Hidden gems at the Met in New York City

NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art holds some lesser-known treasures and pieces of pure comedy in its quiet corners

New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art holds a massive collection of art from all of history and from all around the world. From Egyptian mummies to Picasso paintings, you can find it there. Sometimes, though, it pays to look past the museum's famed pieces and discover something new. It might inspire awe or surprise; it might change your mind about a style or frighten you; it might even make you laugh or inspire you to create. Admission to the Met is always by donation (you choose the amount), so it's a perfect place for adventurers of any financial standing or artistic experience to begin searching for something new and exciting. To start, here are some of the Met's best hidden gems.

PixCell-Deer #24

One of the Met's most astonishing and disquieting pieces, PixCell-Deer #24 stands in the Asian Art wing on the second floor. A 2011 sculpture by the Japanese artist Kohei Nawa, it strikes you with surprise and wonder when you walk into its tiny room. It is a taxidermied deer, standing with tall antlers and head turned back to look behind it at the entrance to the room. The artist's strangely beautiful contribution is the addition of hundreds of "PixCells"—glass balls of various sizes entirely covering the deer.

The deer's stance is confident or cautious, depending on your perspective. It's head is raised high and its antlers tower mightily. But the glass balls alienate the animal and their varying sizes change its form and silhouette. The result of the artist's work is uncomfortable while retaining its natural element, especially when standing in the deer's line of vision. That is an eerie experience that should not be missed.

Noguchi's Water Stone

In a quiet corner of the Japanese room, past what is currently a beautiful collection of bamboo sculptures, peacefully sits Isamu Noguchi's Water Stone. Out of boulder that has been hollowed out in the center and flattened on top flows silent, calm, uncaring water. The stone was placed to be as close to perfectly level with the center of the Earth as possible. The effect of that precision means that the water, which is pushed up from the bottom by a pump, flows out of the hole in the center and across the surface of the Stone equally, in all directions.

The water is a mirror on top that reflects the gorgeous wooden fence behind it. Surrounded by clean, smooth river rocks, the Water Stone embodies peace, quiet, patience and natural beauty in what can often be a crowded, bustling museum building.

Wheat Field with Cypresses

On the second floor, in the Annenberg Collection of "Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Masters" (Gallery 822), is a painting of some trees. They are trees standing, under a swirling blue and white sky, amid lush, blowing grasses and they were painted by Van Gogh in 1889. Van Gogh called Wheat Field with Cypresses one of his best landscapes and loved it enough to paint three other versions. This oil-on-canvas piece is the initial study from which the others were created.

It's a gorgeous contrast of dark green cypresses and yellow wheat under Van Gogh's signature swirls. Head to the Annenberg Collection and start with this landscape for an energizing start to your exploration.

Ready for a laugh?

The Luce Center Visible Storage in the American Wing is also called Gallery 774 and is a collection of over ten thousand pieces of American art in every form—paintings, sculptures, furniture and tons more. It, for the adventurer, is one of the great secrets of the museum. After you've passed through the Egyptian rooms and past the Temple of Dendur, or skipped the Medieval Age and most of the main American exhibits, and you've ascended a small staircase near the corner of the museum, you finally uncover the grand closet that is Visible Storage. It's rows and rows and rows of pieces of art in storage behind tall glass. Many pieces' titles and authors are listed but you won't find much more description without some internet research. The mystery makes it all the more fascinating.

Some pieces at the Met are shocking for their grandeur, or their beauty or their precision. But hidden in Visible Storage is a painting that's shocking in a different way. The picture on your screen won't do it justice, but in person it is likely one of the ugliest paintings you'll ever see. This is Boy with Blond Hair.

Boy with Blond HairBoy with Blond Hair. (Photo Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art)

It is a blonde-haired toddler wearing a patterned red dress and a face that could be that of a miserable adult male, fitted onto the head of a three-year-old. This is an uncredited painting, in a museum, that once again asks the question: why was it so difficult to paint cute babies? This oil painting is from 1840, long after both the ugly medieval babies and the cuter Renaissance kids. The child looks positively disgusted to be holding, what are those—a lemon and a diary with a compass on the front? An onion and an 8-track? Bizarre.

It's a wonder of ugliness that must be witnessed in person.

Also in visible storage is an incredible sculpture, a magnificent bust, not Julius Caesar or Marcus Aurelius or King Blah-Blah-Blah, but of a man screaming.

Cain, J. Stanley ConnorCain by J. Stanley Connor. (Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Upon further research, it turns out that it is a bust of a famous figure. This is Cain, by J. Stanley Connor, a New York City native who briefly made a name for himself in Florence, Italy. This is the artist's only located work but, really, it isn't necessary to see any others to declare this his magnum opus. How often do you see teeth on a sculpture? What other bust looks so much like a hungover man, mid-yawn, head pounding, after waking up and shuffling to his bedroom window to burn his eyes with morning sunlight? I imagined the first murderer looking more furious, or evil, and certainly less confused.

