Saturday, January 20, 2018

No Momos

Monday, January 15, 2018
Kim Kardashian allegedly has 106 million Instagram followers.  I confess that I am not an Instagram user for at least 106 million reasons.
. . .

It took 38 minutes to inform Hawaiians that ballistic missiles were not headed their way.  Even with the troubles that we are having with New York City subways, they usually arrive in less than 38 minutes.
. . .

The real estate section this weekend had an interesting column on the availability of homes throughout the US.  There was an evident trend, a substantial decrease in the number of homes available in many parts of the country.

The article offered no theory for this and even my occasionally hallucinatory imagination comes up dry.  Too expensive to move?  Satisfaction with present accommodations?  Fear of change?  Are you staying put, and why?
. . .

We were shopping downtown and found a special place to have lunch, Egg Shop NYC, 151 Elizabeth Street.  Indeed, almost every dish on the menu has one or more eggs as a component in relatively familiar, but tasty arrangements.  I had an egg sandwich on a buttermilk biscuit with maple pork sausage and Vermont white cheddar cheese, accompanied by a little dish of Harissa, a very hot chili pepper paste, which I sampled in minute amounts ($12.50).  I also ordered a side of fried chicken, two smallish boneless pieces, very crispy, nearly greaseless, with a drizzle of maple syrup ($7).  It made for an excellent lunch.

Egg Shop is very small, 10 two tops and another 8 stools at two counters.  On Sunday, the wait for a seat was 30 minutes or longer.  Fortunately, the store that we were headed for was around the corner, so we we were able to use the interval productively.  Otherwise, with no room indoors, people are directed to a coffee house next door and are summoned when a space becomes available.  Until the weather warms up, you might try for the Egg Shop on a weekday.  You don't work, do you?
. . .

Last week's memories of a tongue sandwich in the food halls at Harrod's, the London landmark, brought responses from Lord Kennington over there and Edith Greenberg over here.  Lord K confirmed the current absence of a deli counter at Harrod's by visiting in person.  He did suggest that what I ate back then was ox tongue, not beef tongue, and that may well have been.  He and Edith both recommended that I try Selfridges, another London department store, a little further down the scale than Harrod's.  Indeed, the Brass Rail at Selfridges flagship location, 400 Oxford Street, serves hand-carved salt beef (corned beef), pastrami and beef tongue sandwiches (£8.95 regular and £12.25 large).  Founded by an American Gentile 110 years ago, it nevertheless offers a bowl of matzoh ball at £6.50.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Even though it was snowing this morning, Tom Terrific's e-mail message came as a ray of sunshine.  Since I had left the house early (too early to read the newspaper) to get my car serviced in Queens, a distance of 4.5 miles that took 65 minutes to traverse, Tom's citation of Amdo Kitchen, a food truck parked in Jackson Heights, commended by the New York Times this morning, was news to me.  It was good news, however, momos, beef dumplings, served hot from the steamer by a former Tibetan monk.  Better news was the short distance between the car dealer and the food truck, not likely to have more than ordinary traffic at midday.  

It was quick and easy to get to Amdo on 37th Avenue, just off 75th Street, in the heart of a dense South Asian shopping district, rife with sari shops, mobile telephone vendors, all-you-can-eat lunch buffets and jewelry stores with vividly bright golden items filling their windows.  Unlike all of these other enterprises, Amdo was shut tight, even though it was just a couple of minutes before noon.  No motors were running, no sounds or smells came from the truck's interior.  Were they out to lunch, or merely off reading their favorable review from the New York Times over and over?  

I slouched off to Prince Kabab Chinese Restaurant, 37-54 74th Street, for some tasty tandoori chicken cooked earlier this century.

Thursday, January 18, 2018
I went for my annual physical examination today at the more than capable hands of Dr. Michael P.  I liked the part where he kept repeating my age, as if it didn't correspond to the results before him.  We got off to a great start when his medical assistant told me that the examining table that I was seated upon had a built-in electronic scale, saving space in the office.  Wow, 230 lbs.  That's so exciting it had to be wrong. 

I insisted that we find a trustworthy mechanical scale, you know the kind with the sliding weights, and another examining room provided me with a Pyrrhic victory.  250 lbs.  That proves that I can hold my weight steady on my diet of Chinese food, ice cream and chocolate chip cookies.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Long Live the Queen

Monday, January 8, 2018
"White voters abandoned the Democratic Party [after 1964].  In 1968, Humphrey got thirty-eight per cent of the white vote.  In 1972, George McGovern got thirty-two per cent. In 1980, Jimmy Carter, a white Southerner, got thirty-six per cent.  In 2016, Hillary Clinton, running against the toxic nitwit who is now the face of our politics, received thirty-seven per cent."  This quote and other interesting information comes from a very insightful article on our politics, triggered by Lawrence O'Donnell's new book on the 1968 presidential election.
. . .
My fascination with charts and stats is well served by an examination of the national composition of major professional sports, here and abroad, found in this weekend's sports section.

