Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wide Range

Monday, September 19, 2011

I headed directly to 456 Shanghai Cuisine, 69 Mott Street, again today and was not thwarted by Grandpa Alan’s Rule 14 § II (D) (3) (a) (iv). Although it was busy throughout lunch, I was seated immediately. But, before I got there, I heard drumming and cymbal crashes, and, sure enough, two dragons were outside Wonton Noodle Garden, 56 Mott Street, in front of a bevy of red-ribboned, tall plants and a covey of dignitaries with roses in their lapels. I had beaten the dragons by one week when I made my initial visit last Monday, thereby exposing myself to undisbursed evil spirits who like nothing more than ruining a meal. My luck held then, as it has the few other times I’ve beaten the dragons to the punch.
456 is the reincarnation of a joint that used to be on Chatham Square. The current version can’t even qualify as a joint yet. It’s bright, clean, attractive. At least a few years of poor hygiene are needed to qualify for this label. Interestingly, just as the newly-opened Wonton Noodle Garden, which replaced New Wonton Garden, claims to have been in business since 1978, 456's menu avows "Since 1963." I’m dubious.

I had spicy shredded beef Szechuan style ($6.50), a lunch special which came with soup, rice and tea. The liquids were very disappointing. The metal tea pot held one tea bag, fighting a losing battle with a lot of hot water. I asked for and received another tea bag, although tea leaves are clearly called for. The small bowl of egg drop soup was barely warm and barely egg droppy. Fortunately, the beef was good, cooked with red peppers, yellow onions, scallions, bamboo shoots, and celery.
Thinking about the old 456 brought back memories of other past favorite Chinese restaurants, now gone to that big egg roll in the sky – Wu Han’s, upstairs on Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville, where I first tasted Chinese food with great reluctance as a wee tot; Hunam and Shun Lee Dynasty, which each got 4 stars from the New York Times at their peak; Goody’s, originally on 63rd Drive in Rego Park, possibly the first place in New York to serve soup dumplings; Canton on Division Street, where the nice lady helped you roll the diced quail into the lettuce leaves and showed proper attention to Mother Ruth Gotthelf; speaking of nice, the Nice Restaurant on East Broadway, one of the very first giant-sized, Hong Kong-style restaurants; HSF on the Bowery, which was the leading dim sum spot in the 1980s and 90s until the Hong Kong invasion; and Mandarin Something-Or-Other, upstairs on Bayard Street, where I accompanied Nate Persily and his parents when Nate was one week old and look where he is now (Google in case you don't know).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I’m qvelling today because I received an e-mail from Jerry Latter with an attachment over 60 pages long, the Latter family genealogy. I always believed that my father was related somehow to the Latters of New Orleans, which included Kate Latter, creator of Aunt Kate’s Old Fashioned Pecan Pralines, and founder of Kate Latters (sic) Candy, LLC, of Metairie, Louisiana. In fact, the only time I visited New Orleans, I bought a couple of boxes of pralines as a souvenir. We knew that my father had an Aunt Fannie in New Orleans, his mother’s sister, whom he visited a few times 70 or 80 years ago. It was also family lore that I was named for Fannie’s deceased husband, but these days none of the few remaining Gotthelfs knew anything more, not even what Fannie’s last name was.

In anticipation of our trip later this week, I decided to do a little digging, starting with an Internet search for Latter in New Olreans. The first hit was a winner. Steven Latter is the current owner of Tujague’s, the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans, famous for its Creole cooking. Steven answered when I telephoned the restaurant and we had a great conversation. I made a dinner reservation for Saturday night, and, most importantly, learned that his brother Jerry has diligently research the Latter family. An e-mail to Jerry quickly produced the Latter family history.

