Friday, October 28, 2011

How 'bout them apples?

Perhaps you're not crazy enough to detour to Midtown in the middle of the lunch rush. Luckily, you know someone who is, and I will be your guide to what turned out to be a more or less successful gambit. Despite a long wait for a 4 train and not one but two poundingly loud pandhandling drummers, I made it to the 41st St. branch of Cambodian sandwich shop Num Pang just in time to grab lunch, wolf it down, and make it back to the office.

I was not wild about Num Pang's 12th St. location, which I tried twice, but the Midtown one had some special sandwiches that sounded intriguing. Plus ginger apple cider with bourbon-soaked apple chunks. Perfect for a crisp fall excursion. I did not pick the fig and bacon sandwich (shame on me?) but instead opted for the roast chicken. I liked that you can place your order at a window outside; waiting in a long crowded not-well-demarcated line just to get my order in fills me with an nameless existential dread. Inside, it was crowded, and the order numbers weren't exactly called out sequentially, but I got my cider instantly--the ginger burning a bit while the soft apple chunks glide gently down--and leaned on the counter with Zone One (demi-subject of a new post soon) in hand.

When the sandwich arrived, I removed the fresh-looking-yet-vile cucumbers (sorry, cuke fans) and awkwardly maneuvered to eat (sure wish Num Pang had some seating). The roast chicken was just right, clean on the inside and a little bit crispy on the skin. The standard cilantro and carrots mixed with it pretty well, somewhat to my surprise; I couldn't really sense anything special about the chili yogurt mayo. The pickled apple slices sure were tasty. Next time I don't have any company for lunch, I may well had back into the lunchtime hordes of the 40s and see if there's a fig or a turkey sandwich with my name on it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Warm me up, buttercup

If you are feeling chilly and a bit under the weather early on an October morning, you could do worse than hop the train to Iris Cafe. Several blocks and a world away from the bustle of Borough Hall (and the kerfuffle that ensues on all green trains when a 6 derails), it's a quiet little shop with a Brooklyn Bridge-shaped bench in front. They're out of blackcurrant apple cider, unfortunately, and the cappuccino has maybe a bit of a medicinal aftertaste (something about trendy Stumptown never quite does it for me). But stir a packet of brown sugar into your caramel apple oatmeal and sense the sun rising ever higher over the Heights, and you'll feel better already.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

All things will unwind

A last minute change of plans...and a perfect fall day for a walk. Check it out!

Ooookay, I didn't walk from Crown and New York to Fulton and Nostrand the first time 'round, but I did walk everyplace else. Shara Worden is a good walking companion; I like All Things Will Unwind and it's suitably autumnal, but I'm not intimidated to play it the way I am when faced with Gabriel Kahane's Where Are the Arms, the way I vaguely feel about all music I love. Last night at a party someone told me they listened to High Violet while writing papers. Yikes! I can put on a trouper like All Things as a sort of graceful background hum, but The National requires some attention.

On my walk, I had some food woes but whoever invented the almond chocolate croissant is a genius. The cafe with the five different flavors of apple cider is promising, too. It is good to walk down Eastern Parkway to the library in the fall with a warm cider in your hand and a song in your ears.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It's a nuclear show and the stars are gone

I've never broken into Broken Social Scene, but I do like some of its associated acts including Stars, introduced to me by the lovely S.--. I got a ticket to see them at the Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight and I was ultimately glad that I did, though it took me a while to warm up to the show.

Part of the difficulty stemmed from technical issues. Last time I went to MHW, to see the Hold Steady with I.--, I was nearly deafened. I have been to plenty of loud concerts but no others where my ears were still ringing the next morning. So I picked up a pair of the handy-dandy earplugs that MHW sells at the bar, which did the trick...sort of. They dampened the sound effectively but did not, of course, account for the woeful bass thump. I am not sure if all shows, or all MHW shows, are like this, but I couldn't hear a damned thing over the rattling in my bones from the amps. So I suffered--grantedly, in a non-deaf manner--through the opening band and some Stars songs I didn't know so well.

But when the ones I did know came on, I wound up ditching the earplugs for the rest of the show (which was not remotely as loud as the Hold Steady's in any event). Stars is one of those bands where I don't love or even like every song, but a few are really stunning. In particular, two of them run the full range of emotion for me. "Dead Hearts" always makes me want to cry; tonight's version, midway through the show, was no exception. Other songs--"We Don't Want Your Body," "One More Night" in the encore--were fun to rock out to. Amy Millan's voice can be truly eerie, which must help when you've most recently released an album about ghosts, including the haunting "Changes." And Torquil Campbell can hold a note with the best of them; his performance had me thinking of Stephin Merritt's glorious crescendoing conclusion to "The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side."

"Changes," several songs into an encore, seemed like a high note to end on, but then Stars launched into "Elevator Love Letter," which has got to be one of the songs that fills me with the most joy--a perfect counterpoint to "Dead Hearts." I walked to the L humming the tune, not even minding the crush of hipsters and the latening hour.

Friday, October 7, 2011

And an Elvis redux

Last week I had some time to kill before seeing The (very impressive) Lion King on Broadway with a friend, and found myself wandering the East Village in search of a good dinner. I quickly remembered that 7th Street and St. Marks Place are really exemplary for this sort of mission. Caracas Arepas Bar, site of my main course, unfortunately did not live up to my hopes and dreams. I've had this experience there before, but I'm always hoping it'll turn around, because, hey, a restaurant devoted to one of my favorite foodstuffs can't be all bad, right? Alas, my reina pepiada was not so good as the one I got at another (lamentably closed) arepa joint in Williamsburg; the chicken and avocado were mixed together in a scoop of tuna-salad-like texture, cold and with a bite of some aftertaste I couldn't quite place but didn't like.

Upon leaving to peer in the window of the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck's new shop, I realized I should've gone to Porchetta, of course--no doubt that sublime perfection of a sandwich deserves its own point--but just as well, because I couldn't bring myself to tell C.-- I'd gone there without him.

Instead of Big Gay Ice Cream I opted for a People's Pop from the stand they set up near the corner of 7th and 1st; I got the apple pie flavor, with whipped cream swirled within its boundaries; it was a refreshing take on a usually warm and comforting dessert.

But I didn't even realize my best luck until Monday morning, when I ate a final confection I'd kept aside for breakfast. Jane's Sweet Buns is an East Village newcomer featuring cinnamon buns inspired by cocktails. A blueberry bun would not disappoint; but for the true decadent sublime you really need a bun sandwich. Which I consumed with relish at my desk during the post-weekend blues, letting the peanut butter and bacon drip out into the spilled milk bowl R.-- got me for my birthday. Like the leftover fried chicken from Riverpark I was lucky enough to make my lunch on Friday, this Elvissy bun rendered all other breakfast options woefully obsolete.