Friday, November 10, 2006
R-U rah rah
R-U rah rah
Upstream Red Team
Red Team Upstream
I know, it's deep. And it's actually about our crew team, which we don't have anymore due to budget cuts. But it sounds pretty cool when you get a bunch of Rutgers kids doing it in unison. We have songs too, like the alma mater, but they aren't as good for a football game
My first year at Rutgers, our college football team won 2 games. We lost 60-0 to Notre Dame (Wendy's crowing still rings in my ears - though I can't imagine why she would do such a thing - us losing to Notre Dame back then was akin to a teenager beating up a granny). Well, this granny has learned jujitsu and Rutgers doesn't suck anymore. Not only does RU football not suck, we frakkin' rule! I should probably watch what I say, as I write this we are down 25-22 to Louisville. But who cares.
I find myself wishing these days to be around campus - to be a student and really experience what it's like to be at a school with spirit for its sports team. I'm sure it's infectious.
I was also reminded by old college friend Molson the other day that the Rutgers 1000 is probably having trouble getting new members (they were a group devoted to pulling RU out of Division I). A little research showed that Rutgers 1000 dissolved in 2002 because they thought that the new prez would extricate them from the Big East. Oops! Guess they were wrong. Whatever, the point of this post wasn't to talk about them anyway
It was to talk about Rutgers football! Everyone knows a solid football team brings in more alumni bucks. But for me, I loved Rutgers College and never cared about whether we sucked at sports. I'd give money to them regardless. I just hope this sudden football success brings in more dollars, and that more people take note of good old RU, on the banks of the old Rar-i-tan.
Like Jersey itself, Rutgers has for too long been overlooked and unfairly maligned. It's time for a little more pride, and if we need to kick some Cardinal ass to get it, well then so be it!
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
I dread the coming holidays, as is expected and common, or so I am told. A kid I once know, who had lost his dad some years before, once told me that even after many holidays without his father, he still hated Thanksgiving - it just highlighted the loss that much more. I hope that won't be true for me, but for right now, I am definitely sad and nervous about the holidays.
Last year, I was stressed while hosting Thanksgiving, and as you may recall, I had a car accident on Turkey Day and declared it the "worst" Thanksgiving ever. As for Christmas, well, I just felt like it snuck up on me, which is why I did not decorate my apartment at all and bought everyone's gift at the absolute last minute.
In constrast to that, this year I already have my Christmas list nearly completed and have already started shopping. The planning soothes me.
And it soothes me that we are keeping Thanksgiving and Christmas as close to what they have been in year's past as possible. I will be hosting dinner for Turkey Day, Dad and I will spend Christmas Eve and morning together, and we will have Christmas dinner at my sister's.
This is where the problem lies. My sister and brother-in-law have decided, in their infinite wisdom, to cook.... steamed buns for Christmas dinner. Steamed buns are a soup filled dumpling that I personally like to eat at Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown. I really like steamed buns. But not for Christmas dinner. And certainly not my brother-in-law's version - he doesn't believe in using salt, oil, butter.... anything that makes food tasty.
Dad and I were terrified - what would we do? If my mom were still alive she simply would have picked up the phone, called my sister and said, "Lorien. We are not having steamed buns for Christmas dinner. You will make a ham. I will buy it for you." And that would have been the end of it. Except that Mom would have done it in a sweeter way and would have almost made it seem like it was my sister's idea.
Anyway, Dad and I have decided that we will cook what we want to eat and bring it with us. Any suggestions are welcome - whatever it is should be transportable and only require warming at my sister's.
Happy Fall, everybody.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Something bad happens when I hang out with Ben, though - he gets wired. My own nephews find me pretty boring and have no trouble dozing off when I am around, but not Benny! Despite my serious recommendation to him that he take a nap, Ben preferred to chew on his toys and bang on his Fisher-Price drum. Like me, he didn't want to work, he just wanted to bang on these drums all day.
Eventually, Gena and I strapped Ben into his stroller and the sheer bordedom of listening to us talk about shoes and Project Runway put him right to sleep. Please note that this apparent lack of enthusiasm for our convo did not stop Ben from grabbing at the InStyle with Heidi Klum on the cover that I had brought for Gena.
