Friday, October 18, 2013

Sweets To The Sweet

Monday, October 14, 2013
Around 1991, I visited Nate Persily at Yale, where he was an undergraduate.  As we walked across the campus, we passed a younger man, who appeared to be the quintessential punk rocker, dressed in dark jeans and a black leather jacket, ripped with painted-on slogans and symbols, glistening with chains and safety pins.  His haircut featured a partially-shaved scalp.  “Elie Wiesel’s son,” Nate muttered to me.  I remember thinking, “For this he went to a concentration camp?”  It all came back as I read an otherwise innocuous story in the Sunday paper referring to the very same Elisha Wiesel, now 41 and a partner at Goldman Sachs.  I spent the next few hours considering which anti-social persona I found more tolerable.

It’s Columbus Day, a holiday for the courts, and I took a long walk through midtown Manhattan, stopping to get a haircut, among other errands.  Walking up Madison Avenue, in that stretch of men’s stores in the mid 40s, I discovered that J. Press has opened a large store on the corner of 47th Street, leaving its long-held position on East 44th Street, around the corner from Brooks Brothers.  J. Press is the preppiest of stores and I never had reason to enter it before in all these decades.   Today, for instance, it had college pennants in its windows.  Even the sign in the window offering 30% off fall and winter merchandise did not make me break stride, but I stopped when my eye caught a large display of colorful wool British college scarves.  Living in New York, I’ve usually owned one for the cold winters.  Currently, I wear the colors of Jesus College, Cambridge, a nod to my ecumenical spirit.  Before that, I wore a St. John’s College, Oxford scarf, a lovely present from Nate Persily, in fact.  I thought that I could pick a nice gift or two from the big selection on display at a good discount, and I said as much as I entered the store.  Oh, no, the elegant sales clerk quickly informed me, they are full price.  A colleague of his hastened to add that 30% off applied only to select merchandise.  As I pivoted and sought the exit, I pronounced that the selections were obviously made by someone other than me.

Strangely enough, when I looked on-line at, I found about 40 different color patterns, more from the Ivy League rather than the United Kingdom.  Shh!  Don’t tell the guys on Madison Avenue, but they were on sale at $73.50 each, 25% off the regular price of $98.  If you’d like to go to the source, try, offering Cambridge University scarves at £22 each; or for Oxford University at £24.99.  An excellent selection on this side of the Atlantic at $59 is available at, and, in the spirit of democracy, it includes schools in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.    

Tuesday, October 15, 2012
It’s a beautiful day to enter a plea in federal court on terrorism charges, it seems, as Abu Anas al-Libi, a Libyan suspected as an al Qaeda leader, was brought into the Moynihan courthouse next door, attracting over 2 dozen reporters and cameramen.  I fully support prosecuting such suspects here, rather than at some obscure military facility, as we barely cling to the concept of an open society governed civilly by civilians.  Additionally, the food here, bordering Chinatown, has to be so much better than Guantanamo.  

I stopped to talk to the manager of the just-opened Beautiful Memory Desserts, 67A Bayard Street, in front of its very attractive front window display.  It’s the offshoot of a place in Flushing, Queens, which has a large Chinatown just one subway stop beyond the Mets home field and the United States Tennis Center.  I didn’t go in to eat because it only serves desserts and none of them are chocolate.  It has an interesting, extensive menu, though, including durian pancakes, toddy palm tofu pudding, grass jelly & red bean soup with green tea ice cream, and sweet ball in sweet ginger soup.  I wouldn’t know where to begin.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Yesterday, I stopped to talk to the manager of the brand new Beautiful Memory Desserts, 67A Bayard Street,.  Today, I put my money where my mouth was and sat down for dessert after having a bowl of soup next door at 69 Bayard Restaurant.  At first, I ordered something that I understood, but I quickly changed my mind and got into the spirit of this (ad)venture, and ordered “Black Pearl” in Vanilla Sauce with Green Tea Ice Cream ($4.50).  The manager, who was glad to see me again, told me that they were out of Black Pearls (whatever they are) and he was substituting green apple jelly.  Sure, why not?  The vanilla sauce was  milky, vanilla-flavored shaved ice; the green tea ice cream was unsweet; the green apple jelly looked and tasted like Gummi Bear shavings.  All in all, the $4.50 might be better invested in a pint of Häagen-Dazs.

