Author Archives: Sabrina

Posts: 17 (archived below)
Comments: 36

The canvas is complete

Queen, Sabrina, Ashley and Jerrica say goodbye!

Hey readers,

This is the Independent Pallete signing out:

Ashley: It has been a wonderful experience taking this blogging about culture class. With my group members, I have gained some new insight into the world of blogging. After the first day of class, I have truly enjoyed learning so any new takes and tools that are involved with blogging. I am inspired to launch my food blog and really become an active blogger. It was very rewarding to meet and sit down with so many professional bloggers, writers and authors. My favorite class was the food writing edition and info session with food critic Lauren Shockey and food writer Rebecca Marx. I am fully excited about blogging and will absolutely use all that I learned all the time. Thanks Professor!!

Jerrica: This class has been a very, very interesting experience. I came into the class with the idea that I would learn more about blogging and of course, actually blog. I did both, plus more. I greatly enjoyed trying a new restaurant, seeing the Oscar shorts, and going to a concert. There have been times when I have been very frustrated and wished I had chosen another elective. However, in the end, I have grown a greater appreciation for the blogging world. I have opened my eyes to how important blogging is in the journalistic community. I’m leaving this class in hopes of turning our final project into an actual blog for me, one that I hope will eventually give me an edge when pursuing my career in fashion journalism.

Sabrina: When I started contributing to this blog, I wasn’t sure where it would lead. But it has taught me so much about culture, a subject where I thought I was already well versed. Every post I’ve written has taken me somewhere new and given me insight into things I’ve both had interest in and to what I just got introduced. The best part was probably learning from all the different blogs written by my group members and classmates. I’ve really valued the experience and actually take it with me wherever, whenever, and whatever I write. Thanks for the opportunity to discover and share my bloggers voice, everyone!

Queen: It’s me again!!!! Well, happy to say the semesters finally over. When the semester began I was hoping to learn new and interesting things. The most interesting thing I learned was that you probably will not get paid or not get paid much for blogging. I also learned that your blogs can vary in length. What I mean is that you can write 600 words one day and one or two sentences the next day (unless you work for a blog and they have a mandatory word count. I am so tired!!! I still love Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Bill Maher, Peyton Manning, Johnny Depp and the New York Yankees. I still want to go to Scotland and Ireland (really!!!).

Posted in Who We Are | 2 Comments

An artist for the ages

Singer-songwriter Ari Hest

Singer-songwriter Ari Hest is something of a self-made musician. He learned a little piano as a child and taught himself how to play guitar at 15. Shortly after, he started writing songs and performing. While in college at NYU, Hest produced two EP’s on his independent record label, Project 4, and decided to make a career out of his musical enterprises. Now the artist is releasing his fifth studio album with Downtown Records, Sunset Over Hope Street.

A child to musical parents—his mother, a cantor, and his father, a former jingle writer and sax player—perhaps music came to him quite naturally. But during college, it just made sense.

“I put the books down and started playing more,” he said. Still, it’s his talent that has brought him this far. That, and his affinity to explore and experiment with music.

"Autumn Songs From 52" is one of the season based albums prior to "12 Mondays."

Sunset Over Hope Street is the Riverdale, Bronx native’s latest release in four years. Before this, he’d worked on 12 Mondays for a solid year. It was the culmination of a project where he’d recorded and released a new song to online subscribers every week for 52 weeks; 12 of these tracks were selected by fans for the record.

Another project, The Green Room Sessions, was recorded on Hest’s personal laptop solely using Apple’s GarageBand to include acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, harmonica, and percussion to accompany his vocals. Such ventures of artistic expression are what make Hest a very unique and innovative musician.

His manager, Michael Solomon agrees. “Ari […] brings the rare combination of songwriting, performing and profound musicianship together with a sense of creativity and fearlessness which allows him to try new and adventurous projects. […] He is a true visionary.”

Ari Hest's fifth album is a surefire pleaser.

Meanwhile, Sunset Over Hope Street shows Hest at his finest and most structured. It’s a mature record with a distinct vocal sound and firm instrumental background that explains Hest’s four year hiatus, over one of which was spent working on it.

“I took my time with it,” he said. “I think my taste has changed. I think I’m a little more cognizant of what it takes to arrange my songs.” Hest also said he’s gotten better at editing and weeding out “songs that really don’t make a difference.”

No wonder Hest calls Sunset Over Hope Street “an album about transition.–Musically speaking, personally, politically.” The album is about things Hest said he’s observed and noted in himself and in others. They speak volumes about anything from relationships to politics and change in the world.

