Thursday, April 26, 2012

Surf's Up

Monday, April 23, 2012
I thought MOHS was a snappy acronym, although I couldn’t figure out the letters. Actually, it is a microscopically-controlled surgery used to treat common types of skin cancer, created by a general surgeon, Dr. Frederic E. Mohs. In any case, all morning and part of the afternoon was devoted to this procedure. The cutting only takes minutes, but first you sit in the waiting room 75 minutes to be called in. Then, they shoot in some Lidocaine to numb the skin, forehead in my case. Then, the nice lady doctor cuts a piece to take into the lab for a pathologic exam, another 75 minutes. Then, another slice to get all the schmutz out. Back into the lab, but closer to 45 minutes this time. All clear, a little conversation and out on the street near 2 PM, with a large, fierce-looking bandage on my brow. Lunch, therefore, was at Fine & Schapiro, 138 West 72nd Street, an old-line Kosher delicatessen, a couple of blocks from home, a deli duo, a pastrami sandwich and a brisket sandwich on individual dinner-sized rolls ($16.75). Very sour pickles and cole slaw gratis.

Hollister is a name that divides people 22-years old and younger from the rest of the known world. It’s a name that appears primarily on T-shirts that look well-worn even when purchased new. That, in itself, isn’t unique. Denims, khakis and shirts have been offered pre-washed in a variety of marinades for quite some time, in a faux attempt to appear to have long been in the wearer’s possession. Hollister, however, goes further in attempting to pass its $19.50 T-shirts as something pulled from the bottom of your drawer. The letters in the name Hollister and other writing on the front typically are not ironed, printed or silk-screened on. Rather, they are raggedly sewn on, trying to look like the work of some fun-loving folks who have developed an alternative to the quilting bee in spite of their lack of manual dexterity. The final product is quite unattractive, unless you spend a lot of time on skateboards.

What intrigued me when I first saw Hollister T-shirts was the name itself. As a result of my period of exile in California, I vaguely recognized the name as somewhere near a highway exit. Looking at a map, I see that Hollister is south of San Jose, between US-101 and I-5, near Gilroy, which I recollect has an annual garlic festival. Hollister, population 34,928 at the 2010 census, is about 40 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. It shares the title of “Earthquake Capital of the World” with three other California towns, according to Wikipedia, but has sole possession of the title “Hay Capital of the World,” at least in the State of California.

So, what’s the story on Hollister? Well, it turns out that it ain’t Hollister, California that’s being promoted, but Hollister Ranch, a settlement in an area along the Pacific Coast outside Santa Barbara, 230 miles away, known for its surfing. So, you have a choice of waves of amber hay or just waves.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012
I thought that the worst thing that happened to me yesterday was the doubleheader loss by the Mets to the Giants, the first half of which I witnessed live in person, with about 87 other Met fans and 300 Giant fans. However, this morning, as I prepared to leave for work, I could not find my Manhattan Diary, the invaluable record of my comings and goings, and storehouse of vital information, including subway and street maps, addresses and telephone numbers for stores, museums, restaurants theaters, and public agencies, and other stuff that I can’t recall without looking at the book. I’ve used pocket diaries for decades, the Manhattan Diary a majority of the last 30 years. I was never tempted to move to battery-powered versions because of the wealth of information at my fingertips in hard copy more quickly available then an electronically-aided search, from start to finish.

The loss, probably in or around the doctor’s office yesterday when I was scheduling a return visit, was not quite as devastating as it might have been several months ago. My new smartyphone has a calendar that I have filled out duplicating what my diary had, and, of course, the smartyphone is loaded with features that, once mastered, may meet my information needs. On the other hand, the photographs of America’s Favorite Epidemiologist and me on our wedding day and when she was caught by surprise walking into our apartment filled with her friends on a rather significant birthday, kept in a pocket of the diary, are nowhere stored electronically.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012
As the doctor warned on Monday, the Lidocaine has migrated down around my left eye, vividly discoloring the surrounding area and swelling the lid half-closed. Seats on the subway were readily available under the circumstances. Fortunately, the Lidocaine stopped moving downward by lunchtime and never reached my mouth or my feet. Therefore, I took a nice walk and found newly-opened Shanghai Heping restaurant, 104 Mott Street, which replaced Yong Gee (March 18, 2010). The redecorated place is bright and airy. The walls are painted a pale, soothing aqua color. One wall held 8 photographs 15" x 18" of Shanghai 60-80 years ago, including a good aerial view of the Bund. The other wall had niches for tschotkes not yet occupied.

