About Jessica Tiare Bowen
Jessica Tiare Bowen lives in the juicy Big Apple with her adorable pink-nosed chihuahua, Gillman. He's the inspiration for her first published children's book, "Park Avenue Pound Puppy." The book is the combined result of her two greatest passions: pooches and penning stories.
Her passions include art, urban hikes through Manhattan, drinking coffee with 3 creams and 6 sugars, making extremely detailed itineraries and traveling to far away places, singing along to Broadway shows, Netflix movie nights, discovering incredible treasures at Goodwill and thrift stores, and listening to stories from little people under 7 and big people over 70.
She started her career as New York City Teaching Fellow, teaching elementary school and theater arts at a special education school in the South Bronx for 6 years. She is now a Special Education School Improvement Specialist working in public schools throughout New York City. She is the Editor-In-Chief of the online New York City travel magazine, Used York City. The magazine focuses on finding the best of New York...as used by New Yorkers. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and an ASPCA Ambassador.
Latest Posts by Jessica Tiare Bowen
I give my regards to Broadway, (and Off-Broadway), as much as humanly possible. I see a lot of shows, so narrowing them down for a seasonal roundup is no easy feat, as you can probably imagine. But, despite all the really great theater that’s out there right now, here are five really great shows that struck our hearts a little bit deeper, made us laugh a little bit harder, and had us talking a little bit longer than most. They’re all pretty different, but we’re certain there’s one here that will speak to you.
The Lion King
OK, this show has been on Broadway for the longest. But I must shamefully confess, until this fall, I had never seen it. I guess I was just thinking, “hmm, ginormous animal heads on actors strutting around on stilts? there’s just no way that can ever be on par with beauty and the beast or aladdin.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. I seriously had chills during the opening scene as the animals came down the aisles, and those chills didn’t subside until long, long after I left the theater that evening.
You’ll love this if: Obviously, if you loved the original Disney movie, you’ll have a great time singing along (in your head, of course) to every single number. A totally appropriate show for kids, and honestly, I just can’t think of any adult who wouldn’t absolutely love this. Let’s just call it a MUST see for all ages.
Summary: Giraffes strut, birds swoop, gazelles leap – the entire Serengeti comes to life. And as the music soars, Pride Rock slowly rises from the stage. This is THE LION KING. A spectacular visual feast, this adaptation of Disney’s much-loved film transports you to a dazzling world that explodes with glorious colors, stunning effects and enchanting music. At its heart is the powerful and moving story of Simba, and his epic journey from wide-eyed cub to his destined role as King of the Pridelands.
I usually err on the side of musicals over plays when picking my Broadway shows. And yet. Disgraced completely blew me out of the water, and I can honestly say it was the most moving play I’ve ever had the experience to see. It deals with a lot of tough topics…religion, race, affairs, nature versus nurture and how it shapes us from an early age…perhaps instilling ideas that can never quite be shaken.
While I personally disagreed with the way they presented the Islam religion, I would certainly recommend this to anyone looking for a deep show that provokes hours (yes, HOURS) of discussion afterwards. Whether you leave the theater feeling wowed or infuriated, the point is you WILL feel, and you will feel strongly. Isn’t that what Broadway is all about?
You’ll love this if: You’re open to a show discussing deep topics that are usually discouraged at the dinner table (politics and religion). It’s not a feel good show, in fact, the ending is pretty depressing. But it will leave you anything but speechless and provides tons of fodder for conversation post-show.
Summary: DISGRACED is the story of a successful Muslim-American attorney who has renounced his religion and secured a coveted piece of the American Dream. Living high above Manhattan’s Upper East Side, he and his artist wife host an intimate dinner party that is about to explode. Witty banter turns to vicious debate, and with each cocktail comes a startling new confession, painting an unforgettable portrait of our perception of race and religion.
You’ll recall from Joanne’s full length review that we’re enormous fans of this Broadway delight.
You’ll love this if: You are a romantic at heart, and can appreciate a show with no sets, no elaborate costume changes, no blocking, no stage directions…but a really beautiful story unfolding of the lives of the two thespians. Expect your heart to be flooded with emotions, the warm and fuzzy kind.
