Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Who's Counting?

Monday, December 26, 2011

The New York City Department of Education earlier this year (2011) released a breakdown of the incoming class of Stuyvesant High School: 569 Asian-Americans (thought to be mostly Chinese with some Koreans, Japanese and South Asians), 179 whites, 13 Hispanics, and 12 blacks. Generally, this did not surprise me. Almost every morning I get off the subway around 8:30 AM at the Chambers Street station of the Seventh Avenue IRT (a/k/a ## 1, 2, 3 lines), the station closest to Stuyvesant. As I walk east towards the courthouse, dozens of Chinese kids wearing their Stuyvesant T-shirts, sweatshirts and team jackets pass by, coming from Chinatown. Many dozens of other unlabelled high school-age Chinese kids go by as well, most headed for Stuyvesant since no other high school is in the vicinity. However, the actual percentages are daunting. 74% Asian-American, 23% white, 1.7% Hispanic, 1.6% black. Wow.

I pulled out my Class of 1958 Stuyvesant yearbook to compare. Before I opened the book, I tried to recall the “minority” population in our class of about 725 (all male back then, but that’s another story). I remembered one Chinese guy, one Hispanic guy, three maybe four black guys. When I went through the book, I found the following: 700 whites, 13 blacks, 5 Hispanics, 3 Chinese and 1 Japanese. That distributes as 97% white, 2 % black, .5 % Hispanic, .5% Asian. Further, I tried to separate the whites into Jews and others, to the best of my ability, and I came up with 456 Jews and 244 other whites. I rate this evaluation plus/minus 2%. Besides names and faces, personal knowledge was a factor in some cases, such as Anthony Kelly, whom you would guess to be the product of an Italian-Irish marriage. In reality, Tony’s father was a German-Jewish refugee who came to the US as a young man and wound up in the Army during WWII. In order to avoid a dire fate if captured, he changed his name to something typically American, and begat Anthony Kelly. So, I reckon that my class was approximately 63% Jewish, 34% other whites, and 3% “minorities.” To complete this rumination, I asked 3 current Jewish Stuyvesant kids to estimate the breakdown of the current white student population in a manner that the DOE would not dare; 2 guessed around 1/3 of the white students were Jewish and the other estimated ½ or more. In conclusion, it seems that Jewish kids became Chinese kids and everyone else stayed the same. This might explain why Jews like Chinese food.

Which leads me into a description of how we spent Christmas Day, in the company of Jill and Steve, our brave travel companions and good friends. We planned for a typical New York Jewish Christmas, movies and Chinese food, but we were not alone in those plans and, 45 minutes in advance of show time, no seats were available in the big Loew’s complex on Broadway for any movie we could consider sitting through. So, we strolled down Broadway into midtown through ever-increasing crowds. When we got to Joe’s Shanghai, 24 West 56th Street, we found a big crowd that had stopped moving and were waiting to eat. The promise of a one-hour wait was not off-putting to us, however, because it was still early at 5 PM and the weather was mild for this time of year.

We gave our name and continued our stroll down Fifth Avenue through even larger crowds until we got to the tree at Rockefeller Center, which we consider a non-sectarian delight. We headed back up Sixth Avenue to avoid most of the people. The circuit, barely one-half mile, took one hour (that included lingering for a few extra minutes at the scene of a police action at the corner of 52nd Street and Fifth Avenue to apprehend and restrain a woman who attempted to drive her hulking SUV through a crowd of pedestrians). Reentering the restaurant, we found that we needed only a few more minutes to be seated.

Joe’s now claims to have three New York City locations, Chinatown, midtown and Flushing, Queens, and three restaurants in Japan. The most interesting aspect of the midtown location was the stark discrepancy between the prices published on-line on its web site when I checked on December 27th (somewhat higher than the Chinatown prices) and the actual prices charged, about 40% higher in some cases, on December 25th. For instance, scallion pancake, which they usually do so well, appears on my computer as $3.25, but cost us $4.75; diced chicken and shrimp with plum sauce is listed at $11.95, but was served at $17.50. Joe’s signature dish, soup buns were $8.95 for 6 electronically and corporally. By contrast, 8 soup buns cost $6.95 in Chinatown and a scallion pancake $2.95. I also believe that the food is better in Chinatown, but that might be a byproduct of the hordes crowding the restaurant this particular evening. Note to the archivists – This does not count on my roster of restaurants, because it is clearly outside of Chinatown, I ate dinner, not lunch, and December 25th was not a work day.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bubbly Tea, 55B Bayard Street, serves a large assortment of beverages, but I sat at one of its 3 stools to eat a “snack” that it offers, spicy popcorn chicken with a green apple slush, $4 total. A good deal. The boneless chicken chunks were cooked to order by a friendly young man from Hong Kong who told me how much I’ll enjoy my forthcoming visit. It also has chicken wings, curry fish balls, curry beef balls and a tall skewer impaling potato chips created by a machine operated on the premises. Definitely worth a look.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I have a choice to make at lunch before ending the day with a root canal procedure. Shall I go to a new (to me) Japanese restaurant, or a very familiar Chinese restaurant? I’ve chosen Door # 2, the Chinese restaurant, 69 Bayard Restaurant, 69 Bayard Street, where the money pasted on the wall is layers deep in places, because I want at least a little bit of predictable pleasure before the pain of monkeying with my teeth.