While the origin of players in Germany's Bundesliga may hold little interest for you, looking at the nationality of our supposed hometown heroes provides some rich sociological fodder.  For instance, Canada's share of National Hockey League players is now slightly less than half, while the US contributes one quarter.  The National Football League, by contrast, remains singularly American, with only trace amounts of foreign players, unchanged for more than 55 years. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 
A subcommittee of the Boyz Club had lunch today at Yaso Tangbao, Shanghai Street Foods, 220 East 42nd Street, the first Manhattan site of a small chain.  We enjoyed a visit to the original at 148 Lawrence Street in downtown Brooklyn on March 30, 2016.  The new location is at the base of what was the New York Daily News building.  You'll find an enormous world globe slowly rotating one door over.  

Yaso Tangbao has a large, street-level space where you order and pick up your food; a half dozen large tables with stools are upstairs in a mezzanine.  Everything is casual.

The menu has about 30 dishes, including dumplings, noodles in and out of soup, and rice dishes.  Prices are reasonable considering the heavily-trafficked midtown location.  We ordered spicy pork soup dumplings ($3.95 for four pieces), chicken soup dumplings ($3.95 for four pieces), blue crab soup dumplings ($4.95 for four pieces), pan fried curried chicken dumplings ($6.25 for four pieces), "Sweet & Spicy Dumplings ($6.50 for four pieces, contents unspecified), sweet & sour pork ribs ($6.95) and Shanghai cold noodles ($7.45).  Everything was very good except the noodles, dressed with a very bland sauce.  The spicy dishes were friendly, not aggressively spicy.  Note, Genial Jerry works directly across the street, so give him a call if you aim for Yaso Tangbao.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 
While I would like to say that my interest in Kosher delicatessens is as thoroughgoing as my interest in Chinese restaurants, but that is not the case.  Actual Kosher delicatessens today rival white Bengal tigers as an endangered species.  First, some definitions -- a real delicatessen is a place that serves sandwiches of corned beef, pastrami and salami sliced to order; it may serve other items as well, such as chicken soup, hot dogs and knishes.  It does not have a salad bar and is not a place that serves coffee to go in cardboard cups and sandwiches wrapped in plastic, prepared long ago and far away.  A simple empirical sign of a faux delicatessen is the presence of Boar's Head meats.

Kosher certification is almost an absolute requirement, even in the face of "Jewish-style" joints.  This is not merely an ethnocentric bias, Kosher meats, ideally cooked on the premises, are usually superior.  I will note maybe three, but only three, exceptions.  Katz's Delicatessen, 205 East Houston Street, originated in 1888 around the corner.  It is not Kosher, and may never have been.  It's a shame because it did not build its reputation on cheeseburgers.  I especially like their hot dogs that sit on a grill for an entire baseball season before being offered to the public, and their fat French fries. 

Langer's Delicatessen-Restaurant, 704 South Alvarado Street, Los Angeles (opposite the tuneful MacArthur Park), emerged 59 years after Katz's and similarly never got too Jewish.  Its sandwiches, though as I recall, match anyone's.  Pastrami is hand sliced and the rye bread is the best that I have ever tasted.  In true Angeleno fashion, an order to go phoned or faxed in will be delivered to your car when you pull up at the curb.  

The third exception to the you-have-to-be-Kosher rule is/was Harrod's, 87-135 Brompton Rd, Knightsbridge, London, the world famous department store.  Several years ago, I had a fat, hot beef tongue sandwich carved in front of me.  It must have cost at least $30 back then, but it was delicious.  Looking at Harrod's web site now, I can't find a trace of that sandwich or anything similar in the food halls.  You can find a Champagne bar, a caviar bar, a Pan-Asian counter, an ice cream parlour, fish and chips and more, but no salt beef a/k/a corned beef, pastrami or tongue.  Is this an ethnic slight?

Once upon a time, the late Carnegie Deli would certainly qualify as an excellent non-Kosher delicatessen.  Their meats were superb, their sandwiches piled sky high and their prices higher.

All of this is background to my lunch today at Pastrami Queen, 1125 Lexington Avenue (just above East 78th Street).  It is really small, 8 two-tops placed among 4 and 5 foot stacks of soda cans.  In the past, I found it too crowded to enter.  Its reputation, however, is quite outsize.  Zagat's speaks of its "outstanding pastrami" which New York magazine describes as "juicy, crumbly, and fiendishly good, with a satisfying balance of smoke and spice."  True.

