Chill Demands Cocoa: The Thespian’s Guide to Hot Chocolate in NYC

Didn’t expect to see me so soon, did you? Well, as it turns out…I’m full of surprises! Although it’s still plenty warm here in New York, we have officially entered the autumn season, so those temperatures are bound to drop soon. And what better way to cope with the cold than by enjoying hot chocolate? Today, I’m going to share some great places for you to drink up. As a bonus, I’ve even hand-picked classic songs to match the mood of each location. Cheers!

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MARIEBELLE: Looking for some old-fashioned ambiance with your confection? Look no further than Mariebelle in SoHo, whose very name oozes class. What’s interesting about their homemade hot chocolate is the amount of flavors you can choose from. These variants range from milk chocolate with hazelnuts all the way to white chocolate with banana! Relevant music– “I Never Do Anything Twice” from The Seven Per-Cent Solution

MADISON & VINE: Nestled in the heart of Midtown is this elegant restaurant embedded within a hotel. Of course, you can have your fill of tasty food here, but there’s something on the drink menu you may not know about. Seasonally served, their hot chocolate is made with brandy, dark crème de cacao, spiced chocolate, and whipped cream on the top. Scrumptious! Relevant music– “Before the Parade Passes By” from Hello, Dolly!

MCNALLY JACKSON: Books and hot chocolate on a cold winter’s afternoon are the stuff of dreams for hipsters everywhere. In this indie store, indulge your thoughtful side by sipping a mug of their Italian Agostoni dark chocolate concoction. It is made via melting the good stuff with hot water and then blending it with Hudson Valley milk. Relevant music– “Will He Like Me?” from She Loves Me

THE CHOCOLATE ROOM: For the environmentally conscious folk, this café places an emphasis on “sustainably sourced chocolate.” It actually has two Brooklyn locations- one in Park Slope and the other in Cobble Hill- and they both work with a fair trade co-op in Madagascar. As far as hot cocoa goes, each cup is topped with a giant marshmallow and may include an espresso or alcohol shot. Relevant music– “In Summer” from Frozen

NUNU: Not many people can say they’ve enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate within a chocolate factory. But pay a visit to Nunu in Brooklyn, and you can say just that! Their flagship location has small chairs and activities perfect for children…but the whole family will enjoy watching sweet treats get made and dipped as they drink. Relevant music– “When the Children Are Asleep” from Carousel

IL BUCO ALIMENTARI: At this NoHo spot, the atmosphere is warm and casual…rather perfect for a cozy date! You and your beloved can enjoy a mug of their signature hot cocoa, brimming with Guanaja goodness. This kind of chocolate is made with 70% dark and 30% white- plus a marshmallow. It comes in flavors ranging from rosemary to cinnamon to burnt orange. Relevant music– “Liza” from An American in Paris

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Pop Culture Pondering: Four Reasons Why Kids Should Play Neopets

Okay, this week’s entry might seem a little random. In fact, you may have read the title of this post and thought Amanda had finally cracked her nut. But I insist, hear me out on this one.

Neopets is the original MMORPG for virtual pets, but it is so much more. It’s a whole galaxy to explore. It’s a world of people from across the Earth chatting like they’re best friends. And, of course, it is cute pixel critters that you get to bond with. The company was started by two British folks just before the new millennium. Today, it has millions of users, many of whom have been part of the site for years. I myself began my Neopets adventure when I was just 9 years old. (I’ll be 24 in two weeks.)

And while, yes, the game is highly addictive…it also taught my younger self some great skills. Here are just a few of them, and why I think it is actually beneficial for parents to setup a Neopets account for their children.

queenfyoraHTML. I am not kidding; playing Neopets taught me HTML coding. You see, in order to customize the various pages on your account, you must do all the coding yourself. Oh sure, the site gives you many templates that you can copy and paste to create layouts. But looking at these codes, over time, enabled me to learn which ones triggered such-and-such on the Internet. I still use the foundation from this to date!

kacheekswimFinancial responsibility. Not only does the Neo-world have its own stock market system, you also learn basic money management principles. See, in order to get cool things for your pets and virtual life, you need to save up Neopoints (NP). It was here that I learned how to “haggle” prices, since you can barter with the online shopkeepers to get better deals on stuff. You’ll even open your own store for other users to visit and get a sense of how supply-and-demand works.

illusendollMotor skills. One of the ways you can earn NP is by playing an endless variety of Flash games, for free! These range from arcade-style games to brain-twisting puzzles. Now, I’m not saying that you should let your tykes spend hours trying to beat their high score. But studies have shown that limited video gaming can strengthen cognitive processing and, particularly, hand-eye coordination.

kioskwockySocialization. As I said earlier, Neo-folks have formed a bustling community. Although users cannot write on the message boards until their 13th birthday, they become an invaluable resource. The Neopets staff strictly monitors their forums to ensure that they are safe for everybody. So for someone like me who had trouble interacting in the real world…the online community became a haven. Here, I could see which social protocols worked and which did not.

(Source: Neopets)

The Lincoln Center Manual

Lincoln Center is one of the most iconic performing arts institutions in the world. From world-class opera productions to beautiful ballets to film analysis: no matter which art form you prefer, there’s a spot in Lincoln Center for you to find like-minded folk. But navigating this lovely complex can be daunting at first, so I’ve broken it down for you.

  1. Metropolitan Opera House

This luxurious arched building behind the great fountain plays host to many different operatic shows every year. Some 800,000 people attend more than 200 performances at the place every year. Blending gifted singers with visionary directors, the Met promises you quality artistry and a night to remember. And there are subtitle screens at every seat!

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  1. Vivian Beaumont Theatre

The only Broadway house in the complex is named for Vivian Beaumont, a philanthropic heiress who financially supported the completion of this theatre. It is a rather large venue; noteworthy shows that have played here in recent years include The Light in the Piazza, South Pacific, and The King and I.

