Sunday, October 31, 2010

Breakfast Scenery

Unfortunately, this is all I could muster to post this weekend. 



Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Earworms ... and a few of my favorite bands

For the last couple days, Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” has been stuck in my head.
Have a listen. Sorry there’s no Zeppelin concert footage, but the song (as it turns out) was difficult to reproduce live and thus rarely performed on stage.

Now you understand what I’m talking about when I say it’s stuck with me:  the pounding drums of John Bonham, a wailing harmonica and Robert Plant, and the sliding guitar courtesy of Jimmy Page.  An absolutely heavy sound, right?  I love it.  And not only is this the closing song to an amazing album (Led Zeppelin IV—which also includes “Rock and Roll,” Black Dog,” and the little-known “Stairway to Heaven”), as well as perhaps the epitome of Zeppelin’s sound, but “When the Levee Breaks” represents the apogee of British blues music—the appropriation of American blues songs and aesthetics popular among British rockers such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Led Zeppelin.  That’s just my (rather uneducated) opinion.  But I will say that not only does this song carry an authentic depth and groove (if not sincere pain), but the lyrics are taken from an actual Delta blues song written after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. (Check out Wikipedia for information on the original song and a description of Zeppelin’s incredible and pioneering production techniques.)  Sure, a bunch of white, English rock stars appropriating a sorrowful song composed in the wake of a defining tragedy—for the South, for southern blacks, and for blues music—may strike some as strange and perhaps even inappropriate.  But, in doing so, Led Zeppelin revived and continued a traditional aesthetic, the blues—the musical genre at the very root of the rock music they created and dominated. 

And the fascination with the blues continues to this day in America.  Some of my favorite bands tap into the blues aesthetic; again, hearkening to their predecessors while further developing the sound (despite the many aspects of the blues already incorporated into rock & roll).  First, there’s the White Stripes, of course.  Basically, every time I attempt to write a song—whether it’s the lyrics, or the guitar part, or if I’m just humming to myself—I want it to sound like a White Stripes song.  Jack and Meg White may be eccentric, and not every song a winner, but they are dedicated to running the guitar/drum Detroit blues-thing into the ground.  

And speaking of modern blues-rock duos, I’ve also gotten into the Black Keys, which has created its own heavy, blues-inspired sound.  However, the song of theirs stuck in my head this week doesn’t really operate in that mode.  But, I think you’ll enjoy “Everlasting Light” all the same.  Good, isn’t it?  They have something like five albums that I’ve only just barely begun to acquaint myself with.

And this brings me to two other guitar/drum duos I’ve only recently discovered/experienced live: Wye Oak and Japandroids.  Named after the late great oak tree that once lived on the Eastern Shore, Wye Oak hails from Baltimore and its unique music scene.  Although I don’t have any of their songs, and thus no great insights into their music, I did see them live this summer:

Once again, I must pay respect to NPR, since I only became aware of Wye Oak the week before the festival when I watched their Tiny Desk Concert.  The office concert displays their approach to songcraft and Jenn Wasner’s vocal abilities, but only hints at their overall sound.  On stage, the two of them produced a volume of sound: a distorted guitar wave, supported by percussion and keyboard (both handled by Andy Stack.)

I guess to be a good rock duo nowadays, you must generate a saturating, powerful sound in order to compensate for the dearth of contributing band members as well as to provoke the audience and disturb their expectations (eg. “How can two people be so loud and rock so hard?)  But certainly another aspect of these bands must surely be the challenge of their limitations, and when they succeed in surpassing those creatively ... good stuff results.  And although their sounds may vary from gritty blues-rock to hazy folk ballads to hook-driven garage-style noise rock, these types of bands are solidly among my favorites (though perhaps it’s because I can see myself in a band like this—sort of like the singer/songwriter thing I mentioned in an earlier post.) 

Japandroids!   You thought I wasn’t going to elaborate on this unusually named band, didn’t you?  Well, as a matter of fact, I just returned from their concert down at Maxwell’s in Hoboken (pretty much the best venue around).  And although it’s late and my ears are still ringing, I will write on.  Japandroids are from Vancouver, Canada and should rank among our northern neighbor’s greatest musical exports: Rush, Barenaked Ladies, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Paul Anka, Feist, Joni Mitchell, K-OS, The Tragically Hip, The Arcade Fire, Bryan Adams … wow, that’s kind of a lot.  Go Canada, and go Japandroids!