There were 20 or so tables of varying sizes, with Chinese folks seated at about half of them. A young man from Milan was seated at the small table facing me and we discussed dumplings briefly. He had walked through Little Italy, one block west of where we sat, but (wisely) ignored their restaurants. He said that he never eats Italian food outside of Italy, a boast I dearly wish I could make if only I could spend more time in Italy.

I ordered spicy orange flavor beef ($12.95 less 20% opening discount). It was very good, with a sweet, sticky, spicy and peppery sauce. At full price, however, I would expect a few more pieces of beef. I also want to put you on notice of the Veggie Pride Parade, Sunday, May 27th, starting at Noon in Greenwich Village and proceeding to Union Square. A sign in a grocery window gave me this exciting news as I walked back to the courthouse. Unfortunately, I’ll be out of the country then, which saves me from agonizing over the choice of a costume.

Thursday, April 26, 2012
I didn’t think that I was going to write about anything today, other than to note that America’s Favorite Epidemiologist has abandoned me – temporarily to visit America’s Loveliest Nephrologist in San Francisco. I went to lunch more eager to do the crossword puzzle than to eat, so I entered Nom Wah Tea Parlor, 13 Doyers Street, again (March 8, 2011), as much to say Hello to Wilson Tang, the young proprietor and avid fan of the Knicks and the Mets. However, the scallion pancake was one of the best I’ve ever had, although the most expensive at $3.50, and their unique egg rolls ($3.95), almost an omelet wrapped around the ingredients, was very good. In true tea parlor fashion, Nom Wah offered a choice of 8 different teas for $1, chrysanthemum tea for $1.50.

You'll know the results as you read this, but the climactic game of the first round of the Rangers-Senators series is tonight. For that reason alone, I'm glad that my lovely bride will be absent and avoid the ensuing emotional turmoil.

Monday, April 16, 2012

À Votre Santé

Monday, April 16, 2012
Passover is finished. The Israelites are in the Promised Land. Now, we can expect peace and harmony for days evermore.

How many people can say that their radiation oncologist is an advertising icon? Dr. Tracy Ng (Ng, like Jones in Vietnam, is pronounced eng; Nguyen, pronounced n’win, is the Smith, or Cohen in my neighborhood) is featured in an advertising campaign for small business lending that Bank of America had been running in various media. He appears in several television ads talking about the development of a radiation cancer-treatment facility in the Chinatown/Tribeca area with the financial assistance of Bank of America. And, yesterday, the back page of the Metropolitan section of the New York Times had a full-page Bank of America ad with Dr. Ng’s picture occupying about one-third the space.

My dealings with Dr. Ng go back exactly 10 years, but the story begins on November 21, 2001, the day of Judi and Stuart’s second grandson Dani’s bris. Just as that celebration was ending, I received two life-altering pieces of information: (1) I passed the New York State bar examination; (2) I had prostate cancer. Talk about good news, bad news! For the next six months, these disparate facts were somewhat intertwined. But first, the woman who is now recognized as America’s Favorite Epidemiologist and I met with several urologists to decide upon treatment.

