Friday, October 31, 2014

Play Acting

Monday, October 27, 2014
Yesterday’s real estate section reported data from the Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey on occupancy in some of the ritziest neighborhoods in the world.  285 of 496 apartments (people in Manhattan do not live in private houses surrounded by white picket fences) are vacant at least 10 months of the year in the area of East 56th Street to East 59th Street, between Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue.  Immediately to the north, East 59th Street to East 63rd Street (Bloomingdale’s Country), 628 of 1,261 homes, or almost 50 percent, are vacant the majority of the time.  Those areas contain large, very expensive apartments, not cubbyholes where you might leave your yoga pants or skateboards for random fits of exercise after an exhausting day wreaking havoc on the world’s economy.    

At first, I am heartened by the absence of the sort of people who can afford to stay away from these exclusive confines.  Less crowds at Tiffany’s, Per Se, the Metropolitan Opera House, and the Museum of Modern Art.  The price of cocaine is kept in check.  Fewer double-parked Maybachs and Rolls-Royces.  Less demand for electricity and bottled water.  

On the other hand, what if we could arrange a sort of AirBnB for inadequately sheltered New York families using the comfortable space left vacant so much of the time.  While moving is almost always disruptive, our deserving folk may not mind so much if each destination proves fit for a Saudi prince, Russian gangster or Chinese oligarch.  Since the target neighborhood is quite compact, their children should be able to remain in their local schools, eliminating one concern when relocating.  Decent living conditions might lead to greater family stability and improved job performance, and these real New Yorkers would actually pay local income taxes unlike their absent landlords.    

Wednesday, October 29, 2014
The New York Law Journal printed some of my favorite reading this morning, the list of applicants who passed the latest bar exam.  First some numbers: 11,195 people took the exam (none identified as corporations in spite of the generous view of the United States Supreme Court); 7,264 passed.  As usual my approach to the list is somewhat idiosyncratic.  It wasn’t a bad year for Cohens – 21, however, they were edged out by 23 Chens.  The 5 Levys were swamped by the 26 Lis.  There were 13 Murphys, but no Corleones.  The most common last name was Lee (58), which is polyethnic.  I couldn’t find any name that was uniquely euphonious, but I’ll give honorable mention to I’Asia Caprice Scarlett-Jones.  Good luck to all.

Stony Brook Steve joined me for lunch at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, which centered on soup for me with a blossoming cold.  We discussed a case that I am now handling that has some characteristics resembling my personal experience.  He challenged my objectivity under these circumstances, but, knowing what views I come to the table with, I believe that I can deliver a fair opinion.  We all have biases; managing them is the challenge.  Let's get the alleged economic malfeasors into court, those titans of Wall Street who turned the housing mortgage market into a cesspool of lies and corruption, and then see if people like you and me can render fair verdicts.    

Thursday, October 30, 2014
My cold had morphed from simply annoying me to annoying people around me, so I understand if you step back from the page.  I continued my soup therapy for lunch, today at Wonton Noodle Garden, 56 Mott Street (September 12, 2011, November 5, 2012).  The Cantonese dumpling soup ($4.95) was so good and hot that I had two bowls.  The dumplings were fat with shrimp, but it was the hot broth that I wanted, so I did not object to getting six dumplings in the second bowl of soup after getting seven in the first.   

Friday, October 31, 2014
Last night we saw It’s Only a Play, by Terrence McNally, reputedly the hottest ticket in town, if only because of a cast headed by Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.  By coincidence, it’s the second McNally play that we have seen this week.  On Sunday, we saw Lips Together, Teeth Apart, which I saw originally in 1991.  While I recall mixed feelings about the play back then, as opposed to the almost consistently cold feelings aroused the other day, the 1991 performers stuck in my mind.  The four-person cast was Christine Baranski, Nathan Lane, Anthony Heald and Swoosie Kurtz, none yet as prominent as they later became.  Kurtz was somewhat disappointing in the role of a childless woman whose brother recently died of AIDS.  While the character is supposed to be troubled and confused, Kurtz merely seemed tired.  On the other hand, Baranski and Lane could have raised the Titanic with the verve that they brought to their parts.  Those memories remain clear.

