Saturday, July 31, 2010

Salumeria Biellese

Capicola sandwich, Salumeria Biellese

Obviously the only thing to order at Salumeria Biellese --- whose owners have been curing meats in the same Midtown South location since 1925, using a recipe that predates refrigeration, to the occasional displeasure of the Department of Health --- is pork.

So that's what we did, in the form of a capicola with provolone and prosciutto with mozzarella. The storefront is a bit sad, with grubby plastic tables and napkin dispensers, but the meat tasted of joy, history, Platonic ideals of pigs raised to be humanely slaughtered and turned into sandwich stuffs, of saltiness and chewy meatiness. We advise getting a few to go, then crossing the avenues to Hudson River Park. Eat each one slowly, thinking of how food with a past both roots us and prepares us for the future.

Prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich, Salumeria Biellese

Friday, July 30, 2010

Monkey Business at BAM

Howard Hawks' great screwball comedies --- Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday --- are so splendid and so canonical that it's easy to forget he made others. That neglect is especially unfortunate in the case of Monkey Business, a riot of a movie featuring megawatt star power (Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, Ginger Rogers, Charles Cobrun), not to mention a pair of very dextrous chimpanzees. Screening as part of a Cary Grant series at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Fort Greene, Monkey Business reminded us of the occasional appropriateness of the cliche "they don't make 'em like they used to." For all its silly slapstick and simian antics, it's unmistakably a comedy for adults, laced with double entendres and propelled by the desire to recapture the passion, sexual and otherwise, of youth.

Photos: thanks

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Though we're generally fans of Restaurant Week (recently extended through Labor Day), sometimes it bites us in the pocketbook. Case in point: a recent lunch at Aldea, in Union Square, where not a single item on the prix fixe appealed to us. (Note to selves: do research before making the reservation.)

The regular menu, on the other hand, had charm to spare, putting polish and refinement on seasonal Portuguese and Spanish flavors. So did the small dining area, a cool bastion of silvers, blues, and grays, with an open stainless steel kitchen and lovely glass sculpture affixed to the ceiling. It's a place that invites lingering.

Jamon Serrano, Aldea

Cheese plate with quince and walnut raisin bread, Aldea

First up, jamon serrano. Like Frank Bruni, we felt OK not going for the really pricey jamon Iberico, as we've had it at the source. Our second appetizer was a cheese plate. A nervous food runner meant we didn't catch any names. They ranged from a very soft to a moderately soft, all quite delicate, especially when spread with a little quince paste atop a morsel of walnut raisin bread. Alternating bites of the melt-in-our-mouths meat with the cool buttery cheese made us feel as if we were on a picnic.

Diver scallops with farro risotto, orange slices, and cucumber, Aldea

The entrees were extraordinary. We watched, rapt, as the chefs, including George Mendes, fastidiously dolled out squirts of olive oil and pinches of salt. The scallops, with a tight sear, were very nicely cooked on the inside, which isn't often the case. Each had a sliver of orange, and all three rested on a warm farro-and-cucumber salad. The dish required precision, certainly to make but also to eat. This was a good thing, since more time getting a sliver of every component on the fork meant more time savoring the result.

Arroz de pato with duck confit, chorizo, olives, duck cracklings, and apricot gelee, Aldea

But the star, by far, was the arroz de pato, a melange of textures --- crispy duck skin, chewy duck meat, spicy chorizo, plump rice. A swipe of apricot puree felt a bit out of place, both in terms of presentation (it was too thick to be swiped) and taste (there simply wasn't enough of it to compliment or contrast with the rest of the dish). Oh, we quibble. Frankly, this dish has us checking on flights to Lisbon.