I had an appointment with my eye doctor at 1 PM, situated two blocks away, so I got across town early in case I had to wait for a seat at Pastrami Queen.  That wasn't necessary; I was able to sit right down at the one empty table.  I ordered a pastrami/corned beef combo for $23; one meat would have been $18.  This is expensive, often the case with Kosher food.  It was delicious Kosher food, however, and the sandwich was very large.  Additionally, the complimentary cole slaw and pickles were top quality.  Go with someone nice, share, maybe also split an order of French fries or a potato knish, and you have a viable economic solution. 

Take it for what it's worth -- no atmosphere, no room, great food.

Friday, January 12, 2018
Agujero de mierda, Scheiß Loch, 狗屎洞 or more likely дерьмовое отверстие.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Priced Out Of Pizza

Monday, January 1, 2018
Even after these many years, I love listening to Edith Piaf singing Non, je ne regrette rien

However, I am not quite so steadfast in dealing with my mistakes.  But there is one mistake in my reporting, although recurring, that I might deny responsibility for.  Just last week, for instance, I reproduced a chart on income inequality that appeared as empty space for many of you.  Was I careless yet again?  At other times, I seemed to have presented black holes rather than the pungent drawing, picture, or clipping that I was enthusing over. 

There is a simple answer, however.  It's your fault, not mine.  Viewing this opus on many smartyphones or tablets, although undoubtedly convenient, denies you the full experience -- the accurate reproduction of the referenced material.  So, go home, change into something comfortable and power up a real computer to get the full picture, literally and figuratively.   
. . . 

For decades now, I have been starting many sentences with "I remember when . . ."  The real estate section this weekend had a phrase in a sub-headline that I think might even evoke the same comment from someone half my age: "a buyer priced out of Williamsburg."

Williamsburg is a Brooklyn neighborhood beginning at the East River and situated opposite Manhattan's Lower East Side.  The Williamsburg Bridge opened in December 1903, connecting the two neighborhoods just as Jewish migration from Eastern Europe was swelling.  For many Jews, moving to Williamsburg was a small step from the enormously overcrowded tenements of the Lower East Side where they first settled.  In 1910, the Lower East Side had a population density of 375,000 per square mile, 3 to 4 times that of any other part of Manhattan.  

While Williamsburg offered some relief from the Lower East Side, it was at best a temporary haven for most Jews, who moved further east into Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island or north into the Bronx and (hoo hah) Westchester as soon as they could afford it.  By the 1950s, when I took the Jamaica or Canarsie lines (now known as the J train and the L train) through Williamsburg almost daily into Manhattan, it had become a Spanish neighborhood, as newer immigrants first succeeded the Jews on the Lower East Side and then sought relief across the East River.  ("Hispanic" did not enter into the vocabulary of non-Hispanics until later.)  

Where the tracks were elevated, I saw some pretty miserable housing stock punctuated with burnt out stores, ignored by public and private authorities.  Williamsburg competed with the adjacent neighborhood of Bushwick and the South Bronx as probably the worst residential areas of New York City.  But, that was then.  Now, people are being "priced out of Williamsburg."  Go figure.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018
I am pleased when I can offer some guidance on places to eat, usually positive since I take my own pleasure seriously and try to make judicious choices.  Today, however, I raise a red flag even in the absence of personal experience. 

At first glance, Industry Kitchen, 70 South Street, seems to be an Italian restaurant with some contemporary touches, kale quinoa salad alongside lasagna "San Gennaro."  It's the pizza section of the menu where I took offense.  While your stomach might rebel against the Pop Candy Land pizza ($18), made up of "rainbow crust, cream cheese frosting, pop rocks, cotton candy," it's your soul that has to be wounded by the 24K, "Stilton, foie gras, platinum Ossetra caviar, truffle, 24K gold leaves" priced at $2,000.  You may upgrade to "Almas caviar" for an additional $700.  Either version requires 24 hour advance notice and a signed note from Steve Mnuchin.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018
I was doubly fortunate to go to the Rangers game at Madison Square Garden with Good Gary, a neighbor, fellow congregant and devoted Rangers fan.  More than that, Good Gary is a season ticket holder, which granted us access to a private party before the game, amply stocked with free drinks and food, good food.  So, the companionship and the party amounted to a daily double.  However, we did not make it to a trifecta because the Rangers lost badly. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018
A little blizzard, so what.  We headed out after lunch to the movieplex at Broadway and West 68th Street, a couple of short blocks from Palazzo di Gotthelf, to see All the Money in the World, not only an interesting historical tale, but historic moviemaking in that the finished product was recut just before release to substitute Christopher Plummer for Kevin Spacey.  While some ventures have been scrapped in light of the predatory behavior of some participants, the Money people took a risk commercially and artistically.