It’s Only a Play is also a revival, but I never saw it in the earlier productions of 1982 and 1986.  The play is far less substantial, a backstage, Broadway comedy taking place on an opening night, populated by the playwright, the director, the producer, the leading lady, the playwright's best friend and the schlepper, literally a new kid in town who is handling guests' coats and drink orders.  It is funny.  By contrast, Lips places two heterosexual couples, with secrets and stresses in their lives, on Fire Island on the Fourth of July, amid gay celebrants on either side.  There are some displays of mordant wit by the unhappy characters, each bearing an apparently incurable physical or emotional burden.  Oy, vey. 

On a lighter note, let's look at global warming.  Today's Times has a very interesting commentary on the political sensitivities on the issue.
While some Republicans are too busy bandaging their knuckles that have scraped on the ground as they strolled, certainly others are aware of the dangers that are the byproducts of the massive economic progress of the last century.  Yet, many elements of society, trade unions as well as corporations, are unwilling to admit that serious retooling of our transportation, energy, manufacturing, agricultural and mining industries are overdue if we wish to guard the health and safety of future generations.  No surprise that their political acolytes in both parties continue to play dumb (if any playing is needed) on the issue.  There is no doubt that jobs are immediately threatened by the needed reforms (revolution in some cases), but our experience teaches us that more jobs and greater prosperity often result from accepting the need for innovation, consider America's industrial response to the Axis or the transnational expansion of the automobile industry.  Yes, the displaced coal miner will have to be supported because it is not likely that he will have a role in the "clean" economy.  But, we are willing to pay farmers for not farming.  Don't we usually place good health as our greatest personal value, especially when it is absent or threatened?  Don't allow the material interests of the Koch brothers to override the health and safety of your children and generations to come. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Comings and Goings

Monday, October 20, 2014
Dimes, 143 Division Street, was identified a couple of weeks ago as "a new restaurant in Chinatown" in the New York Times. This may be geographically correct in light of the inexorable eastward expansion of Chinatown into what was once the heart of the Yiddish-speaking Lower East Side. It is barely 100 feet from 13 Essex Street where Mother Ruth Gotthelf née Goldenberg was born in 1909. Whether Dimes qualifies as a Chinatown restaurant gastronomically by any measure is less certain. On this bright, crispy day, I thought a long walk was in order, so I hied off to Dimes.

It’s a small joint and people were waiting outside to get one of the six small (two-person) round tables. I sat at a counter on the right side of the restaurant on one of six stools, against a white-painted wall. Opposite was a white-washed brick wall. One guy prepared coffee drinks at a nook in one corner in front of the kitchen. The menu is interesting, different than my normal lunchtime haunts. I ordered a spicy beet sandwich ($10), and I have to confess that I liked it. The spicy beet(s) were really present in the form of chrain, the beet-infused horseradish dressing for gefilte fish. The sandwich was on thick slices of multi-grain bread also containing roasted eggplant, pickled carrots and a hard boiled egg. Dimes was not exclusively vegetarian. There was one chicken sandwich and a gussied up BLT on the menu, but, looking over the salad-laden menu, I temporarily abandoned my carnivorous ways, with a good result.

Walking back to the courthouse, I went into the post office on East Broadway and found exactly what I sought, the special edition Batman stamps – a pane showing the Caped Crusader in four different poses. However, I discovered that the postal service had recently released a Janis Joplin commemorative stamp, which was now out of stock. I’ll have to track this down. Thinking of Joplin’s hectic life and death and the seeming inattention to issuing a stamp in her honor, I was reminded of the reaction of some Domestic Enemies of Sanity to the W.C. Fields stamp issued in 1980, on his 100th birthday. After all, said one at the time, "his reputation as an alcoholic, child- and animal-hater was also renowned." And, what better reason to issue a stamp?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014
I have very mixed emotions about The Death of Klinghoffer. Generally, I approach absolutism on censorship, not because of the homilies about the free market of ideas, but out of a visceral distrust of the censor, any censor. (Note that Rudy Giuliani was one of the speakers outside the Metropolitan Opera House last night, opposing presentation of the opera.) On the other hand, facile anti-Semitism is being restored to its place in Western thought, among intellectuals and thugs alike. So, I am unable to be conclusive about this work of art. However, Tom Morris, the director of the current production, said that "it dramatizes terrorism, it does not condone it." (Video embedded in In that regard, I must comment that shooting a wheelchair-bound cruise ship passenger and throwing him into the sea, just because he is Jewish, is pretty dramatic to begin with. Skip the singing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Better than Goodnight, Ladies?
"In one of the more inexplicable mysteries of Chinese culture, [Kenny G’s] 1989 saxophone ballad ‘Going Home’ has for decades oozed from speakers across Chinese public spaces at closing time, triggering rapid exits by the masses. The song has no lyrics, yet somehow, when it is played in a mall, Chinese shoppers know what to do. They go home." (From

