Friday, July 27, 2012

Hot and Crusty

Monday, July 23, 2012
Jill and Steve are dear friends and stalwart traveling companions. This morning, we drove out to Long Island to celebrate the bris (ritual circumcision) of their newest grandson. It was a wonderful occasion. I managed to get to my desk by 1 PM, carrying a lamb/chicken combo over rice from the Halal cart at the northwest corner of Reade Street and Centre Street. Tomorrow, I expect to hit a new restaurant in my quest for whatever it is I’m questing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Mini Express, 14-18 Elizabeth Street, Chinatown Arcade #32-33, is a new joint in the arcade between the Bowery and Elizabeth Street. The interior is stark, but attractive, with black floor tiles, gray faux bricks and gray faux tiles on the walls. Three large, black metal-framed tables with glass tops had four chairs each. Most of the space was devoted to the ordering counter and the kitchen behind it. There was an active takeout business. One flat screen television played insipid Korean music videos, featuring gangs of Korean Justin Bieber imitators, which did not aid my appetite. That was just as well because the plate of “Western chicken fried rice” ($6) wasn’t very good. The extensive menu is almost entirely devoted to noodle and rice dishes, and there might very well be some tasty treats among them, but it will be some time before I’m motivated to find out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
A good and wise friend, concerned about the state of our economy, sent me an editorial from his local newspaper, far removed from Sodom, which urged big cuts in federal spending while applying a gentler touch to revenue enhancement (TAXES). The editorial pointed out that increasing taxes on the richest Americans will not work because “there’s not enough of them to use this as a solution to fix the problem.” Whoa there! There’s not enough of any one thing (defense spending, entitlements, agricultural subsidies, mass transit spending, cultural grants) to solve the problem by itself. But, there is a lot of money to be collected from making the very rich pay what you or I typically pay in taxes, and it sends a better message to ourselves about this country and its values rather than letting roads and bridges rot or shrinking public education.

“Blue Bloods,” a cop show that I’ve never seen was all over the area today. The intersection of Reade Street and Centre Street had trucks and equipment in place as I passed by this morning. When I went to lunch, I saw more trucks and equipment parked along Baxter Street then turning into Leonard Street, including two big ducts providing extra airconditioning to some courtroom or office in 80 Centre Street where they were filming interior shots. Then, after lunch, they were actually filming on the sidewalk in front of 60 Centre Street. The scene was a handsome cop and a pretty copette walking and talking along, their gold detective badges clipped to their belts. It is possible that a side, rear view of my head was captured as I walked by. Keep tuned.

I thought that I was headed to a new restaurant at a very familiar location when I climbed the stairs to the second floor at 1 East Broadway. I’ve eaten in four different iterations of the restaurant at street level during the 30+ months that I’ve been on this mission. A couple of days ago, I saw a simple sign on the doorway next to the restaurant that read “BBQ 2 FL.” Looking up, I saw an illuminated neon sign that said “B-B-Q.” So, today, I walked up the flight of stairs which was decorated with two color posters of frosty drinks, expecting to find a new establishment above. I thought for a moment of the Time Warner Center, at Columbus Circle, where Per Se, Masa, Bouchon Bakery, Asiate, A Voce, Landmarc, and Porter House are stacked atop each other. However, the dull silver-painted, unmarked door at the top of the stairs, with a bell and peephole as found in a typical apartment, was locked. I went up the one other flight, thinking that they may be using the European style of counting floors (ignoring the fact that the neon sign was only one flight up), but only found an office conducting Chinese business, or maybe just business in Chinese.

Thursday, July 26, 2012.
I passed 1 East Broadway again on the way to the library branch where I borrow DVDs of British crime shows, and I looked over the BBQ joint situation upstairs. Today, I noticed that the neon sign had the word Open lit, which I had not noticed yesterday. However, the windows overlooking East Broadway were also open, a definite indicator of a preference for natural breezes over the harsh artificial chill of airconditioning. With the temperature and humidity rapidly climbing back up as if the morning’s torrential rainstorm had never happened, I was all for the harsh artificial chill of airconditioning, so I kept walking.

