Friday, April 30, 2010

Seventeenth Week

Monday, April 26, 2010
Shanghai Asian Manor, 21 Mott Street sits on top of Hop Kee sharing the same address. It is a sister to Shanghai Asian Cuisine where I ate 3 weeks ago. It turned out to be a good choice, although I went there because it was close to the courthouse and the drizzle I found on the street was not visible from the window of my office on the fifth floor, so I went without an umbrella. The restaurant is only a couple of months old and still looks fresh. There are 5 booths along one wall which caused me to reflect on the absence of booths in Chinatown restaurants, but the presence of booths in Indian restaurants throughout Manhattan. Why is that?
There were also 7 tables for four, 2 for one and 2 round tables that could hold eight. The tables and chairs were a dark-stained wood with black leather(like) upholstery. Three large, illuminated photographs of food replaced the usual pictures of the Li River, but they were easily ignored.
The menu included dim sum to order as well as a variety of dishes with Shanghai in their name. Given the weather, I ordered Shanghai Won Ton soup ($4.95) and a scallion pancake ($2.25). The soup was good, the Won Ton especially tasty with a filling that tasted like shredded chicken and spinach rather than the customary pork and leek. The scallion pancake rates special notice; it had been fried to a crisp, but just so you could break it apart, not pull it apart.
Service was uneven, however. As soon as I sat down, the waitress came to take my order, before I had opened the menu. Once I decided, though, I was left alone giving me plenty of time to reconsider without anyone approaching me. This treatment was not reserved for me alone; three Chinese women at the next table waited as long for someone to give them a check. Maybe all customers look alike.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I’ve waited for a special occasion to return to Oriental Garden Restaurant, 14 Elizabeth Street, which gets a favorable mention in the Michelin Red guide to New York. A visit from Michael Ratner is certainly special and we sat down to several dim sum dishes, shrimp/pork steamed dumpling and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf, before ordering jumbo shrimps in black bean sauce, a regular main course ($18.95). This consisted of 9 jumbo shrimp in a pungent, but not overly salty, black bean sauce, stir fried with onions.
Besides the one woman rolling around the relatively small room with steamed buns and dumplings, waiters bring dim sum from the kitchen as you order them from the menu. We had a different shrimp/pork bun rolled in shredded wheat, fish dumpling (more like a fish knadl), crispy chicken roll and a green pepper slice stuffed with shrimp. The dim sum totaled $20. Jasmine tea was served. Oriental Garden is probably a better choice at dinner. The dim sum was good, but quite compared to nearby restaurants, notably Jing Fong next door, which had seemingly endless choices.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I took the day off to run errands and it gave me an opportunity to see an artistic renaissance on upper Broadway. After a hiatus of several years, Citarella’s, the long-established fish/meat/gourmet market, next door to Fairway, has returned fish art to its window. A sloping board the width of the window is covered by raw fish and shellfish arranged in a almost-symmetrical pattern. Bordered by bright green greens (bright greens? bright green salad greens?), there were five different types of whole fish, salmon steak, salmon filet, filet of sole, swordfish steak, two sizes of fresh shrimp, scallops, and oysters pleasingly arrayed. I hope I didn’t leave anyone out. It’s a visual treat without an admission charge. Bring your own tartar sauce.

