Thursday, January 21, 2010

Week Two

Monday and Tuesday, January 11 and 12, 2010
I was in a training session for court staff held in White Plains, New York. The only food news was the confirmation that raw tomatoes cause me great indigestion even in skinny slices on a turkey sandwich.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I was back on Mott Street, this time aiming directly for New Wonton Garden at 56 Mott Street which I had passed many times before without going in. This is a very small place with no trace of a garden. It reminded me of Calvin Trillin’s admonition that vivid names of real estate developments, such as Shady Brook or Willow Mount, most often describe the obverse of the property’s actual condition.
I had noodle soup with chicken not unlike what is served in a traditional Jewish home on Friday night as long as you think kreplach, not won ton. The noodles were also different than the Goodman’s egg noodles found in mamaleh’s soup or the thin noodles other Chinese restaurants served. These were almost ¼ inch wide and 1/8 inch deep. I recall having them, or something very similar, at the now departed Sam’s on the corner of Third Avenue and 29th Street, as their marvelous cold noodles with sesame sauce, a portion so large it lasted me two lunches when I worked nearby for a four-year stretch before going to law school. America’s Favorite Epidemiologist and I would go to Sam’s of an evening, share the cold noodles with sesame sauce and a scallion pancake, also world class, without breaking a ten dollar bill adjusted for inflation.
Back at New Wonton Garden, I sat next to three young women, maybe college freshpeople. Two of them were disputing whether Desmond Tutu was still alive. After a couple of minutes back and forth they called a mother to settle the issue, but requiring the mother to check it on-line, of course. In an act of rare self-control, I did not offer the correct answer before they resorted to the cell phone. I must be getting old.

Thursday, January 14, 2010
I attended a retirement luncheon for the judge I worked with almost continuously since 2002. It was held at Forlini’s, an old-line Italian restaurant at 93 Baxter Street, just south of Canal Street, where judges, assistant DAs and criminal defense lawyers congregate at lunchtime and to celebrate retirements, promotions, birthdays and other simchas. About 40 people attended, mostly active and retired judges plus two court reporters, the judge’s wife, mother-in-law and oldest son, and another lawyer who worked for the judge. We had a choice of about 10 of the most typical dishes from Forlini’s large menu – chicken, veal or eggplant parmigiana, veal marsala, lasagna, filet of sole, with penne or escarole on the side. Fortunately, Robert Johnson, Bronx DA, longtime friend of the judge, sat opposite me. Because he had to rush off, he agreed to order a cannoli for dessert so I could have two. They were excellent.

Friday, January 15, 2010
I decided to end the week in fine fashion since my first writing assignment had been approved by the head of my department and sent along to the deciding judge. I entered Ping’s Seafood at 22 Mott Street, recognized as one of the finer restaurants in Chinatown, but immediately encountered a problem with my mission that is sure to arise again. Ping’s at lunch focuses on dim sum which are typically served 2 to 4 pieces to a plate. That’s great if you’re with other gourmands. I recall that David McMullen and I, accompanied by two women with unserious appetites at least for food, wound up with a foot-high stack of empty plates in front of us at a San Francisco dim sum palace. However, by myself, two or three plates with 2 to 4 pieces each quickly irons out the abdominal creases. Many of the better Chinatown restaurants devote lunch to dim sum so this could be a major obstacle to my progress. If I’m having dim sum, I want 12 different things for lunch, not three things 4 times over. I’ll have to find a dim sum buddy.
Alone, I retreated from Ping’s in disappointment and went a few doors up to the Peking Duck House at 28 Mott Street hoping that I might be able to get half a duck at a reasonable price. That too was not to be, since they serve Peking duck as a dinner to a minimum of four people at $27.50 each. Instead, I ate and enjoyed a big serving of beef with orange flavor, one of the pricier items on the lunch menu at $9 and worth it. Peking Duck House covers its tables with white linen, serves tea without being asked (or charge) and sets the table only with knives and forks, but no fried noodles.


  1. Alan,

    Your life seems to revolve around meals you have eaten or imagined. But I see that food is not the end but the means to galvanize and organize your thoughts.
    Even if Chinese food is one of the great cuisines of the world, you seem to restrict yourself to those restaurants that have Americanized and lowered its standards.
    When I read of your dim sum disappointments, I would suggest that you hire an eating companion to help broaden the number of dish
    While the Chinese civilization is on the march today, their cuisine, at least in the United States, has fallen on hard times. What the Japanese armies failed to achieve in their wars against China, they now have triumphed here on the culinary front. It was a bloodless victory. Maybe your stomach needs a change of venue.

  2. Dear Dave who is not Dave Esq. nor Dr. Dave,
    I don't think these restaurants are particularly Americanized. Admittedly, I don't recall seeing any of my mother's favorite fried noodles to nibble in the 20 or so restaurants we visited in China in 2008. Maybe they are just catching on over there. Otherwise, the food we ate there, almost always in restaurants full of homeboys, was not noticeably different than what I am finding in Chinatown.
    Japanese cuisine on this side of the Pacific seems to have more finesse, subtlety and delicacy than Chinese food, but, as in our politics, those virtues don't always prevail.

  3. January 22, 2010

    Dear Alan,

    I am Dr. Dave having received a PhD in Modern European History at NYU in 1985.

    Dr. Dave

  4. Dave,

    You are Dr. Dave in ordinary life, but not on this blog where Dr. Dave, now resident in Edinburgh, Scotland signed in first. May I suggest that you adopt the nom de plume of Dr. Dave the Mature?

  5. Erratum
    Dear Dr. Dave,
    It is Dr. David who is corresponding from Edinburgh, Scotland, so you may assume the title you undoubtedly worked so hard to earn.
    Hugs and kisses.
    Alan G