“I think the most natural thing for me to write about is seeing people go through something and talking about it,” he said. “I kind of need to hear about things that are going on that are either interesting or happy or sad or angry or hopeful, all these different factors kind of just add up to writing songs that have more meaning.”

And his songs certainly do have meaning. From the title track, which he described as “a song about learning to let go of someone emotionally that has left you,” to my personal favorite, “Swan Song,” which he said is the only one written out of his imagination. Though it was based on a strange dream he had, he said it might be about global warming. Its lyrics seem to prove that: “The earth below/Drowns in sorrow/Unprepared for/The sudden distress.” => “Swan Song

Lyrics aside, Hest’s solid vocals are firm and edgy yet gentle.  He has a voice close to folk-pop artist Matt Kearney’s, and set to jazzy music akin to Frank Sinatra’s era, his works sound like modern classics.  On this record, the two features are married almost perfectly. Just like music critic James Zahn commented, “[…]Hest’s vocals drive the record – a spacious affair accented by lush instrumentation and ambiance.”

Hest believes this is because he finally took a step back from the do-it-yourself approach, or trying to handle all aspects of a song. Instead, he focused more time on polishing the sounds with the help of producer Alex Wong and performing with other musicians. This evolved approach shows well even in Hest’s  live performances, 29 of which he’s played since the album released in March.

Hest engages with crowds in intimate settings while getting well absorbed in soulfully performing his instrument and his voice. A video of him singing “How Would I Know” at the Mill in Iowa City earlier this year gives you a glimpse into that performance persona. His performances are thoughtful and do justice to the music, especially when Hest himself feels the energy.

“There are moments when I’m on stage when you just feel into what you’re doing and it’s almost like an out of body experience […].”

Yet he said, “The feeling of finishing a song, a well written song, and knowing that you have something significant in your hands, is probably my favorite feeling.”

Although songwriting is his favorite aspect of music, arranging songs has been a growing part of his expertise and Hest would still advocate creating music via the GarageBand type of software.

“That falls under the category of musical self exploration, trying to see whatever you can accomplish on your own without the help of others, without the help of a studio.”

Certainly attesting to being an artist for the ages, Hest looks forward to this new stage of musical arrangement.

“I do think that’s where music is headed more and more. You know, the more you can do by yourself, the better, I think, and technology allows you to do that. So, it’s great.”

Posted in Music | 2 Comments

A cup of coffee and live music soothes the soul

When under-the-radar, folk and pop artist Brooke Campbell took her corner of the modern art deco 92YTribeca Café to perform a free show,  I didn’t know what to expect. Listening to a few of her tracks online didn’t prepare enough for the mesmerizing performance I later heard in person.

Artist Brooke Campbell belts out a soulful lyric.

Settled with a coffee at my own high chair corner beside glass windows overlooking Hudson street, I was mere feet from the performer and instantly taken by both what I saw and heard. Performing with only a dark mahogany varnished guitar accompanying her soothing vocals, Campbell’s voice was nearly bare but beautiful. The singer opened her set to an audience of barely ten with a few soft words and soulful music and lyrics that had me moments from slipping into a dream and focused on the reality outside my window.

Hailing from the small coastal town of Whiteville, North Carolina, Campbell’s soft, southern drawl and clear folk music influences peeked out from below her voice. Her folksy yet jazzy and soulful pieces were laced with melancholy lyrics and breathless vocals reciting the trials of life and love. More than once, her crooning made me turn to look at the nighttime view outside and reflect on my own trials as the day looped to her soundtrack.

That soundtrack included tracks like “Sugar Spoon,” “Why,” and “Please Go,” off of her second, most recent release, Sugar Spoon, songs from her first album, Better, and covers of a few unknown folk songs. (Here’s a listen- Stretched Towards You)

One was based on a poem about Civil War soldiers returning to the women who had been doing their jobs in the mens’ absence.  Mentioning that she liked singing this especially because her brother had just safely returned from the war, Cambell allowed me to see a genuine personality to match her almost vulnerable voice.

With a sound similar to pre-pop Jewel and Ingrid Michaelson’s, Campbell voice was easily likable and her set pleasing to the ear. My only gripe might be that her music lacked variety. Theresa Roca related to this.

“Although Campbell clearly possesses the qualities of passion and talent, when on stage, she sings in the same quiet tone, lacking energy.” Roca said.

Campbell’s songs differed mainly in range. Some, she sang in a consistently mellow tone. On others, she reached for especially high notes that sounded a depth of feeling from more than her diaphragm. It was easily visible that these songs were being delivered from the heart from the way Campbell closed her eyes in intense focus on her vocals and guitar strumming. Similarly critically acclaimed by bloggers like The Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout, and playing a constantly changing calendar of live shows at similar venues, Campbell did her reputation and her music justice.

