Monday, April 30, 2012

One day in LA

THB is in LA for one day, and scores the most expensive loaf of bread he has ever seen...and here it is: $18 at Farm Shop:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Day 6: New York Observations

Day 6:   New York to E-ville, Observations

Weather:  Overcast

Pics:   Fashion

Fitness center, SSB stuff and coffee. Check out of the Affinia Dumont, average of $420/night and a great room and location. The cabbie can’t figure out how to set the meter for the flat fee for the airport, $45, so we find out how much it costs on the meter on a traffic free Sunday morning ride: $30! We pay the flat fee anyway.

·         The cabs now all have credit card capabilities (they fought it for years, and now love it because there are more rides and people leave bigger tips) and for the most part the payment screen is on the back of the front seat at knee level. THB cannot possibly bend over and read the screen, so DB leans over and clicks through the payment menu. Clever!
·         The bread in the restaurants is way better than it used to be, clearly the aesthetic on eating good bread has come up to Bay Area levels, much to THB’s enjoyment
·         The town has become very casual, everywhere. Very few ties, lots of jeans and flats for women, rarely tennis shoes with business dress
·         Trench coats for women are back in style, knee length
·         No tokens in the subway, now “metro” cards that do not always scan as you slide them through the readers, must be an acquired skill.
·         Ahhhh, smart phones are of course everywhere, including being used as actual phones. THB sees lots of people talking on their phones, texting while walking, in palms while walking, while people are working, etc.  The phones seem to be more ubiquitous here than elsewhere.
·         Scaffolding is all over the place, frequently on buildings that appear to have no need for it. THB does not know why
·         THB went to two plays. At both performances, there were numerous calls by ushers and over PA to turn off the phones. During both performances, a cell phone started ringing.
·         What are the new colors for summer? See pics!
·         Another reason nobody goes to Brooklyn: it’s too crowded with all the strollers and urban hipsters walking around
·         United Airlines has figured out how to always arrive on time: they pad the transit times by huge amounts (over an hour longer on each of our flights) so that the only real concern must be if the overscheduled previous flight is still at the gate when your flight arrives

Day 5: (why no one goes to) Brooklyn

Day 5:   (Why no one goes to) Brooklyn

Weather:  It’s not because of the weather

Pics:   It’s not because it isn’t photogenic

No fitness center today, no Grape Nuts in the room. THB and DB pay homage to the bread master at the Sullivan Street Bakery (SSB). If you’ve ever wanted to make your own terrific bread at home, buy Jim Lahey’s  My Bread and start with his basic sourdough. If you ever want to visit one of the top 10 bakeries (THB has been to 7) in America, stroll along 47th Street between 10th and 11th and order anything (or like THB: almost everything).

Some of you have heard this story: THB and DB visited the Berkshire Mountain Bakery (near Hudson; well, we actually went out of our way to get there, and it is another in the top 10) and it was extremely humid so we sat in the car and ate our purchases with the a/c running. After the first few tastes, THB got out of the car, went back in and bought another round. When he got back to the car, DB told him drive away before he went in for a third time. Turns out that Berkshire Mountain also makes the pizza dough for the local pizzerias, including the one THB and DB ate at in Hudson. Worth a detour of some distance.

SSB did not need a/c, it was nice and cool, a perfect weather day. THB bought olive stecca (sort of a soft bread in “stick” form), some pastry slit open and filled with mango/soft cheese, a small dark bake sourdough loaf, two different kinds of rolls, a chocolate almond croissant and two coffees (caffeine, no de-caf).  After a while, THB got up and bought 6 more of the raisin rolls. DB strongly suggested it was time to head to Brooklyn (we’re too far from the Berkshires). How much did all this cost? Cheaper than one might think, because they didn’t have THB’s size in the t-shirts for sale (same same at Berkshire Bakery all those years ago). Around….$25.

Now, why doesn’t anyone go to Brooklyn?

Reason No. 1: The subway system is so convoluted, the system is undergoing construction, expresses are now locals on different lines (hmmm…made sense once it happened to us) that even the locals have no idea which train to take, which stations to transfer at, and where to get off.  Maybe it was the caffeine and sugar, because THB thought we could’ve walked there faster. The subway ride is cheap! $2.25 per person.

Finally, we reach the subway stop for the Brooklyn Flea Market. Several locals later, THB and DB land at the flea market (fortunaley about 35% food stands) and meet up with a local jeweler, Jennifer, that a friend’s daughter used to work for…Jennifer gives us walking directions to the Brooklyn Museum and mentions something about a service car.

Reason No 2: It is hard to get around Brooklyn because it is huge and the art stuff is spread all over and there aren’t many taxis.

THB and DB walk a little over a mile to the museum, not all that interesting a walk except that …
Reason No. 3 there appears to be a lot of construction going on at all the major intersections, including right in front of the museum.