Well, first we listened to the opener, Oberhofer, do their thing.  Turns out, that thing is some good, fun, straight-up rock.  And apparently, it’s all the brain-child of lead singer Brad Oberhofer, who produced and played all the instruments on his albums.  Then, Brian King and David Prowse stepped up to deliver their final concert of what has been a year-and-a-half tour (but their first show in NJ!).  Brian informed us that since it was their final night, they were going to let it all hang out—despite their strained voices and road-weariness.  And they delivered.  On stage, just a mad-distorted guitar and some drums trying to hold the rhythm—and the energized combination produced some seriously catchy/grungy songs.  A pit moshed (occasionally), a roadie crowd-surfed, and many lyrics were shouted: good times down at Maxwell’s, courtesy of this Canadian duo whom I’m very glad I caught before they retreated to the Pacific Northwest.   

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Food! (this is just what happens when I have time on my hands)


For Sunday night football:

roasted taters (so crispy and sweet!)

brats

and good Belgian-style beer (courtesy of Brooklyn Brewery)
 
And for brunch, apple crisp:




Would have liked the streusel to have been a little more cooked and gooey … but a delicious way to use up the last of my Granny Smiths.


And for dinner?  Minestrone, of course!
 

Next time, I’ll have to bake my own bread.
















Oh, and at some point I made oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies: 


And as a finale, everything pumpkin muffins:

with chocolate-chips, cream cheese, and streusel

Flatiron x 3

east.

north.

west.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Damn you, Village Voice!

Ok, well, now that the secret’s out, I can mention it on this blog: Jersey City happens to be the location of the best movie theater in the area, the Landmark Loews Jersey Theatre.  And thanks to the Village Voice, the rest of the region heard about the coolest thing in Jersey City (although my apartment rooftop is pretty sweet).  And thanks to this printed alt-weekly, hordes of people descended on Journal Square last night.  Well, besides the positive press, perhaps it also had something to do with the evening’s film: Nosferatu (1922), a silent film shown with live organ accompaniment (a pipe organ that is, not hearts or livers.)  Yes, the largest crowd in the recent history of the theater (though built in 1929, the theater was saved and restored by volunteers to begin showing films nine years ago) turned out for Nosferatu, a silent German-produced version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  Despite being an unauthorized version of the story, it’s perhaps the best on-screen rendition.  It was incredibly quirky, with an iconic (though not so horrific) villain.  Plus, there was the organ providing the entire soundtrack!  Although an evening at the Loews always features some organ music, silent movies with the organ are still a rare treat—something straight out of a bygone era.  And now thanks to the Voice (and the Friends of the Loews’ own publicity), more people will be coming to enjoy the experience of seeing a classic film in one of the last great movie palaces around

Thursday, October 21, 2010

More ... everything.



I really wish that whenever I have a particularly sucky day in my life, I could head off to a small bar in Brooklyn and listen to Sharon Van Etten sing with her band.  Yes, I went to see her again, this time as part of CMJ Music Fest headlining an afternoon line up at Bruar Falls (named for actual waterfalls upstate)—a setting even smaller than Mercury Lounge  And while the last concert was a vocally stunning, sincere, and flawless performance, this one was casual, fun, and, well, sloppier.  Example: Sharon began playing one of her songs twice without realizing that it was not played with a capo; third time was a charm.  And unlike last time, her back-up singer was not present, and the drum and bass had more of a presence on stage (ie. they were louder than before).  Actually, I’m really glad it wasn’t at all like before; I’ve realized I don’t exactly like going to see a band more than once (although I’ve made exceptions for We Are Scientists (I took my uncle the second time), and Screaming Females (the first few times were in huge venues, and they were just openers)).  But I just had to see SVE again, and when I heard that after a few shows in the region she would be stopping by Brooklyn … well, you know the rest

Oh, I just so happened to recognize the band that played before her, Lower Dens, from a Tiny Desk Concert I watched a few days ago.  And I’ll have to say, they are a band not fit for the limitations of an office; I really wasn’t impressed with … well, the band looked bored, the vocals sounded dull, and the guitar parts seemed rather simple—stuff even I could pull off.  But at the show last night, Lower Dens had all their equipment, and filled the bar with a big hazy, distorted noise set over a driving beat.  And fortunately, enough heads blocked my view, so I didn't actually have to see their guitar fingering. Overall, not too bad, but best experienced live.

