Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Kamo soba, Soba-ya

The day after Thanksgiving, and Soba-ya is packed --- with groups, with couples, with kids fascinated by the man making the eponymous buckwheat noodles. Anyone who fears that cellphones and iThings are ruining the attention spans of our youth should spend some time in the dining room of this East Village establishment.

Tempura, nimono, and inari, Soba-ya

Udon noodles, Soba-ya

Our bento box came stuffed with shrimp and vegetable tempura, pickled veggies and a morsel of chicken, salad topped with the standard carrot dressing, a small piece of salmon flash-cooked and sprinkled with soy sauce, and a pocket of fried tofu filled with sushi rice and doused in vinegar known as inari. But the headliners of this particular show, of course, were the noodles: plump udon in a simple, soulful broth, slender soba in a blooming sea of bean sprouts and sliced duck. Although our feedathon had ended just hours before, we grabbed a spoon in one hand and chopsticks in the other and went to slurp-town.  
Strawberry and vanilla cream, Soba-ya

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Galanga Garden

Chelsea has more Thai restaurants than the Yankees have aging ballplayers with large salaries and larger demands. So what differentiates one eatery (or ballplayer) from another? Stats. We walked into Galanga Garden knowing only that the internet likes it; we walked out understanding why.

Sweet corn fritters, Galanga Garden

Comfortably seated next to a fountain, we began with sweet corn fritters. One bite, and we were instantly transported to the chicken McNuggets of our youth, dripping with McDonald's own sweet and sour sauce. Despite anxious searching, and many more bites, we weren't able to discern any chicken among the plump corn kernels, bits of scallion, and crisp batter. Curious, yes, but also extremely satisfying.

Basil shrimp, Galanga Garden

As mains we went with shrimp stir-fried with basil, peppers, and onions, an above-average take on a nevertheless ubiquitous dish. Even better was the house special: five-spice duck with broccoli and chile peppers in a sugary, garlicky sauce. Satisfied, we decided that numbers --- whether in the form of stars or batting averages --- simply don't lie. Sorry, Derek.      

Five-spice duck, Galanga Garden

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond at the AMNH

Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond

Known as the "storied sparkler," the 31.06-carat Wittelsbach-Graff diamond was discovered in India, then given to the Spanish Infanta Margarita Teresa in 1664 and eventually inherited, confiscated, and auctioned in 1931 --- at which point it disappeared. Decades later, the extremely rare, fancy deep blue gem was purchased (for 16.4 million pounds), cleaned, re-cut, and loaned to the American Museum of Natural History, where it will remain until January 2.

Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving from the Greenmarket II

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving arrived, and all the excitement tuckered someone out.

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Tuckered Out

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving from the Greenmarket

Thanksgiving from the greenmarket

Thanksgiving is almost here, and someone is very excited.

Thanksgiving from the greenmarket

Thanksgiving from the greenmarket

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stacy Schiff at 192 Books

Golly, is anyone getting better reviews these days than Stacy Schiff? Everyone seems to adore her biography of Cleopatra, which, as Schiff explained last night at 192 Books, essentially shows that everything we think we know about the ruler is wrong. She wasn't beautiful, for one; she was extremely educated, for another; and, sorry romantics, she didn't kill herself immediately upon hearing of Marc Anthony's death.

From zero documentation --- no letters, no diary fragments, no eyewitness accounts at all ---  Schiff has created a fine, utterly updated portrait of a woman we hardly know. Schiff herself also seems like someone worth knowing. When asked how she chooses her subjects, she answered, wryly, "A smart person, having written a biography of Benjamin Franklin, would write the next one on Thomas Jefferson." But she couldn't turn away from the Egyptian queen who fancied herself a goddess. If this is idiocy, we'll take it.  

Photo: thanks

Monday, November 22, 2010

Oyster Locals: New York's Best Holiday Markets

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.

Christmas wreaths

It’s been argued that the preponderance of chain stores --- we’re looking at you, JC Penney, Pottery Barn, and Victoria’s Secret --- have turned the streets of New York City into a giant mall. Escape that “we could be anywhere” feeling by shopping at the unique, holiday craft markets that pop up throughout the boroughs in November and December.

The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park, Now–January 2
While most of us are still sorting Halloween candy into piles, the folks behind the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park have already begun setting up. Open from November 5th to January 2nd , this holiday market features 120 vendors packed around the New York Public Library. After loading up on kettle corn and throw pillows, leather goods and handmade earrings, you can go ice-skating for free at Citi Pond. Then treat yourself to a hot drink from Big Apple Cider.