Thursday, October 17, 2013
I had the pleasure of meeting Danny Macaroons last evening, right after work, at a food and crafts show in the Great Hall of Grand Central Station.  Danny, who has managed to overcome his upbringing in Great Neck, has established an elite macaroon baking business.  Understand, that’s macaroons, not macarons. Macaroons are based on egg whites, sugar and coconut, while macarons are based on whole eggs, sugar and almond powder or ground almonds.  Even at a distance, you'll have no problem distinguishing them, because macarons, shaped like puffy sandwich cookies, are usually vividly colored, while naturally-colored macaroons are shaped like corrugated cones.

I bought a package of four macaroons as a love offering for America's Favorite Epidemiologist. You will have to go to to find your local outlet, or order on line.  I strongly urge you to patronize this talented young man's efforts and keep him in the baking business and away from the banking business, which was the sad fate for so many of his friends and classmates.  By the way, as a form of renewing our vows, my young bride gave me two of the macaroons and they were outstanding.

I sought a new restaurant, not just a new dessert/beverage shop today, and I thought that I found one at Division 31 Restaurant, 31 Division Street.  It was brand new, the gift potted plants standing by the door.  The doors were open; the tables were all set, but empty.  The restaurant’s extensive take-out menu is in English and includes about 35 lunch specials, all at $5.50, although many of them would not be found at your typical neighborhood Chinese restaurant, to wit, Water Spinach w. Fermented Bean Curd Over White Rice, Sour Veg. w. Intestine Over White Rice, Squid w. Black Bean Sauce.  No one was visible at first, but my cheery greeting brought forth a young Chinese woman.  “Food, eat, lunch,” I said, getting right to the point.  “No,” she replied.  “Later?”  “No.”  “Never?” I parted with, knowing that that was not the last word.

Friday, October 18, 2013
I realize that some of my advice is subject to the statute of limitations and has outlived its usefulness to you even before you get to read it.  However, when I inform you that delicious Champagne mangos were on sale at 3 for $2 on Canal Street several days ago, I am also building a historical record to help future scholars understand our lives and times.  Right now, though, I can hip you to an event that will be available for months to come.  The New York Public Library has just opened an exhibition on Al Hirschfeld, the master caricaturist, who lived to be 99 ½ years old.  I own several Hirschfeld drawings and met him a number of times when he autographed books, postage stamps, placards and other material for me.  The exhibition, at the magnificent Fifth Avenue building, will run until January 4, 2014, so you have no excuse to miss it as long as you are within the sound of my pen.

Since never is a long time, I went back to Division 31 Restaurant today.  There were still no other customers, but one neatly-dressed man was sitting at a table examining some papers.  When he stood up to greet me, I asked if they were serving lunch.  “Hot pot,” he said, a term that appears in the restaurant’s window, but not on the take-out menu, which is perfectly understandable since carrying a lit Sterno can under a pot of bubbling oil any distance is hardly a prudent measure.  The large round tabletops had holes to place the apparatus in proper positions. When I showed the young man the menu with its several dozen lunch specials, he indicated that that is still on their to-do list.  While yesterday I was barred from any food, today it was hot pot or nothing.  Since I wasn’t so hot for hot pot, I promised to return soon again for a regular lunch.  Don’t worry, I ate.

1 comment:

  1. OK, so it took me 24 hours to get all the way to the Thursday 10/17 entry and your maiden (Danny) macaroon voyage! Nice piece, and in light of the Monday 10/14 entry, Danny social persona is highly commendable and his father thanks you for noticing....