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.

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.