Monday, October 7, 2013

Chicken Quest

As previously mentioned, no one loves fried chicken more than I do, so when I saw David Chang of Momofuku having a fried chicken cook-off with Questlove, drummer for the Roots, on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," I knew I had to get me some of that chicken; and since reservations at Momofuku are hard to come by, it made much more sense to go to the Chelsea Market where Quest's chicken is being sold at a little counter called Hybird, even though Chang's chicken won the taste-test.

Before we got dinner though, and after the fantastic art museum, we went back to Times Square for separate matinees. Peter asked me a few weeks ago if I wanted to see "The Glass Menagerie" with him - a new staging that was getting great reviews; I read one of the reviews which described the play as "heartbreakingly good," and decided I didn't want to pay $100 to get my heart broken. Instead, I paid $50 for a balcony seat to see "First Date" which I had heard was good, but still made a mistep by not even glancing at the reviews or I might have seen this in the New York Times:
Does any of the following sound familiar? An instant lack of rapport; a growing aversion as the minutes pass; a mysterious sense that time has suddenly stopped; a desperate hope that the apocalypse will arrive, preferably right this minute. Magnify those feelings, set them to bland pop-rock music, and you’ll have some idea of the oodles of fun I didn’t have during my evening at “First Date."
The reviewer assesses the musical as being no better than a bad sitcom with the all too enthusiastic audience acting as the laugh track for this astoundingly unoriginal story. To be fair, the majority of the audience (99% women) seemed to be totally enjoying themselves, including a young woman who was sitting next to me who "awww"ed during the poignant (and I'm using that term loosely) bits and applauded wildly just where the producers hoped she would. It's not that I'm jaded about romantic comedies or romance in general, but more that I have little patience for mediocre writing making it all the way to Broadway. I mean, would a women really harp on her 30-year old sister about her biological clock ticking away? Is that really still a thing? Do people going on blind dates really set up "bail out" calls where a friend calls 10 minutes in to fake an emergency so if the date is going badly you can leave? Wouldn't you just say "so, I'm going to leave now..." and if pressed with "why?" say, "because I want to"? It was just too formulaic with not even a hint of cleverness. Oh well, I've had worse theater experiences.

I got out around 5:30pm and took a short walk back to the lobby of the Intercontinental to wait for Peter (who said "The Glass Menagerie" was indeed really good) and we headed to the Chelsea Market.

Peter made me a fried chicken dinner earlier this year which was spectacular. He used a tedious recipe from America's Test Kitchen which turned out perfectly. I guess it's not fair to compare homemade fried chicken with somewhat mass-produced fried chicken behind a fast-food counter (although the chicken was fried fresh, we had to wait a good 15 minutes for it) but still - it was no contest. I'd pit Peter's chicken against David Chang's any day.
fried chicken from Hybird
Peter's fried chicken; it wasn't even close.
Seattle has 'Market Spice' on Pike Street; New York has 'Spices and Tease' in the Chelsea Market.



Art

I love small museums. I don't do well at large museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I have been to one time, for about 20 minutes - long enough to run in, look at a particular painting that my friend David told me to look at, and leave. I have been to Paris three times and never gone to the Lourve (and not for the same reason David Sedaris said he's never been to the Louvre: "Why would I go to the only place in Paris where you're not allowed to smoke?" [he has since, quit smoking - good for him]), but I have been to lots of small museums where you can see every single thing on display in one visit, like the Neue Gallery on the Upper East Side, which is where we went after stopping at Rex Cafe on the recommendation of my friend Chris who lives in Detroit; his friend Peter owns the place (as much as I love getting recommendations from friends about places to visit, especially if there's a personal connection, it took Herculean effort to skip the trip to Dominique Ansel's, but we did it).

The museum had some beautiful decorative pieces on display as part of their permanent collection - furniture, silverware, glassware, and some cool paintings, like this famous one above.