Summary: LOVE LETTERS is a disarmingly funny and unforgettably emotional portrait about the powerful connection of love. Two friends, rebellious Melissa Gardner and straight-arrow Andrew Makepeace Ladd III have exchanged notes, cards and letters with each other for over 50 years. From second grade, through summer vacations, to college, and well into adulthood, they have spent a lifetime discussing their hopes and ambitions, dreams and disappointments, and victories and defeats. But long after the letters are done, the real question remains: Have they made the right choices or is the love of their life only a letter away?
Sex Tips From A Gay Man To Straight Women
You’ll blush, you’ll laugh, you’ll have the most titillating 80 minutes of theater, quite possibly ever.
You’ll love this if: You like to laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh. This is a show to go to with a group of friends, bachelorette party, or even your significant other (mine loved it!) Have a few cocktails beforehand, and be prepared for a truly fun and entertaining night at the theater.
Summary: In this hilarious new romantic comedy based on the best-selling book of the same title, audiences are welcomed into a fun-filled world of insider advice that could only be culled from that most insightful of individuals: the gay man. The play is set at a local university auditorium where the English department holds its monthly meet the authors event.
Robyn is the shy and studious moderator of the event and this month’s featured author is Dan Anderson of Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man. With the help of a hunky staged assistant named Stefan, Dan aims to turn this meet the authors event upside down with a highly theatrical, audience interactive sex tip seminar.
Will Stefan’s muscles be used for more than moving more than heavy scenery? Will the power of Dan’s tips prove too titillating for even Robyn to resist? As with everything at this event…that is for Dan to know, and you to find out!
As Joanne says, “This is my 3rd visit to a revival of “Cabaret” and I can assure you that like good wine, it improves with age. This is a vintage year.” Check out our full review here.
You’ll love this if: You’re looking for a tried and true classic. It’s an intimate theater which will have you up close and personal to the cast…the singing, dancing, and story line will have you high-kicking long after you leave the theater.
Summary: Right this way, your table’s waiting at Cabaret, John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joe Masteroff’s Tony-winning musical about following your heart while the world loses its way.
Wine tasting notes have always made me kind of giggle. I mean, it’s all fun and games talking about notes of honeysuckle, fresh pear and citrus. But then it so often veers into the implausible with something along the lines of “reminiscent of fresh cactus” (as if you’ve ever stuffed a cactus in your mouth and then likened it to something grape derived).
And then there’s the just bizarre, where I tend to draw the line. When it comes to the complexities of the wine’s aroma and citing “freshly mown grass,” not to mention “hints of gunflint” and “pencil shavings” (I kid you not folks these have actually shown up on real wine descriptions) I give up on the little pamphlet guiding me to the perfect wine. After all, this is supposed to be in theory an enjoyable beverage I might pair with food, not the items you might find in shop class.
Likewise, wine shops can be overwhelming. My thoughts generally run the gamut of “Do I really want to fork over $45 for a bottle of Chianti the salesclerk is practically salivating over?” And then, “Have I even had Chianti? How do I pronounce Chianti? Better let her say it first… Now what’s she saying about tannins? What the heck are tannins anyway? I really wish I could just crack open the bottle try before I buy.”
Luckily in New York City opportunities exist to do just that. I had the good fortune to recently practice my best tilt, swirl, sniff, sip, and spit. Just kidding, I didn’t spit. That would be unladylike, and well, wasteful.
The second annual NYC Autumn Wine Festival, which took place in the beautiful and stately downtown Broad Street Ballroom, seriously had everything one could want to facilitate some serious vino higher learning.
There were 34 different tables set up with venders featuring wines from all over the world. There was live music. There were sophisticated snacks, — most notably lots of cheese, because no combination has been so perfect since peanut butter met jelly. The wines did mostly come with descriptive prose, yes, but there were often helpful hints about which foods would go best with which wines. There was even a coffee table, just in case you started feeling drowsy after so many samples.
Perhaps the best part of the experience was being able to approach someone highly knowledgeable with a few vague comments about my preferences, such as liking semi-dry, fruity reds, and being introduced to say, the stunners at table sweet 16, Domenico Valentino.
This table featured all Italian reds with great depth and flavor ranging from sweet and light to spicy and robust. The representative even shared a little history, noting that one wine was produced by a passionate, one-man operation, while another made in the “heel country” in Italy, referring to the boot-shaped geographic region.
