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Top Picks: 'Nuit Blanche,' a new album from Iron and Wine, dinner party guides, and more

A Montreal arts festival, the Iron and Wine album 'Kiss Each Other Clean,' a how-to website for dinner parties, and more recommendations.

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applesandonions .com, a website that offers “blueprints” for throwing a dinner party


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Lettuce help you

Two childhood friends and foodies have paired up in Los Angeles to create, a website that offers "blueprints" for throwing a dinner party complete with unique dishes, décor, and delight down to the last detail of when to preheat your oven.

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Classic romance

Tenor Jussi Bjorling and soprano Bidu Sayao were major stars at the Metropolitan Opera in the 1940s and the highlight of their many performances together is considered to be Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette," now available (as of Jan. 25) in a two-CD set on Sony Classical.

Iron and funk

The fourth album from Iron and Wine, "Kiss Each Other Clean," blends the spirituality of Cat Stevens, the lyricism of Nick Drake, the rawness of Neil Young, and the joy of Van Morrison. Though wild-bearded frontman Sam Beam is known for whisper-quiet acoustic songs, this album brings in horns, doo-wop vocals, and funk – without losing Beam's introspective lyrics. "I saw children in a river/ But their lips were still dry," he sings on the opening track. But he does not leave us in despair, coming back with "Half Moon," about finding joy in simple things, such as: "And all our footprints in the snow/ And the evening glow, leaving."

going home once a year

"Last Train Home" documents the journey that 130 million Chinese factory workers undertake each year to return to their villages from the cities where they work to celebrate the lunar New Year. Directed by Chinese-Canadian Lixin Fan, the film follows one couple over a period of three years as they reconnect each winter with their children who are being raised by the children's grandmother. DVD arrives Feb. 22.

big band in the big apple

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"Harry Connick, Jr. in Concert on Broadway" features Connick's big band with a 12-piece string section as Harry himself tickles the 88s of both a Steinway grand and an upright honky-tonk piano. The first-tier musicians with him (such as trombonist Lucien Barbarin) belt out Connick-orchestrated standards, original compositions, and New Orleans street music. "Great Performances" on PBS, March 2 at 9:30 p.m. ET.

Heating up the cold night air

Montreal tackles Old Man Winter head on with Montreal High Lights, which runs Feb. 17-27. The festival's eighth annual "Nuit Blanche" (literally, "white night," it means "all-nighter") arts celebration is on Feb. 26. The annual event heats up the Montreal night with more than 170 free indoor and outdoor activities emphasizing visual arts, dance, storytelling, exhibitions, cinema, music, sport, comedy, and more in an alcohol-free environment.