Thursday, April 29, 2010
Sun Sai Gai Restaurant, 220 Canal Street, at a distance, might be a terrible choice. Sitting at the intersection of Canal Street and Baxter Street, it is probably passed by more people than any other restaurant in Chinatown. Canal Street, where about a half-dozen subway lines stop, is empty of Chinese restaurants from Broadway to the Bowery. Jewelry and souvenir shops occupy most of the space along with banks and cellular phone stores. Foot traffic is very high; homeboys, local workers and tourists make it impossible to stop and smell the roses.
Up closer, you see that the big sign over the storefront gives as much space to Vietnamese as Chinese. The restaurant has the alternate name of Nha Hang Tan The Gioi (missing accents over every vowel), which we all know translates into "Service Cave of the Spreading, Fragrant Rose-Apple Tree." Service cave probably means eating establishment in the vernacular. The menu, too, puts Chinese and Vietnamese (languages) side by side, although the food is definitely Chinese. Maybe this was enough to keep hordes of tourists out in spite of the location. On one side as you enter the smallish space is a bakery counter with sweet and savory items for takeout only. On the other side, amid the typical hanging ducks, ribs and chickens, 3 cooks prepared lunch.
I ordered Beef Yi Mein ($6.50) after learning from the waiter that Yi Mein is a long noodle, similar to Lo Mein that is fried and then boiled, the opposite of pan fried noodles. This gives them a wrinkly finish. The beef was good, but the thin brown sauce was so bland that I gave it a few hits of soy sauce and Red Devil sauce, conveniently on the table. Even with those touches, the only lasting impression left by the dish were spots on my tie and shirt.

Friday, April 30, 2010
Wrong twice in 24 hours. New Hon Wong Restaurant, 244 Canal Street is a second Chinese restaurant on Canal Street and has even more people walking by it than Sun Sai Gai, one half block away. New Hon Wong, between Lafayette and Centre Streets, sits opposite an exit from the #6 line uptown, connected underground to the J, M, Z, N, Q, R and W lines. With that, it was not bulging with tourists; about ½ the customers were Chinese. Its menu focuses on soups, meat over rice, noodles and notably includes egg foo yong, a dish I’ve come to appreciate in my second half century. Because I was in a hurry, I ordered baby shrimp fried rice ($6.50) and was quite satisfied. The rice was fried, but not greasy; egg and baby shrimp were in evidence. The portion was medium-sized, ample. The rent on that very busy location kept their generosity slightly in check which was OK because I was on the subway headed to Century 21 to shop for striped ties about 30 minutes after I left my desk.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sixteenth Week