THB and DB tour the museum and see part of a great exhibit (also at the Oakland Museum; you Bay Area locals need to go): Question Bridge. It was created (in a collaboration) by Bayete Ross Smilth (THB and DB met him in Charlotte when he was doing an internship there and own a book of his photographs; he was also on Work of Art last season, one of the better reality shows if you like art), and the premise is that many black males are asked questions we all want to have asked and a) are too embarrassed and b) don’t know this many black males (unless we’re black) to ask these questions of.

Reason No. 4: Even the people that work at the Brooklyn Museum don’t know what street it’s on.

Reason No. 5: You have to use a service car to get from the museum to Dumbo. $19 for about a 3-4 mile ride, and a stereotypical old-style Brooklyn driver.

Reason No. 6: Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, near the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge and reputedly one of the best pizza places in NY, has a line outside of 40 people waiting and a sign that says you have to wait in the line even to get a pizza to-go.

Reason No 7: Lunch at Almar: salad with dressing so far on the side it is still in the kitchen, lentil soup, Portobello panini, limonata, $35, no credit cards. No real service, long lines at the bathroom, and at least no waiting outside.

Tour the local galleries, most not too interesting. One gallery does have an interesting exhibit: a huge installation by a Japanese artist (we meet her) that is a cross between flea markets from India and Japan. Another features a guy doing ballpakrs. The entire exhibit: slats painted green and white and sawhorses. More like a Habitat for Humanity site than a ballpark.

Great pumpkin sandwich cookie, $1.75

Now, the reason to go to Brooklyn: walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan on a gorgeous day.

Reason No 8: Thousands of people are walking towards Brooklyn on a gorgeous day, and at the same time there are a number of bikers going in both directions right alongside the hordes walking. Dangerous and a feeling of swimming upstream.

Subway up from City Hall, learning once again that the expresses are locals and there may not be any expresses, and the trains are coming in on different platforms than expected (this Is not a reason to not go to Brooklyn…or is it?).

Dinner at a small bistro, Le Parisien, around the corner from the hotel. Mussels and frites (DB), roasted chicken and mashed potatoes (THB), shared salad and profiteroles drowning in thick dark chocolate sauce, three glasses of wine, $105.

Walk to the theater for Death of a Salesman with Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The play is dated and yet the themes of delusions and family dynamics are still very real. We’re in a box on the side with slightly obstructed views for THB (DB can lean out and see the far stage left stuff). Overall, above average and of course nowhere near as transcending as Venus in Fur.

Traffic of all types, people and cars, practically at a standstill in the mob scene at Times Square. Turns out there had been a serious traffic accident a few blocks south earlier in the evening. About 5 minutes from the hotel, it starts to pour. DB has a raincoat. THB gets soaked.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Day 4: New York

Day 4: New York Weather: Another perfect day Pics: Chamberlain sculpture outside the Guggenheim, NY Utility box, Pastrami Queen, art at Museum of Art and Design (we visited Ursula’s studio several years ago with the OAMCA), Marea Start with usual: FC, GN, coffee. Off via subway to the Guggenheim Museum to see the Chamberlain exhibit, which is terrific. Guggenheim also has the Francesca Woodman photography exhibit which we saw at SF Moma, equally strong. Lunch at the Pastrami Queen, a tiny deli that serves a great hot pastrami platter, complete with pickles, traditional slaw, rye bread, and fries (we don’t eat the fries, everything else disappears); with iced tea, $30. About an hour at the Joan Mirviss Gallery, specializing in modern Japanese ceramics. Joan helped coordinate several of our visits with artists when we took our Japan trip a few years ago, and she has some strong pieces for us to look at, and she explains the concepts behind the use and pricing of tea bowls. A quick stop at Dean and Deluca for a Sullivan Street ciabatta roll (see pic). Tomorrow THB will play homage to Jim Lahey at the SS Bakery itself. Downhill to see the Whitney Biennial: a dud! Very little of interest. Further downhill to the hotel to rest up, for all of 45 minutes. Cab to Marea, which had a glowing review in the NYT last year. Then, just a month ago, appeared this article in the NYT, looking at the restaurant from the business pov: Gave THB a bit of a pause. Dinner was excellent, all fish, all served beautifully: oysters, mackerel sashimi, perfect prawns with mini-gnocchi, brazino fillet, plainly (and just right) grilled cuttlefish with kale, capers and tomatoes, 2 scoops of gelati and Meyer lemon sorbet, amuse bouche and bonus chocolates. Two drinks and two glasses of wine, $288. That’s the good news; gosh, what an awkward dining experience. Wait staff galore, busboys all over the place, extra maitre d’s, bonus women to seat you and continually canvas the large dining room, extremely slow drink service, and almost no collaboration between any of these groups on making the meal seamless. Bizarre, you’d think they’d fix this “problem” given how good the food is…you’d think. Walk back to hotel to see the Giants blow a late lead.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Day 3: New York

Day 3:
New York

Weather: Cool and sunny and slight breezes: perfect

Shots of the High Line Park from below, Rice to Riches, and in the category of why we didn’t think of it: NY Yankees fragrance (and the reason the A’s didn’t think of it: THEY STINK!)