The Chinese may meet or exceed the US in crowd control, but they still have a lot to learn from us about democracy. Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying "said that one reason fully open elections could not be allowed here was because they would result in ‘a numbers game’ that would force the government to skew ‘politics and policies’ toward poor people." (From Don’t worry, Chief Leung, the Home of the Free and the Land of the Brave has amply demonstrated that universal suffrage has done little to skew politics and policies toward poor people.

It rained all night and through this morning’s rush hour. However, by lunchtime, it was only damp and cold, which led me to the warm confines of Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street. But, lo and behold, there was no immediate seating, so I retreated to street level and went to Shanghai Asian Manor, 21 Mott Street. I didn’t feel entirely thwarted since I had eaten at Wo Hop just yesterday. With no chow fun on the menu at Shanghai Asian Manor, I ordered scallion pancake ($2.75) and wonton Szechuan style ($5.70), resulting in a very good meal. The scallion pancake was near great, big and crispy, but excessively oily. Had it been properly drained, we would have had the new scallion pancake champion. The eight wonton were simmered in a hot Szechuan sauce, peppery, garlicky, spicy, yummy.

The crummy weather kept the crowds away from the post office on Doyers Street, where I continued my search for Janis Joplin. Success! I saw Joplin twice in person, at what used to be call the Fillmore East on Second Avenue, and the stamps bring back distant memories.  Additionally, the kind postal worker pulled out panes of Jimi Hendrix and vintage circus posters, a particularly colorful issue. Given the few times we actually mail letters, I’m equipped for years of correspondence to come.

Thursday, October 23, 2014
I’m attending another CLE (continuing legal education) session at lunch time, so food from the one brother on the Two Brothers Halal food cart will more than suffice.

Friday, October 24, 2014
I had the pleasure of the company of Alan Silverman for lunch. We shared a Peking duck at Mottzar Kitchen, 70 Mott Street, where I have found a consistently high level of duck. Crossing over Mulberry Street, I came across the funeral of someone (I couldn’t get the name) who was either very popular or was in the flower business.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Welcome Mat

Monday, October 13, 2014
Tavish McMullen lives in ski country, about one hour outside Denver.  He gets to New York City only about twice a decade, so I was duty bound to show him a good time.  Friday, our first full day together, was our busiest.  In the morning, we went to the Tenement Museum, centered on a tenement built in 1876 at 97 Orchard Street.  The tour was very interesting, but most compelling for me was to spend time in the 325 square foot, one bedroom apartment, nearly identical to the one a couple of blocks away where my mother was born.  These apartments were heated by a coal stove and a fireplace, leaving black dust everywhere.  Only cold water came into the apartment, lit by gas lamps and candles until electrified during or after World War I.  Each floor had two toilets for the four families, with assorted friends, relatives and boarders, living there.  Toilets were mandated by 1904, after the landlords fought the local law up to the United States Supreme Court.  When my mother was born in 1909, she was probably the sixth occupant of the apartment at 13 Essex Street, with her parents, her older brother and sister, and, as I recall, her maternal grandfather, a widower by the time she was born (she was named for her maternal grandmother).  We walked down Orchard Street after leaving the museum as I explained why people came from the suburbs to buy underwear there in my youth.

We went to Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, in Chinatown, a favorite of mine for an upbeat dim sum lunch.  We continued walking to the 9/11 site to see the two waterfalls positioned on the footprint of the destroyed towers, where we had gone to the rooftop on an earlier visit by Tavish.  

We stopped into Century 21, 22 Cortlandt Street, the discount department store, where foreign tourists are directed upon emerging from passport control at JFK Airport.  I went in only to look for one thing, a shower curtain, and mirabile dictu, I found exactly what I wanted at $15.99, half off to $7.99.  But, to show you yet again what a great country we live in, the computerized cash register rang up $1.84 including sales tax, which I paid without complaint.  

America’s Favorite Epidemiologist cooked dinner before we went to the evening performance of the Lion King, the brilliant staging of a fable for early adolescents.  

