Saturday, December 23, 2006

village

My job is in DUMBO, and I have come to find that DUMBO is its own little village, a kind of urban industrial waterfront arrondissement, replete with a French chocolate shop (Jacques Torres) and neighborhood bakery, the almighty Almondine. In Paris, there is this wonderful certainty that on every corner you can find a terrific baguette and a darn good croissant. In New York City, there is no such guarantee (in Ohio you are up shit's creek without a midwestern paddle).

It calms me to know that four short cobblestone blocks away I can find terrific baguettes, outstanding pretzel bread, financiers, fresh quiche, daily soup specials, sandwiches--with ingredient lists that read, for example, "prosciutto, butter, artichoke hearts(!)..." and a variety of cookies, pastries and cakes.

For Thanksgiving, I bought a pumpkin pie, and was corrected in my previous belief that pumpkin pie isn't worth eating. The pie, sadly, could not save Thanksgiving, but that wasn't the pie's fault. A pie can only do so much.

For Chanukah I bought a traditional German Christmas stollen, which may seem sacreligious, but our Chanukah parties need all the icing sugar they can get. A stollen is a light airy fruitcake made with yeast, water and flour, and usually dried citrus peel, dried fruit, nuts, and spices such as cardamom and cinnamon. The finished cake is sprinkled with icing sugar, and though it too cannot save a family dinner, it can provide you something with which to stuff your face and avoid conversation. Plus it is good for days and days and makes for a nice breakfast. Why Almondine is in the business of making German fruitcakes, I do not know, but mine is not to reason why, mine is only to eat the darn thing and then sing from the moutaintops that this limited edition loaf of loveliness is a MUST HAVE.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

coming home

Waking up from a three week stint as someone who resembled me but wasn't me was like coming home. Suddenly back in my own skin, feeling my own rhythms (quick, muscular, motivated), seeing my true face in the mirror, it was like emerging from a chrysalis after too much time.

In the name of homecoming, I write about two newcomers to my neighborhood--one I love, the other left me underwhelmed.

Bocca Lupo ("in the mouth of the wolf," literally; figuratively it means "good luck"), on Henry and Warren is just what my 4 block radius needed: a wine and panini bar that doesn't seek to be anything other than what it is, which is a good neighborhood place. The salads and panini are really solid, and the atmosphere is warm, and the wine keeps flowing and is very delicious.

Lunetta on Smith between Pacific and Bergen left me wishing we'd gone to Noodle Pudding instead. I had a great glass of Valpolicella and delicious fried artichokes, but we followed the waitress' suggestions and ended up with three mediocre dishes. Orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage lacked seasoning but had cream. Cream? The penne with braised lamb was a little dry, and probably should have been tagliatelle, or a noodle, not a tube. The cripsy friend chicken was extremely tasty but seemed better suited for a Chinese restaurant and came with nothing on the plate except the many large chunks of deep fried chicken. Hmmmm....odd. Probably will not go back. With such good Italian in this city, there is no reason to eat anything less than something excellent.

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