Dr. Jed Kaminetsky, my regular urologist, was very practical and uncliched in his advice. He explained the surgical option, his speciality, but referred frequently to “lifestyle,” an inverse allusion to shtuppy-shtuppy and peeing in your pants. In conclusion, he said that he would tell his father to take beam radiation treatment instead of surgery. We visited a specialist at Sloan-Kettering, the Vatican of cancer treatment, who had done wonders for a relative of mine. He described prostate surgery as “the gold standard,” a phrase that we heard and read over and over in our investigations. Finally, we saw the urologist who had treated Rudy Giuliani’s prostate cancer in 2000-2001. He, too, advocated surgery as the gold standard. So, back to Kaminetsky, armed with sophisticated epidemiological analysis that showed that the statistics comparing outcomes of surgery vs. radiation were completely unreliable. Further supporting our reliance on Kaminetsky’s guidance was his recommendation of Dr. Tracy Ng as the radiation oncologist to use, because Ng was then associated with St. Vincent’s Hospital while Kaminetsky was affiliated with NYU Medical Center. That’s like the manager of the Yankees telling one of his ballplayer’s to go to the Mets batting coach for help. It’s a boundary that usually is not crossed.

I remember visiting St. Vincent’s and meeting Ng, a couple of times for measurements to determine the proper positioning and strength of the radiation. The actual first date of my beam radiation treatment was Monday, March 18, 2002, which was also my first day of work in the New York State court system, thanks to the Honorable Marjory D. Fields. That first day, I had to be at the hospital for several hours in the afternoon, so I told the judge in advance that I had a doctor’s appointment my first afternoon. I never, until now, told her of my illness-affliction-condition-situation, even though every weekday morning for the next five weeks, I went to St. Vincent’s cancer unit for beam radiation treatment before heading to work. Only a couple of times was I late to work, by a half hour or so because of an equipment malfunction. Dr. Ng would stop by to see me every so often, although the actual treatments were carefully conducted by a technician with long dreadlocks named Cliff.

After the five-week course of beam radiation treatments, where you are positioned for 15-20 minutes almost as if you were receiving a gynecological exam, we waited about one month for the last step, radioactive seed implantation. This actually can be an independent prostate cancer treatment, but Kaminetsky and Ng decided to gild the lily, as it were. I received general anesthesia, by choice, as they stuck either iodine-125 or palladium-103 seeds into the prostate gland using an ultrasound for guidance according to All I remember is awakening after one hour with very bruised mouth and lips, because the breathing tube was not properly sized for my, believe it or not, deep throat.

I was given a lead mesh sieve to urinate through for the next several weeks, because seeds, they may have numbered up to 100, could migrate up and out. That never happened and I don’t recall what I was supposed to do with any that I might have caught. I did go to public bathrooms a few times in that period, but I tried to avoid prying eyes who may have mistaken my cautious behavior as a strange hobby.

I have kept a copy of the bill I received from St. Vincent’s for that outpatient procedure alone, $30,998.24. Apparently medical insurance paid all but $120 of that bill. The daily treatments cost $15 each. I want to conclude this by damning those politicians who would allow, even insist that fellow citizens convert a medical problem into a financial catastrophe, but I won’t. Instead, thank you Dr. Kaminetsky, whom I visited last week for a periodic checkup, and thank you Dr. Ng, now appearing on television and in newspapers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Lotus Blue, 110 Reade Street, has been open for a couple of months, but only started serving lunch last week. Its web site still shows only dinner hours. It features the cooking of Yunnan province, located in the extreme southwest corner of China, bordering Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Tibet. In spite of having billions of neighbors, the restaurant was empty when I walked in. The interior is relatively austere, but attractive. One wall is exposed brick, the opposite painted terra cotta red. There are two dozen or so two-top tables, many pushed together for four-top seating. The tabletops were black subway tile, framed in blonde wood, a nice combination, also easy to clean. The back corner has wine bottles on display, more for the geometry than vinophilia (maybe oenophilia, but that sounds dirty).

The lunch menu is very brief, 3 salads, 2 sandwiches, 2 noodle dishes, 3 “set dishes” or main courses, 2 fried rices, and 2 desserts, $7 for the desserts, $9 to $12 for everything else. I had roast duck and melon salad ($12), accurately described as having “chili sweet and sour plum dressing with mint, basil, cilantro, chili and ground peanuts” over greens. It tasted very good (much more Thai or Vietnamese than Chinese) and was a good-sized portion, which two people could share if ordering other things. The dinner menu was only a little longer, but also contained interesting combinations.