Gude Gude Inc., 42 Eldridge Street, also denied me the harsh artificial chill of airconditioning, but, since I had walked this far, I sat down at one of the narrow ledges running around three sides of the tiny place, hoping that the weak fan and ineffectual airconditioner over the front door might slow the growth of mildew under my chin. Accordingly, I ordered quickly and ate quickly. The simple menu offers grilled beef, pork, shrimp and chicken, one or more at a time, over white rice, fried rice or lo mein. I had beef, shrimp and chicken with lo mein ($5.75). A small bowl of clear broth with a few tofu cubes and some leaves floating in it came as well. The food wasn’t bad. It was cooked to order by the young woman who staffed the operation in its entirety, but the portion was small. Of course, that helped me get going pretty quickly.

Since my recent two-week visit to Israel and Jordan heightened my standing as a geo-political analyst, I would like to comment on an interesting op-ed in today’s New York Times. Dani Dayan wrote under the headline “Israel’s Settlers Are Here to Stay,” I found his opinions credible, if only because he avoided the sentimental anecdotes that often distort the discussion of Arab/Israeli relations. “My great-uncle Yossi carried pebbles in his mouth to build a wall around the kibbutz.” “My second cousin Faisal did not drink water for 30 days to keep that olive tree alive.” Rather, he focused on the fact that over 350,000 Israeli Jews live behind the line, my euphemism for the disputed territories. He gets a little soapy when he speaks of “Israel’s moral claim to these territories,” but much of his argument rests upon “the irreversibility of the huge Israeli civilian presence in Judea and Samaria,” and this is a serious concern.

However, there is another “irreversibility” that Dayan and other supporters of the settler movement ignore. Over time, minorities succumb to majorities. Whether to the Hebrews in Pharaonic times, the Americans in the 13 British colonies, the native populations of south Asia or South Africa, “foreign” rule proved unacceptable. I don’t doubt the successes he cites; “the economies are thriving; a new Palestinian city, Rawabi, is being built north of Ramallah; Jewish communities are growing; checkpoints are being removed; and tourists of all nationalities are again visiting Bethlehem and Shiloh.” Except the Arab birthrate behind the line exceeds the Jewish birthrate (the very fecund ultra-Orthodox Jews live almost entirely in a few communities in Israel proper), and there is no evidence that even greater number of Arabs will be comfortable under Israeli rule than the current population. The great irony, which I sadly recognize, is that the lives and fortunes of individual Arabs would probably be better under an Israeli regime attempting to respect democratic values than the corrupt, nepotistic, and oppressive rule likely to succeed “liberation.” Yet, somehow, “our S.O.B.s” are more attractive than theirs. And, inevitably, they will get their own S.O.B.s.

Friday, July 20, 2012

What's In a Name?

Monday, July 16, 2012
I don’t think I need help finding topics to discuss here, at least as long as one of the Mitt Romneys is running for president of the United States. But, yesterday the New York Times threw me a softball. It published a short essay by Milla Goldenberg entitled "So Much in Common, in Name Only," describing meeting and dating a man also named Goldenberg. The attraction for her admittedly was the name. Of course, the hook is that my mother’s family is named Goldenberg, and you may have encountered my first cousins Michael, Anita, Lucille and/or Barbara (although she gave up Goldenberg a couple of marriages ago). The next generation has had a profusion of girls, so only brothers Joel and Craig Goldenberg, my cousins somewhat removed, are running around propagating the name. The irony of it all is captured by my invented adage for personal encounters: "If your name is Goldenberg, we’re not related."