The verdict: All the Money in the World is a very good movie, not excellent, but gripping.  Christopher Plummer occupies the role of J. Paul Getty seamlessly.  I don't know if digital tricks were used to insert him into certain scenes previously shot with Kevin Spacey, but there is no hint of trickery.  Kudos to the production team.

Money was the fourth movie that we have seen in six days, almost as many as we saw all year.  Why this sudden burst of cinephilia?  Did our Netflix subscription expire?  Did all the reading lamps at home go out at once?  The reason simply is "Movie Pass," available at, a $10 monthly subscription that allows you to see one movie a day at virtually every theater on Manhattan Island and 4,000 others throughout the United States, at no extra charge.  The only limitations are no 3-D, no IMAX, one admission per card holder, smartyphone required, purchase must be on day of showing, and transaction must be initiated within 100 yards of the theater.  Reserved seats, more and more common around here, require a visit to the human ticket seller, although the entire transaction is pretty simple.     

It's a great deal, but so far it's America First.  David, David, Katherine, Kathleen, Marianne and Robina, you'll just have to shell out those pounds and euros each time you want to catch a movie.  Maybe that's a small price to pay in exchange for a sane national leader, female at that.  

Friday, January 5, 2017
Happy Birthday, Tom Terrific.
. . .

I was worried this morning.  In addition to free food and drinks at the party before the hockey game on Wednesday, a couple of familiar former players circulated in the crowd.  As did others, I moved in to have my picture taken with them.  Even before the game started, I sent the photographs to a handful of people who could be expected to recognize at least one of us.  I soon got amused reactions.  However, I heard nothing from my brother, an avid Rangers fan.  Make that a very avid Rangers fan.

Given the nasty storm conditions, I thought to check in with him.  What really motivated me was his silence in the face of his younger brother posing with retired Rangers.  I'm not sure what analogues to offer to drive this point home.  Reducing income taxes for Republicans?  Inviting Harvey Weinstein to a sorority party?  Taking Chris Christie to a bakery?  Guaranteed to evoke a response.

Telephone calls to his home and mobile lines after 9 AM went unanswered, elevating my concern.  America's Favorite Epidemiologist then took charge, looked up the owner of my brother's apartment complex, called them, and asked for the name and telephone number of the on-site manager.  A few minutes later, the manager was knocking on my brother's door, awakening him from an evidently sound sleep, resulting from his inability to fall asleep until the middle of the night.  
He called us and explained that he was still searching for a bon mot in response to the photographs.  He stopped short of suggesting that the Rangers loss on Wednesday night kept him for getting a normal night's rest a day later.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Buon Appetito

Monday, December 25, 2017
The weekend real estate section had a very interesting chart, reflecting the mobility of our population.

"Only 21.7 percent of renters moved in 2017, a historically low rate, according to newly released United States Census Bureau data.  Homeowners moved at an even lower rate — 5.5 percent, a slight uptick from 2016."  You can guess along with me whether an aging population, financial pressure, or a pessimistic outlook is behind this, although the trend goes back at least three decades.  It is also debatable whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, assuming you are not a real estate agent or own a moving van.  Does it reflect a loss of dynamism or a sense of satisfaction? 
. . .

You know about this Jewish Christmas business, going to a Chinese restaurant and the movies to try and retain a bit of identity in an overwhelmingly Christian environment?  Well, it went too far today.  Stony Brook Steve and I went to the AMC Lincoln Square movie theater this morning at 11 AM.  It has 13 screens, usually offering the newest releases.  We were aiming to see The Post, the movie about the Pentagon Papers, later in the day, with wives, and thought it prudent to buy tickets hours in advance.  

As you may be aware, our neighborhood is as densely packed with Jews as Jerusalem.  So, at 11 AM, the 1:15 PM and the 4:15 PM showings of The Post were all sold out and the 7:15 had only seats in the last row on the far wall.  This movie was being shown with reserved seats, a European custom becoming more common around here.  Other movies that interested us, which did not include Star Wars, were also sold out.  You'd think that they were showing a double bill of Exodus and Fiddler on the Roof

Tuesday, December 26, 2017
"Incomes Grew After Past Tax Cuts, but Guess Whose" While this headline doesn't really contain a big secret, the details are intriguing -- more than that, disgusting.

This chart is at the heart of the story and I'm going to let you find out what those two squiggly lines represent.  Mind you, keep away from sharp instruments.
Inline image 1
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I steered our party of four to dinner at Sahib, 104 Lexington Avenue, because of favorable mention in the New York Times.  The room was decorated in soft, neutral colors, unlike the vivid tones often used in an Indian/Pakistani/Bengali restaurant.  Somewhat atypically also, service was accurate and efficient. 