In brief, Yetta Lato (the family name became Latter when many members migrated to England from Poland at the end of the 19th century), was one of six brothers and sisters, four of whom wound up in New Orleans (one died as an infant apparently). I already knew that Yetta married Joseph Gotthelf in Poland and came to New York in 1906, with two young children, including my father Jack. Yetta’s sister Fannie, I learned for the first time, married Abraham Ezkovich, who died in 1939. Mother Ruth Gotthelf always said that Aunt Fannie called her and my father, near to my birth, to ask that I be named for her husband if, in the Jewish tradition, they had no other Hebrew name to pass on. Which is what happened.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Last week, I teasingly mentioned the articles by Adam Gopnik and George Packer in the now-ancient September 12, 2011 issue of the New Yorker. I did not have time to do them justice, but both are compelling. Gopnik, looking at several recent books, including That Used To Be Us, by columnist Thomas Friedman and Johns Hopkins professor Michael Mandelbaum, all addressing America and Europe’s purported decline in infrastructure, education, influence and values. On the domestic scene, Gopnik observes that, "We don’t have a better infrastructure or decent elementary education exactly because many people are willing to sacrifice faster movement between our great cities, or better-informed children, in support of their belief that the government should always be given as little as possible." In other words, borrowed somewhat from Pogo, the enemy ain’t legislative gridlock, it’s us. Gopnik goes on, "people who don’t want high-speed rail [in opposition to Obama] are not just indifferent to fast trains. They are offended by fast trains, as the New York Post is offended by bike lanes and open-air plazas; these things give too much pleasure to those they hate."

Packer is bleaker. He writes about how the opportunity for an American economic renaissance based on the sense of a shared destiny evoked by the 9/11 tragedy was wasted, with so many resources devoted to the dubious venture into Iraq. "The malignant persistence since September 11th is the biggest surprise of all. In previous decades, sneak attacks, stock market crashes, and other great crises became hinges on which American history swung in dramatically new directions. But events on the same scale, or nearly so, no longer seem to have that power; moneyed interests may have become too entrenched, élites too self-seeking, institutions too feeble, and the public too polarized and passive for the country to be shocked into fundamental change."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

America’s Favorite Epidemiologist and I leave for New Orleans today, for a five-day holiday in conjunction with the 30th wedding anniversary of Cindy and David McMullen. I attended their wedding in Maiden, North Carolina, which has a current population of 3,269 according to I don’t know what the population was in 1981, but I think everyone in town attended the celebration of the marriage of Dale Wilkinson’s older daughter. I met Cindy one year earlier, when we both started working as management consultants at Peat Marwick (as it was then known). For the wedding, I rented a car and drove three female co-workers from New York to Maiden. The wedding drew so many people from near and far as it came in the wake of the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer, on July 29, 1981, which most of us were unable to attend.

As indicated above, this trip will also serve to connect me with my NOLA family.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Last night, we went to Frenchmen Street, just outside the French Quarter, where six or seven bars have live music, more authentic than the honky tonk atmosphere of Bourbon Street. I was particularly impressed by the Bottoms Up Blues Gang (of two) at the Blue Nile. The female singer seemed to be influenced by Leon Redbone, a healthy influence in my song book.

Lunch today was at Galatoire's Restaurant, one of NOLA's best and the official site of Cindy and David's engagement offer and acceptance. The food was excellent, but not Chinese, so I will not bore you with details. I must comment on the noise factor, however. Galatoire's, though luxurious, had in common with other NOLA places of much lower character a noise factor up there with suburban Bar Mitzvah parties. You could not hear each other. The big, bustling crowd was a factor, but the decor was the determinant. Because of the constant high humidity (and it was, I can assure you), there were no rugs, drapes or any soft surfaces that might buffer sound. Instead, floors, walls, ceilings were all hard surfaces. Be warned.

