Saturday, May 29, 2010

Twenty-First Week (The End of an Era)

Monday, May 24, 2010
New York Foo Chow Restaurant, 68 East Broadway. In spite of its proximity to 88 Palace and the 8 in its own address, little if any luck was associated with New York Foo Chow Restaurant, a medium-sized restaurant with 12 round tables. It had the customary dragon and phoenix on the back wall, above statues of three of the traditional elders. Six photographs of cooked dishes alternated with carved, dark wooden plaques on an adjacent wall. The inevitable flat screen television, not too noticeable with a 32 inch screen, showed only Chinese commercials, or very, very short stories.
The restaurant filled up with Chinese people as I sat there sharing a table with two understudies from a Jackie Chan movie who were the only quiet persons in the joint. Everyone else yelled; customers yelled across the table to each other; waiters yelled at other waiters. Customers yelled at waiters; waiters yelled right back. How Jewish, I thought.
I ordered orange flavor beef ($9.95) and, when it arrived, I was enthused by the heaping portion on the plate until I discovered that the omnipresent broccoli was underneath the beef as well as surrounding it. Even though there was less there than met the eye, it wasn’t good enough to finish. Tea was served to me only upon request.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010
East Seafood Restaurant, 17 Division Street, defies one of the axioms I’ve created in this (ad)venture. It does not serve dim sum at lunch even though it has Seafood in its name. I walked in thinking I would have dim sum, so I could avoid having noodles. Why did I want to avoid having noodles, one might ask. Because today is the Seventh Wedding Anniversary of the upper West Side’s leading Power Couple.
East Seafood Restaurant is new, with colorful pennants over the storefront. The interior is bright, with pink tablecloths and pale yellow walls. A dragon and a phoenix glare at it each other on the back wall, both with illuminated red eyes. There are 12 round tables and one very large round table, but there were never more than 11 people in the restaurant, all but one Chinese. It deserves to get more business, based on my one meal. Lunch specials cost $5.25 with rice and tea, and include more than the usual suspects. I ordered veal short ribs with black peppercorn sauce and was delighted by this choice. Short ribs was a misnomer; they were thin veal chops with the bone in. It was a generous portion for lunch (at such a low price), cooked in a dark, gooey, spicy sauce. I did not hesitate to use a knife and fork to cut the meat and a tablespoon to gather up all that delicious sauce and mix it with the white rice.
Oh, what about the noodles? I made dinner reservations at ‘Cesca, an excellent Italian restaurant at 75th & Amsterdam, to celebrate my longest marriage. (Grammarians will observe that it should read "my longer marriage.") And what do they serve at Italian restaurants?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010
The indomitable Stanley Feingold has returned to New York and I lunched at his knee.

Thursday, May 27, 2010
Tuesday night’s anniversary dinner at ‘Cesca was very good, but I didn’t have any pasta a/k/a noodles after all. So, I headed right for Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodle Inc., 1 Doyers Street, a small establishment. How small is it? If 24 strangers went into the restaurant, they would have to come out as friends. The menu, both the eat-in or take-out versions, has pictures of many dishes to help you order. In spite of that, I was surprised that the House Special Hand-Pulled Noodles ($6), came in a broth when I expected dry noodles. The menu in words or pictures does not readily distinguish wet from dry, although you can discern plates from bowls by a closer look at the pictures. The broth was tasty and contained ox tail, beef tendon, tripe, beef and a fried egg along with the noodles and greens. Fortunately, the temperature was in the low 70s at lunchtime, not the high 80s as yesterday, so I was able to enjoy the hot broth without exuding as much moisture as I took in. You could also order knife-peeled noodles as an alternative to hand-pulled noodles. Except for dumplings and rice cakes (I don’t think they are the same as futile dieters eat), the menu was all noodles all the time.

Friday, May 28, 2010
This is it, Heaven on Earth, 72 Chinese restaurants in Chinatown since January 4, 2010. I chose the ultimate restaurant carefully. Some might argue that it isn’t even a restaurant, but I was true to my mission.
Even though I love ice cream, I have usually denied myself the pleasure most of this year. There is an extremely popular, and very expensive, gelateria named Grom, on Broadway between 76th & 77th Streets, that I have walked by dozens of times since it opened almost exactly 2 years ago, and I mean walked by without even taking a free tasting. Another gelateria opened last year on Broadway between 69th & 70th Streets, almost directly opposite our apartment building, named Screme Gelato Bar, which I haven’t patronized even when they offered gelato Kosher for Passover. Jacques Torres, master chocolatier and baker of superb chocolate chip cookies, located at Amsterdam Avenue and 73rd Street, sells his own ice cream with flavors such as Wicked chocolate, white chocolate raspberry, and vanilla rum caramel, but I haven’t had any of his since last summer. Only some random sorbets have appeared in our freezer when company was coming.
So, my last stop to arrive at Heaven on Earth was, naturally, the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, 65 Bayard Street. This store has been in business since 1978, but I don’t recall ever patronizing it before, in spite of walking by hundreds of times. Some of their regular flavors include Almond Cookie, Black Sesame, Chocolate Pandan, Durian, Ginger, Green Tea, Lychee, Red Bean, Taro and Zen Butter. Rushing to WikiPedia, I learned that the Pandan leaf is a cooking ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisines. Pandan is an upright, green plant with a "nutty, botanical fragrance." Durian is a tree fruit with a thorn-covered husk. I quote from WikiPedia: "Some people regard the durian as fragrant; others find the aroma overpowering and offensive. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust. The odor has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in southeast Asia."
I did not look for durian on the menu, but I did not just make the easy choices of pineapple, mango, cherry pistachio or that old Chinese favorite Oreo. I had three scoops ($6.50), lychee, Zen butter and almond cookie. Zen butter was purportedly sesame seed and peanut butter, but I tasted very little of either, although I sampled black sesame and that distinctly tasted sesame. The almond cookie ice cream was the clear winner. All three flavors were pale cream in color, so I wasn’t always sure where I was as I tunneled through the large cup.
Yes there were times I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out, I faced it all
And I stood tall and did it my way
(Lyrics by Paul Anka)

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