But the real star was a special Kandinsky exhibition. It was a stunning collection of paintings which of course I was not allowed to take pictures of (the Klimpt is off the museum's website) so here are some from the web that we saw. Nothing reproduced could come close to doing justice to the real things, but I don't want to forget them.






me, Peter, and the baristas as Rex Cafe

Saturday, October 5, 2013

New Yorker Festival - Apollo Robbins and Gael Garcia Bernal

Tickets to two events this year, the first was on Saturday afternoon and it was an interview with Apollo Robbins. Not sure how to describe what he does. It's slight-of-hand performance, sort of, or "an artful manipulator of awareness," so said Forbes magazine. He started as a pick-pocket and thief and now works as a speaker, entertainer, and consultant to the military and law enforcement. His shtick is not so much the slight-of-hand a la Pen and Teller, but more in reading a person's attention or misdirecting their attention in order to do what he does.

His physical dexterity is at a level beyond the ordinary person's; he moves his hands with a fluidity that is hard to describe, which is interesting as he said he had many physical ailments as a child and had to hold a pen with two hands growing up due to his lack of coordination. It was an interesting interview with a person who is operating on a different intellectual and psychological level than most of us. It was also entertaining - he walked through the audience and returned to the stage with several watches, and he brought a guy on stage, took a $20 from his wallet, tore half the serial number off the corner, he gave the corner to the guy and told him to give it to any random person in the audience while he turned his back; this turned out to be irrelevant as the main part of the $20 ended up in his own pocket and the corner ended up inside a lemon which the volunteer found in his jacket pocket. He had to cut the lemon open in order to find the corner of the bill. That strikes me as a little more complicated than "misdirection."
unfortunately, the only photo I took of the guy is terrible; Adam Green (left, the journalist who wrote the article about Apollo earlier this year), Apollo Robbins (right)
Our next interview wasn't until 10pm and Peter commented that he wondered if Gael Garcia Bernal might be a disappointment compared to Apollo - as how could such a good-looking actor be as fascinating as this guy who is operating on a different plane than the rest of us; "I hope he's not just a pretty-boy," I said. 

To kill some time, we went to Eataly and looked around - it was jam-packed on a Saturday night. The casual places to get food in the store were SRO and really loud, so we decided to go to Manzo, the fine dining restaurant and eat there. The food and service were great; we shared an artichoke and sunchoke appetizer and ordered two pastas. My pasta was particularly spectacular, it was a braised beef-stuffed tortelloni with a savory (savory) mushroom broth.
baby artichokes with sunchoke chips
So much for "pretty-boy" Gabriel Garcia Bernal... he was charming, funny, and incredibly well versed on the politics of Latin America. We watched clips of his movies and he talked about his process and his roles, from a transvestite torch singer to Che Guevara. He talked about engaging in the incredibly dangerous activity of hopping cargo trains to see first-hand what the the near-destitute migrants in Latin America who are searching for work go through (I think this was part of a documentary project), and his sympathy for the poor and down-trodden of this region, along with his pride in the art and culture that comes from it, was clearly evident. He's also one of the most handsome men I've ever seen in real life. 


hazy shade of October



Friday, October 4, 2013

Matilda

Peter and I walked around and shopped on Friday until it was time to head to Times Square for "Matilda." We stopped in the lobby bar in the Intercontinental Hotel which was nearby to have a drink first and then went to the show.

I thought the show was enjoyable. Sets were cool, staging was good, acting was solid, singing was at a caliber appropriate for a Broadway stage, and the story is dark and slightly disturbing for a children's story, but that's Roald Dahl for you.

I saw A Chorus Line in this theater when I was 17.



Uniqlo - the Japanese Gap Store

I don't remember how I discovered Uniqlo. I don't think it was by just walking by the Broadway location, I must have read something. That was several years ago and now I always stop in to do a little shopping. It's hit and miss for me - I've tried the down jackets on a million times and they never fit right, which is too bad because they're ultra-light, come in a million colors, and are $70. Last year I tried on eight different sizes/styles of pants, none of them fit. I've always had great luck with the basics though: camis, long-sleeved Ts in tons of colors and necklines (made with "HEATTECH," which I suspect is some kind of plutonium-based textile because those shirts are thin and sleek but ridiculously warm), and other delicates I've purchased are of high quality and low price. This time when I walked in the store, I was greeted by a long line of manikins wearing corduroy leggings which I thought looked terrible, but I tried some on anyway and bought three pair. Plus some socks, more delicates, and an orange sweater.
Need a fleece jacket? This is maybe half the color selection, and they're $20


Manhattan isn't Copenhagen, and riding a "City Bike" through the streets seems like a suicide mission to me, but they're there if you want to rent one, and plenty of people do. 



