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, Zagat.com 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 http://www.thelancet.com/themed-911. 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.