Sunday, December 25, 2005

'twas the week before christmas...

...and all through the strike.....

wait, that's not how it goes.

some highlights from strike week include: a ride from two strangers all the way to work, getting me there on time, which seemed impossible. also, 6-7 miles home that evening, on foot, concluding with sunset as i crossed over the bridge into brooklyn. a december sunset on a clear night over the lights of the waterfront is a beautiful sight.

the next day connie and i bundled up, and headed over the bridge together to the east village, where we shared wine and wassail (what's 'wassail' i wonder?) with brian and z. after finding the line too long at supper, we languished over a decadent meal at lucien. it was so satisfying that i began to wonder why THAT hadn't been my neighborhood spot all those years. we had raw oysters, lamb, salmon, creme brulee, an exquisite tarte tatin.....and due to the strike, barely even had to wait for a table.

i finished up the week before christmas with dinner last night at raoul's, which has somehow managed to maintain its old soho charm. despite the crushing corporate shopping invasion, raoul's still feels warm and cool and real. i had an excellent dish of cappellini with little neck clams and chorizo; it was dominated by the full-bodied richness of the chorizo and a touch of cream in the sauce, and i couldn't help but eat every last bite. all this while drinking wine and listening to stories of old soho, told my my dining companions who had staked out soho lofts in the 70s and paid $200/mo. we were, all of us, new yorkers born and raised, ranging in age from 30 to 60, having shared a downtown NYC life that exists no more.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

having the usual?

it's very important to have a neighborhood spot. it is also important to have the staff there get to know you, and say things like "having the usual?" i have experience with forging a neighborhood spot, but have never gotten as far as having them know me. my addiction to to the anonymity of nyc has somehow prevented it, i suppose.

in my old neighborhood, my spot was supper. and i really did eat the same darn thing every time i went. in lieu of the waiter doing so, i would sit down and turn to my dining companion and say "having the usual?" which meant panzanella and grilled vegetables and cacio e pepe.

only two and a half months into my brooklyn life, i have declared my neighborhood spot to be cafe luluc on smith street. have had several brunches there, and will say those are the best french fries i can remember in a while. last night i added dinner to the repertoire. our table had beet salad, mussels, pork chop, steak frite, moroccan lamb, creme brulee, chocolate cake, and hot damn! every single thing was delicious. and not very expensive. and did i mention they made me a really good vodka martini?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

knife skills

"chop," i just found out, is a bad word. better words are "slice," "dice," "carve." as a writing teacher, i know this, that specificity is key. last saturday e and a and i attended a beginning level knife skills class at ICE. three hours long, and taught with dynamic old-school efficiency by norman weinstein, the class teaches its students, first and foremost, not to chop. the loud crash of a knife to a cutting board does not occur when the knife is handled properly. nor does the chef get a sore arm or shoulder. the blade glides effortlessly.

we learned to hold our knives properly, how to dice onions, slice carrots, core tomatoes, slice bagels (not fingers), mince herbs, chiffonade basil, and "use the steel." i learned that i've been doing pretty much everything wrong, and i am excited and determined to get better through practice. there's still knife skills 2 and 3 to take (in 3 you learn how to make cool garnishes), and i am definitely tempted.

$85 for a jam-packed 3 hours. institute for culinary education, formerly peter kump's cooking school.