Sep 282008

I had a fantastic weekend and took advantage of quite a bit of what the city had to offer.

The weekend started out with Dance. Friday evening, I met my friend Mary and her father and we went to see my friend Kristen perform in Sawdust Palace at Dance Theater Workshop. The piece, by Susan Marshall & Company, was a fun and entertaining 80-minute set of 20 dances. Kristen and her fellow dancers are extremely talented. The pieces were sensual and athletic. Some pieces were whimsical, while others were heart-rending. It was a great set of shows, and I wish they had more performances. That being said, they had a grueling schedule of six shows in four days; Friday and Saturday had back-to-back shows at 7:30 and 10.

After the dance, Mary, her father, and I went to Brooklyn and had some light dinner and drinks at Clover Club on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens. I had a “Gin-Gin Mule,” a tall gin drink with ginger, and an Anejo Mole Old-Fashioned. The Old Fashioned was made with tequila and flavored with mole seasonings; even though it sounds nothing like a traditional Old Fashioned, it managed to incorporate non-traditional ingredients while still remaining true to the spirit of the original drink. (I apologize in advance if I mangled the names of the drinks.)

Mary headed home, and I wandered towards my house down Smith Street. A few doors down from Clover Club is Char No. 4. I decided to stop in for a quick nightcap. Char No. 4 features over 150 whiskeys, including scotches, bourbons, and ryes. I decided to have a 2-ounce pour of Wild Turkey Single Barrel. It’s a very strong bourbon at approximately 100 proof, so I had it with a bit of water and a couple of cubes of ice. To further cut the heat of the alcohol, I ate a small order of deep-fried cheese curds with pimento sauce. Deep fried cheese and hard liquor? Not the worst end to a fun evening. I have two suggestion for Char No. 4, one silly and one serious. It would be nice if the strength of the alcohols were listed on the menu. And it would be nice if they had poutine. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out which idea is serious and which idea is silly.

Saturday morning, I got up bright and early to prepare brunch with my friends Harri and Kristiina. I always have fun making brunch, and this was no exception. In addition to fresh pastries from Almondine and berries from the farmer’s market, I also prepared Eggs Florentine and fresh homemade biscuits. It’s gotten easier to prepare brunch the more times that I do it. I’ve realized that the key to poached eggs is that they can be prepared ahead of time and kept in water before serving. (Thanks Mastering the Art of French Cooking!) This allows everything to come together very quickly. Also, fresh spinach, while a pain to clean thoroughly, is easy to prepare and tasty. This was my first time making biscuits for guests. I used cake flour. While it made for a very nice tender crumb, the biscuits did not rise as much as I would have liked. I think I will try all-purpose flour next.

Saturday evening, I met up with Betsy. We started the evening by going to Los Dos Molinos for dinner. They are a good New Mexican restaurant. It’s a bit pricey, but the food is very good with a fair amount of heat. It was also the perfect location for the next stop on our itinerary….

After dinner, we headed down Irving Place to the clumsily named The Fillmore at Irving Plaza. After waiting around for thirty minutes or so, we saw an opening act by Shawn Mullins. If you don’t recognize the name, you would certainly recognize his music; for example, check out this video of Lullaby.

The main event of the evening was a performance by Dar Williams. Dar is on tour in conjunction with her latest album release, Promised Land. She performed at one of the first concerts I attended when I first moved to New York City. I remember going to shows of hers at the Bottom Line and Town Hall. I really admire her, and once stood in line after a show to get her autograph on an album. She now lives in New York State very close to my friends Phil and Karen. Below are two shaky, poorly recorded clips from the show; in one she is performing Spring Street and in the other she other she is performing As Cool As I Am. You can really hear the crowd singing along during As Cool As I Am.

Dar has such a great energy, and it was clear that she loved performing in New York City. I’m really happy that I was able to catch her performing again.

Betsy and I stopped by The House for a quick drink after the show. In the future, I would not order a cocktail here; I ordered an Old Fashioned and received a very odd watered-down drink that tasted like it was made with muddled lemons and cherries and no added sugar. Betsy had a perfectly decent glass of Moscato D’asti. We were both going to switch drinks, but our waiter misunderstood us and brought another round. The twist on the evening was that I was charged extra for Maker’s Mark without requesting a premium liquor. Despite the odd drinking experience, the wine list and menu look very nice. It’s also a very elegant space, and I would love to check it out on another occasion.

