Why is it I always get a little nervous before a big trip? Not for my safety or anything like that. I seem to have an involuntary sense of unfinished business. That there is a lot to do and I haven’t or won’t get it done. I really don’t have too much left to deal with, yet there it sits, this odd feeling, a holdover from my more stressed out work life in the distant past. I haven’t had any kind of professional stress in a long time when I think about it.
Apart from all that, I am quite excited for my trip. It has been almost three years since I last set foot in Europe. It will be nice to reconnect with old friends and get reacquainted with them (and the food). I will spend a week in Paris, then two in Hamburg working on a project, then back to NYC. Things could surely be worse.
I don’t think I have ever had such a thoroughly decadent culinary run in so few days. Marites and I really hit it:
Peas and Ramps Risotto – Eighty One
Slow Roasted Chicken, Organic Chickpeas and Harissa – Eighty One
Wild Mushroom Soup – Eighty One
Gnocchi with peas in cream – Eighty One
Warm Caramel Roasted Bosc Pear (fresh goat cheesecake, golden raisins, gingersnap ice cream) – Eighty One
Warm Chocolate Pecan Bread Pudding (oatmeal pecan shortbread, butter pecan ice cream) – Eighty One
Toro Tartare – Morimoto
Kobe Beef Bento Box – Morimoto
Black Cod Bento Box – Morimoto
Soy Milk Souffle, Tofu Cheesecake, Maple Ice Cream – Morimoto
Salad of Herby Lentils, Green Beans, Avocado, Toasted Pecans & Baby Gem with Pomegranate Molasses and Avocado Oil Vinaigrette – Public
Roast Lamb Sirloin on Crispy Goats Cheese Polenta with Saffron Braised Baby Vegetables and Harissa Aioli – Public
Crispy skinned Barramundi with a Wild Mushroom Broth, Fingerling Potatoes, Pickled Ginger and Pea Leaf Salad – Public
Sticky toffee pudding with Armagnac ice cream and hot caramel sauce – Public
Unda Chicken Roll – Kati Roll Company
Shami Kebab Roll – Kati Roll Company
Achari Paneer Roll – Kati Roll Company
Shaved Tuna, Chilli Tapioca, Asian Pear and Lime – Spice Market
Shrimp Tod Mon Pla Cucumber Peanut Relish – Spice Market
Avocado and Radish, Chinese Mustard, Tempura Onions – Spice Market
Spiced Chicken Samosa, Cilantro Yogurt – Spice Market
Charred Chili Rubbed Beef Skewer – Spice Market
Steamed Red Snapper, Shiitake Mushrooms, Ginger, Scallion and Tarragon – Spice Market
Char Grilled Chicken, Kumquat Lemongrass Dressing – Spice Market
Ginger Fried Rice – Spice Market
Ovaltine Kulfi, Caramelized Banana, Spiced Milk Chocolate Sauce – Spice Market
Thai Jewels Crushed Coconut Ice – Spice Market
Amuse, Star Anise Gelee and Vanilla sorbet – Chickalicious
Poached Rhubarb with Sabayon, vanilla sorbet and pistachios – Chickalicious
Toasted Pecan, Panna Cotta, Pecan Sorbet – Chickalicious
Housemade Country Lamb Sausage, Scrambled eggs, and Toast – August
Eggs Bordelaise (red wine braised wild mushrooms, creme fraiche, fried egg, and toast) – August
Plums in Balsamic vinegar with black sesame seeds – August
Grass Fed Beef Hamburger with Kimchi – Green Table
Chocolate, Coconut, Pear Gelatto – L’Arte del Gelato
Duck Steam Bun – Double Crown
Endive and Stilton Salad – Double Crown
Coconut Chicken Salad – Double Crown
Spicy Seared Beef Salad – Double Crown
Tandoori-Marinated Foie Gras – Double Crown
Bitter Chocolate Trifle – Double Crown
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my next few days will be occupied with a strict diet of cardio, weight-lifting, and throwing up.
