New York, New York. It’s a kind of a town

I suppose, too, you could say it’s a hell of a town as well. That would be entirely appropriate. I am now in Berlin now and falling desperately behind on these posts.

I spent 3 days in New York before I left for 6 weeks in Berlin. I chose a (an?) hotel near Penn Station since I’d planned to take the AirTrain from Newark and didn’t want the hassle of negotiating my 50 steamer trunks, hat boxes, rolly bags, carry-ons, curio cabinets, shoe satchels and portmanteaux too many blocks to a hotel. Nor did I need a taxi driver to struggle with them (or judge me) so I thought, what the hey, stay near the train station even though several people had told me it wasn’t a great neighborhood (it was fine). I stayed in Koreatown just a block from Penn Station. In the end I did not take the AirTrain, I could not find it and like many American men, or possibly men in general (OK, I may be gay but I am still a man), I was too afraid, possibly proud, stupid, (take your pick) to ask directions. Why is this!?!? I took a taxi. It was supposed to be a “flat rate” It was not apparently.

It was maybe not the nicest part of town but it was more than serviceable. The hotel was good enough and while I did not eat at any of the zillion Korean restaurants it was not for lack of desire. My lack, it turns out, is more along the lines of courage. (I think you can begin to see a pattern here) I was too afraid to go into any of them. They were teeming with people, mostly Korean, who knew what they were doing. I mean, to a man or woman they, each and every one, had some obvious fierce determination when they entered any these places. I could not bear the idea of going in and dithering. “What can I get you, sir?” “Oh, um, well, I . . . how’s the . . . I dunno. Is there an, um . . . can I use a fork”

While I did not use the AirTrain to get in to New York I did manage to buy a Metrocard and use it on both trains and buses. One can imagine the intense pride I had in mastering something tens of millions of people within a 4 mile radius do 50 times a day without needing a pack of Rolaids ® to deal with the anxiety. The first time I used it on a bus I nearly had a crying jag when I finished navigating the entrance procedure (And it was a rigmarole—as I seemed unable to insert the Metrocard correctly into the slot despite 40 attempts, the bus driver to my relief and the relief of the 65 people behind me, yanked it out of my hand and inserted it herself). Fortunately masks were required and it was quite effective in absorbing my tears. Oh, and hiding most of my face. I covered my eyes with my hat.

My hotel was near the Fashion Institute, FIT to those of us in the know, (just sayin’) and there were many colorful and unique fashion “styles” one might encounter at any given time.

My friend Kate who was there in New York while I was passed St Patrick’s cathedral on her way to have dinner with me and told me she said a silent prayer for me nodding reverently (I assume, Irish Catholic that she is) as she passed. St Patrick’s is the seat of the archbishop. Timothy Cardinal Dolan is currently cardinal archbishop of New York and former archbishop of Milwaukee. He is also a world class bigot, jackass and all ’round intolerant and small minded SOB. Consider these tidbits from Wikipedia:

“referred to the non-profit support group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests as a “phony victims’ group”

“In 2019, Dolan was reported to have received, together with other influential U.S. Catholic leaders, substantial monetary gifts from West Virginia bishop Michael J. Bransfield, who had resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct”. (He did not return it.)

“He has said that black lives matter, bracketing the statement before and after with “all lives matter” and “police lives matter.”

I took a little cruise on the Highline which has really matured since my last visit with my niece Madeline who was then newly or about-to-be pregnant with my now 4 year old grand-niece Clara.

I really wanted to eat in Chinatown and coerced my friend Gail into taking me there. She got the recommendation for Joe’s Shanghai from a friend. It was a bit of a wait but worth it. The soup dumplings were beyond fabulicious. I don’t know what that sauce was but OMG. I was afraid to ask for a fork and used chopsticks which made my hand cramp up. I should use chop sticks all the time. I’d eat less.

All of the waiters we interacted with and the others I’d heard speak were Chinese. Or at least native Chinese speakers with strong accents. I became aware of the white Americans who went to great lengths to tell the waiters how delicious everything was. On the one hand I appreciate that they were thoughtful enough to do that. The guy across from us waited for quite a while until the waiter came back so he could inform the waiter how good the food was (Never mind the 90 million people waiting to get seated). On the other hand it seemed so, I don’t know, self-important. That the waiter have their good opinion was so important and somehow condescending. I just told the waiter thanks and fled.

Ashish suggested (in a manner that seemed more like a threat) that I go to the Met to see the Chroma exhibit which was a recreation of how statuary would have actually been painted in ancient times and various civilizations. It was mildly interesting but really, it just looked like the most unimaginative painting colors you could muster. I went also to MoMA with my friend Kate (who was also there from Milwaukee) where I got to visit some of my old friends, Richard Diebenkorn greeted us as we entered. He’s an all-time favorite. The next morning before my flight I went to The Ruben Museum of Tibetan art and history. Here Ashish would have been very useful. I can look at the stuff and read the explanations they’re providing but it would have been easier to just have him tell me. I’m super lazy that way.

Although on the whole the hotel was very tidy, this eyelash was in the elevator for the better part of a day. I want to try one on just to see how it feels. It seems so uncomfortable.

This is totally how I felt about getting on an overseas flight which I was doing in about 4 hours. And how I felt on it as well.

Famous inventors

My friends Gail and Dawn, sisters and sometime readers of my blog, came up for dinner and brought me hostess gifts (I am not sure if I should be saying “host gifts” which doesn’t sound right but being, you know, gender fluid and all, I’m fine with hostess). Dawn brought me a “frozen herb keeper,” a device with which you compress and freeze fresh herbs after which you can grate them into your food. It’s a clever idea and in reading the back of the hang card I discovered that it was invented by the Famous Inventor David Holcomb. I’m not sure exactly who he is and what else he’s invented but I can say confidently that he’s got a fierce ego. As a graphic designer who’s occasionally designed packaging I know that that little testament on the bottom isn’t going to increase sales and was certainly not the idea of the designer. We hate that kind of shit.