This is Not a Cronut

"Cronut" - when I first heard about them I thought they were the latest food craze to encourage us all toward morbid obesity, like that sandwich at KFC with bacon, cheese, and sauce, but instead of bread, the outside is two pieces of fried chicken. Look, no one loves fried chicken more than I do (more on that in a later post) but there is no situation in which slabs of fried chicken are an appropriate substitution for bread. But I digress. The cronut was invented by a French baker named Dominique Ansel who lives in New York, and it is a something of a cross between a croissant and a doughnut. Again, when I first heard about the craze, I thought it was kind of dumb. Why does the world need something that's part croissant and part doughnut? For the record, I also thought labradoodles were kind of dumb when I first heard about them, but whatever, they are kind of cute so why be a hater?

I have not tried a cronut, but I am no longer skeptical. Peter and I went to the bakery first thing in the morning (so, you know, 10 o'clock) but we didn't have any intention of standing in the line that forms before the bakery opens which is the only way to get one of the 250 cronuts made daily. However, if you just want to get coffee and a different pastry from the bakery, you can walk right in. The cronut line is off to the side and a cro-tendant (ha! I just made that up!!) allows 20 people in at a time; you can order up to two and they cost $5.00 each. I have no doubt that they are delicious and I would love to try one some day, but there just aren't a whole lot of things I will stand in a long line for (two hours for a "Book of Mormon" ticket last year did me in for a while), plus there is the fact that I simply can't imagine anything more delicious than the DKA which I ordered all three times I was there.
line for cronuts
A DKA is Dominique's Kouign Amann, a kouign (pron: "queen") amann being a pastry I had never heard of until a few weeks ago when I noticed them in my local bakery in Queen Anne. The guy in line ahead of me there was overly enthusiastic about their deliciousness while talking to someone else in line, but I thought they looked rather plain and not particularly exciting. The guy in front of us in Dominique's bakery struck up a conversation with Peter and me and also had great things to say about the kouign amann - he said he didn't know why anyone would stand in line for a cronut when they could walk right in and get a DKA; I had to try one.

I can honestly say it might be the most delicious thing I've ever eaten. It's flaky yet chewy; there is no filling but somehow it's creamy; I think there's vanilla but maybe it's a touch of almond extract; and the texture is other-worldly -- it's pastry dough, but the outside is caramelized almost like a crème brulée. I can only hope that the ones at my local bakery are in the same league. 


...and Dominique was there and nice enough to let me take his picture!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

New York City - Above the Fish Market

We stayed in Chinatown this year. During most of my trips to New York, I've stayed in Midtown (all those trips with Midori to the Doubletree in Times Square [saw Mike Wallace in the lobby once and another time in the late 90s, we shared the hotel with the Backstreet Boys, which meant we had to pass a gauntlet of screaming girls every day]); and there was the apartment next to Penn Station which Peter and I rented from a random girl on craigslist (we didn't trash her apartment and she didn't come back and kill us, but still, two reasons maybe you don't book accommodations from random people on craigslist). Other places have been close to Midtown (my apartment last year was in Hell's Kitchen which is mid and a bit west), but I've also stayed downtown a few times (Elizabeth's tiny place in the Village [one minuscule window which faced an alley, hence that apartment got NO natural light, and the kitchen was, with no exaggeration, the size of my downstairs powder-room]). There was Jesús and Eric's place on Bank Street [lovely], and the place in the Bowery where Peter, Jenine and I stayed in 2011 (weird, old, again, no light), and of course Brooklyn a few times (Dave and Annabelle's apartment which was cute enough, even though the floors were slanted; and then there was the place Elizabeth moved to in Brooklyn, which had two-story, floor-to-ceiling windows which let in so much sun, you could have grown produce). But this was the first time in Chinatown. And it was right IN Chinatown, above a fish market, the odors from which thankfully did not reach the sixth floor (although they might have if the windows had been open, which they weren't, because it was ridiculously warm for October and we had the air conditioners on the whole time).

Peter and I arrived Thursday night, and went to get burgers at Umami which I had read a favorable review of; the burgers were good, but not better than Shake Shack (http://www.placestogo-manomi.blogspot.com/2012/09/shake-shack.html).
sixth floor walk-up