Actually, the day wasn’t really that sucky, especially considering I had lunch here:


A nice cozy space, with good service and chefs—and pretty good sushi (at an even better lunch special price).  If you’re ever in Murray Hill around lunchtime and don’t feel like going to any of the two dozen Indian places in the neighborhood, then check out Umi Sushi on 31st St. b/t Park and Lex.

Oh, and today, I concluded my relationship with the Madison Square Mark’t “Food Square” with a lamb meatball hero:

Featuring three large meatballs set in a hearty baguette, the sandwich came with tomato sauce, a cilantro-based salsa verde, and ricotta salata shredded on top.  The combination of flavors was good, and the meatballs themselves were especially delicious, but I kept hoping the green stuff would be mint rather than cilantro.  I mean, mint jelly goes with lamb, so why not make a salsa with fresh mint leaves?

Also, Flatiron from today and yesterday:






And I noticed these hundreds of lightbulbs hanging in the middle of Madison Square Park, with more art installations coming in the next few weeks:


Oh, and apparently the Chelsea Hotel—a historical and cultural icon to New York and the neighborhood—is up for sale, rending its future uncertain. 



Although I have no really connection or any particular love for the building, I’d hate to see it go to an owner who will ignore its special history, as in the many celebrities and artists who have lived or died there.  But then again, it’s not that old … and how long can we really hang on to these kinds of landmarks?  Especially in Manhattan, where so much history has been torn down and subsumed by the onward (and upward) march of Progress?  But then again, what is Progress?  And do we want to live in a city that does not recognize and cherish the unique features that make it what it is?  thegreatestcityintheworld  Ahem, excuse me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Back in the kitchen (for a night at least)

Yum.
Finally, a day off.  Not only could I take care of some chores (dishes!), but I could finally cook a meal for my roommates (whom, conveniently enough, would also be free in evening.)  I’ve been waiting to cook both potatoes au gratin and pork chops with apples & onions—as well as gingerbread cupcakes—for over a week.  I found a few recipes online, and made my selection based on shortest preparation time.  Everything turned out well, but perhaps would have been better if I’d used the longer-timed ones.  For example, cooking the potatoes longer on a lower heat—and not adding the final cheese topping until the last minutes.  Or with the pork, doing a longer braise (an actual braise, that is) in the oven, after searing the meat.  Well, this is how we learn.  Unfortunately for you, you may only observe the results best experienced in person. 


pork, apples, onions

taters ... a little too crispy

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jersey Rocks! (and I don't mean the Boss or Bon Jovi)

If you pick up the recent issue of The L Magazine you’ll see Jersey’s own Screaming Females on the cover, with an interview of the three piece rock band inside. 
Screaming Females rocked Siren Music Fest in July

I’ve seen them a couple times--including an intense set as the headliners at Maxwell’s back in August--and I’m still impressed by lead singer Marissa Paternoster’s consistently sick shredding song after song.  Here's a video introduction to the band: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYJjOWiD7ik

And just a couple months ago, Titus Andronicus, another hard-working, hard-rocking band out of New Jersey, graced the magazine’s cover.  Check them out as well: http://www.titusandronicus.net/ and http://www.myspace.com/titusandronicus

And I’m all for this trend of Jersey rockers taking it to those wheez-e-lectronic Brooklyn indie folks.

NPR and New Music, Part 3: All Songs Considered radio


Yes, I enjoyed Pandora at one time, and very much appreciate the existence of Grooveshark.  But sometimes, rather than choosing songs or artists myself, I want a radio channel with both a quality and varied selections.  And now, I've found that.  

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of All Songs Considered, its producers created a streaming 24/7 channel of songs featured on the program over the last decade.  Give it a listen.  If you don't like what you hear, give it a couple minutes, the song will change--probably to a completely different genre (though never pop, country, or hip-hop ... why the bias against these, NPR?)  And a list of recently played tracks is always at your disposal, a nice feature for the ignorant and curious like me.   