Another table housed a selection of ice wines, which I always equated to just mean sweet or dessert wines, but they are indeed made from frozen grapes. Picked after late harvest, the grapes are left on the vine until the frost comes, then hand-picked and pressed while frozen. It takes about 2,000 grapes to make a single bottle!
Even sparkling ciders made an appearance, with Standard Cider Company’s “True Believer” tasting exactly like taking a bite of a crisp, juicy (alcoholic) apple. Brilliant.
Written by Sarah Henry
And now, for something completely different. I am speechless. Or should I say BLANK? BLANK! The Musical is one blankety blank blank ________ experience!
For me, this improvisational trip was an exciting, ridiculously interesting evening of entertainment … bold, brave, and brassy. But what a misnomer is this title, as there is so much going on within this show at New World Stages…. never, ever would “blank” apply. Rather this unique production is chock full of frenzied fun. Such cutting edge entertainment – perfect for a cold winter’s night. You can continuously revisit and never have a repeat show.
A singular host-emcee-referee, played by the affable, agreeable T. J. Mannix, a musical trio represented by drums/woodwinds/piano, and six of the hardest working cast members off-Broadway perform on an empty stage flanked by video screens. This intermission-less show is totally improvised on the spot, as determined by the present audience. This imaginative group of players is literally running on empty when the show opens.
Now I would love to share the plot with you however…
There is no script. Neither is there a book, nor music, lyrics and yes, you guessed it, no title. I am telling you the truth ….this talented ensemble flies without a net and by the seat of their pants. (There’s a reason the cast wears solely black and blue, no coincidence there). Now this clever cast does not make it all up as they go along – rather, the audience becomes the author, lyricist, composer, even the choreographer. It’s kinda/sorta like an electronic, elongated game of “Mad Libs” adapted for the digital age and accompanied by some rocking music.
This is most likely the only time in a theater that you don’t have to shut up your smart ass phone. You can participate by loading the app “blanktheapp.com” or join the BLANK! THE MUSICAL Wi-Fi network and vote alongside the rest of the audience members for the plot, song, and story suggestions presented by audience members. All ideas are encouraged and welcomed by our host, T.J. These are then voted on and the results appear on the large video screens. You know technology – sometimes things go awry. But this is such an interactive show, the audience is so much a part of it all, that the instant easy rapport between cast and audience is only a shout away for all to be set right back on track, nothing stops this show.
And so at my particular performance – and I emphasize that each and every night is unique and different - I assisted in the creation of a TITLE - “Kidnapped on Uber” featuring the clever seasonal SONG - “I Hope It’s Not a Turkey” which I think (?) was written in a vegetarian KEY - E flat minor, perhaps? The BOOK was “Brooklyn, Seriously?” which lends itself to the perfect battle of the boroughs. Amazingly, it all falls in place and Brooklyn is the new Manhattan becomes the theme of the evening. A new musical is up and running in a NY minute!
As you can well imagine, it’s really a hoot participating in the development of a moment to moment musical, which is normally a five year process from conception to stage, as noted by our happy host. But there is absolutely nothing normal about “BLANK! The Musical.” Nor is there anything next to normal remotely present when this frenzied, imaginative, witty cast gets down to it. On a personal note, I knowingly recall some raucous (albeit raunchy) performances at the post midnight shows at the uptown legendary “Catch a Rising Star” and the old West Side “Improv” club , not to mention the early SNL telecasts. This cast is up there with the best of these pioneers… AND they can sing and dance as well!
As further testament to the talent on BLANK’s stage – namely Katie Dufresne, Nicole C. Hastings, Tessa Hersh, Andrew Knox, Matthew Van Colton and Douglas Widick – they never – unlike many others working in improv – ever took the easy out and went blue. The night I was there they presented themselves with class, cheer and good taste. This alone will bring me back for another show.
BLANK! The Musical is running until December 14th at New World States on West 50th Street. A hip vibe surrounds this venue - Avenue Q, the Bubble Show, Illuminate – all play there. There’s a positive buzz the moment you enter and descend to the stages below. Take a moment to explore this unusual performance space.