Gail, having read about my apple coring travails, brought me a melon baller. I don’t know who invented them since his or her name and title, if you can call “famous inventor” a title, wasn’t on it. Thank god.


Tops in tapas

One last thing….

It’s not that we avoid German food in Germany, in fact we ate a fair amount of it and I like it a lot (schnitzel, maybe not so much) we manage to eat the foods of other lands while I am there and it’s not just us. the Germans do too. Andalucia.  My friend Gail lived in this building at some point in her life. I don’t know how you could do that and not get fat. The food was über der top delicioso. See there, I was able to use several of my acquired languages.

The next week we went to a different Spanish tapas place and had my personal fave “wrinkled potatoes with sauce.” I’m unclear on whether I think this is a good or appetizing name for this dish but it does put me in mind of certain people I know.




Ngam

I’m guessing it is pronounced something like “yam” although I am not super sure because my Thai is a little rusty. I had lunch there at Ngam on the lower east side last Friday in Manhattan with my college friend Gail (though she looks waaaay younger). If you blinked you’d have missed it, the place was the size of a closet, the food was absolutely fabulous, to use a phrase. We shared sweet potato fries and that, in and of itself, could have been lunch. But I had the Pad See Ewe and she had the…I’m not sure what…but it was not, in checking the menu on line, “Hung Lay,” (Farm-raised pork belly and pork shoulder, Hung Lay powder, pickled garlic, ginger, peanut—as seen on Iron Chef).” Whatever it was she was eating smelled good, like I imagine a hung lay might, but I didn’t try it at the time. The Pad See Ewe was delicious and more than enough for me, the noodles were really amazing. And while Gail’s dish smelled amazing, it’s the hung lay that seems to stick in my head, I’m not sure why.


The Brat Stop

I see it every time I go to Chicago. It’s an institution. I ate there years ago with my friend Karen and remember it fondly. So when my college friend Gail wanted to meet up halfway between here and Chicago where she is visiting her sister Dawn, she, well, actually Dawn, came up with The Brat Stop. (Mangia in Kenosha is closed on Tuesday, FYI. ) and I was all for it. I love that kind of food.

In fact, the food, for an institution, was pretty institutional. Just the kind of thing you’d expect at a truck stop, it wasn’t any kind of special. Except for seeing Gail and co. Sorry Dawn.

Next time we’ll meet on a Wednesday.

Counter space

This is my counter space. It is pretty much all I have to work with. It is about 3×4 but it is cluttered with all sorts of shit that makes the useful area about 2×2. I do have some other space next to the sink, and there’s a little area on the other side of the stove but both of those places are essentially staging areas. I catered a party for over 100 from this little space. I have made Thanksgivings for more than 20 on several occasions. An Indian meal for 40 and various and sundry other massive meals for various and sundry other occasions. And really, it’s never been a problem.

My friend Gail complained about her small counter yesterday and I got to thinking about mine. I used to have a kitchen the size of Lambeau Field until I was downsized into a phone booth kitchen and while I’m sure it’s inconvenient I don’t really think about it too much. It’s more about advanced planning than anything. Considering how messy I am, it’s a miracle anything edible gets out of there.

Made chili last night.

Jerk Chicken

I did not use my own recipe which is loosely based on the recipe from the cook book from a restaurant I LOVED called Sugar Reef (still have their matches, see below). My friend Gail introduced me to it and it was like I went to a party in the Caribbean and everyone loved me. Steel drums, oil cloth, great service and great food. I liked their jerk, though it was not what I recalled of the jerk in Jamaica. 

The marinade in Cook’s Illustrated turned out to be more like a paste than the liquid-y Sugar Reef marinade. It seemed complicated but it wasn’t. I blended it all in the my processor and used all thighs, letting them sit for 12 hours. I made a packet of wood and spices as they suggested in Cook’s Illustrated to create smoke in the grill and make a smoky flavor but it never caught fire nor smoked.

Nonetheless, the stuff was ROCKIN’ and with the red pepper relish I made (I could eat that every day) it was the star meal of my last month. I served it with purple potato salad (not what I think of as Caribbean but I had them from my CSA), cole slaw and a chocolate malt cake. Next time I’ll break out the oil cloth.

Jerk Chicken Recipe

All of these amounts are approximate and if your spices are old,

 shame on you, but just use more of it. I did not use a measure.

Into a processor bowl put 

1.5 TB coriander

1 TB allspice    

1 TB Thyme

1 TB ginger (dried powder)

2 TB brown sugar    

1 TB pepper (gotta be freshly ground, just gotta)

8 green onions cut into sections

3 TB vegetable oil

2 TB soy sauce

1 TB worcestershire sauce

2 TB lime zest

2 TB yellow mustard

2 tsp basil (I used fresh)

2 tsp rosemary (fresh)

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Process this all into a paste and slather it on your thighs. 

I mean chicken thighs. It’ll work for like 12 to 20 of them. 

It needs a few hours to overnight to marinate (in the refrigerator).

Mush them around occasionally.

Heat your grill, bring the thighs to room temp and be sure to salt both sides generously.

Once I slap them on the grill, I like to get them charred, and then move them to a place 

where they stay hot and can still cook but won’t burn anymore (not over a flame). 

After they are charred, the finish grilling should take 30 minutes. 

You’re on your own with grilling. 

Everyone has his or her own method and of course it depends on your 

relationship with your grill. My grills have very different personalities,

each difficult in its own way. Difficult, demanding and ready to take 

advantage of any lapse in judgement or momentary distraction, 

sort of like a teenager.