Friday, December 24, 2010

Young kids and old memories

Monday, December 20, 2010

Even on this cold day, I decided to wander about in order to find a new restaurant for lunch, because this should be a short work week. I walked several blocks east and turned up Eldridge Street into fairly virgin territory. I entered tiny Jin Feng Restaurant at 13B Eldridge Street where one man was picking over Chinese broccoli. He looked at me without speaking. Never at a loss for words, I said "Food. Lunch. Eat." stopping short of enough syllables for a haiku. He responded with a look otherwise reserved for the person who denied his son admission to Stuyvesant High School. I left in silence and continued walking, even considering going into Popeye’s for fried chicken and biscuits (did you know that they are located on Canal Street?). However, I was a man with a mission, so I found to Lucky Plaza Restaurant, 81 Chrystie Street, which is in the middle of the block with nary a plaza in sight.

The restaurant is narrow, but very long, with a back room set up for parties. I was served a good pot of tea immediately, but it took two visits by two waitresses to confirm that I wanted chow fun noodles with duck and shrimp ($6.95). It wasn’t worth the money for several reasons -- the duck was simply several slices of roast duck sitting on top of the noodles, there was almost as much bean sprouts as noodles, and (the worst sin) the portion was small. Maybe I should have been more attuned to the initial hesitancy to fill my order.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Palazzo di Gotthelf sits high above Manhattan’s fabled Amsterdam Avenue. I realize that only a few of you have been able to see it from the inside, so America’s Favorite Epidemiologist and I are making plans to throw our doors open to the public on selected and controlled occasions. That will allow you to marvel over our library, our computer room, our music room, our study, our guest bedroom, our television room and our meditation room. Miraculously, they all occupy the same space. In addition, for the last few days, they were home to Boaz, Noam and their parents, seeking respite from the grinding pace of suburban Boston. Once Grandpa Alan’s leather lounge chair was removed from all the rooms and replaced by the Pack ‘n Play that conveniently fits four-month old Noam, we three generations got along swimmingly. Actually, the swimming was confined to my bathtub as two or more adults attempted to bathe one small or smaller child with or without his whole-hearted cooperation.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Two generations removed themselves from Palazzo di Gotthelf while I was at work. In fact, they were still asleep when I left this morning to take the S-U-B-W-A-Y. The spelling is required in Boaz’s presence since it is very high on his list of preferred means of transportation and its mere mention has him heading for the door in a fit of intractable excitement. He was, after all, born in New York City.

Wing Shoon Seafood Restaurant, 165 East Broadway is at the corner of Rutgers Street, which is the name of Essex Street south of Canal Street. My memory was tickled as I first approached and later left this restaurant. Back at my computer I confirmed my suspicion. This restaurant replaced the Garden Cafeteria in 1983. The Garden Cafeteria was my favorite dairy restaurant (a Jewish restaurant that doesn’t serve meat). It was a wonderful joint, where Jewish bohemians hung out through the decades. Isaac Bashevis Singer was its most famous customer. It was immediately adjacent to the headquarters of The Forward, the leading Yiddish newspaper, but only one of several that were located on the same block at one time. When I lived in Greenwich Village, I used to ride my bicycle there on Sundays for lox, onions and eggs with noodles and cheese on the side, onion rolls of course. Now, arguably, I was in Chinatown. While today’s food was okay, I’m going to forget that I ever returned to that location since 1983.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I had a good bowl of hot soup at Wo Hop downstairs, because it was a cold day and I felt a cold coming on. Fortunately, I stayed healthy enough to go to Madison Square Garden with my two grandnephews Tomas and Benjamin, who are visiting from Buenos Aires, to see their very first Rangers hockey game. I'll be sick on my day off tomorrow.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Secret Santa

Monday, December 13, 2010

I’m so happy that I’m Jewish. Today, my brother’s birthday, my holidays are over. List making is done; shopping is done; wrapping is done; decorating is done; entertaining is done. I walked by Barnes & Noble, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and Brooks Bros. (all located opposite Lincoln Center) yesterday without even considering entering. Only one religious ritual remains in the next few days, giving money to the doormen.

Of course, this euphoria is short-lived. In 2011, Hanukkah begins on Tuesday night December 20 and runs through Wednesday December 28. To quote Chester A. Riley, "What a revolting development that is."

I had lunch with Marty today, the chief clerk of the small Tribeca courthouse where I worked for about seven years, beyond the bounds of Chinatown.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Thank you very much. Thank you for the holiday gift I received yesterday. It is a book purchased from Amazon. It is a guidebook to New York City, no doubt intended for me to edit and correct. I have to thank the giver in this public fashion, because nothing in or about the package indicates who is my benefactor.

While the book was ordered from Amazon, it was mailed from a company in American Fork, Utah. According to Wikipedia, "the population [of American Fork] was 21,941 at the 2000 census, while the 2008 estimates placed it at 27,064. It has been rapidly growing since the 1970s." That makes my visit to American Fork, Utah in July 1963 even more remarkable. I stayed a day or two at the home of Larry Storrs, a graduate school friend and fine human being. He had returned home after our first year at Cornell and I was on a research jaunt that included Salt Lake City. Larry picked me up and drove me to American Fork, about 35 miles away, founded by Mormons in the mid-19th century and still almost entirely Mormon. I recall to this day how his mother and step-father watched me carefully, because I was the first Jew knowingly in their home since Milton Berle went off television.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My cable TV provider wrote me a letter yesterday informing me that my favorite food is cookies and my favorite place to visit is Italy. These answers to their security questions are intended to screen out any malfeasors who are attempting to have me watch Mike Huckabee against my will. While my e-mail address is public information and there are only so many cable TV providers in New York City, any sneak attack on my viewing options will surely be deterred by this security barrier, henceforth known as the Biscotti Line, a convenient concatenation of my favorite food and my favorite place to visit. Stronger than the Maginot Line, longer than the Mason-Dixon Line and noisier than the Canarsie Line, I dare Julian Assange to try to breach the Biscotti Line.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Usually you are what you eat. Today, I substituted you are where you eat. Forlini's, 93 Baxter Street, is where the judges go for lunch, hold their retirement parties and reunions. Today, I was assigned to mediate cases prior to sending them to trial. So, in that quasi-judicial capacity, I thought I should have a quasi-judicial lunch at Forlini's, meatball parmigiana hero ($8) and that Tuscan treat, Diet Coke.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I confess to deliberately passing House of Vegetarian, 68 Mott Street, a hundred times or more this year. I would walk many blocks further for a new restaurant without thinking to go in. Admittedly, I'm uncomfortable with the V word. I wasn't encouraged entering the restaurant today and finding only 16 empty tables, but I sat down and ordered spinach dumplings ($2.25) and noodle soup with three mushrooms ($4.75). The results were a very good lunch. The three dumplings in a green wrapper were plump with a chopped vegetable filling. The medium-sized soup bowl was crowded with thin noodles (mei fun), bok choy and sliced mushrooms in a broth so tasty I kept looking for chicken tracks. Unlike Buddha Bodai Vegetarian Restaurant, there were only a couple of mock meat dishes on the menu. The vegetables were served as vegetables and I learned that I wouldn't starve if confined to House of Vegetarian.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Forty-Eighth Week

Monday, December 6, 2010

Food Sing 88 Corp., 2 East Broadway was jammed on this cold day with only Chinese people slurping down soup from big bowls, because that’s all it served. With a choice of noodles, by composition or shape, the dishes ranged from $4.50 to $6.50 based on what else was in the bowl with the noodles and steaming broth. I chose the house special hand-pulled noodles ($6.50) which included beef, tripe, pork chop, lamb, fried egg, beef tendon, and a couple of items from the "don’t ask, don’t tell" side of the kitchen. I slurped along with the other patrons, but I admit there were some solids left in my bowl when all the soup and noodles were gone.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I have consecutive appointments with two dentists late this afternoon, so I sought a good dish at a good place. Singapore chow mei fun at Hsin Wong Restaurant, 72 Bayard Street, (see March 10, 2010) fit the bill.

While I adore the food, I abhor China’s politics. With the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo imminent, China has conscripted 18 other nations into skipping the ceremony. The cast of characters is almost entirely predictable – Russia, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Serbia, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Venezuela, the Philippines, Egypt, Sudan, Ukraine, Cuba and Morocco. Probably no ACLU chapters in any of them. The absence of Libya is surprising, though. Maybe Muammar al-Gaddafi wants everyone to show up when his turn comes.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Paris Sandwich, 213 Grand Street, is a sister to the restaurant at 113 Mott Street. They serve primarily Vietnamese sandwiches on crunchy, toasted baguettes, ordered at the counter and picked up when your number is called. Today, I had Vietnamese meatball, spicy ($4.25).

While I enjoyed my lunch, I was somewhat annoyed thinking about food, because of a conversation I had earlier with a customer service rep from our cable TV provider. I was calling for the fourth time in one week because of a problem with the digital box connected to our flat-screen HD TV. At the end of the conversation, the customer service rep asked to confirm my e-mail address and my security access. She said that my secret question allowing me on-line access to my account was "What is your favorite food?" I responded that that was a stupid question and I never would have agreed to it. I told her that in the morning I like eggs, at night I like steak. I always like ice cream. How could I respond consistently to such a question? Why not the name of my high school, which I am sure is my secret question somewhere else. Ask me a fact, not an opinion. I ended the conversation by reminding her that my cable TV wasn’t working right and her company should worry about that, not what I like to eat.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Before I left for lunch, I was thinking about lunch (and I’ll probably think about it after lunch). I recalled how one guy at the table at Hsin Wong Restaurant on Tuesday asked the waiter if he could have a small portion of the attractive lo mein his friend was eating. "No" and that’s true for small portions of fried rice and other noodle dishes that would make a perfect underpinning for the saucy, goopy, gravyed, runny dishes that you want to ingest totally. "No." White rice just won’t do in some instances. When you’re with someone, it’s not a problem, share an order, but most of my lunches are solo flights. I recall how my ex-brother-in-law Gary Berger, a great lover of Chinese food, used to order 2n + 1 dishes in a Chinese restaurant, n being the number of people in our party. I miss him.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Our department and other courthouse lawyers are having the annual holiday party at lunchtime. As a dues-paying member of the sponsoring group, I will eat (non-Chinese) with my brethren and sistren (cf. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/page/127).

