Friday, June 29, 2012

Best Most Dangerous Piñata

Saturday night I was at a party on Gabe's roof that he threw with Jordan.  At the end of the party, there was a piñata.  But there was not a place to hang it.  So Jordan put the piñata line on himself and his life on the line.  (See what I tried to do there?)

Broom distribution.  (They used a broom for a bat)


It was a thrilling an nailbiting piñata session.  In the end, I wound up with a box of Nerds.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Best Great Big Night of Culture and Class

Today, with a bit of a shrug and a "Hey, why not?" I signed up to go with Emily to see the ABT dance Swan Lake at the Met.  I guess, incredibly, this was my fifth ballet?  I settled into my rather good seat and said to myself, "Okay, world's most famous ballet.  Here we go."

I was not ready for what happened.  By the time the swan lady was dancing at her lake (you know, Act II) the audience was losing its collective mind.  People were shouting out in praise and honor right in the middle of everything, the staid Met crowd was clapping and screaming whenever the spirit moved them.  The opera house roared and rumbled with applause.  I hadn't experienced anything like it since witnessing the audience's response to Song of the Moon in the first act of Rusalka in 2004. (see, it's not like I hadn't left the house before.)

For me, Swan Lake was a slow burn, but at some point (like watching Breathless) I found myself drawn in, swept up, and enthralled.  I find myself completely without the vocabulary to understand what I saw or how to explain it to you, like if you took a Beduin to the Arctic Circle and showed him the Northern Lights or, more accurately, if you took a polar bear to Arizona and showed him the Grand Canyon.

While the Swan was pretty great and the clear crowd favorite by a hundred miles, and in fact probably astoundingly great, I just don't know astoundingly great ballet when I see it, my favorite dancers were the swans.  When they quiver down into the fog beneath the rising sun at the very end of the ballet?  It was nearly more than this poor guy could take.  Riding home on the train tonight, walking home down Hester, I battled a lump in my throat.  What on earth happened to me tonight?  Swan Lake, what did you do to me?

Additional Observations:

  • Even though she was evil, I guess, it did kind of seem to me that Sigfried and Odile had a more reasonable and real basis to their relationship.  I'm sorry it didn't work out for them.
  • When the Odette first appears, and the harp music plays?  Doesn't that sound just like the start of Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past?
  • All I knew about the Swan Lake music before I got there I learned from music boxes from my youth.
  • The funny thing is now I'm reading reviews of this production online and they're not kind. (Not kind at all.)  Well, what do I know?  Clearly nothing!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Best Long Delayed Food Journey

Last Friday I met Carol in Brooklyn for a months delayed trip to a certain out of the way eatery.  I came out of the subway in a neighborhood I believe I'd only visited once before.  A couplet by Kanye West immediately came to mind as I took in my surroundings: 

Make a left on Nostrand Ave . . .

. . . we in Bed Stuy

(It's a theater.)

Yes, I was in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.  I saw many interesting things on my way to the restaurant, things like a street for feelings . . . 

This van.

As well as women fainting in a church, women stepdancing in unison inside a bar called Denim, people barbecuing outside a YMCA, and abundant conviviality.

But what I was officially there to see was a little restaurant called Do or Dine.

This is the decoration in the tiles when you enter the restaurant.  I wish I took more pictures of the interior.  At least Carol did.

Honestly, Do or Dine seems like a concept that shouldn't work.  Restaurant with a punny name in an out of the way neighborhood with varied, punny menu of unexpected combinations of flavors and foods served by very hipster staff . . . but you know what, it works.  The place is great.  The very hipster staff is also very friendly, informed, and helpful.  There's an impressive sound system in the ceiling that was 90s hip-hop hits at a volume a bit lower than it should have been.  And the food is great.  The creative combinations we sampled really did the trick.  It definitely brings to mind dear departed M Wells.  Is it as good as M Wells?  No.  That is a nearly impossible thing to aspire to.  But it is a very good spot and I would definitely make the trip out to it again.  Perhaps even with my parents.  Yes, it's a Worthy of Your Folks level restaurant.  That's what I'm saying.  

We had the foie gras stuffed jelly donut.  Very nice donut and I don't think there's anything that doesn't taste even better with foie gras.  In fact, I guess this donut proves that.

Nippon Nachos.  Store-bought gyoza topped with kind of Mexican, kind of Japanese nacho toppings.  Also good.

Skate with "Beans and Rice." I had to ask the waiter why "Beans and Rice" were in quotation marks on the menu.  He said it was because the skate was served with fermented black bean paste and puffed rice.  And also black beans.  Good reason.  Great dish.

A little hungry, we ordered one more plate: the slow cooked lamb breast.  We talked with the chef a bit about this dish, how he and his roommates had been buying lamb breast because it was a super cheap cut but never cooked it into anything good until one day he put it in the oven and didn't turn the heat up enough.  And then he forgot it was in the oven?  Something like that.  A lot of forgetting in this story.  Hours later he smelled something delicious.  It was the lamb breast he had forgotten about.  Slow and low, that's always the trick.

And here ends my Do or Dine report.  For my final thoughts on the restaurant, please reread what I wrote five paragraphs above.


You know what?  I think you deserve to hear about one more dinner I had.  Because it was also with Carol.  We had sandwiches from Mile End Sandwiches on Bond Street.  Turns out this place is screamingly good.

Carol had the chicken salad with fried chicken skin sandwich served on bread that had been fried in chicken fat.  From a little sampling I can say this sandwich is a superstar.

I had their roast beef on a Weck roll sandwich.  I'm going to say something crazy: this was the best roast beef sandwich I've ever had.  Ever single thing about it was perfect, the horseradish so good, lots of big flakes of salt on the roll and on the meat.  Were it not $13 I could eat three of these.