While the details are now fuzzy over a century later, I understand that my mother’s family originally had a consonant-laden Eastern European name. When either my maternal grandfather came over from Poland in 1905, or my maternal grandmother, in 1909, my maternal grandmother’s younger sister, already living in New York for several years, decided to Americanize their name to Goldenberg, a name that apparently just missed appearing on the bottom of the Declaration of Independence. So, Joseph and Esther Malka Goldenberg, living first on the lower East Side and then Brooklyn, had six children and lived long enough, in Joseph’s case, to see grandchildren born, and great-grandchildren in Esther Malka’s case. Unfortunately, the original family name has been long lost. Even when some of my older maternal relatives were still alive (many of those Goldenbergs had long life-spans), no one remembered the name of that branch of the family tree. So, sorry Milla Goldenberg, the writer; Claude Goldenberg, the Stanford University professor of education; Mark Goldenberg, the acoustic guitarist; Stuart L. Goldenberg, the Minneapolis personal injury lawyer; Natasha Goldenberg, the Russian fashion designer; Suzanne Goldenberg, the US environmental reporter for the Guardian (UK); Billy Goldenberg, the composer of movie and television music; and sadly, Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, but we’re not related.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012
I was called upon to work in a courtroom at 71 Thomas Street today, so I had occasion to have lunch with Super Clerk Marty. Appropriately, we went to Super Linda - Latin Grill, 109 West Broadway, a new place located where Delphi Restaurant operated for many years. When I started working at 71 Thomas Street in 2002, Delphi was the first place I had lunch, since it was one block away, reasonably priced and served Greek food, a desirable choice. However, from the first, I found that Delphi did not bother to season food. Salt, pepper, garlic, lemon juice, oregano, or other stuff that you might cook with to spice up a dish seemed to be absent from its kitchen. I returned several times, hoping that my initial impression was atypical, but the bland followed the bland, and I skipped Delphi for some years until it closed.

Super Linda was pleasantly airconditioned on an afternoon that reached 94° and the simple lunch menu had decent choices. Marty ordered the breakfast burrito ($9), chorizo sausage, scrambled eggs, peppers, wrapped in a burrito. I had fish tacos ($12), three crooked cigar pieces of fried fish lying on soft tortillas, with a cup of black beans and a mound of rice on the side. The dish was mildly, but distinctively, seasoned. The only glitch in the meal came at the end, when we were charged $2.50 cups of coffee, instead of the $2 on the menu, and then charged for the refills, a total of 10 bucks. The lovely manager apologized for the error in judgment and fact, and eliminated all trace of coffee from our bill.

Speaking of spices, fried foods and such, I had an appointment with Dr. Morris Traube, Very Big Gastroenterologist, at the end of the day. Dr. Traube, who has treated me in the past, has a law degree and is an Orthodox rabbi as well, you may recall. After initial greetings, I asked Dr. Traube if he has considered becoming a veterinarian too. This led us to search our memories fruitlessly for any Orthodox Jewish veterinarians. Dr. Traube suggested that there are some doctrinal barriers to an Orthodox Jew becoming a veterinarian, especially when it came to sterilizing or neutering animals. See, "in Jewish law it is prohibited to surgically, radio-therapeutically, physically or medically impair the reproductive organs of any living creature, male or female; human, animal, fowl or beast." This should reassure some Jewish husbands.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012
At last, a new Chinese restaurant. Prosperity Dumpling, 46 Eldridge Street, is tiny. A space in front holds five stools against two narrow ledges while folks stand around waiting for their orders to take out. The next 15 feet are crowded with five people preparing and cooking. The busyness results from the favorable price/performance ratio that Prosperity delivers. I had five fried pork and chive dumplings ($1), a sesame pancake with roasted beef ($1.75) and a sesame pancake with roasted chicken ($1.75), all washed down with a Diet Coke. The sesame pancakes are not pancakes, but strongly resembling a wedge of sesame-encrusted focaccia, split and filled. Each wedge was about 75% of the size of a pizza slice. There was shredded carrots and parsley, with a dash of Vietnamese sweet and tangy sauce, in addition to the beef and chicken. Very tasty, very filling. However, the narrow ledge affords no room to do a crossword puzzle.