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Forty-Seventh Week

Monday, November 29, 2010

Facing my first ever root canal surgery later this afternoon, I sought comfort food for lunch, no surprises. I went to 69 Bayard Restaurant, 69 Bayard Street, for hot and sour soup ($2.25) and beef chow fun ($5.25) and I was not disappointed. The soup was served hot, spiced hot and sour, the bowl a little bigger than small. The medium-large portion of beef chow fun was also freshly cooked, hot from the wok.

The decor remains fascinating, dollar bills covering almost every square surface inch. Only the ceiling has room for additions, although people have started overlaying dollars on the walls with more dollars. The graffiti written on the dollar bills has increased, not entirely a welcome development, because some of it seems borrowed from truck stop men’s rooms.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My e-mail today included a promotion for a restaurant, as follows:"An intimate gem of a restaurant, the Black Duck is nestled on the ground floor of the Park South Hotel. Enjoy an intimate night out at this cozy neighborhood spot, where Executive Chef Hector Tice serves delicious Pan-Atlantic bistro fare."

Repeating "intimate" in succeeding sentences was mildly disturbing, but my attention turned to the thought of Pan-Atlantic cuisine. Might that be a mix of the best cuisines of New Jersey, Labrador, Fort Lauderdale and the Outer Hebrides?

The result of yesterday’s dental work is only a sore jaw, the result of keeping my mouth wide open to accept the dentist’s fist for an hour. I had chicken rice soup at lunch and scrambled eggs with lox for dinner, presenting no chewing challenges.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My mouth took its revenge last night. A couple of hours after eating lox and eggs for dinner, the area above the tooth that had been rooted and canaled started to ache. Then hurt. Then pain. Then torture. At 1 AM, I went out to a nearby drugstore (only 1 block away if you suburbanites wonder why we pay those high rents) and bought benzocaine, a topical anesthetic. It worked at first, masking the pain for five minutes or so. Then, even with seven ibuprofen pills running through my blood stream, I was in agony. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I attempted to answer America’s Favorite Epidemiologist’s questionnaire on environmental factors in handling pain among older men. I finally got some sleep and went to my dentist this morning. He is in the same building as my periodontist and they collaborated in removing a molar ravaged by gum disease from the upper left side of my mouth and $1,350 from my wallet.

Ever in the pursuit of justice, I went to work and finished the draft of a decision in a dispute over payments to the ex-wife for a couple who got divorced in 1993. Late in the afternoon, I ate some bread lathered with strawberry preserves and Peanut Butter & Co.’s Dark Chocolate Dreams, peanut butter mixed with dark chocolate. I usually keep a jar of this miracle drug handy to give to our beautiful daughter-in-law, but I needed strong medicine to restore me to pre-op shape. I’m now well on the way to recovery.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ron Goldbrenner was in the courthouse and he asked me to join him at lunch. Ron has two very accomplished (adult) children and the nicest ex-wife that I know. I took him to Shanghai Asian Manor, 21 Mott Street, a reliable choice. I introduced him to soup dumplings (called soup buns at other joints) and he handled them deftly, not shpritzing himself or me with hot liquid as he bit into them.

Much of the conversation, unfortunately, concerned who had the worst set of teeth, although, I was not unhappy to come in second.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Almost no one eats at Lily’s Chinese & Japanese Restaurant, 31 Oliver Street, but apparently a lot of people are fed by it, judging by the bustling take-out and delivery business I witnessed. No more than one other of the six small tables was occupied while I had lunch. Arguably, Lily’s is not a real Chinatown restaurant, not just by its outlying location, but because it is a real neighborhood place, not relying on inquisitive foodies, groups of Chinese families or friends, or stray tourists. It could be located anywhere and its menu would have the same familiar dishes.

However, I ate well at Lily’s. A sushi chef stood just inside the front door, but I wasn’t feeling that experimental. I ordered shrimp egg foo young ($7.50) which came with white rice and a big serving of a dark brown, sweet, salty sauce on the side. It was an excellent combination, three large youngs proved very filling.

Oliver Street itself was quite interesting, even if I never knew it existed although passing it by several times a week. It is one of the eight streets radiating (more or less) from Chatham Square. It runs only one block now, cut off on the east by a housing project. One side of the street is made up almost entirely of early 19th century brick houses, not in disrepair, but not restored to the level of Barrow Street west of Hudson or Bedford Street west of Seventh Avenue, for instance. Number 25 was the home of Alfred E. Smith, governor of New York and unsuccessful presidential candidate, when he was going to school at the long-defunct St. James parochial school on James Street (a/k/a St. James Place), one block away. If you are exploring the neighborhood, you must stop in front of the second cemetery of Congregation Shearith Israel - The Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, at 55 St. James Place, which was in use from 1682 to 1828. The congregation’s first cemetery, the first Jewish cemetery in the United States, dating from 1654, has disappeared, its location unknown. As a result, in typical Jewish style, the second cemetery is now known as the first cemetery. The current second cemetery is at 76 West 11th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenue, and is worth a stop when exploring Greenwich Village.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A week to celebrate

Monday, November 22, 2010

In & Out Vietnamese Kitchen, 29 Catherine Street. I know it’s November 22nd and what it means, but I didn’t make the connection to Vietnam until I started writing this. The restaurant is new, bright and casual. The menu has pho, the national beef broth, street food, sandwiches and rice/noodle dishes.

I had a Saigon spicy brisket sandwich ($5) on a toasted baguette, at least 10 inches long. The very tasty beef was accompanied by shredded carrots, all in a sweet, spicy sauce. This is a good choice for lunch and let Saigon be bygones.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yi Mei Gourmet Food Inc., 51 Division Street, is the mirror image of Golden Bowl, visited on April 15, 2010. It’s a narrow restaurant with 3 women crowded into a small space in front, surrounded by pans of maybe 30 cooked dishes, animal, vegetable and mineral. A woman serves (very small) portions of whatever you ask for or point to. I had sesame chicken (breaded chicken in goopy sauce), roast chicken (quite good, but only two bites worth), fried salt and pepper shrimp (easy on the salt and pepper) and spicy pork. A dish of white rice and a Diet Coke rounded out the meal for $4.50, no tax. The diners, all others Chinese, were quiet, but the three women employees chattered at a high volume. The food isn’t bad, and if time allowed, I might find several dishes as good as the roast chicken to make a good cheap meal instead of just a cheap meal. Note that the sharp shell of the shrimp, left on to be eaten, at certain angles, will aid your periodontist in ripping your gums away from your tooth enamel.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Great N.Y. Noodletown, 28 ½ Bowery was busy at lunch time, which was clear, sunny and cold. This was a return visit; I had last gone in February. While I walked in expecting to order beef chow fun, I chose shrimp and eggs with wide noodles ($9.95), expecting shrimp chow fun with shredded fried egg, as you would get in fried rice. The final product was quite difeerent though. The noodles were less than 1/4 inch wide, as if lo mein were flattened. The shrimp and egg were (was) really shrimp in lobster sauce, the runny egg sauce needing a garlic boost. The portion was very big and I left almost half the noodles over, but I wished I had some rice to sop up the remaining sauce. It probably was a good choice in that my anticipation of Thanksgiving dinner is heightened by this unmemorable lunch.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

America's Favorite Epidemiologist cooked a 22 1/2 pound turkey to near-perfection. We had 12 adult guests and 2 children, small and smaller. The age range was from 3 months 10 days to 100 years 364 days. Unfortunately, everyone seemed to eat so much that I only had one paltry serving of turkey with cranberry relish the next day. All else was consumed. I need relatives with smaller appetites.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Today was officially a work day, but I don't think anyone showed, even those whose mothers were not celebrating their 101st birthday today.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Back to work

Monday, November 15, 2010

There were Chinese restaurants in Quito, but we ate mostly Italian. So, I was prepared to jump right back into Chinatown upon returning to work. Jin Mei Dumpling, 25B Henry Street, is a bit larger than Tasty Dumpling, 54 Mulberry Street, or Fried Dumpling, Mosco Street, with three tables and 12 chairs, but otherwise quite similar. Five fried dumplings are $1 as are four steamed buns. With a Diet Coke, you’re set for the afternoon.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mandarin Court, 61 Mott Street, has just reopened after extensive and attractive renovations inside and out, and now calls itself New Mandarin Court Restaurant. I am comfortable counting it as the 106th Asian restaurant I’ve visited in Chinatown this year. For the sake of precision, I have eaten in 104, took out from one and walked out of one other.

New Mandarin Court offers dim sum on one or two carts at a time, but I ordered scallion pancakes ($2.95) and walnut jumbo shrimp ($5.95) from the menu. The hostess insisted that I also take a portion of stuffed eggplant ($2.95) and I’m glad I did, because they were delicious in a tangy brown sauce. The other items were also very good, but suffered from identification problems. The scallion pancake was listed on the menu as 2, but only one was served, although of a large diameter. It was thin and cracker-like, not like the slightly spongy crepe or pancake usually offered. The shrimp, gently fried in rice flour, served with bright green broccoli, candied walnuts and mayonnaise, were excellent, but nowhere near jumbo. Neither error was significant considering the quality of the food delivered.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reach House, 88 Division Street, is a find. Behind an ordinary front, it’s a real joint inside. Small, 6 tables, rectangular and round. Chinese writing on flourescent pink paper covering the walls. For such a small space, it has a very large menu, featuring Foo Chow specialties, including duck’s tongue, pork stomach, "Lucky Intestinal," frog casserole and fried hao. Dictionary.com informs me that hao is "an aluminum coin and monetary unit of Vietnam, the tenth part of a dong." Is there a straight line there, or what?