The space used to be Nam, Food of Vietnam, an excellent restaurant (September 8, 2011). The transition has not seemed to have gone well, at least at lunchtime. Only three other people sat down while I was there, although La Man (Mandy to her friends), a young waitress who left Vietnam 11 years ago, told me that dinner business is pretty good.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Really Bad Idea Department: The National Basketball Association is considering selling space on team jerseys to corporate sponsors. So far, the four major North American sports leagues have resisted this ugly practice. However, money talks and taurine excrement walks, with rationalization scampering immediately behind. Sayeth Adam Silver, NBA deputy commissioner, “the N.B.A. is a global business and logos on jerseys are well established in other sports and commonplace outside the U.S.” How I look forward to the wide-spread introduction of other well-established foreign customs into professional U.S. sports, such as racial taunting, fake injuries, bribery, fan riots before, during and after games, and fixed matches. While American sports have never been free of such conduct, we have not managed to institutionalize it to the degree as have others. In this instance, I am an American exceptionalist.

Mottzar Kitchen, 70 Mott Street, has a name that sounds suspiciously Hebraic. Its opening contemporaneously with Passover added to the guilt by association, However, there is no other tangible connection with the People of the Book. Mottzar replaced Hon Café (June 12, 2010) and it is a bit of an improvement. The interior has been almost completely redone except for the floors which show where furniture and equipment stood previously. The slate gray wallpaper that covered the top 2/3 of the walls was quite attractive, which made the laminated wood paneling below even more unsightly.

The front of the restaurant serves as a bakery and the kitchen. It was busy at lunchtime, the patrons about evenly divided between East and West. Service was hectic at best. Two handsome young Frenchmen, already seated when I arrived, got up and left when I was halfway through my food, unserved in spite of being frequently visited by staff members asking what had they ordered. I had Singapore chow fun ($10.95), one of my signature dishes. The portion was large, the spicing was right, there was the appropriate variety of ingredients, but the noodles were mushy. In sum, I did not have the pleasure that I expected from a $10.95 bowl of noodles.

Thursday, April 19, 2012
Lunch today is with the Feingold cabal, midtown in the conference room of a major law firm. A key attraction of these periodic gatherings is witnessing the two-hour long reversion to pimpled adolescence by eminent lawyers, judges, academics and journalists, present company included.

Friday, April 20, 2012
The title of this week's contribution is the French way of saying "to your health," in honor of the swelling tide of endorsements for Mitt Romney as the Republican candidate for president. As you know, Mitt spent two years in France during la guerre du Viêt Nam, protecting the USA from a Vietcong invasion across the North Atlantic. Once he returned home, he became governor of Massachusetts where he made sure that most of his fellow citizens were provided medical insurance coverage. Only later was his plan defiled by being adopted by the Muslim, Kenyan, socialist illegally occupying our White House.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Crossing the Desert

Monday, April 9, 2012
As it happens, a dear friend has a nephew with a featured role in a very successful television series, which was on last night. In a scene set in an Italian restaurant, the young man, 30ish in real life and before the camera, appeared with his wife, her mother and his parents as a dispute arose which seemingly ended his marriage. Don’t jump ahead and think that I found fault with what they ordered for dinner. Rather, I observed to America’s Favorite Epidemiologist, at my side in the Bridal Suite of the Palazzo di Gotthelf, that the actor’s mother was portrayed as a dumpy, lumpy matron while his real-life mother is quite attractive and always well-turned-out. Is this actionable?