The Met is full of wild, amazing, confusing and purely comical pieces of art from all over the world. Go, search its depths for the strange and the stunning and comment below with your favorites.

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Distillery tours went on hiatus in 2020, but there are high hopes for 2021. While bourbon leaps immediately to mind when thoughts turn to distillery tours, interest in other spirits and how they're made is increasing. Here are a few of the best tours to thrill tequila lovers.

Tequila Herradura

Ride in style on the Herradura Express, a distillery sponsored train ride that runs from Guadalajara to the town of Amatitán for a distillery tour and tastings, followed by lunch featuring live entertainment. The train then takes visitors back to Guadalajara by evening. Herradura is housed in the last tequila-producing Hacienda in the world, Hacienda San Jose del Refugio. Casa Herradura will be closed for visits and tours until Mexican health officials declare the coronavirus emergency over.

La Rojeña

Producer of Jose Cuervo, La Rojeña has a train of its own called the Jose Cuervo Express (currently on hiatus due to COVID-19) to bring visitors to the oldest distillery in the town of Tequila. Jose Cuervo offers distillery tours, tastings, and tours of the agave fields. Mundo Cuervo (Cuervo world) also has its own hotel, Solar de las Animas. Check for COVID-19 hours and restrictions before booking.

Casa Sauza

Founded in 1873, Casa Sauza offers four levels of tours including a visit to the La Perseverancia distillery, a visit to the Quinta Sauza estate, and for those willing to spend more, barrel tastings and a barbeque or a three-course meal. Casa Sauza is on hiatus until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, but should go on the distillery tour bucket list.

La Cofradia

The only tequila distillery with a hotel inside, La Cofradia offers many experiences in addition to distillery tours. Choose a hike through natural trails, biking, or horseback riding through the agave fields. Rooms made of giant tequila barrels sit among the agave plants for a unique stay. Visiting La Cofradia is sure to be a tour that thrills tequila lovers. Contact the hotel directly for information about lockdown closures.

A distillery tour offers education about tequila's history and manufacture. Bone up on your tequila terms and tips for choosing quality tequila before you go, so you'll understand what you're tasting.

We don't know how to feel about winter this year. Sure, nobody likes the cold and dreary months, but there's something special about the Holiday season that just seems to be missing. Maybe the thought of staying inside and cozying up to a nice book isn't very enticing given the last few months. The joyful winter wonderland that we usually associate with winter seems to be missing.

That's why our editors decided to take it upon themselves and spread some delight with seasonal meals, courtesy of HelloFresh. For those who don't know what HelloFresh is, it's a meal-kit delivery service with dozens of easy-to-prepare recipes to choose from. Simply select which meals you want as well as how many servings and a neatly organized cardboard box will arrive at your doorstep within the week. Nobody wants to go out in the Winter anyway, and with HelloFresh, you don't have to!

To celebrate the arrival of the coldest season, we decided to highlight some of our favorite (and heartiest) recipes from HelloFresh that are perfect for the Holiday season. Here are five wholesome and balanced meals that will warm you up in no time.

Veggie Loaded Kale & Risoni Soup

A hearty and warm soup is a Winter staple and this veggie loaded kale and risoni soup from HelloFresh absolutely hits it out of the park. All anybody wants during the colder months is to feel cozy and nurtured--just like the flavorful bowl of nutrients. Warm and creamy risoni compliments the seasonal veggies perfectly and the side of garlic bread is a sure-fire cure for any winter blues. With 22 meals to pick from each week, this one is sure to be a household favorite.

Cheesy Red Pesto Chicken Melts

Everyone is familiar with classic green pesto, but have you ever tried red pesto? Red pesto offers way more complexity and oomph than its green counterpart. It is incredibly bright with rich notes of umami, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh basil and garlic. This rendition also features hits of chargrilled capsicum for a little extra zest. You get the exact amount of each ingredient and seasoning, as well as super detailed recipe cards, that make meal prep a breeze. Spread it over a glistening chicken bread and sprinkle with cheese for delectable chicken melts.

Winter Risotto

Risotto is a great winter warmer. It's packed full of veggies so your body will light up like fire, but it's also silky, sumptuous and a real crowd pleaser. HelloFresh's Winter Risotto features a heart helping of kale that pairs perfectly with nutty Parmesan and crunchy walnuts for a robust taste. Did we mention that it also comes with fennel seeds sprinkled throughout? This unique seasoning adds a distinctive, yet delicious flavor to this classic winter staple. We know these meals are pretty hardy, which is why we love having the option to pause our subscription or cancel a week when need be.

Cheat's Italian Pork & Veggie Bolognese

A bolognese that only takes 30 minutes to make? Sign us up! This one is chock full of all the rich flavors of a classic Italian sauce. In fact, we're getting some serious Italian grandmother vibes with this recipe. Silky baby Spanish and grated carrots melt into a hearty meat sauce, offering a mouth-watering meal for anyone looking for a little zest. It's delivery quality, but much more affordable, plus you get to cook it yourself!

