Friday, August 21, 2015

Pompous and Pampas

Monday, August 17, 2015
Even had I known that Donald Trump was coming to the courthouse today for jury duty, I would not have left grandson Noam’s birthday party early.  As a practical matter, I would have had to leave the crowd of children, modal age 5, even before the cake was served on Sunday in order to get home from Massachusetts in time to get a good night’s sleep and prepare myself for a date with destiny.  Actually, I had no reason to expect that a date with destiny was in the offing, because of Trump’s failure to do what any of you might do and many have done in a similar situation, call ahead and ask for a restaurant recommendation in Chinatown.  Of course, I am unsure whether I would have, as I have often done, insisted that we lunch together.  I’d have to consider the crowd of reporters and photographers who might take the fun out of our chow fun, or the possibility that we could not even find a joint that was big enough to hold our two egos.  Instead, I proceeded, at or beyond the speed limit, to our hideaway high above Amsterdam Avenue with vivid images of particularly adorable children (ours) fresh in our mind.

Please read Oliver Sacks’s latest essay, if you haven’t already.  If you have, I am certain that you have commended it to others. Http://
While Sacks writes of a spiritual victory of a sort, there is news of a physical victory.  B&H Dairy, 127 Second Avenue, has reopened after suffering collateral damage in the fatal gas explosion that destroyed several buildings immediately south of it.  For decades, I have enjoyed its unparalleled French toast and superb soups.  It is often incorrectly identified as a Kosher restaurant, but, except for an ill-considered interval in the 1980s, it has not bothered with meeting all of the demanding and somewhat irrational demands of Kosher certification.  Instead, it offers a dairy menu, without any meat or meat products.  If you want something with your scrambled eggs, it’s lox, cheese, onions, mushrooms or peppers, not bacon.  A stool at the counter is the preferred seating.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
It was no surprise that Shanghai Asian Cuisine, 14A Elizabeth Street, served nearly A+ cold sesame noodles ($4.75).  It is a sister establishment to Shanghai Asian Manor, 21 Mott Street, the first, and so far the best, provider of cold sesame noodles in this quest.  The large portion was coated with a thick sauce, having a distinct peanut butter note.  There was no danger of splattering, as the sauce stuck closely to the noodles.  There were slivers of very baby green peapods on top, but no sesame seeds.  The restaurant was busy, both tourists and locals filled the 18 or so small tables.  The airconditioning met the challenge of the 88 degree, feels like 92, temperature outside.  Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Those who don’t know me well might think that I am somehow connected to AL’s Place, pronounced the #1 new restaurant in the US by Bon Appetit magazine.
First of all, it is located in San Francisco’s Mission District, where I visit only once or twice a year.  Second, its name comes from the chef/owner Aaron London.  The rest of the list is almost as far removed from me except for #4 Semilla, 160 Havemeyer Street, Brooklyn, which announces that it is “a vegetable-forward restaurant.”  It seats 18 people at a U-shaped counter, somewhat like Benihana or Friendly’s.  They offer a set menu for $75, comprised of 10 dishes.  After you.

Every Wednesday, Time Out New York gives away free its weekly issue, at or around subway stations.  It likes to publish lists, too.  Today, the cover article names the 20 best hamburgers in New York, according to a reader survey.
Again, my reclusive life has kept me away from every one of these joints, although I recollect that I set foot in a couple for drinks only in the distant past.  As a practical matter, I am more likely to follow Time Out New York’s list than Bon Appetit’s in the decade to come.  
Associated Press – “Islamic State militants beheaded one of Syria’s most prominent antiquities scholars in the ancient town of Palmyra and then hanged his body from one of its Roman columns, the Syrian state news media and an activist group said on Wednesday.”  Efforts to connect this to Israel are currently underway.

I paid my weekly visit to Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street.  It looks like Wok Wok will take its place alongside (literally and figuratively) Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, as a reliable provider of Chineseish food.  The dozen or so customers did not tax the wait staff today, but I was still served a cup of hot water and a tea bag even when I asked for Chinese tea.  My bark was sufficient to send the waitress back to the kitchen to get the real thing without lingering to see if I would bite.

I ordered curry beef bowl ($6.95), a big mound of rice, 8 or so chunks of beef, small cucumber spears and peanuts, in a mild but tasty sauce.  I mushed them all together, making for a very filling dish.  While eating it, another waitress came over with a second order of the same dish, demonstrating some remaining roughness in service.   

Thursday, August 20, 2015
I probably deserved what happened today.  I agreed to have lunch at Pig and Khao, 68 Clinton Street, which received a two-star review from the New York Times.  Like other  fashionable new restaurants on the margins of Chinatown, it usually opens only for dinner.  So, when X told me that it had select summer lunch times, we hied off to the depths of the once classic Lower East Side.  (I think that my father lived on Clinton Street as a new immigrant from Poland.)  In fact, I did what I had never done before for a weekday lunch, I took a taxicab, because the 1.3 miles that separates the restaurant from the courthouse is too long to venture to and fro on foot in the middle of a work day, especially one with summer temperatures and humidity.  The one-way fare alone cost more than my typical lunch.   

Before I got to Pig and Khao, I was concerned about the name of the place.  However, I rationalized that the chef/owner is Leah Cohen, and that X has been an outstanding contributor to the liturgy of West End Synagogue.  But still, finding Pig and Khao dark, with the corrugated iron gate pulled 2/3 down, was not a total disappointment.  X was more upset than I was, because he had received (and shared) notice of the special summer hours.  In any case, we looked around and, while there was no sign of a good corned beef sandwich or a knish in the neighborhood, we found our way into Balvanera, 152 Stanton Street, at the corner of Suffolk Street, an Argentine restaurant.  The bright, square, high-ceilinged room was empty, but still seemed inviting.  Sammy, a semi-lapsed Orthodox Jew from Chicago, was a friendly host and waiter.  
The lunch menu offers a three-course special at $19, a particularly good deal because it included main courses priced at $13 to $17 alone.  X and I decided, with Sammy's guidance, to order one lunch special and one sandwich, splitting everything along the way.  So, we had two empanadas, one with roast beef and one with vegetables, both excellent, accompanied by a mustardy aioli and chimichurri, a cilantro-based dressing.  Then, we each had half of the hamburguesa Balvanera, a thick cheeseburger, with "provoleta," an Argentine version of provolone, and the Choripan, a typical Latin American sausage sandwich, with a big slab of pimento and pickles.  Both sandwiches came with shoe string fries, a little under cooked. 
Dessert was three 1 inch diameter scoops of mate ice cream.  Mate (mah-tay) is an unpleasant hot beverage, very popular in Argentina.   
Fortunately, the ice cream, made by a local supplier, had only faint notes of mate, and was a pleasant end to a very good meal.  Unfortunately and undeservedly for Balvanera, no other customers came in while X and I enjoyed the food and Sammy's company. 
Friday, August 21, 2015
Right now, I am reading the deposition of a seven-year old girl whose parents are suing a neighbor for trespass.  The parties live in Manhattan; the father works on Wall Street, the mother stays at home.  The girl testified that she takes classes in art, gymnastics, dance and reading (with a reading tutor), after school.  On Saturdays, she takes karate.  Uncle Hymie used to say "America, I love you!  Say it three times a day." 
My mother was born about 9 months and one week after my grandmother arrived in the US from Poland, reunited with my grandfather who left Poland three years earlier.  That made my mother, along with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, an anchor baby.

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