Monday, April 19, 2010
Something’s cooking at the courthouse and I don’t mean chop suey. Most of the portico is blocked off by plywood installed over the weekend. Behind the plywood barriers, I could see dozens of klieg lights with colored filters sitting on the ground as if a sound and light show were planned. Maybe Rudy Giuliani plans to announce his next divorce from the courthouse steps with appropriate dramatic effects.
Ken’s Asian Taste, 40 Bowery did not immediately attract me, the name, the location just off the heavily-trafficked intersection with Canal Street. But, I’m a man on a mission, so I entered this medium-sized restaurant and found some excellent dim sum. One side of the restaurant had round tables, where I was seated at one with a young Chinese couple, and the other rectangles for up to four people. There were only two or three women pushing carts (why is it always women?), so I considered ordering off the lunch special menu which had some interesting choices. However, the attractive array of dim sum dishes that the young (skinny) couple had enticed me. Also, when the young woman (closer to a girl) told the waiter to bring me a fork, I had to step up and show my facility with chopsticks handling all sorts of sizes and shapes of food from the carts.
I picked shrimp shu mei (4 pieces), steamed vegetable dumpling (3 pieces) and a flaky baked roast pork roll, close in size to an egg roll (3 pieces). I noticed two styles of chicken feet, but deferred. All the items were very good and, in the end, inexpensive, $7.15 tax included.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010
A memo informed us that the courthouse is being decorated for the Vanity Fair/Tribeca Film Festival opening gala to be held tonight, not to set the stage for another Giuliani divorce announcement. We are not invited, which does not surprise us. Almost no one who works in this building is skinny enough to fit in with the VF/TFF crowd.
There was other excitement as I walked to Fuleen Seafood Restaurant, 11 Division Street. At 16 Bowery, Golden Manna, a new bakery, was opening and, apparently, giving out free food, not just fortune cookies and cupcakes. People were emerging with spareribs, chicken and stuff, which accounted for the long line of folks outside waiting to get in. Besides the people, a row of tall plants festooned with red ribbons stood in front of the restaurant. Since the line of people wasn’t moving much faster than the line of plants, I decided to skip the free lunch.
Fuleen is medium-sized, underdecorated except for the back wall almost entirely covered by a golden phoenix, a golden dragon and large golden Chinese letters on a dark red backdrop. The kitchen is downstairs with the dumbwaiter in constant motion bringing food packed for takeout to the main floor. I wondered if they weren’t catering to Golden Manna across the street. True to its name, the restaurant features the usual shrimp, scallops, crabs and fish of the sea along with frogs, turtles, snails, clams. Many pages of the menu had color photographs of the dishes which was helpful to me, although I was the only non-Chinese customer. I ordered shrimp and chicken with honey walnuts, stir-fried with celery, mushrooms, carrots, cucumbers and ginger ($11.95). A small bowl of murky but tasty soup was included; rice was $1 more. When the manager placed a fork at my place I proceeded to eat all the good food with chopsticks.
Fuleen is mentioned favorably in the Michelin Red guide to New York restaurants, but a housecleaning (or disinfecting) is needed to maintain its good standing. There was a distinct odor of mildew or dirty laundry or both where I sat, and I was not placed in a special section for round-eyes only. I was at a table with two very Chinese men.
On the way back, I saw about two dozen cameramen and reporters perched in front of the federal courthouse next door. They were waiting for the emergence of a big movie star who was attending his son’s sentencing on a serious drug rap. I was sorry that this talented actor and his family were enduring such difficulties, but I was at least equally sorry that two dozen graduates of the Columbia School of Journalism or the Connecticut School of Broadcasting were waiting on the sidewalk to produce 15 to 20 seconds of footage. O tempora, o mores.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010
All traces of the decorations, lights, stage and other paraphernalia associated with last night’s gala were gone from the courthouse this morning when I arrived. That was pretty fast.
Grand Harmony Restaurant, 98 Mott Street is a big place, almost one half block square. On the back wall, a golden phoenix faced a golden dragon making me wonder if they had relocated from Fuleen overnight. They hung on a red backdrop with the Chinese word/sign/symbol for harmony between them. The restaurant was near full of Chinese folk and very noisy. While it was serving dim sum, I ordered from the lunch menu which listed only noodles, rice and soup. However, a full menu was available upon request. I avoided dim sum primarily to avoid over-stuffing myself (stuffing goes without saying), because I’m going to a work-related dinner tonight and want to get my money’s worth.
I ordered Ha Mon mei fun to determine how it differs from Singapore mei fun and because it uses every vowel in a very efficient fashion. It turned out to be identical to Singapore mei fun, very thin noodles, egg, pork, shrimp, bean sprouts, except lacking the curry taste. But, without the curry taste, the noodles had no taste until I splashed on some soy sauce. It was a very large portion for $9.95 (they didn’t add tax). Ordering dim sum might not have produced a better result if only because two carts seemed to be circling the very large room at any time serving a large crowd and I might still be waiting for my sticky rice.

Thursday, April 22, 2010
It’s take your child(ren) to work day at the courthouse, but I only realized it once I arrived. That simply did not afford me enough time to turn around and go to Astoria, round up Boaz, get him up to speed on promissory estoppel and arrive at work at a decent hour. So, I did without.
South China Garden Chinese Restaurant, 22 Elizabeth Street, occupies a long rectangular space with a mirror the length of one long wall and big, illuminated color photographs of the Li River facing it. The Li River lends itself to great photography; I’ll have to append a picture or two I took there 2 years ago. SCGCR was noisy and near full with Chinese customers, many at large round tables. I ordered from the lunch menu, $6.95 for all dishes with soup (a medium bowl of that same murky green soup I had yesterday, but thick with green leafy vegetables), white rice and tea, of course. My main course was Satay Beef which I imagined as or close to beef strips on a stick with a peanutty sauce, origins in Indonesia/Malaysia according to Instead,it was beef strips stir-fried in black-bean-less black bean sauce with green and red peppers, onions and pineapple chunks. I did not resort to, because this was a very tasty dish served in a large portion. The pineapple chunks, while from a can, had really been cooked into the dish blending with the other flavors. C U L8R SCGCR.

