Downtown on Varick Street Tuesday night, razor-tongued comedienne Sandra Bernhard quipped and sang to a sold-out house. Brassy, bold and unapologetically bitchy, Sandra began with a quote that encapsulated what the night would bring. “I hope I’m not showing off New Jersey housewife tits tonight.”
Standing in a shimmering ‘vintage’ black number, Bernhard’s sharpness (her wit, not her singing) was nicely complemented by City Winery’s smooth summer wines. City Winery is an oenophile’s home away from home. They have an outstanding wine list, a menu to match, and perhaps best of all—they make their own wine. The basement housed row after row of barrels of wine, made on the premises: Their Chardonnay was sweet and round, with a light finish; while the Riesling (also from California vines) was less sweet yet more satisfying. The Rose’ seemed stronger, and perfect for a warm summer night.
City Winery should not be tasted… it should be devoured. Savory and light, their wild mushroom flatbread pizza (topped with goat cheese béchamel) was absolutely sublime. The pistachio chocolate mousse cake was itself an experience. Also a fantastic experience was the service—ask for Christina. She’ll see that you’re well taken care of.
(Many nights out of the week, the restaurant is a nightclub for various music acts—including the price of a ticket. Be sure to check their schedule to see when it is which.)
As delightful as the locale was, it was merely the stage for Sandra Bernhard. Accompanied on piano by her musical director, Mitch Kaplan, Sandra sang sweetly, yet her tones were reinforced with that flavor of jaded cynicism she’s known for so well. (I don’t wish to omit the talented guitarist and trumpeter, but as someone stole my notebook last night, their names were lost. Sorry.)
Bernhard’s comedy filled most of the evening, with musical numbers dividing up the show. While her sharpest cuts were aimed more or less at herself, plenty of celebrities were skewered by her remarks, to say nothing of City Winery itself. While the restaurant is delightful, Varick street is “perfectly aligned for Holland tunnel runoff. That’s some fucking feng shui.”
Sandra spun tales of a Japanese pop star who came to New York to become a manicurist; of the almost indescribable Iman (who never returns a favor), and her sobering take on The View. If memory serves, it was compared unfavorably to a cesspool…
Bernhard’s bravura storytelling was matched only by her honesty—this was a woman who pulled no punches. Tales of raising her daughter (who just enjoyed her Bat Mitzvah), of triumphant weekends in Provincetown, of a suspicious woman –namely her— slipping out to Central Park to bury her daughter’s deceased hamster with a spoon and a box from Barney’s… It was a fantastic evening.
While details on her next performance remain undisclosed, details and more can be found on her website.
As a complement to City Winery, Sandra Bernhard’s voice had a robust flavor and a memorably smoky finish. I hope I have the opportunity to enjoy her work again soon.