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  1. Alice Tully Hall

Film and music buffs should find themselves at this hall, the building next to the Juilliard School. Since its opening in 1969, it’s played host to the annual New York Film Festival and also serves as the home for Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society. The Alice Tully Hall was renovated in 2009. Interestingly, there is an enormous pipe organ in the venue rivaling those often found in cathedrals.

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  1. David Geffen Hall

This concert stage has gone through a lot of names. It began life in 1962 as the Philharmonic Hall, became Avery Fisher Hall in 1973, and got its current name in 2015. The venue of choice for the NY Philharmonic, David Geffen Hall features a vast lobby and houses many beautiful sculptures within its walls.

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  1. David Koch Theatre

Formerly known as the New York State Theater, it was one of the first buildings to open at Lincoln Center. Although the default home of the New York City Ballet, it also serves the Royal Ballet and the annual Mostly Mozart Festival. Architecturally, it is known for its winding staircases and modern art displays as well as stud lights around the orchestra and an impressive chandelier.

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  1. David Rubenstein Atrium

This is a relatively quiet spot, one that’s a very popular gathering point and a great place to begin your LC journey. It is one of the newer buildings on the campus, existing only since 2009, but has quickly grown into a versatile space with free Wi-Fi, a café, and a 42-foot “media wall.”

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  1. Other Locations

Of course, these major parts of Lincoln Center are just the tip of the iceberg. Nestled in between are parks, studios, the lauded Library of the Performing Arts, and many more sites to whet your cultural appetite. If you do get lost, there’s no need to fret; you may very well discover something new and wonderful. And if worst comes to worst, just flag down a native and ask for some directions!

(Source: GoVisitNYC, as written by yours truly.)

The first poem I ever wrote, 7th grade: “Impossible”

by Amanda DeLalla

Poems are pleasantly strange things

Like daffodil gardens and emerald rings

1000 words, 100 rhymes

I think poetry is just fine.

There’s just one problem, don’t you see?

A poem will never come to me.

I’m at my desk, pen in hand

But all the words remain buried in the sand.

Poems are like a starry night

Lovely, but creating one is an impossible plight

The music never reaches my ears.

The door won’t open for another 10 years!

Poems can be good as glory.

But nonetheless, this is my story.

After thinking awhile, here is my bid…

I cannot write a poem- oh wait, I just did!

How to Mount Any Golden Age Musical

Warning: Massive tongue-in-cheekiness ahead!

It’s a question directors have pondered for decades: how does one successfully create a musical reminiscent of the Golden Age of Broadway? Well, my friends, ponder no more! Today, I’m going to demonstrate how to shape an old-fashioned show for the ages, in just six easy steps.

Step 1: Find subject matter that is both heartwarming AND tragic. Theatergoers dig those stories.

Step 2: Give your leading male any name that starts with the letter B. Not optional.

Step 3: Incorporate showbiz into the plot somehow.

Step 4: If the chorus doesn’t do have a big signature dance number, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Step 5: You must have a woman of a certain age for the Act 1 finale in which she inspires the leading lady.

Step 6: Make sure the music has a perfect balance of soaring ballads and fast-paced comedy songs. And remember…

Spotlight: Summer Gift Guide for the Music Lover

Happy Friday, dilettantes! This week, I’m taking a cue from Disney’s blogs and presenting you with a little spread of all the things you’ll need to show off your artistic side at the beach. From a good summer read to a sophisticated way to accessorize, if you’re looking to bust out all over like June- look no further!

For something to cuddle with on a stormy summer night, we love this MOZART LITTLE THINKER plush from the Unemployed Philosophers’ Guild. He even plays the melody of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik!

If you need to kill time in your hotel room, try playing gin rummy with these STARS OF THE OPERA PLAYING CARDS. I’m glad Diana Damrau and Sondra Radvonofsky (two of my favorite sopranos) are included!

For some “musique tres elegante” at Sunday brunch, you’ll want the FASCINATING GERSHWIN album. It features all of the brothers’ biggest hits, sung by the greats. (Note: Not available for purchase online.)

Planning your summer reading list will be easy with Puccini Without Excuses, an analytical send-up of our namesake composer, written by William Berger. But it’s jam-packed with information!

Finally, for that perfect nautical accessory, we recommend the PIRATE’S LIFE jewelry from Opera Bracelets. Inspired by Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, it calls to mind oceans and operettas.

The Do’s and Don’ts of the Audition Process

DO

1. Know your audition song like the back of your hand.
2. Staple your headshot and resume together.
3. Ensure that you arrive on time and can stay until they dismiss you, not the other way around.
4. Be courteous and friendly to everyone there, not just the panel.
5. Dress appropriately and wear shoes for dancing.
6. Be willing to accept a role in the ensemble, especially if this is your first audition for the company.
7. Have fun, and think of the whole thing as an opportunity to perform, which is what you love to do! Right?

DON’T

1. Overeat or drink a lot of dairy before the audition.
2. Be like Karen and Ivy from SMASH and show up looking like Marilyn (or wearing a Phantom mask, or with green skin).
3. Act like you’re better than anyone. Ever.
4. Think that because you didn’t get a callback, you won’t be cast.
5. Automatically do an accent during cold readings, even for shows like Nine or My Fair Lady; always ask the panel first.
6. Let a mistake cool your fire; you can make up for it in another aspect of your audition.
7. Sing a pop song if you’re auditioning for an operetta, or vice-versa.

Footnote: The theme for the month of October is going to be OPERA-COMIQUE. Rising to popularity long before verismo, Bizet’s Carmen is one of the most famous examples of this style. That was also the very first opera I saw live at the Met!