On the Culture Front: A Last Summer Hurrah at Flex Mussels and The Palms

It turns out being stuck in the city for Labor Day weekend isn't so bad after all. I started Saturday evening out with a friend at the West Village outpost of Flex Mussels, a mini-chain from Canada's Prince Edward Island. The sparse steel décor contrasted with vivid paintings of the sea evoking maritime merriment. Arriving early, I had a beer at the bar and got the first glimpse of the fresh oysters as the shucker was showing one of the bartenders how open up those pearly gems without getting any shell fragments in the oyster.

After such a show, it was an easy decision to start off with a dozen oysters. They were all very fresh but my favorite was the salty West Coast Totten Virginica. It exploded with flavor even without the accompanying mignonette. For entrées we decided to split a lobster roll and the South Pacific mussels. They couldn't have been farther away from each other on the flavor spectrum: the lobster roll was subtle, light, and without the buttery coat of most of the city's rolls while the mussels shown brightly with lime and giant slices of ginger. Aptly named and served in the pot in which they were cooked, these mussels made for "some enchanted evening."

Unfortunately, we couldn't linger as we wanted to make Reggie Watts set at The Palms, a makeshift pool party in Long Island City just off of the 7 train on Jackson Boulevard. Reggie is the kind of performer who's always a thrill to see. I never get tired of his blend of beatboxing, spoken word, and all-around-awesomeness. Before his set, we caught a glimpse of him playing badminton, and a few minutes later he was on stage in front of a crowded throng of enthusiastic palmers. His set was more dance-driven than usual -- I was a little disappointed he didn't break into one of his famous stories about dropping acid with a co-worker at an organic food store or jonesing for Robitussin as a teenager in Montana. It's a small quibble, though, and his set flew by.

Next we hit up the dumpster pools, and the city began to fade away. They were on the cool side but nothing a little motion couldn't solve. Perched above the rest of the party happenings, they provided an escape from the crowds and a good view of the stage below. Later in the evening as we sat enjoying cocktails under the stars, a group of Viking hipsters pounded revelry on their drums as they paraded through the grounds, providing a surprisingly satisfying coda to a perfect night.