Benny, I'm glad I spent a workday with you instead of researching estate tax law. And I'm glad you find me fun and interesting now - in a few more months you'll realize that I really am quite soporific and your mom will start inviting me around at bedtime again.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Mike and Gena's house continues to wow me every time I am there - they still have my dream kitchen. The theme of the evening was a French bistro type affair - all French wines and we brought along some French cheeses. As for the spread of food - impressive as usual. Mike concocted what he calls, "the best part of french onion soup without the soup" - toasted bread with onions and melted gruyere on top. There was also my personal favorite - steak tartar, and artichoke dip on escarole leaves, mushroom turnovers, an array of sausages and the aforementioned cheeses.
In the cheese department - the bleu cheese brought by Emma was my personal favorite - smooth and just strong enough - so good you could eat it plain. Though, I also liked the petite reblochon that I brought.
As for wine, one can always trust Mike to provide excellence and he certainly did - six different wines set out for us with the Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc Vieux Telegraphe as my favorite. He also generously shared a 1990 Sauterne with us - very delicious.
It's been awhile since a Mike and Gena wine event - it was good to be back.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Today (or at least for the next hour) is Halloween, a personal favorite in the holiday front because I like being scared (or really, the giggles I get after a good scare), love the trick-or-treaters, the costumes, the horror movies, the crisp fall weather and the caaaaandy.
I took my nephew Connor trick-or-treating - he was a ghost - and sadly, he was the only trick-or-treater on the street. Where was everybody? We also discussed the meaning of the word "nocturnal" or, as Connor calls it, "octurnal."
On the way home, I got to stop off at Anh's house and see Baby Ben dressed as a bear. To me, this is the highlight of Halloween - dressing small children up as little animals or fat pumpkins. My friend Marc has always disliked little kids - except when they are dressed up in puffy animal costumes. Precisely for the reason that it is so damn cute. As was Ben.
Hope it was a good holiday for all.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I saw the series finale of Sex and the City tonight. For you non-fans, it aired about 3 years ago. I watched it at Anh's apartment in Bayonne, where she lived before she moved 3 miles away from me. Liana and her sister Thea were with me. Anh made quite the spread, naturally.
Anyway, what continues to amaze me about the finale is that it still makes me cry. I have heard complaints about it from critics and fans that it was not realistic - that part of what made Sex and the City a great show was that it realistically represented the reality of the single life, with all its depressing pock marks. First off, I disagree - to me, the real point of Sex was that it was the truest representation on television of female friendships. I have told the men in my life in the past that if they really want to get female friendships, they should watch Sex and the City. Yes, it's true that like the Golden Girls, the Sex and the City women represented archetypes. However, the bonds, the arguments, the differences that these women had with each other were all true. While none of us are entirely "a Charlotte" or "a Samantha," we have all shared a bond like that of Miranda and Carrie, or we have all felt irritation with a friend like Charlotte and Carrie in the "Ring a Ding Ding" episode (a personal favorite, because it's all about expectations and the meaning of friendship... and fyi, season 4 in general might be the best of Sex - "My Motherboard, Myself," "The Real Me," "A Vogue Idea" though Season 6 does have its moments: "The Catch" and "A Woman's Right to Shoes").
But this is besides the point. Why is it okay for Big, at the end of six seasons, to tell Carrie that she is the one? Because Carrie is our friend. And we all want the best for our friends, not reality. Reality is something we save for ourselves. I am the truest recipient of that knowledge. I have, for the most part, had a terrible year - I lost my mom who was my best friend. Add to that a job I hate and the usual confusion about the direction of my life. Then I thought I might be dying. No, seriously. I had this symptom, and while it could have been nothing, it could also have meant I was dying. I found out today that I'm not dying. I am just fine. But in those two months where I wondered and had tests, I listened to my friends, in varying degrees, hope for the very best - from those who insisted it was nothing like my dad was paying them to do it (thanks, Wendy) to those who were a little more retiscent. We don't think about realism for our friends, we think about what we want for them. And after six seasons of watching poor Carrie lay it all out for us, we wanted her to find her one.
And while I'm glad Carrie finally got Big to admit that she is his one and only (and even more importantly, as he told her three best friends, "You three are the loves of her life, and a guy can only hope to come in fourth.") I must admit I miss her.