After lunch, we split up, and my bride and I visited Blue Grog Frog Chocolates, 5707 Magazine Street, an area of town very different from the French Quarter. Nearby are Tulane and Loyola Universities, Audobon Park and Zoo, and upscale stores in a solidly middle-class residential area. Blue Frog is owned and operated by Ann Streifer, a cousin through the Latter connection. We had a lovely visit, learning among other things that we now have a Rabbi in the family, just relocated to Toronto. In one critical sense, though, the visit went unrequited. In spite of Blue Frog's inventory of luscious handmade and packaged chocolates, I left empty handed. With temperatures near 90, I felt that anything worth having would not endure even the street car ride back to the hotel.

We ended the long day, all four together, at a midnight striptease show at the Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, a top music venue. While the performers were not tired or dessicated, they also weren't (3 out of 4) so much to look at. Or, rather, the same 3 out of 4 were a little too much to look at. Imagine me in a G-string.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

New is Old and Old is New

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wonton Noodle Garden, 56 Mott Street replaces New Wonton Garden (January 13, 2010). There is a bit of an identity crisis associated with the new restaurant. When New Wonton Garden closed, it was seemingly reborn as H.K. Wonton Garden at 79 Mulberry Street (March 1, 2011). However, Wonton Noodle Garden’s business card says "Since 1978." In any case, the premises have been entirely renovated, inside and out. The new interior is bright, clean and understated. The place is no more than a week old and the airconditioning is in fine shape. Unfortunately, the staff’s English was limited, a properly ethnocentric point of view, I might add. So, I was unable to learn if the dragon had come by yet, and what was the rural location depicted by the 5' x 8' mural painted on one wall. Was it a Kansas wheat field or a Kunming rice paddy?

I ordered pan fried Singapore noodles ($8.50), which turned out to be Singapore mei fun, a medium-sized portion generously laden with non-noodles ingredients: shrimp, eggs, pork, bean sprouts, green peppers, red peppers, green onions, and sesame seeds. The curry flavor of the dish was very mild, however. The price should have been about a buck less. Most of the large menu featured different noodles in interesting combinations, but usually in soup, uninviting on this warm, pleasant day.

The articles by Adam Gopnik and George Packer in the now-ancient September 12, 2011 issue of the New Yorker, with the shadowy World Trade Center cover, are compelling and disheartening. They would make good reading as you board a plane to New Zealand.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Carnation Food & Bakery, 145 Canal Street, at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge, is one of those places to avoid generally unless caught in a thunderstorm. While the weather was lovely, I went in because I was too lazy to roam any further. It has sticky gooey baked goods, a variety of teas, smoothies and slushes, and a few hot food items. It’s not the worst of its kind.

I accepted the offer of one of the nice young ladies to cook me chicken with rice and received a small tidy portion of white meat chicken in a light brown sauce over white rice, bright green broccoli on the side ($4). Not bad. To drink, I had a mango slush ($3.50). While there were some customers, it was relatively empty compared to the bakeries on or near Mott Street, and I was able to read Sunday’s book review in peace.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

When we last looked in on the destruction work at the southern tip of Columbus Park, the basketball courts and the post-release exercise area had been all torn up. The surfaces have been repaved, or is it that pavement has been resurfaced? Either way, nothing else has happened, and the area remains blocked off. I hope the Parks Department isn’t waiting for really bad weather to resume work out of a fear of success.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I went for my annual physical examination and semi-annual haircut today, so I got no further south than 32nd Street. I joined the Feingold gang for lunch at the offices of a Prominent Law Firm. I brought in a lamb/chicken combo over rice, with an extra pita bread ($6), from a cart at the corner of 54th Street and Third Avenue. As usual, this makes for a satisfying meal, needed to balance some of the ideas I heard at lunch. In case you thought otherwise, not every CCNY graduate is devoted to humanistic values. What is more remarkable, however, is how many of my classmates, give or take a decade, have experienced success without turning into soulless aggregaters of material wealth.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I don’t think I can be trusted today. I went to Nice Green Bo Restaurant, 66 Bayard Street (March 29, 2010), a leading source of Shanghai cooking, and ordered Cantonese, sweet and sour prawns ($12.95). Here’s my feeble excuse. I was headed to 456 Shanghai Cuisine, 69 Mott Street, to report again on this reincarnation of an old favorite that used to be on Chatham Square decades ago. Several people have asked about it since the New York Times wrote about its return a few months ago. When I got there, it was full and people were waiting, which necessitated compliance with Grandpa Alan’s Rule 14 § II (D) (3) (a) (iv), which, after concatenation, reads: "When going out to eat alone, in Chinatown, for lunch, on a weekday, don’t wait on line." So, I walked around the corner. But, why did I order sweet and sour prawns, a very good version, by the way, although pricey, when I left one Shanghai restaurant for another? Because 456 harkens back to an earlier era, I simply associate it with Cantonese food, which is all we ate before we started talking to the Communists.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Now and Then

