Friday, December 27, 2013

Post Pop

When it's the chilly day after Christmas and everyone you know is out of town, you finally get around to walking through the Dyker Heights lights again.  Doesn't take as long as you'd remembered, but it does get cold waiting for the bus home.  And it's nice to return to your familiar streets for the opening night of an already-packed restaurant: Lea, owned by the same people whose wine bar is on your old street.  It's crowded but there's space for you at the bar and all the cocktails are pretty inexpensive and made of amari.  You're leaning toward pasta but someone enthusiastically recommends the pizza and so you pick that and you're not disappointed.  It's like the Fornino's pies you miss from Park Slope, the almost-salad-esque layering of arugula and prosciutto on a perfectly crisped pie.

Christmas day, you and your father disparaged another new restaurant you went to once, where the service was unapologetically blase and the food was slow in coming and not that great.  Not everything at Lea is 100% smooth yet but overall you are impressed by the speed and attentiveness of service, by everyone's genuine hopes that you will enjoy your meal.  Especially since you're eating alone at the bar with a cheesy-covered novel, you appreciate it.  It's nice to go someplace alone as a sort of special occasion and not have people look at you funny. 

You feel old 'cause back in the days you lived closed to "up-and-coming" (gag) Cortelyou Road, Lea, packed full of the young and hip and tastefully dressed, was the comfortingly-grungy (maybe no less hip) Vox Pop.  It was that cafe that really brought you to Ditmas Park in the first place, but it closed several years ago in several shades of infamy, its storefront dormant until now.  Though if you feel old, try your bartender: he grew up in the neighborhood, so it must be even stranger for him.

But you can't resent the strangeness, really.  Not when it's made of cocktails, redolent with aperol and cynar and zucca and campari and so on and so forth.  Next time maybe you'll try the one with your boss's name. And you will have to bring back a whole contingent of people so you can sample the tasty-sounding sweets platter of pistachio balls and biscotti and cookies and more, which you couldn't quite justify all by yourself.  (Though you did make quick work of some yogurt-flavored ice cream drizzled with orange syrup, yule log in the refrigerator be damned.) 

Monday, July 8, 2013

bramble ramble

If you're feeling burned out and overheated, it can't hurt to take the train for an out-of-city journey's worth of reading, all the way up to the Cloisters.  You can pick up fancy coffee and a decadent 3-cheese cachapa on the way.  When you arrive, there's your old favorite, the unicorn tapestries, with a special exhibit all their own.  And you can take a look at plants used in medieval brewing, if you are willing to brave the sun again, or look at tiny ornate books or hours, or take pictures of the light as it catches in hobbit-sized doors.  Fort Tryon Park's hills are as steep as anything in the city; if you wander down the right tiny path you can find scores upon scores of raspberry bushes and eagerly pluck the ripened fruit, the likes of which you haven't seen in the wild since you were a child.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


If you're only going to like one new band a year, these days, my advice is to make it a good one.  Luckily, I practice what I preach.  After standing around Rockwood Music Hall for 2 hours and having a beer spilled on my coat and bag, I contemplated going home.  But I'm glad I didn't because eventually the Spring Standards came on and it was all worth it.

The band's name makes me laugh since their songs are the mostly wildly divergent ones I've ever head.  Some have a decidedly country feel, while others remind me of Fleetwood Mac, Paul Simon (they played a cover of "Peace Like a River" to confirm this feeling), the Wallflowers, and Metric.  Maybe they manage to sound like such a wide range of other artists because all three of the members (who also have a bass player but seem to mostly consider themselves a trio) take turns singing.  But they've got something unique as well.  On their latest album, Yellow//Gold, I'd preferred some of the quieter pieces but live, they really rock out on the bigger tracks.  Their performance was exactly what I'd hoped for--made me forget my tired feet and just lose myself in the music. 

