THE BLOG
07/22/2015 12:48 pm ET Updated Jul 22, 2016

On the Culture Front: Star Chefs Gather for Eli Kulp, The Gideon and Hubcap Show and more

On Monday night, I joined friends of chef Eli Kulp, who gathered at Del Posto to raise money for his mounting medical bills after suffering a severe spinal chord injury when his Amtrak train derailed in May. That we live in a country where getting sick or injured can bankrupt someone continues to be unsettling and illogical. That being said there was an impressive assortment of top-notch dishes and overarching celebration of culinary creativity that was heartening to witness. Some of the many highlights included Chef John Nodler's (of Kulp's restaurant High Street) lamb and clam on crispy squid ink cracker, PJ Calapa's (Ai Fiori) Nova Scotia lobster terrine with summer squash and prosciutto, Gabe Thompson's (L'artusi) white gazpacho with peekytoe crab and melon doused in chilies, and Meena Throngkumpola's (Nobu 57) toothfish wasabi den miso. Bob Truitt's watermelon ice sorrel with toasted almond made a perfect palate cleanser and Cory Colton's (Quality Italian Stakehouse) Chocolate Budino with salty butterscotch stracchino and cocoa crunch was one of the most transcendent and almost savory desserts I've ever had.

On the theater front, Jesse Eisenberg's "The Spoils" at the New Group rings achingly true for anyone who's grown up in a distorted prism of wealth - "everyone's rich and no one knows how," Eisenberg's character, Ben, blurts out in one of many rages that coat truths in profound dissatisfactions. There's a rawness that pulsates through both acts of this tautly constructed play that makes for a thrilling experience. It reminded me of the original production of Kenneth Lonergan's "This is Our Youth" with Mark Ruffalo. Kunal Nayyar, best known as Raj on "The Big Bang Theory," is deceptively disarming as Ben's de facto best friend and drives the emotional core of this brutally funny and deeply moving work.

I was also quite impressed with Anne Washburn's "10 out of 12," at the always thrilling Soho Rep. When I profiled artistic director Sarah Benson earlier this year for "American Theatre," she hinted that they might be looking for a larger space. While part of me is excited for them to reach a larger audience, another part would deeply miss their intimately theatrical black box space on Walker Street. Washburn's new show plays out during the course of a tech rehearsal for an unnamed new play. Meta by design, the show examines what it means to create and what that looks like in the unglamorous mundane moments while the lights are being readjusted or an actor is going on a rant about the arc of his character. It has the backstage appeal of "Noises Off," but without the obvious desire to entertain. There are plenty of laughs to be had here, but they're the uneasy ones born of shared uncomfortable experiences. When the lights come up after nearly three hours, it feels as though we have been a part of making something.

The pure and unfiltered joy of creation abounds in Gideon Irving's work. I first met the theatrical folk troubadour when I reviewed his solo show "Living Here: Map of Songs" for Time Out. The site-specific work, staged in a different person's home each night, blew me away for its economy of design and immediacy of execution. He's brought the same structure to his new two-hander, "The Gideon and Hubcap Show," which is touring through houses in the city before heading overseas next month for the Edinburgh Fringe. It's an abstract emotional journey through his relationship with his friend, Hubcap, a talented musician and musicologist. The two have effortless chemistry and an ingratiating aura. I can't wait to see what he does next.

Dave Malloy's "Preludes," is a wild journey through the hypnotized mind of Sergei Rachmaninoff that taps into the impulses of creativity and the barriers to it with a large amount of heart and intelligence. Malloy blends his own score with Rachmaninoff's work, playing fast and loose with musical genres and shredding barriers between classical and pop. Purists might be upset, but I think it highlights the evolutionary power of music throughout time to embody what can't be said with words. The show, which moves at a dreamlike pace, often made me feel like I was in a trance somewhere between the conscious and unconscious world.

On the drink front, I found pisco can be a versatile spirit that transcends the boundaries of the classic pisco sour. I tried several cocktails at an event at the elegantly plush Dear Irving the other week that opened my mind. One of the best and best named was Darryl Chan's Spruce Bringsteen, a subtle mix of Barsol Italia pisco, yellow chartreuse, lemon, tonic, and foraged spruce.

I also tried a great new wine, Carnivor, at a dinner prepared by Top Chef contestant Ed Cotton, served poolside in Sag Harbor. The rich cabernet sauvignon seamlessly blended into the flavor of the veal lasagna and an heirloom tomato and burrata salad. I would definitely pick up a bottle for a dinner party in the future. The Hamptons, on the other hand, I will avoid like the douchey plague they are.

I was drawn out to Montauk for the 4th of July weekend when I heard Chromeo was playing a waterfront set as part of Corona's Electric Beach. The band is the epitome of sophisticated yet whimsical dance music, so it seemed like the perfect way to celebrate our country's bday. The show started promisingly with a live set by Yacht but when David Macklovitch and Patrick Gemayel took the stage for their headlining DJ set, they seemed to leave their personalities behind the velvet rope of Surf Lodge. Maybe they saw the crowd, a see-and-be-seen set who were mostly unfamiliar with their work, and thought why bother? Maybe they were told to play a generic set of pop songs and keep the crossfading and other DJ artistry to a minimum? I hope that explains why they only played a few of their own songs.

Seeing Chromeo live is usually a memorable occasion - I still have a set they did at All Points West years back etched in my mind. This was another beast. From its website, Surf Lodge looks like a ramshackle chic venue that might be run by the Bowery Presents, but it's really a meatpacking club in disguise that confuses bad service and poor planning with exclusivity. The event started two hours late with no apology or explanation; the line for the tiny men's room often snaked outside the venue, where throngs of people waited to be deemed worthy enough to be let in; cushioned seating was reserved for pricey reservations; and the rest of us were rendered invisible by the indifferent wait staff. In the words of Bill Finn, "I'd rather be sailing."