Monday, September 5, 2011

It would be uncharacteristic of me to claim that these modest ruminations have any influence on public affairs, but I am obliged to note the following. On Sunday evening, at a rally in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney announced that "I believe in America." This brave pronouncement came just over 24 hours after I described how he spent the years 1966-1969 in France, missing some very exciting times in Vietnam. It is conceivable that he was undermining the former French colonials in Vietnam from afar, engaging in a subtle backdraft strategy as used in the fight against forest fires. However, there has been little research on the incidence of post-traumatic stress syndrome resulting from flying croissants or Gallic sneers. So, I was heartened that Mitt stepped up to the plate now, at another crucial moment in our nation’s history, to tell us that he believes in America. I wonder if any other Republican candidate is willing to put it on the line without fear or favor as Mitt so boldly did on Sunday in New Hampshire.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nancy O’Dell, Jann Carl, Nigel Lythgoe and Alison Sweeney apparently emerged from obscurity momentarily last night. They in no way resemble the Million Dollar Quartet, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, who gathered in a Memphis studio in 1956, for an historic recording session. This Five Cent Quartet replaced Jerry Lewis (but not Jerry Lee Lewis) as host of the annual Labor Day muscular dystrophy telethon, according to today’s New York Times. I venture to guess that none of their names, in any combination, will ever appear as a Jeopardy answer.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In spite of the murky weather at lunchtime, ranging from dew to mist to drizzle, I felt the need to explore. I soon knew that I was headed for excitement when a parade came down the Bowery and turned onto East Broadway in the direction I was walking. It was led by a 16-piece marching band and contained four floats with photographs and banners that were equally foreign to me. As I marched along with the parade, I stopped and asked several folks what the occasion was, but, if they seemed to know, they only spoke Chinese and were unable to understand me, and, if they understood my English, they knew no more than I did.

I reluctantly turned north on Allen Street headed for a restaurant I had missed before. At the corner of Hester Street (an interesting film by the way), I saw a father, late-30s, and his son, maybe 10 years old, looking at a map. Well, Grandpa Alan had to offer some assistance. While we did not exchange names, I learned that Pop had grown up in upstate New York, and now lived in Richmond, Virginia. I was delighted to hear that he was aiming to take his son not to McDonald’s, not to Kentucky Fried Chicken, not to Subway (or the subway, for that matter), but to Xi An Famous Foods, that marvelous enterprise that I have enthused about several times. I sent them off with my best wishes and a promise to nominate the father as Father-of-the-Year.