Sonhos with rhubarb, spice chocolate, and apple cinnamon sauce, Aldea

Dessert consisted of extremely sugary bits of barely cooked dough, with an array of dipping sauces. They're called "sonhos," or little dreams. Our subconscious could do worse than to revisit these, or the rest of this lunch, every night.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dead or Alive at the Museum of Arts and Design

Dead or Alive, at the Museum of Arts and Design, is not an exhibition for the squeamish. Preserved bugs, mummified bats, mountains of mice parts, and more skeletons than you can shake a femur at fill two floors of gallery space. All of the pieces incorporate organic materials, and collectively they invoke the gentlemanly cabinets of curiosity that eventually led to natural history museums. Our favorite works were those that transformed the detritus of life into something beautiful, like Lonneke Gordjin and Ralph Nuata's collection of dandelion puffs lit by LED lights, or Jorge Mayet's Obatala, a lovely tree-and-root system incorporating feathers, paper mache, and electric cable into a vision of the delicate magic of nature.

Photos: Shen Shaomin's Sagittarius, courtesy of Eli Klein, and Jorge Mayet's Obatala, courtesy of Galeria Horrach Moya

Monday, July 26, 2010

Istanbul Grill

Although Istanbul Grill is open 24 hours a day (because, obviously, you never know when a craving for doner kebab might strike), we opted to go for an early dinner. Inside, there isn't much to look at besides Formica and worn posters advertising Turkish tourism, so everyone was conversing vehemently. One table spoke Hebrew, one table spoke Turkish, and our waitress mentioned that she was from Kazakhstan. Forget Esperanto. Insert joke here about food as the true global language.

Adana kebab, Istanbul Grill

Meze plate, Istanbul Grill

That night we spoke kofte and meze plate. The lamb kebab was well-seasoned and well-done, providing a hearty contrast to the coolness of the salads, including eggplant, hummus, thabouli, white beans with garlic, stuffed grape leaves, and sigara boregi (a fried piece of phyllo stuffed with feta), which we scooped up with freshly baked lavash. At the end of the meal, we patted our big bellies, the universal sign for 'thank you. Everything was wonderful, but we're too full for dessert. Next time.'


Saturday, July 24, 2010

An Ideal Husband at Wings Theater

Big Rodent's production of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband updates the action from nineteenth-century London to 1960s. Other than allowing the audience to look up the super-short mod minis worn by some of the actors, we're not totally sure why.

But that's a minor quibble, considering how good the acting is, particularly Joe Mathers as gadabout Viscount Goring, Leigh Poulos, who plays Mabel, his ditsy love interest, and Sarah Krokey, the arrogant, naive Lady Chiltern whose marriage is tested when she learns the truth about her husband's past. The fast and witty dialogue --- "Fashion is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear. Other people are quite dreadful. The only possible society is oneself." --- remains the same, as does the message: love between equals allows us to overcome the murky viciousness that marks most social discourse.

Tonight's the final performance. If you're interested, use the code BEERWIT to get half-off tickets.

Photo: thanks

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bouchon Bakery

The Time Warner Center is a lot of things: extremely expensive hotel, large shopping mall, former home of Ricky Martin. For all these reasons, we don't like to spend a lot of time there.

But a few weeks ago we needed an inexpensive, summery option for dinner --- enter the Bouchon Bakery cafe. A sitdown restaurant specializing in seasonal American / French and stupendous views of Columbus Circle and Central Park, the cafe exudes the elegance you'd expect from a restaurateur who also runs Per Se and The French Laundry, without the price.

Short rib slider, Bouchon Bakery

Peanut butter sundae, Bouchon Bakery

As usual, our salad --- Bibb lettuce with thoughtful gobs of blue cheese --- was too homely to merit a photo, but we're hoping the short rib slider is cute enough to cover both entrees. For dessert, we went with a peanut butter sundae, a bit like going to an ice cream parlor and ordering cookies, we know, but we didn't feel like a pastry after the sliders and stinky cheese. Everything felt just a little twee, but in a good way.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Friedman's Lunch

The name "Friedman's Lunch" refers to the economist Milton Friedman, who allegedly summarized finance as follows: "There's no such thing as a free lunch." It's fitting then, that, the restaurant charges for lunch, as well as breakfast and dinner, mostly updated takes on American classics.