Allen West is a black Republican Congressman from Florida, a rare phenomenon. Further distinguishing him is a penchant for bold rhetoric, such as, "I believe there is about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party [in Congress] that are members of the Communist Party." So far, the record contains no evidence to support West’s claim, but I believe that there is proof that there is at least one psychotic in the House of Representatives.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Different Messages

Monday, July 9, 2012
Another man was on the elevator when I got on this morning on the way to work. He was also middle-aged, as I like to describe myself. However, he was about 5'6", 140 pounds; no chance that we would be mistaken one for the other. What interested me was his T-shirt which read San Francisco XXL. Now, he was not swimming in this T-shirt. It fit him quit well, so there was no chance that the shirt had ever been properly descriptive, and that bothered me as a genuine XXL. Were I to be hastily looking for a T-shirt and grabbed this San Francisco XXL, I might wind up embarrassing myself, shocking bystanders and destroying a T-shirt. If you can’t trust a T-shirt, what can you trust?

Can you trust Andrew Zimmern, chef and food writer, who identifies his Top 10 Places to Eat Asian Food in NYC in the current Food & Wine magazine (thanks to Cindy W.M. for the reference)? We differ immediately because Zimmern encompasses all of the Big Apple, while I restrict myself to its Chinatown core. Nevertheless, we converge at places.

His list:
Congee Bowery Restaurant & Bar, 207 Bowery (Chinese)
Xi’an Famous Foods, 67 Bayard Street (although the article links to the no-seat 88 East Broadway location) (Chinese)
Dim Sum Go Go, 5 East Broadway (Chinese)
Jewel Bako, 239 East 5th Street (Japanese)
Sushi Yasuda, 204 East 43rd Street (Japanese)
Bar Chuko, 552 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn (Japanese)
Momofuku Noodle Bar, 171 First Avenue (Japanese)
Kum Gang San, 49 West 32nd Street (Korean)
Minangasli, 86-10 Whitney Avenue, Flushing (Indonesian)
Kin Shop, 469 Sixth Avenue (Thai)

Xi’an and Go Go have warranted repeated visits by me, and are unquestionably in metropolitan Chinatown. I admit to missing Congee Bowery, a sister to Congee Village, 100 Allen Street (August 15, 2011) and Congee Chinese Restaurant, 98 Bowery (May 9, 2011). My rationale, or excuse if you wish, is Congee Bowery’s location, which according to Google maps is .8 miles away, but two blocks north of Delancey Street. In fact, Congee Village has been the furthest reach of my lunch hour explorations, at .9 miles, but still south of Delancey Street. If this makes no sense to you, rent "Crossing Delancey," the 1988 romantic comedy starring Amy Irving, which the New York Times reviewed under the headline “Learning to Appreciate a Mr. Right Who Sells Pickles and Tells Jokes.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Today’s paper reports that 70 Stuyvesant High School students were involved in a pattern of smartphone-enabled cheating during a citywide language exam on June 18. Cellphones are officially not permitted in city schools, and when officials looked into a 16-year-old junior’s phone, they found a trail of text messages, including photos of test pages, that suggested pupils had been sharing information about exams while they were taking them. All the students involved will have to retake the exams, and some have been notified "that some of their class privileges, including the right to leave school for lunch or be members of school leadership organizations like the Student Union, an important college résumé-building activity, would be revoked." The Times says that the disseminator of the information and four others may face suspension. Here’s where I suspend my credentials as a wishy-washy liberal and show some Old Testament vengeance. First, the kid who sent the images – out. Second, recipients of the messages who responded (and that’s how the other 69 were identified) positively ("Thanks, bro.") – out. Third, recipients of the messages who responded negatively ("No way.") – retake the exam and then leave it alone. Fourth, recipients of the messages who responded ambiguously ("Wassup with this?") – retake the exam and 20 hours in an ethics course. Of course, there is no way to prevent the most culpable from eventually leading global financial enterprises.

Yahoo flashed a blurb this morning for the One Quality of Happy Marriages and I won’t argue with their choice of Empathy. However, I was taken by the byline on the linked article: Julie Hanks, LCSW, is Sharecare Now's #1 Online Depression Influencer.