When I walked in, the only other customers were a group of 4 women and 1 man, median age about 28, with a lot of food in front of them, which did not distract them from screeching at each other the whole time. They nattered on even as I left, having enjoyed a wonderful dish – Clams Fried Mei Yan ($6.95, no tax added), previously unknown to me. Mei Yan turns out to be spaghetti-like rice noodles, which were stir-fried with celery, watercress, egg and (shelled, or is it shucked?) clams. The large portion was cooked just right, the clams tasting like what’s underneath the breading in Howard Johnson’s fried clams. A bowl of clear, slightly salty broth came with it, unannounced.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Stanley Feingold was here for a periodic visit, so I went uptown to have lunch with him and 2 dozen others. We talked almost entirely about reviving the American economy. In spite of the bleatings of those who got us into this mess, I stand with Stanley in advocating public works programs to rebuild our infrastructure. Those are jobs the robber barons can’t outsource.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ajisen Ramen, 14 Mott Street, is the only Japanese restaurant that I have found in Chinatown so far. Outside, it has a display case of plastic food, a typical promotional device of Japanese restaurants. The interior was authentic looking, with bamboo across the ceiling, original drawings along one wall, and ceramics mounted on the opposite wall. It was only about 1/4 full, with Japanese and others equally. The food was very good. I had beef sukiyaki ramen ($9.50 on the menu, no tax and they seemed to give me a shabbos discount of 25¢). The big bowl contained ramen noodles, thin, sliced beef, half a hard-boiled egg, bean sprouts and thin, black threads of something in an opaque broth. The menu included sushi, yakitori and other Japanese dishes. The only two reasons I can offer for the relative emptiness of the restaurant were the prices, a bit higher than similar dishes at a Chinese restaurant, and World War II.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Galapagos anyone?

I'll save you 6,000 words.






Thursday, November 4, 2010

Forty-Third Week

Monday, November 1, 2010

For a few reasons, I stuck to a bowl of chicken rice soup for lunch on this very autumnal day. On the way back to the courthouse, I paused to pay my respects to a Chinese funeral on Mulberry Street. I didn’t know the lady personally, but 13 black Lincoln Town Cars were used to transport her friends and relatives. A flower car had about 30 elaborate floral pieces piled on and a six-piece Italianate band played a dirge as her beautiful copper casket was carried outside the Ng Fook Funeral Home to the hearse. I hope she rests in peace.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day is a state holiday. I will not use this space to comment on domestic politics now, but my thoughts are contained on the note attached to the brick that I hurled through Rupert Murdoch’s window.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

East Market Restaurant, 75-85 Broadway, is buried beneath the Manhattan Bridge and sits behind another building that actually fronts on East Broadway. It is a typical dim sum joint, up a flight of stairs, a short block long, but relatively narrow. A dragon and a phoenix are on deep red walls at each end.

I was the only non-Asian in the place and seldom was heard an American word. Beside the three ladies wheeling carts, there was a table with about 15 prepared items and 6 woks serving food to order. I had 3 (medium-sized) egg rolls, 4 shrimp dumplings, 3 chicken dumplings, 2 (of 4) sesame coated balls holding a gelatinous substance, sticky rice and chrysanthemum tea for $11, tip extra. It was okay, but not the equal of 88 Palace just across the street or some of the other outstanding dim sum joints.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I stayed home today to pack and prepare for a presentation at West End Synagogue tonight. My lunch was smoked tuna and sable on mini-everything bagels from Fairway. What's not to like?

Friday, November 5, 2010

If all goes well, we will set foot in Colombia and Ecuador before the day is through.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Forty-Second Week

Monday, October 25, 2010
I walked along East Broadway for a couple of reasons. I wanted to go to a branch of the New York Public Library there and, towards the eastern end of East Broadway, there are restaurants I had not yet visited. The library was closed for renovations, but Pho 89 Vietnamese Restaurant, 89 East Broadway, was open, among others. All the customers in the busy restaurant were Asians, presumptively Vietnamese, but me.

Now, I was of age to participate in our military exercises in Southeast Asia, but the government of the United States reasoned that keeping me stateside teaching adolescent delinquents-in-training was more vital to national security than having me confront the Viet Cong. Nevertheless, as I sat in the restaurant, with my white hair, at least, as a sign of my senior citizenship, I thought it was possible that someone might jump up and yell "You killed Gramps!"

I ordered grilled beef with spring roll with sesame seasoning and lettuce on rice vermicelli ($7.50). Except for the seasoning being more peanut than sesame, everything was as promised and quite successful at that. Three fried spring rolls and four 4" rolls of beef rested on rice vermicelli on top of fresh lettuce in a big bowl.

Another benefit of strolling East Broadway, as I’ve written before, is being transported away from tourist Chinatown and even the US, as almost every enterprise is of the Chinese people, by the Chinese people and for the Chinese people.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Skyway Malaysian Restaurant, 11 Allen Street, was undeservedly empty when I ate there today. A small joint at a location that tests your knowledge of Manhattan geography, I received a friendly greeting. It has a big menu, including 19 lunch specials at $3.95 (shrimp, chicken, beef, pork, squid, fishcake prepared different ways over rice) and 14 noodle soups at $3.75. I ordered from the regular menu with excellent results. However, unless the portions are minuscule, the rice dishes or the soups should be great deal, probably I would order a couple at a time if the mood strikes me.

I started with Roti Telur ($2.95), an Indian pancake with a peanutty dipping sauce holding a piece of chicken and a piece of potato. The pancake was eggy, more pancake than crepe. Then I had Mee Siam ($5.95), rice vermicelli cooked with (large, not baby) shrimp, onions, bean sprouts, chives, fried tofu strips (finally a reason to eat tofu), chopped peanuts on top and a sliced hard boiled egg on the side. This was a treat, very tasty, well prepared and a large portion.

Fill this place up, if you can find it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Looked in on Pongsri, saw people waiting, and headed to Hsin Wong Restaurant, 72 Bayard Street, for their reliable Chow Fun.

Thursday, October 28, 2010
I got to Pongsri Thai Restaurant, 106 Bayard Street, at 12:34 PM and was seated immediately, finally, because the restaurant was half empty. When I left at 1:02 PM ten or more people were waiting to be seated. Let that be a lesson to you.

I ordered chicken with peanut sauce ($10.95) and sticky rice ($2). Two chicken paillards dipped in rice flour and fried were served almost grease-free along with a thick peanut sauce. A small dish of chopped vegetables in a slightly-sweet marinade accompanied the chicken. Knowing that I’ll have to arrive early, I’ll return for more.

Friday, October 29, 2010
The Upper West Side’s power couple hit the road to visit the land of Boaz and Noam.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Forty-First Week

Monday, October 18, 2010

Grand Sichuan Restaurant, 125 Canal Street, is one of six or so around Manhattan (with branches in Queens and Jersey City, as well). For some reason, I overlooked this site, which might even be the mother ship. This location, on a stretch of sidewalk that is the edge of the Manhattan Bridge off-ramp, is plain looking and seems smaller than some of its sisters which I have visited. Zagat’s puts Grand Sichuan (collectively) just below the top tier of Chinese restaurants.

The menu had a couple of interesting wrinkles. The first is a full page labelled "Mao Ze Dong Style, Chairman Mao’s Favorite Dishes." Even if steamed whole fish with black bean sauce or diced chicken and potatoes with kung bao sauce were also my favorites, I would be deterred by the memory of the tyranny and cruelty of Mao so effectively conveyed in Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. The second is "Authentic Chong Qing Hot Pot," something we had in China. Each diner gets a pot of broth, spicy or mild chicken consommĂ©, placed over a burner (I’ll call it Sterno if a trademark lawyer isn’t watching). You toss in seafood, beef, vegetables, spices and let them cook. Grand Sichuan charges by the ingredient. You fish out the cooked ingredients and eat them, and at the end, you have, you hope, a richly-flavored soup. In China, our group more typically had burnt lips and tongues, spots on the front of shirts and blouses, and near-immolations as the flames flamed.

I stayed wrinkle-free and ordered tea smoked duck ($16.95), which I fondly recalled from meals at other branches of Grand Sichuan, and got half a duck with a smoky, salty flavor, not fat-free, but negotiable, accompanied by a small bowl of a dark brown dipping sauce. I paid an extra buck for white rice which came in handy at the end to mix with the remaining sauce to make all gone.

The way to really have fun at Grand Sichuan is to bring Boaz or another kid 2 years 8 months and 15 days old and sit at one of the tables at the front of the restaurant, right by the near-unobstructed window. Sitting there, you face the traffic coming off the Manhattan Bridge and that means cars and buses and taxis and trucks. You can skip feeding the kid rather than interrupt his excitement as the vehicles seem to be coming right at you. Of course, there is the possibility that some out-of-town motorist might join you for lunch without an invitation.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

According to the New York Times, the blog that displayed what was alleged to be quarterback Brett Favre’s private parts got 3.2 million hits in the week that followed, more than 5 times its normal traffic. So, I’m wondering if I should take similar measures in order to expose myself to a wider audience. Might there be millions of folks out there would like to see me in a different light? Should I display the real Alan Gotthelf? Does a little bit of Alan Gotthelf go a long way?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I delayed one day in going to my 100th Chinatown Asian restaurant for lunch, because I could not think of an appropriate choice. Every place I knew, I’ve been, with one exception. While I wanted to surprise myself, Pongsri Thai Restaurant, 106 Bayard Street, was very familiar to me although unvisited this year. It is just across the street from the lockup (fabled as the Tombs), adjacent to the criminal courtrooms at 100 Center Street. I had eaten there in the past, but in the current cycle I have been frustrated by a wait for tables in this smallish joint. Most of the 99 other restaurants I’ve patronized have been busy, but I was seated almost immediately upon entering. At Pongsri, I had walked in, waited and walked out 3 or 4 times already this year. So, it was an appropriate choice for # 100. Except, it wasn’t. Even though no one was waiting ahead of me, I waited long enough to realize it was not meant to be and left once more, even as 8 or so other people came in behind me.