We started with Lasoni Gobi, cauliflower cooked with onions and tomatoes, new to me, but quite delicious.  The carnivores shared lamb Madras, cooked with coconut, curry and dried red chilies; chicken biryani; and, Jhinga Balchau, "Goan Style Shrimp, Vinegar & Jaggery."  Is that something out of Mick's kitchen?  Beats me.  

The beautiful vegetarian at the table had saag paneer, cubed cheese cooked in pureed spinach.  We also had naan, plain and onion, mango chutney and raita.  In conclusion, we agreed with the newspaper review.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017
I lived at 310 East 46th Street for 23 years, otherwise known as Pax Baccalaureate.  While the front entrance of the building is on East 46th Street, my apartment overlooked East 45th Street, where, with the window open, I could smell the steaks cooking at Palm Too, 840 Second Avenue, a few feet in from the corner of Second Avenue and East 45th Street.  I followed the smell into the restaurant regularly over the years, but my relocation to the Upper West Side eliminated the odors and the temptation bred of proximity.
So, I was pleased to meet Eugene S. for lunch at Palm Too today.  It featured a particularly attractive lunch special, 3 courses for $28.  Several choices are offered for each course, including Caesar salad, a small filet mignon and cheese cake, the makings of a great meal.  Believe it or not, I deferred in order to leave room for another meal before the week was over and had the Bozzi Burger (named for one of the restaurant's founding families) covered with aged gouda, smokey barbecue sauce and crispy fried onions ($16).  Of course, French fries accompanied that and I further took up the slack by sharing a piece of a dark chocolate, multi-layer cake with Eugene.  A large glass of pinot noir helped it all go down.
. . .

When I got home from lunch, I saw a message from my brother that almost brought up all that I had just eaten.  It was the headline on a story out of the United Kingdom: "Israel to name new Jerusalem train station after Donald Trump."

The headline writer needs to brush up on his reading comprehension before doing more damage, because reading the story lowers the level of threat to nearly the point of invisibility.  Netanyahu's transport minister, admittedly a powerful member of his cabinet, has made the proposal to name a station on a train line that does not now exist and is unlikely ever to exist, because of the cost and complexity of digging and building in an area fraught with religious, historic, archeological and political obstacles.  You can rest easy and not place Israel in a no-fly zone.  

Thursday, December 28, 2017
Demonstrating our devotion to diversity, the Boyz Club gathered today for lunch, not in Chinatown, not even in a Chinese restaurant, but at Sorbillo, 334 Bowery, the local branch of a famous Neapolitan pizzeria.
While Sorbillo also serves conventional Italian food, we came for pizza.  It serves 15 varieties, some as a calzone or open as pizza.  The pies are individual size, about 12" in diameter, very thin crusts.  Again demonstrating our adherence to diversity and democracy, the six of us shared six pizzas, all different, ranging from Antica Margherita (organic flour, San Marzano tomatoes, Terre Francescane organic EVOO, fresh mozzarella, basil) ($17) to Nduja (Calabrian hot spreadable salami, red onions, Calabrian pecorino, fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil, Terre Francescane organic EVOO) ($22) to Firenze (porcini mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, parsley, garlic, Terre Francescane organic EVOO) ($30).  Every pizza was good, but I'm left with fondest memories of the porcini mushrooms and especially the fresh mozzarella, wherever it appeared.  

Service was very friendly, even as the joint got more crowded with a bunch of millennials, following in the wake of their elders.  By the way, the elders stuck to seltzer, but a casual observer might have thought otherwise. 

Friday, December 29, 2017
Before leaving the subject of food and the whole year of 2017 behind, I have to extol another virtue of America's Favorite Epidemiologist. 
 Can't you smell the freshly-baked challahs?  This was the initial effort by my young bride under the tutelage of our lovely, bright and charming niece Shoshana P.  The result is enough to bring joy right into 2018.  And, we'll need it.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Open Sesame

Monday, December 18, 2017
The New York Times delivered a wonderful holiday gift this weekend, an entire section full of puzzles, involving words, numbers, logic, pictures and trivia.  However, it is available in print only; no digital version exists.  So, I suggest that you rummage around in the trash and go after this collection of puzzles.  At least, they will distract you from the unfathomable mess that has replaced responsible national leadership for us.

. . .