Sharecare Now apparently is a web site devoted to Q&A about health issues. But, how about Julie’s title? Actually, I think I know several depression influencers, but I never regarded that as a compliment. And, how would you feel coming in #2? Wouldn’t that be depressing?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012
S.J. Perelman said, "I don’t know much about medicine, but I know what I like." I share this point of view and, fortunately, have America’s Favorite Epidemiologist nearby to examine and explain medical information that may be relevant to me. However, I have noted a favorable health trend even by my inexpert standards. The number of cancer-ridden African widows seems to have declined sharply. I’m not sure whether better hygiene and sanitation, early detection, anti-retroviral drugs and/or prayer have made the difference, but I rarely hear from these desperate folk who merely seek to arrange in their waning days to share their wealth with those who are not now and never have been employed by Bain Capital.

On the other hand, my Spam filter caught this gem recently:

Order Notification,
E-TICKET / EH151194395
DATE / TIME 23 JUNE, 2012, 09:25 PM
ARRIVING / Des Moines
REF / KE.2398 ST / OK
Your ticket is attached.
To use your ticket you should print it.
Thank you for your attention.
Delta Air Lines.

Attached was a file which I left untouched. While I may begrudgingly credit these Spamster Scamsters for some of their devious ploys, I was disappointed to think that they imagined that I would risk the sanctity of my computer system by the lure of a ticket to Des Moines. Come on. If they have been reading my e-mail lately, they know I’ve been to Asia and the Middle East this year so far. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to try to seduce me with a ticket to Sydney, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Capetown or Sofia? And, in case my wanderlust was at a heightened state and I was ready to go just about anywhere, I checked and found out that Delta does not fly non-stop to Des Moines from any New York area airport. I’d have to change in Detroit, Atlanta, Memphis or Minneapolis/St. Paul, with 5 hours and 10 minutes as the shortest elapsed time for the journey, airport-to-airport. Better luck next time.

Friday, July 13, 2012
"This has the potential to ruin you completely" was the subject line of another recent E-mail message that I received, which continued:

Hello alanonthewestside,
I have a proof that you broke into my email and stole my private photos and financial information. It can be clearly seen in the files attached to this message. If you don’t respond within 48 hours I will have to report you. was my correspondent. Of course, the gentleman is unknown to me and I had no inclination to open the attached files, which, I suspect, would have set back the course of information technology at the courthouse several semesters. I could not resist, however, sending a reply, to wit: To whom will you be reporting me? I’d like to dress appropriately for the occasion.

This morning, Yahoo’s 10" long error message arrived informing me that my attempt at dialogue with Branden has failed. After all, it is Friday the Thirteenth.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Food For Thought

Monday, July 2, 2012
I did not do justice to Peter Madoff the other day when I described the crowd of reporters and photographers waiting for him to exit the Moynihan Federal Courthouse after his guilty plea. Peter, Bernie’s little brother, continued to deny that he had any role in the multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. The New York Law Journal quoted him as being “in total shock” when he learned of the monumental fraud. There are two interesting aspects to his denial: 1) Peter was the chief compliance officer for Bernie’s investment business which raises the question of what he did at work all day; 2) Peter confessed to several crimes, notably skipping paying income taxes on $40 million earnings, that were unconnected to Bernie’s own illegal endeavors. In other words, Peter cheated because he could. He apparently would have cheated the IRS even if he earned money selling Girl Scout cookies. There is a certain purity in his approach.

Long Xin Restaurant, 50 Eldridge Street, is open about one year, but it eluded me until today. It is a bright, open place with room for almost twice as many round tables as the eight now in place. It was also fairly busy, with Chinese occupants at every table, all except the French grandmother, mother and daughter right behind me. Its bright red back wall had the traditional phoenix and dragon glaring at each other and the vaulted ceiling is entirely covered by panels of blue sky and clouds. The two flat-panel televisions were turned off.

