Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Week Three

Monday, January 18, 2010 – Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, a court holiday. I prepared my own lunch at home, lox and eggs no onions.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Chinese Village Restaurant, 94 Baxter Street, is a small restaurant, nicely decorated with Chinese art and artifacts. The tables are uncovered, but give the impression of a lacquered, framed Chinese manuscript. Each table had chop sticks resting on a napkin, nothing else. Lunch specials include choice of soup, white rice and tea for $7.30 tax included. The choices were extensive, mostly predictable, but included snails in black bean sauce an old favorite of mine. I didn’t order that dish this time (I’ll have return after the first round of 72 restaurants) so I don’t know if they serve the snails with toothpicks to dig them out, the typical method. I ordered sesame chicken which arrived with more chicken than broccoli for a change and a fork. The dish was pretty good; the breading was thin, not having a life of its own as is often the case with this dish, sweet and sour chicken and the like. The only problem was that one of the lumps of chicken, 8-10 fair sized, was only fat.
No Chinese people were eating here, although most table were occupied and one young couple appeared to be Filipino. The hot and sour soup came with a plastic ladle and the good tea was in a ceramic pot. I asked for water when I dipped my sleeve into the chicken turning the page of the newspaper I was reading.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010
America’s Favorite Epidemiologist is in San Francisco visiting America’s Loveliest Nephrologist so I left the house without any coffee. By lunchtime, I was in a rotten mood for several reasons much more substantial than starting the day without coffee. Still, I entered Shanghai Cuisine at 89 Bayard Street, corner of Mulberry Street, with optimism. It’s a smallish place appearing larger because of a mirror running almost the length of one wall. The tables are covered by plastic cloths in the traditional (French) checked pattern overlaid by glass. Chop sticks, napkins and a tray with salt, pepper, soy sauce, hot pepper sauce, and packets of sugar and Sweet and Low are on the table.
It was busy when I entered a few minutes before 1 PM, but it soon was jammed with lawyers and court staff apparently because it is probably the nearest Chinese restaurants to many of the court buildings close by.
As with many other local restaurants, Shanghai Cuisine offered lunch specials, 15-20 ordinary dishes with soup or soda and rice where appropriate, in the $6-7 range. In fact, as an expression of simplicity, I ordered Young Chow fried rice, a mixture of things usually singularly inhabiting fried rice. No white rice comes with the fried rice. Unfortunately, this was not real fried rice, that is fried fried rice, but white rice with stuff, and a small portion, too. Some soy sauce gave it a little life. On the other hand, there was too much life swirling and hovering around me to spend time reading more than one page of the New Yorker or, had I not forgotten to take the newspaper with me from home, work on the crossword puzzle. I left quickly and went to Kam Man, a big, recently refurbished store that I've patronized over the years selling packaged foods, Chinese groceries, tea, tea sets, utensils for use in Chinese cooking and other things absent from Waldbaums. I bought a big tin of cookies using Belgian chocolate as a primary ingredient to share with my neighbors in the library where I am perched until a desk becomes available for me.

Thursday January 21, 2010
I was delighted to have the company of Dean Alfange at lunch today. Dean makes frequent forays into New York City from the bear-infested woods of Leverett, MA, but not usually in search of Chinese food. Rather, Dean seeks various forms of entertainment even older than he is, e.g. vaudeville, minstrel shows and silent movies. However, these are typically night-time activities, so Dean was available as my dim sum buddy today.
We went right to Ping's Seafood at 22 Mott Street which I deserted last week when faced with the prospect of eating dim sum alone. Ping’s was busy, but it is a large space with an additional room downstairs in use during the busier dinner hours. The tables were covered with white cloth, set with chop sticks and forks, and a little dish of hot pepper sauce provided a nice color contrast. Tea was served in a white ceramic pot which was refilled frequently without asking.
Dim sum carts were flying around at a furious pace and the variety was formidable. We eventually had eight dishes, all different. Seven were some version of a dumpling, round, triangular, elliptical, dome-shaped, boiled, sauteed, fried, white and green. The eighth dish was real fried rice, leaning to the side of sticky rice. The dumplings were either 3 or 4 items to a plate and both of us approached the third or fourth item hesitantly. I can’t speak for Dean, but I hoped that the plate with the lone item would empty itself so that another plate with different contents could replace it. After all, my early childhood training in not leaving leftovers still governs me at the table, but here was dueling with my lust to try still another concoction rolling my way. Even after having eight distinct dishes, there must have been at least the same number and possibly twice that many that we never sampled.
One dim sum buddy is not enough. Dean was, as always, charming company (in spite of the gloom on political matters that we shared), but the two of us alone could not breach the dim-sum-double-digit barrier. However, our ranks may soon be swelled by unemployed Democratic politicians who will still have to eat. My only concern then is whether they will realize that there are no free lunches.

Friday January 22, 2010
Back on my own, I decided to start spreading out geographically so I turned off Mott Street onto Pell Street one of the streets that have been “Chinatown” for a hundred years or so. I went into ABC Chinese Restaurant, a medium-sized place decorated with nice Chinese scrolls, paintings and two golden dragons leaping out of the rear wall. It was half full with several big tables set for banquets and some occupied by eight or ten Chinese people. The small tables held pairs, mostly Chinese. As with most of the places I’ve visited, ABC had a lunch menu with reasonably priced dishes. I ordered beef chow fun, the wide, flat noodle and an excellent choice it was. They served a big bowl hot out of the wok loaded with beef, onions and scallions. I used the chop sticks provided although a fork and a tablespoon were also on the table. Once I finished, no one rushed me to leave so I spent ten or fifteen minutes with the crossword puzzle, a Friday so no walk in the park. I eventually finished it on the subway ride home.
There was a remarkable occurrence on the non-food front that night. The flight returning America’s Favorite Epidemiologist to her upper West Side love nest from California landed one hour early, that’s 60 full minutes. Does this have cosmic implications or merely prove that with Republican ascendancy things operate better?

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