Saturday, February 28, 2009

Suburban Homesick Blues

This car represents our lifestyle in Manhattan:

Greg and I are grateful for the digs in Scarsdale during our renovation, but we are suffering through an acute case of Suburban Homesick Blues. Here are the top 10 things we miss about New York City living.
#1 Our friends. We're out in exile here. We might as well have moved to Kansas.
#2 Walking to work. We used to feel so carbon neutral.
#3 Reasonably priced groceries. Okay. We know, groceries in Manhattan are out of control as compared to the rest of the country...but Westchester County is worse!
#4 Cultural events. Not that we are great participators, but the option is always there when you live in New York City.
#5 Street life. New restaurants have come and gone, and we have missed it all.
#6 Public transportation. Metro North is great, but it doesn't run 24/7, ya know?
#7 The mail chute that's next to our elevator. We don't even know how to mail from our apartment here. And the mailman doesn't even know we exist. Our mailman in NYC knows every member of our family, maiden names, and last two addresses.
#8 Pizza. Totonno's Yonkers doesn't make the cut.
#9 Dinner. We don't go to dinner out anymore--and with the price of groceries, it's not that much more expensive.
#10 Our neighbors. Yes, they may be New Yorkers, and ignore us 99% of the time, but we miss 'em just the same.

This car represents our lifestyle in suburbia:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

What To Do With Surplus Zucchini?


Sarah and I have been over this dilemma several times.

We tried a zillion different recipes, and many strategies for passing the zucchini off to somebody else, or "nipping it in the bud" by picking the flowers.
Here's one we never thought of:
Simply cut them into spears and pass them off onto the hip downtown party set.


My buddy Chris and I crashed an Africa-themed party for Eve Ensler (the Vagina Monologues lady), and were surprised to find that all the intellectuals and people-about-town were mad about zucchini.

We're thinking about using this strategy to get rid of surplus items around the home. Simply host an exotically-themed party, invite the hip, the mod, and the fashionable, and pass off your worthless junk as party favors.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sookk Far Sookk Good

Greg and I ventured into Sookk tonight. It is a Thai restaurant that specializes in "Bangkok/Yaowarat Cuisine." Basically it's an Asian fusion restaurant and their specialty is the street food you find in Bangkok.

We were going to go with Christina, a couple of months ago, back when it was a BYOB place, but we ended up going to dinner in Williamsburg, which is never what it's cracked up to be. Tonight we were meeting a friend, and as we were standing outside, Greg began to protest.

"It ain't my kind of place," he said. "Too trendy."

That is true. Sookk has lots of lamps hanging from the ceiling, dark wood, skinny tables, and it's dark inside.

We were looking for a compromise restaurant. I wanted moules frites, and Greg wanted something cheap.

"But look," I said, peering closely at the menu, "The sign says beer. Buy one get one free!"

In we went.

Greg ordered his first two beers and I studied the drinks menu. I ordered a sparkling wine with lychee syrup, which was 3 dollars off during their happy hour. Happy hour is every day from 5 until 7:30. At $3.25 a pop for a cocktail, and $2.50 a beer, this is a very good deal indeed.

For appetizers we had sesame tofu, served with a sweet chili dipping sauce and chive cakes served with a "ginger sauce" that was unmistakeably made mostly of Worcestershire sauce. Both were mildly spicey, with the tofu winning out for flavor. The chive cakes were missing the funky tang that usually goes along with Asian chives, and so were a bit blah. I wasn't a fan of either sauce, though. I thought the red was too cloying and the black was too Worcestershirey.

For dinner Greg had steamed shrimps in a clay pot. He thought his dish was very tasty, and the shrimp was perfectly cooked. I, still in the spirit of compromise, and still seriously craving my moules frites, ordered a dish called mussel turnip cake. Accompanying were bean sprouts, scallions, and egg. The dish, overall, was kind of a mess, with the sauce and mussels overwhelming the turnip cakes. I had imagined something like a turnip latke, but instead got bland cakes that looked like soggy fish fingers and had very little flavor.

It was probably my fault for ordering this dish. I was too hungry for experimentation and should have stuck with the Pad Thai.

We skipped the desert menu and instead ate the lychees that came in my cocktail, which was the highlight of my meal.

On one last note, the service was fast and friendly and the music was nice but unobtrusive, with the volume turned down low enough that you can actually have a conversation.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Duck Walks into a Bar


Okay, so I don't remember the punch line for that one. I just looked it up and found a rather racy site involving a duck puppet and a cute young girl....Why?

I only know one joke by heart, but I only save it for the most perfect occasions.

Greg and I are trying not to be spendy, especially when it comes to food. You can really run up a tab at the restaurants here. We're already spending large sums of money storing our possessions at Manhattan Mini-Storage (which charges Manhattan prices, but also runs really cool political ads...if you're a liberal, and let's face it, 90% of the people in my neighborhood are). Trips to the grocery store are at least $20 in Manhattan, even if you're using your D'Ag card and buying milk and bread.

So, how have we gone budget? As only a true Manhattanites can---we are eating duck. By my math, our meal tonight only cost $5 per person, which is very budgetary indeed.