The menu has 62 lunch specials at $5.50 which include soup. I asked for Singapore chow fun instead, one of my signature dishes, when I saw that they served chow fun and Singapore mai fun. It took a while to convince two different waitresses that I knew what I was asking for, but they delivered an enormous portion of Singapore chow fun ($7.95) with all the expected ingredients (shrimp, pork, egg, green pepper, red pepper, red onions, bean sprouts) and some toasted sesame seeds sprinkled on top of the curry-flavored noodles. It was very good, but I was only able to eat 61% of it. Service was spotty; I was not offered tea and my water glass was not refilled. Otherwise a decent joint.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012
This is an extraordinary day. I know 5 people who were born on this day and, of course, I wish them all a Happy Birthday, in ascending order: Meredith S., Nate P., Carl H., Aryeh G. and David G. They encompass a span of 50 years and all of them have done well for themselves and others.

Fruit News:
Trader Joe's has donut peaches, which they call Saturn peaches, at $2.99 for 20 ounces. That's a bargain considering that Fairway is selling them at $3.99 a pound and the best deal I've seen in Chinatown in the last two weeks was 5 peaches, not pounds, for $5, an unacceptable proposition.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012
I realize that not all of you are fortunate enough to be able to eat lunch in Chinatown every weekday, so I thought that I would share information from the latest issue of Consumer's Report with you, if you are not a subscriber. Based on 47,565 survey responses, CR rated chain restaurants. In sum, CR found that nine chains "earned especially high marks across the board for the four attributes in our Ratings -- taste, value, service, and mood -- and were praised for menu variety, cleanliness, and a lack of noise." This could be as good or better than Grandpa Alan's culinary guidance.

The notable nine are:
Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano
Black Angus Steakhouse
Bob Evans
Bravo Cucina Italiana
First Watch
J. Alexander's
Le Peep
Fatz Eatz & Drinkz

CR claims that their respondents reported on 110,517 visits to arrive at the ratings. The result was that I was anxious to enjoy meals characterized by good taste, value, service, and mood, and I began my research -- where are these places? Are you sitting down? You can’t get there from here.

Biaggi’s has one listing in New York -- New York State, that is, not New York City. In fact, Biaggi’s is located in Victor, NY, which is closer to Canandaigua than to Canarsie. A Black Angus Restaurant opened in late 1945 at 148 East 50th Street, after WWII ended and food supplies opened up. Entrees started at $1.10 and cocktails from 45 cents, according to Today, however, 2290 Wyoming Boulevard, Albuquerque, New Mexico is the nearest location of a Black Angus Steakhouse if you want to pursue CR’s attributes for a hefty protein fix. Bob Evans has eight New York locations, Jamestown, Batavia, Corning, Williamsville, Niagara Falls, Dunkirk, Amherst and Watertown. You don’t have to be a geography maven to know that none of these cities are, in the words of George M. Cohan, 45 minutes from Broadway. Not even by helicopter.

Bravo Cucina Italiana can be found as close as Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, a bit north of Philadelphia. First Watch, apparently a breakfast delight, can be found in 14 states, but you’ll have to decide between Pittsburgh and Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania if you live at or near the Palazzo di Gotthelf. J. Alexander’s can be found in 13 states, but no closer than 5845 Landerbrook Drive, Cleveland, Ohio. Le Peep, evoking chickens and eggs and limiting itself to breakfast and lunch, comes seductively close, by comparison, at 561 Route 1 & Plainfield Ave, Edison, New Jersey, about seven miles from my brother’s home. Elmer’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and has a spot in Albany – Albany, Oregon that is. If that’s inconvenient, they also operate in Idaho, Washington and California. I’m not going to calculate which location is closest, because, if I’m going to take a 5-6 hour flight for a meal, I’m heading to Paris. Fatz Eatz & Drinkz may be harder to reach than Paris, because I can’t find its web site. However, it seems to be concentrated in the southeastern United States, with headquarters in Taylors, South Carolina.

So there you have it. If you want a tasty meal at good value with nice service in a pleasant mood, you might as well come with me to Chinatown, or forget mood and go to your mother's.