I was happy to stay exactly where I was when I retired in January 2016, and so I plan to remain.  In case you wish to explore alternatives though, here is a handy comparative chart, addressing many of the key variables for your Golden Years, or Descent Into Decrepitude.
It's up to you to decide whether cost of living is/isn't more important than public transportation.  However, before you choose to apply these ratings uncritically, you will have to explain how Phoenix's weather is rated Average, when the average high temperature for June, July, August and September is 100 degrees or more.  Come on.
. . .
I'm sorry.  I'm weak.  I can't resist giving you another top 10 list.  This one seems to be a bit narrowly focused, but it actually presents a very high quality collection: 10 Best Jewish Films of 2017.
Besides the obvious points of origin -- Hollywood, Israel and Brooklyn -- Finland and Hungary also contribute works.  Topping them off even is a hero lifted from the comic books, Wonder Woman, adeptly portrayed by Gal Gadot, a former Miss Israel. 
. . .
Speaking of movies, my top 10 list of 1942, or of World War II, or of the 20th century would include Casablanca.  As an aside, I also consider it a Jewish movie, because of theme, characters (but not actors) and most of the major behind-the-camera personnel.  In any case, my brother directed me to this intriguing story about the movie, how it was shown in Germany after the war.  
The studio surgically extracted Nazis from the film; it even seemed to have extracted World War II from the film.  Quite an accomplishment. 
. . .
I was fortunate to have lunch today with Jeffrey Heller, distinguished fighter for human rights.  It was easy to respect Jeffrey's vegetarianism at La Salle Dumpling Room, 25 West End Avenue, located a few short blocks between us.  We shared cold sesame noodles ($7.95), scallion pancake ($7.95), and steamed vegetable dumplings ($8.50), with an extra potsch of the hot and sweet sauce they usually serve with chicken dumplings.  I suspect that Jeffrey was sufficiently satisfied that he has no reason to start eating meat.  
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
The Rangers are on a tear now, after starting the season in miserable fashion.  I have had the luck of attending games recently where they have really shone.  Tonight, accompanied by Genial Jerry Saltzman, I witnessed another victory on ice.  And, in what is becoming a tradition, we ate dinner first at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 209 West 38th Street.  All good.
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
My elevated mood is destined to come to an end today as I stow our Hanukkah menorah for another year.  The last few days of holiday events and general busyness produced an unplanned abstention from watching MSNBC, interrupting my compulsive wallowing in pessimism and outrage, the leading products of the current administration.  I expect to return to abnormality today.
. . .
I had lunch at Oaxaca Taqueria, 424 Amsterdam Avenue, on that stretch between West 81st Street and West 82nd Street containing half a dozen small, but worthwhile joints.  Oaxaca also operates in more than a dozen locations.  I don’t know about the other sites, but this one is narrow, with 3 rough-hewn tables each seating 6 very close friends or four normal adults, and four stools at the counter where you place your order.  
In common with many fancy, schmancy French restaurants and the humblest Chinese dive, Oaxaca has a very good lunchtime special.  Two tacos, rellenos or enchiladas plus a small salad or an order of rice and beans for $8.95.  I chose the soft tacos, one filled with “Barbacoa,” braised beef tenderloin cooked with pasilla chili, the other filled with “Pollo Guisado,” shredded chicken thighs cooked with guajillo peppers.  Both were topped with pickled red onions, salsa roja, avocado lime salsa, cotija cheese and cilantro.  Along with rice and beans, it made for a very good lunch, where you could almost taste each of the many flavors.

Thursday, December 21, 2017
I have been looking, but I can’t find a Hallmark card to send Viviane T. for getting arrested in the gallery of the House of Representatives for calling Paul Ryan a liar out loud.
. . .
I buckled again and got taken in by another top something list.  This time it is the 100 worst passwords.  You can read about in summary, or download and scrutinize the whole list.
While it is no surprise that “12345” and “password” are disfavored, I am disappointed that “trustno1” can’t be trusted. 

Friday, December 22, 2017
“Passing those tax cuts was as easy as taking health care from a baby.”

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Food or Thought

Monday, December 11, 2017
A new survey rates the supposed best places to work among large US firms, based on data from employees over the past year.,19.htm

You might check if any of your past or present employers made the list.  I crept in at # 99, KPMG f/k/a as Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co., the second largest of the fabled Big 8 accounting firms when I started there in 1980.  But, I want to talk about food, for a change.  The # 4 best place to work is In-N-Out Burger, a very successful fast food chain, concentrated in the West.  Here is a map that illustrates our national devotion to fast food and the popularity of major brands.

By coincidence, when I lived in Los Angeles, In-N-Out Burger was a client of the computer firm that I managed.  Even with that, I ate at one of their places just a very few times, because of geography, not menu.  They were then concentrated east and south of downtown Los Angeles, while I focused on the haute bourgeois environs west and north of downtown Los Angeles.