Friday, August 25, 2006
I had to drive up to Albany for the character and fitness interview and the swearing in. I haven't been to Albany since I was very young, but my dad used to go there a lot for work. So when I told him I had to head up there for the swearing-in, he kindly offered to join me.
We headed up Wednesday afternoon and Dad had gotten us rooms at the Crowne Plaza, which is right down the street from the Empire Plaza Convention Center (where I needed to be). For dinner, we headed down the hill of State Street to Jack's Oyster House - one of the oldest restaurants in Albany. When we got to the restaurant, Dad said, "When you told me you had to come to Albany, I have to admit my ulterior motive that it would be nice to come eat here again." Dad retired six years ago and hasn't been back since.
It was a great meal - the oysters and clams we had from the raw bar were top notch, and my Steak Diane was nicely done. Dad had the duck, which was quite disappointing, but the chocolate mousse torte dessert made up for that. The chocolate mousse was as good as Luger's, though admittedly it came with less schlag.
We headed back up the hill where I holed up in my room and watched way too much Law & Order, something I almost never do anymore.
As for today's events, the interview and the swearing in went smoothly and Dad and I were headed back to Jers by 10:30.
It was a nice bonding experience for us, I think. This month hasn't been easy for me, between work, my lack of interesting vacation, and the double whammy of Mon & Dad's anniversary and Mom's birthday. It was nice for us to take a little sojourn together, and just talk, or sometimes, sit in amiable silence.
Bruni blogged about S'mac, which is a small eatery in the East Village which specializes in macaroni and cheese, a few weeks ago. As a mac & cheese lover, I was intrigued. Luckily for me, Jeeves had just returned from his European vacation and had time for some dinner in between being a law nerd and.... being a law nerd. We had narrowed down the contenders to a variety of selections from New York mag's 101 cheap eats issue, and S'mac. I chose the winner.
And a winner it is. As I find woolgathering about food to be a suitable way to make it through a day of blah work, I perused the menu and decided the best plan of attack was for each of us to order two nosh sizes and share all of them. This way we could try four different varieties of mac & cheese.
I arrived first, and Jeeves was, per usual, late, which gave me enough time to stand outside the orange and yellow restaurant and get antsy as it filled up and there were fewer and fewer tables available. But he arrived and we got on line while I told him my idea. Jeeves is almost always amenable to a plan that allows for more food, so he agreed. We selected the all-american, gruyere, cheeseburger and cajun, and we requested breadcrumbs on all of them.
After about a five minute wait, the waitress brought us our skillets of mac and cheese. We had made a mistake in our calculations - what we had assumed were the medium-sized servings were, in fact, the small. Four nosh-sized (the smallest) provided way too much food for two people. We dug in, regardless.
As Bruni has suggested, the gruyere, which includes chunks of slab bacon, was our favorite. It was lighter than the others and the gruyere went great with the bacon. But the all-american (just your traditional mac & cheese) was not to be discounted. Bruni complained that there were no burnt edges, but I personally feel that there are many ways of making mac and cheese, and while burnt edges are tasty and that is one way of making it, Sarita's (the owner) way is pretty great too.
The cheeseburger (which Jeeves likened to The Dude from Two Boots Pizza) was absurdly heavy and kind of like a really delicious serving of hamburger helper. As for the Cajun, well, in typical Megan fashion, I couldn't eat too much of it before the jalapenos got the best of me, but mac & cheese definitely benefits from being combined with pepper jack and andouille.
I kid you not, we had to take every single one home, which actually worked out well for the splitting - I took the gruyere and the cheeseburger, and let me say - the cheeseburger was fantastic reheated. But this meal was not without its casualty - Jeeves came down with a serious case of the cheese sweats. I didn't know it was possible to get the cheese sweats, but it is and he did.
On the whole, an inexpensive and delightful experience. I'll be headed back, but I'll just get one nosh sized next time.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
I don't actually know Amishah. But she's got some great photography equipment, takes some nice pics, loves flowers (me too!!!), and most importantly, just went to the Bellagio in Vegas.
Kate and I were discussing the Bellagio vs. the MGM Grand today, when Kate remarked, "I wish I could see a picture of the bathrooms." I figured with the magic of Flickr, there must be a photo of the bathrooms in these hotels somewhere. Enter Amishah, who did indeed take photos of her room and the bathroom at the Bellagio (and a nice shot of the glass ceiling in the lobby). She took a lot of other pics in Vegas too - she has several cameras and one them takes very good night shots.