Friday, April 23, 2010
Wing Wong Restaurant, 111 Lafayette Street, may be related to Big Wing Wong on Mott Street, but not Big Wong on Mott Street. I'll explore this further. Wing Wong is small and cramped attracting regulars and tourists because it is 3 doors south of Canal Street. It doesn't look like much from the outside, where it has 32 life-size color photos of dishes pasted on the storefront and windows, and on the inside where you mostly see people sitting at 9 tables of varying sizes. It also seemed to be doing a big take-out business. I ordered beef with pan fried noodles (I knew we were having chicken for dinner). It was a large serving ($8.25) with very fine noodles lightly fried to a crisp, covered with slices of beef, carrots, green leafy vegetables. The sauce, not as tangy or salty as black bean sauce, softened the noodles as I stirred the plate around for a very nice effect.
I left work after lunch to attend a memorial service at Columbia University School of Public Health for Alan (The other Alan) Berkman, MD, who was vice chair of the department of epidemiology when he died last year. Alan had long struggles with different cancers for the last 25 years of his remarkable life. Over a third of that time, he was a high security prisoner in federal and state jails. I knew him since 1964. Read this if the FBI doesn't monitor your in-box: Read this if it does:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tea Party

Since I go to a Chinese restaurant for lunch almost every weekday, and am white, over 45, more educated than average, earning more than average (but let’s not get carried away), I am a natural candidate for the Tea Party according to my reading of the latest survey data. So, I started thinking about the sort of lean and mean government that our Constitution had in mind before the socialists began to mess with it with their funny ideas from the French Revolution. Get rid of all services feeding off the public teat and allow the American people to do the jobs themselves reserving our substantially-decreased tax dollars for:

. US Air Force and any helicopter (they’re cool)
. Lenox, MA police department (Tanglewood traffic is miserable)
. #7 train to Citifield (easiest way to get there)
. Law Department of Supreme Court of New York County (for the even-handed administration of justice)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Fifteenth Week