Happy Thanksgiving week everyone, take advantage of this four day weekend and catch this show.
Contributed by Joanne Theodorou
After-work cocktails are kinda a thing in New York City. While my drink of choice is usually a cracking cold glass of white (or champers if I’m feeling really fancy), I’ll occasionally splurge on a $14 cocktail…and savor every last sip. But, like many New Yorkers, I’ve often wondered what makes these cocktails so special…how hard could it be to add a splash of vodka into a glass of cranberry juice?
When I’m ordering a fancy bevvy, how do I know the bartender is giving me $14 worth of spirit? Perhaps most importantly, why are there never cocktails made with Dr. Pepper?
So to get some answers to my questions, I headed to Hardings for their monthly Bartending Class with Mixologist Derrick Turner.
Ok, onto the class. Derrick taught us 3 different drinks, all featuring St. George Spirits (themes change monthly though, often according to seasonal variety.) My favorite was the “Simply Wicked”. I included the recipe below for your drinking pleasure;-)
How do you know your bartender isn’t skimping on the booze? An 8 second pour, my friends (8 seconds = 2 ounces of liquor). Any less, just give him/her the stink eye and they should know exactly what you’re referring to. (Thanks, Derrick!)
Oh, and I have a totally new appreciation for paying top dollar for the fancier drinks…seriously, not easy work! By the end of class I had splashed liquid all over my work station (and myself!), and while my drinks certainly tasted delicious, they were no where as pretty as Derrick’s…in fact, they were pretty sloppy. Bartending fail, Jess! And the fact that bartenders have to memorize all these crazy concoctions, while making them, AND carrying on a conversation about your day?! Major, major props, mixologists!
1/4 oz. St. George absinthe
1/2 oz. agave syrup
Pinch of watercress
1.5 oz. gin
Garnish with watercress and give it a proper mixing in a chilled glass with ice, and then strain into your glass. as Derrick said, “you’ll be drinking pure happiness.”
When I moved to New York City 9 years ago, one of the first solo exploration outings I did was to hop on the F train and ride it to the very last stop (mind you, I lived in Jamaica, Queens at the time, so I was essentially riding the train its entire length…enough time to finish a short novel.
Needless to say, I’ll never forget disembarking the train in the July heat…the smell of hotdogs wafting along the salty sea air, the Cyclone rumbling along its rickety track, and the beach dotted with so many towels, you had to squint real hard just to see the sand! It is really something special.
However, if cozying up to a complete stranger on the shore isn’t your jam, I have a beautiful alternative for you: Coney Island in the off-season. Not only is it barren of locals and tourists trying to soak up some sun, but the isolated theme park paired with the crashing gray waves gives a sort of urban beauty you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Here’s 5 things you can enjoy in this hood during the off-season:
1. Take a Tour
Coney Island Tours have a special touch because the tour guides are born and bred Brooklynites, who are crazy passionate about their neighborhood, and can give you the inside scoop on anything and everything. I had a guided tour led by owner Michael Quinn, and seriously left armed with so much fun knowledge about Coney Island’s history (but the fun stuff, like gangsters and the evolution of Nathan’s Hot Dog!) Tours are year round, by appointment.
2. Eat a Famous Hot Dog
Okay, okay, I understand that you can get a Nathan’s elsewhere in the world, but this, my friends, is the original, founded in 1916! And originals always taste best, right? Open year round (and inside seating!), you’ll get to enjoy the experience, sans a long wait and fight for seating you’d encounter during the summer months.
3. Stroll the Boardwalk
Urban hikes have long been a NYC fave, but the boardwalk is certainly a way to mix up your walking regime from other city faves such as the Highline or Central Park. The historic 90-year-old Riegelmann Boardwalk, stretching 2.7 miles, is open year round, and despite being the off-season you’ll surely run into a plethora of walkers, runners, bicyclists, parents with strollers, neighborhood folks out and about, and of course tourists from around the world. Insider’s Tip: as you head towards Brighton Beach you’ll get to take in some of the Russian vibe the hood is so known for.
4. Visit the NY Aquarium
There’s something so relaxing about watching fish swim round and round in brightly lit tanks, making the aquarium the perfect way to while away an afternoon. The daily penguin feeding has been a long time favorite of mine. Insider’s Tip: If you visit on a Friday afternoon after 3pm, it’s pay-what-you-wish admission.