Grilled salmon salad, Friedman's Lunch

Our salmon salad might look sad here, but in actuality the salmon had a good char and came with a zesty dill dressing. As the cliche goes, it was what it was. Nevertheless, the real strength of a recent lunch was a grilled chicken sandwich with pesto and red peppers on slabs of focaccia, chewy and hearty and flavorful. With a couple of pickles courtesy of a small outpost of Guss' Pickles and cans of Dr. Brown's, we were definitely in business.

Balsamic grilled chicken sandwich, Friedman's Lunch

Sour and half-sour pickles, Guss' Pickles via Friedman's Lunch

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The IAC Building

The IAC Building

With its twisting structure, gently shifting tones, and marching waves of glass, Frank Gehry's IAC Building evokes the nearby Hudson River and the sailboats that ply it. By Gehry's standards, the IAC is a modest building, but for us, its restraint makes it all the more beguiling, especially in the glowing night.


The IAC Building

The IAC Building

The IAC Building

The IAC Building

The IAC Building

The IAC Building

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck

Salty Pimp, Big Gay Ice Cream Truck

Even curmudgeons like us who are generally anti-food truck find it hard to resist the siren song of the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. The name alone makes it hard for most sensible people to stay away. But making abstinence even harder are the inventive sundaes. Our friend Howard raved about the salty pimp, and with good reason: the mix of cheap soft serve vanilla, dulce de leche, and sea salt, all dipped in chocolate, is a giddy high-low combo. And as soon as we saw that the monday sundae was served in a waffle cone lined with Nutella, we nearly trampled the poor kids in front of us to get one. Keep on truckin', guys.

Monday Sundae, Big Gay Ice Cream Truck

Monday, July 19, 2010

Greater New York at P.S. 1

Five years ago, curators selected several local artists to participate in the first Greater New York at P.S. 1. If this year's version is any indication, an easy way to get your stuff shown is to photograph awkward or unattractive people, preferably both, preferably masturbating, definitely naked.

Nevertheless, a lot of weak work has the unintended benefit of highlighting artists worth paying attention to, including Pinar Yolacan, whose photographs featured a large, curvy being completely covered in fabric, a cross between the Venus of Willendorf and Rene Margrite's The Lovers (see above). We also liked David Brook's installation, Trees in Concrete, exactly what it sounds like: drab, dirty, dusty trees meant to focus viewers' attention on the destruction of rainforests around the world. But even if we hated everything, we'd still recommend a visit: what's on view, for better or worse, represents what some consider to be the most cutting-edge art being made here right now.

Photo: Pinar Yolacan, Boro, 2009

Sunday, July 18, 2010

M. Wells Diner

Of all the restaurants for New York foodies to go atwitter over, a diner seems the least likely. But that's just what's happened with M. Wells, a new place in Long Island City that marries Quebecois cooking to the classic greasy spoon. The Voice's Robert Sietsema exemplified the chorus of praise when he described this fusion as "some of the most innovative cooking in the city."

Tortilla Espanola, M. Wells Diner

We didn't have quite this same reaction. In fact, we almost left without eating because the air conditioner was struggling so fitfully against the heat and because our waitress forgot our drinks, wouldn't take our order until we flagged her down, and took our food to the wrong table. We stuck it out, though (oh, the things we do for this blog).

Cubano sandwich, M. Wells Diner

Our tortilla Espanola was serviceable but nothing more --- too soft all the way through and a bit bland. The Cubano, however, stands up to any in town, with a delightful mustard tang and a great crunch. While we're not quite sure what either dish has to do with Quebec, and we think all this hype is a bit much, the concept and the Cubano make us root for this place and hope that some day soon, as the slogan says, all will be well at M. Wells.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at the Met

Palace of Ashurnasirpal II, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Palace of Ashurnasirpal II, constructed in the 9th century BCE, sat alongside the Tigris, but now its throne room can be found at the Met. Though the color has long since faded from its walls, the iconography remains, communications carved for posterity into the stone, an Ozymandias transported.







Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Greenmarket Noshing

Homemade pancakes with farmers' market blueberry compote and bacon

With so many good things coming into season, using the kitchen for storage just doesn't seem right.

Chickpea, olive, and onion salad

Peach, mozzarella, and basil salad

Strawberry muffins

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Oyster Locals: New York's Best Public Pools

Hey everyone, we're also writing about New York for Oyster Locals, a web resource for travelers. Periodically we'll feature content on here that we produced there.

Fifty-something years later, and still the Lovin’ Spoonful says it best: “Hot town, summer in the city / Back of my neck getting burnt and gritty.” The rest of the song describes the wonderful breezes at night, especially on rooftops, but neglects to mention the easiest, most fun way to keep cool during brutal New York City summers: public pools.

Before you call us crazy and click away, consider this: temperatures in July and August hover around 90°F (32°C), with humidity so thick the whole city seems swollen. Most apartment buildings and hotels don’t have swimming facilities. The beach is a long car-, subway-, or bus-ride away. Air conditioners eat up the ozone . . . you get the picture. New York’s 54 outdoor pools are either free or super-cheap, conveniently located around town, and generally open every day from the end of June to Labor Day. Naturally, you’re required to wear appropriate swimming attire and supply your own lock; we recommend leaving your high-tech gadgets, heirloom jewelry, and wads of cash at home. For up-to-date information about the city’s parks, call 311 or (212) NEW YORK.

What follows are a few of our favorites. We’ll see you there!

Hamilton Fish Recreation Center
Open daily, from 11 am to 7 pm, Hamilton Fish has two pools: a tiny one for the kids, and a vastly bigger one (330 by 165 feet) for the adults, both staffed with lifeguards and both free. The Beaux Arts gym with changing facilities is the only survivor of the original nineteenth-century park. We can thank Robert Moses for the 1936 renovation: as parks commissioner, the former college swim team captain took time away from his pro-car agenda to advocate for the construction of a pool, thereby giving generations of Lower East Siders and their friends a place to cool off. 128 Pitt Street, between Stanton and Houston Streets. Stay practically down the street at the Thompson LES.

Red Hook Recreation Center
In the early seventeenth century, Dutch settlers gave the area its name, due to the land’s unique color and shape: Roode Hoek. Today, Red Hook is a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, with a vibrant farmer’s market, large Ikea complex, and incredible, rarely crowded outdoor pool, open Monday–Friday, 8 am to 9.30 pm, and Saturday, 8 am to 5.30 pm. When you’re done swimming, walk a few blocks to the Red Hook Ball Fields and snack on stuffed pupusas, tacos, and grilled corn. The carts and food trucks have become must-visits for anyone who appreciates, or wants to learn to appreciate, freshly prepared, authentic South American specialties. 155 Bay Street, between Clinton and Henry Streets. Brooklyn’s Nu Hotel is close to the F train, which stops within walking distance to the pool.

Riverbank State Park
For some folks, summer simply isn’t hot enough. These souls need to make themselves even hotter by playing softball, handball, tennis, or soccer. If this sounds like you, check out Riverbank State Park, where you can play yourself sweaty, then cool off in the indoor or outdoor pool. The park’s location—almost 70 feet above the Hudson River, atop a wastewater treatment facility—guarantees extraordinary views of the Palisades’s leafy cliffs and the George Washington Bridge’s steel lines. Open daily, from 9 am to 6 pm; free for kids under the age of 4, $1 for kids 5–15 and adults over 62, $2 for everyone else. 679 Riverside Drive, at 145th Street. From the Marrakech Hotel, you can take the 1 train uptown or walk north, through Riverside Park.