Smokey Mild Chorizo & Bean Chilli

Yet another clever twist on a weekday favorite! The paprika and garlic flavored cured sausage is a staple in our chopping baskets since it goes well with practically anything. Not only is Chorizo loved for its taste, but also for its ability to infuse sauces with its tantalizing flavor. This time around, HelloFresh has decided to spice up a classic bowl of bean chili with Spanish styling of a smokey mild chorizo. The end result? A mix of chorizo, red kidney beans, corn and avocado, and an irresistible flavor that everyone will love. This is just one of dozens of unique HelloFresh recipes you won't find anywhere else!

Gone are the days of trekking through the frigid cold just for a few groceries. Sign-up for HelloFresh today and get your ingredients delivered right to your doorstep. Time to start cozying up the right way, with a delicious meal and a nice cup of hot cocoa.

Update: Our friends at HelloFresh are extending a special Black Friday offer to our readers. Follow this link to get $90 off across 4 boxes including free shipping!

Travel Tips

8 of the Best Donut Spots In the United States

Celebrate National Donut Day with our favorite treats across the country.

November 5th marks one of 2020's two National Donut Days.

Occurring in both June and November, National Donut Day allows fans of those delectable yeasty treats to embrace their sweet tooth. But like any niche food group, people often take their donuts very, very seriously, and there are countless places to get your fix.

Below, we've rounded up some of the best donut spots across the country. From coast to coast, these bakeries are sure to impress even the pickiest donut-heads.

Mr. T.'s Delicate Donut Shop – Modesto, CA

Mr. T.'s Delicate Donut Shop

If you ever find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area, it's worth taking a short trek out east towards Modesto for some of California's best donuts. Mr. T.'s Delicate Donut Shop has remained family owned since its opening over 30 years ago, providing both tried-and-true classic donuts as well as experimental flavors and holiday specials. Even their 24-hour service doesn't diminish the line that trails out the door most mornings.

Dough — New York, NY

Dough \u2014 New York, NY

Donuts might not be the first circular, doughy treat you think of when it comes to New York City. If you've had your fair share of bagels, the Big Apple also boasts some spectacular donuts at Dough, a go-to spot for both tourists and locals alike. Here, you'll find a host of Latin American-inspired flavors that are hard to come by anywhere else; their Dulce de Leche flavor is a customer favorite, while the tangy Hibiscus donut is just as good for Instagramming as it is for eating.

Blackbird Doughnuts — Boston, MA

Blackbird Doughnuts \u2014 Boston, MA

Boston's Blackbird Doughnuts is a no-frills donut spot specializing in both brioche "raised" donuts and old-fashioned cake donuts. With a small menu of year-round donuts and a rotating cast of seasonal flavors, Blackbird keeps it simple and classic. Why mess around?

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop — Brooklyn, NY

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop \u2014 Brooklyn, NY

For over 60 years, Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop has been calling the quaint Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint home. Since then, the bakery has remained a popular spot for both regulars and new visitors passing through the area. Here, you won't find uber-trendy decor or gimmicky recipes, just damn good donuts that prove the power of long-standing local businesses.

Pip’s Original — Portland, OR

Pip\u2019s Original \u2014 Portland, OR

In both their mobile catering van and brick-and-mortar locations, Pip's Original is a staple for small, sweet treats in Portland. They're known for their tiny donuts that come in inventive seasonal flavors like marionberry-lavender and mango ghost pepper. But even if you opt for one of the more traditional flavors, Pip's Original proves good things can come in small packages.

Round Rock Donuts — Round Rock, TX

Round Rock Donuts \u2014 Round Rock, TX

Founded in 1926, Round Rock Donuts—located just north of Austin—are impossible to miss. These donuts' distinct yellow-orange color, caused by fresh eggs in the original recipe, make them stand out among the crowd. While this classic outpost can easily churn out hundreds of dozens of donuts a day, they also offer Texas-Sized Donuts, which are just as ginormous as you'd imagine. Round Rock Donuts are not only delicious and easily recognizable, but they're a slice of Lone Star history.

The Holy Donut — Portland, ME

The Holy Donut \u2014 Portland, ME

In Maine's Portland, you might not find tiny donuts or a decked-out catering van, but you will find a slightly healthier alternative. The Holy Donut was founded on the premise of creating tasty donuts that used all-natural ingredients to make a treat you could feel good about eating. The secret ingredient is fresh, mashed Maine potatoes, which make these donuts delectably moist without sacrificing flavor.

Donut Friend — Los Angeles, CA

Donut Friend \u2014 Los Angeles, CA

As expected of a city so focused on entertainment, Los Angeles' Donut Friend puts an edgy spin on their inventive donut flavors. Their year-round menu features donut flavors with names like Green Teagan and Sara, Fudgegazi, and Bacon-182 that are sure to delight the rock music nerds. For everyone else, the delicious donuts speak for themselves.