Friday, June 7, 2013

Rolling Along

Monday, June 3, 2013
I reconciled with Dim Sum Go Go, 5 East Broadway, which I long touted as the best dim sum joint in Chinatown.  However, on my last visit, August 30, 2012, I had the worst and most expensive scallion pancake that I ever had.  This kept me away for the next 9 months, until today when I was meeting someone for lunch who knew his way around Chinatown, but had never been to Dim Sum Go Go.  We each ordered the dim sum assorted platter ($11.95), with 11 pieces, and it was as good as I recalled from happier days at Dim Sum Go Go, each piece unique in shape, color and contents.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013
New York City introduced a bike sharing program last week.  You can participate by purchasing an annual membership or daily or weekly access.  Many bike parking stations have been installed in Manhattan and Brooklyn, although a look at the map shows that they are all concentrated where the white people live.  The program is intended “for short, quick trips around NYC,” with overtime charges incurred for rides longer than 30 or 45 minutes.  I guess this is partially intended to get people off busses and subways for simple commutes.  Objections arose even before the program began, before any tourist on wheels encountered a garbage truck.  Most objections centered on the parking stations, 50 to 100 feet long.  Neighbors jumped up to complain about the unsightliness or the sanitation hazard of a fixed object on the street collecting schmutz at its base.  The more political folks objected to the sponsorship of the program, named CitiBike, by CitiCorp, a/k/a Too Big To Fail, with the bikes prominently displaying the name CitiBike.

Right now, I hope the program succeeds under almost any name, in order to lessen air pollution and ease traffic, although there may be more emergency vehicles running around picking cyclists off the pavement.  I won’t be using it for several reasons.  My commute to work is reasonable, relatively comfortable.  Were I to pedal even one block, a cool shower and highly-absorbent towels would have to be made immediately available.  Also, I own a bicycle, which has resided quietly in the basement of Palazzo di Gotthelf for about a decade.  In fact, it is the fourth bicycle that I have owned in the last 30 years.  Two were stolen and one I sold during the years when I rode frequently on weekends in Manhattan, during that arid period before I met The Love Of My Life.

In those days, I usually spent weekend afternoons, if the weather allowed, pedalling my carcass up and down Manhattan Island, dipping in and out of Central Park.  Often, the last leg of the day would take me to Zabar’s or Fairway (on the Upper West Side) to re-stock my kitchen in East Midtown.  As a single man at the time, awaiting Cupid’s arrow, I went out on dates – many blind dates, rarely second dates.  I recall particularly one Tuesday evening about 20 years ago.  I had a first date with a woman who lived on the Upper West Side; I almost always arranged first dates on a weeknight because I would usually be generally presentable after a day at my desk.  We met and sat down somewhere for a drink.  I admitted that I was not my normal bubbling-with-joy self because my bicycle was stolen that weekend.

“When?” she asked.  
“Sunday afternoon.”
“In front of Fairway.”
“What time?”
“About four thirty.”
“Was it red?”
“Yes, a red mountain bike.”
“I saw it.”
“What did you see?”
“I saw the guy steal the bike.  He broke the lock and took it away.”
“In front of Fairway, in the middle of the afternoon, on a nice day, and no one did anything?  I was in the store walking around in a helmet and biking shorts and no one said anything?”

I left soon thereafter on foot, needless to say, and, although the woman was tall, slender and dark-haired, not unlike the one I married before and the one I married after, I never saw her again.

While I never expected to eat at over 200 Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, I’m more surprised by the number of new hotels I’ve seen all over the area.  There are more than 10 new, almost-new or brand new hotels where there were none in the recent past.  The Wyndham Garden Chinatown, 93 Bowery, for instance, is open 6 months and stands on the site of the Music Palace, a Chinese-language movie theater, the last one in Manhattan, which closed in 1998.

The hotel contains the Elevate Restaurant & Lounge, and, in case you forgot, Jake, it’s Chinatown, which means that Elevate is a Japanese restaurant located in the basement.  The place was near-empty; a man left shortly after I entered, and two women later, leaving me alone.  Its underground location was reinforced by low lighting and the beige grasscloth-covered walls did not manage to brighten up the room. Elevate has two menus, "regular” and Japanese.  Since I was on duty, I ordered from the Japanese menu – Edomae Style Sushi ($26).  A little research tells me that Edomae means in the manner of Edo, the old name for Tokyo, where the bay yields many of the most popular fish and shellfish found in sushi.  The platter contained 2 pieces each of tuna, salmon, yellow tail, striped bass, and white tuna (something new to me), a tuna roll cut into six small pieces, and standing cylinders of salmon roe and something awfully close to real (black) caviar.  While waiting for the food to be served, I realized that I might be taking a huge risk eating raw fish in a place that did almost no business, and I considered calling the waitress back and asking for a Kobe beef burger.  However, I placed my mission over personal safety concerns and persevered.  The pieces of fish were good, the tuna roll fair.  But, unless the white tuna and the near-caviar were particularly costly, the meal was not worth the price.  You might want to Elevate down to the basement, though, if you value your privacy.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Chinatown market report: Bing cherries are holding at 2 lbs. for $3. Large size Queen Anne cherries are widely available at 2 lbs. for $4, and that’s where I put my money today.  
Friday, June 7, 2013
Today is the court’s Annual Caren Aronowitz Unity in Diversity Program, where the courthouse’s stunning rotunda is occupied by about two dozen groups of court employees and related outsiders serving food rooted in their identity, or simply expressing their generosity.  It is a gourmand’s delight and always threatens any semblance of self-control that remains to me.  I tried to pace myself and managed to ingest, in bite-sized portions, a dumpling, quiche, Vietnamese summer roll, Mediterranean cigar, sushi, potato knish, ribs, shepherd's pie, Irish sausage, smoked salmon, Korean chicken, southern fried chicken, sticky bun, jerk chicken, shrimp lo mein, franks in a blanket, macaroni salad, before ending with tiramisu, a chocolate chip cookie, chocolate pinwheel, and a cream puff.  All for diversity.  In fact, I had both a Diet Coke and a Diet Pepsi to wash it down. 

These offerings, among others, were provided by Puerto Ricans, Jews, African-Americans, Irish, Dominicans, gays, Italians, Asians, women, and Catholics.  Canadians apparently went unrepresented, as did plain old Americans, who, almost by definition, do not live or work in New York City.  When a program like this is conducted outside of certain urban areas, it usually represents an effort by Them appealing to Us by displaying their folkloric and culinary charms, as well as their lack of horns, tails, extra limbs and noxious breath.  In New York City, however, Them is Us, in that Us is no more than a bunch of Them.  This does not necessarily breed harmony and congeniality; it simply makes intergroup battles less conclusive because none of Us can dominate all of Them.  So, I spent my lunch hour celebrating diversity after a fashion in recognizing that there is, at least, a place for Them in the kitchen.

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