25 April 2008

You just can't make these things up.

Discovered and captured in Park Slope.

light bites at Papatzul

Around the corner from the chaos of dvd-dvd-dvd-handbag-gucci-gucci-coach? Of Chinatown: rests Papatzul. Rhythmic with easy Latin tones and jargon- settle at the bar and order a margarita on the rocks. Velvety-smooth, this is the best margarita you will ever have. If you go between five and eight p.m. you can enjoy the happy hour price of just six bones for fresh squeezed lime, Herradura tequila, cointreau & simple syrup.

We complimented our libations with the ceviche and pico de gallo style salsa with homemade chips. The fish was deliciously fresh and marinated with lime and hints of fresh jalapeño. The salsa- absolutely divine with a well defined chipotle and garlic edge.

I've been to Papatzul handful of times and will go back several more.

brunch a Sotto Voce

Waking to a gradual Sunday, Vadim and I walked Cuba in Prospect Park last weekend to see if the crowd was as impressive as Saturday- it was not- But the Sakura were in full swing as were small children play groups and Tai-Chi gatherings .

After a few hours, we dropped off the pug and found Brunch at Sotto Voce. A quick walk from our apartment, we were offered a $12.95 Prix-Fixe with unlimited bloodies, bubbly and mimosas with coffee. Sold.

The champagne decent. The Bloody Mary appeared to have an over abundance of horseradish, but the few sips I tried were smooth and void of any abrasive flavor. The coffee: robust and appropriate. We ordered a large bottle of Pellegrino for in between sips and nibbles on the rustic bread and pound cake basket. Both breads were clearly homemade and could have stood on their own without the diner quality grape jelly portion control tubs. (What the hell were they doing at Sotto Voce?)

Vadim chose the Challah French Toast which came with an overly generous side of crispy delicious bacon and chopped melon and earthy tasting pears. I ordered the Eggs Salmone (Sotto's Egg's Benny w/ Salmon instead of ham) but was brought the Portabella and ham Benny instead. I decided to roll with it and was quite content with the quality of the marinated mushrooms. The hollandaise was delightful, not the best I've ever had, but complimented the taste and texture of the ham. The omission of the traditional English muffin was ideal to match the side of roasted and pan seared potatoes (as well the homemade bread basket).

Sotto Voce is definitely an excellent value for Park Slope, although I feel the servers could use some polishing. They left the majority of their efforts to the food runners who did not understand English and answered simple requests with a nod- that did not produce any results. The waiters (four total) were all sitting at a table in the corner eating elaborate breakfasts themselves as the food runners 'serviced' their tables...Cute, no?

23 April 2008

a jaring note

This is both horrifying and disgusting.

South American artist Guillermo Habacuc captured a dog in the streets of an economically depressed neighborhood with the interest of tying him up on exhibit to be starved to death. The outcome of the project to be: Several days of instructing visitors not to feed the dog- so that they will see him pass.

This image is deeply unsettling, the museum visitors casually perusing, the dog's head lowered. He's slowly being murdered and people are complying. I simply cannot comprehend this. There are many cries- blogs- newspaper reports and even explanations that it was all a hoax to prove that people are "sheep." Why didn't anyone attempt to step in? Or punish the
Habacuc? Is it true that feeding him at night? Habacuc stated that people watch stray animals starve to death on the streets- and therefore taking notice in the enclosure of a museum exhibit - then pointing the finger to him is hypocrisy.

Regardless of whether or not the dog did die in the museum ( I have read conflicting literature) there is a petition online.

19 April 2008

people are talking about Spring

Yesterday offered a solid 78 degrees in Midtown- we celebrated the end of a savage week with lunch on Little Brazil Street, adjacent to the diamond district- After French Onion Soup and hand-cute potato curry fries at O'Brian's Pub, we tucked ourselves into our offices for the countdown to five. I was somewhat pleased that the phones were relatively quiet- and people seemed more focused on the gorgeous feeling of warmth. Vadim and I met up and headed back to Park Slope to catch the end of Happy Hour at Rachel's Taqueria. We thoroughly enjoyed our four-dollar margaritas and one dollar tacos...Cuba enjoyed a lengthy and rigorous walk around the neighborhood as I caught up with Lindsay on the phone and later read to Vadim from a book we found on a stoop- complete with illustrations- the don't s of dating--

After a solid nap, (You don't have to be a toddler or elderly to do this, and I highly recommend it...) A bottle of varietal French red was brought out to sit on our stoop as watched Cuba try to penetrate the iron fence. A gradual hour of conversation exhausted its self with the settling of cool night air and we retired in to snack on pistachios and olives while sipping a few more glasses....

