Friday, May 20, 2016

Cookie Monster

Monday, May 16, 2016
While I have frequently announced my devotion to chocolate chip cookies, with the masterworks of Jacques Torres (9 locations currently in Manhattan) at the top of the list, I leave room for other cookies, such as, the chocolate-covered graham cracker and the chocolate-covered wafer.  This latter cookie seems particularly popular in Central and Eastern Europe, see, for instance, 
The leading American version of the chocolate-covered wafer is the Kit Kat bar, a Hershey's product.  It turns out, though, that the Japanese have become devoted to Kit Kat to an unmatched degree.  They supposedly have almost 300 varieties of the Kit Kat bar, including such favorites as wasabi and miso, flavors we normally encounter in a sushi restaurant.

I prefer the slightly-exotic dark chocolate Kit Kat bar, not as common as the standard milk chocolate version.  As with almost any chocolate concoction that comes my way, I have it sit in the freezer before eating.  A better alternative is this Austrian product with a hazelnut filling that Fairway sells for $6.79, the 14 oz. package.  

According to an article in the New York Times, Monday may be the gloomiest day of the week.

An examination of Google searches containing the word "jokes" reveals that Monday is the slowest day.  As the week progresses, we apparently are more tickled or tickling, until Sunday, when we may be hiding copies of Mad magazine in our hymnals.  But, I see another possible explanation: We supply our own mirth when we return to work (present company excluded) until we remember where we are and we seek some external amusement.

One serious observation emerges from this study.  In contradiction to conventional wisdom about humor, it does not seem to be a rapid response to trauma.  It usually takes time for people to start looking for jokes dealing with a recent tragedy. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016
In case you have been waiting to spend money on a fancy meal, here is a link to the James Beard Foundation's best list of 2016.

The list covers the entire country and only a few local joints rise to the top.  Maison Premiere, 298 Bedford Avenue, a new seafood restaurant in Brooklyn, is labeled the Best Bar Program, although what caught my attention is its claim to serve over 30 varieties of oysters, none of which ever made it onto Mother Ruth Gotthelf's Friday night dinner menu.   Eleven Madison Park, 11 Madison Avenue, is cited for Outstanding Service, which seems to be an absolute necessity in managing its 12-15 course tasting menu.  

Sad to say, but I've never visited any of the winners whether here in the Holy Land, or anywhere else.  Of course, the awarders never seem to have been near Wo Hop.

Speaking of Chinatown, today I went to visit Taiwan Bear House, 11 Pell Street, a new joint that allegedly does a good job with fried chicken.  However, a special event kept the doors closed to the general public.  So, I went around the corner to AA Japanese Noodle, 45 Bayard Street, which was called AA Noodle the last time I was there, on December 15, 2015.   Little seems to have changed otherwise, except the two people in the window were stuffing dumplings rather than pulling noodles.  

I ordered Handmade Noodle w. Meat Sauce ($6.99), a tasty bowl of lo mein-like noodles, shredded carrots, bean sprouts and cucumber slivers with a very dark meat sauce that looked and tasted more like fermented black beans.  I hope to tackle the Bear sometime soon, proverbially that is.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Even though I couldn't get into Taiwan Bear yesterday, the New York Times managed to spend enough time there to write a favorable review today.

Thursday, May 19, 2016
Michael Ratner and I headed to CitiField last night to see the Mets play their hottest current rival, the Washington Nationals.  We came away disappointed by the 7-1 loss, in spite of the enthusiasm that we brought to the contest.  That enthusiasm was fueled by having dinner first at Ben's Best Kosher Delicatessen, 96-40 Queens Boulevard, Rego Park, which we both believe to indeed be the best in New York and thereby the Western Hemisphere.  Michael, ever the gentleman, did not hesitate going back to Ben's, even though his name has been removed from the #4 combination, corned beef, turkey, chopped liver.  I ordered the "Daily News Sports Final Special", corned beef, pastrami, rolled beef, sweet pepper and cole slaw ($20.25, and worth it to a serious eater).

Friday, May 20, 2016
The Mets put in another miserable performance last night, but, at least, I was home and able to quickly turn to recorded episodes of "The Last Panthers," a joint French-British crime series, that jumps from Marseille to London to Belgrade to Budapest and points in between.  It's pretty hard to follow, since the #1 Serbian bad guy and the #1 French cop, of North African lineage, look a lot alike, and each scene takes place hundreds of miles from the last.  But, I find it great fun anyway.

My persistence paid off today.  I went back to Taiwan Bear House, 11 Pell Street, and found them open and busy.  The smallish space is airy and bright, with a storefront entirely of clear glass.  The ceiling and part of one wall is knotty pine; 5 small tables have blond wood tops and sit opposite a long padded bench on the left side of the room.  There is also a narrow ledge on the right side with 3 high stools.

The menu is simple, focused on Bento boxes, 6" circular containers made of thin poplar wood.  Each box holds white rice, wilted cabbage, a piece of tofu, half a hardboiled egg and two spoons of minced pork plus a topping of chicken or pork (except the vegetable version skips the minced pork) ($9.99).  I had the "night market crispy chicken," 5 big chunks of boneless fried chicken cooked with spicy salt and pepper.  Unlike the traditional compartmentalized Japanese Bento box, this version is built vertically, not horizontally, allowing the flavors to mix quite successfully.  To drink, I had "Taiwan root beer," actually Hey Song brand sarsaparilla, and when was the last time that you used that word in a sentence.  

By the way, the name Taiwan Bear House does not refer to any delicacy on the menu.  Ursus thibetanus formosanus is a white-throated bear endemic to Taiwan (Formosa).  It has been adopted as their national symbol, akin to our bald eagle.  
I stopped in Fairway on the way home and found a cookie surprise there.  Their bakery counter now offers that wonderful handmade, slivered almond adorned version of the Milano ($9.99 a pound), which I encountered at a grocery store at the corner of Third Avenue and 39th Street (see February 14, 2014).  

As the week ends, I see that I have avoided political commentary, snarky or otherwise.  I might remain stumm, since the presidential campaign shows no sign of stopping its decline at the level of junior high school rhetoric.  "Wall" - "guns" - "huge" - "great"  May we expect a return to polysyllables?

1 comment:

  1. I greatly appreciate your focus on food rather than the ridiculous political situation that I am trying hard to ignore. After looking through the James Beard winners and almost-winners I found that I have visited only 6 - 4 in New Orleans : La PetiteGrocery, Herbsaint, Arnaud's (drinks only), Brennan's; Highland Bar and Grill in Birmingham; and, one of my all time favorites anywhere: Rick Bayless's Topolobampo and its sister Frontera Grill. My sad showing is a far cry from the 1980s when I checked off all the places on Malcolm Forbe's Top Ten list. Ah, the fond memories of life with an expense account.