Friday, December 30, 2011

An adage that may have originated with me is: Rich people understand percentages, poor people don't. For instance, rich people collect compounded interest, poor people pay it. A radio commercial running in the New York area, at least on the all-sports radio stations that I listen to exclusively, reminded me of the importance of percentages. Western Union, long displaced as a message medium (I’ll bet that many of you young whippersnappers never saw a real telegram), now seems to rely on transferring money, a service that anyone with a bank account or a credit card doesn’t need. Only poor people with little, if any, credit need to plunk down some cash at one end in to order to get cash to family or friend, even more illiquid, at the other end. For this service, Western Union advertises that it charges $5 for a transfer of up to $50. That’s 10%, or more on a lesser amount. What a deal! Imagine the hole that you have to be in to ask someone at a distance for $50? For larger amounts of money, Western Union offers a variety of options concerning the input – in person/telephone, cash/bank account/credit card – availability of funds – minutes/next day/three days – and output – cash/direct deposit/debit card. I checked the alternatives for a $500 transfer and found that the fee ranged from $10 (cash pick up after three days from sender’s bank account) to $45 (cash pick up “in minutes” from sender’s credit or debit card). It’s good to be the King. Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fish, Elephants and Latkes

Monday, December 19, 2011

As promised last week, I went to Sushein, Kaiten Sushi Bar & Restaurant, 325 Broadway, today, the new Kosher sushi restaurant. It consists of two long, narrow rooms set at a right angle, framing the clothing store on the corner of Worth Street. I thought that Kaiten might mean Kosher in Japanese or was the name of a city or province, but I learned that it is a presentation style, that is, the plates of sushi circulate on a conveyor belt and you pick what you want. The front room has the belt running down the middle, with 20 high stools to the left and five roomy booths to the right. I recall that Nate Persily and I once dined in a sushi restaurant in San Francisco where the dishes floated by on boats. The back, or side, room does not have a conveyor belt, so ordering is done from a menu which is available to all. The place was semi-busy; all the booths in the front room were occupied mostly by observant Jews, but two young Japanese women seemed to be enjoying themselves as well. I was the only person on a stool.

All the sushi plates are round, but have different colored borders representing different prices, ranging from $2.50 to $6.75. At the end, the waiter counts the colors to get your total. Almost everything I grabbed off the conveyer belt was blue-bordered, $4 a plate, a little high if not for the Kosher certification which always exacts a toll. I had salmon and tuna, with and without avocado and a drizzle of sauce. It all tasted fresh. In addition, I had one roll, sliced in three half-inch pieces, of beef with avocado. It tasted like roast tenderloin and was quite good ($5.50). Desserts, which I skipped, included ice cream, but made with soy milk to keep the faith. My only complaint, which I wrote on the check when I paid, was that a glass of green tea was $3 and so was the second and on. Not hospitable and a deterrent to proselytizing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I spent my lunch hour at a White Elephant party hosted by two of my colleagues. Each participant brought a (presumably) desirable, but unwanted gift to be blindly chosen by another. I think this is preferable to Secret Santa doings, because I know that I am very hard to shop for. If America’s Favorite Epidemiologist is occasionally stymied by my tastes and interests, what might I expect from a relative (non-relative?) stranger.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

When I walked up Mott Street at lunch time, television cameramen were just breaking down their equipment after recording a press conference dealing with the death of Army Private Danny Chen, a kid from Chinatown, who died in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. Earlier, the U.S. Army said that eight U.S. soldiers were charged in connection with the October 3rd death of Pvt. Chen, a 19-year-old soldier. As it happened, I witnessed Pvt. Chen’s funeral procession on October 13th, which began at the bottom of Mulberry Street and drew a large crowd. At the time, it was only known that he died from non-combat injuries. Now, it seems that he may have committed suicide after experiencing substantial harassment and abuse, verbal and physical.