I thought I’d go to Forlini’s, my favorite inexpensive Manhattan Italian restaurant, just up the block from Pongsri, order a meatball hero at the bar, and put off my 100th Chinatown Asian restaurant for another day. Passing by Pho Pasteur Vietnamese Restaurant, 85 Baxter Street, I could not recall eating there this year, although I knew I had been to Nha Trang One Vietnamese Restaurant, 87 Baxter Street, and Thai Son Vietnamese Restaurant, 89 Baxter Street, its immediate neighbors. So, with the Century mark in mind, I enjoyed Tom Chien Lan Bot ($10.25) in Pho Pasteur, only to learn when I returned to my desk that Pho Pasteur was # 78 on my list, but I failed to report it when I visited on either June 22 or June 23. Hold on, it gets worse. Apparently, as much as I enjoyed Jaya Malaysian Restaurant, 90 Baxter Street on June 24, I left it off my list of restaurants. It should take its place as # 79, resulting in all behind it moving down (up?) a slot, which makes Grand Sichuan # 100. The combination of tea smoked duck and trucks rushing at you made it the right choice after all.

Thursday, October 21, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
I paid return visits and ate modestly at restaurants these two days, because each evening we had dinner dates with some of our favorite people, Dean Alfange, Thursday, and Jill & Steve, Friday.
Next week, I start on my second century.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Forty-First Week

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Columbus Day, a state holiday. We celebrated with dinner at ‘Cesca, 164 West 75th Street, my favorite (expensive) Italian restaurant in Manhattan.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thien Huong, 11 Chatham Square, is a new Vietnamese sandwich shop. It has only 3 tables and 7 stools where three times as many would fit and would make you feel that someone cared. It is freshly painted and has some very interesting lighting fixtures including matching, highly-stylized chandeliers. The menu is severely skewed away from the solids towards the liquids. It lists only 8 sandwiches (all $4), 7 chicken and pork dishes served over rice or bread ($5.50 or $6), 7 desserts, although one of them claims to be fried shrimps. The balance of menu is given over to ten conventional coffees and teas (4.80-$2.75), 18 milk teas cold or hot ($2.75 small, $3.75 large), 22 flavored teas with free tapioca ($2.75 small, $3.75 large), 11 milk shakes ($3.75 small, $4.75 large), and 32 slushes ($2.75 small, $3.75 large), ranging in flavor from sour plum to cappuccino.

I ordered the grilled chicken baguette and a peach slush. Unlike the Paris Sandwich shop, Thien Huong does not indicate the ingredients of its sandwiches except what is discernible by name, such as shredded pork baguette or sardine fish baguette. Mine was very tasty, the fresh baguette slightly toasty, carrots, cilantro, hot peppers (I accepted "spicy"), maybe cucumber, along with the chicken in a pleasant sauce. The peach slush was very good, not sickenly sweet as I feared (what risks I take).

As I walked to and fro, I noticed that almost every lamp post and many balconies in Chinatown were bedecked with American and Taiwanese flags, because today is Taiwanese independence day. I found this display unusual, because the influence of mainland China (Red China to those of us on Social Security) seems pervasive in Chinatown, although not particularly heavy handed. Pictures of Mao, copies of the Little Red Book, and publications from the mainland are easily spotted. The fraternal battles that must take place, though, are kept well hidden from us round eyes, so I was surprised by this show of partisanship.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I took my time getting to Cong Ly Vietnamese Restaurant, 124 Hester Street, because of the beautiful weather. I strolled up and down, back and forth and saw so much. First, lining two of the four streets that border on the courthouse at 80 Centre Street were ten or a dozen trucks from the new TV cop show "Blue Bloods," clearly involved with recording at least part of an episode inside the courthouse. As far as I know, the courtrooms in all the adjacent state buildings (I’ve never been in the Moynihan or Marshall Federal courthouses), with the exception of 60 Centre Street, are pretty dreary, architecturally undistinguished or worse. 60 Centre Street, the home base for the Supreme Court in New York County, has some striking architectural and design elements, but, even the best courtroom in 60 does not approach what is seen on "Law and Order" even for the most mundane arraignment or procedural motion. In any case, someone thinks that there is some place in 80 Centre Street worth using as a setting or backdrop for cops and robbers.

As I walked through Little Italy, I came upon another camera crew filming a documentary at the corner of Hester Street & Mulberry Street. While only involving about 8 people, the set up looked very professional as they recorded a plainly-dressed, middle-aged man with gray muttonchops answering questions from an off-camera interviewer. As I walked by, he was explaining who Lucky Luciano was.

Cong Ly, as with the name of almost all the Vietnamese restaurants I’ve patronized, is spelled with accents – aigu, grave, circumflex and a bunch of others that I last saw on a Torah scroll – that I don’t try to reproduce. The restaurant is small and plain, with ten tables, but cheerful because its entire front is glass, free of signs or banners, and one long wall is mirrored. The other patrons were all Vietnamese or Chinese trying to pass, until the end of my lunch when a few random round eyes came in. I ordered grilled beef with vermicelli rice pancake ($11) and got a plate of nicely-grilled beef, about 3/4 inches thick, sliced into pieces manageable with chopsticks, a small dish of vaguely-sweet dipping sauce, a dish of carrots, cucumbers and baby onions, a plate heaped with lettuce leaves, and a plate containing the pancakes, thin layers of woven rice vermicelli. Chopped peanuts and slivers of spring onion were on top of the beef and pancakes. Since I’m a guy who drives without asking directions, I attacked this dish (these dishes) as if it were a four-course meal without seeking advice from the friendly waiter. In other words, I ate some of this, then some of that. At the end, the entire pile of lettuce leaves was untouched. I thought that you might toss everything into a lettuce leaf and roll it up, as you might with Peking duck. However, why bother then to shape the vermicelli into pancakes? The pancakes themselves were too delicate to be used as wrappers. I guess I’ll never know, because I'm not going to ask.

I did seek knowledge on the way back to the office. I bought a container of jackfruit for $3. Now, jackfruit are enormous, at least they are in Chinatown, about the size of a watermelon, but even fatter around the middle. Outside, they are greenish-grayish-yellowish with a nubby skin. Usually they sell for about $4 a pound in huge hunks, which has kept me jackfruitless. Today, I found a fruit stand that sold a container already filleted for $3 and I’m glad I did. Jackfruit pieces look like large marinated Italian artichokes, although thoroughly dry, with pale orange flesh. They were sweet and quite tasty. Inside each piece (or think nodule) was an irregularly-shaped stone or pit which are not eaten, at least by me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Our family went to a funeral today.

Friday, October 15, 2010

456 Shanghai Cuisine, 69 Mott Street just opened, replacing the unlamented Singapore Café. Unlike some changeovers, this was thorough, not just new signs and business cards. The storefront is completely new and the inside space is neat and clean. Handsome scrolls and paintings hung on the wall and there was no flat screen TV or paper streamers hawking special dishes.

The medium-sized place was busy with a mixed crowd (you supply the mixtures). I ordered a lunch special, spicy chicken with orange flavor ($5.95), which can also be called tangerine chicken or orange flavor chicken. Included was a good small bowl of hot and sour soup and white rice. The chicken was quite good, although not offering any surprises. It tasted freshly cooked which I took to reflect the newness of the restaurant. Sometimes, dishes like this (sweet and sour chicken, General Tso’s chicken, sesame chicken, tangerine beef) taste like they have been sitting on a low flame for weeks and dished out on demand, the Chinese equivalent of the cholent that observant Jews cook during the week, put on a low flame and serve on the Sabbath when they are barred from any work including cooking or even lighting a fire. Cholent, obviously, is never served al dente.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fortieth Week

Monday, October 4, 2010
Are we running out of electrons? Are electrons, like the rest of us, slowing down as a result of the aging process? Are there too many electrons, so that they are crowding each other out?
Recent events give rise to these questions.
This morning, around 10 AM, my cell phone informed me that I had a message. Playing it back, I found that my dear British friend David Mervin, in New York to visit his Brooklyn-based five-month old granddaughter, was available for lunch today, Monday. However, the message came in 6:22 PM Sunday. I don’t care so much that I missed the call while the phone was turned on, because I was shopping at Trader Joe’s and Fairway between 6 and 6:30 PM, and it is likely that I missed the ring in the hubbub. But, why did it take about 16 hours for the message prompt to pop up?
Not long after the cell phone did not ring on Sunday evening, I returned to my palatial home positioned between the Hudson River and Central Park and looked at my e-mail. I found a message from the widely-admired Stanley Feingold confirming his attendance at an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York on John V. Lindsay, former New York City mayor. The message appeared in my electronic Yahoo in-box at 6:51 PM, Sunday, October 3, 2010, in response to my announcement of the event sent to Stanley and others at 9:20 AM, Thursday, September 23rd. The event itself was held on Tuesday, September 28th and Stanley and his lovely wife Fumiko attended. I was not able to identify the time Stanley sent his message, but I imagine that it was probably later on the same day I announced the event, that is Thursday, September 23rd, because Stanley is a fastidious person, personally and intellectually. The lag time, therefore, was something like 240 hours; it took 240 hours for Stanley’s e-mail message to get to me telling me that he and Fumiko were coming to an event 111 hours in the past.
16 hours for a cell phone message to be registered. 240 hours for an e-mail message to be received. What’s up with that?
Is it possible that all that stupid twittering, friending, texting, sexting has made it difficult for adults to exchange information efficiently? Where have my electrons gone?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010
An unexpected call to take someone home from the hospital, pulled me out of the office most of the day.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010
A nice, mild, dry day with moderate temperatures and all sorts of things going on outside and I forget to take a pen with me at lunch time. So, working from memory, I first noted on the courthouse steps a group of 30 or so lawyerly types arrayed behind a speaker endorsing Daniel M. Donovan, Jr., the Republican candidate for New York State Attorney General. Facing them were about 15 reporters and cameramen capturing the historic moment. I did not recognize the endorser. Around the corner, near the Moynihan Federal courthouse, a blond lady was primping before saying something for the benefit of those watching CNN maybe live or maybe later. There were two other television satellite trucks parked nearby, but no other signs of activity so I rolled right by. I entered Danny Ng’s Place, 52 Bowery, thinking I was entering the Golden Bridge Restaurant, directly opposite the Manhattan Bridge. However, the staircase and escalator to the Golden Bridge, likely a large dim sum establishment, were closed off and, where they reached the second floor, dry wall covered the former entrance to the restaurant. Instead, walking straight led me into Danny Ng’s, a medium-sized restaurant which promised to also be a dim sum establishment. The familiar green-eyed phoenix and red-eyed dragon were on the back wall. The long wall to the left held six attractive Chinese paintings and scrolls. Six small crystal chandeliers illuminated the premises which contained mostly large round tables. The long wall on the right side, however, was mostly covered with photographs of presumably Mr. Ng with all sorts of people, often police in uniform. I have to note that Mr. Ng, judging by the photographs, is not aging well. Right above my head was a framed white, Harvard tennis team polo shirt, celebrating its Ivy league championship for 2004-05, signed by the team members, two of whom apparently were Chinese.
All lunch specials were $5.25 and I ordered roast chicken with garlic sauce. Now, I’ve commented that chicken with garlic sauce appears on virtually every Chinese restaurant menu and never is served the same way twice. This dish, however, was the epitome of roast chicken with garlic sauce. A very small piece of chicken, maybe one-eighth, was gently roasted and topped with slices of (aromatic) sauteed garlic. No more no less. I enjoyed it very much, making up for the small portion by inhaling the white rice served on the side.
I also did not mind the small portion because America’s Favorite Epidemiologist has cooked a beef vegetable soup and beef stew to lay in for the winter ahead, leaving portions out for tonight’s dinner. However, I thought to add a little fruit to lunch and, noting the pints of strawberries at $1, a best buy, I bought one pound of rambutans for $4. According to our friends at Wikipedia, rambutans, also the name of the tree it grows upon, are round to oval and 3-4 cm broad, growing in a loose cluster of 10-20 fruit. The leathery skin is usually reddish and covered with fleshy pliable spines. It looks more like an animal than a fruit, a red, hairy golf ball that is about to propel itself across the room. Be sure and see for yourself. According to www.rambutan.com (go ahead, I dare you), one approaches a rambutan "by either cutting part way into the rind or, if fresh, biting into it as the spines are quite soft and pose no threat." Well, I cut away and tasted a pleasant fruit similar to a grape. Officemate Michael accurately likened it to a litchee. I think it should be prized for its decorative value, but I'm finding it impossible to insert a picture right here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010
King of Casserole, 21 Division Street, looks like a Chinese luncheonette. No effort has been made to make it look nice (although such efforts in Chinatown often have the opposite affect). It is medium-sized, busy only with Chinese customers. The menu consists entirely of noodle or rice dishes including pulled noodles and knife cut noodles. One grouping of dishes was labelled South Wind Rice. Could they have meant South Park rice?
I ordered roast duck fried noodle ($6.25 no tax added) with a choice of noodle. I chose Ho Fun, which is Chow Fun (my favorite) by another name. The fried must have meant stir-fried, because the noodles were cooked the same as the better Chow Funs of my acquaintance, while I was expecting something crisp and crackley.