In-N-Out Burger not only pleases its employees, it is very popular with customers, reportedly including famous chefs, such as Gordon Ramsay, Thomas Keller, Julia Childs, Anthony Bourdain, and Mario Batali.  

Besides food, I also want to talk about politics.  In-N-Out Burger presents a challenge to us pinko, limousine liberals.  While it's a good place to work and a good place to eat, it makes a practice of placing biblical passages on its packaging.  The references are typically in small print in marginal spots, but they usually skip Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.    

Like In-N-Out Burger, Chick-fil-A is mostly unknown in the northeast, although it is the popular choice in almost half the country.  It also places 72nd among the best places to work in the employee survey above, the only other restaurant in the top 100.  It is starting to become a presence in the Holy Land.  There are now three locations in Manhattan, including the New York University student center in Greenwich Village. 

Chick-fil-A came late to many large Northern urban areas because of the reaction to the aggressive opposition to marriage equality by its CEO earlier in this decade, coupled with financial support of like-minded interest groups.  While Chick-fil-A toned down its politics to quell the controversy, it remains associated in many minds with the minority of Americans who voted for the current president.

Head vs. stomach.  What a dilemma.
. . .

I wonder what would happen if we explored the internal policies and politics of some of my favorite Chinese restaurants.  I consciously ignored that issue today when I went to another branch of Xi'an Famous Foods, this one at 37 West 54th Street.  Xi'an started as a kiosk in a shopping mall in Flushing, Queens, the second Chinatown in New York City.  I first came across it at 88 East Broadway, under the Manhattan Bridge, where there was room for one customer at a time (March 7, 2011).  Xi'an has moved on and added a handful of locations, still with small footprints, but able to seat a dozen or more customers. 

The long, narrow space on West 54th Street has ledges on the opposing side walls, with two dozen or so knee-high stools, fully occupied at lunchtime.  I found a space and put down my plate of "Stewed Oxtail Hand-ripped Noodles"  ($12.22).  Since the long, wide noodles were slippery with the spicy sauce, I bent close to the plate, vacuuming up the noodles, trying to keep splashing at a minimum.  Dark colors and washable fabrics are still advised.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Unlike my two previous visits, I was seated immediately today at Tim Ho Wan, 85 Fourth Avenue, spared waiting around for an hour holding an electronic pager to signal the availability of a table.  What was unchanged from those visits was the quality of the food served. 

Eating alone, I chose baked buns with BBQ pork (3 for $4.95), one of the best things a lapsed Jew can eat in all of New York, and steamed rice with chicken and shiitake mushroom ($4.75), plain and simple and good.
Wednesday, December 13, 2107
Happy Birthday to my big brother.  I'll never forget the date, because it is one day after Frank Sinatra's birthday.
. . .

If only Roy Moore had dropped that Jewish lawyer, he might have been elected senator from Alabama.
. . .

I think that I was unwise last week by raising the issue of  top 10 or top 100 lists.  We are inundated with them at this time of year.  I can't be expected to note and comment on this flood, but they are so hard to ignore.  Today, we had "The Most-Read New York Times Stories of 2017" which put us in the driver's seat, not some collection of anemic critics.  

As a daily reader, most of the stories were familiar, but I found that I missed one particularly interesting one: "You Draw It: What Got Better or Worse During Obama’s Presidency."  It appeared almost a year ago and barely made the list at # 97.  It asked questions about the unemployment rate, healthcare spending, and illegal immigration, among other things, in the Obama years, leaving the reader to supply the answers.  It wasn't easy coming close to the facts under the fog of lies and deception now peddled out of Washington.  Try it for yourself.
. . .

I have an excuse for missing one important story: "Blue Frog Chocolates on Magazine St. closing after 17 years."
It appeared in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, not my hometown paper.  That might not be an adequate excuse, because Ann Streiffer, the owner, is a cousin, and a lovely person to boot.  I understand the basis for her decision, but I feel a profound sense of loss.

Thursday, December 14, 2017
In case you find yourself at a loss for words under difficult circumstances, check out some apologies, sincere and otherwise.

These damn year end "best of" lists continue to plague me.  Now, the New York Times has the top 10 new restaurants of 2017:

To its credit, many of the restaurants on this list may be enjoyed without an expense account or a trust fund.  The top spot, however, goes to The Grill, 99 East 52nd Street, taking over the classic space long-occupied by my all-time favorite, the Four Seasons.  I have not been to The Grill and the article gives me a reason to stay away, "the often outlandish prices."  

These places are new to me, representing the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Mexico, Bangladesh and Indonesia.  Now, I have a hit list for the year ahead and you are welcome to accompany me.