Bryant Park is located between 40th and 42nd Streets at Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Stay nearby at the Bryant Park Hotel New York City.

Union Square Holiday Market, Now–Christmas Eve
Beginning on November 19, Union Square transforms into a holiday shopping spectacular. Artisans from all over sell their wares in red-and-white striped tents until December 24. In past years, we’ve bought tiny picture frames, handmade journals, funky asymmetrical necklaces, multicolored candles, and perfumy lotions for stepmothers, bosses, and our brothers’ impossible-to-shop-for-wives and girlfriends. For the first time ever, the market has an on-site concierge, who’ll help you pick out perfect gifts of your own.

Union Square is located between 14th and 17th Streets at Union Square West and Union Square East.  The W New York is on the park’s northeast corner.

Queens County Farm, December 1–24
Throughout December, the only working historical farm in New York City sells Christmas trees large and small, poinsettias, and wreaths, with profits going toward feeding the livestock on site as well as maintaining the property, first settled in 1697. On December 4 and 5, the Queens County Farm will also be hosting a make-your-own-evergreen-wreath extravaganza ($20 per person, registration and garden shears required: 718.347.3276, ext 301). Its Open House, December 26–28, features activities for kids and walks around the wintry land, guaranteed to banish any post-Christmas blues.

The farm is located at 73-50 Little Neck Parkway. Stay at the Hotel Pennsylvania New York City, across the street from Penn Station, where you can take the E or F train to Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike Station, a few blocks away.

3rd Ward Holiday Craft Fair, December 4
3rd Ward, in East Williamsburg, offers classes in everything from welding to glass beadmaking to screen printing. At the Holiday Craft Fair on December 4, you’ll be able to pick up handmade, one-of-a-kind goods. No cookie cutter gifts here, although you’ll probably be able to find cookie cutters in crazy shapes, as well as housewares, clothes, jewelry, and toys --- being sold by the folks who made them. In addition, Brooklyn’s premier craftopia will also have workshops in sewing, flocking, and printmaking, along with live music and cocktails made from Red Jacket Orchards’  produce. You might as well RSVP now.

3rd Ward is located at 195 Morgan Avenue, Brooklyn. Stay at the Maritime Hotel New York City and take the L train to Grand Street, a few blocks away.

Handmade Cavalcade, December 5
A while back, a group of Etsy crafsters based in the tri-state area got together and formed The {NewNew}, an indie collective whose members share resources and help one another. On December 5, they’ll be hanging out and selling their stuff at OpenHouse Gallery, in Nolita. And by “stuff,” we mean handprinted dresses from Better than Jam, cute kids clothes from Overall Baby, whimsical prints from My Zoetrope, or mash-up jewelry from Elle F. Bijoux. Etsy is awesome, but there’s really nothing like shaking the hand of the person who made your legwarmers or the man-purse you’ll be giving your fella for Hannukah.

OpenHouse Gallery is located at 201 Mulberry Street. Stay at the Thompson LES New York City and walk.

Gifted, December 15–23
Simply put: you can’t get more indie than Gifted. A partnership between Brooklyn Flea and uber-popular design*sponge, everything on sale here will be as aesthetically pleasing as it is custom-designed and handcrafted from more than 100 vendors. It’s a three-floor, craftastic craftacular! Look for mini-goodies from Kumquat Cupcakery, t-shirts from Species by the Thousands, stuffed animals and objects by Kate Durkin, and pickled veggies from Rick’s Picks.

Gifted is located at 1 Hanson Place, Brooklyn. Stay at the Nu Hotel Brooklyn and walk, although you might be too loaded down with packages to walk back.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hush at Angel Orensanz

Hush, White Walls pop-up at Angel Orensanz


Ephemerality is one of the dominant characteristics of street art, even when it moves indoors. Case in point: the Found show by UK-based artist Hush, which runs this weekend only in a pop-up space (organized by White Walls in San Francisco) in the basement of the beautiful Angel Orensanz Foundation on the Lower East Side. The paintings in the show, along with the piece on the street outside, might wed Asian iconography to the dynamic tag styles developed in New York in the 1970s, but the eye-popping color and social messages belong to Hush alone.