My wonderful friend (and one of my favorite people in the world) Marites has been in town to visit me the past few days. As Marites is an architect with a practice that focuses on restaurants, we are also visiting several restaurants to conduct research. We are lucky that these places happen to offer incredible food as well. The places we have gone have been absolutely fantastic, from Public to Morimoto to Spice Market this evening. All of them have been standouts in both cuisine and design (with Morimoto setting the highest bar for a Japanese box lunch ever in my life). I am lucky that my friend is such a foody like me, we bond endlessly over the fine flavors of a diverse range of cooking. We also took a trip up to The Cloisters today, a place I have been meaning to see since I first lived in NYC over 20 years ago. Click on the image below to see an album of recent NYC stuff.
My friend Paul just launched a fascinating new site that takes advantage of a slightly odd twitter phenom he discovered a while back. People were registering names of famous dead people and twittering as if they were those people. Sometimes they take their roles very seriously and stay very much “in character”, tweeting only things that are actually verified to have been said by their alter ego. And sometimes they use the character as a starting point and riff on it. Some of them are silly, some are absolutely brilliant. The list of users they aggregate is constantly growing and they do exercise a little editorial judgment when picking which dead people they will add to their list (thankfully…I mean, it may be funny ONCE that someone calling themself Helen Keller tweets “nskdfdskfjkdsfsaie”…but the joke gets stale quickly). Currently on the list are such luminaries as Albert Einstein, Henry Miller, Jesus Christ, Julia Child, Mae West and Barry Goldwater.
The site is called Tweeji (get it?) and is loads of fun. Check it out!
I was talking to my friend Troy about the next trip he was taking. He kept mentioning some obscure place that was in Antarctica and I was asking him if there were any people or civilization there of any kind and he said no. So I asked him what he would be doing there (and how he thought he could even get there) if there was no infrastructure of any kind but he didn’t answer. Later I was flying over the area with something like Google Earth, looking at the terrain, when suddenly I overshot and ended up on a cruise ship off the coast of Argentina. Friends and colleagues (none of whom I recognized) from some vast elected body like the senate were arriving and discussion the situation with the boat. Most of us hadn’t seen each other in years. The boat was apparently floating out to sea and we had to make some decision soon about whether to save or abandon it. A few of us were at a poker table, with the previous captain who was suddenly back. We kept mentioning that some who were elected as representatives to the boat (some friends of mine) even though elected, hadn’t been to the meetings in years. The old captain was recommending abandoning the ship and putting everyone in the transporter which was a big raft. We were waiting at the poker table for the other captain to get there to make a decision when I woke up.
I can only surmise that this dream is the result of too many people talking about Star Trek (which I haven’t seen) and of me talking about my upcoming travel to Europe with friends.
Regular readers of this blog know that I go on at length about the corrosive aspects of conspicuous consumption, and how our stuff takes a far too important place in our lives. While it is true that I sometimes talk about how this is destroying our planet, my main focus has been more about the prison we put ourselves in emotionally and spiritually by being so tied up and obsessed with our stuff. Of course, that is only part of the story, and a New York Times article this morning pointed me to an absolutely amazing video called “The Story of Stuff“, that details the ins and outs of the cycle of consumption, and makes some excellent points about the lack of sustainability in our current culture.
The maker of the video, Annie Leonard, is a former Greenpeace activist, and there are a few rather indelicate ways she describes some parts of the system in the video. At times, she makes some rather blanket statements about using resources that leave out some nuance. But overall, I heartily agree with her main points that this system can not continue indefinitely as is, and that we fundamentally need to change our relationship to consumption so that the true costs are put in evidence. Continued life on our planet depends on it. The video is only 20 minutes long, and WELL worth watching. Check it out here.