I woke up at 8am to try to catch the Prospect Park Pug Meet-up (1st & 3rd Saturdays of each month) I walked up on a state of completely joyful chaos. Hundreds of dogs bounded over the hilly embankments of vibrant grass with doting owners in praise.

The "no-leash" perk before 9am is pushed along past its limit- without question. The dog owners are a delightful subculture of the city. Each and every pug owner approached me and we discussed things like wrinkle care- or feeding regiments.

Further down the limits of the park...
Little League was in full-force- gun-ho dads bending over clip boards and little base-ball capped boys who seem more interested in the dogs jumping the sectioned off portion of the pond- for sporting breeds...

After we departed the park, Cuba and I walked to the Grand Army Plaza statue to check out the farmer's market. A warm day, I was in athletic shorts with running shoes on- and Cuba was nearly out of breath. We spoke with a few more pug owners and headed back towards home- stopping to pick up a bottle of Cava and allowing a few small girls to pet the Cuba. I ended up carrying the rest of the few blocks home...

pug poppin' around

Cuba (above) meets Mooshoo and Wonton at the farmer's market adjacent to Prospect Park. The gathering is a weekend usual buzzing with strollers, dogs collecting to peruse: farm fresh produce, free-range meats, homemade bakery treats. Hands down, the largest line is for the fresh fish. I'd recommend grabbing your go-to canvas bag and your furry friend and/or stroller and picking up some cider to sip on the walk home.

It's Spring in the city, time for laying out- with a glass of Cava.

Cuba (below, left) and Charlie- this is my life.

13 April 2008

a deep satisfaction & a brunch at Moim

Saturday afternoon was absolutely amazing, a temperature edging on frightening perfection.

After tacos and homemade watermelon lemonade at Rachel's in the Slope, I caught the F-Train to the Lower Eastside to meet Brittain. The streets were buzz and shuffle with vendors and tourist groups. I bought a summer weight scarf and offered Brittain her first Murakami book.

We decided to meet Vadim for a Lychee Mojito at Thailand Cafe- then negotiated our way to Decible for a bottle of Sparkling Sake with edamame. Decible was an odd choice for the evening of this caliber- Instead of taking in the warm air, we found ourselves in a basement- they check each ID as you enter, unusual for a New York bar- the way they have a rope that you have to duck under after your checked almost makes you feel VIP. The walls are grafitied with Sharpies, some Japanese, some Russian, mostly English. All the servers have hyper pop-culture hair.

As we finished our sparkling, we moved on to the Crazy Milk sake and the yellow tail. Ridiculous. I could make a little home in the happiness that is the divine flavor of Decible's freshness and complexity.

We decided to take the train to Time's Square for Moules Thailandaise, Bieres Beligiques et Pearl Plum vodka. The marathon day of drinking began to weigh on me, so I picked up an espresso and headed home to get some air while Brittian and Vadim went to a Fund Raiser event- After the three of us took about an hour, we met up in the Slope to recoup, regroup and high-tailed it to Lobo for amazing fresh lime juice margaritas. We met up with Vadim's childhood friend, Andrew, who was in town from Boston. After last call at Lobo we decided to stumble into the Dram shop- where Brittian and I tasted several local beers, her finally settling on an IPA from Long Island, and me switching to Vodka & Soda. The bartender from Milwaukee took a liking to our level of intoxication- and Brittian's flirtation. After closing time, we fell into the Fifth Ave Diner for Lumber Jack Specials, and other non-sense.

The next morning...
I woke up to feed the pug, and took her for a long, brisk walk to Downtown Brooklyn, where we picked out Sweet Potato and Herring California Natural dog food and a few bones. I spent perhaps twenty minutes discussing the quality of the ingredients in each of the products I was interested in with the store owner. Anywhere else, I would have been thought of as crazy, but in NYC- it's to be expected.

As I was leaving the store, Vadim telephoned me to express his and Andrew's desperation for Brunch. We met up and discovered Moim, a Korean restaurant offering a Prix Fixe- Brunch, Coffee and unlimited Mimosas/Bloody Mary's for $16. A bit skeptical at first- I wanted to opt for the safety of the Sette Prix Fixe...when I happened upon the decor, I enlisted.