Monday, April 12, 2010
Ken Klein, attorney, wit and generous soul, joined me for lunch. It was in none of these capacities that he was in the vicinity, but rather as juror in a criminal case at 100 Centre Street. We went to Mandarin Court at 61 Mott Street, a restaurant I’ve been to many times before. Dim sum is served at lunch time, but the long, relatively narrow space inhibits the wagon flow a bit when it is at its busiest. We compromised, ordering from the lunch special menu, $5.95, he bean curd, chicken and salted fish, me General Tso’s chicken, and picked three dishes from the carts, chicken shu mei, steamed vegetable roll and steamed spinach dumpling, at $2.50 each. The food was only average good, but we enjoyed conversation so much, it was secondary.
I was delayed leaving 60 Centre Street to meet Ken because I ran into another WES member, a very successful lawyer. When her client, a distinguished business type, heard my name he piped right up, "The famous Swiss author." You see, until now, the most famous literary Gotthelf was Jeremiah Gotthelf, the nom-de-plume of a 19th Century Swiss clergyman who wrote of the scenic Swiss countryside. His work is still read in Swiss schools, said Mr. Client, where this gentleman brushed up on his Gotthelf.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010
I’m not sure how to count, 51 Bayard Street, in compiling my list of Chinese restaurants. First, it has two names, the alternate is Tao Hot Pot Restaurant, which appears on the neon sign in the window and on the check. Else, on the menus, in-house and take-out, Happy Time Café is the name. Incidentally, a search of the internet finds no Tao Hot Pot, but Happy Times Café in Melville, NY;, the blog of Cynthia Enciso, a graphics designer from southern California; and, an internet, ping pong, billiards and darts café, open 24 hours daily somewhere in Japan.
The Japanese connection may not be an accident, since almost half the menu at Happy Time is devoted to Japanese food, mostly sushi and sashimi with some udon, teriyaki and tempura thrown in. The rest of the menu, however, was not what you might call echte Chinese. It included Swiss Chicken Wings, "Borsch soup," Toast with Peanut Butter, Baked Ham & Shredded Chicken in Alfredo Sauce over Rice (Alfredo also covered salmon, tuna, shrimp, fish filet and baked chicken & mushroom), and various dishes with Portuguese sauce. So, what’s the count – 2, 1 or maybe ½ a Chinese restaurant?
I ordered Baked Chicken in Portuguese Sauce over Spaghetti, not lo mein which appears elsewhere on the menu, but spaghetti. Of course, one man’s lo mein is another man’s spaghetti. For $5.95, I was served a big round plate containing chicken, onions, potatoes, mushrooms generously arrayed over spaghetti in a light cheese sauce. While I’ve never been to Portugal, I was surprised by the cheese. It was quite good, if a little odd. Also odd were the plastic glasses that tea was served in, the kind you might use when brushing your teeth. Maybe that explains why, with about 20 tables with enough room each for four people, I was the fourth person in the restaurant before two customers entered and three left.
If I return, it will be to order the Evil Fried Rice at $6.50, which I only noticed when I read the take-out menu later.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I thought about beef with ginger and scallions last night, a long-time favorite dish that I realized I haven’t eaten in a long time. I was pleased I ordered it at X.O. Café & Grill, 96 Walker Street, because that was the only thing I found pleasing there. The restaurant sprawls over three rooms; there must have been separate businesses there once upon a time. The waiters appeared in fits and starts although the restaurant was no more than half full. I had to ask for tea. Ask for tea which was served in toothbrush glasses just like yesterday at Happy Time Café. Correction – today, the plastic glasses were larger and all the same color.
A medium/large portion of beef with ginger and scallion ($11.95) came out sizzling hot on a platter and tasted just right. When I ate all the solids, I dumped rice onto the platter to sop up the tangy sauce. The rice cost a buck extra, by the way. X.O. spells take-out.

Thursday, April 15, 2010 (Don’t ask)
Golden Bowl, 51 Division Street. I headed directly to Division Street (I have no idea what it once divided), because I realized, in spite of my wanderings through Chinatown, I had not been on Division Street for many years. Once, it was a favored destination because of the Canton Restaurant, a very popular and successful enterprise. Canton offered a gloss of sophistication with very good, yet comfortable Chinese food. It was where thousands of New Yorkers first ate minced quail rolled in a lettuce leaf.
Now, Canton long closed, Division Street contained several large restaurants featuring seafood and several tiny joints that operated in a way I had not encountered before. Golden Bowl was a small, narrow space with about ten tables for 2 or 4 people. In the window and as you immediately enter a couple of women stand over 20 or so pans of food, fish, fowl, vegetables, tofu, eggs. You ask for, or in my case, point elegantly to what you want and your server puts 2 or 3 spoonfuls on a plate. I chose sweet and sour pork (when was the last time there was sour in any sweet and sour dish?), a fried egg, roast duck and hard shell crab (I thought soft shell until I took a bite) mixed into scrambled eggs. As soon as I sat down, a bowl of a clear soup (tasting like miso soup) with cubes of a very potato-like tuber in it and a plate of rice were put on the small table where I pulled up a stool, no chairs to tempt you to linger. All together, $3.50. I didn’t notice the absence of tea, but I would have paid another half a buck if need be. The place was very busy with only Chinese customers. It was a decent cross between a cafeteria and a buffet. You don’t come away stuffed, but you got your $3.50 worth.
Sharing the same address is Yi Mei Gourmet Food Inc., seemingly identical in operation except that the food and the cash register were on the left instead of the right.