Anyway, after looking at her Vegas pics, I perused her other photos and got to thinking about how interesting Flickr is and how strange it is that a stranger could look at your photos and get an idea of who you are.
Anyway, thanks for sharing your pics, Amishah. You made Kate's day. Oh, and lest you think I didn't find the MGM Grand's hotel room bathroom photo, I did - thanks to Dawn (she's Canadian).
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
But now it is here! In April, we're going to Vegas.
The questions now is where to stay. Camp Bellagio and Camp MGM Grand both make strong arguments. Any other contenders are welcome to throw in their two cents (I must say, though, if you are a fan of Steve Wynn or the Venetian, both are more expensive than Bellagio and MGM and therefore, out of contention).
I'll keep you posted.
Marge: Money's too tight for steak.
Marge: Eh, suuure... steak.
(This quote is really only used because any time Paul or I say the word "steak" the other persons launches into this quote. Because we're losers.)
Last Thursday was Jeeves's birthday, and to welcome him to his late 20s, I took him to The Strip House. Neither of us had been before, but we had both heard great things about it, and so, were quite excited.
While getting a reservation was no problem, I was surprised to see that the restaurant was nearly full when we arrived. Regardless, we were immediately seated. If you've been to or heard about The Strip House, you already know that the decor is noteworthy. The space is small with a bar area in the front of the restaurant, and tables that run along the walls and one row of tables down the middle. I was actually surprised by how small the space was. The bar area feels trendy - not remotely steak house-ish. But just past the bar, the restaurant mellows out and while you don't feel like you are in Luger's, you definitely feel like these people will know how to cook a steak.
The walls are covered with old bordello shots for the 1920s or earlier - shots that I am sure were risque for their time. The wallpaper, the seating - it's all red, but surprisingly not overwhelming.
There were service missteps early on. Jeeves wanted a rye Manhattan and asked the waiter if the bar carried rye. He wasn't sure, but felt comfortable giving a dissertation on the difference between a rye and bourbon Manhattan, and his personal recommendations for what type of bourbon Rajeev should choose if he went with the bourbon (they did have rye, and that's what he had). I asked for a menu of wines by the glass, and was delighted to see that they had Angus "the Bull" cabernet sauvignon from Australia (2003). Mike and Gena got me into this wine at one of their tastings and it's definitely a steak-worthy red. But the waiter took forever to take our drink orders. When the waiter did bring Jeeves's Manhattan, he attempted to pour it with a flourish, but really just wound up splashing it all over Jeeves's arm.
Anyway, that's neither here nor there, because the food came promptly and at a good pace. We started off with the foie gras appetizer, which was marked as a table share. Indeed. It was an enormous piece and we couldn't finish it. It was served cold, which I wasn't expecting, and I wish the menu had been explicit about that. As it turns out, the menu says it's "foie gras torchon" but until tonight, I never knew what that meant. In fact, it means the foie gras was wrapped tightly in a towel, briefly poached, then cooled in a liquid (frequently sweet wine) for several days. Regardless, it was delicious, but very large.
For the main course, we split the porterhouse for two, medium rare, along with creamed spinach and goose-fat potatoes. The creamed spinach is cooked in a truffle oil, which my boyfriend Bruni went on a rant about this week. Regardless of what he thinks, the creamed spinach was un.believable. Rajeev went so far as to call it the "best creamed spinach in the city." The crisp goosefat potatoes were also lovely, especially because of the crispy skin in which they are baked (think chunks of potato cooked in a crispy shell), though I must say I thought they were a little too salty. And the steak? Perfect. Sure, sure, the strip was yummy and flavorful. But the filet! Oh, the filet - tender and melt-in-your-mouth, but still piquant, largely because of the peppery rub on the steak. I will most certainly dream about that filet.
Of course, we had dessert, because one needs something sweet at the end of a meal like that, and also, I had asked them to stick a birthday candle in whatever we ordered. We had the profiteroles - large and rich, and in my opinion, disappointing. But it didn't really matter - I was completely stuffed and only needed a few bites for satisfaction.
