, it’s carved onto sturdy sheets of butcher paper they carry with them as they stop at additional counters to collect sides and desserts.
Though all meat is served with white bread or crackers, a lineup of sides includes corn pudding, Longhorn cheddar mac ‘n’ cheese, and sweet potato bourbon mash. The dessert case displays temptations such as banana pudding, which Wells gushed is “built upon a custard so thick with eggs and cream it brings Paris to mind.” Guests can return to the counters as many times as they like; each item ordered is noted on their ticket, which they turn in to the cashier at the end of the meal. The menu has some devoted culinary fans—renowned food critic Frank Bruni named Hill Country one of his five favorite restaurants, for instance—but the eatery attracts a musically inclined audience as well. Downstairs in the Boot Bar, a state-of-the-art stage hosts nationally touring blues, alt-country, and honky-tonk acts that have included Dale Wilson and Roseanne Cash. The shows take place Tuesday–Saturday nights, and are often free of charge.
Ann Kamhi Toran credits Pilates practice with saving her dancing career. After a major back injury threatened her ability to continue performing, Ann devoted herself to Pilates, and the exercises helped rehabilitate her body so effectively that she was eventually promoted to soloist after recovering. Although she stopped professionally dancing more than 20 years ago, Ann still practices Pilates daily.
Ann?s husband, Dr. Errol Toran, also is a believer in the rejuvenating capabilities of Pilates, and he suggested it to his chiropractic patients, incorporating the exercises into their physical rehabilitation. Together, Ann and Dr. Toran decided to create a studio that shared these benefits with the general public, introducing the time-honored exercise techniques that improve posture and build lean, toned muscles.
The studio boasts four locations throughout the New York area, each featuring an arsenal of traditional Pilates equipment. The signature apparatus, the Reformer, generates gentle resistance with a system of springs, pulleys, and miniature black holes. Students push and pull against this resistance while performing sequences of relatively simple movements that require unwavering mental focus to maintain the ideal technique and alignment. By emphasizing controlled, quality movements over flailing your body against a boulder, Pilates exercises can evenly tone muscles across the entire body, with a particular emphasis on the core muscle groups.
Ann and Dr. Toran encourage their instructors to take initiative when leading classes and tailor the pacing or sequence to accommodate students, but each studio does host sessions for particular skill levels. Introductory and Level 1 classes work to develop form and technique, whereas the more advanced sessions begin to include modified exercises or long-division flashcards to ensure a more challenging workout.
Black lights illuminate your opponent as electronic music pulses in the background. You raise your paddle, and swing. The Ping-Pong match begins. This unusual scene unfolds nearly every day and night at Spin New York, a self-described "Ping-Pong social club."
Lauded in a range of media, this now-international franchise was created with a firm vision in mind. In an interview on Anderson Live, co-owner and actress Susan Saradon explains her love of Ping-Pong: "it cuts across age, body type, gender ? little girls can beat their fathers." In an NBC News segment, co-owner Jonathan Brickland adds that their mission was to marry the social nature of the sport with the atmosphere of a country club, except "more inclusive ... silly, and frivolous," and ideally with fewer golf-cart crashes.
Spin New York certainly takes this fun-focused mission seriously. The sprawling hall houses 17 Ping-Pong courts, including a central court where professional players compete in regular tournaments. These same professionals are on-hand for private instruction, though players are more than welcome to keep things casual. Meanwhile, an on-site restaurant and bar serves seasonally changing plates alongside cocktails made from fruit purees and blended Teaologie teas. From the seats or the courts, visitors may see one of the old building's original features: a giant window that looks out onto the passing subway train.
On most nights, a DJ provides a soundtrack to dining and play, although live bands are often a weekend fixture. Adding to its socially-focused mission, Spin also gathers people to support charitable causes; recently, Ms. Sarandon used her club to host a benefit for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
When The Hill first opened, people speculated that Heidi and Spencer Pratt of The Hills were behind the venture. That was just a rumor. The spot actually takes its name from its neighborhood, not the Los Angeles reality show. Now that the initial mystery surrounding The Hill has lifted, the pub has become a neighborhood go-to for catching the game while sipping drinks and devouring philly sliders, baskets of crispy tater tots, and pots of fondue.
A Reflection of Murray Hill
As New York Times reporter Jeff Vandam explains, Murray Hill is a hard neighborhood to pin down. Quiet rows of brownstones and apartment buildings contrast with a lively pub scene geared toward the 20-somethings who have recently become more of a fixture in recent years. Like the neighborhood it calls home, The Hill has somewhat of a split personality. From afternoon to early evening, it is predominantly a sports bar, with more than 25 high-definition televisions broadcasting live games in the bar and upstairs lounge. As soon as the action wraps up, though, things start to get interesting. Candlelight replaces the flickering glow of television screens, and the bar transforms into a stylish lounge for Murray Hill?s sophisticated set.
An Upscale Pub Setting
The Hill welcomes postcollegiate fans to cheer on their alma maters in a setting that's far more refined than that of a typical sports bar. Chandeliers glimmer overhead, and leather cushions line long booths. Polychromatic planks of wood line the walls on both floors, giving guests something interesting to admire when the bartenders take a break from stirring lemon-drop martinis or pouring glasses of watermelon sangria.
Once every three years, the curators at New York's International Center of Photography set out on a mission to encapsulate the world. They scour every corner of the globe to collect the most interesting video and photography. The end result is an exhibit that reveals the Earth at present—its economic conditions, political instabilities, and social mores. The museum's other gallery spaces surround their visitors in works from the 19th century to modern day, offering windows into every era since Santa invented cameras as a new Christmas toy. These ever-changing exhibits showcase everything from evolving fashions to countries in the midst of full-blown revolution.
Hidden behind theses photographs' imagery, lies the minds of brilliant visual artists. Some of these masters speak at the The Photographers Lecture Series, a staple of the museum's research center since 1974. During these events, distinguished photographers discuss their work and how photography fits into the worlds of art, fashion, and journalism. The ICP's Library delves into these worlds even further with thousands of photobooks, periodicals, and digital files.
ICP's faculty also nurtures emerging artists. Together, they lead more than 400 continuing education courses, exploring areas such as digital photography and video. And for the most serious students, they offer a one-year certificate program and an MFA program.
Housed within a complex designed to resemble a mountainside monastery, the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art immerses visitors within an environment intended to foster a widespread appreciation for the artistic and cultural creations of the Himalayan peoples. The fieldstone buildings were inspired by photographs of the Potala Palace?the historic seat of the Dalai Lamas?and the surrounding landscape features terraced gardens, lotus and goldfish ponds, and secluded nooks for meditation or high-stakes staring competitions. This connection to Himalayan architecture is also apparent in the structures' architectural details, such as a flat roof crowned with a four-sided pagoda, the trapezoidal windows, and the slate-capped doorways. When taken together, all of these architectural and landscaping features allow visitors to lose themselves in the setting while viewing the collection of artwork and culturally relevant artifacts.
The museum's permanent collection focuses on rare and sacred pieces from Tibet and nations influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, such as Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia, and northern China. Featuring works from the 12th?20th centuries, this selection includes everything from bronze sculptures and silk-backed scroll paintings to furniture, photographs, and ritualistic objects. Allowing guests to view these items is only one aspect of the museum's mission though. Additionally, the staff members encourage visitors to engage with Himalayan culture by participating in tai chi and guided-meditation classes that the instructors lead on select days.