I had never cooked duck before, but I did know one rule: don't over cook it.

The duck breast was $7. I thought it was a good deal, since most of the duck meat is in the breast. The whole duck was over $25. I already had a potato, 1/2 cup rice (which I ruined by oversalting), Cassis (for Kir Royales, of course), 2 shallots, red wine vinegar, and Aunt Hanna's peach jam (for the Cassis compote).

I ran into a snag with the recipe I used from the Food Network (The Surreal Gourmet if anyone is judging). It called for boneless duck breasts, but honestly, is that a regular thing in the world of duck eating? I ignored that part of the recipe, which caused some stress, but I was able to work through it.

I sauteed them fat side down for six minutes, then took them out of the pan. I drained the pan of duck fat, made the compote, diced the potato and put it in to par boil, rested the duck (which wasn't part of the recipe, but I was stalling because Greg said he wasn't hungry).

Suddenly, Greg appeared in the kitchen claiming ravenousness. He rummaged around in the fridge and found a block of cheese from Murray's Cheese Shop in the Village.

Meanwhile, I was wrestling with the duck, having realized that it must be deboned before I could slice it properly. It was mostly raw, even though I had baked in the oven for the requisite 6 minutes. I hacked and sliced and pulled the meat off of the bone, and threw it on our baking stone for another couple of minutes. Crisis averted.

It all cooked up to a fine and elegant meal, which we ate standing up in the kitchen since we have no sit-down dining options at the moment.

We ate on 2 pieces of fine Bernardaud china because last Saturday I finally tired of eating out of plastic to-go boxes and added two bowls to my china collection. That wasn't in budget, but it sure made me feel good.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pour it Down the Drain

We have so many new restaurants and bars in our neighborhood that we can't keep up. There's Campo on Broadway and 113th (used to be Pertutti), Community Food and Juice (so so), Wondee Siam V on Amsterdam, Bar 106 on Amsterdam, Kebab and Curry just returned to 105 and Amsterdam after a short stint as Mofongo Depot, Tropical Sensation (thumbs up, on Amsterdam and 107) and maybe a couple others that I've forgotton. Last night we stopped in at the Pourhouse, which is on Amsterdam and 108th street.

We had high hopes for the Pourhouse. Greg and I are looking for a good neighborhood watering hole--one with big TVs, decent food, and Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss, which just came to NYC. When you have no television and are eating out of to-go boxes, the idea of a beer and a big screen is uplifting. We've tried out a few other bars--the Lion's Head on 109 and Amsterdam is a bit too bare bones and the seats are uncomfortable, plus we always pine for our friend Tom, who is in England, when we're there. Cannon's on 107 and B'way is just too sketchy and no good, Bistro Ten 18 is too fancy and there's no television, and we heard Mario left, so the bar won't be as much fun. Sip is too-too and the drinks cost too much. 1020 pulls in too many college kids. Anyhow, what got our hopes up about the Pourhouse was an email exchange that I had with the owner. He assured me that they had ordered the Leinie's and that it was available. Last night, however, it was NOT available.

We bravely soldiered on with our meal. The Pourhouse means to attract a wild college crowd, which makes you wonder about their business plan---the Columbia student body doesn't get that wild. They do study up at Columbia. The Puerto Rican contingent isn't exactly going for it, either. It was doing solid business, but it's not exactly the jello shot crowd.

Greg and I studied the beer menu, which looks impressive, but really isn't. It's pretty predictable--major name brands. If you're a beer guy like Greg, nothing on there is surprising. Meanwhile, I really couldn't recover from the loss of my Leinie's and the waitress asking me four times for my drink order didn't help. She gave me a case of test anxiety. I ordered a Stella out of desperation, which was nice and cold. The chill, unfortunately, extended to my food. I placed what I thought was a safe order--a cheesesteak--and Greg ordered fish and chips.

My cheesesteak was cold--not cold as in just out of the refrigerator, which would have been reassuring, but cold as in it had been sitting out. I was afraid to eat it. This is how you get food poisoning. Not only that - look at the picture - the meat didn't even fill half of the bun. Plus, my french fries were cold. (Did the waitress hate me?) Greg had two measly pieces of fried fish, and his french fries were warm, so I had them for dinner. Did I mention that I was starving?

In the end we were relieved to cross the Pourhouse off of our list. With so many options in our neighborhood, we're bound to find the place that's right for us.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Blockbuster!

I realize this has nothing to do with gastronomy, but I gotta get it off my chest. Sarah and I went to a show on Tuesday that was absolutely spectacular. The past few "hit" shows that we've seen have all been disappointing, and so we didn't have our hopes up for a great show.
Especially because it might invoke comparisons to Les Mis, we thought it might be a derivative show.
And if you think a Broadway musical is by definition derivative, then you'd probably think so about this one.
But we thought that this was the greatest show we've seen on Broadway in ten years. Classic, heartbreaking, tragic story. Inventive, compelling ways to tell a very complicated plot line. Music was great, actors were beautiful singers and appealing in their roles.
We don't mind if the lead actor has had a few moral questions about his backstage behavior. How many times has that happened at a Van Halen concert and nobody bats an eye?