Chinatown does not offer much in the way of Passover-observant meals. However, I do not bring my own hard-boiled eggs, matzoh and pieces of turkey left over from the Seder, as I did in days of yore. However, I try to avoid the more egregious alternatives during these days and stick with relatively-simple foods. I ate lunch at Teariffic, 51 Mott Street (March 31, 2011, August 2, 2011), because they serve yakitori chicken skewers ($3.75), five skewers to an order, about six inches worth of chicken on each skewer. No rice, no breading. Very good.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Every major city has an emporium that is as vital a landmark as its grandest cathedral or best stocked museum. In San Francisco, it’s Gump’s, 135 Post Street; in London, Fortnum & Mason’s, 181 Piccadilly; in Paris, Fauchon, 24-26 place de la Madeleine. Since I know New York much better than any other place, I admit that I cannot glibly anoint one establishment over all others. Zabar’s, 2245 Broadway, is great, but you can’t buy clothes there. Century 21, 22 Cortlandt Street, attracts customers from all over the world because of its low prices on fashion items. J&R, 15 Park Row, is actually a block of stores with a great selection of cameras, audio equipment, appliances, computers, telephones and recorded music at competitive prices, and where can you buy recordings on a thing today? Without making the agonizing choice of the ultimate New York store, I must add for consideration Jack’s 99 Cent Store, 110 West 32nd Street.

The latest reason for me to offer this commendation was my acquisition there of three 6 oz. boxes of Manischewitz Dark Chocolate Covered Egg Matzo Crackers Drizzled with Mint Chocolate ($.99). These two-inch square beauties are not like the flimsy full-sized chocolate-covered matzohs (my preferred spelling over matzos and matzahs). The dark chocolate covering on each side is thicker than the matzoh itself, which I take as an expression of the natural order of the Universe. I gave one box to Boaz as a Passover gift, leaving me two. Because moderation is my middle name, I have not rushed off to Jack’s to try to get another 6, 8 or 10 boxes, although it would be perfectly defensible as further affirmation of my Jewish faith. It’s unlikely that Jack’s supply would outlast the Passover holiday period, so, on my next visit, I’ll just have to look for Barton’s dark chocolate-covered pretzels, usually in stock at 99¢ for a package of two. After all, you can’t be religious all year round.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Allan S. Gotthelf is a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh. No, not Alan Gotthelf, half of the Upper West Side's Power Couple, but my cousin Allan. We were born 10 months apart, attended PS 159 and Stuyvesant High School together, although separated by one grade. Our paths intersected much less frequently in adulthood. I thought about Allan this morning because of the news report today about the situation on the Pitt campus, where, since February, 57 bomb threats have been made, "some written on walls, and some sent by anonymous e-mail to Pittsburgh news outlets," according to the New York Times. There is no indication that Allan S. Gotthelf is a person of interest, as you hear on BBC crime dramas so often, in this matter. Of course, he might run such a tough class that students have taken extraordinary measures to avoid being randomly called upon. With the arrival of Spring weather, he and other faculty might choose to hold classes outdoors, under the spreading chestnut tree. Oops, the web site a/k/a "Common Trees of Pennsylvania" reports that the American chestnut was "[f]ormerly the most common and arguably the most valuable tree in Pennsylvania for both its wood and nuts. It now persists as stump sprouts and small trees due to the chestnut bark disease commonly called chestnut blight." So, my advice to cousin Allan's students: Bring sunblock.

Thursday, April 12, 2012
This morning, the trucks, trailers and vans parked in the neighborhood of the courthouse belonged to a production entitled “Dior.” Naturally, I looked on-line to learn more about it, but found nothing pertinent. Next month, the Christian Dior museum in Normandy, France is presenting an exhibit “Stars in Dior,” showing Dior gowns worn by the likes of Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly. But, it would seem far too late or too attenuated to be shooting scenes in lower Manhattan for that show. Nothing else popped up in my search, so you heard it here first: somebody is making a movie/television show/television series/music video/training film about Christian/Pierre/Murray/Etienne/Claude/Irving Dior. Enjoy.

