Monday, January 4, 2016
I'm not sure how to interpret my behavior last night, whether it represents an inability to deal with change, or a bold move into another direction. This irresolution arose from leading Stony Brook Steve, his lovely wife and America's Favorite Epidemiologist to Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street, for dinner. This joint has become a favorite of mine since opening in August, but now since retiring I won't be a couple of blocks away five days a week. On the other hand, I went to Chinatown at night, for dinner, with women, a dramatic departure from my eating habits for the last six years. In either case, we had a wonderful meal, including roti chicken wrap, roti beef wrap, crispy veggie spring rolls, spicy lemongrass chicken over rice, tangerine beef over rice, Wok Wok beef with fried egg in a stone rice bowl, and whole fried red snapper with mango salad. By the way, the secret to going to Chinatown on Sunday night, when it is especially crowded, is to park next to the courthouses on Centre Street, Worth Street and Baxter Street, where there is almost no housing and the spaces are reserved for judges and staffmduring the work week. Stay away from any street with operating businesses. They will be near-impassable and parking spaces locked down for the whole weekend.
If you want a fairly comprehensive look at New York Kosher and "Jewish-style" delicatessens, I recommend http://ny.eater.com/2015/12/
22/10628778/best-nyc-delis. Several authors contribute to this long piece, including the reliable Robert Sietsema, who wrote The Food Lover's Guide to the Best Ethnic Eating in New York City, apparently out of print, but you can come over and look at my copy.
If you don't get heartburn vicariously from reading about delicatessens generally, you might want to focus on knishes, an item not found at Whole Foods. http://www.tabletmag.com/
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Julian Turley is a senior at the University of Michigan, who grew up in Grand Rapids. He is quoted in today's paper regarding Michigan's efforts to maintain racial diversity in the face of the United States Supreme Court's efforts to return us to the 19th century. I don't know him personally, but I am attracted to him, not necessarily because of his position as a black student on an overwhelmingly white campus. Julian, aside from his academic pursuits, has set a goal of eating at every restaurant in Ann Arbor before he graduates. The article gives no other information about his efforts, but I set out to quantify this.
Trip Advisor, in spite of the spurious reviews that I recently uncovered for a New York steakhouse, is still a reliable aggregator of details. It lists 495 restaurants in Ann Arbor. Of course, this includes multiples of certain chains, so I can only sympathize with Julian having to go from Denny's to Domino's Pizza to Olive Garden. I believe that the 495 number is comparable to the over 300 (predominantly) Chinese restaurants that I have eaten in the last 6 years in Chinatown. Trip Advisor apparently excludes the depressingly large number of mega-chains, such as Burger King, McDonald's, Subway, so it's near impossible to gauge the actual dimension of Julian's goal. I find 24 Subways with Ann Arbor addresses, 17 McDonald's, 3 Burger Kings. The good news is that Trip Advisor lists 23 Chinese restaurants; the bad news is the list includes Panera Bread and 3 Panda Expresses.
I am writing to Julian (a real letter) to encourage him in his quest and invite him to meet me in New York sometime for a meal in Chinatown.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
There was a certain synchronicity last night when I had dinner with Professor David at Palm Too, 840 Second Avenue, which remains open even though the original site across the street has closed and the building put up for sale. I lived across the street from the two restaurants for 23 years in my bachelor years and ate there several times a year. Now, living across and up town, it's been close to a decade since I visited Palm/Palm Too. So, with Professor David staying with us for two nights, I took advantage of our shared carnivorous instincts to have a big steak dinner. The added frisson to dinner was the news just before we sat down that Mike Piazza had been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. There were two moments in Piazza's career that will always remain with me, and probably with most Mets fans, the broken bat incident with Roger Clemens in game one of the 2000 World Series and the home run off the Braves in the first Mets game after 9/11. By coincidence, Professor David, then law student David, and I were live in person at Yankee Stadium for that World Series game and were shocked by Clemens's manic behavior, probably fueled by steroids.
On September 21, 2001, I was driving David and his date home from an evening with his mother, my bride-to-be, listening to the Mets game on the radio. Just as we got off the West Side Highway, Piazza came to bat in the eighth inning with the Mets trailing 2-1, with Edgardo Alfonzo, the still under-appreciated second baseman, on base. Shea Stadium was near full; the Mets wore caps embroidered with NYPD, FDNY and other first responding agencies. Of course, we hated the Braves. Even though the traffic light changed, I did not move the car forward. Boom! Piazza hit a towering home run to right field, nothing cheap, no doubt as soon as he swung. I cried then, just as I am tearing up now. The gash in our soul from the attack on the World Trade Center was far from healed. If you got anywhere near downtown, you smelled the ruins which smoldered for ten months. Now, 40,000+ crazed New Yorkers regathered for the first time and witnessed a heroic performance, many more of us following on television or radio. Yes, it was only baseball, but it was us, the usually downtrodden Mets taking a big step to lead the battered city back to primacy.
Thursday, January 7, 2016
David Goldfarb, another of the wonderful Davids in my life, invited me for lunch. David, who takes his food and wine very seriously, prepared a lovely meal for the two of us. The feature dish was branzino, baked with a little olive oil and herbs, served with oyster mushrooms, Italian flat beans and boiled potatoes. The wine was a 2010 Vouvray from Clos de la Meslerie, a winery owned by a friend of David's. Our dessert, in the classic style favored by David, was cheese, but not just ordinary cheese or even merely an extraordinary cheese. While shopping at Eataly, 200 Fifth Avenue, a very upscale provisioner, David found Gotthelf Kase, a Swiss Emmentaler. http://www.
cheesesfromswitzerland.com/ cheese-assortment/emmentaler- aop.html
David paid me a fine tribute, but I kind of hoped he had found ice cream or chocolates bearing my name.
Friday, January 8, 2016
Judith Kaye died yesterday. She was the first woman appointed to the New York State Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, and eventually became the chief judge. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/08/nyregion/judith-s-kaye-first-woman-to-serve-as-new-yorks-chief-judge-dies-at-77.html
While she wrote some memorable opinions, her most important achievement, in my eyes, was the reform of our jury system. She removed many excuses not to serve, thereby expanding the pool, getting the average citizen in and out quicker, making the experience more tolerable. I met her causally outside the workplace a couple of times. A few years ago, on Yom Kippur, America's Favorite Epidemiologist and I were walking home from services when I spotted Judith Kaye approaching us. One reason I liked her was her resemblance to my young bride, stature, coloring, wardrobe, grace. As we got close, I smiled at her and she beamed at us, apparently thinking that we really knew each other. We exchanged holiday wishes and spoke for a few moments about a mutual friend, who customarily hosted a large break fast at the end of the Day of Atonement. (Yes, Joe F., you.) I hope that she came away having enjoyed our brief time together as much as we did.