Friday, October 8, 2010
Friend and neighbor Steve came downtown to join me for lunch. We went to Jing Fong Restaurant, 20 Elizabeth Street, the marvelous, cavernous dim sum joint, ate up a storm and paid $10 each including a generous tip. A good way to end the week.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Thirty-Ninth Week

hirty-Ninth Week

Monday, September 27, 2010
&
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
For the second murky, rainy day, with a head cold, I went out at lunchtime for a bowl of soup. For the sake of symmetry, I went to Wo Hop upstairs on Monday, forgiven for the salt-laden plate of cold sesame noodles on July 6, 2010, and Wo Hop downstairs today. In each case, the presence of wide, fried crispy noodles was as much a lure as the soup itself. After careful comparison, upstairs is the better choice. It was relatively empty, with large booths available, while downstairs required a wait before I squeezed onto the end of a table occupied by three young lawyers. They were eating up a storm, even though two of them were girls, and that was somewhat punishing for me to observe. Upstairs the soup bowl was larger, I think, and the soup was definitely hotter; downstairs it was barely warm. Downstairs was cheaper, though, because they did not charge me extra for the wide, fried crispy noodles.

Wednesday, September 2, 2010
My head cold has advanced and kept me home. Nothing to report.

Thursday, September 30, 2010
Feeling a little better, but left work at midday. No lunch.

Friday, September 24, 2010
Since Wo Hop upstairs won this early round of the soup bowl, and my cold was not all gone, I returned for more soup. But, I changed the menu somewhat. This time I had a large bowl of egg drop soup and two egg rolls. The soup was served hot and I stirred in some mustard to jazz it up. The egg rolls were classic, those fat beauties you remember from early restaurant meals with your parents. Hot from the deep fryer and stuffed with little bits of wonderful things. I skipped the fried, wide crispy noodles, because the egg rolls satisfied my daily fried food requirement.

Just across the street from Wo Hop is the Chinatown Fair, 8 Mott Street, once the home of the tic-tac-toe chicken, immortalized by Calvin Trillin. Someone asked me about the chicken a few days ago and I looked in on its former home, still an arcade full of video games manned (entirely) by anomic Asian teenagers. There was an empty spot where the chicken once stood/perched/played/resided and the somewhat-battered sign outside still advertised the tic-tac-toe chicken. Remember, the chicken always goes first.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Thirty-Eighth Week

Monday, September 20, 2010
After a large plate of chicken fried rice at 69 Bayard Restaurant, still bedecked with dollar bills, and always a reliable source of Chinatown Chinese food, I bought a guava from one of the fruit stands at the corner of Mulberry & Canal Streets. The price was $1.60 a pound, and mine was near a pound at $1.50. The guava was the size of a slightly crushed baseball, light-green colored and quite dense. I had no idea how to eat it until one of my lawyer colleagues suggested the Internet where I learned the following from www.ehow.com – "Eat the guava like you would an apple--simply take bites of the fruit, rind and all. The rind may be slightly bitter in some cases; however, it is a great source of nutrients and is better not to overlook." Now, the Chinese lady who sold me the guava handed me one when I said "Eat now." As I was about to take my first bite, I thought that she might have heard me mispronouncing the name of an old friend. I chose to quarter the guava, as I might an apple, and then gave away three quarters. When I finally ate my piece, it wasn’t bad, somewhat apple tasting, in fact. On the other hand, I don’t like apples very much.

After work, I tried to shop at the new Trader Joe’s, corner of 72nd Street and Broadway. It was really foolish to think that the crowds would be manageable at 6 PM opening day. The new store operates on two floors below the street-level entrance, which at least kept the crowds from winding out to the sidewalk. However, the check-out lines, regular and express (183 items or less) seemed interminable. The employees holding "End of the line" signs were just about the first thing I saw when I got to the first selling floor. I held on to the four-cheese flat bread pizza ($4.95) that I picked from a refrigerated case only briefly and decided not to continue in search of the chocolate-covered pretzels, chocolate chip cookies and chocolate-covered blueberries that spell Trader Joe’s to me.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
An errand took me close to Church Street at lunchtime, so I ate at Pakistan Tea House, 176 Church Street, which I used to patronize at least every other week when I worked on the West Side. Even though I’ve been here on the East Side since the first of the year, the woman behind the counter recognized me and charged me only $8.50 for chicken biryani, a naan and a can of Diet Coke, regularly 10 bucks, I think. I enjoyed the food, as I have in the past, and, as I write this hours later, I still don’t have any heartburn.

I returned to Trader Joe’s close to 6 PM and found the selling floors quite uncrowded, and, with a package of dark chocolate lace cookies in hand, headed to the check-out line, which seemed to contain more people than the number still shopping. (Note to America’s Favorite Epidemiologist – This was a test run, conducted for reporting purposes only. The use of dark chocolate lace cookies [made with real chocolate, not brown Crisco] was symbolic, near-metaphorical, to allow me to experience the operational characteristics of this new Trader Joe’s. I had to buy something after all.)

The store has 29 cash registers arranged in little clusters, because there is no room to line up 29 cash registers in a row. As a result, my wait was between 5 and 10 minutes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010
I’ve taken the day off from work, primarily to enjoy the company of Stanley Feingold at lunch. Fortunately, Stanley was visiting a friend after lunch, who by chance lives in my apartment building, so we got to spend extra time strolling from 46th Street and Sixth Avenue to 69th Street and Amsterdam (equivalent to Tenth) Avenue.

Because I was instructed to buy biscotti for a visit to a friend’s Succah (my spelling), I returned to Trader Joe’s on the way home. The big surprise was that, at 6 PM, both Fairway and Trader Joe’s were effectively empty. Competition did not stimulate business for either or both, but rather kept everyone home, possibly ordering Chinese food delivered from Ollie’s.

With biscotti and a few other treats in hand, I went directly to the head of the line. In fact, I was the line. One could cite the advent of Sukkot keeping the pious out of stores, however, sundown was at 6:54 PM leaving just enough time for the most observant Yid to buy at least one package of dark chocolate lace cookies and still get to their little grass shacks.

Thursday, September 23, 2010
There was a demonstration in front of the Moynihan Federal Courthouse to free or repatriate to Pakistan Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. She was, at the same time, being sentenced to 86 years for attempted murder, armed assault, using and carrying a firearm, and assault on US officers and employees. Her story is twisted in fact and implication. Wikipedia has a seemingly balanced version of events at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aafia_siddiqi. She was born in Pakistan to a very successful professional couple, then moved to the US when she was 18. She has two children by her first marriage to a physician. She divorced her husband and later married a man closely related to a couple of al-Qaeda heavies. What intrigues me most is her education; she received a BS in biology from MIT, transferring from the University of Houston, and then a PhD in cognitive neuroscience from Brandeis University in 2001. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin has a bachelor’s degree in communications-journalism from the University of Idaho. Can the West prevail?

Sanur Restaurant, 18 Doyers Street, really classifies as a joint. It features Indonesian and Malaysian food. It is surrounded by hair salons, as previously noted (May 13, 2010), and operates on two physical levels. At street level are a couple of tables and a busy take-out counter. I was the eighth person downstairs, spread over eight tables, varying in capacity from 2 to 8 people. Yet, the space felt crowded, because the tables were very close to each other.

I ordered chicken curry ($8.95), listed under Indonesian specialties. White rice was one dollar extra. The chunks of potato possibly exceeded in weight and size the chunks of chicken on the bone. Yet, I loved the dish. The curry flavor was not Indi/Paki-style, but what I’ve tasted most recently at Malay restaurants, such as New Malaysia Restaurant, and described as having a peanutty tinge. The potatoes had cooked in the curry sauce a long time and they weren’t just potatoes anymore. What a delight. I shall return.