This is the fourth day of the work week during Passover and I’ve barely mentioned food. Breakfasts and dinners at home have followed the traditional holiday guidelines, matzohs, gefilte fish, eggs, fruit and carefully rationed pieces of Manischewitz Dark Chocolate Covered Egg Matzo Crackers Drizzled with Mint Chocolate. The challenge comes at lunchtime, when, surrounded by the tantalizing food that sustains a couple of billion Asian people on this earth, I have chosen to exercise a modicum (maybe a minicum) of respect for the ways of my ancestors. As a practical matter, this has meant chicken – grilled, broiled, barbecued, roasted, but never breaded or coated with any grain. Aside from the skewers at Teariffic on Monday, I have found tasty chicken at several “salad bars” nearby, without any side dishes. I won’t pretend that I have kept to the Hebraic straight and narrow in this regard, but it’s not like I’m eating a ham sandwich.

Friday, April 13, 2012
Ittai Hershman is known as a talented scholar and genealogical researcher, but last night he displayed his culinary talents. He prepared a very delicious roast chicken with such a simple recipe that I must share it with you as he shared it with us. Rub a roasting chicken inside and out with soy sauce (but not on Passover), chili powder, personally-squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, and paprika on the outside for color. Throw the squeezed lemon into the cavity of the chicken, truss its legs to keep it compact and roast in a 500° oven, very hot, for one hour. That's it. The high heat makes the skin crispy and keeps the bird juicy, believe me.

That made 5 chicken meals in four days, for me, this Passover week, but, with the benefit of stuffed mushrooms and a spinach kugel thrown together by Linda Rich, all strictly by the rules, last night's dinner was the one to recall. Lunch today was easy; I ate in shul after the memorial service that occurs on the seventh day of Passover. Then, off to work for the afternoon with the Promised Land looming larger by the hour.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Into the Desert

Monday, April 2, 2012
This morning, Chambers Street and Reade Street were covered with trucks carrying gear, people and supplies for the filming of “Golden Boy.” I imagine that this is based on the Clifford Odets play which was on Broadway in 1937, starring Luther Adler as the young boxer whose father wants him to become a violinist (they don’t make them like that anymore). William Holden played the movie lead in 1939, in his first starring role. In 1964, Sammy Davis, Jr. starred on Broadway in a musical version. Going to the Internet, I found that Lincoln Center intends to stage a revival in November, but found no mention about an upcoming movie or TV show.

Sheng Wang, 27 Eldridge Street, is not particularly inviting. Down three steps, it feels in needs of a steam cleaning. It was busy, however, the 11 tables holding about 20 people. The menu consists almost entirely of noodles, hand-pulled and “peel noodle,” which I believe is called knife-cut noodles in other venues. There are 31 varieties of each, that is 31 varieties with either noodle. Most of the noodle dishes are served as soup, but I looked for a dry version and ordered beef fried hand-pulled noodle ($6). The noodle was lo mein, or a reasonable facsimile, while I’ve usually seen hand-pulled noodles as more fettucini -like. The portion was hearty, lots of bok choy, slivers of fried egg and sliced beef. Now, Sheng Wang did not have to fight off Peter Luger’s or the Palm for this beef, but it was tasty eating around the gristle.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Golden Boy was back in the neighborhood of the courthouse this morning and I approached a crew member to find out about this so-far unreported production. I rattled off the names of William Holden, John Garfield (who was in a Broadway revival when he died of a heart attack at age 39) and Sammy Davis, Jr., without sparking a sign of recognition. When I gave a brief summary of the story, he said it sounded more interesting than the cop show they were filming. Sorry, he corrected me, they don’t use film anymore.

Television and movies are recorded on some electronic medium, which allows for myriad special effects and easier editing. Even if electronic recording has simplified the process (I almost said film making process), it’s remarkable how big an encampment is needed to do what they do. Typically, there are six to eight 30-40 foot trailers containing dressing rooms, equipment and supplies. There is always a food wagon with a small tent nearby with a spread of snacks or real food at mealtimes. In spite of what many of you might think, I have never cadged a blueberry muffin or a bagel as I passed by.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Lao Di Fang Hand Pull Noodles Restaurant, 28 Forsyth Street replaced Kuai Le Hand Pull Noodles Restaurant (July 1, 2011, November 10, 2011). While I don’t know what difference this made to the pulled or the puller, the interior has been redone with most vertical surfaces covered with very faux brick wallpaper. They offer a printed menu with pictures of 18 dishes to aid Fujian-impaired members of the public. While only 3 of the 46 dishes listed on the menu mention soup, in fact, almost all the dishes with noodle or ball in their name are soups. I ordered wonton, Fukienese style ($2) and was not surprised to get soup. The many wonton were delicate and translucent in a tasty, mildly salty broth. Plain noodle w. sesame peanuts sauce ($2) were good and had to be slurped carefully to avoid decorating my shirt front. Because the kitchen is in the rear, as at Sheng Wang, I could not see my noodles hand pulled.

