Friday, September 23, 2016

Foreign Affairs

Monday, September 19, 2016
In the 1950s and 1960s, the label Made In Japan was typically associated with cheap and shoddy merchandise, before the emergence of the Japanese automobile and electronics industries. Whether it was true or not, I remember hearing back then that there was a town in Japan named Usa, allowing goods to be labelled Made in USA.

I'm reminded of this by the appearance of the red, white and blue cans of America beer, a product once known as Budweiser beer.
When it was Budweiser it was owned by Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc., founded and based in St. Louis, Missouri. Now, ownership of the beer company is in the hands of Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, a Belgian-Brazilian multinational beverage and brewing company with global headquarters in Leuven, Belgium. So, do we make America great again by removing its name from a foreign beer, or do we continue to honor our great national traditions of fake IDs, binge drinking, and DUIs by keeping the name on prominent display wherever self control is under attack?
What's the difference between San Francisco and Pittsburgh? $129,557. That's how much more you have to earn annually in San Francisco to buy a median priced home there. They are at opposite ends of a list of 27 metropolitan areas.

New York runs a measly fifth, only 53% as expensive as San Francisco by this measure, although I don't think that is such bad news.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Today is the official publication date of Ten Restaurants That Changed America, by Paul Freedman. It's too soon to have read it, but the New Yorker had a very informative review of it last week and the New York Times had an equally informative article today.

Freedman is a Yale historian, who examines the role of race and class, immigration and assimilation in American dining. His list contains Delmonico's, considered to be the first major French restaurant in the US; Le Pavillon, originally installed in the 1939 World's Fair; Mandarin, San Francisco; Mamma Leone's, once the largest restaurant in New York City, which both elevated and desecrated Italian food; Antoine's in New Orleans; Sylvia's, Harlem's soul food mainstay; Schrafft's and Howard Johnson's, chains that have now disappeared; the Four Seasons, my personal favorite; and Chez Panisse in Berkeley, which started the locavore trend. Unlike some of the "best of" lists that I've seen lately, I didn't draw a blank with this group.

Freedman, clearly democratic in his approach, claims that there are now more Chinese restaurants in this country than the combined number of McDonald's, Burger Kings and KFCs. There may yet be hope yet for our way of life.

In that vein, Stony Brook Steve and I followed the recommendation of the Hymans and went to Canteen 82, 467 Columbus Avenue, a nicer than average neighborhood Chinese restaurant. It has a full bar and a sushi bar to broaden its appeal.

Steve ordered from the lunch menu, giving him a small portion of cold sesame noodles and a regular portion of pad thai with chicken for $12, while I ordered Peking duck bao (3 for $9.50) and chicken chow fun ($11). My sample of the sesame noodles was very good. The bao (big buns) were mostly dough, filling but not at all worth the money. The chow fun was good, especially after a shot of very hot mustard and soy sauce. The restaurant reaches far back, with a large section behind the sushi bar. It is nicely decorated, with simple Asian touches. As much as the Upper West Side is densely populated with restaurants, Chinese food is poorly represented. Under these circumstances, the generally good food at Canteen makes it a local standout.

Note that Canteen's takeout menu by the cash register and the 2 on-line menus that I looked at do not have current prices and organize the lunch specials differently.

Wednesday, September 21, 2106
On Sunday, America's Favorite Epidemiologist left on a trip to Moscow and Odessa, with a women's philanthropic group. Tonight, I am going to London and Paris on a solo hedonistic mission. As a fitting sendoff for my 8 o'clock flight to England and France, I went back to the Bolivian Llama Party, 1000 Eighth Avenue, a fictitious address meant to indicate the southern end of the Columbus Circle subway station (August 24, 2016). I thought this was a fitting symbolic farewell to the New World and a chance to have another delicious beef brisket chola (sandwich) ($12), dressed with pickled carrots and onions marinated in beer. Yummy.

Thursday, September 22, 2016
My flight on Virgin Atlantic was pleasant and uneventful.  Border Control a/k/a immigration took an hour and I was further delayed by the closure of the nearest underground station to the Brodies, my gracious hosts.  However, I enjoyed their company for about 90 minutes before I tucked in for a restorative nap.

Awake and refreshened, with David alongside, dinner was at  Sichuan-Folk Chinese Restaurant, 32 Hanbury Street, in the Spitalfields neighborhood, away from the traditional Soho Chinatown, highly rated by Trip Advisor and noted for its spicy food. We started with cold sesame noodles, one of my universal common denominators (£5.20). While the dish was familiar, the sauce had a spicy kick, unexpected, but effective. This prepared us for the "boneless chicken in numbing and spicy sauce" (£7.20), almost as fearsome as its name. The "fish in Szechuan style" (£13.20) was the mildest of the lot, slices of breaded white fish cooked with red and green peppers. The "special" fried rice (£4.80) wasn't. Our waiter was very friendly and listened attentively to my report on the condition of Chinese food in New York City.

Friday, September 23, 2016
The Anglo-American expedition went to Soho for lunch and chose Haozhan, 8 Gerard Street, in the very center of Chinatown. What attracted us was the long dim sum menu. There are no carts rolling around; selections are made from a printed checklist. We had scallops siu mai (£3.80), roast duck dumpling (£3.50), steamed barbecue pork bun (£3), prawn garlic roll (£3.50), House Special Cheung Fun (rolled rice noodles, similar to blintzes) (£4.20), chives and prawn dumpling (£3.20) and, just in case this sounded too ordinary, duck tongue in black bean sauce (£3.20). Only the latter was served without a wrapper. The sauce was excellent, spicy, but I think the ducks sacrificed in vain. The 2" long tapered cylinders seemed to be all bones and gristle. Otherwise, very high quality dim sum. The restaurant got too busy for me to educate our waiter.

Tonight, the three of us went to the Duke of York's Theatre for a performance of How the Other Half Loves, by the prolific Alan Ayckbourn. I am uncertain whether I saw it decades ago in New York or London, it debuted in 1969, but I will remember tonight as one of the funniest shows that I have ever seen.  Hurry, it closes October 1.

Before the show, we ate at Mon Plaisir, 19-21 Monmouth Street, a charming French bistro that I first visited in 1985.  It currently offers a 3 course dinner of traditional items (salmon, tagliatelle, or steak frites as a main course), coffee included, at £17.95.  Its continuing success is justified by the food, the ambience, the service and the location.  


  1. Have you ever eaten at Congee Village, 100 Allen Street (New York City, by the way)? Probably the answer is yes, but if you haven't, I would be curious of your well regarded opinion.

    1. I have, but I am not a congee person. Prefer farina.

  2. We will add Mon Plasir to our pre-theatre options while in London.