Light and fresh, grays, blacks & greens. A zen-like garden rested in the back of long narrow room. We sat next to the large glass window framed by black bricks. I chose the Pomegranate Ginger Mimosas, a Robust cup of coffee ( no milk or sugar needed) and the Moim Omelette: Fried Kimchi, Marinated Steak, Caramelized Onions * Mozzarella cheese complimented by potatoes and mixed greens. The textures and marinades were completely beautiful. I took slow and purposeful bites to elongate the experience as much as possible.

Vadim chose the Bulgoki Sandwich (my second choice) which consisted of marinated rib eye, caramelized onions ( we have a common theme) with cucumber & Vermont Cheddar. His sandwich was amazing. I accepted several offers for bites. The bread was earthy and rustic, the flavors deep and lovely. He sipped on Ruby Red grapefruit mimosas. Andrew chose the green tea pancakes- with fresh fruit & peanuts with cinnamon brown syrup. An excellent choice for a guy who's riding his bike home...or partially (to the China Town bus!)

Moim is threatening to become an addiction. Fabulous service. Excellent value, especially for Park Slope.

a Met's game.

A stressful work work deserves a live sports venue. I had anticipated the office being a gauntlet- with nearly everyone tied up or out in the field- the additional responsibility was deeply enriching. I definitely need a challenging, high-pressure atmosphere to be happy.

The ideal treat- after I returned from Croton Reservoir where I enjoyed a spinach salad lunch, my boss offered me four dynamite tickets to the Met's game. It takes quite a bit for me to venture into Queens territory, and despite our fatal mistake of getting on the 7, rather than the 7-express train to Shea Stadium, the evening was glorious. Nothing like slightly crispy hot dogs in stale buns and eight-dollar beers to fuel your cheers. I brought Brittian & Vadim- and Brittian tagged Gillian in.

Brittian noted that the Met's games were more fun than the Yankees- as the fans get more involved. (Blue-Collar thing? Like the Cubs Vs. the Sox??)

Food Chow KitchenAfter the game, we crowded onto the 7-Express back to Manhattan and transfered back to Brooklyn for a Rhone region rose and take-out Chinese from the to seal off of glutenous evening...

11 April 2008

Madera Wine Trail

a Nod to Nostalgia---->California.

Yesterday was the first true feel of Spring in NYC, although the Winter was fairly mild in comparison to Winter's past, the clear sky & 69 degrees ensured a genuine satisfaction in the people I encountered in Midtown and Park Slope. Businesses opened up there walls to expose their patrons to the streets. Bryant Park burgeoned with folks in their business attire on the noon hour. I grew anxious to get home to walk Cuba.

The deep satisfaction brought me back to the Spring of 2007. I was living in California and decided to drive to Santa Cruz with Cuba. According to mapquest, the trip would take roughly three hours through the tangled roads of agriculture and hills.California drivers are notoriously savage- having grown up in Washington where we drive the limit in the passing lane while cruising parallel to another car in the right lane...one can imagine how I might irritate the Native Californians...

With Cuba on my lap and a nervous fumbling of my printed directions- having wanted to turn back multiple times I embarked. Having spent childhood years in Monterey- and gone back to visit a few times I was somewhat familiar with the tell-tale Steinbeck land
I recognized the Sapphire colored reservoirs carved into the dry hills- the dispersal of Oak trees. Fruit stands, promises of olives and pistachios. I knew where I was, but not how to get where I wanted, or if I would ever make it- but I kept on. I gave up with the directions. The roads hopelessly and gloriously tangled. I attempted to catch up on phone calls- but found it too different to monitor the AC, pug & roads...After three and a half hours I saw something.

A pang of childlike-delight- for the first time in three months- The Pacific Ocean. Having grown up on an Island, I had always been most comfortable near water. I whipped around the corners faster, it would still be an hour until I made it down this hill and close enough to get knee deep in the experience of it.

Upon arrival, I searched for a parking spot- parallel - up a hill- I fished handfuls of change from the drink holder and shimmied the coins into the meter. Cuba and I walked around the city of Santa Cruz, feeling the comforts of 30 degrees cooler ( a mere 72 degrees compared to the 102 we left in the Central Valley below the Sierra Nevada's).