NPR and New Music, Part 2: Albums old and new

Among the many ways to get a taste of what's new (podcasts, interviews, and articles), my favorite might be NPR Music's First Listen series (although their live concert archives are fun, too.) Almost every week, NPR streams an upcoming album until its release date.  Cool, right?  Two recent favorites:

The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos (1962-1964) by Bob Dylan

and

Down There by Avey Tare (of Animal Collective)

Although I possess an inadequate collection of his works--and perhaps a corresponding under-appreciation for his music and influence--I do like Bob Dylan.  And now, I especially like these early songs, particularly for their topicality and the simplicity of their recording (remember my thing for acoustic-playing dudes.)  As for Avey Tare, it's some good electronic/vocal stuff, and I'll give it another listen--but there's a reason the Animal Collective is a collective, and why their Merriwether Post Pavilion is great.  After some good solo efforts, I do hope they boys get back together for another album, though they set a high standard for themselves. 

NPR and New Music, Part 1: Office Acoustics

Acknowledging that NPR Music is the ur-source for all the cool music that will appear here, and that I am merely ripping it from their website, please allow me to direct to some of the great things I've discovered recently.

First, three Tiny Desk Concerts by acoustic-guitar wielding, singer/songwriter guys: two European dudes, and one quiet American.  All of them are talented lyricists, with stiking voices to match their words-- and they can handle six-strings rather well:
I'll admit, I do have a thing for this type of artist ... from the early Folkies (Woodie Gurthrie, Pete Seeger, and Bob Dylan unplugged) to more contemporary singers (Josh Ritter, Elliot Smith, etc.)  I admire their poeticism and politics, and especially the immediacy of their approach.  And I guess this interest also it stems from the fact that I can sort of see myself becoming one of them (if not an author of some kind).  And while the brief concerts in the NPR Music offices force large (often electricity-dependent) bands to scale back and strip down, for these guys, the transition from the stage was easy--and created an even greater intimacy and focus on songcraft than a typical performance.  Enjoy.

Earworms

A few songs that have been stuck in my head over the last week or so ... old and new favorites: 

"Take Me to the River" by The Talking Heads

"Lucky Ones" by Kevin Drew with Broken Social Scene


Oh, and these albums:

Boxer by The National
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank by Modest Mouse
 ... and (not surprisingly) Epic by Sharon Van Etten 

So, get on the Internets (Grooveshark, YouTube, or whatever) and give them a listen.  Well, that is, unless you're pretty satisfied with your rut.  In that case, carry on.  I'm sorry if I disturbed you, but let me remind you this: you chose to read this post.   

Sharon Van Etten and Kyp Malone at Mercury Lounge!


Enough with food, it’s time to go back to music, particularly my insatiable pursuit of new music—even just for more music.  I always have cds on hold at the library. I read up on new bands and new albums by established artists.  And as I keep an ear out for the new and up-and-coming, I reach back toward everything I’ve missed—80s pop culture, Led Zeppelin, revered bluesmen—in order to understand how everything in music (or culture and art in general) is connected and influenced by what came before.  But as for the present, my latest source for new music is NPR Music.  Their website features an archive of concert recordings, a song of the day, music articles, All Songs Considered podcasts, and their First Listen series. 

So, I listened to the ASC Fall Preview and heard for the first time a female singer named Sharon Van Etten.  I jotted her name down in my notebook, along with a few other bands I liked, just in case I ran across any albums, videos, or upcoming concerts. And who should I read about in the Village Voice the next week?  Sharon Van Etten.  And who would be doing a late concert the following Saturday night with Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio (one of my favorite bands)?  Again, SVE. 

Mercury Lounge was dark when I entered before Kyp Malone’s 11pm set.  I slipped through the narrow bar to the small room at the back, only just beginning to fill.  But as it did, and as Kyp himself set up his gear, the growing tension and energy of the tight crowd was palpable.  The stage was right there, and the solo performer was right there: a feeling of exposure for them, intimacy for us.  Playing an electric resonator guitar, Kyp kept his songs quiet—initially.   But when he actually strummed, the resonator sent out chilling reverberations.  Without his usual backing band, The Rain Machine, Kyp utilized this quiet/loud dynamic—or “cheap dramatics” as he called it.  Though his songs were mostly long and languid, his delivery was precise and his pacing deliberate.  And then he’d kick it in: angry, screaming verses pouring from his beard, angry, screaming chords jolting the room.  Humor and his comfort with audiences appeared in his between-song banter—and he played up the coming appearance of his good friend, Sharon Van Etten.  He frequently checked his watch, gauging how many songs he could fit in before she preformed—and intimated to us the dilemma of choosing songs to play from the deep catalogue of his mind.  And I truly believe that he could have played for another two or three hours that night; perhaps the effort of doing so alone would have been too much, but I do not doubt that he possessed that many songs and could have held our interest over the course of a long set.  Unfortunately, an encore was not an option that night, even though I definitely wanted to hear more from Mr. Malone. 
 