Inexpensive Delicacies Company, 99 Allen Street, is very similar to Fried Dumpling on Mosco Street and even more so to Tasty Dumpling, 54 Mulberry Street. There are three tables seating no more than four people each, and four stools against a narrow counter. The food is cheap. I had 10 boiled chive and pork dumplings ($3) and three fried spring rolls ($1), but I would counsel otherwise. There was nothing wrong with the food except that the dumplings were bland, although freshly cooked, and the spring rolls were cooler than lukewarm. I could not combine the diluted vinegar and the super-hot red pepper sauce on the table to give the dumplings a lively taste. Hot mustard was needed, but unavailable. I’ll return to Inexpensive Delicacies Company for the name alone, and next time order fried dumplings, 4 for $1, and a sesame pancake, $1. I’m sure that the grease will impart the right flavors. Take heed that they had no diet soda or diet Snapple, a requirement if they wish to attract Jewish customers.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Nam, Food of Vietnam, 110 Reade Street, is a very nice restaurant, which I first visited early in this century when it was newly-opened. This trip though was my first under the auspices of this blog. The restaurant is decorated simply and tastefully, and service, in spite of some on-line reviews to the contrary, was attentive. Another reason I enjoyed lunch today was the company of Marty, chief clerk of the courthouse at 71 Thomas Street.

I had Nam salad ($12) which had grilled shrimp, barbecued pork, spring rolls, peanuts, lettuce, green onions, carrots and basil over vermicelli, with a slightly sweet dressing. An excellent dish. Marty had Mi Xao ($12), very similar to pad Thai, although one country removed. It contained stir-fried egg noodles with shrimp, chicken, pork, vegetables and peanuts in a chile lime sauce. Marty enjoyed it thoroughly and I enjoyed his enjoying it, which I hope he enjoyed.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I skipped the 9/11 commemorative ceremony in the rotunda of the courthouse today at 1 PM. The rotunda is a beautiful structure, vividly decorated. Events are held there frequently, but I rarely attend them. Regardless of the occasion, they never seem to equal the beauty and grandeur of the setting. They proceed more or less the same. Judge A introduces Judge B who thanks Judge C and Judge C's staff, then introduces Judge D who speaks a little too long before introducing a musical interlude, bagpipes if we’re lucky. By then, lunch hour for the ordinary folks is over and the rotunda empties quickly.

My own 9/11 memories are simple and I’d prefer to recall them quietly and alone. They actually begin on Friday night September 7th, when I went to see a free performance of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male drag dance company which parodies the conventions of ballet, on the plaza between the two World Trade Center buildings. I had seen the Trocks several times before and convinced my law school friend Robert Cox to come along. I remember it as a pleasant night in all regards – the weather, the performance.

Tuesday, September 11th was exactly three months after my law school graduation and about seven weeks after the bar exam. I did not have a job, but was doing unpaid research for a group of lawyers pursuing a Holocaust claim against the French national railway system, a suit eventually thrown out by the United States Supreme Court. I was listening to the all-news radio station as I prepared to go to the gym for my then-regular morning exercise when I heard news of the first plane hitting a tower. Immediately, I thought of that Army Air Force B-25 bomber crashing into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building in 1945, when it got lost in thick fog. That crash killed the pilot, two crew members and 11 people working in the offices of the National Catholic Welfare Service.

September 11th was a clear, beautiful day, so I imagined that some small private plane had been mishandled by a novice pilot. While I listened (I never owned a television set while I was unmarried), a radio reporter standing around Union Square observed the second plane hitting. I went a block-and-a-half to the Y, which had a small television in the men’s locker room, to watch what? I saw the buildings collapse, something that never was anticipated by anybody it seems. Around noon, I went back to my apartment, through streets packed with pedestrians moving uptown without benefit of any public transportation. These people were trying to get off Manhattan Island by one of the bridges connecting to Queens, the Bronx and New Jersey. Many others had crossed to Brooklyn downtown.

The Feingold group had lunch planned that day at Sid Davidoff’s office on Third Avenue, a few blocks south of my apartment. I called Sid and he told me to come over if I chose. With no family nearby, I hastened over and found Stanley Feingold, Joe Forstadt, Sid and possibly others, who I hope will remind me of their presence. We exchanged rumors and theories, but mainly stared out the window in Sid’s conference room for hours, on a high floor facing south, with an unobstructed view of a thick column of dark smoke bending towards Brooklyn.

