Fairfield restaurant Baró comforts and delights

Photo by Loan Le

Photo by Loan Le

After entering Baró, an establishment tucked away on the Brickwalk Promenade, a colorful streetscape mural welcomes hungry eaters. It pays homage to the melting of Latin, Spanish, and Caribbean cultures evident in the food that is served at the nearly 3-month-old restaurant. The Saturday crowd appears plentiful but not overwhelming during lunch hour.

An eight-person communal table is ensconced behind a large gray-brown wooden wall. Dangling from the ceiling are lamps contained in cork glass bottles. The walls and floors are painted forest chic – earth colors like brown, faded yellow and muddled white, enough to comfort guests as they chat about mundane details of their lives.

The restaurant separates itself into three sections. The right side features smaller tables for more intimate gatherings. This also includes seats near the kitchen, with a window allowing customers to see the inner workings of Baró’s kitchen, enjoying the business that is usually behind doors and separated from the dining crowd. Baró then offers two tables for larger crowds. In Latin American cultures, any mealtime equates many smaller dishes for many people. The remaining portion of Baró can easily transform into a gathering place for lovers of wine and cocktails. During lunch hour, the sun’s rays bounce off multicolored bottles of alcohol. Such drinks offered include Flower of Nicaragua, a concoction of  Flor de Caña silver rum, sage, yellow chartreuse, soda and more, and soothsayer, bourbon, honey ginger syrup, pomegranate and lemon. This side also boasts long gray tables and stools fit for gatherings of smaller groups.

As mentioned before, the menu mostly focuses on smaller dishes, so that guests can order many to share.

The tartare is either raw meat or tuna that is finely chopped, tossed with a bit of lime and various vegetables. Baró’s tartare, or tartar, has grass-fed beef – which is usually lower in calories and has healthier fats than grain-fed beef – mixed with chili pepper flakes, served on top of gem lettuce, and tostada.  The presentation appears simple and minimalistic, nothing artificial, with natural colors standing out by themselves.   The dish has nothing visually wrong with it, though the same cannot be said for its conceptualization. Tostada typically refers to a deep-fried item, usually an element with crunch, but having the other components on top caused it to become soggy.

Pato borracho, from the taco section, the restaurant’s rising star, consists of duck confit – typically made from the duck’s leg – caramelized onions, saffron aioli and yuca. The aforementioned items sit atop one house-made tortilla, made from corn masa. Masa is used to also make arepas and tamales. Though a flavorful mix sure to delight the palate, the dish lacks more textures.

Baró also offers cubanitos, one of many picaderas, or appetizers, on menu. It is a smaller version of a sandwich dish on the menu. Layered between crunchy, in-house pressed bread are thin slices of roasted pork, ham, melted swiss, pickle and mustard, which tasted more like a spiced mayonnaise. Instead of regular pickles, Baró utilizes what seems to be the pickle’s skin. Without the mustard, this sandwich would be considerably dry.

This Latin-American style cantina elevates the palate but remains down-to-earth with its décor.

Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m.

Price: Student-friendly

Website: http://www.baroct.com

Lubovitch illuminates human nature through dance

Dancers Katarzyna Skarpetowska and Brian McGinnis performing in "Crisis Variations." Photo by Paula Lobo.

Dancers Katarzyna Skarpetowska and Brian McGinnis performing in “Crisis Variations.” Photo by Paula Lobo.

Lar Lubovitch choreographs based on human quality. It is his aim, as he said in a post-show interview at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, to evoke a sensation, not a story, out of his viewers.

But the audience, as humans, may construct stories to make sense of what they witness on stage – and what they saw was breathtaking.

A playful choreography opened the Oct. 4 show, featuring characters who attempted to find their path in life, only to be discouraged as the dance progressed. The following duets focused on relationships between a man and woman: one that is mutually strong, like a bull fighting a bull, while the other a game of cat and mouse in a curtains-lifted display of emotional and physical abuse. The concluding piece provided an amusing take on the word “crisis.”

The company opened the night with “Transparent Things,” set to Claude Debussy’s “String Quartet in G Minor, Opus 10.” According to the program, Lubovitch drew inspiration from Pablo Picasso’s “Family of Saltimbanques,” a painting that shows characters looking off into the distance, pensive, and living a “fragile existence.” Lubovitch compared these subjects to his dancers, who also choose to embrace unsure lives in the name of art.

In one segment of this dance, the tempo slowed and with it the dancers’ movement. Attila Joey Csiki, who opened the dance, sunk to the floor and went still, as if life had gone from him. The lights transitioned to emit a blue, ethereal background. Csiki’s friends witnessed him downtrodden and like a domino effect, his friends adopted the same sullen disposition.

They became more rooted to the ground as opposed to their springy, carefree leaps at the beginning of the dance. A quiet ambience settled among the dancers, and there, with the ending, a universal downside was exposed: dance as “an art that only exists when it is actually happening,” as the program said.

As impressive as the first dance was, the duets and concluding dances were far more compelling.

In “Vez,” a reimagined version of Lubovitch’s “Fandango” choreography from 1989 that is set to Randall Woolf’s “Vez,” there were moments when partners Nicole Corea and Clifton Brown would not touch, but the sensual and sexual chemistry between them could not be more evident. This is the power of dance: its ability to connect participants through how the body moves and not just through bodily contact.