A month or so ago, Hoy Wong, 81 Mott Street, closed. A sign in the window claimed plumbing problems, but there was an indication that the Board of Health had a say in this. When I went by today, the restaurant was open and I went in hoping that there was a change of ownership, menu, name or operational style that would warrant counting it as a new establishment, since I had been there before on May 11, 2010. Alas, that was not the case, although the interior was notably clean and shiny for a classic Chinatown restaurant sitting below street level, and the photo mural that I observed previously was gone. I had salt and pepper fried jumbo shrimp at $13.95, about $2 per shrimp. Since the shrimp were more medium than jumbo, $1.50 would have been a fairer unit price. The food itself was pretty good with as much garlic as salt and pepper in the preparation.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yesterday, I sought someplace new at Hoy Wong, but found no registerable change. Today, without any expectations, I found that Kam Man, 200 Canal Street, the Zabar’s of Chinatown, has opened a food counter at the rear of its main floor, called Kam Man Noodles. Eight stools are lined up at a marble counter. Most of the menu is devoted to drinks, tea hot or cold, and slushes, presumptively cold. However, a dozen hot food items are listed, soups and dim sum. I had Peking duck wrap ($4.99) and pan fried Shanghai won ton ($3.50, listed on the menu at $4.95). The won ton were a relatively good buy. Additionally, there is a sushi chef standing by ready to roll to order. I’ll be back to try the sushi even if it’s not Kosher and delivered merely by hand.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Monday is my official work day off, but I am staying home today in order to prepare for a vigorous weekend of candle lighting and latke (potato pancake) consumption. I hope that all of you are rewarded by the Hanukkah Elf for a year of Good Deeds, especially the Good Deed you are transferring to Mother Ruth Gotthelf in honor of her 102nd birthday.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Birthday Boys

Monday, December 12, 2011

Happy birthday Frank Sinatra posthumously. I chose to go to sleep shortly after 11 PM last night, with the Dallas Cowboys leading the New York Giants by 5 points early in the fourth quarter of the game in Dallas. I had an almost perfect sense of what would transpire for the next 30 minutes or so. The game would (and did) go back and forth, resolving in the last moments. That would leave me around midnight, aiming to go to work the next morning, very agitated with the result, good or bad. That is, good agitation if the Giants triumphed over America’s Most Hated Team; bad agitation if that pompous, posing, pretentious football team from Big D won, as predicted by most commentators. Instead, I went to sleep lulled by the gentle rumblings emanating from the lovely form at my side.

Therefore, I was delighted to learn, from the newspaper delivered to our door this morning, that Good beat Evil. This motivated me to find a new place to eat and, as a byproduct of visiting Lendy Electric on Grand Street in search of a light bulb that Michelle Bachman would approve of, I found 212 Grand Food Corp., 212 Grand Street. This small joint is a bakery with a hot food counter and about 10 stools at two low shelves in the back. I ordered roast chicken, three 1" pieces of tasty white meat, some sort of stewed chicken, and what I got the server to later identify as kong sei chow fun, after I enjoyed this unusual noodle. Imagine a thin noodle sheet folded back on itself several times and then cut into strips. This was very good, but untraceable once I got back to my desk. Nothing edible matched kong sei on-line, but I found Kong Sei Motor in Kuala Lumpur in case I needed a tow. Oh, by the way, lunch cost $3.50.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Happy Birthday Harold Gotthelf.

Oh, no, this is not a picture of my brother at his Bar Mitzvah. Rather it is my dear friend Professor David L. McMullen, who is licensed in 16 US jurisdictions and two foreign countries to dress this way.

Walking from Lendy Electric on Grand Street, where I played a return engagement this afternoon, to the public library on East Broadway, I had no expectation of finding a new eating place, but I actually found 2 sort of. Malaysia Beef Jerky, Inc., 95A Elizabeth Street, is a tiny place, maybe 6' x 8', issuing the attractive odor of grilling meat. The sign outside advertises nine different jerkys (jerkies?), but there is no room inside to eat even one. It does not even have a ledge to put your food on while eating standing up, as does Xi An Famous Foods, 88 East Broadway. So, I walked on by until I saw XO Taste, 41 Elizabeth Street, which has such a tiny front that I thought it would be about the size of Malaysia Beef Jerky. Entering, instead I found a high-ceilinged room that went on and on, over a half block deep with two dozen or so tables seating four to eight people.