To a great degree, my 9/11 ended on September 21st when the Mets played the Atlanta Braves, then our worst enemy, in the first professional sports event in New York City after 9/11. I watched much of the game on television at the home of the woman not yet my wife. But, as the Mets trailed 2-1 late in the game, I had to leave to drive her son and his girlfriend home. I listened to the radio as we drove and, while we were stopped at a red light, Mike Piazza came to bat in the eighth inning. Edgardo Alfonzo was on base, and Piazza hit a home run to center field, near the deepest part of the ball park. I cried; the Mets won 3-2.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Busy Times

Monday, August 29, 2011

We were on vacation for 8 days, making a loop through Natick, MA, Keene, NH and Lee, MA. While we were gone an earthquake shook New York, Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s charges were dropped, Libyan rebels seized Tripoli and Hurricane Irene visited the East Coast. However, my big news is the discovery of a Chinese restaurant today that I have not been to before.

Golden Dragon Boat Café & Bakery, 111 Bowery, is bigger than the typical Chinatown bakery. The lineup of sweet and savory buns, sandwiches and pastries runs about 15 feet opposite tables and chairs for about 40 people. Normally, I am not attracted to hot dog buns (that’s a bun stuffed with a piece of hot dog), red bean buns and ham sandwiches (of any provenance). Golden Dragon’s secret, though, is a small counter stuck in back that serves hot food sitting in warming trays. Most of the dishes were noodles – lo mein, chow fun, mei fun – or fried rice, in several flavors. I had chow fun and a Diet Coke, $2.85 total. The food wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad and it was filling enough to keep me away from the ornately iced and decorated mini-cakes that were only $1 each at the main counter.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

As I approached Most Precious Blood Church, 113 Baxter Street, I was impressed by the number of people gathered outside. I imagined that they were waiting for an afternoon service to give thanks for surviving Hurricane Irene. I was also heartened by the ethnically integrated quality of the group, Chinese and others mixing freely. Getting closer, though, I observed that these people were interested in something more precious to them than blood – high-quality knockoffs of watches and handbags. Each Chinese man had a small cluster of shoppers examining an illustrated catalog of merchandise. No actual goods were in sight, in case of police intervention, but a selected item would be quickly fetched from a nearby cubbyhole. I kept my distance, although I was really tempted to test my bargaining chops with these guys.

Instead, I continued on to May Wah Pork Chop Fast Food, 190 Hester Street, another new joint for me. Note that, as a possible concession to Jews in the neighborhood, the signs outside read only May Wah Fast Food. May Wah consists of two narrow stores. To your left is the eating area with 8 small tables in a clean, narrow space. The one waitress takes your order and calls it into the kitchen next door. When the food is ready, a man hands it over the threshold to the waitress. The menu is pretty simple, rice, noodles and soups with pork chops, chicken legs, shrimp or beef.

I had Shanghai Fried Rice Cake ($5), which is nothing like its name. The rice cake(s) was chewy, 1 inch oblong, 1/8 inch thick, flat rice-based noodles. Somehow, I recall an association of rice cakes with New Year’s or birthdays, but I can’t find the connection. I wonder what it would take to get a graduate assistant for this blog? In any case, the rice cakes were cooked with ground pork, shrimp, onion, mushroom, celery, peas and bean sprouts, but had no distinct flavor until I added the tiniest dribble of the hottest pepper oil I’ve ever tasted and some soy sauce to the dish. As usual, I was the only customer for whom Chinese was a second language.

Intermezzo – Democracy in Action

On Monday, I was shopping in Fairway after work, almost a daily function of mine. This comports with the division of labor that keeps our love light burning. I shop for groceries and America’s Favorite Epidemiologist shops for shoes. Moving among the other shoppers was Charlie Rangel, Democratic Congressman from Harlem. I went over to him and said, “I’ll bet John Boehner doesn’t do his own shopping. But, I know you and Jerry Nadler do.” Nadler is the Democratic Congressman from my home district, possibly the most left-wing constituency outside of Havana, who lives about two blocks from the Palazzo di Gotthelf, whom I have met in neighborhood grocery stores several times.