Astoria Park Pool
Moses and his fellow city planners named this pool---New York's largest and oldest---for the surrounding neighborhood, not the intense rapids in the nearby East River. After all, "Hell Gate Park" doesn't have quite the same ring as "Astoria Park." In addition to fantastic views of the Triborough Bridge and the Manhattan skyline, the pool has two so-called mushroom fountains, which shoot water 25 feet into the air, and underwater lighting that was revolutionary when the pool opened in 1936. There's also a separate diving pool with a 32-foot-high platform --- that's Olympic regulation, for those of you keeping track. Free and open daily, from 11 am to 3 pm, 4 pm to 7 pm. When we called to verify the hours, the operator called it "the most popular place in America." Be prepared to wait. 19th Street at 23rd Drive. The Loews Regency is close to the N train, which stops near the park.

Washington Square Park
OK, we’re cheating here a bit, since the newly renovated Washington Square Park doesn’t technically have a pool. What it does have, however, is a ginormous fountain, and it is awesome. A recent renovation aligned the fountain with the Washington Square Arch, which means you plant yourself along the rim’s tiered seating area, stick your feet in the cool water, and stare straight up Fifth Avenue. Full-on swimming might be frowned upon, at least by anyone over the age of 10. That said, the famously bohemian Greenwich Village does tend to pride itself on a live-and-let-live attitude. The park is open daily from dawn to midnight; the fountain is weather-dependent. West 4th Street and Waverly Place, between MacDougal Street and University Place. The Washington Square Hotel is nearby.

Photo Credit: Flickr/ericskiff

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Bell for Every Minute on the High Line

Homage to Dan Flavin?

To construct his installation, A Bell for Every Minute, Stephen Vitiello recorded 59 bells around town, including those found on a cat's collar, in a church, at a diner, on a bike, and at the New York Stock Exchange. One bell chimes (or buzzes or echoes or blasts) every minute. On the hour, however, a cacophony goes off, a raging, not-unpleasant, sonorific explosion, in which individual bells metamorphose into one great noise, the sound of the whole city idiosyncratically ringing.


Cat Bell

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Westville Chelsea

Fearless franks, Westville Chelsea

Westville is all about American standards done well and done cheaply. For instance, a pair of Fearless Frank hot dogs and an egg scramble with spinach and potato hash for under $20. Not a bad way to start a lazy Sunday.

Egg scramble, Westville Cheslea

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summertime Classics at the New York Philharmonic

After the concert

Come July, even the New York Philharmonic shows up in shirtsleeves. The Philharmonic's Summertime Classics program, hosted and conducted by Bramwell Tovey of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, gives players and patrons a chance to hear a variety of short, romantic pieces that fell out of the repertory catalog after their initial popularity. Organized around playful themes --- "From Russia with Love" was a few weeks back --- the concerts get even more mirthful thanks to Tovey, a delightful raconteur who intersperses dry humor ("This is called Romanian Rhapsody No. 1, to distinguish it from No. 2, which came later") with genuine enthusiasm and insight about the music. We attended "From the Danube to the Rhine," a celebration of Central European waltzes, operettas, and concertos that gave Tovey ample fodder. "Liszt was friends with every important musical figure in Central Europe, and this was before Facebook," he quipped at one point, before describing the fractures among Liszt's numerous disciples, an esoteric squabble he summed up in two words: "whatever, frankly."

Tovey's skill extends far beyond wisecracks and music appreciation. His conducting was as energetic and sharp as his wit: the aforementioned Rhapsody was perfectly balanced, as Tovey brought the players to the brink of crescendo and pulled them back time and again, while Brahms' Hungarian Dances flowed so smoothly the audience was nearly twirling in the aisles. But the show was stolen by up-and-coming pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk, who did Lizst proud in a dazzling performance of the Piano Concerto No. 1. Called back for an encore, Gavryluk gave a tempestuous take on Mendelssohn's Wedding March, injecting that sentimental staple with the burn and toss of real romance.

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