Saturday, November 20, 2010

On the Bowery at Film Forum

Back in September, Film Forum electrified New York audiences with a week-long run of the restored edition of Lionel Rogosin's cultishly loved 1956 On the Bowery. A mix of scripted scenes and hidden camera footage, the movie follows Ray Salyer, an itinerant railway worker, as he tries to fight off his alcoholic demons over a few short days living on the titular street, then New York's skid row and "the saddest and maddest street in the world." Rogosin spent months hanging out with the men who lived --- when they could afford to be off the street --- in the flophouses that once lined the Bowery, and he used only these men, not professional actors, in his film. On the Bowery is surrounded in legend, all of it true: the State Department pressured foreign governments not to allow the movie to be screened for fear of the damage it would do to the country's reputation; Gorman Hendricks, the drunk who tries to save Ray, kept himself alive for the filming, then binged his way to the grave just after the movie opened; and Salyer was offered a Hollywood contract but couldn't bring himself to leave the Bowery until one day he hopped a train west and disappeared into the great American nowhere.

The movie is back for another week, with scholars on hand this weekend to discuss its historical context. Last night, Suzanne Wasserman described the widely known changes that have taken place on the Bowery, now home to Whole Foods and $500/night hotels, but she also astutely noted that the area had already transformed by the time the movie came out: the Third Avenue El, which hangs like fate over the men in the film, closed in 1955. The movie is thus an important record of a vanished piece of New York, but for us its historical value is trumped by its aesthetic appeal. Rogosin's sympathetic direction and Richard Bagley's gorgeous photography make On the Bowery a haunting story of men at war with themselves.

Photo: thanks

Friday, November 19, 2010


Sev puri, Bhojan

Like its neighbors, Bhojan specializes in Kosher Vegetarian, specifically dishes from Gujarat and Punjab. Here, however, the focus is on chaat, or easily eatable snacks, usually served along roadsides. Understanbly preferring not to serve folks alongside Lexington Avenue, Bhojan has a nice little dining room, with green wine bottles as chandeliers and copper pans as ceiling tiles.

Samosa chole chaat, Bhojan

Kachori chaat, Bhojan

The thoughtful presentation didn't extend into the food, so our two of our three chaats (the samosa chole and the kachori) looked exactly the same. We'd complain that they tasted that way too, but we were more than happy to get a double-portion of tamarind and mint chutneys mixed with raita and poured over chickpeas, potatoes, and fried bits. Even more enjoyable were the cool crunch of our sev puri, the creaminess of our malai kofta, and the nuttiness of our aloo jeera.

Malai kofta, Bhojan

Aloo jeera, Bhojan

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

AMNH Lantern Slides at the Margaret Mead Festival

Glass Lantern Slide

Before streaming video, before the video cassette, even before the venerable filmstrip, teachers relied on the visual aid. And for several generations of New York City teachers, the American Museum of Natural History came to the rescue with lantern slides, hand-colored, glass-printed photographs projected one luminous image at a time. The museum manned a whole fleet of delivery vans that raced around town, bringing boxes of slides --- as well as taxidermy specimens and dioramas --- to educators and their charges.

The subjects of the slides were as esoteric as the museum itself: "Life in a Congo Village," "Useful Trees," "Minor Industries of New England," and, what surely must have been one of the more popular boxes, "The Lion, Tiger, and Elephant at Home." By the second half of the twentieth century, however, this motley and vast (140,000 slides at its peak) collection of images gave way to newer, more efficient formats. The museum decided to junk most of its collection, but employee Carlton Biel --- that's him loading up the delivery van in the photo above --- couldn't bear to see them tossed out, so he brought home to Staten Island, where they sat for decades until his family called up museum archivist Barbara Mathé and asked if she'd like them back.

Lantern slides, American Museum of Natural History

Lantern slides and schoolroom diorama, American Museum of Natural History

Last weekend, the museum showed a selection of the slides as part of the Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival. Mathé, along with scholars Allison Griffiths and Constance Clark, spoke about lantern slides, giving an overview of their place in cultural history and the various uses to which they've been put. The talks were interesting, but, as all three speakers noted, they could hardly compete with the slides themselves. Some are gorgeous, others garish; some are subtle and realistic, others exaggerated and outlandish. All are utterly absorbing.

Glass Lantern Slide

Glass Lantern Slide

Photos: The first, sixth, and seventh photos are courtesy of the AMNH Flickr set of lantern slide images. The second and third photos are from the AMNH's marvelous online exhibit "Picturing the Museum."
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