As abundant as the space proved to be, the food selection was equally large. The server gave me 5 menus, 2 for food only, 1 drinks only and 2 with specials. The takeout menu lists 333 items on 11 panels of print. Being decisive, I quickly chose chicken cutlet over rice with garlic sauce ($7.95). I was served on a sizzling hot platter with two grilled chicken paillards next to a mound of rice with a fried egg on top. On the side was a small bowl of soupy garlic sauce. I believe that the chicken insisted that the garlic sauce be served separately because of its pungency. As a result, I think I’ll get a seat on the subway going home without any problem.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

According to – "Six Waltons Have More Wealth Than the Bottom 30% of Americans." John-Boy and Grandpa Walton, such a nice family.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New York Times reported today from Gaza — "The Hamas movement celebrated the 24th anniversary of its founding on Wednesday by reasserting that it would never recognize Israel nor abandon violence." Upon hearing this news, the British Association of Militant University Faculty, renewed its call for a boycott of all Israeli academic institutions. "How cruel those Zionists are to force these helpless Palestinians to take such desperate steps," said Professor Reginald Gnose-Whartt, secretary general of the association.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I thought I was on the way to eat in my third new restaurant of the week when I headed to Sushein, Kaiten Sushi Bar & Restaurant, 325 Broadway. This would be quite a feat in the 102nd week of this (ad)venture. As I got closer, I saw that it was a Kosher place, not very hard to accomplish for a sushi restaurant as long as it avoids shellfish. For instance, Prime KO, 217 West 85th Street, is both a Kosher steakhouse and sushi bar. Well, Sushein was closed for the day, even though it was hours before sundown. So, I expect to be fed righteously on Monday.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Some Weeks Are Like That

Monday, December 5, 2011

I am bubbling with optimism today, because I go to my first Rangers hockey game of the season tonight. I am so optimistic that I scheduled a visit to my periodontist immediately before game time with the expectation that the pain resulting from him thrusting his fists in my mouth will be overridden by the later joy on ice.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Last night, disappointment, but not pessimism. Let’s leave it at that.

This morning, the two time and temperature signs at 72nd Street and Broadway were in slight disagreement at 8:25. One read 60° and the other 62°. This is the first week of December in the Northern Hemisphere. What’s up with that?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

That nice Jewish boy Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a role model for Herman Cain, has not been idle since his return to France. In October, it seems, an investigation into a prostitution ring operating in a luxury hotel uncovered his involvement. His lawyer, Henri Leclerc, handled the news with savoir faire, n’est-ce pas?: "Leclerc said Strauss-Kahn believed he was taking part in swingers parties and had no reason to suspect that the women present were prostitutes. ‘People are not always clothed at these parties. I challenge you to tell the difference between a nude prostitute and a classy lady in the nude,’ Leclerc said." You can’t pull the wool over Leclerc’s eyes, can you?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Court attorneys, law clerks and other pillars of justice are holding our annual holiday party in the courthouse at lunchtime. That means that I broke no new culinary ground this week. I had three lunches at familiar joints and one at my desk. I’ll try to do better next week.

While there were many interesting stories this week, my favorite headline appeared on the "Woman Stabbed at Anger Management Training Sues Company that Ran the Class." As of yet, her attacker, a fellow student, has not sued the company for failing to produce results for him.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Back to the Future

Monday, November 28, 2011

Michael Ratner, one of the good guys, joined me for lunch. He recently visited Turkey and I expect to see 800 or so photographs when we next meet, which is not as bad as it sounds because Michael is a very talented photographer.

America’s Loveliest Nephrologist left the Palazzo di Gotthelf, where she had been visiting us all week, at about three o’clock Sunday afternoon in order to return to San Francisco. As far as we know, 24 hours later, she has not yet gotten out of New York State. Her anticipated non-stop flight to San Francisco turned into a non-stop flight to Buffalo where the airplane landed because of mechanical problems. Buffalo’s inventory of parts, tools and/or experience proved inadequate to resolve the problem promptly and she and her 147 new friends were put up overnight. Her mother regrets that she simply did not spend the extra day here shopping.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

So Go Cafe (eschewing the accent), 67A East Broadway, is brand new. Even though it is operating without benefit of dragons, drummers or tall, potted plants, it was very busy with young Chinese customers, with one notable exception. There are about a dozen small tables surrounded by knee-high stools. You order at a counter, behind which the food is prepared. A couple of young women deliver to your spot. There was an active take-out business as well.