Friday, December 15, 2017
The late Duchess of Windsor claimed that you could never be too thin or too rich.  I have never been threatened by either extreme, but I just found a reason to be lured into an excess of wealth.  DaDong has just opened at 1095 Sixth Avenue.  This is its 17th location, the first outside of China, however.  

It specializes in Peking duck, if serving 1,387,000 ducks a year might be considered specialization.  I love a good duck, which often is elusive under a coat of pale yellow fat.  My devotion to the Four Seasons was based on its "Farmhouse Roasted Duck," where the crispy skin was peeled from the meat and scraped free of fat.  Rarely did any Chinese restaurant approach this level care with its Peking duck.  DaDong's reputation seems to promise the results that I savor.

And here's where the economic angle comes into play.  DaDong's New York menu lists a whole Peking duck at $98, a half at $58.  This is at least twice what is charged in Chinatown, with admittedly uneven results.  A better comparison, I think, was the $75 three-course, fixed-price, pre-theater meal at the Four Seasons, including their fabulous duck.  One Peking duck should feed two people, but where are the  other courses, the freshly-baked croissants and the artisanal chocolates that came just before the check?

I have a birthday next year and maybe I will hold my nose and open my wallet to determine if DaDong has da goods.
. . .

I found the appropriate way to celebrate my brother's birthday, taking him to the Ranger game tonight.  The good results helped slow down the aging process for him.
. . .

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Read Any Good Books Lately?

Monday, December 4, 2017
I am nearing the end of my second year in retirement and it has proved successful, so far.  I had two purposes in choosing to retire from a job that was quite satisfactory over all, more time to travel and more time to read, I mean books, instead of the legal briefs and case law that occupied me for over a dozen years.  The travel record has been pretty good.  Last year, I went abroad to London, Tel Aviv, Croatia and London/Paris, while going once to the Bay Area (San Francisco).  This year, I've been to Berlin, London/Tel Aviv, New Orleans and the Bay Area.  

Although I can't precisely tally my reading in the same period, I estimate that I have been reading about two books a week.  So, I was excited to inspect the New York Times list of the 100 notable books of 2017.

I thought that I would be weak in the fiction department, since I focus on crime and spy novels, not usually found at the height of the literary pyramid.  However, I expected that my interest in history, politics, current affairs and strange people would have directed me to some of the year's notable nonfiction works.  Nope.  Except for a couple of books that appeared in shorter form in the New Yorker, I struck out.  I hope that you have a better nose for notable than I do. 
. . .

I'm here to help.  My years as a management consultant taught me to seek practical solutions, and the fuss over the administration's tax plan has whipped me into action.  Since we all know how inefficient government is, I have instituted the Financial Fairness Initiative (FFI) to accomplish the Republican Party's objectives without dealing with red tape and bureaucratic paperwork.

FFI will take money from ordinary people and deliver it directly to rich people, eliminating Washington and waste from the process.  It will spare the current and past Goldman Sachs partners from spending time with their accountants and lawyers devising ways to game the system to maximize their wealth.  All they will need is a paper knife to slit open envelopes. 

While FFI fights for economic justice, it has other concerns.  We are currently conducting a campaign to get Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, to appear on Wheel of Fortune so that he could buy himself a vowel.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Just as I was striking out with the year's notable books, the New Yorker comes along and redeems me somewhat.  This week, it lists its most read stories of the year.
Here I batted over .500, reading a majority of the stories everyone else seemed to be reading.  Were that the case with the notable books, I might rank as a first-class culture vulture.  Instead, I merely follow the decline of American society, delivered to my mailbox every Tuesday.   
. . .

There was some goodish news today, but it had to come from London.  Sadiq Khan, the Islamic terrorist who managed to insinuate himself into the job of London's mayor, has announced a program for "providing more drinking fountains and bottle-filling stations" in London, with the desired byproduct of cutting down on the use of plastic water bottles.  Public water fountains are scarce in London and scarcer throughout the country.

Paris, on the other hand, "boasts a broad array of drinking fountains, including some newer ones that dispense sparkling water, and the older, but imposing, so-called Wallace Fountains created with donations from a British philanthropist, Sir Richard Wallace, in the late 19th century to provide clean water for the poor."  Wallace Fountains provide a delight for the eye, as well as relief for the thirst.  

What rocked me though was mention of public seltzer fountains in Paris.  I remember when Katz's Delicatessen, 205 East Houston Street, site of Meg Ryan's self-induced rapture, had a free seltzer fountain in the back of the restaurant.  Also, a long-gone cafeteria at the southeast corner of Seventh Avenue and West 38th Street, whose name escapes me, had a free seltzer fountain, very popular with taxicab drivers, then more likely to have originated in Minsk than Mumbai.  Will someone promise that America's return to greatness include free seltzer?