As Treme has come to a close, it's hard to decide whether the food or music will be more memorable. I first thought the music. Hearing Dr. John, Trombone Shorty, Allen Toussaint and others is what first made me fall in love with the show, but an event at 92Y last month made me reexamine the impact of food on the show, especially the festive king cake and its association with Mardi Gras. Another thing the show got right: the wistful feeling New Orleanians get when they have to miss the grand celebrations. After her show at City Winery on Friday night, Carolina Chocolate Drop Leyla McCalla expressed her sorrow to me about having to miss the parade season to tour her new album, "Vari-Colored Songs."
It's hard to believe that Chris Thile ever mourns with the joy he squeezes out of his mandolin. Truly as comfortable playing roots, bluegrass or classical, Thile is a virtuoso with no discernible bounds. He played a Carnegie Hall Notables event at Zankel Hall last month with frequent collaborators Michael Daves, Edgar Meyer and Sarah Jarosz. His regular band, the Punch Brothers, was absent, but the show proved as rousing as any I've seen. He's a rare musician I never get tired of seeing live.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band has the same enduring power. They played a sublime set of tracks off their latest release, That's It, at the retro-trendy McKittrick Hotel this summer and a very similar set (with a Christmas tinge and scantily clad naughty elf to boot) at Brooklyn Bowl a few weeks ago. I don't usually dance, but I was moved to move.
On the theater front, I finally got around to the much-lauded productions of "Twelfth Night" and "Richard III." I was slow to warm to the latter and felt Tim Carroll's staging was rather stagnant, questioning if the Elizabethan traditions the production hewed closely to were more of a hindrance. "Twelfth Night" wiped those feelings away with a carefully calibrated levity that abundantly flowed through the production's three hours like a magical elixir. Mark Rylance deserves all the praise he's received, but it's Stephen Fry's Malvolio who remains etched in my memory -- a noble fool for love who savors each of his passions like a bite of the most delicate soufflé.
On the food front, I found Grace to be refuge for good taste in Kips Bay. The Irish gastropub cooks a perfect steak, salmon tartare and deviled eggs for people like me who don't really like them. Their secret: pancetta. Their sister restaurant, the Dead Rabbit, just picked up a couple prized awards at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.