Thursday, August 28, 2008

NYC Staycation

The Times has an article about how some New Yorkers are enjoying their "staycations," a vacation spent at home. It mentions one guy who stayed in bed so long his back started to hurt (no comment). Anyway, as it happens, we had a conversation earlier today with a coworker about how living in New York is like a year-round, 24-7 staycation. Sure, you have to go to work and pay bills and pick up the dry cleaning, but when you're not doing those things, you can take the subway to the beach, see tremendous art, eat all kinds of amazing food from around the world, bask in the grass of Central or Madison or Prospect Park (or snag a table at one of the new esplanades), visit neighborhoods where English is rarely spoken, or watch several professional sports teams, among a gajillion other things. As this coworker put it, "If I didn't live here, this is where I'd come on vacation." Yup, exactly.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Red Hook Vendors

This weekend we finally made it to the El Salvadorian vendors at the Red Hook Ballfields. (We say "finally," because you can't live in New York and call yourself a food lover without going, apparently.) We feasted on corn dipped in butter, Parmesan cheese, and chili powder; papusas stuffed with cheese and pork and cheese and jalapenos; and a tamal pisque (cheese and beans). And we worshiped at the altar of jugo de sandia (watermelon juice). Now that we've been, we have our strategy down for our next visit, which we're seriously considering doing this coming weekend: choose the truck selling papusas with lorocco (part of the national flower of El Salvador) that doesn't have too long of a line. While one of us waits, the other will bring over the starters (the corn) and drinks (more watermelon juice, please, along with some pineapple juice . . . even the shortest lines are long, since the food is made to order). Then we'll eat the papusas on the grass or, if there's space, at one of the picnic tables. This process will be repeated as necessary until satiation or destitution, whichever comes first.

Park Avenue Street Closings

We have Mayor Bloomberg to thank for this picture: he decided to close roughly five miles of Park Avenue, from Central Park to Union Square, to cars for three Saturdays in August. Hooray!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Del Posto

Our final stop during Restaurant Week was Del Posto, Mario Batali’s haute Italian restaurant near the Meatpacking District. Batali and Joe Bastianich are trying their damndest to get Italian cooking taken as seriously as French, and nowhere more so than here. There are fabric-covered walls, suits on everyone, a sweeping staircase to more intimate second-floor dining area, and more marble than you're likely to see in another restaurant. There are even purse stools for ladies who cannot think of what else to do with their handbags. Though it's in the Meatpacking District--ugh--you can’t say the place isn’t lovely.

Right off, the sommelier came over to talk about what wines we wanted to order, a lovely touch during a week when many restaurants skimp on the extras. They offered a three-wine pairing with the meal, but we decided to order from the regular list, and after talking about what we like, he gave us very good recommendations—an astonishingly crisp Gavi di Gavi and a soft and sweet Nero d’Avola.

For our first course, we had an insalata di pomodoro with mint, onions, and a mozzarella crème and a minestrone freddo with pesto and aborio rice. The minestrone was good and cool and the salad was terrific, with a mix of heirloom tomatoes that gave it a lot of flavor. Our main courses were salmon with fagioli and a roasted pork loin with charred onions, both great, the salmon particularly so. Desserts were a so-so ricotta cheesecake and a chocolate budino that was much better once you got past the extremely acidic milk foam on top. Del Posto normally charges ambitious prices, so even though we didn't love everything about it, this was still a very good meal that felt like a steal, and a nice finish to a great week.

Photo: thanks

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Coen Brothers Retrospective at MoMA

All movies are collaborative, but the fact remains that some are more collaborative than others--and none more so than those written, directed, produced, and edited by the Coen Brothers (they’ll never categorically state who does what). Rumor has it that if you ask either of the two men a question you’ll get the same answer. We saw four of the nine Coen Brothers movies recently screened at MoMA as part of its Collaborations in the Collections series. Here’s what we thought:

Raising Arizona: it’s amazing how much of this movie has stayed with us over the past 21 years (meant as a compliment)

Miller’s Crossing: as unintelligible and mannered as ever (also meant as a compliment, sort of)

Fargo: perfection

The Big Lebowski: a little long, but better on the big screen

Seeing them together emphasized just how much the pair knows their filmic history; watching the movies is almost as good as reading a history of film. They're obsessed with the idea of place: regardless of whether it’s the dry west, the woods outside of New Orleans, the wintry Midwest, or the kooky sides of LA, they want to know--and show--what makes a locale, well, local (this includes, of course, exploring accents and lots of sweeping, panoramic shots). Lastly, after spending so much time in the Coen world, we arrived at the following conclusion: noir is good, but noir + Frances McDormand is better.

Photo: thanks

Monday, August 18, 2008

Totally Rad at the Paul Kasmin Gallery

The paintings, video installation, and handful of sculptures comprising the Totally Rad: New York in the 80s exhibition don’t have labels, so viewers are left to identify the Basquiats, Schnabels, Koons, Holzers, Warhols, and Harings, among others, on their own. The effect is fairly rad, if we can use that word without sounding glib or dating ourselves faster than the two pairs of Nikes on display, because it transforms the experience of looking into a game of matching. Is the Basquiat the giant red head or the impossible view of the street scene? (The latter.) Is the twisty-turny 3D painting an Elizabeth Murray? (Nope, it’s a Frank Stella.) But even if you can’t think fast and name the major artists of the eighties, the exhibit provides its own reward--a contextual consideration of the splash and flash, color and concept, and assertion of presence through sheer size that mark so much of the art from that time.

Photo: thanks

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bar Room at the Modern

For the second stop on our Restaurant Week tour, we went to the Bar Room at the Modern. The casual half of The Modern, Danny Meyer's much-praised new restaurant overlooking MoMA's sculpture garden, the Bar Room is a marriage of minimalist cool and Gotham chaos, with its long, blank entrance and dark metal fixtures running headlong into a cacophonous crowd and a glass wall of riotous greenery. The menu is stocked with a miscellany of small plates that encourages exactly the kind of sharing and interchange and all-around disorder that would have driven Mies van der Rohe to kick a hole in a frosted glass window.

We started with scallops with a lobster consommé and pears and an Alsatian sausage with turnips (again, autumn is just around the corner). The scallops and consomme were spiced with Asian pears, making them almost woody, and the sausage was wonderfully crumbly and spicy. Our mains were a lemon-pepper pappardelle with mushrooms, peas, and ricotta and a sliced hanger steak with bok choy, blue cheese flan, and a mustard jus. Both were exceptionally satisfying dishes. We finished off with a chocolate cremeux with coconut tapioca (the cremeux part was good, the tapioca was, well, tapiocan) and a great dessert called a “caramel chocolate dome”—coffee-soaked ladyfingers smooshed into caramel pudding and covered with a hard caramel crust, surrounded by thin sheets of chocolate and served with an amaretto-inflected scoop of vanilla ice cream. They had a special wine list for RW, and we drank a crisp and light Torrontes and an oaky Tinta del Pais. We loved pretty much everything about our meal here and can’t wait to go back.

Photo: thanks

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Reinhardt + Rothko at MoMA

A couple of weeks ago we completely breezed through a special room of five paintings by Ad Reinhardt facing five by Mark Rothko. We went back recently, killing time before the Coen brothers retrospective, and were rewarded with ruminative, contemplative work filled with color that shifts and shimmers. Obviously these images are much, much smaller; if the paintings were actually this small, we could be forgiven for zipping by not just once but twice.

Photos: thanks and thanks

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