After a few hours on the beach we got back in the car to drive around the town. People on bicycles with baskets of produce, students with back packs and rainbow flip flops- and then we made our way back to highway. I stopped to taste wine and buy artichokes and then headed back to meet Delane for the Madera wine trail.

The evening set out well. It cooled to the upper 80's and we drove out to Madera. This is most divine event for a wine enthusiast like myself. I paid fifteen dollars for a glass that was good at perhaps 15 or 20 wineries in the area- for two days. All of the proceeds are donated to Children's Hospital. Get buzzy and contribute to fund raising for kids! People typically rent limos and go from one vineyard to the next to meet the wine makers, taste and eat cheese, olives and fruits. It's difficult to imagine a better way to enjoy a better day in California.

08 April 2008

pug pack: west village


brunch at Smorgas

My anticipation to take Cuba to the Prospect Park Pug meet up last Saturday morning went a rye when I came to my senses: even the delight of watching her bound around in an abundance of wrinkles and portly bellies-- is not enough to drag me out of bed, at 7am, on a weekend morning. I decided to hop on a train and take her to Washington Square Park, another hinted pug fest.

A gorgeous afternoon in the city, no jacket needed- boots important. It seems that the majority of the parks should have their saw dust changed more frequently. Cuba seemed to prefer the larger dogs to the pugs- perhaps because she is still in her energetic puppy-phase whereas the other pugs were typical lethargic beings?

After she had her fill and I was exhausted by small talk with a woman on American Apparel style and design, "I love your dog's tee shirt."

"Thanks, she picked it out at American Apparel"

"I love that store! If I lost all my clothes, I'd only buy from there. If you get fat you can still wear your clothes!"

At which point I nodded and trailed off towards Cuba- as I was attempting to corral her out of the pit of urine soaked saw dust, awkward guy hitting on me and coddling my dog- (who was clearly pretending to have a dog- and using the venue to pick up girls...) A Chinese woman stopped me to ask if she could take a picture of my dog. Cuba decided that she simply would not sit still and the woman corrected that she wanted to take a photo of me with the dog- I complied as a route of escape and met up with Vadim.

We enjoyed the hints of Spring and a few Coca Colas in retro bottles while perusing the store fronts and Cafes of the West Village. We happened upon Smorgas, a cozy Swedish restaurant with layers of yellows and grays. Vadim asked for a table on the street front where we could enjoy brunch with Cuba.

We chose the Swedish Meatballs & Lingon Berries served with chive mashers. Amazing...beautifully integrated flavors- rich, but not overdone. We also opted for the Blue Shell Mussels with Frites in a white-wine cream broth with shaved garlic, shallots and tarrgon which taunted words of perfection. As faithful as I am to BXL and the freshness of their shell fish, I would almost like to admit that Smorgas wins my vote. We sipped Carlsberg, Lingon Berry Bellinis and the Swedish Bloody Mary (it is the brand of Vodka which labels the drink 'Swedish'??) The service was well-balanced, the manager was present and contributing, offering us rustic bread served with chive butter- presented on a stone. He even brought Cuba a dish of water in between in numerous saunters down the street.

Smorgas is the ideal Saturday afternoon- a late brunch- quiet, consistent- straightforward with slight turns of excitement with each flavor. The taste was on par with my Swedish mother's cooking- but with the edge of a West Village cafe.

01 April 2008

a few amusements

Above: Virtual cupcake, gifted by Mike Wilson...apparently I'm a little Dino on my quarter century birthday...

Cute, no?

On another amusement:

This morning as I balanced on the Manhattan bound N-Express, perusing the current New York magazine features, the cover story enticed me with mentions of www.facebook.com scandals. Let's be honest, allowing high schoolers to utilize the social networking tool is as toxic as a thirteen year old girl claiming to be seventeen on myspace. Apparently, an educator at Horace Mann took the liberty to create a "fake" facebook account with an alias in an attempt to catch the buzz and happenings- unveil the dark hallway whispers.

At an impressively explosive rate- actions and accusations were dealt out. For whatever reason, the notoriously successful, well-educated and/or groomed parents made the choice to stumble with their tongues and justify the racist/sexist/etc words and actions by their students as 'child's play,' or 'a way to blow off steam in a stressful academic environment.' The icing- I would contend, was this exchange:

"What you did was like breaking into my daughter's room and reading her diary."
--Trustee at the School (her daughter a major perpetrator).

"No," said McGuire, "What your daughter did was the equivalent of posting something in Times Square."