Other than the initial missteps, our service was solid (and I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the bread was also quite good). I have been asked how Strip House compares to Luger's and all I can say is that a comparison doesn't seem right. If you want steak and bacon, no frills, Luger's is where it's at. If you're up for more of a restaurant experience, with ambience, a nice wine list, and creamed spinach that simply cannot be beat, you'd have to go with Strip House. More aptly put - perhaps Luger's is where you would like to go for an outing with your poker buddies, but a gentleman friend's birthday calls for the Strip House. If you're companion happens to be both, then I suppose you can let him choose.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Anyway, Mike and Mike in the morning have the "Just Shut Up" segment once a week for whoever is annoying them in the sports world. I would like to offer up Michael Kaye this week.
Why? It's the A-Rod thing. Look, I'm not one of the fans booing him, but I am so tired of Michael's incessant yelling on his radio show about "how dare the fans boo him?" Ugh! Michael, it's a part of the game. And if A-Rod is so damn fragile that he can't handle it, he can't hack it in New York. Last year Giambi was one the getting booed, but did you defend him? Did he fall apart? No, he got back on the juice and elevated his game.
Is A-Rod objectively a great player? Sure. But right now he's sucking and I'm sorry, but unless you were a part of World Series win streak, you won't be immune to boos when you suck (obviously Jeter, Posada and Bernie are given massive leeway, and for good reason).
So stop it, Michael. Just shut up.
The lineup of bands was extensive, but we really only cared about seeing Art Brut and the Scissor Sisters. I had never seen or really heard too much Art Brut. But Philly took me to see Scissor Sisters for my birthday this year, and they are a lot of fun. But they wouldn't be on till later in the day, so we opted to head over early and get some Nathan's.
What can I say about Nathan's that I didn't say last year? Nothing. It was excellent as usual, and still a great deal on the beer - bucket (like a large soda at the movies) of Killian's for $4.50. I think my recent disappointment with Gray's Papaya was because I had eaten Nathan's a few days before.
Unfortunately it started to rain, but as luck would have it, we managed to get a table with an umbrella. Wooo! Eventually the sky cleared and we headed off to the batting cages. Some slow pitch for the ladies, medium for the gents, and we all gawked at the fast pitch (over 100 mph) and the dude who managed to make contact every time.
Next to the grossly overpriced Wonder Wheel - best view in Coney Island, even if it does cost $5. Eventually it was time to wander over to the stage to catch Art Brut. While there was a great breeze off the ocean and it's easily ten degrees cooler in Coney Island, it still get hot smooshed in with all those hipsters. As usual, the sceney kids were dressed in clothing that I can't imagine is terribly comfortable while standing around in th heat all day. But I guess that's the 80-year-old in me. Art Brut was a lot of fun, as were the Scissor Sisters, though by 8pm (when the Sisters went on) I was feeling pretty pooped and my footsies hurt.
As we walked back to the car, we got to see a crazy and interesting mix of locals, white dreadlocked kids with a sign that read "Hungry hungry hobos," and hipsters. As for the Parachute Jump, which was recently hooked up with all sorts of lights and you can allegedly see from Long Island, the lights weren't really on. Or if they were, I'd say that is one disappointing light show.
We made our way back to Brooklyn Heights for dinner at the Waterfront Ale House, which was enjoyable as usual. Except for the fact that we were all pretty much exhausted. Poor Jeeves, whose original plans got cancelled, found a group of geriatrics after his long subway ride out to Brooklyn. I'm pretty sure I was the crankiest of the bunch, which was definitely on parade as I drove home, cursing every cab driver all the way back to Jersey.
But the sleep was coma-like. And Coney Island is definitely worth turning into a grumpy pants.
Friday, July 21, 2006
The Dining Section does an interesting piece on Austrian wine. Have spent a little time there last summer, I must agree with their raves about gruner veltliner.
And Bon Jovi was in NJ for his tour - he sold out three shows at Giants Stadium. Can we take a moment and consider that it's pretty damn impressive to sell out three shows at an 80,000 seat stadium? Anyway, Times reviews his show, and clearly enjoyed themselves (an encouraged my Jersey pride in the process). I think the reviewer hit the nail on the head when he wrote: "There is something comforting about his undying relevance, as if as long as he is advising fans to 'hold on to what we’ve got,' there will always be small-town men who marry their high school sweethearts, sell 100 million records and live in chateaus in unfairly maligned states." Whoooaaaa, we're half way there!