I did not return to Trader Joe’s after work. It’s just not any fun when it’s empty.

Friday, September 24, 2010
I wasn’t surprised by the quality and quantity of the duck Chow Fun at Hsin Wong Restaurant, 72 Bayard Street. I’ve enjoyed it before. However, my walk back through Columbus Park made me witness to an historic event – the cracking, breaking or, at least, fissuring of the bamboo ceiling. On a very few occasions, I’ve seen Chinese men and women playing the rummy card game together, always dealing the cards counter-clockwise as if they were in Australia where the water runs down the drain backwards. But, that inscrutable chess/checker game seemed only to attract Chinese men. I’ve never seen any Chinese women playing it, no less Chinese men and women playing together. Further, I’ve never seen a non-Chinese person playing it at all. Well, today the world of table games changed, never to revert to the dark discriminatory days of yore. I saw, at a centrally-located table, not hidden in some corner near the dumpster, a Chinese man playing the strange chess/checkers game intently against a non-Chinese woman. There was no way for me to tell who was winning and I did not wait until it ended (actually, I don’t recall ever seeing one of those games end). This spectacle attracted some observers, as many of these matches do, but there was little of the hooting and hollering that accompanies some contests. Actually, watching the crowd is much more fun than watching the players, who are staring at the board with great concentration. Kibitzers shout instructions to the players, complain about moves made, reach in to point to winning moves and even try to make the moves themselves. A hot match might have a crowd of 20 men (always men) surrounding the table and, if the crowd is that large, it is very loud and animated.

A final note on Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. The Federal district court judge who presided over her trial and sentenced her, is Richard Berman, whom I knew when he was an undergraduate at Cornell University. While we still have friends in common, I don't believe I've seen him in 45 years. So, I don't think he will let me off easy if I ever come before him.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Starting to sin all over again

Monday, September 13, 2010

It wasn’t Roe v. Wade, but a satisfactory result was achieved last night in Webber v. Stewart, an action in Small Claims Court of the City of New York. When driving across Manhattan Island on a weekday afternoon in March, America’s Favorite Epidemiologist was run into by a taxicab. Only the rear panel of her car was damaged; the adverse vehicle was moving at a slow speed. However, as Cher can attest, bodywork is costly.

The only wrinkle in this case was the denial by the owner of the taxicab that the accident ever occurred. He claimed that he was the only one who ever drove the taxicab and he did not drive it into my beloved’s Lexus. Actually, the light of my life agreed with that contention to a point. He, a short, dark-skinned man of West Indian origin, was not the medium-height, light-brown skinned, South Asian man wearing a turban driving the taxicab that hit her.

The case was conferenced by a court attorney (yes, the sort of thing I did on a regular basis for seven years) who urged the defendant and his attorney to settle, because of the quality and quantity of information that my one and only presented. For your information, New York City’s licensed taxicabs are tracked by a GPS system connected to the meter, so that start and stop time and start and end point of each trip are recorded. Reports are easily gotten through a simple letter to the Taxi & Limousine Commission. The report showed that taxicab 2W29 was in the vicinity of the accident at the time of the accident, one brick in the wall of evidence. The report lacked sound effects, however, so there was no actual evidence of the crash.

Victory, the acceptance of a reasonable payment in settlement, was celebrated at the Excellent Dumpling House, 111 Lafayette Street, a long-time favorite (see February 17, 2010). We enjoyed cold sesame noodles ($4.95) and a scallion pancake ($2.90) and were amused by the sight of three kitchen workers eating their dinner at the next table using plastic forks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Lunch Box Buffet, 15 Division Street, offers about 50 dishes, many recognizable as animal or vegetable or fish, arrayed cafeteria-style. $4.50 buys you a choice of any 4 or maybe 5, with or maybe without soup, and white rice for sure. My confusion was based on my inexpert Mandarin. If you take the food out, it costs one dollar less. The food was good enough, especially the piece of southern (China) fried chicken. As homage to the good efforts of the kitchen workers at the Excellent Dumpling House, I ate my lunch with a plastic fork.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I want wild at Fried Dumpling, Mosco Street, occupying one of the four stools while eating 5 dumplings ($1) and 4 buns ($1); the Diet Coke cost $1.25. The only apparent difference between the dumplings and the buns is their shape. Dumplings are near-crescent shaped like an empanada, crimped along the curved outer edge. Dumplings are round, gathered at the top. All were pan fried and worth every yuan.

Allow me to make two additional excursions this week, not into restaurants, but into ideas.

My favorite jurist, Judge Judy, often says, “Do you get where I’m going?,” usually to litigants who clearly don’t. I have greater confidence in you, the jury, as I recount the following:

One week ago Saturday, whether as an extension of the worship services for the Jewish New Year, or mere happenstance, I went shopping in Zabar’s. Standing in the check-out line, the woman immediately in front asked me, as she was paying for her purchases, “Where is the nearest liquor store?” I started to reel off the liquor stores that I knew nearby, Beacon on Broadway at 74th, Nancy’s on Columbus near 75th, but she wanted something closer because she was headed for 79th and Columbus and did not want to go out of her way.

With that I realized that placing me at Zabar’s on Broadway and 80th Street took me, in New York terms, far from my home court. Of course, I knew the Barnes & Noble on Broadway and 82nd, the movie theater cluster on Broadway at 84th, the Filene’s Basement at 79th and Broadway, but once north of Fairway on Broadway between 74th and 75th, my granular familiarity with the sidewalks of New York quickly disappeared.

Of course, this is all about Park Place, a street that runs three blocks east-west from Broadway (at City Hall Park) to Greenwich Street. Particularly, a site on the north side of Park Place that once housed Syms and then the Burlington Coat Factory. It has been apparently empty, at least the street-level retail space that I’ve passed on lunch-time walks, for many years. This is the contemplated location of what has been labeled the Ground Zero Mosque.

It’s a very effective debating technique to capture the vocabulary when framing your argument. Few people, I imagine, even many Muslims, feel comfortable hearing about the Ground Zero Mosque. Accordingly, I have to apply some native New York wisdom to the nomenclature here. The site is about two blocks from the closest edge of Ground Zero, the recognized name for the general area of destruction, and about four blocks from the nearest wall of either of the Twin Towers. As illustrated by my Zabar’s tale above, a couple of blocks in Manhattan can transport you to a different world. Another perspective can be gained from looking at the subway map, another way that New York City is defined. To reach Ground Zero proper, you take the E (World Trade Center) or R (Cortlandt Street) train or the 4/5 to Fulton Street (other platforms in the Fulton Street/Broadway-Nassau complex involve a longer walk). Eventually the 1 train (Cortlandt Street) will be closest when the underground transit hub is complete. That’s how a real New Yorker would navigate the trip. To reach the prospective mosque site, on the other hand, you take the 2 or 3 to Park Place. It’s not far, but it’s not the New York way to go.

So, do you get where I’m going? Ultimately, geography has nothing to do with the mosque controversy. Good people, such as Abe Foxman, a national treasure, and others, such as Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani, who share the distinction of three wives each (although no two alike), have expressed their opposition to the mosque. However, for many of the opponents of the project, anywhere is too close, too abrasive, too provocative. For them, Mars is too close, because it’s not about the building, it’s about its occupants.

In an ecumenical mood, I turn to Woody Allen. As he ages, Woody Allen looks more and more like my late father, which increases my anger at him for idiotic remarks in an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, September 15, 2010. The interview by Dave Itzkoff was about Allen’s new movie, dealing with a fortune teller and invariably raising issues of faith.

Itzkoff began the interview by asking Allen if it was appropriate to wish him a Happy Jewish New Year. The reply was, "No, no, no. That's for your people." Your people, YOUR PEOPLE! I'm a Hottentot, I'm an Eskimo, I'm a Cajun, I'm a Maori. What's with this Jew business? Where do you come off throwing me in with "your people"? What ever gave you that idea?

I guess the film maker forgot one of his greatest scenes, when Grammy Hall looks down the dinner table and sees a bearded, black-clad Hasidic Jew in place of Alvy Singer, Annie Hall's New York Jewish boyfriend. Grammy Hall recognized Woody Allen; Jews recognize Woody Allen; Gentiles recognize Woody Allen; Jihadis recognize Woody Allen; Nazis recognize Woody Allen. Poor Woody. He seems to be the only person who doesn't recognize himself.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Credo

The new Jewish year began this week. Traditionally, these adjacent days are a time of introspection. In that spirit, I offer my Credo.

You’ve heard it said that some people live to eat and others eat to live. The implication is that those who eat to live are more virtuous, less self-absorbed, more real. As someone who unashamedly lives to eat, I wish to restore some balance, except on the scales perhaps.

Those who eat to live are hurried, indiscriminate, even furtive in ingesting just barely enough nutrition to get them back to the grindstone. "I’m too busy living, so I don’t have time to eat," they seem to be proclaiming. But, I believe that their version of living is riddled with doubt and guilt. Did I eat too much? Did I take too much time to eat? Did anyone see me enjoying myself? Will someone take my shovel while I am off eating? Can I skip eating? What are those other people eating? None of these questions arise for me, except possibly the last, if I don’t recognize the concoction at a nearby table.

A plausible rationale for those who eat to live is that it allows them more time to do good for others, as they are released from the table quickly. I don’t accept that distinction. My abundant eating aids farmers all over the world, wholesale food merchants, the transportation industry, chefs, waiters, bus boys (bus persons? busters?), cashiers, restaurant owners and, of course, the tax collectors who occasionally get a piece of the action. I am a one-man bailout. Other than finding a cure for cancer, nothing I could do with my time helps more people on our home planet.

So, go ahead and ess, kinder. Enjoy pagato’, iskrem, baghbaghag, suet go and fagylalt. In case you don't immediately recognize these words, it's how you say "ice cream" in Greek, Norwegian, Armenian, Cantonese and Hungarian, which certainly should prove helpful.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Thirty-Fifth Week

Monday, August 30, 2010
When the 95 degree temperature prediction had not been realized when I went out to lunch, I was happy to stroll around Chinatown without much thought of eating. I finally walked into Nha Trang One Vietnamese Restaurant, 87 Baxter Street, one of the oldest Vietnamese restaurants in New York. Unfortunately, the ten ingredient fried rice ($6.25 including tax) I ordered felt old as well. Additionally, I could only count up to eight ingredients: chicken, shrimp, pork, egg, peas, carrots, cilantro (more as a garnish, but I’ll count it), and corn.