Almost exactly 24 hours later, on my way home from work, who do I see crossing Amsterdam Avenue at 69th Street carrying plastic bags from the Food Emporium at Broadway and 68th Street, but Jerry Nadler. I told him of my encounter with Rangel on Monday and, at least for awhile, kept my tattered faith in progressive politics.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Coluck Restaurant, 16 Elizabeth Street, is my third new restaurant this week. It actually sits in the middle of the arcade connecting Elizabeth Street and the Bowery, where you will also find West New Malaysia Restaurant and Yummy Noodle. In spite of the use of light wood and dusty (dirty) rose-colored leatherette seating, the place looks dark and somewhat grim, but still was busy. It has a fairly large menu featuring noodles, rice and soup dishes, with a section of sandwiches and “Chinese pan cakes” somehow excluding scallion pancakes. This eclecticism extended to the composition of some dishes, notably Creamy Ham, Chicken & Corn Spaghetti, Kim Chee Italian Sausage Ramen Noodles, and Grass Jelly, Red Bean w/Ice Cream.

The waitresses were fully able to understand what my finger was pointing to on the menu. I had Beef Brisket over Pan Fried Noodles ($6). It had small chunks of fatty beef, potatoes, and onions in a brown sauce over a large plate of crispy fried mei fun (vermicelli). The best part was getting a clump of the noodles ranging from the freshly crisp to the totally soggy with gravy in one bite.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

An interesting aspect to Mitt Romney’s campaign for the presidency is his antagonism to all things French, possibly inspired by the 30 months he spent in France as a Mormon missionary from 1966 through 1968. While others brought the word of Joseph Smith to the mud huts of Africa or the favelas of Brazil, Mitt struggled with the nominally Catholic but secular, wine-loving French, which by happenstance denied him the opportunity to struggle with the formerly French occupants of Vietnam. No doubt, his Francophobia (“If America doesn’t change, we may become like the France of the 21st century” [spoken upon his withdrawal from the 2008 presidential race]), resulted from his frustration at not being able to bear arms in Vietnam, which, if memory serves, was something both France and the United States did with only modest success.

But, it is French pastry not politics that interests me today. The food section of the New York Times yesterday announced the opening of the New York branch of Ladurée, the long-established Parisian purveyor of chocolates and baked goods, considered the originator of the macaron, at 864 Madison Avenue. Shortly thereafter, sent out a list of New York’s 7 best macarons. So, is the expanding role of the macaron on local dessert tables a positive statement about America’s increasing globalization and appetite for the new, or a reflection of the vacuous quest for exotica engaged in by jaded New York cosmopolitans? Out-of-towners should note that 864 Madison Avenue is as far from Chinatown as is Ames, Iowa. In any case, here is Zagat’s list, compiled prior to Ladurée’s opening:
Almondine Bakery – 85 Water Street, Brooklyn
Bisous, Ciao – 101 Stanton Street
Bouchon Bakery – 10 Columbus Circle
FPB – 116 West Houston Street
La Maison du Chocolat – 1018 Madison Avenue
La Maison du Macaron – 132 West 23rd Street
Macaron Café – 625 Madison Avenue

As I’ve only sampled the macarons from Bouchon, here and on its home court in Yountville, CA, you know what I have to do now.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Last night, the lead story on national television network news was the release of a report on the health of New York City firefighters and EMTs exposed to Ground Zero. The report was published in the 9/11 commemorative issue of The Lancet, one of the world’s best known, oldest, and most respected general medical journals, founded in England and which now has editorial offices in London, New York and Beijing. See The report was co-authored by America’s Favorite Epidemiologist, which raises the issue of the appropriate scope of her appellation. Should she now be known as the English-Speaking World’s Favorite Epidemiologist? Or, the Favorite Epidemiologist in Places Where We have Eaten Chinese Food Together? I welcome your guidance.