Saturday was much quieter, partly because we slept so late after Friday’s busy schedule.  Tavish and I visited the New York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, where the current exhibits include Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion (until the 1960s, our history was more the former than the latter), and A Brief History of New York: Selections from A History of New York in 101 Objects, based on reporter Sam Roberts’s book, including the first subway token (when the fare rose to 15 cents in 1953), a Spaldeen (the pink rubber ball actually made by Spalding, owned by every boy that I ever met in Brooklyn), and a black-and-white cookie (my father’s favorite).  We walked back to Palazzo di Gotthelf, stopping at Jacques Torres, 285 Amsterdam Avenue, to buy the greatest chocolate chip cookies in the world, saving one for my young bride at home.

Because of the quirks of our schedule (I was attending a funeral midday on Sunday), we ate bagels and lox (from Fairway) for dinner Saturday night, and why not?

Sunday was meant to be the high point of the weekend, opening night at Madison Square Garden for the New York Rangers 2014-2015 season.  I was, of course, appropriately bedecked, although the Rangers T-shirt that I had bought for Tavish was ill-sized.  Our apparel did not seem to make a difference, however, because Our Boys in Blue appeared to be covered in gray, shrouded in an energy-less pall that resulted in a 6-3 loss.  Oh, the horror!

At least, before the game, the three of us ate very well at DB Dhaba, 108 Lexington Avenue, the 2 New Yorker’s favorite Indian restaurant.  Madame then proceeded home, leaving us anticipating the thrill of victory when we only experienced the agony of defeat.  

On Monday, Columbus Day, a holiday for the courts, Tavish and I went to Greenwich Village, where I showed him where I lived for almost 3 years when I was his age.  We looked at (the exterior of) residences dating to the early 1800s, and former warehouses and factories now containing multi-million dollar apartments, and the dump that I lived in on Morton Street, which fit neither category.  We ate lunch at John’s Pizzeria, “No Slices,” 278 Bleecker Street, which I first patronized in the 1960s.  I am pleased to report that it has changed less than I have.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Bobby Bowden is a retired football coach, who holds the best winning record in major college coaching, even after vacating 12 wins for the 2006 and 2007 seasons because of an academic cheating scandal.  Of course, had Penn State’s Joe Paterno not been stripped of 111 wins because of the child sex abuse scandal, Bowden would sit second.  Now, Bowden has coauthored a book, The Wisdom of Faith.  The publisher’s blurb sums it up: “The success . . . the influence . . . the accolades . . . the wins. . . none of it matters if our lives are not rooted in faith.  God trumps our best hand.  He always wins.  Which is how it should be.  That is the wisdom he wants to share.  Let him tell you why faith and happiness are inseparable.”  

I suspect that the average Florida State football fan during Bowden’s long tenure kept the faith only as long as the team had a winning record.  Happiness came from no higher than the scoreboard above the stadium.  Since I believe that faith is ultimately delusion, I have no reason to allow it to guide me in critical moments, if any.  The book I would like to see would be entitled The Faith of Wisdom, but I doubt that it would emerge from any locker room.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014
While I eschew faith, I have room in my life for revelation.  A good example arose the other day when my dear friend Lyn Dobrin called me to discuss my comment on the change in rabbinical views of chicken -- not meat to meat -- which was codified in the 15th century (see Shulkan Arukh [Yoreh De'a 87:3] whatever that means).  Lyn suggested, and I heartily agreed, that chicken parmigiana would, therefore, have been Kosher in days of yore.  With that I had a revelation.  

"Chicken parm" was Carmela Soprano's signature dish.  And, the Inquisition scattered Iberian and Mediterranean Jews all over the world.   Aha!  Carmela Soprano was Jewish, descended from a Jewish family expelled from their native land, only to land on the shores of New Jersey, which helps explain how her daughter Meadow got into Columbia University.
Friday, October 17, 2014
We welcome other guests this weekend, America’s Loveliest Nephrologist and her companion from San Francisco.  Because they have an array of friends and family to visit in the vicinity, we will do less entertaining and, regrettably, see them only at random intervals, but we expect to enjoy every moment together. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Praise the Lord and Pass the Salt

Monday, October 6, 2014
One problem that I have with organized religion is the sanctimonious pretense to hold eternal verities, without conceding that eternal is often not forever.  For instance, a thousand years ago, the big rabbis decided that chicken really was meat, an important definition within Jewish dietary rules.  Before that, chicken wasn’t considered meat, allowing it to be served with dairy dishes.  St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, Roman Catholic theological giants, placed “animation” at about 40 days after conception.  I’m not going to put English words into their Latin mouths, but they seemed to be speaking of personhood, if not life.

