Saturday, April 23, 2016

Still Hungry After All These Years

Monday, April 18, 2016
The business section in the Sunday New York Times always contains a Q&A column on work issues, office politics, employment options, performance standards, and the like.  A question appeared yesterday that stirred up some memories for me.

A teacher (gender unspecified) just won a teacher-of-the-year award, in a position that the teacher "loves," although involving a long commute.  Another school, very close by, that previously attracted the teacher, is offering a lateral position.  "[M]y biggest concern is about leaving the only job I’ve had, and people to whom I feel a lot of loyalty, right after being given such an honor."   

Well, once upon a time, when Grandpa Alan was in the computer business, he received an award as the technical manager of the year for leading a group of about 30 programmers and business analysts, the largest office in the country among 20 locations.  I received the award at the company's annual convention of over-quota salespeople, the only technical person present.  Two weeks later, I was fired.  That's management's view of loyalty for you.

On the way to lunch today, I saw lines out on the street waiting to get into two joints right around the corner from each other.  Levain Bakery, 167 West 74th Street, is known for its extraordinary chocolate chip cookies, almost the size of a Spaldeen, packed with chocolate chips in a tiny amount of flour held together with butter.  They ain't cheap; one cookie is $4, but it can last for two sittings.  People have to stand in the street to get into Levain because it is tiny, basically a counter to order and then out the door.  

Sweetgreen, 311 Amsterdam Avenue, on the other hand, is a large joint, three storefronts wide, at a jinxed location that has seen one failed operation annually throughout this decade.  It is part of a national chain.  It seems to be the place to go to get a bowl of "organic quinoa + farro, swiss chard, pea shoots, roasted mushrooms, red onion, roasted tofu, spicy sunflower seeds, miso sesame ginger dressing."  Or, maybe the people waiting outside thought that it was a side entrance to Levain.

I plowed ahead to the Meatball Shop, 447 Amsterdam Avenue, now with 5 locations in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn.  It is two storefronts wide, but not particularly deep.  Tin covers the very high ceiling and subway tiles are on most of the vertical surfaces.  The flooring is weathered planks, or a reasonable facsimile.  
I liked the place right away because it is really the meatball shop, focusing on meatballs, without any cutesy diversions.  The menu is built around a choice of meatballs -- beef, pork, chicken, veggie, or lamb (today's special) -- and a choice of sauces -- classic tomato, spicy meat, mushroom gravy, parmesan cream, and pesto -- served up as platters or sandwiches.  I ordered sliders ($3.50), beef with spicy meat, chicken with mushroom gravy, and lamb with pesto. Each meatball was about 1 1/4" inch round, and just fit on a bun that did not dissolve until the second bite.  The flavors of each were distinct and palatable.  

While I was satisfied with the amount (and quality) of food, I noted abstemiously that they offered homemade ice cream sandwiches, assembled to order ($6).  A choice of four or five cookies baked in house hold four or five ice cream flavors also made on the premises, certainly to be enjoyed at a future date.  

I am not an American exceptionalist in many regards, but I believe that professional sports in America, with all of its flaws, generally operate more honestly and transparently than foreign flavors.  Just look at the criminal charges involving international soccer, with many of its most prominent leaders on the way to jail, and the frequent charges of game fixing.  However, one crack in the integrity of American sports is about to be imported from abroad -- advertising on uniforms.  The National Basketball Association has announced that 2.5 x 2.5 inch patches for commercial enterprises will be permitted in the 2017-18 season for a supposed three-year trial program.

It is estimated that this will bring the team owners $100 million in additional revenue a year, which will probably not influence their decision to continue or expand the program after the trial period.  Okay, get off the floor. I was only kidding.

April 20, 2016
I labeled this opus Heaven on Earth when I began it in January 2010, because I viewed Chinatown as the functional equivalent for New York Jews of heaven for Islamic martyrs.  See my introduction.

I was reminded today how appropriate this appellation is when I returned to Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, with the Boyz Club.  I don't think that I took Wo Hop for granted when I ate there three times a month or more while I was still working, but entering this temple of culinary delights felt like a pilgrimage to a holy site.  

We enjoyed fried wontons, beef chow fun, spicy eggplant, shrimp fried rice, beef with scallions and   chicken with black bean sauce at a cost of $18 each, generous gratuity included.  While the conversation focused on the presidential campaign, evoking differences in preferred candidates, the food generated a sense of euphoria that furthered our fraternal bond.

Thursday, April 21, 2106
Personally, I would rather share a bathroom with a transgender person than with Ted Cruz.

Friday, April 22, 2016
While I consider myself well versed in American politics and history, I admit to having little understanding of economics as a field of study, an academic discipline.  My checkbook is balanced; I have created and followed budgets.  But, the work of the Federal Reserve and the World Bank, for instance, are mysteries to me.  Still, I have some simple questions about the current state of American economic policy.  What lesson may we learn from the Eisenhower administration's massive public works program -- the interstate highway system?  How was New York City able to operate a world class higher education network for over one hundred years without charging tuition?  Maybe there are elements of a great America to return to.

For the last six years until I retired, I ate lunch in Chinatown about 4 out of every 5 workdays.  To the surprise of some, I never got tired of this.  Now that I operate out of the Palazzo di Gotthelf, proximity does not favor me, so a trip to Chinatown, as on this past Wednesday, is a special treat.  Of course, even staying close to home does not eliminate the need to have lunch, or my desire to enjoy it.  El Mitote Torteria & Cantinita, 208 Columbus Avenue, is a relatively new Mexican restaurant that seems to be thriving.  It's a small space that fits in a lot of people.  There are 4 high tables with 6 stools at each, 6 two tops and a counter with 10 stools.  With the fair weather that we are experiencing, several tables are set out on the sidewalk.  Service was friendly and efficient, even with most seats occupied.

The menu is simple, but offers a comprehensive assortment of casual Mexican dishes -- burritos, tacos, quesadillas, tostadas.  I ordered a chorizo mollete, an open-faced sandwich with chopped tomato, refried beans and melted cheese on top, a nice concoction.  El Motite (an Aztec dance) serves beer, wine and tequila, but, since it was lunchtime, I only asked for a Diet Coke, which they don't have.

Tonight, we begin the historic escape from Egypt and the forty-year trek across the Sinai Desert.  As in the past, we are privileged to attend the seders hosted by Aunt Judi and Uncle Stu.  And, as always, Aunt Judi's kitchen magic makes the journey more than tolerable.  

No comments:

Post a Comment