Share the love for a Better, Sugar Spoon

Those as captivated as I was by this promising artist could purchase either of her albums for $10 at the cafe. Diners I bumped into by the milk and sugar generously shared their positive critiques and I was positive Campbell had made such an impression that these might sell quick. It was a short and sweet performance for nothing but a coffee.

A sentimental and cautious musician with a well of emotion seeping through her words and vocal chords just like the lyrics to “Sugar Spoon” suggests; “Never felt more happy, or in control/ bouncing off the wall and into a dark hole,” Brooke Cambell is definitely an artist with great potential. With a little word of mouth, I think it’s only a matter of time until this artist gets a taste of her sugar spoon.

Posted in Music, music reviews | 2 Comments

Turn the volume down, please!

The crowded 6 train on any given day.

Cramming into a subway car full of tired commuters during the bleak rush hours to and from school or work, the last thing I want is to be disturbed. Unless engaged in conversation, I like my quiet down time during the ride, whether by curling up with a book or the New York Times app or dozing to my current favorite playlist. Either way, I like to drown out the noise and try to relax. That’s next to impossible when the rider beside me thinks I’m just itching to hear whatever he or she’s listening to these days. I don’t know about you but as far as I know, the subway isn’t about blasting your musical tastes.

It’s downright frustrating when I’m forced to hear scratchy rock or hip-hop second hand from somebody else’s too loud mp3 player.  How difficult is it to keep the volume low? Just high enough so that only one person can hear it–the one who’s wearing the headphones?

Do you like Florence and the Machine? Yes? No? Maybe so? Ah, well, I'll keep the volume to a minimum anyway.

I have a personal rule for this: If you can still hear the whir of the train and the announcements fairly clearly, you’re not unreasonably loud. Double check the decibel level by removing the headphones for a moment to make sure you can only hear it from close contact. It’s not an exact science but it’s simple enough.

I’m not the only one complaining; there’s even an online forum on the topic with other advice. Its users’ odd solution: earplugs. Their most sensible one: better quality IEM headphones. Not a bad investment. Think about it, you hear your music with better sound quality, and I don’t hear it at all.

Trying to catch a nap on the way home at a quarter to 11 pm is a little difficult when some guy a few feet away is blaring Spanish music from somewhere on his person. I don't even see the device but I assume it's coming from a phone tucked safely in his pocket. (I couldn't inconspicuously take a photo of him without giving away my cover of playing a very serious game on my phone.)

But, again, therein lies the rub. There are those who forgo the headphones entirely. Ah, the kind and selfless individuals who are generous enough to play the music straight off of their android phones at an unruly volume that I’ve never seen a good Samaritan argue against.

Why, when the spaghetti debacle a few weeks ago seemed to stir up so much debate about subway etiquette, does this go ignored?

True, the subway is a public place. But unless you’re performing live, I really don’t mind if you keep your music to yourself. It’s not your private bedroom, so turn the volume down, please!

Posted in Music, Music Rant/ love song | 7 Comments

Tamar-kali’s “Pearl” needs some wisdom.

Tamar-kali’s “Pearl,” featuring rapper Jean Grae, is a cacophony of discordant sounds that may make the dance floor but not my iTunes repertory.

The song is interesting for its Hendrix-like guitar riffs but terrible for them too, especially in conjunction with the fast-paced percussion and some sort of metal clanging in the background. Kali’s lyrics are lost among these musical beats, indiscernible, but her low drone is not, especially when she rises to a scream. Grae’s rap is much the same.

Both voices and the music are nauseatingly unsettling. Perhaps some pearls of musical wisdom might do them some good.

Posted in Music, music reviews | Comments Off on Tamar-kali’s “Pearl” needs some wisdom.

“Lotus Flower” not a walk by the stream.

Radiohead isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but Radiohead’s music definitely takes everyone somewhere, whether the listener likes where he’s heading or not. “Lotus Flower” is that kind of song, a ride that purports to be a smooth one but ends up rather bumpy when you see frontman Thom Yorke gyrating like an electrocuted human lotus flower.

Physical performance aside, the music is not short of electrifying in itself. A fast-paced slow song that has the potential to be the soundtrack to a heist film during a particularly calculated operational scene, “Lotus Flower” instantly plants a plethora of sounds from a techno-like, beeping undertone accompanying a steady drum beat, spots of a piano and some essences of low-key jazzy instrumentals. What the song lacks in strings Yorke makes up with his vocals, reaching a high pitch at the songs climax, but maintaining a consistently smooth quality along the electric minor chords.