Friday, April 16, 2010
New Bo Ky Restaurant, Inc., 80 Bayard Street seems to have around a long time, or, at least, I recall seeing it for decades. It actually represents the nightmare of American foreign policy in the 1960s, an alliance between China and Vietnam. The sign over the wide storefront, the restaurant is wider than deep, is written in Vietnamese as well as Chinese and the restaurant’s business card features Pho, the traditional Vietnamese broth, and several other Vietnamese dishes. It is medium-sized, but the interior space is deceptive because of several mirrored pillars throughout. The entire kitchen is in the front window, to the left of the entrance, where four cooks chop, fry, and boil. Most of the menu consists of soups and noodles, so they do quite well in the narrow space. Speaking of narrow space, my little table was almost half covered with salt and pepper shakers, sugar dispenser, napkin holder, four different bottles of sauce and two small pots of pepper and onion relish.
Keeping with the Indochinese theme, I ordered Cambodian rice noodle soup. The very tasty broth had lots of noodles plus shrimp, pork, beef and one inch round fish balls, which if left untasted could pass for small matzah balls. This cost $5 and helped chase the chill of a sub-par Spring day. Because I was still hungry though, and to be seasonally correct and stay on theme, I ordered Vietnamese Spring rolls when I finished the soup. For $6.50, I got eight smallish Spring rolls with an excellent dipping sauce, sweet and peppery. Eight was more than I wanted to complete my meal, but, remembering history, I soldiered on.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fourteenth Week

Monday, April 5, 2010 (Mila’s Birthday)
It is the opening day of the New York Mets 2010 baseball season and I had the good fortune to answer the telephone last night when Michael Ratner, approaching sainthood, called to ask if, by any stretch of the imagination, I might consider the distant possibility, that I sacrifice an afternoon keeping the justice system on track and, instead, go to the ballgame.
I ate three bananas in the morning and had no problem concentrating on our team’s fabulous victory without thinking about food all afternoon sitting on a cushioned seat at a height just above a typical ballplayer’s head and only a few yards from the field.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010
My cold remains and renewed its attack on my physical comfort, so it was easy to take a short walk on an otherwise beautiful day and buy a bunch of big, fat red grapes for lunch knowing that the Promised Land is nigh.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010
The warmest day of the year to return to Heaven on Earth. I went to Shanghai Asian Cuisine, 14 A Elizabeth Street, a narrow restaurant with 12 tables under glass tops. One long wall is mirrored to open up the space somewhat. The decor reminded me of a Holiday Inn 30 years ago, but I didn’t plan to sleep there. The menu had several pictures of soup buns and many of the customers (half Chinese) ordered them. I was about to, but I feared schpritzing on the linen clothes I broke out for the warm weather, so I ordered a scallion pancake and mixed Shanghai lo-mein. The scallion pancake was very good even though it was thin with brown spots resembling matzahs. At $2 it rates as a best buy. The lo-mein, a medium-sized portion, had a square profile, about 3/16", not the round 1/8" usually encountered. The noodles were slippery, but the sauce was bland. Vegetables, shrimp, beef were mixed in. Just OK for $5.95.

