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Manon 1 American Meatpacking District West Village

With the hope of opening in early May 2013, we were invited for a sneak preview to what promises to be an amazing new fashionable venue in the Meatpacking District. The expectations are high for the Russian group who is behind the 20,000 square feet of space at Manon. The mirrored baroque interior interlaced with exposed brick, rustic barnwood floors, crystal chandeliers, and large comfy couches all come together to create a very appealing atmosphere. The intention is to attract a crowd that is looking for an evening filled with fine dining, excellent cocktails, and good music spread out over three floors. Despite their Russian background, the group behind Manon was eager to focus on local talent when deciding on their staff, and we had the pleasure of meeting several of them. Beginning with chef Tae Strain, we learned that he has been in training for this moment for many years, working in restaurants across the country and traveling throughout Asia to hone his skills and develop the perfect menu. When we asked what he felt would become his signature dish, he immediately replied the Dorade. It is a whole fish, similar to Branzino, that will be soaked in herbs over night, grilled, and served with jicama, shallots, and a palm sugar vinegarette. Something else that we are eager to try, after hearing his description, is the Jerusalem Artichoke and Shitake Mushroom Soup that is cooked with a bit of cardamom and kaffir lime. We enjoyed our conversation with Chef Strain, and it was equally interesting to then meet Aaron Polsky. He is a top New York mixologist who plans to use his years of expertise from behind several East Side bars, including Amor Y Amargo, to create fantastic cocktails for patrons on the West Side of Manhattan. Aaron's basic concept is to create a cocktail program that is not only delicious and interesting, but that also gives a nod to the vast space of this bar...and the need to produce quality drinks in a matter of thirty seconds. "It will be all about the timing" at Manon, Aaron explained, "not necessarily showcasing the making of the drink." There are basic descriptions offered on the cocktail menu, but unlike other bars, there will not be a complete listing of all of the components - just the flavors. "We don't want people to focus on what is in the drink, but rather on how it actually tastes." After spending quality time at Manon, we have no doubt that they will provide a high-quality, warm and inviting venue for guests to eat, drink and socialize. We look forward to our return and finding out for ourselves.

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Babycastles Gallery

Babycastles, randomly named in honor of a Japanese pastry, is a gallery and community venue for video game designers. However, according to Todd Anderson, one of the members of the Babycastles collective, Babycastles is about more than just gaming. It is an “incubator” of fresh artistic thought, a place to go with unconventional ideas to be welcomed by individuals who can see those concepts into fruition without red tape and hefty price tags.Using his own story as a case study, Todd told me about how he moved to New York from Chicago in order to pursue digital poetry, a relatively new genre that plays with the interaction between technology and language (for example, using a keyboard to control the delivery of a poem in the same way a conductor guides an orchestra). Todd turned to Babycastles, inquired about hosting a monthly poetry event, and was met with great support. He found a home for his art, and has been invested in Babycastles ever since.Sharing a building with Hack Manhattan, Babycastles hosts a wide variety of events for all ages including concerts, lectures, game launches, and even yoga. The Babycastles team curates exhibitions that spotlight independent video game designers and define their work in the larger context of fine arts. Oftentimes, custom game cabinets are built to accommodate the works on display.Game creators and other artists are invited to apply for the Babycastles residency program, which allows them to take advantage of the bright, sunlit co-working space and receive inspiration from an artistic community where they can freely test their latest ideas. For an application to the program, check the website; new members are admitted regularly.