But when Corea and Brown did touch, they often intertwined their bodies around each other, becoming one. “Vez” proved to be a sparring and combative conversation between two dancers – both sides determined to win.

“The Time Before The Time After,” choreographed in 1971, made its return as the second-to-last performance of the night. Seconds into the dance, with a spotlight fixed on partners Reed Luplau and Katarzyna Skarpetowska, the audience sensed tension just about to boil over. Luplau stood posed, a hand about to strike Skarpetowska. Then, Igor Stravinsky’s “Concertino for String Quartet” picked up and a dance was set in motion.

Skarpetowska initially maintained a strong presence, bounding away from her partner, only to be stopped by Luplau’s vice-like grip on her wrist or his hand pulling her back by the hair. At its core, this dance narrated a life of inescapable violent intimacy.

In a particular phase of the dance, the music tempo slowed down and Skarpetowska’s fighting will went with it. The audience knew that the dancer depended on her lover, but what also became clear was that Luplau was nothing without her. His ability to exert dominance depended on his prey; with sharp twists and pivots and unyielding extensions, Luplau gained his power by depleting Skarpetowska’s.

By the end, she gave in and slid down to the floor, back onto her knees, subservient, and Luplau gathered her into a possessive embrace, devoid of comfort. The experience came across as voyeuristic, with the audience witnessing a gripping occurrence, instigated by Skarpetowska and Luplau’s magnetic movement onstage.

The most disconcerting and high-energy choreography could be found in the closing piece, “Crisis Variations.” Once again, the company brought back all of its dancers. Lubovitch revealed in a post-show Q-and-A that the music, which usually inspires his choreography, took a backseat role. He only taught his dancers the moves and rhythm he expected, and then the dancers heard the commissioned music score a day before premiering in 2011.

The purpose of this last-minute change? He wanted to maintain a sense of chaos and confusion – and he certainly succeeded.

The dancers’ movements appeared halting and seemingly accidental, their bodies lurching back and forth, like cars stuck in spasmodic traffic.

Skarpetowska took on another principal role, oftentimes allowing herself to be a ragdoll, carried and dragged across the stage by dancer Brian McGinnis. While the storyline for this piece was unclear – done surely on purpose by Lubovitch – the audience could feel the sensation of chaos.

With Friday night’s performances, Lubovitch proves that he still has a vision, even into his 50th year of choreography, and that his dance company, now in its 45th year, remains determined to help him construct it. It is also not necessarily a bad thing that dance is a fleeting art, with an impact that can only be experienced live. It means that each choreographed performance can exalt itself as new and powerful. For now, Lubovitch and his dancers manage to extend the life of dance until the company’s next performance.

The company will continue to celebrate its 45th anniversary with performances at The Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Ave. and 19th Street, from Oct. 8 to 13 and Oct. 15 to 20.

The type of students I despise

Right now I am enrolled in an Elementary French course at Fairfield University. My summer trip to France in 2012 spurred my desire to learn more about the language and culture. French is such a beautiful language, and I hope to use it one day when I return to the country.

Naturally, as with all courses, I am eager to learn. Being in this type of class means that I would surround myself with freshmen, so going in, I expected everyone to be clueless, but open to learn. I’ve noticed that such students exist, but I am appalled to find others who act entitled and are ignorant of common manners. On the first day of class, one student had the audacity to say that she was taking the class for an easy grade, stating that she had more than ten years of experience with the language. I remember our professor, a French woman, being rendered speechless. I couldn’t believe someone would say that. No wonder some foreigners tend to hate Americans!

However, I mostly hate those who feel they are more knowledgeable than others. One student is lagging behind. That person freezes up whenever asked a question. A few students in the class get impatient and point out the answer condescendingly.

C’mon, —-.” And they laugh.

The fact that some students act this way infuriates me, and yet, occasionally, these same people get answers wrong, too. Don’t you ever remember being that kid who didn’t get something the first time?

I clearly recall the third grade when I participated in a class spelling bee.  At that time, I still struggled with spelling and I had let myself think that I could never learn. It was my turn in the spelling bee, and the teacher requested that I spell “beyond.” But I spelled “beyond” as “beyonded.” Everyone starting laughing at me. The room seemed to shrink. I felt my self-esteem crumbling right there. My crush even laughed at me (at this age, such occurrence seemed to damage your entire being). Tears came, and then I ran out of the classroom and into the bathroom. I stayed there, on the toilet, surrounded by random graffiti that kids left behind on the walls, wishing there was toilet paper to actually use.

I could have been emotionally weak back then, but I’m sure other people have felt the same sting, but can hide their reactions better. I returned later and the teacher made everyone apologize, and all was forgotten then. But I still remember this incident – even when I can’t remember much else of my past – because it injured me in such a way that it took up to middle school for me to see that I can learn, as long as I ignore people who put me down for their own pleasure.

To the student who is struggling: Don’t believe you are incapable of learning. Reach out for help from people who don’t judge you. Talk to the professor. Don’t give up.

To the bullies in the classroom: Criticism is good when it is done to help an individual. When criticism is done merely because you feel superior, it is bad. Have patience. Remember that you can be on the other side. Remember how you feel then and promise not to treat another person the same way again.

We are all learning. Sure, you can say that humiliation motivates people to learn faster. But humiliating another person just because you are impatient makes you look like an asshole.