And lastly, this article about a painting Janet and I saw at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna last summer - Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, by Gustav Klimt. The painting recently fetched the most money ever at auction (an arbitration panel ruled that the painting should be returned to Bloch-Bauer's family, who said the painting was stolen from them by the Nazis). Thankfully, the painting was purchased by Ronald S. Lauder, for his museum, the Neue Gallerie in New York. Now all of NYC can appreciate her beauty. And she is certainly a sight to see.
Evening started off doubtfully – I wound up having to ride the elevator to the parking deck at work with the managing partner… and I had changed into street clothes. I hate it when that happens. And of course, it was a sauna outside. I had some time once I arrived in NYC to grab a bite to eat – I had been planning on checking out the 38th St. Restaurant. But on my sweltering walk up there, I got distracted by Gray's Papaya and decided a Recession Special was just what I wanted. I must confess – I think Gray's is a tad overrated. Maybe that's cause there was a thick white string running through one of my dogs. It might also be because I just ate at Nathan's on Coney Island last weekend. I hoped to run into Mr. Softy on my walk back to MSG, but he was nowhere to be found.
Jeeves and I met up at Rose Pizza in the LIRR wing of Penn Station, as per Philly's recommendation that they have the best beer prices. He was right – 32 oz Heineken for $5, and much cheaper if you wanted Bud or Bud Lite.
The concert was technically scheduled for 8, but Jeeves had heard that the Material Girl didn't go on till 9pm on other nights. So we headed upstairs around 8:40, got situated, and only had to wait a few minutes before the lights dimmed and the music started.
The show was a great time – what can I say, the lady knows how to entertain. She played a lot of stuff from her newest album, Confessions on a Dance Floor, but there were definitely decent amount of old hits, mostly remixed. The old(er) stuff included "Like a Virgin," "La Isla Bonita," "Live to Tell," "Music," "Drowned World," "Lucky Star," "Erotica," and "Ray of Light." In terms of Madge's 80s hits, I personally prefer "Material Girl" and "Dress You Up." And I prefer "Human Nature" to "Erotica" but hey, that's me. For my money, it doesn't get better than "Ray of Light" and she really killed it (in a good way). Of the new stuff, my personal favorite is "Jump" which was great, but "Sorry" was also a lot of fun. But I think it was definitely a highlight of the night when she came out singing "Future Lovers" and it morphed into a cover of Donna Summer's classic "I Feel Love."
Jeeves kept remarking that she was dancing up a storm, and yet still singing without being remotely out-of-breath. And yes, she really was singing - no lip-synching here. It must be all the pilates - the woman is in amazing shape, looked completely beautiful and is teeny tiny in real life.
There's not much more to say - I just can't think of anyone else, who at the age of 47, can come out in a Saturday Night Fever-style white suit and do a remix of her own song, "Music" to "Disco Inferno" and just sell it. The loudest thing in MSG that night wasn't Madge - it was the scream of her fans. And rightfully so.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Since K left, there are only two other female attorneys where I work and I wouldn't say I am friends with either of them. But one of them shares my affinity for baby pandas in general, and the DC panda, Tai Shan, in particular. She sent along this picture of Tai Shan celebrating his first birthday.
Jim, while once walking through a grocery store with me and watching me cluck with joy over miniature coca-cola cans, premised that girls really seem to love short, fat things. Short and fat reminding us perhaps of babies. I had dismissed him, but as I have gotten older, I tend to think he might have been on to something. Baby pandas are no different, though it should be said that I know a guy or two who love baby pandas as much as any girl.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
So I was out of work for two days. I wish I could say it was all fun and games, but the first day was mostly spent sleeping, whining to Abbott about how much my back hurt, and feeling massively guilty about missing work. On the second day, my Battlestar Galactica DVD came from Netflix, and that's when life drastically improved.
Back in the day when Kate had cable, she would watch the new shows and tell me what was worth watching. Thanks to Kate, I watched West Wing and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, two favorites from my college years. Kate no longer has cable, but does have a Netflix subscription, and she probably watches more TV now than she did when she had cable. Anyway, thanks to Netflix, Kate has started watching some of the shows that I recommended. But it's a two way street and I knew I couldn't keep getting her to watch my stuff if I didn't watch some of her's.