This philosophical exercise is inspired by comments from Neil L. Andersen, of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, the second highest Mormon governing body.  In explaining his church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, he recently said: “While many governments and well-meaning individuals have redefined marriage, the Lord has not.”  The trouble is that Apostle Andersen forgot that, “in 1890, President Wilford Woodruff, fourth president of the Church, received what Latter-day Saints believe to be a revelation in which God withdrew the command to practice plural marriage.”  [Offical Mormon media outlet]  So, the Lord never changes her mind, unless she does.   

Conservation of Resources Headline: “ISIS’ Ammunition Is Shown to Have Origins in U.S. and China”

What a start to a new year.  Last week, I found a new restaurant, and today I found another one.  Kaede, Japanese Restaurant, 90 Chambers Street, is barely open one week.  Its interior is quite attractive, with two-foot square slate-looking tiles, very dark brown faux-leather upholstery, a wall of cherry-toned wood and a sleek sushi bar on its back wall.  However, the vacuous “pop” style background music was too much in the foreground.  

Because we had two different types of salmon at lunch and dinner yesterday, I skipped the sushi, which was probably a mistake.  Instead, I order a bento box ($11.95) with teriyaki chicken.  It had four small pieces of a very good California roll (crypto-crabmeat and avocado), three mini shu mei dumplings, also very good, a salad of iceberg lettuce, as if you needed to be reminded why iceberg lettuce makes a bad salad, and a thin piece of tough white meat chicken, cut into strips and covered with a vague sauce.  It also came with a bowl of cloudy miso soup.  The California roll was so good, although not what I usually order, that I’ll probably return for straight sushi in the future.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014
While I have to admit not having much luck with new restaurants this year, I can report on an outstanding ice cream flavor that has made its seasonal return – pumpkin at Trader Joe’s ($3.99 a quart).  It tastes enough like pumpkin if you like pumpkin, and not enough like pumpkin if you don’t like pumpkin.  It is very creamy with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.  It is so seductive that, last night, America’s Favorite Epidemiologist had some even after her bedtime teeth brushing ritual.  

I went to an in-house educational session at lunch time, equipped with a chicken-lamb combo over rice ($6) from the Two Brothers Halal cart on the corner of Centre Street and Worth Street, although the cart was only large enough to hold one person.  If Jews and Muslims spent more time eating together, many of our problems might be resolved, or just forgotten in the glowing aftermath of an excellent meal.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014
In spite of my rumored facility with language, I’m really a numbers guy.  After all, I taught ninth-grade algebra for a whole year.  So, I’m fascinated by the New York Times’s interactive college football map, which displays fan loyalty throughout the United States, by zip code, based on Facebook data.  
Forget the sports angle, it’s the sociology that intrigues me.  Why do minority neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan, Newark, Trenton, Camden, Boston, Worcester and Philadelphia “like” the football team of the University of Florida Gators so much?  I simply don’t believe that many of their residents have second homes in Gainesville, Florida.  Why are the North Carolina Tar Heels so popular in Montana, and along the border of South Dakota and Nebraska?  A very predictable result, however, is the national constituency for Notre Dame, with the exception of Utah where Roman Catholics are probably as much a threat as homosexuals..  
Thursday, October 9, 2014
The sign says Cheung Wong Kitchen, 38A Allen Street, but the menu says 38 Yummy Kitchen. In either case, it is a new restaurant for me, although not newly-opened.  It is small, 2 rectangular tables seat 6 each, and one small round table can fit another 6.  Half the floor space is taken by the open kitchen.  The restaurant sits on a corner and its north face and half of its west face are glass, allowing a lot of light into the otherwise dingy interior.

It offers almost 60 dishes over rice costing $4.50 to $6.75, most $5 or less.  I had Singapore chow fun, one of my signature dishes ($6.75).  It’s not on the menu, but Singapore chow mai fun and several chow funs are, so there was no hesitation in giving me what I asked for.  In spades.  It was the biggest portion of any noodle dish that I can recall, and well prepared, too.  The spicy curried noodles were mixed with green peppers, beef, pork, egg, shrimp, and bean sprouts.  I was very hungry, but still left about one quarter over.  A Styrofoam cup of tea was gratis.  