Columbus Park was busy on this gorgeous day. I decided to hover over a group playing cards, the same game being played at about 15 tables. I imagined that it would be indecipherable as is the chess/checkers game also widely played day-in-day-out in the park. I had noticed that the chess/checkers game was played by men only, while the card game (I haven’t gotten the name yet) was played by men and women, although usually one gender to a game. Once upon a time, I played cards frequently and I thought I might as well try and learn this game. The game turns out to be overly simple, a basic rummy. Far more interesting than the game was the fact that the cards were dealt counterclockwise, while the card games I know are dealt clockwise. Each of four players is dealt 13 cards, arranges them into sets (three Kings) or runs (4, 5, 6 and so on). Then, without betting on the outcome or discarding and drawing cards, the players lay down the cards and determine who has the best hand and pay the winner who has done nothing skillful to deserve the victory. At the very least, there should be a round of betting before the lay down as in a poker game. That would accommodate bluffs and raises and make for some excitement. On the other hand, there are 1.3 billion Chinese and maybe they shouldn’t get too excited.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Mark Dilman of Silicon Valley writes in regard to the Evil Eye:
As someone who had two Yiddish-speaking grandmothers: Frida and Khaya (version of Chaya), I grew up well protected from the Evil Eye. My parents [living in Tbilisi, Georgia] practically lost Yiddish, but inherited all the "kinahora" rules from their parents.
Early in my life I learned that it is impossible to challenge the wisdom acquired for 5700 years. I found it to be much simpler to invent rules that are supposed to counteract bad luck. For example, when my parents were telling me that I must not reenter our house if I had forgotten something, my reply was that someone’s grandma told me that it is OK to re-enter if you look at a mirror inside the house right after.
(It is clear why Mark is a scientist with a PhD.)

Alan Heim of Hollywood writes:
I thought you should know of the new, glatt kosher, taco truck prowling our Los Angeles streets. It joins the ever expanding ranks of Korean, burgers, normal tacos and a grilled cheese truck (done in a charming yellow), to name a bare few. I tried it today, outside the Trader Joe’s in an orthodox Jewish enclave near my home. The briskettaco was yummy but underspiced, no doubt a concession to the Jewish digestive tract. The latketaco, which will never pass my spell check no matter how many times I type it, was two nice potato balls served on a taco with an apple relish on top. Not greasy at all and thus a failure. The Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray was, as ever, flawless. $8.50 for the whole.

(Alan, another distinguished CCNY graduate, inadvertently touches upon one of life’s little tragedies. About 4 years ago, Dr. Brown stopped making diet Cel-Ray. Apparently, the good doctor now only produces diet versions of his cream and black cherry sodas. Full calorie versions of all three flavors are peddled, obviously in Los Angeles, as well as New York. This news about a kosher taco truck also reminded me that I saw Holy Cow Kosher Beef Jerky in Fairway recently. Now, that’s a solution without a problem.)

With the temperature at 94 degrees, I abandoned the discipline I usually show at lunch time. First, I bought 4 large, beautiful white peaches ($2.50) which will certainly ripen by Thanksgiving. Then, I stopped in the Mulberry Meat Market. Inc., 89 Mulberry Street, for some precooked takeout, Singapore Mei Fun and sesame chicken ($3.25), and hurried back to eat it in my airconditioned office. It was a gesture more than a meal.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010
With the temperature again at 93 degrees, cold sesame noodles was the natural choice for lunch. Joe’s Ginger Restaurant, 25 Pell Street, served a solid B plate of cold sesame noodles ($4.65), nowhere near their scallion pancakes, however. Most noticeable about the dish was the no-frills presentation. No toasted sesame seeds, slivers of cucumber or slices of green onion were anywhere to be seen.

Seen in abundance in the window and on the shelves of Kam Man, 200 Canal Street, my favorite grocery store south of 74th Street, were mooncakes, described by Wikipedia as having a "thick filling usually made from lotus seed paste . . . surrounded by a relatively thin crust and may contain yolks from salted duck eggs." Wikipedia helpfully notes that mooncakes are not to be confused with moonpies. The reason that mooncakes, often packaged in attractive tins or boxes, are so prominently displayed is the upcoming holiday, of course. Do I mean to imply that the Chinese are one or all of the lost tribes of Israel? After all, isn’t food central to Jewish practice? Should a pre or post Rosh haShana meal include mooncakes? Actually, September 22, 2010, the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, is the Mid-Autumn or Zhongqiu Festival celebrating lunar worship, and, also the first night of Succoth for the non-Chinese among you. Is this a coincidence?

Thursday, August 26, 2010
I could not see through the front window of Hua Du Seafood Restaurant, 31 Division Street, because big red papers signs covered the part that wasn’t frosted. When I walked in to the empty restaurant the two Chinese waitresses seemed surprised to see me. I said, "If you’re cooking, I’m eating" and was shown to a table. I ordered chicken with garlic sauce ($4.50), one of those dishes that are different in every venue. This version, notable for a spicy sauce with flecks of hot pepper, contained, in addition to thin slices of chicken, red peppers, green peppers, green onions, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and dark threads of something which none of the staff were able to identify in English, my favorite language. The portion was modest, but reasonable for the price.

Something was in the back of my mind from the moment I entered Hua Du though. A quick search of my previous contributions to human knowledge turned up the information that Gao Xin Seafood Restaurant at 31 Division Street was closed by the Board of Health about two weeks ago. I obviously arrived today just after the ink dried on the new menus and business cards. It reminded me of garment firms on Seventh Avenue that would shut their doors and turn their backs on their creditors after a bad season, yet reemerge at the start of a new season under a slight variant of their prior name – JorAl Frocks to AlJor Fashions to AJ Dresses to JA Styles. Just remember -- Cut velvet!

 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Thirty-Fourth Week

Tuesday, August 24, 2010
I returned to work today after more than a week of intense grandparenting and am happy to be back at my desk merely trying to please 50 judges of the New York State Supreme Court instead of trying to gain and maintain the attention and cooperation of one 2 ½ year old child. I remained upbeat in spite of the gloomy, damp, gray, gusty weather and the news that the New York City Department of Health has closed New Bo Ky Restaurant, 80 Bayard Street, visited on April 16, 2010, Sweet Spring Restaurant, 25A Catherine Street, visited on May 17, 2010, Chang Wang, 38A Allen Street, Gao Xin Seafood Restaurant, 31 Division Street and Golden House Chinese Restaurant, in Long Island City. The latter three I have not visited and may now never have the opportunity.
The weather dictated a bowl of soup and I chose to go back to Big Wong, 67 Mott Street, a favorite of many, but which impressed me more with value than flavor on March 17, 2010. I ordered soup with dumplings ($4.75) and got a medium-sized bowl of soup with 8 or so tasty dumplings. When I left Big Wong, I decided to add a second course to lunch by buying fruit from one of the vendors on the sidewalk around Canal and Mulberry Streets. The white peaches looked spectacular, ranging from 4 for $2.50 to 4 for $5 based on size. However, in complete contradiction to Starbuck’s, the smallest were large. Unfortunately, none of the white peaches of any size at any of three stands I approached were ready to eat. In fact, they were ready to drive nails. Instead, I bought pluots at 6 for $2, nice and juicy, ready to eat. Pluots, pronounced plew otz, are a cross between a plum and an apricot, tasting and looking more like a plum. There is also, but not in Chinatown at present, plucots, another cross between plums and apricots, favoring the apricot. I don’t recall ever having had a plucot actually.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Bonnie Glotzer tells how to avoid the Evil Eye when faced with the necessity of moving from a higher floor to a lower in the same building, a very risky maneuver. Leave your old apartment carrying a chair and take it down to the street. Sit on the chair on the sidewalk for a reasonable (lawyers say practicable) period of time. Then, enter your new apartment by ascending from the street rather than descending from above.
With former President Jimmy Carter (see note) in North Korea, it was no surprise that Thai Son Vietnamese Restaurant, 89 Baxter Street, was jammed at lunchtime with as many non-Asians as Asians. The Asians may have been Chinese or Vietnamese, but I’m not able to distinguish them. People were always waiting to be seated, although not for very long. The medium-sized, pleasantly-decorated restaurant handled diners quickly without rushing them. In fact, I had to go to the cashier to get my check after finishing my Cha Gio (spring rolls, 4 for $3.95) and Tai (beef soup with rice noodles and thinly-sliced eye of round, $5.50). Both were very good, the Tai leaning towards excellent. A dish with bean sprouts, lime wedges and mint leaves accompanied the soup, which was already aromatic with the scent of cilantro. I threw some of the stuff in the soup, but did not use any of the four sauces, soy, sweet, hot and hotter, on the table.
Note – Harry Truman used to insist that he was a former President while Herbert Hoover was an ex-President, during the Eisenhower years when both were still alive. The difference, according to Truman, was that Hoover had been defeated for re-election. By Truman's standard, Carter is an ex-president. What about a former wife and an ex-wife, then. Any comments?

Thursday, August 26, 2010
New Wong Rest. Inc., 103 East Broadway, is so new that the take-out menus by the cash register still read 103 E.B. Rest. Inc., which was okay because they seemed otherwise identical to the menus stacked on the tables. All the dozen or so tables were occupied, but usually by only one or two people. Pink predominated on most surfaces including the walls and the table tops. I was the only non-Chinese customer, but my English was clearly understood and service was prompt and polite. I had Singapore Chow Mei Fun ($6.25), a big portion of fine rice noodles, hot off the wok, cooked with shrimp, pork, egg, celery, green pepper, red pepper, green onion, and onion, with a mild curry flavor. Good job, New Wong.