I was looking for a fairly calm day on Sunday. I spent most of the day poking around on the computer and reading Elements of ML Programming, and then I met up with my friend Anne for Chinese food and soup dumplings. The default, and arguably best, choice for soup dumplings in New York City is Joe’s Shanghai. We enjoyed a terrific meal of soup dumplings, shrimp, and eggplant. Joe’s always has speedy and attentive service, and the food is terrific. (When my friend Andrew was visiting town, it was one of only three restaurants we went to in a city full of excellent restaurants.) After a nice late lunch, we walked through Chinatown and picked up some ice cream at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. I had lemon sorbet.

We walked around a bit; the day was surprisingly hot and muggy. (I wish I had worn shorts.) At the South Street Seaport, I was able to scope out my apartment from the Manhattan side of the East River before taking the subway back to Brooklyn Heights.

Overall, I had an amazing weekend. It was the kind of weekend that reminds me why I love New York City.

 Posted by at 10:02 pm
Sep 162008

Weekly sections in newspapers have generally run their content on a weekly cycle. (Hence the name “weekly.”) The New York Times has just made the decision to start publishing content for their Dining section on a continuous basis. It’s fairly exciting, and it’s great to see a newspaper like The New York Times adapt to a continuous publishing cycle.

 Posted by at 6:11 pm
Sep 112008

Every year on the week before September 11, New York City has a memorial in the form of the Tribute in Light. Two beams shoot through the sky reminiscent of the World Trade Center. If nothing else, it allows you to appreciate how significant the World Trade Center was to New York City.

Tribute in Light
University Place and 8th Street

Tribute in Light
5th Avenue and 8th Street towards Washington Square Park

Tribute in Light
Great Jones Street and Bowery

Tribute in Light
Carroll Gardens

Tribute in Light
Brooklyn Heights panorama (image linked to a larger version)

Blue sky
The sky is beautiful today

 Posted by at 4:05 pm
Sep 112008

My friend Andrew was in town (from Los Angeles) to take photos at the U.S. Open; he flew in from China after working at the Olympics.

We went out to dinner with Shiho and Keith, two other talented photographers.

I didn’t get a good photo of Andrew, but I did manage to take a quick snapshot of Shiho and Keith.

Shiho and Keith

 Posted by at 3:50 pm
Sep 102008

My friends Peter and Val stopped by my apartment for brunch this past Saturday. I enjoy having friends over for brunch on the weekends. It’s a great way to start the day: I get up early to straighten up the house and clean; I cook a nice meal with friends; we all enjoy a leisurely meal with nice drinks; and we still have the rest of the day to enjoy.

Peter and Sam
I tend to make and gather an excessive amount of food for brunch. You can see Peter and I sitting before the brunch table. We enjoyed croissants, beignets, and French bread from Almondine, an assortment of jellies and jams, eggs benedict, grapes, melon and prosciutto, raspberries and blackberries, prosecco, bloody marys, coffee, and orange juice.

Eggs Benedict
Eggs Benedict can be a bit difficult to make. The hardest part is trying to make sure everything comes together at the same time, especially when you are preparing the dish for multiple people. I’ve written about making Eggs Benedict before. One item I should note: fresh eggs are very important for this dish. Not only do they taste better, but preparing the poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce is much easier with fresh eggs.

Despite the challenges in preparing Eggs Benedict, it is worth it: this is a luxurious dish. It’s easy to make vegetarian- and kosher-friendly: just swap out the Canadian Bacon for cooked spinach (Eggs Florentine) or salmon. It’s not possible to make this dish vegan-friendly.

Almondine in Brooklyn, NY
Well before my friends arrived at my house, I took a walk down to Almondine in Dumbo. The baker at Almondine is Hervé Poussot, formerly a pastry chef at Le Bernardin. The story of Almondine is that it was opened with Jacques Torres of Jacques Torres Chocolate. (His store is across the street.)

Almondine has the best croissants in Brooklyn if not all of New York City. The breads, pastries, and cakes are also amazing. I have only been to a handful of bakeries that compare to Almondine. If you are in DUMBO, I definitely recommend stopping by there, and if you are not in DUMBO, it’s well worth the trip.

Brunch with friends is always a lot of fun. I’ve made these dishes for other friends as well, and I’m always happy to have people over.

[Thanks Val for sending me photos of Peter and the food!]

 Posted by at 9:12 am
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