Fitness center, grapenuts and fruit, coffee in the room. Walk back to Chelsea and visit a number of galleries, see a few pieces of note including one where a video is free when you buy a small piece of art that is abstracted from the video. THB thinks the video is more fascinating than the artwork, may buy a piece to get the free video!

Lunch at Co, a pizza place owned by Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery (go out and buy his bread book, My Bread, now and start making the best bread this side of Tartine, at home!); we’ve been here before, and it is just as good: pizza blanca (plain pizza dough with bit of olive oil and salt), arugula salad with artichokes, pizza with tomato sauce, arugula and stracciatella (burrata-like cheese, aka soft mozzarella). Two lemonades, $53.

Recreational pre-wedding shopping and a walk back to the hotel, stopping at Pinkberry along the way to cool off throats and feet, $10.50 (yes, for two small cups). Change for SOFA, show mostly of sculptural objects and jewelry. Take the subway, $4.50, stops are a block from the hotel and block from the Armory where the show is being held.

And, SOFA somewhat of a dud, very little of interest to THB and DB, we think we may have just seen too much craft and jewelry by now to be wowed. After a few hours, we start reviewing dinner plans and settle on Sorbella, in Little Italy. It may as well been in Italy, it is around a $18 cab ride (a lot for getting anywhere in Manhattan).

Dinner is excellent: three different salads (kale again, arugula again, and stracciatella again, this time with fava beans); share a squid and squid ink farfalle (bowtie pasta), with kale yet again; one of the better dishes we’ve had recently (meaning, in the last 3-4 months), one drink, one glass of wine, lots of those think crunchy salty bread sticks, $120.

Walking back to the subway through Nolita and the Soho, 100% jumping with people only on average 30 years younger than us. Spot a dessert place we’ve never seen before (and thus THB dove right in): rice pudding, all rice pudding, all rice pudding with sweet to very sweet toppings. We order a small cinnamon and raisins, $4.50. Two small spoonfuls each, and the rest comes back to the hotel for the night.

Subway to a block from the hotel: $4.50

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Day 2: New York

Day 2: New York

Weather: Cool and sunny (50s) to cool and overcast (50s) to cool and a slight rain (50s)

Pics: Fitness center, shots from our hotel room on the 28th floor, the High Line Park and vicinity (including Simon’s auction house/gallery from Work of Art), Back Forty West restaurant, Pump Jack art installation at 46th and 8th, GC Station, Affinia Dumont (trying to hide the scaffolding), Kajitsu Restaurant

Fitness center, breakfast in the room (where THB sets off the smoke alarm by setting the toaster one level too high) of Arizmendi rolls, grape nuts, fruit, coffee, and a long walk over to the new High Line park (converted train track, complete with old track). The park is quite the urban success story, with many tourists and school groups walking the elevated plantings that run from 10th to 30th street along 10th Avenue. Worth a detour!

We continue on foot to Pleats Please (Issey Miyake in all pleats) and do a bit of pre-wedding outfit shopping, in the area of the Village we stayed in for DB’s 60th. Then lunch at another place we’ve eaten at before: Savoy. OOPS, same owners, different restaurant; now it is Back Forty West, and we shared a brisket sandwich with fries (nowhere near as good as Trolley Car or T Rex) and salad of grilled kale, escarole, white anchovies, fried capers and crispy chickpeas (excellent), hibiscus iced tea, $43. Along our walk we passed many a bakery; we retrace our steps to the Vesuvio for a cookie (stacked up in the window) and once inside realize that the old bakery has been eaten out and replaced by the “green” Birdbath bakery. Seems to have worked, we share a very unusual, very good cc cookie, $3.

The feet, they are getting weary, and we use the subway (complete with Rastafarian busker and young “widow with two children” hustling change…these are two separate people) to end up in the theater district and Venus in Fur. It is a play within a play, with an unscheduled audition going on and the characters (only two) falling into the roles of the play. The inside joke: the female star, Nina Arianda, is in her first big Broadway role, and at her audition wowed the director and got the part as an unknown. The play is fabulous, Nina’s fabulous and a dead ringer for Maria P, Hugh Dancy does fine in the role, and we got so jazzed we went and bought tix for another play on Saturday night (cliffhanger alert: THB will not reveal the title of this play until next week). Venus was without intermission and we concurred that there was no way to break the 1 hr 45 minute performance without the audience starting a riot when the lights came up halfway through. Engrossing and mesmerizing, don’t miss it: either come to NY or see when it comes to your area, or do what we’re going to do: both. THB’s top rating!

Dinner at Kajitsu, a Japanese vegan restaurant, picked because THB read the review in the NYT; see link below if you want to see the polar opposite of THB’s impression, which was: bland, sometimes under-flavored, stuff did not taste like it looked, and only a few of the 9 courses were even slightly above average. As best we could tell, the chef in the review was not on premise (nor remotely nearby it appears, maybe back in Japan). There were two other couples and a single person at the counter with THB and DB; we were the only ones not taking pictures of the food at some point in the meal. With sake pairings, $260.

Cab down, $8. Walk back in a very slight rain, priceless