Go out and see some good music.  It's an excellent way to usher in the spring.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Pines

Sometimes, if no one can celebrate the end of exams with you, you must take matters into your own hands.  And find yourself at The Pines for a drink--you've been curious about it because you once attended its sister restaurant Littleneck on a similarly dark and dismal night.  And you heard the cocktails are good and wintry, and the food sounds strange... and they let you in out of the storm, even though you're 15 minutes early, and make you a nice stiff drink of rye and pine and yuzu.  Eventually, you add some food--you never imagined apples as the star of their own dish before, but the Pines-y rendition succeeds, a giant bowlful coated in sheep's milk and sesame seeds, whose taste shines through, and a little bit of vinegar.  And maybe when you ordered it, you weren't thinking about how testa is basically headcheese, but it melts on the tongue and is accompanied with a pumpkin bread that's more like a loaf cake, and tart huckleberries.  And there's the amuse-bouche of garbanzo beans with--could that be guava salt?  Who knew!  Your second round drink is also made of apple, and whiskey and smoke (this is not actually the first cocktail you've had with apple and whiskey and smoke, but this one holds the smoke longer).  And your book is made out of winter and England and mystery and the dining room is cozy, and certainly your wallet feels the cost of the privilege of sitting here out of the cold for a couple hours, but it's money and time well spent.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Long time no see

Hello, world that is still reading!

I would like to write you a longer post about Red Rooster and Marcus Samuelsson and perhaps I will soon, but there's been a lot going on.  For now, I'll just say that at last I've found an album that I like this year, and it's A.C. Newman's Shut Down the Streets.  It's strange; though I've never really cared for the New Pornographers I do consistently like Newman's solo work.  This album doesn't disappoint; it's catchy and jingly and a little bit sad and just the sort of thing to listen to as darkness closes in earlier each night.  Who knew A.C. Newman sounded so much like a Belle & Sebastian for the wintertime?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Once more

Sometimes, if the weather is surprisingly breezy and you find yourself with not much to do, you may stand torn at the corner of your office building and then opt, resolutely, for home.  Home, where you haven't been for a week.  Where you can wrangle your bike away from the banister and hop on and ride up steep steep Mount Prospect Park and, prevailing, wend your way back down the Slope, through newly-navigable Grand Army Plaza, down to Christie's, home of the giantest $2.50 chicken patties you'll ever see and that curious New Yorky ice cream phenomenon, the grape nut.  Flavor the nuts do not have in spades, but they do provide a nice crunchy counterpoint to the buttery eggnog ice cream in which they sit.  And you too can sit, on a traffic island with a bench, and watch the cabbies and the yuppies and the hippies and the world glide by.  On the return trip, you can coast down the park, only pedaling once, and take in the glory of the house-lined tree-lined streets of home.  You can trot up the stairs, make a quick swap of bike for laptop, and step out once more into the perfect air, bound for a cafe and a too-expensive so-refreshing blueberry lemonade and a computer keyboard and the sensation of starting over, saying the same thing again and again, maybe better, maybe worse, but making it new once more on this July evening.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pork! aaaand

I wonder how many days in a row I could eat pork for lunch before rebelling. A couple weeks ago I got Wah Fun #1 Fast Food's staggeringly enormous pile of roast pork, bitter greens, and rice for $3; there is also Big Wong's superior roast and ribs combo for $5.50, or #1's neighbor Kien Tuong, which unfortunately was out of roast pork when I swung by the other day.

And today there was oft-lauded Xi'an Famous Foods and their superlatively cheap and delicious (and greasy--nearly irreversibly stained an outfit once) pork burger for $2.72 including tax (I think last time I went there was no tax, but everything is going up).

There is also Shanghai Cafe of Mott Street and its miraculous soup dumplings (pork or pork and shrimp), introduced to me by my sister, if these delights are not enough.

I suppose there is also the kiosk outside, if you want to bask in this glorious weather with a salad. But how can it compare to sitting in Columbus Park with a pork burger--or perhaps the 5-for-$1.25 fried pork-and-chive dumplings from Tasty Dumpling?

Chinatown, lunchtime cheapskates salute thee!