Posted in Music, music reviews | Comments Off on “Lotus Flower” not a walk by the stream.

Hot off the streets: Corn on the cob and hot tamales

Strolling the streets of Spanish Jackson Heights, the scents of native Spanish foods wafted over to me at various corners of the neighborhood. Awnings of Mexican cuisine and Colombian bakeries greeted me at different junctures, competing to satisfy a craving I couldn’t quite name.

It was when I saw the third person on my excursion eating something cheesy on a stick and wrapped in aluminum foil that I not only wondered aloud what they were eating, but actually exclaimed, “That’s it, I want what they’re having.”

Corn on the cob, off the grill, on the streets.

There began my quest, when I went back down a street where one woman I spotted with the food had just come from. But it led me to the same awnings and none of them offered anything of the kind. Suddenly, I turned my back to these storefronts and noticed the street vendors facing them, selling my so called mystery food: corn on the cob. A women who kindly declined pictures of herself allowed me to showcase her mouthwatering corn. I bought one for $2, digging my teeth into the kernels. It was grilled to perfection with just enough darkened spots, the evenly soft and chewy texture covered in crumbly parmesan cheese.

This vendor uncovers the plastic wrap to reveal the steaming hot tomales.

Next to this makeshift vending station set on a shopping cart was another woman selling hot tamales and steaming hot rice pudding. I didn’t buy either of these but they sold easily and quickly enough right before my eyes as I briefly waited for my corn. Having never eaten hot tamales they’re now on my back-burner. I can’t wait to return and feast on those tamales with more than my eyes, because sometimes, what you’re craving isn’t indoors at a sit down, but out and about and hot off the streets.

Posted in Food | 3 Comments

Blending the ingredients for a career as a pastry chef

Segufta Amin neatly slices a strawberry to make a simple smoothie.

Carefully selecting the right knife to delicately slice the ripe strawberries she picked up at the supermarket earlier that day, Segufta Amin brings the blade to the chopping board with a gentle and knowing touch. Preparing a simple smoothie, she quickly drops the slices into a blender, adds a handful of fresh blueberries and spoonfuls of sugar she doesn’t quite measure in order to concoct the sweet beverage. While my cousin may not look like the pros on the Food Network, she definitely knows what she’s doing. And it’s exactly what she has set out to do with her life: cook.

Growing up helping her mom prepare Bengali meals for the Muslim holidays, Amin discovered a passion for cooking early in her childhood and decided to make it her life’s career.

“When it came time in high school, when they ask you that question, ‘what do you want to do with your life?’ I couldn’t find any answer that made me happy except cooking,” Amin said.

To that end, the 19 year old is currently completing her Associates degree in Baking and Pastry at Monroe College’s School of Hospitality Management & the Culinary Arts, for a $25,000 education.  Under scholarship and financial aid, the aspiring chef feels fortunate to scrape by.

However, feeling that she was embarking on an expensive career with an uncertain future, Amin’s parents were not immediately supportive of her ambitions. But they’re increasingly warming up to it.

“I want that she does whatever makes her happy and I wish her success,” her mom, Gulshan Amin, said.

Nevertheless, Amin understands her parents’ concerns. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pastry chef’s annual income is only about $21,000.

“Parents want you to have a stable future. They want you to have a career where they know you can always support yourself, that you can do fine on your own, when I guess, they’re thinking about the times that they’re not gonna be there,” she explains.

To both alleviate their worries and realize her dream to one day run her own restaurant, Amin is aiming for a Bachelors Degree in Hospitality Management after graduation this month. Business knowledge from this degree is a key ingredient to realizing her dreams of opening an eclectic “bar slash restaurant, just a very relaxed place with really good music and really good food.” But experience in the real world of the food industry is another.

A recent stint as a baking intern at Tribeca Treats, where she prepared cakes and frostings and sometimes decorated the goods, provided that experience. Amin says the internship allowed her to apply her education outside the classroom and see the business side of the kitchen.

“I learned a lot more about supply and demand because they would do things differently for special holidays. They would make things in advance, and they had a good gist of everything they needed.”

She exhibits that notion in her own recipes now. Her culinary arts professor Margaret Wong describes Amin to have ”that dreamy like quality about her [though] she is more comfortable and requires less supervision when executing a recipe,” than when she first started.

Amin's homemade almond tart.

Taking a bite out of a freshly baked almond pear tart she later prepares for me, I experience the labor of that execution. Made out of almond frangipane, topped with poached pears and almonds and brushed with apricot jam, it took her an hour to poach the pears alone, and another to prepare the tart dough and frangipane.