The menu focuses on soup and noodles, although I don’t know how to characterize “Ox Tail in Can,” “Lamb in Can” or “Duck in Can.” I had, somewhat redundantly, Fuzhou wonton soup ($2) and dumplings (6 for $2). I asked for the dumplings fried, but apparently they are out of season, so I had them steamed. They were very good, accompanied by a small schissel of sauce containing chopped peanuts. The medium-sized bowl of soup was very good as well, the clear broth hinting at fish rather than chicken. The dozen tiny wontons had near-translucent wrappers. The only problem was that, in an exercise of conscience, I could not linger to read the Sunday Times Magazine while so many customers were bustling about.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yesterday, overcoming my normal shyness and modesty, I applied to Guinness World Records for recognition of this (ad)venture, that is, eating lunch in 191 (to date) Asian restaurants in New York City’s Chinatown. It may be a dubious distinction, at best, but it is mine, unless of course someone has done better. It will take several weeks for proper recognition to be bestowed.

Two spots on Mott Street, near Canal Street, have been closed for awhile and I was hoping to find a new restaurant operating at one or the other location to add to my count. However, the doors remain shut, so I returned to Royal Seafood Restaurant, 103-105 Mott Street (May 7, 2010), and found it jammed with Chinese folk attacking dim sum. There seemed to be about 10 or more carts wheeling around with an interesting variety of dumplings, buns, noodles, chicken feet, and more. I had shrimp dumplings (4 pieces), vegetable dumplings (3 pieces), sticky chicken buns (3 pieces) and an item that crossed between a bun and a dumpling – shredded cabbage and pork stuffed into a fat hockey puck, gently baked (3 of them). Total bill was $9.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I did not recognize Mott Pho Banc Restaurant, 157 Mott Street, from the outside, but I remembered it as I looked at the menu (January 6, 2011). This is a busy Vietnamese restaurant with about 18 tables in a rectangular space. I ordered curry chicken over rice noodle ($6.50). I got a plate of vermicelli, a Friday night soup bowl with 4 pieces of chicken (2 big wings divided) in a curry sauce and an empty bowl in which to combine them. Taking steps to protect the nice tie I was wearing, I ate it all up, refilling the original empty bowl four times. I wanted to spice up the curry a bit, but by the time I decided among the four bottled sauces on the table (characteristic of Vietnamese restaurants around here), I finished the food.

I stopped smoking cigarettes in December 1979. I quit cold turkey and never smoked again, a display of self control that I have always failed to exercise around chocolate chip cookies. says that the average US price of a pack of cigarettes in 1979 was 65 cents, while the average US price of a gallon of gasoline in 1979 was 90 cents, unadjusted for inflation. Today, according to signs that I have seen in local candy stores, a pack of cigarettes costs about $12. Gasoline in Manhattan is not easy to find, but right now a gallon costs about $4. So, what happened? The price of cigarettes has gone up, for the sake of this exercise, some 18 times, while the price of gasoline has quadrupled. We know that most of the cigarette price increase results from taxation, and smoking has declined significantly in this period. Extrapolating from the chart below, the percentage of our population who smoke has declined from about 34% to about 20%.

So, what if gasoline prices had increased maybe 10 times in this period because of excise taxes instead of 4? Cleaner air? Less dependence on foreign oil? More tax revenue? Stimulus to gas-saving technology? Stimulus to alternate energy sources? More mass transit? Reduction in growth of suburbs? Decline in employment in gasoline refining and distribution businesses? Makes you stop and think?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ming’s Caffe, 28 Canal Street, is the closest restaurant of any kind to 13 Essex Street, where Mother Ruth Gotthelf was born 102 years and six days ago, and that means born right there without benefit of hospital. This is good feng shui since she has always favored Chinese food when dining out. Ming's has 10 small square aluminum tables and has an active takeout business, especially in drinks, smoothies, bubble tea and the like, which it features along with a surprisingly long food menu. I had fried pearl noodle ($7.95) which contained bean sprouts, green pepper, several meats, shrimp, and chicken with noodles I had never seen before. They range from one to two inches long, 1/4 inch or so at their thickest, sharply tapered at each end. Some quick Internet research informs me that pearl noodles are typically found in Malaysian restaurants under the name loh shee fun, but are familiarly called “rat’s tails.” They were fried only to the extent of being sauteed in a wok. I drank mango with pineapple ice ($3), a tasty brew that consisted of the three named ingredients.

Certainly, Ming’s Caffe did not sit at the corner of Canal Street and Essex Street in 1909. If it did, the Goldenbergs would never have patronized it anyway for two good reasons. First, their disposable income was disposed even before they got out the door of their tenement. Second, as traditional Jews, they would not have considered such a non-kosher cuisine. Today, five generations later, we’ve progressed to this blog.