5. Watch (or join!) the Polar Bear Club
One of the crazier things you’ll stumble upon in Coney Island during the off-season is the swimmers of the local Polar Bear Club. These guys and gals take a dip in the icy Atlantic ocean every Sunday at 1pm, November through April, and outsiders can join for “guest swims”. They also organize the legendary New Year’s Day plunge (which anyone can join, no membership required!), and the proceeds go to charity.
Have you been to Coney Island? What stood out most in your mind? Share below!
It’s always exciting when a bucket list item can be checked off your list, exceeding the expectations you’ve set in your mind. Somewhere on my list (ahem, #72) was “sleep in a castle.” Regardless, I never would have expected an opportunity to arise to stay in a castle just under an hour outside NYC…and not just any old castle, but one you’ve probably seen before from the comfort of your own TV. Here’s the deets.
Why Oheka May Look Familiar
Oheka Castle made its first film debut back in 1941 for a little movie called Citizen Kane. Ever heard of it?;-) Since then it has been gracing the screens as backdrop to films, TV, commercials, music videos, and photography shoots. One of my faves is Royal Pains, a show that is set in the Hamptons and uses the castle as the residence of the main bizillionaire on the show. (Sidenote: it’s on Netflix Instant, check it out for more castle views!) Not too shabby, eh?
But let’s back up just a bit…Oheka didn’t start off being the backdrop for Hollywood. Almost a century ago, financier and philanthropist Otto Hermann Kahn built the castle on the highest point on Long Island for an estimated cost of $11 million dollars (which would be about $110 million dollars in today’s currency…yowzers!) At the time of its construction, the French-style chateau was, and still is today, the second-largest private residence ever built in America. During the 1920’s, Kahn used the 127 room estate as a summer home where he hosted lavish parties and regularly entertained royalty, heads of state, and Hollywood stars. Does it remind you a little of Jay Gatsby? Yeah, me too.
With Kahn’s death in 1934, the estate changed hands several times, serving as a retreat for New York sanitation workers, and a government training school for Merchant Marine radio operators. I mean, you gotta think how crazy expensive this thing is to maintain…electric bills alone!
In 1948, the Eastern Military Academy bought the castle, bulldozed the gardens, subdivided the rooms and painted over the walls. After the school went bankrupt 30 years later, Oheka stood abandoned, except by vandals who set numerous fires over 5 years. In 1984, developer Gary Melius purchased the castle and the remaining 23 acres which surrounded the estate and began the painstaking challenge of restoring the Castle to its original grandeur. Not an easy task, but he certainly did a sensational job.
Today, the castle is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is used as a historic hotel with 32 luxury guest rooms, and is also a proud venue to many, many NY weddings and galas. Seriously guys, it’s gorgeous. I love the traditional decor, grand paintings, and how easy it is to imagine Kahn’s 1920’s parties taking place around you. We had dinner at the onsite restaurant (delicious), stayed in the Fairbanks Suite, and had breakfast the next morning buffet style in the grand ballroom.
Probably my three favorite things about the castle are the library, the gardens, and the Charlie Chaplin room.
Even if you don’t stay overnight in the castle, you can still join for one of the mansion tours, so, so worth it. Our guide was passionate and knowledgable, and truly made the estate come to life with the stories she told.
Getting To Oheka
While we chose to drive out to the castle, it’s definitely accessible via public transportation. You’ll want to hop on the Long Island Railroad at Penn Station and take the Huntington Line to Cold Spring Harbor Station. Once there, you can call a local taxi to pick you up and take you to the castle (there’s no taxi depot at the station): Orange & White Taxi, 631-271-3600 | Ecotaxi, 631-624-3727.
Whether you’re going for a quiet escape from the city, romantic getaway, a slice of history, or to check off your bucket list that you’ve slept in a castle, we know you’ll have the best time. We sure did!
Have you ever visited a castle? Impressions? Let’s talk in the comments below!
Hey New Yorkers or those who may be in the Big Apple on Halloween. Since it’s around the corner, here are some fun things to do in the city.