However, as soon as Sharon Van Etten stepped on stage, I forgot who that guy with all the hair even was (until he stood in front of me, that is.)  Smiling, she was beautiful up in those lights, dwarfed by an immaculate red guitar.  And then she sang.  And I smiled.  And my stomach flipped.  I think this is called “swooning”—a condition with which I’m not frequently afflicted.  Well, needless to say, I was hooked, infatuated even, for the rest of the night.  Her voice, echo-y and amplified, was … ethereal?  No, too light.  It was more solid and striking than that, betraying nothing of the nerves she exhibited when not performing.  Although she was releasing her second album, and had gigged with her band for at least a month of this tour, Sharon was giddy when introducing them.  She exhibited sincere wonderment as she marveled the audience, and an endearing nervousness when addressing her on-stage awkwardness.  But it was all about her songs—her voice, yes, but also the pain and beauty in her lyrics. And with family and friends amongst an adopted-hometown crowd, Sharon Van Etten’s music embraced us and we embraced her back.
 
So, I bought her new album, Epic, that night and have been listening to it frequently over the last week.  To see pictures from the show, check out Brooklyn Vegan.  Check out YouTube for some live videos of both Kyp Malone and Sharon Van Etten.  They also have websites.  And here’s the profile from the Village Voice, if you want to know the backstory on SVE.  Also! If you’re in the New York area, Sharon Van Etten will be performing at Bruar Falls in Williamsburg on Wednesday at 6pm.  Be there, for the good of your soul.  I will.

Pietrasanta, reviewed

There are hundreds of Italian restaurants in New York.  There are dozens of restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen, especially along Ninth Avenue (aka “Restaurant Row”).  So what should set apart Pietrasanta from other Theater District red-sauce joints?

Namely, the quality of service and food; the atmosphere and good company certainly helped as well.  I went with my aunt, uncle, and cousins (two hilarious girls aged 5 and 7) during their recent visit to the Big City, and the evening turned out surprisingly well.  Arriving after work, a maître d’ at the door showed me into a warm, ebullient room—with a bar in the back, windows on to Ninth Ave, and shelves of wine bottles along the walls.  My family had already cracked open a bottle of red plucked from the shelf behind them, and polished off an amazing plate of calamari (or so I’m told.)  I appetized myself on roasted red pepper hummus and good bread, before ordering the first dish that struck me upon opening the menu: the black fettuccine. 

Soon, a huge bowl arrived with thick, al dente pasta dyed black from squid ink—topped by artichokes, smoked salmon, and shiitake mushrooms.  Although I’m not sure how long salmon and shiitake mushrooms have been included in Italian cuisine, the pasta was pretty fantastic.  While the textures did not exactly blend well together, the flavors certainly did in the light garlic cream sauce.  My uncle enjoyed his so much that his plate was nearly clean when I had over a third of my pasta left. 

Yes, the food was good, but the service was particularly pleasant—attentive to our drinks, our timing (we informed them that we were not trying to catch an 8 o’clock show, thus the meal unfolded leisurely—as it should), and the little girls opposite me.  The kitchen accommodated them nicely, presenting two plates of buttered penne, with a basil leaf (or “salad”) on each, and even a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream for the youngest. 

Ah, dessert.  It’s hard to imagine we found room for tiramisu, cheesecake, or what looked like the best of the desserts on our table—the chocolate mousse.  Apparently the chocolate soufflé was the piece de resistance, but even our collective gut was not ready for that.  I will continue to try places along Restaurant Row, but I now I know there is quality Italian (and a soufflé to try) at 47th Street for the next time I’m in Midtown with company. 

Meli Melo, a review


Two weeks ago, while searching for a place to eat lunch and take refuge from the rain, my friend and I found our way under the inviting red awning of Meli Melo on Madison Avenue just north of Madison park.  The ambiance was warm and appealing, and the menu looked reasonable.  Down a few stairs, past the coffee bar, we took seats on the side of the near-empty dining room.  I had a view of a large, cozy bar--and the filming of an interview with a financial expert of some sort.  And my friend had a view of a most eclectic mural: a hand-painted map of the world, featuring well-known cultures, iconic buildings, and animals placed far from their appropriate geographic location (the absurdities of which amused us greatly as we examined the map after our meal.)  

