Friday, October 2, 2015


Monday, September 28, 2015
I don’t know where you were Friday night, but I wasn’t at the White House for the state dinner for Chinese President Xi Jinping.  While important matters of geopolitics were no doubt discussed before, during and after the meal, my concern, of course, was with the menu.  Although Anita Lo, a distinguished Chinese-American chef, assisted the regular White House chef, the menu was overwhelmingly domestic: wild mushroom soup with black truffle, grilled Colorado lamb, and Maine lobster.  Some concessions to the guest of honor came with the lychee sorbet served with poppyseed bread and butter pudding for dessert, and Shaoxing wine, a traditional Chinese rice wine, served with the soup.  If you are going to emphasize home court advantage, where were the chocolate chip cookies, for instance?
Ms. Lo owns and operates Annisa, 13 Barrow Street, in Greenwich Village, a small space that had to be entirely rebuilt after an electrical fire.  Annisa offers a five course tasting menu at $88 and a seven course tasting menu at $118, as well as à la carte items, such as, Duck and Summer Vegetable Garbure with Foie Gras and Pickled Verjus Grape Toast ($38, translation extra).  By the way, the bread and butter pudding on the White House menu was lifted right from Annisa.  Given that the dinner was Friday night, was it possible that the poppyseed bread used for dessert was actually challah, a constant component of the tribe’s Friday night meal since before rock ’n’ roll?     

The holiday caused me to miss Wok Wok Southest Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street, last week, so I began the week there.  I ordered egg gravy over rice with chicken ($7.50), a pleasant, but undistinguished dish.  The egg gravy was closer in flavor and texture to egg drop soup than the egg-based lobster sauce that was the first food that I ever ate in a Chinese restaurant.  Lobster sauce usually has a garlic kick which this sauce lacked.  The portion was generously sized, with lots of pieces of white meat chicken, a mound of rice and plenty of sauce taking up a big soup bowl.  I threw in hot sauce to make it more interesting and it was satisfying as comfort food.  The restaurant was nearly empty, a change from recent weeks, and a temporary one, I hope.  I got my cast iron pot of tea without even asking.  
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
As I have indicated in the past, I am addicted to lists.  If someone has taken the trouble to bring order to a collection of things, I will pay attention.  So, naturally, I examined’s Top Rated Hotels 2015 with some care.  On the whole, I was not impressed.  The list covers only the US and Canada, locales where I find it easier to understand my options and read between the lines.  I want the experiences and insights of predecessors when I have to deal with Sofia or Phnom Penh.    

Only one spot was familiar to me and it brought back memories – the Oceana Beach Club Hotel, 849 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, California.  I stayed there in 1971 for several weeks, shortly after Stan Laurel (Oliver Hardy’s companion) died while living there in retirement.  A single guy, I had just accepted a transfer to the Los Angeles office of the computer company that employed me.  I had been in California for only two days a year earlier, had no friends or relatives there, but welcomed the distance from a romantic entanglement here in New York.  I arrived on Sunday, June 20th, rented a car, checked into the Oceana, and went to work the next morning managing a group of too typical Angelenos, not particularly in a hurry to get their work done.  I recall that, by Tuesday, I met the woman whom I would marry 18 months later, but that had nothing to do with the Oceana.

In those first days, I kept to myself, returning to the Oceana after work and looking for an apartment on the weekends.  One weekend night, I was either watching television or reading when I heard a series of blasts and booms, sounding not far away.  The Oceana is right across the road from the Santa Monica beach and the Pacific Ocean, and it is the middle of 1971 when Richard Nixon’s “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War, promised three years earlier, had still not emerged.  By then, the US and its impotent South Vietnamese ally were on the ropes.  While the North Vietnamese/Viet Cong forces were notably effective on the ground, and often under ground, there was no evidence that they possessed long distance striking ability.  Yet, for a few moments I thought, was an invasion or bombardment under way?  Had the Communists crossed the Pacific and were now attacking Santa Monica, hardly more improbable than the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  I timidly peeked out the window, facing the ocean.  What I saw instantly reassured me as I realized that it was July 4th, and the Oceana was squarely in line with an extravagant holiday fireworks display.  

Eva Posman, distinguished attorney, joined me for lunch, summoned to the courthouse not in her professional capacity, but having been called for jury duty.  We went to New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe, 50 Mott Street, because Eva expressed an interest in Peking duck.  At $45 for a whole duck, it has jumped in price.  As recently as March 18, 2015, it was $38 for a whole duck and $22 for a half duck.  But it was excellent, as fat-free as I have seen any duck in Chinatown, the skin crispy, the meat tasty.  It came with 8 pancakes, hoisin sauce, slivers of scallion and cucumber.  We also shared cold sesame noodles ($5.25) as a vorshpeis, a concession to my summer obsession.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015
They got it right this time.  The free marketeers have opposed government regulation as an enemy to job creation.  Left alone, our job creators expand economic opportunity and generate wealth.  That’s exactly what Volkswagen did for years until the heavy hand of the government came down on them.  Because of its ingenious approach to regulating pollutants in automobile emissions, VW created countless jobs around the world for pulmonologists, respiratory therapists, oncologists, radiologists and those who operate in their wake.  Let’s give credit where credit is due.  

The network television industry is another place where people labor hard to produce defective goods.  This article documents the dreck that has been peddled over the last five years on the national networks.

It is another reminder why I confine my television watching mainly to the Mets (April-October) and the Rangers (October-June).

Thursday, October 1, 2015
Normally, my interest in food awakens at or about noon, hours after much of the rest of me has risen.  This morning, as I walked to the courthouse, I stopped in Woops, 93 Worth Street, a new bakery and coffee shop.  I went in to buy chocolate chip cookies for a colleague, who holds them in as high regard as I do.  I’ve been buying her samples from local bakeries every so often, and was immediately impressed by the thickness and darkness of the Woops triple chocolate cookie ($3.65).  As I was paying, I saw this disturbing sight on the counter.
[Click on photo to enlarge]
While I am a multiculturist generally, I sometimes balk at crosscultural endeavors that defy logic.  Woops is offering what purports to be pizza rugelach, jalpeño rugelach, feta and olive rugelach, and blue cheese rugelach.  While I have no doubt that these are carefully prepared with high quality ingredients, they ain’t rugelach.  I am certain that pizza, jalpeños, feta cheese and blue cheese never crossed the Carpathian Mountains into Poland and the Ukraine where the very name rugelach was born.  Cf. Wikipedia: “The name is Yiddish, the Jewish language of eastern Europe.”  

The appearance of these items belies description as rugelach.  The flaky, crescent shape screams croissant, or the Argentine medialunas, a smaller, sweeter version.  The French and the Argentinians can put whatever they want into their baked goods, but leave our rugelach alone.
Friday, October 2, 2015
Yummy Tummy Alert: Pumpkin ice cream is back at Trader Joe's. 
Save the date -- October 24th

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