- Take a ghost tour and learn about Manhattan’s most scandalous tales. Led by the most passionate ghost gurus you’ll ever meet, these creepy tours meet at dusk and take you through the East Village’s dark, dark past.
- Visit a haunted house. With NYC’s surplus of talented actors and actresses who haven’t quite made their Broadway debut, a haunted house in the city promises to hold some of the very best (and creepiest!) talent!
- Drink a pint at a NYC haunted pub. There’s something enticing about knowing that the souls of NYC’s past are lurking right behind you as you sip your pumpkin ale, right?
- Dress up your four legged friend for the cutest costume parade, ever!
- Dress yourself up for the NYC Halloween Parade, a legendary event that’s the largest of its kind in the nation. Oh heyyy, NYC! Grand Marshall this year is Whoppi Goldberg, woo hoo!
- Sleep No More. Alright, I know I’m ALWAYS telling you guys about a “must do” that is simply THE BEST EVER, right? (Kinda the point of the website?!) But promise, this is definitely an event you should add to that list, and no better time than Halloween. This interactive piece of performance art/theater combines Shakespeare’s MacBeth with a wild and crazy trip through floors of the McKittrick Hotel…we’re talking bodies in bathtubs, secret lairs, haunting music…oh, and you’ll be masked the entire time. It’s unforgettable.
Halloween is nearly here, the time for all things haunted and ghostly! We’re delighted to welcome NYC’s resident ghost guru, Gordon Linzner, who shared a round-up of haunted pubs perfect for kicking back with a pumpkin ale this month (or anytime!), in the company of past New York souls. Goosebumps, anyone?
Ear Inn 326 Spring Street
Built as a private home in 1817, became a saloon in 1890. Haunted in particular by Mickey, a sailor who was killed by a car just outside the bar. He likes to pinch the bottoms of female patrons and staff, drain cell phone batteries, and sometimes play with fire.
Landmark Tavern 626 11th Avenue
Opened in 1868, it is haunted by several ghosts, most notably a Confederate veteran who was stabbed in a fight and crawled upstairs to die in a bathtub. The tub remains in the upstairs bathroom. An Irish immigrant girl who died of cholera wanders the third floor. This was a favorite location of the actor George Raft, who some patrons have also claimed to see.
The White Horse 567 Hudson Street
A favorite tavern of the poet Dylan Thomas, who allegedly drank himself to death there in 1952. Morning staff will often find his favorite table tilted at an angle, the way he liked when he was writing, despite having been neatly straightened the night before.
Waverly Inn 16 Bank Street
Several ghosts call this home, but one in particular seems to favor the former smoking room here, occasionally rearranging furniture and lighting the fireplace. In 1997 a fire damaged every room in the restaurant – except the smoking room!
One If By Land Two if by Sea 17 Barrow Street
Aaron Burr and his daughter Theodosia are among the spirits haunting this restaurant, on the site of a carriage house that once belonged to Burr, often spotted on the second floor. Since Theodosia’s earrings were taken by a pirate just before she walked the plank, her spirit seems to have an affinity for such jewelry, often tugging on female patrons’ ears.
KGB Bar 85 East 4th Street
Once home to a speakeasy run by Lucky Luciano, whose spirit has been seen on the lower floor. A headless ghost is thought to be that of a rapist who was decapitated by his victim in the 1920’s, and the mirror on the 2nd floor, near the bar’s entrance, has sometimes reflected a demonic face with red glowing eyes.
Lovecraft Bar 50 Avenue B
The murals were painstaking painted over months in the first half of 2014 by Benjamin Enzfelder who, working one night into the early morning hours, started a conversation with one of the owners, he presumed, who’d dropped by – only to find no one there when he turned around. After a couple more of these visits he decided to no longer do his art when there was no one else in the building.
Library Bar 425 Lafayette Street
Originally this building housed the Astor Library, and head librarian Joseph Green Cogswell encountered the spirit of businessman Austin Sands three nights, finally discouraging the tight-fisted Sands by insisting the ghost pay him overtime.
MacDougal Ale House 120 MacDougal Street
Strange noises and cold spots reported by the staff when they’re closing up.
Ghost Bar 132A Eldridge Street
Got its name from accounts of a ghostly appareitiion seen in front of the building when it was first built.
Photo Credit: ScrapbookofTruth.net.