From the menu and the general appearance of the place, I assumed Meli Melo was an Italian restaurant.  Hence, I was miffed when we were not offered wine (granted I do look rather young) and particularly confounded by our appetizer: a basket of crusty bread rounds, and a plate with two pads of butter.  Of course, I'd expected some amazingly warm and delicious bread with a side of extra virgin olive oil for dipping. And to get ... crusts and hard butter cut off the stick?  A rather disappointing start, compounded by learning that the soup of the day was cold pea soup.  Aside from the fact that I had split pea soup the previous two nights, I was put off by cold soup served on an obviously chilly rainy day.  Oh, well.  We'd decided to go with the prix fixe route anyways, and made our selection from a nice array of choices.  First course, eggplant Provencal with goat cheese; second, filet of sole roulade with mustard and dill; and cheesecake for dessert.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Again.

Music! Including a review of Kraft (not the one your thinking of)

Ah, music … it’s about time I started blogging on it.  Now, I’m just as passionate about music as I am food.  Like cooking, I noodle around on one of my many guitars (or sometimes an autoharp), and sustain my dream of being in an indie band.    And in the same vein as eating out at restaurants, I frequently go to concerts (more often than plays—gasp!).  But unlike food, I tend to immerse myself in music as often as possible, anytime there’s silence—I try to fill it with music.  When writing or cleaning my room, when cooking or doing the dishes (there’s a cd player and box of cds in the kitchen just for this purpose), and of course the many hours spent riding the train.  But, did I mention concerts?  


Friday night, after a perfectly boring shift at the subscriber table (aside from the usual people watching), I treated myself to one of the perks of a job at the New York Philharmonic (aside from the fact that I sit on my ass and earn money): actually listening to a concert.  It was the first time I’d done this all season, and the second half of the program that night compelled me to sneak  through the doors (though not without the approval of the house manager, Omar.)  Walking into the hall, no one could fail to notice how radically the piece rearranged the concepts of an orchestra, or the traditional boundaries of the performance space.  A gong hung from the ceiling in the center of the seats.  Smaller gongs and metal objects occupied the rear corners—even directly behind my seat.  And a stage center, soloists manned a piano, cello, contra-bass clarinet, and an assembly of ordinary objects and junk placed far out of context.  This would not be a typical performance. 

Tommy had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb ...

So, it’s been a week since I saw the lamb spinning at the Ilili booth in Madison Square (for video evidence, see my previous post).  And after an additional hour of waiting after work, I finally had me some fresh-roasted lamb schwarma.

After all the anticipation, nothing could really live up to what I’d expected—not that the schwarma wasn’t amazing and delicious, it just wasn’t mind-blowing. Though I basically paid for the novelty of having a sandwich with meat carved only minutes before, the wheat wrap featured a few simple flavors with its hefty dose of cilantro, a tomato/onion relish, tzatziki—and, of course, the hot tender chunks of lamb.  Besides a good hand-held dinner, one could say it was a good representation of both Lebanese cuisine and the dedication that goes into producing a quality food through a time-intense method and skilled craftsmanship.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The food market strikes again!

Obviously I have a thing for big meat sandwiches.  Yesterday it was the pastrami slider from the Almond booth--my first meal from the east side of the food square:






Though the bottom half of the onion-crusted ciabatta roll was soggy, the sandwich remained delicious and incredibly flavorful--perhaps the most intense yet.  Pastrami sandwiches from New York delis typically feature the smoky cured meat ... and not much else. (I think a certain Mitch Hedberg bit captures this well.)   This rendition included a generous smear of grainy mustard and a true dollop of jalapeno-pickle relish in the center of the meat.  The whole spices, heat, and sourness almost overwhelmed the pastrami--but the tender meat remained the foundation of the sandwich.  As usual, it disappeared quickly.

Photos from my work neighborhood





Obviously I have a thing for buildings.  Maybe I'll shoot something at street level ... someday.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Flatiron again


Hm, looking kinda phallic today.  I need to find a better angle ...

Apple Breakfast Bake

On Sunday I acquired four large Granny Smith apples—cooking apples—and I’m determined to try some new things with them this week, it being apple season after all.