So, in conclusion: If you're in Manhattan, you really must try Mile End Sandwiches.  And if you're in Bed Stuy, you gotta stop by Do or Dine.

Additional Reading:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Best Cookbook of the Month

Zackary Palaccio currently has four restaurants—two Fatty Crabs and two Fatty Cues—and now he has one cookbook, "Eat With Your Hands."  My three meals at Fatty Crabs were all good and my two meals at Fatty Cue (the Brooklyn one) were both table-poundingly delicious, and his cookbook gives you everything you need (directionswise, of course) to replicate many a dish from these south-Asian inspired restaurants.  

To me the intimidating thing about the book is the enormous amount of ingredients it calls for that I have never, ever heard of—really the shopping list for almost every (perhaps I exaggerate) recipe calls for something I've never heard of and would not know even where to begin looking for it at—and I live in Chinatown.  On the plus side, the pictures are delicious, Palaccio's enthusiam is infectious, and the amount of knowledge he drops precipitous.  The range of dishes covered in the book is expansive enough to rival How to Cook Anything.  There are stews, roasts, salads, sandwiches, steaks, slaws, curries and etceteras of frog, fish, lamb, pig, goat, vegetable, bunny and noodle to be found within this book that is almost a tome.  I think aside from the unfamiliarity of the ingredients the real problem I have with a lot of these recipes is I just don't know how to expect most of these things to taste—the photo of the Beef Rendang is exciting, but what does a good rendang taste like?  How will I know if I made it right?  What is the flavor of assum gelugor and Gula Jawa Syrup?  Right now rather simple recipes are jumping out at me, like a nice hanger steak marinated in palm sugar, fish sauce and lime juice salad (recipe here) and the caramel pork with hong kong noodles, I should give a few of them a shot and perhaps some day I'll move on to Goat's-Milk-Braised Goat Parts or throw a proper full-hog pig roast.  If I ever have a backyard.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Best Getting Back to Business

Here I am with my first hamburger since the beginning of May.  My first taste of red meat, in fact.

Geeze Louise, it looks like I spent that time waiting for it on a deserted island.
Or should I say DESSERTED island, you know what I mean?  Get it? DESSERT-ted?

Next Up: Tacos. Pork.

Oh, and food is courtesy of Burger & Barrel (and by "courtesy" I do not mean it was given to me or not paid for in anyway)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Best Haus Party

This afternoon the internet told me that Coolhaus, the famous and popular ice cream sandwich truck, would be giving out free ice cream sandwiches right by my work.  I like free, and I like ice cream sandwiches, and I never had had a Coolhaus before, so I went!

Look at the size of this line, right?

But look how much longer it was behind us!  I think we got there five or ten minutes after the truck showed up, beating most of the financial workers that needed free ice cream.

Finally at the truck, it wasn't such a bad wait.

Co-worker David is excited for his freshly-made, hand-scooped ice cream sandwich.

Co-worker (and Netherfriend) Francisco bites into his sandwich.  They came in edible wrappers!

I liked my Coolhaus sandwich!  Look how big it is, they didn't skimp on the samples.  Also, look how you can totally see my one grey beard hair so clearly in this photo.  Suddenly I'm so distinguished.  So distinguished with my ice cream treats.

I had been told by many that the Coolhaus sandwich is a very fine ice cream sandwich.  But now I know it for myself.  It was smart of them to hook me with this free sandwich today, now I'll probably spend all summer jonesing for them and buying them whenever I see the truck.  What a summer it will be!

Coolhaus Website, if you're curious.

Best Just Some Night Time Pictures

Walked to my grocery store and back the other night, took my Nokton along.

These are my stairs

There is a window on the way down the staircase and this is what you see out of it

Lil Italy was bustling but calm that night, like when there's a crowd but the crowd isn't making any noise.  You just hear glasses and dinner chatter from the restaurants, the occasional accordion, not too many fights.

Tremendously out of focus photo of a window at the Italian American Museum.

Souvenir stores doing steady business. 

Pizzas being bought and enjoyed at a reasonable rate, too.

You put "no" in quotation marks and it gets completely ignored.

Patient amigo.

The Parm crowd.  Look at the jolly laugh that fellow is having inside.  I dream of getting back to meatball sandwiches soon.

Attempting to pierce the lacy veil of Torrisi Italian Specialties.  This place is so much on my special occasion go-to list.  I just need the occasion.  Just give me a reason, seriously!  A reason and a reservation.

I am sorry if you scrolled through this whole thing hoping to see pictures of the grocery store.  I didn't take any there.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Best Anderson Party

Saturday night Carol held her long-awaited Wes Anderson costume party party.  I came as mean Farmer Bean from Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Alpha absolutely killed as Moonrise Kingdom's Suzy Bishop.  Sam came back from Boston to be a member of Team Zissou.

Jeff was a fantastic Mr. Fox.

Representing Rushmore: Margaret Yang and Magnus Buchan (his cast would be on his right arm).

Chaunte was the jaguar shark and Carol was Jane, both from Life Aquatic.  

Representing the Darjeeling Limited: Francis Whitman (Trish) and his mother Patricia (Meredith).

Katharine was just classy, but Molly was Kylie the opossum from Fantastic Mr. Fox.  You should've seen her crazy eyes!

Cole was Wes Anderson.  Because it was a Wes Anderson Costume Party.  So really he should be commended for being the one person that listened.

Chateau, also reppin' Team Zissou.

Now, listen, you and I both are probably thinking there should be a lot more pictures from this party.  I totally agree.  I thought I took more.  I'd kind of had a wild Friday, my Saturday night was a tiny bit off.