Thursday, April 5, 2012
Jews most notably fast on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. There are several other days during the year when very observant Jews fast as well. I’m not exactly fasting for the next two days, but, in preparation for Aunt Judi’s imaginative and abundant Seder table Friday and Saturday nights, I’m trying to moderate my intake. While usually I issue my weekly report on Saturday, I plan to hold off until Sunday in order to recite the menu for both night’s Sinai slog.

Friday, April 6, 2012
29 people from 4 generations gathered around the Seder table in Englewood tonight. Mother Ruth Gotthelf, exercising her 102-year old independent streak, decided to stay home at the last minute, but 95-year old Aunt Bertha represented the World War I generation effectively. Of course, Moses aside (although perversely, Moses goes unnamed in the Passover story), the star of the evening was Aunt Judi, Queen of the Kosher Kitchen. She had to overcome the strange Poloner family tradition of starting the meal with cold chopped hard-boiled egg soup, not intact hard-boiled eggs to be personally peeled and salted to taste by the diners. I just keep drinking wine until the real meal begins with the heavenly deep-fried gefilte fish. I took two pieces, one more than everyone else, and could have made a meal of this delicacy. There might have been a salad or two on the table, but I moved right to the cranberry (sauced) brisket and the turkey roulade. Filling out the plate was squash kugel, roasted parsnips, carrots, red onions and red potatoes, and vegetable kishke. By the way, if you're having trouble with any noun, use Google. I think there was also a strawberry rhubarb compote, but I just didn't have any. Fortunately, my modest sweet tooth was accommodated by chocolate chip mandelbrot and exquisite chocolate chip meringue drops, well blobs more than drops. I was so engaged by the meringue blob-drops that I passed on the chocolate brownies and chocolate nut cookies. Can you imagine that? The fresh fruit was not even under consideration. Of course, Saturday night we repeat our Sinai slog and maybe have another chance to sample those treats.

Saturday, April 7, 2012
Another chance to flee Egypt and get well fed at the same time. Only 24 people attended tonight, although Noam slept entirely through the evening in an upstairs bedroom and only appeared nestled in his mother's arms as they packed up to leave. But, I am not prepared to omit my second grandson from the count even if the pursuit by Pharoah and his army did not awaken him.

Tonight, I realized the value of the cold chopped hard-boiled egg soup instead of the really traditional hard-boiled eggs to open the Seder meal. I don't waste one square millimeter of stomach capacity on this unnecessary concoction, leaving valuable space for all the good things to come. Sure enough, first out of the box again tonight was the deep-fried gefilte fish, the only thing until dessert to be repeated, for which I am very grateful. The main courses were chicken with garlic in white wine sauce and Aunt Judi's Famous Meatballs, always a crowd pleaser. The side dishes, which made a very ample meal for the several vegetarians in attendance (whom I'll spare the embarrassment of naming on this occasion), were excellent, mushroom kugel, apple kugel, vegetable kugel and cous cous. The cranberry relish complemented the chicken very nicely. I spied a bowl of cole slaw, but was not distracted by it. For the sake of closure, I started the desserts with the brownies that I missed last night. Now, I'm not sure if I should have had fewer chocolate meringue cookies last night to make room for a brownie. Had I done that, it's possible that the ecstasy I experienced individually on consecutive nights might have amounted to less in immediate proximity. In retrospect, I'm pleased that my journey into the Promised Land began with a brownie.