Friday, October 10, 2014
Trip Advisor, the website that aggregates reader’s opinions about hotels, restaurants and attractions all over the world, has just released its list of the 25 best restaurants in the United States, according to its respondents.  I’ll provide the top ten.  See

Alinea – Chicago
Eleven Madison Park – New York City
Restaurant Gary Danko – San Francisco
Halls Chophouse – Charleston, SC
Victoria & Albert’s – Orlando
Uchi – Austin
Bouley – New York City
Canlis Restaurant – Seattle
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse – Dallas
Daniel – New York City

Note that Bouley and Daniel did not get three stars from Michelin last week; only Eleven Madison Park did.  Three of the other seven top-rated New York Michelin group hit the top 25: Le Bernardin (11), Per Se (19) and Jean Georges (24).  In contrast to the Michelin 8, none of which we ever patronized, we have eaten at 3 of the 25: Bouley (before it moved around the corner), the French Laundry (Yountville, CA), and Chez Panisse (Berkeley, CA).  It looks like I have a lot of eating yet to do.

Tavish McMullen arrived last night for visit over the long weekend.  We have several interesting things planned, which will begin next week’s report.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

5775 and All That

Monday, September 29, 2014
We watched the inaugural show of the 40th season of "Saturday Night Live" over the weekend  The host and the musical guest were unknown to us, but that was probably generational.  Imagine millennials being offered Henny Youngman and Sarah Vaughan.  The big problem with the program, though, was the absence of anything funny, humorous, or mirthful.  I almost chuckled at 12:43 AM, after more than an hour of ill-executed material that probably wasn't even funny on paper.  By then, America's Favorite Epidemiologist was in the arms of Morpheus, so she could not confirm whether there was even a moment of relief from the late night tedium.
Fortunately, earlier in the evening we had a more rewarding experience at a preview performance of “The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time,” just imported from London.  The play, based on a popular book, deals with the difficulty of parenting an adolescent boy, who falls within the autism spectrum (although never made explicit).  It drags in the second act, and there is some confusion about the context of the presentation, but the conflicted characters are engaging and the staging is quite imaginative.  It opens in another week, and maybe they’ll do some trimming by then.  Do see it.  It might be interesting to compare the New York Times review of the London production with what we read next week.

New year – new restaurant.  21 Shanghai House, 21 Division Street, replaced Gold River Malaysian Cuisine, I’m sorry to say, because I’ve become quite taken with Malaysian cuisine, and there are so few alternatives.  In any case, 21 Shanghai House just opened after renovating a good part of the interior.  The cashier’s station has moved; a wall of large tiles is new.  Different artwork is on display; no flat screen television was evident.

The menu seems pretty conventional.  I had a scallion pancake ($2.50), which would have been good if not so greasy.  From a list of 20 lunch specials, all $5.50, I chose shrimp with lobster sauce, which was verbally corrected to shrimp with egg sauce, and turned out to be scrambled eggs with shrimp.  Accompanied by a large mound of white rice, it was an acceptable lunch dish.  Nothing sets this place apart, especially on a street with a handful of lower-priced, cafeteria-style joints and a few “real” restaurants, such as Fuleen Seafood Restaurant and Jing Star Restaurant.  In order to succeed, I think it will need to rely on friends and family rather than the kindness of strangers.

There is a 12-hour time difference between New York and Hong Kong, so, even though it is pre-dawn there now, live feeds show thousands of student-led protestors in the streets demanding free elections.  I wonder if the repressive regime is inspired by the Keep Out the Vote message of some American politicians.  It’s interesting that our R*p*bl*c*n friends are willing to err on the side of too much money in politics, but are militant in limiting the numbers of voters at the booth.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Here’s some news for you big spenders.  Michelin released its New York City restaurant rankings today, and found six worthy of three stars, one less than last year.  Comments from each joint’s website, except as noted.