The crunchy pie crust crumbled on my lips, meeting with a contrast from the both creamy and nutty frangipane, while the soft pears melted in my mouth. The tart delivered a sweet burst of flavors from varying textures, especially with the tart glaze on top. The desert’s only flaw was that the dough could’ve been a baked through a bit more; it was a tad soft. Though the tart was scrumptious, I can tell that the young culinary student is still learning how to perfect the recipe to her career.

Likewise, Amin says she wants to train more, especially in high end cake decorating, sugar decorations, “and the stuff that it takes the real masters to do.”

Chef Wong seconds that, for “the culinary/pastry field is very competitive and can be very rough. Segufta will need to constantly push herself in the field of pastry,” she says.

“I think I have a lot more to learn,” Amin agrees, “I really enjoy that learning, it’s gonna take hard work to get to where I want but I’m willing to do it.”

Posted in Food | 5 Comments

The little bee’s sweet and savory sting

Though the food was variably delicious, Petite Abeille already had me at hello. The restaurant’s endearing décor evoked both a countryside feel and a fairytale like atmosphere that fed my eyes with a view of tasteful colors.

While its lemon meringue walls displayed different pieces of art—a chalkboard showing the menu in a neat script on one pillar, the restaurant’s symbol of a bee on another—its tables were covered in blue and white checkered table cloth and arranged in a comfortable array that easily invited me in as if for a picnic.

As a Belgian restaurant and bar, Petite Abeille (French for “little bee”), is best known for its variety of sweet waffles and beers. However, it also offers a number of savory entrees and selection of omelets with their own Belgian twists, heavy on the mushroom, cheeses, and Belgian fries with just about any meaty dish.

Primarily a halal or vegetarian diner, I thought I’d try an omelet, but found them way too pricey at $12.50-$13. Instead, I opted for the $5 Petite Abeille Egg Sandwich. Normally served with spinach, bacon and cheddar on ciabatta bread, I asked them to hold the bacon and add tomatoes.

Waiting a long half hour for my sandwich, our charming waiter was extremely attentive to our table. However, the lunch rush hour arrived soon and the wait staff was far to busy to tend to us the same way throughout. So I recommend coming in the wee hours of the day to get the best out of this little bee. Still, with such a wait, you can be sure your food is fresh. I was confirmed of this when I received my fulfilling egg sandwich.

Smoke steaming out of the crisp ciabatta, the gooey cheese and vegetable combination oozing within and its salty scent wafting out, my mouth was watering immediately. Well seasoned, the melted cheese had a slightly bitter aftertaste, but it was quickly sweetened with the chunks of tomato, while the spinach balanced both tastes. After a bit of struggling to eat as neatly as possible and avoid melted cheddar streaming down my chin, only crumbs remained. At just $5 and a far cry from the much beloved Dunkin Donuts croissant, egg and cheese equivalent, this gourmet egg sandwich was a steal.

I attempted to then satisfy my sweet tooth with the  $9 Gaufre Banana Split: a waffle with vanilla ice cream, banana, chocolate sauce and whipped cream. I love bananas, but with a waffle, chocolate and whipped cream, they were absolutely scrumptious. A dismissible flaw, however, was that the chocolate sauce tasted too watered down. I dipped the cut corners of my soft and chewy waffle into the syrup to get just the right amount and texture. But the Wafels & Dinges truck’s thick and creamy toppings definitely beat the little bee’s.

Still, tantalized by the sweet aroma engulfing my senses, I almost forgot about the ice cream! Hidden beneath the whipped cream and I had to carve it out to taste it. The frigid contrast of the vanilla ice cream can be off putting with the rest of the warm, sugary goodness, though. So maybe I’d have this dessert sans ice cream next time. It would definitely be worth the visit. You could say Petite Abeille had me at goodbye as well.

Posted in Food, restaurant reviews | 4 Comments

LeBlanc shares her voice

While it seems to take journalist Adrian Nicole LeBlanc years to write a nonfiction novel, it only takes her minutes to warm up to a group and talk about it.

Much like the stand up comedians she’s currently interviewing for her upcoming book, this spring’s Harman Writer- in- Residence stood up at the podium last night and simultaneously entertained and imparted words of wisdom to her attentive audience. In a friendly and casual tone, LeBlanc read from her first book, Random Family, and her work in progress,  and answered a series of curious inquiries afterward.

Her response to one question was that, both writing and comedy is like “a long apprenticeship. It takes a long time to find your voice.”

It’s clearly the case that LeBlanc has long found hers.

Posted in LeBlanc Talk | 4 Comments