Saturday, February 27, 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010
In previous books of popular enthnography like Coyotes and Newjack, Ted Conover took readers inside the lives of illegal immigrants and prison guards. His new work, The Routes of Man, explores six roads around the world and what they are creating and destroying. At a reading at The Half King, Conover treated the crowd to tales of a drunken road trip in China, a logging camp in Peru, and a border in East Africa where the desperate, the devious, and the honorable congregate in equal measure. We're not sure we're going to read the book, but we'll likely be back to the bar, especially for a pint of Sixpoint.
Monday, February 22, 2010
With its bright, white-washed interior, the strong noontime sun, and the puffy, rosemary-flavored focaccia, we almost believed we were sitting alongside the sweet shores of the sea, rather than along noisy Tenth Avenue.
Excited to sample Taboon's self-proclaimed "Middleterranean" flavors, we had a salad, which tasted like, well, most every other salad we've ever eaten, along with a much more inspired dish --- shakshuka murguez, a North African standard of fried eggs and lamb sausage in a spicy tomato, onion, and pepper sauce. As good as it was, our favorite part of the meal was the knaffe, a shredded wheat pastry called kadayif stuffed with cheese and topped with a flowery, light syrup. Wherever that's from, we're happy to have it here.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
One of the things we like most about visiting the museums around town is that we always leave a little smarter. To wit: a diorama at the American Museum of Natural History, which demonstrates in both words and plastic figures how to get bitten by a snake.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Mellifluous Nyonya specializes in the food of the Peranakan people, the descendants of Chinese immigrants to the Straits Settlements in the Malay Archipelago. (Feel free to consult a map; we did.)
Our recent lunch there began with roti canai, a thin and crumpled pancake accompanied by curry chicken sauce (and demonstrating an overarching Indian influence on the cuisine). Everyone in the restaurant seemed to order this: it's addictively tasty but so light that you don't feel bad tearing off yet another piece.
We ordered one fiery dish --- the mee siam noodles with shrimp and chilis --- and one sweet dish, chicken with mangoes and peppers. Taking a bite of each was like getting a snapshot of Malyasian food as a whole, with its emphasis on sugar and spice. Plus, the two dishes gave us a really fun "a little from column A, a little from column B" taste sensation.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
The geography of Vietnam --- thousands of miles of coastline and rivers at the edge of the Asian mainland --- has made its culture a vibrantly diverse mix of influences from throughout the region. The Asia Society's current exhibition of ancient Vietnamese art reflects the intermingling of Hindu, Buddhist, and Chinese motifs and beliefs with local traditions. Some of the material is of primarily historic interest, but much of it, especially the objects from the coastal area of Champa, is forceful, energetic, and just plain cool.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Few things make our hearts race more than the words "Neapolitan pizza." So it was with great gusto that we arrived at newly opened Ovest, owned by the guy who runs Luzzo's in the East Village. In fact, it was so newly opened that we're fairly certain we were the only people there not friends with the owner or employed by him.
Our arugula salad had apples and pecorino, a winning combination, but we were there for the pie. Like its older sibling, Ovest serves both square and round. Our quadrata bufala had fine flavor with a too-crispy crust, although we had a hard time hearing the crunch over the Michael Jackson throbbing above us. It's not the best pizza in Chelsea, but it's definitely the best pizza on the block.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
About 6500 years ago, while most folks in the world were beating mud with sticks and casting a skeptical eye at the new trend called farming, the people of the Danube Valley were busy building Europe's first civilization, complete with towns, trade, and mines. "Old Europe," as this mix of communities is called, is unknown to most of us --- we tend to think of European civilization as beginning in Greece, not Bulgaria or Moldova --- but the artifacts from the region currently on display (for free!) at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World show a dynamic culture capable of genuine aesthetic achievement. Even if their original significance is unrecoverable now, the objects still reveal minds and hands at work, struggling to make lasting meaning in a chaotic world.
Friday, February 12, 2010
A tipsy parson, apparently, is a cake soaked in alcohol and served with custard and almonds. It's also the name of a newish restaurant in Chelsea serving refined takes on Southern comfort food. At a recent brunch, these included a respectable monkey bread and a tangy tilapia po'boy.
But Southern food ain't complete without a cardiological absurdity. Tipsy Parson delivered with "The Luther," a bacon cheeseburger served on glazed donuts. It's preposterous, something you'd expect to find on The Simpsons. It's also delicious, a distillation of the range of breakfast flavors. Now if we could just shake this tingling sensation in our arms.
Yes, folks, we really ate this.