Thursday, April 8, 2010
What a day for celebrations. I have failed to mention, until now, that right across from the courthouse, at the corner of Worth Street and Centre Street, is the Office of the City Clerk, which, among other things, issues marriage licenses for Manhattan and conducts civil ceremonies. That means that many afternoons, as I went to and fro Chinatown, I saw couples on their way to begin life’s greatest adventure excluding death. Many couples are easily spotted by their attire, including full bridal gowns, tuxedos and the like, and the photographer trailing along. I was going to wait and publish an accumulation of observations about these couples, but I have to report what I saw today.
The ten or so men in the wedding party of about twenty people posing for photographs were wearing kilts with the full regalia. One woman waved a Scottish flag (Scotch flag?). This was more than an improvised tribute to the late Alexander McQueen. I was immediately reminded of my dear friend David McMullen, currently resident in Edinburgh, and, to satisfy his curiosity by proxy, I asked the middle-aged man at one end of the line smiling for the camera what clan were they? What tartan were they wearing? He answered three times without me understanding a word he said. When I asked him to speak English a young woman stepped out of the group to write down the name of the blood bond holding them together – the "Heart of Midlothian" soccer team of the Scottish Premier League from Edinburgh. Seriously.
Dream sequence – My wedding day
Voice of America’s Favorite Epidemiologist: "What’s taking you so long? The rabbi can’t wait much longer."
Alan: "Sweetie, I can’t find my Mets T-shirt."
I left the group with a jaunty step although no bagpipes could be heard. However, as I walked along Bayard Street approaching Mott Street, I heard a pounding drum and, at the corner of Mott and Bayard, in front of New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe, which I visited on February 19th, there was a drummer and two people clashing cymbals (cymbalists?). Opposite them was a line of 12-15 smiling people wearing red roses, and two dragons. They were celebrating the grand opening, according to a sign on the front door, of the restaurant which I opened almost six weeks ago. Go figure.
Then, the group boogied down Bayard Street to pose again in front of Old Sichuan at 65 Bayard Street. Do I need to tell you where I ate lunch? Unfortunately, the celebration ended, in all senses, once I entered the restaurant. The front portion is narrow and grotto-like featuring a heating/AC duct about 15" in diameter running along the ceiling. A back room is reached by crossing a faux bridge trimmed in artificial fruit and vines. I ordered a lunch special, orange flavor chicken with egg drop soup for $5.95. Additionally, still weaning myself off matzahs, I ordered a scallion pancake for $1.95. The soup was cold and I returned it to a waiter to heat. The chicken came next, a medium-large portion with bright green broccoli on the side. The orange sauce was tasty, but the chicken tasted tired, the word that came to mind with the first bite. The white rice was cooked with a little salt raising it above the normal blandness. What about the scallion pancake? Yes, what about the scallion pancake. It came as I was putting aside the last piece of chicken. It was good, a little light on the scallions, but not greasy.
My spirits were renewed as I neared the courthouse and met three members of the New York City Transit Authority’s legal staff that I enjoyed working with throughout last year. I entered the courthouse through the back door where I could not see who was posing in front of the Office of the City Clerk.

Friday, April 9, 2010
What a difference a day makes. The temperature is almost 30 degrees cooler today than yesterday and all the men I saw in wedding parties at the corner were wearing long pants.
Grand Street west of the Bowery (Third Avenue south of Houston Street) once was second only to Mulberry Street in representing Little Italy. Today, with the exception of Ferrara’s, a few other restaurants and grocery stores near the intersection of Mulberry, Grand Street is Chinatown. Even east of the Bowery, Jewish-owned dry goods stores predominated on Grand Street past Allen Street (First Avenue south of Houston Street). Now, Chinese businesses, including restaurants, are common sights. I went into OK 218 Restaurant, 218 Grand Street, a small space mostly occupied by its kitchen supporting a big take-out business. On one side, though, there are 4 round tables and 3 rectangular tables. I was only the second non-Chinese customer among the dozen or so seated. The long wall of the dining area is covered by a mirror and the back wall has a big photograph of the Li River, a beautiful location that we visited almost two years ago. More than half of the lunch menu had rice dishes and I ordered three barbecued meats over rice, that is duck, chicken and pork for $5.25. All of the meats were hanging in the window before being served to me with some sauteed cabbage next to the rice. The meats were not fatty; the portion size was medium. Toothpicks were right on the table with the soy sauce, hot pepper paste and hot oil.
Tonight, I end the week as I began it, at CitiField watching the Mets (win).

