Sunday, January 31, 2010

Never Records / Never Can Say Goodbye

No Longer Empty, an artists' collective, takes over unused spaces and transforms them into installations. Their most recent work appropriates the former Tower Records on Broadway and 4th, turning what was once the center of a vibrant music scene into a multimedia exhibition called Never Can Say Goodbye. Among the pieces by the 20 artists are a re-created store (called Never Records), including a paper maiche sales clerk; several audio installations, including mash-ups of hundreds of songs that reached #1 on the Billboard charts; Teen Beat–type magazines featuring Vanilla Ice; and images of what we think is meant to be Josh Groban in sequins. By the time we moved to the city the idea of Tower as hangout - cum - best way to find out about new music was long gone, but Never Can Say Goodbye makes a strong case for what was lost when this store closed.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sugar Sweet Sunshine

A cute and comfortable spot on the Lower East Side, Sugar Sweet Sunshine serves what its name suggests, in the form of Sexy Red Velvet and Lemon Yummy cupcakes, amongst other evocatively named goodies. You feel a little silly ordering them, but you feel better once you're scarfing 'em down.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Our first foray into this season's Restaurant Week was at Dovetail, the restaurant that, more than any other, is the symbol of the recent Upper West Side culinary renaissance. While many restaurants have a reputation for skimping during Restaurant Week, Dovetail started us with a shotglass of smooth beets, salmon, and creme fraiche and an addictive cheddar cornbread.

Next was cauliflower soup with a bacon, walnut, apple, and brown butter garnish that brought out all of the seasonal warmth of the soup, along with squid a la plancha with peppers, Thai basil, mango, coconut, and a radish relish. The squid was nicely firm, and the dish had a lovely controlled sweetness.

Our main courses were seared cod with Meyer lemon and sweet onions, and duck confit with radicchio. Both dishes had the potential to be uniformly soft, but the light sear on the cod and the crisp skin on the duck balanced the other textures and allowed the flavors to come to the forefront. Each bite of the duck confit made us like it more.

For dessert, we had a Black Forest gateau with cherry puree and almond bread pudding with rum raisin ice cream and maple butterscotch sauce. The dense gateau wasn't particularly memorable, but the almond bread pudding was awesome. It was like the French toast you always dream about having but can never find.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Subway Map Floating on a New York City Sidewalk

Most works of art aren't meant to be touched, for obvious reasons. But on Greene Street in Soho lies an artwork that gets trampled, scuffed, spat at, spilled on, and generally disdained all day long. It's Francoise Schein's Subway Map Floating on a New York City Sidewalk, a schematic representation of local subway lines as depicted on maps from the 70s and 80s. It's a little piece of the mundane turned into abstract art and reinserted into the mundane.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Back in 2007–2008, Scarpetta was on everyone's tongue. The Times gave it a bunch of stars, Esquire named it one of the "Best New Restaurants" in the US, and people scrambled to get reservations. Some thought Scarpetta would return culinary dignity to an otherwise often undignified area of the city. So, how are things a few years later?

Pretty good. Pretty good.

The meal started off delightfully, with a bread basket that included salami-and-cheese roll ups. A few more of these, and we'd have been too full for anything else.

As an appetizer, we enjoyed the fried mozzarella with tiny heirloom tomatoes. First cheese and meat baked into bread, then cheese covered in a crispy coating. So far, so delicious.

We contemplated the $26 spaghetti, but ultimately decided on the black maccheroni with seafood and the touch-too-sweet duck-and-foie gras ravioli.

And for dessert, which we ordered two of in the name of research, we tried the olive oil cake, not nearly as moist as it should have been, and the always-dependable molten chocolate cake.

Scarpetta isn't our favorite Italian restaurant in New York, but it hit enough good notes to let us leave happy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


The hullabaloo about the recently increased (and improved) dining options on the Upper West Side tends to focus on the familiar, which is a shame since such an attitude leaves out lovely little restaurants like Land. But that just means more elbow room and crunchy veggie spring rolls for us!

The lunch prix fixe includes two courses for $8. In addition to the aforementioned rolls, we opted for veggie dumplings, as well as pad thai and drunken noodles with chicken (drunk on spice, not alcohol, alas).

And for dessert, a scoop of coconut ice cream, redolent of sunny days and sun cream, topped with a cardomom-seeded cracker.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thomas Dozol's Entre Temps at Envoy Enterprises

Thomas Dozol's series Entre Temps, just finishing a run at Envoy Enterprises, depicts people moments after they emerge from the shower, in the liminal state between private washing and public display. A handful --- the most talked-about handful, naturally --- depict his celebrifriends, but those are actually the least compelling shots. (When you see Gwenyth Paltrow drying off, you don't think, "Here's a person in a moment of complete un-self-consciousness"; you think, "Gwenyth Paltrow and I have the same towels.") It's Dozol's unknown subjects, like Jamie, above, caught in moments of repose, contemplation, or simple ablution, who are the most vulnerable, the most human, the most like you when you're all alone.

Photo: thanks

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dessert Truck Works

Whatever damage it may do to our culinary bona fides, we'll just say it: the food truck trend is stupid. We love New York in part because it allows you to escape the car culture endemic to the rest of the US, so food trucks have always struck us as something that would be cool in, say, Kansas City, but willfully perverse here. And that's to say nothing of the ecological effects of idling a truck all day, or the gustatory appeal of standing on the sidewalk breathing exhaust while eating waffles.

So it was with considerable relief that we greeted the arrival of Dessert Truck Works, the brick-and-mortar manifestation of the erstwhile sweetmobile. In a spare but appealing space on the Lower East Side, they're serving up goodies like molten chocolate cake with hazelnuts and olive oil and brioche donut holes filled with glorious goopy Nutella. And they'll be in the same place tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Essex Street Market

No one would confuse the Essex Street Market with one of the great markets Americans travel long distances to see, but it does have a straggling charm that we enjoy.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rye House

You don't see many restaurants in New York that try to capture the culinary spirit of Pittsburgh. Heck, you probably don't see that many in Pittsburgh that do so. Mercifully, the recently opened Rye House is absent any Steelers banners or . . . uh . . . whatever else is a visual marker of Pittsburgianity. They do have a great list of American spirits, though, and they make a pretty good shrimp roll.

But the best thing on the brief menu of upscale bar food is the spicy, sloppy, satisfying Pittsburgh, a sandwich made with andouille sausage, cheese, house slaw, and fries. Yes, that means fries in the sandwich, one of the few late-night-in-the-dorm-room ideas that actually works. Apparently it's a Pittsburgh thing.

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