Friday, August 27, 2010
A lead local news story today concerns James D. Gibbons, who abruptly resigned as a judge of the Criminal Court of New York City. While his affair with a Legal Aid attorney resulting in the recent birth of their son was well known, other factors apparently led to him leaving the bench. According to the New York Daily News and the New York Post, Judge Gibbons had pornography stored on his work computer, “lots of crotch and cleavage shots” said an unnamed investigator from the Manhattan DA’s office.
Why do I bring this up? Judge Gibbons’ work computer is the same as my work computer; we are part of the same enterprise, the same system, the same telecommunications network. I just found him on our internal electronic address book. Our office e-mail addresses both end in @courts.state.ny.us. His telephone extension is 4677 and mine is 4685. But, you know what’s different? I can’t get pornography on my work computer, or at least not until now.
The court system has a firewall that excludes lots of stuff. For instance, access to Facebook, Jdate and other social networking sites is barred. That’s fine with me, especially considering my state of wedded bliss. Some rules, however, need a drop of nuance. America’s Favorite Epidemiologist has published many scholarly articles in her distinguished career. For a time, she focused on perinatal transmission of HIV and the efforts to curb the infection of newborns. When I tried to view an article she co-wrote on this subject, the court system’s firewall rejected the request because of the content – HIV, AIDS, sex, drugs, naughty, naughty, naughty. From now on, inspired by Judge Gibbons, I’ll be aiming for crotch and cleavage.
Lunch was at Lok Sing Seafood Restaurant, 290 Grand Street, with a shiny new exterior, but looking half-finished inside. Much more notable than the food was the location, Grand Street at the corner of Eldridge Street. Once upon a time, this location was closer to Kiev than Kunming, teeming with Eastern European Jews. Now, it’s simply a northeastern section of Chinatown.
A bit hungry after the modest portion of beef with orange flavor and the long walk, I bought one Dragon Fruit for $2.25, at $2.99 per pound. Dragon Fruits, I looked it up, are properly called pitaya, a fruit of the cactus family. They are covered by beautiful purplish red leaves with green tips. They are about the size and shape of a medium-sized cooking onion. You eat them by cutting off one end and peeling the skin back to reveal soft white flesh studded with black specks, poppy seeds if this were a bagel. There is no pit, so you can bite into it or scoop out the fruit. The texture and black seeds evoke comparison to kiwi. Mine was mildly sweet and I can say I finished it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Book of the (20th) Century

What would be your choice for this distinction? "The Lord of the Rings" was voted to the top in a poll by a British bookstore chain. Americans over the age of 17 would probably prefer "The Great Gatsby." My cousin Allan might choose "The Fountainhead," while I lean towards "Goodbye Columbus." "Mein Kampf" has to be considered given the the cataclysm it foretold. Of course, there is Camus, Hemingway, Freud, among others who helped us look at the modern world.

The Book of the (20th) Century, however, and sadly unsung, is "How to Avoid the Evil Eye" by Brenda Z. Rosenbaum, published by St. Martin 's Press in 1985. It is apparently out of print, but that should not diminish the power of its ideas. It claims, in a self-deprecatory fashion, to be only a "collection of Jewish superstitions." But, can almost 5771 years of history be dismissed as the product of superstition?

Before I sample for you some of the wisdom of "How to Avoid the Evil Eye," allow me to locate the underlying concept as experienced by every Jewish child fortunate enough to grow up with at least one Yiddish-speaking grandparent. For illustrative purposes, I shall call our hearty, growing child Alan. From his earliest years of cognition, Alan heard adults, relatives and strangers alike, say "kinahora" when he was introduced into their presence. Kinahora, or some near-homophone, is a concatenation of the Yiddish phrase, "kein ayin hara" meaning no Evil Eye. The Evil Eye, as we all know, is the simultaneous sower and reaper of bad things, which must be avoided at all costs.

Children especially, given their limited physical and mental abilities, require protection from the Evil Eye and, thus, the frequent utterance of kinahora when dear, cute Alan appears. Sometimes, kinahora is spoken before anything else is said, because the mere sight of Alan causes a concerned adult to take prophylactic measures. More often, kinahora is spoken immediately after an adult utters a word or phrase of praise, admiration, or compliment, to immunize Alan from the danger that such positive attention places him in. The Evil Eye, after all, is drawn to people who are experiencing even a moment's good fortune and aims to lay them low. It doesn't take a winning lottery ticket to attract the Evil Eye, just Alan's Aunt Sophie saying, "He's so tall."

My dear friend Andy, of blessed memory, was a chubby child even before he was a chubby adult. He heard kinahora so often growing up that he was convinced it meant "What a fat kid."

Sometimes, it takes more than saying kinahora to ward off the Evil Eye. The Book of the (20th) Century teaches us:

Changing the name of a sick person diverts the Evil Eye. NB -- Mother Ruth Gotthelf bore the Jewish name Ruchel at birth, but, after a childhood illness, became Chaya Ruchel. Chaya is the female form of life; Chaim would be added for a male. See page 40.

Breaking dishes when an engagement is announced frightens off the Evil Eye that is attracted by a joyous event. P. 26.

To prevent a bad dream, put a prayer book under your pillow. P. 70.

To counteract the Evil Eye, put garlic in a child's ear. P. 19.

Fish arouse amorousness and should therefore be eaten on Friday night. P. 78.

News of serious illness is withheld for three days lest the Evil Eye cause the death of the invalid after overhearing talk of his weakened condition. P. 82.

In taking money out of a safe or purse, never remove all of it. Leave a coin or two for luck. P. 64.

To divert the glance of the Evil Eye, interesting objects may be hung between the eyes of the endangered person. P. 15.

Once a man sets out on a journey, he must not reenter his house if he has forgotten something. He should stand outside and ask to have it handed to him. Otherwise, the forces of the outside world might come into the house, and with them, bad luck. P. 76.

A person dies when he has used up the number of words allotted to him in his lifetime. P. 90.

It is bad luck to move to a lower floor in the same building. P. 55.

Birth can be eased by opening all chests, closets and doors in the house. P. 32.

Sneezing during prayer is a bad omen. P. 80.

If a child plays with his shadow, it will make him stupid. P. 50.

I gave Mother Ruth Gotthelf a copy of this book 25 years ago. She read it carefully, often saying, "That's right" at key passages. As you are no doubt aware, Mother Ruth Gotthelf is now 100 years old, kinahora!

Footnote to history: I was witness to a record-breaking performance on August 19, 2010 when Noam Webber, four days old, went out to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. This breaks the previous record, which I also witnessed, held by Nate Persily on July 10, 1970 at age seven days. Kinahora!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Thirty-Second Week

Monday, August 9, 2010

Pho Cho Ben Thanh, 76 Mott Street, on an unplanned second visit when it was 92 degrees, was losing its battle to keep the restaurant cool, even though it deployed several air-conditioning units, portable and fixed, and a couple of floor fans. I decided to endure the warm environment rather than face the hot streets right then. I ordered Bo Xao Sate, it loses a lot without the accents, sauteed beef with "Sate" sauce ($8.75). Besides thin slices of beef, the dish contained pea pods, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, straw mushrooms, celery, carrots, baby corn, green peppers and red peppers, all cooked in a peppery sauce. This dish further disproved the mtheory, proposed by David Goldfarb, among others, that all of Chinatown is serviced by one kitchen, although as a Vietnamese restaurant, it might be in a different niche. In any case, I have countered that there are many kitchens, but one menu printer. "Sate" here is meant to convey satay, a sauce/preparation that I have found and tried in several other joints, always with different results. Wet, dry, sweetish sauce, today peppery sauce, on a stick, without garnish, today with a vegetable garden included. At New Malaysia Restaurant, I was thrilled and delighted by what I was served as satay, while at Nyonya Malaysian Cuisine it was just okay. Listen guys, let’s turn to http://www.epicurious.com/tools/fooddictionary/strategy, or something similar to better identify our concoctions.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hong Kong Station, 45 Bayard Street (also at 45 Division Street) has a do-it-yourself angle. You place your order at a counter in the neat, boxy room by picking from a wide array of choices starting with one of 10 noodles or rice with every element priced separately. I picked Ho Fun, a flat rice noodle (same as Chow Fun, my favorite) ($2). I added curry fish balls ($1.45), mushrooms ($1.45), and two fried eggs, cooked to order ($1.45). They added broth and then a shot of garlic sauce and a spoonful of parsley and scallions. With a can of Diet Coke, it came to $7.85. It was very good, although I could not help splashing myself several times even using a soup ladle to eat with. Other ingredients included tofu, squid balls, beef pancreas, beef stomach, chicken wings, Spam and pork intestines.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shanghai Asian Manor, 21 Mott Street, previously visited on April 26, 2010, was an all around winner this time. With the temperature at 90 degrees or so outside, the air conditioning inside was absolutely delicious. The scallion pancake was near-perfect ($2.25). It had been lightly deep-fried, but was almost grease-free. My only complaint was the too small serving of the something-like soy sauce served on the side. Cold sesame noodles were very good ($4), but not in the league with the scallion pancake. Service, unlike my previous visit, was first rate.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I had lunch with Howard, a senior colleague, who, in spite of working at the courthouse for 30 years or so, had a limited knowledge of Chinatown. We went to Dim Sum Go Go, 5 East Broadway, the premier dim sum joint for one or two people. The only problem we encountered resulted from our behavior in ordering extra dishes (no rolling carts) from different waiters as they scurried by. The result was some confusion and spring rolls showing up after we paid the check. A delight otherwise.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I’m not superstitious, but I’m going to CitiField tonight to see the Mets play the Phillies. If there was ever an occasion to call upon the forces of mystery, this is it. I decided to prepare for the game with a special meal, so I went to Yong Gee, 104 Mott Street (previously visited on March 18, 2010) for Peking duck, which they serve by the half duck for $15.99. It was okay. The duck was not fat-free and the pancakes were not pancakes, but rather 4 inch spongy discs about ½ inch thick. The waiter made each of the six packages with sauce, cucumber and green onions and arranged the two legs on the remaining greens. I later gave the fortune cookie to my officemate Michael.

America’s Favorite Epidemiologist and I are going to Massachusetts this weekend to await the arrival of Boaz’s younger brother. This is a very happy time for all of us save some Chinatown restauranteurs who will need new revenue sources.