I was invited to a generally lovely wine party by my cousin Josh at some friend of his’ apartment in the Village this evening. Most of the people I met were very nice, but I met one young(ish) gay man who was a bit of a puzzle. He told me he was from Texas originally, and had lived briefly in San Francisco before moving to New York about a year ago. Loving SF as I do, I asked him what he thought of it, and he told me he absolutely hated it there because it was so “liberal”. I asked him what he meant, but his only response was, “They are just so liberal about everything” and then added for good measure “Just like Nancy Pelosi, I hate her, she is such a liberal.” Intrigued by this blanket statement, I asked him to give an example of a policy of Nancy’s that he disagreed with. His response was “Everything, absolutely everything about her! I hate her! She is so…liberal!” To which I responded, “You said that already. Can you give a single example of a policy position she holds that you disagree with, or do you just hate the way she looks or that she is a woman with some power?” To which he responded, “I don’t really want to get into it all, it is complicated and I am not drunk enough to argue well.”
“Or sober enough, apparently” I added helpfully. There isn’t a whole lot I find less attractive than knee jerk political opinions. It is all the more shocking when coming from a somewhat disenfranchised minority, but it just proves that no group is free of its know-nothings.
Regular readers and friends of mine will know how I sometimes bemoan the fact that on average, New York and LA are US cities where people are perpetually late, almost always blaming the traffic or subway instead of the fact that they never give themselves enough time to begin with (ie, leaving at 8 for a rendezvous scheduled for 8). So imagine my shock when, beginning on Tuesday of this week, every single meeting with friends had me arriving (on time) to find them already there waiting for me! We are talking about FOUR separate occasions. I am tickled pink. There must be some spooky astrological alignment, or I have quantum shifted to some parallel universe. Whatever the case, it is nice being here, and I thank all of you.
I must go buy a lotto ticket while this magic is with me…
I just HAVE to write about the most amazing restaurant that we (John, Kevin, Paul and I) ate at this evening in the Village. It is called “August“, and it was perhaps the best meal that I have had in New York since arriving 4 months ago. Yes, it was THAT good. You can of course check out their menu yourself on their website, but if I had to sum up in a tidy description, I would say we ate as kings would have in the 16th or 17th century, albeit in smaller quarters. Or at least how they would have eaten in my romantic vision of the excesses of royalty from that period. My only regret was not having my camera handy to delight you all with the delicious visions that graced our table. I highly recommend a trip here after your next hastily arranged annulment and spouse beheading, or anytime really.
Just finished reading a great book by Sheila Suess Kennedy called “Distrust American Style” (full disclosure: The author is well known to readers of this blog and to me as “Mom”). In it, Kennedy discusses widely held beliefs and recent studies that seem to show that increasing amounts of diversity within a culture are correlated with increasing amounts of distrust within that culture or those communities. As correlation is not causation, Kennedy clearly lays out a case for the causes of that distrust. Ultimately that distrust comes from a lack of trust in our collective institutions, caused by years of abuses of power and ineptitude within those institutions. Kennedy sees the lack of trust as a logical and self protective result of these abuses, and argues powerfully for ways to restore that trust. Especially fascinating are the sections that deal with the founding of this nation, and the attempts to limit the power and potential for abuses by government by carefully constructed checks and balances. Kennedy discusses at length how these arose from the Enlightenment and how they were an effort (having just broken free of a monarchy) to limit the power of the state over free citizens. By carefully insuring that no one branch had absolute power, the Founders were hoping to insulate the populace as much as possible from the abuses of potentially flawed or power hungry office holders. That is why the shift of power during the Bush years to the Executive Branch was so corrosive to trust in our governing institutions. These shifts allowed power and lawlessness to be concentrated at the highest levels, and led to serious abuses. It is for precisely this reason that even though I love most of what president Obama is doing in office, the one area that concerns me is in his administration’s defense of some of the executive privileges claimed by the Bush administration. It matters not who wields this power, it should be curtailed to prevent abuse by anyone. Kennedy understands that in order to trust in our governing institutions and the power they wield, we have to be able to trust in their basic fairness and application. Her proposals (at the end of the book) for improving this trust are sensible and in my opinion, necessary.
And on a personal note: Good job, Mom!