Monday, April 5, 2010

Thirteenth Week

Monday, March 29, 2010
Passover begins tonight with the first seder and continues for 8 days which raises the question of Will he or won’t he eat Chinese food during Passover? As a basic principle, I follow the teaching of Michael Ratner, a Tzadik who skipped the seminary for the construction business, to wit, "I’ll eat treyf, but not chametz." For those whose Jewish education ceased before birth, this translates as "I’ll eat ordinary non-kosher foods, but I won’t eat foods specifically excluded for Passover (most typically bread and associated items)." With the exception of one or two restaurants in Chinatown which I haven’t gotten to yet, all Chinese food is treyf. However, no one goes to Chinatown for a sandwich. Which brings us to rice, a food staple for much of China, eaten by Sephardi (roughly Eastern) Jews throughout Passover, but normally barred to Ashkenazi (roughly Western) Jews based on the controversial doctrine of Kitniyot, a Hebrew word meaning "little things." Read if you want to know more, and for a glimmer of rationality on a subject that is otherwise all rationalization. As of mid-day Monday, I haven’t decided on rice for the rest of the week. Maybe, I shouldn’t sweat the little things?
I don’t mean to demean Nice Green Bo Restaurant, at 66 Bayard Street, which I recall eating at on its opening day in 1998. But, I wasn’t looking for anything particularly good on this rainy, chilly day. The first seder tonight will be celebrated at our Englewood relatives (whom I’ll spare the embarrassment of naming), noted for their hospitality, menu planning, cooking and large portions. Even though we won’t begin eating until about 10 PM (you don’t escape Egypt in the blink of an eye), I want to be able fall upon the meal the way the locusts fell upon the Egyptian crops.
I ordered a scallion pancake and vegetable shu mei, which were formed and steamed in a space in the front window crammed between the cash register and a soda machine. The eight pieces were hefty, probably weighing over a pound together and tasty with a very green vegetable filling. The scallion pancake was crispy, but a bit greasy so it does not threaten Joe’s Ginger's preeminence. With tax, lunch cost $7.05 and I’m ready for the Exodus.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010
The combination of the wonderful food offered in great abundance and the late hour we returned home after the first seder last night kept me in bed until 9:40 AM and home from work the rest of the day.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010
David Webber’s birthday which we celebrated last night at the second seder, held at the West End Synagogue. Considering that WES is an anarchic Jewish congregation, or maybe a congregation of anarchic Jews, the evening proceeded somewhat coherently.
Driven by a combination of appetite and conscience I went on a search for chocolate-covered macaroons for lunch. According to Wikipedia, "Most recipes call for egg whites (usually whipped to stiff peaks), with ground or powdered nuts, generally almond or coconut." This makes them very popular at Passover, although I will eat the chocolate-covered version all year round. I had little hope of success in finding them in the neighborhood of Chinatown, but it was an excuse to walk a one-mile circuit before buying some bananas and tangerines from a street vendor just off Canal Street for my lunch.

Thursday, April 1, 2010
I’m still devoted to finding chocolate-covered macaroons, or possibly just avoiding confronting the Passover food rules. Last night, after work, I went to Zabar’s, which had an abundant supply of chocolate-covered macaroons at too high a price. I recall that, in the past, Zabar’s would lower its price on Passover goods once the holiday started, but I must have been a day or two early. So, I left and went to Fairway, which has a big Passover food section, but no chocolate-covered macaroons.
Today, at lunchtime, I headed out, not to wander the streets of Chinatown in a fruitless pursuit, but directly to the Pathmark supermarket in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge at the East River. This is on the edge of the traditional lower East Side, and only a few blocks from where my mother was born and grew up. Today, however, Asians and Latinos occupy the neighborhood as could be deduced from the sparse Passover display in Pathmark. There were some cakes and cookies, but no chocolate-covered macaroons. Hold on, though. This is a season of miracles (except probably for the Rangers and the Mets) and I found boxes of dark chocolate-covered mini-matzahs on sale! These are silver dollar-sized matzohs, not just ground nuts and chocolate spread out in a thin layer to resemble matzohs.
I walked right back to the courthouse (40 minutes back and shopping and forth) and ate some of my dark chocolate-covered matzohs and a banana for lunch.

Friday, April 2, 2010
A head cold hit me last night, so I felt crummy today and skipped lunch. As much by inadvertence as piety, therefore, I have observed the Passover rules all week. There’s still Monday and Tuesday to deal with, however.