I first decided to bake my apples into some sort of breakfast treat.  I considered the upside-down apple cake I have mastered, but I wanted to try something new.  So I looked at many recipes online and eventually selected the one requiring the least amount of time to prepare and no ingredients outside my own kitchen (this is probably the best way to select a recipe, but I often fail to consider both of these factors.)  So, I baked a moist cake full of apple chunks in a pie dish.

apple cake with whipped cream
Not too bad, especially warmed up in the microwave a few seconds, but I definitely should have churned up the cinnamon butter the recipe recommended as a condiment.  Three apples to go.  

Monday, October 11, 2010

Time for some Pies-n-Thighs! Well, actually, neither as it turns out ...

Ah, Pies-n-Thighs.  I’d been waiting a week to try their fare, ever since my friend Will raved about his lunch from their booth shortly after I finished my sloppy goat.  I had considered eating an early supper on Saturday at the fundraiser for the Serbian Orthodox church across the street (grilled sausage, assorted pastries, carrot cake), but they were closing up for the day when I strolled over.  So, to Food Square it was.
  

I had hoped to get a complete meal from the girls at Pies-n-Thighs, but by 5 pm the pie list looked depleted. So I nixed dessert and doubled up on sides. In minutes I walked away with a chicken biscuit and hearty servings of baked beans and collard greens.

As usual, the small eating area was packed, so I made for the park.  I just so happened to pass a skinless quadruped on a spit over open coals--a whole fucking lamb roasting outdoors in the middle of Manhattan.  Of course I stopped, just as others had, to watch the animal rotate.  Here’s a video, if you don’t believe me (a photograph wouldn’t have done it justice):


I listened as the roastmaster described the taste of lamb brain, which he’d just offered to a passing couple. And as I spoke with him, I learned that this lamb was killed just three days before, and would be going straight into the lamb schwarma served at the adjacent stand--and that they’d be doing another roast next Saturday.  One guess what I’ll be having after work next weekend.  Oh, and before I walked away, the roastmaster informed me that the chicken biscuit on my tray was amazing, and one of the three best things at the Square.  Confident in my selection, I finally found a bench and got down to the business of eating.

the spread
First, the chicken biscuit smelled delicious.  Then, in a small explosion of flavor, it tasted equally terrific. The three-inch biscuit was flaky and crunchy, with browning evident--all qualities sought in a good biscuit.  Three flavors combined perfectly in the sandwich: butter, honey, and hot sauce--with the fired chicken patty and biscuit mere vehicles for this dangerous cocktail.  The chicken was both crisp and moist (chicken’s ideal state, although if you asked a chicken it would say “alive”--but if you’re talking to a chicken you’re probably tripping so hard you that you’ll attempt to eat it in a sandwich as is).  I’m sure the processed patty was locally-sourced and perhaps even prepared in-house, but when I think of fried chicken, I would like to recognize the part of the chicken I’m eating, and have some skin to chew on.  (I’m sorry this post has gotten so graphic and offensive to non-carnivores; first the goat carcass, now all this chicken talk.)  But it was a sandwich after all--and I’m sure they fry a damn good bird at the main branch in Brooklyn.  And perhaps the best part was that the three sauces, after dripping from the sandwich, congealed on the plate to form the ultimate sauce--a powerful food synthesis, and a pleasure to dip my biscuit in.

Now, for the sides.  The beans (enough for two to share) were coated in a spicy-sweet sauce, though not too heavily.  Onions and ham bits complimented the beans, which were chewy and dense--thankfully, because otherwise I would have wolfed down the cup faster than the sandwich.  They were that strangely addictive--crack beans, perhaps?

The collard greens were bitter and refreshing, a nice departure from the other overwhelming flavors.  Topped with hot sauce and punctuated by a smattering of pulled pork pieces,the first bites were flavorful.  But this faded.  Now I don’t know how collard greens should ideally be prepared, so I’m not sure if they should have been so watery.  If any collared connoisseurs read this, forgive me for my ignorance and nit-picking (ugh, what an awful connotation.)

And, slowly, I polished off an incredible, and nearly disgusting, meal.  But unlike the KFC Double Down, the Pies-n-Thighs chicken biscuit resides on the good side of the “amazing/disgusting” line--a line I don’t stray near with my own cooking.  But, if you don’t risk plunging into the abyss of in-edibility, then you'll never know how high your chicken can soar.