Per Se, 10 Columbus Circle – Website under construction.  New York Times review of October 11, 2011, called Per Se the best restaurant in New York City: “Its synthesis of culinary art and exquisite service is now complete.  It represents the ideal of an American high-culture luxury restaurant.”  Choice of a nine-course vegetable tasting menu or a nine-course chef’s tasting menu; each costs $310.
Masa, 10 Columbus Circle – “The otherwise simple décor is intentionally sparse to act as a blank canvass on which the food will be allotted space to shine.  The courses build on seasonal properties utilized only in their freshest most delicious state.  Each dish is composed to ensure that the most basic, innate character of the ingredients persists.”  $450, not including tip, tax or drinks, 20-25 Courses.  “Menu Changes Every Day Depending On Seasonal Availability And Chef Inspiration For The Day.”  Must reserve with a credit card, and cancellations less than 48 hours in advance cost $200 per person.
Jean Georges, 1 Central Park West (a/k/a 15 Columbus Circle when it was an office building) – “Impeccable service, tableside preparations, and floor-to-ceiling windows with stunning views of Central Park and Columbus Circle all contribute to an unforgettable dining experience.  Jean-Georges offers a three-course prix-fixe menu and two six-course tasting menus: a traditional tasting of the chef’s signature dishes, and a seasonal tasting featuring fresh market ingredients.”  Three course dinner, $128; “Chef Vongerichten’s Assortment of Signature Dishes,” $208, wine pairing $148 extra.
Le Bernardin,155 West 51st Street – Because Le Bernardin’s website is very unpoetic, simply reciting its many honors and awards, let’s look at the New York Times review of May 22, 2102: “No other restaurant in the city makes the simple cooking of fish (and the fish at Le Bernardin is cooked simply, when it is cooked at all) seem so ripe with opportunities for excitement.  Some of the thrills are the hushed kind, like the way black garlic, pomegranate and lime support the crisp skin and white flesh of sautéed black bass.  Others are scene-stealers, as when a white slab of steamed halibut is slowly surrounded by a crimson pool of beet sauce that, with crème fraîche stirred in, will turn the delirious pink of summer borscht.”  Four course dinner, $135; chef’s tasting menu, $198, $336 with wine pairing.  
Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, 200 Schermerhorn Street (Brooklyn) – “Settle in to the kitchen counter at this intimate 18 seat space for a unique dining experience featuring the cuisine of Chef Cesar Ramirez.  This prix-fixe dinner [$255 plus NY tax and 20% service fee] consists of over fifteen small plate courses.”  
Eleven Madison Park, 11 Madison Avenue – “Our [$225] multi-course tasting menu focuses on the extraordinary agricultural bounty of New York and on the centuries-old culinary traditions that have taken root here.”

Of course, I've never been to any of these restaurants.  I've gotten close once. We dined at Nougatine at Jean Georges, which sits in front of Jean Georges.  It's more casual and cheaper, but it still has a sexy vibe based on proximity.  I have to admit that, except for brushing past Bruce Willis, I don't remember a thing about the evening.  Early in this century, America's Favorite Epidemiologist treated one of her two favorite husbands to dinner at the French Laundry, Yountville, California, Per Se's parent restaurant.  Back then, with only a modest amount of wine, dinner for two cost about $400, and he was worth it. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014
The Boyz Club met today at Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street.  The secret of an excellent lunch (I’ve never eaten dinner here) is to order one scallion pancake ($2.25) (no worse than second best in Chinatown) and three lunch specials ($4.95-6.25) for every two people.  See  You’ll have a good variety of dishes, a more than ample amount of food and spend about $12-13 apiece.

Thursday, October 2, 2014
I don't find the biblical tale of Noah and the ark particularly inspiring.  There are just too many things that don't make sense, including forgetting to get the unicorns on board.  Notably, it shows a petulant deity, effectively reversing Creation.  No matter, my thoughts turned to Noah last night when I learned that, for the fifth time since we moved into the Palazzo di Gotthelf 11 years ago, water from the apartment above was leaking into our happy home.  This, of course, while we are only beginning to plan for repair of the water damage to our wood floors caused by the faulty installation of our new refrigerator.  Of course, Noah was spared from the Flood, which was not our luck.  On the other hand, aside from his family and a bunch of animals, he lost everything else.  We didn't face such thorough destruction.  Internet, cable TV and Netflix remain undisturbed.  

Friday, October 3, 2014
We fast tonight and tomorrow, hoping to make a clear delineation between the past and the future.  In the past, our Rabbi Marc Margolius has wisely asked us not to undertake extreme makeovers, but to aim for a 5% improvement in our conduct.  It might seem trivial, too little to bother with.  But, the basis of great fortunes has often been compound interest.