Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Harbor Seals

Cleaner rivers mean more habitable environments, which mean an increased chance of seeing things like seals pop up around 79th Street.

(Photo: Joyce Dopkeen/The New York Times)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Jefferson Market

The only branch of the New York Public Library with an honest-to-God turret.

(Photo -- thanks.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Lombardi's vs Totonno's

On Sunday, we set out to settle a years-old argument: Lombardi’s or Totonno’s? In our admittedly tiny view, these are the two giants of New York pizzerias, Godzilla and King Kong, respectively. Some would say that we’ve set up a false dilemma, because the true rivalry exists between John’s and Patsy’s, or Nick’s and Grimaldi’s. Whatever. There are plenty of monster metaphors to go around, particularly if you start tapping into Ridley Scott’s oeuvre.

Anyway, Lombardi’s introduced the Neapolitan street food to the United States way back in 1905, when an employee named Anotonio “Totonno” Pero began selling pies and slices. Almost 20 years later, he left to open Totonno’s in Coney Island, now the oldest continuously operating pizza parlor in the United States. (The original Lombardi’s in Little Italy closed in 1984; it reopened nearby in 1994.)

The indelible connection between the two restaurants—and, obviously, to pizza history—makes them the two behemoths in our opinion. That, and the fact that they both make terrific pizzas.

Both use super-fresh ingredients flown in from Italy, make their dough daily, and cook their pies at extremely high temperatures in coal ovens, producing a thinnish, chewy crust, with the occasional burnt bit, that folds in half easily. Naturally, both eschew weird toppings like BBQ chicken in favor of the basic Margherita (a little sauce, a little cheese, a little olive oil, a little basil) with, maybe, some extra garlic and sausage.

Four slices each and a handful of Tums later, we decided on Totonno’s. We like that the buffalo mozzarella is more blanket than coverlet. We like the bigger slices; crunchier bottoms; thicker, not-so-uniform crusts; and more viscid, less soupy sauce. And we especially like that our local Totonno’s Manhattan outpost reminds us of the strip malls of our youth, with mounted tvs tuned to sports and wooden captains’ chairs that match the wood paneling, right on Second Avenue.

In the 1963 movie King Kong vs. Godzilla, King Kong wins. But, really, who’s to say whether a mutant gorilla could beat a mutant lizard? The same goes for pizza. We say, try them both. But maybe not on the same day.

Friday, January 18, 2008

AKC Top Dogs 2007

According to recently released statistics from the American Kennel Club, the top 10 dog breeds in New York City are:

1. Labrador Retriever
2. Yorkshire Terrier
3. Dachsund
3. Havanese
3. Poodle
6. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
7. French Bulldog
8. Golden Retriever
9. Bulldog
10. Pug

But if you spend any time at the city's dog runs, you'll see that Great Danes, rottweilers, Bernese Mountain dogs, and pit bulls are popular too. As AKC spokesperson Lisa Peterson points out, "[R]egardless of space constraints, Manhattanites still favor the energetic and exuberant Labrador Retriever above all, demonstrating that nothing can deter a true dog lover from owning their favorite breed.”


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lucian Freud's Etchings at MoMA

The best are of Pluto, Freud's dog, whose dignity matches or exceeds that of Freud's human subjects.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

46 Million Tourists

According to Bloomberg's radio address on Sunday, 46 million people visited New York in 2007. Insert joke about how many fanny packs, faded jeans, and/or white sneakers that means here.

Obviously that’s a lot of people. But all these tourists bring money ($28 billion, apparently) to the local economy, even if you account for a certain percentage spending their dollars at McDonald’s or the Gap. And there’s something to be said for living in a city that’s so desirable to so many. So, welcome, strangers. Just leave your fanny pack at home.

Friday, January 11, 2008

2008 NY Antiquarian Book Fair

After getting caught slightly off-guard by a sudden monsoon this afternoon, we finished our day with a visit to the antiquarian book show currently running at the 25th Street Armory, right near home. With squishing shoes and heavy pants, we wandered through the exhibition hall, where more than 60 dealers of old and rare books were displaying their wares. Our soggy state didn't bother the booksellers, though; in fact, they couldn't have been nicer or more trusting, offering to "discourse on any number of esoteric topics," as one said, and leaving first editions of books like Gravity's Rainbow and The Sound and the Fury (currently fetching up to $7500 and $35,000, respectively) out for anyone to flip through. We weren't quite brave enough to go that far, but we did see enough books, maps, postcards, and brochures to plan out our next decade of birthday wish lists. If only we had as much liquidity in our bank account as we did in our socks.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City

Leslie Day's Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City is most definitely our favorite book of early 2008, and not just because it's illustrated with thoughtful watercolors. Written by a naturalist who lives at the West 79th Street Boat Basin, the guide's seven chapters contain all kinds of fun, fun facts. For example:

--Wooly mammoths and giant sloths once roamed from Queens to Connecticut
--Huckleberries and strawberries grew plentifully at one time
--Central Park was the first public park in the U.S.
--New York has roughly 30,000 acres of park
--Today, there are at least two types of centipede, five types of butterfly, three types of oak tree, three types of bat, five types of duck, and one mushroom called "artist's conk" sharing our space (and you thought it was the 8.2 million people making things crowded)

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Instructoart in Chelsea

With some time to kill before seeing There Will Be Blood in Chelsea yesterday, we popped over to the galleries on West 24th Street, where we were treated to Matthew Vescovo's "Master of the Obvious" show. Called "instructoart," Vescovo's works depict wry instructions for navigating daily life, from secretly ogling an attractive fellow straphanger (above) to telling when people are lying (the eyes in the images avert as you pass by). Ironic, but not unhelpful. By the way, the pictures are much bigger in person.

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