She had been pushing BSG (the new version, for the record, not the 1978 version) for awhile, but finally piqued my interest when she said, "Bart loves it and you know he hates sci-fi!" It's true. I hadn't really trusted Kate on BSG because she's also a Star Trek fan and I hate that shit. She assured me that it wasn't a normal science fiction show - sure it took place in outer space and there were robots and stuff, but really, it was more political, religious and social commentary with some really exciting espionage and good character development.
The premise - in some distant galaxy, there are the 12 colonies of man. (The number 12 is very important on the show, and yes, it is most certainly related to the bible). Man creates these robots with artificial intelligence called the Cylons (they look like giant toasters with legs). So at this point, very sci-fi and very Isaac Asimov. One day the Cylons rise against their masters, and there's bloody war, until an armistice is declared. The Cylons go off to find their own home and no one on the colonies sees or hears from them for over 40 years. Then one day they return, launch a massive attack on the colonies and pretty much kill all but 50,000 people, who escape into space. The Cylons, fyi, still look like toasters, but they also have managed to make models that look just like humans. And they have an eeeeevil and diabolical plan for the humans who escaped. It's all very exciting.
Unfortunately, the show starts with a miniseries, which Kate had told me, and I had forgotten. But I hadn't ordered to miniseries. I ordered the start of the regular series. So I was pretty confused. Regardless, the show is a good time. As the New Yorker review stated: "But what interests people who normally don’t care about science fiction is how timely and resonant the show is, bringing into play religion and religious fanaticism, global politics, terrorism, and questions about what it means to be human."
As for my love hangover, it's all for Captain Lee "Apollo" Adama. He's dreamy and he defends democracy!
Monday, July 10, 2006
Back in early June, Jim and I finally hit Fatty Crab. I have been excited about Fatty Crab ever since I read it's short review in the Times, and also, Eric Asimov's (whom I have dumped in favor of Frank Bruni) comments on in The Pour. In a word: disappointing. FC is located on Hudson Street in the Village. It's teeny tiny, and as such, there is usually a wait. But there was space to sit at the bar, and so we had a drink. FC's specialty is Malaysian street food, and so, food ought to be shared. We ordered the fatty duck, chicken claypot, short ribs and chicken wings. The claypot was quite tasty, with lots of tofu, which I liked, and the short ribs were tender and had a nice sauce. But the duck was disappointing as compared to Hunan Cottage and the chicken wings were undercooked. Jim says that the practice in China is to undercook the chicken, as compared to here where we burn the shit out of it. I personally prefer the latter method. And sadly, at the end of the meal I was still a bit hungry. Oh well.
As Jeeves was busy being a law student on my birthday, he took me out in June for a belated celebration to Yama, which he assured me would blow my mind. And it did. Apparently Yama is another place where you can expect a wait, and there's not much space inside to stand around, so it's best in good weather. But it is certainly worth standing around. Once inside, we marked off how may pieces of nigiri that we wanted (we had tuna, eel, yellow tail, salmon, mackeral, giant clam and maybe another piece which has subsequently escaped me, along with an eel avocado roll and yellowtail salmon roll). The pieces of sushi were completely enormous - I've never seen anything like it. The eel took me 4 bites to get through. Everything was superbly cut and tender, and the rolls? Heavenly. I daydream about the eel avocado roll - the eel sauce was perfect and the avocado was super ripe.
Other notable city eats - Great Jones Cafe for brunch which serves cajun spins on breakfast food. I had the eggs with ham on biscuits and smothered in gravy with a side of grits. It's pretty hard to find good grits in the northeast and my mom always made the best. But these grits definitely gave hers a run for their money. Creamy, but not too runny. And eggs with gravy? Brilliant. Jeeves swears by the bloody marys and indeed, they use fresh horseradish. And on this past Friday, very late, I went to Florent in the meatpacking district. Think of it as a french diner. I was boring and got eggs and bacon (sorry, but that's my go-to late at night in a diner-type setting), which came with a nice thick multi-grained toast and the bacon was well-done as requested. Jason was more adventurous and had the goat cheese and apple omellette and Jeeves had the veggie burger (which I think is bizarre, especially coming from someone who eats as many hamburgers as I do, but he insists is excellent). Also, I like that it's on Gansevoort Street, mainly because "Gansevoort" is fun to say.
What of New Jersey, you ask? Have I abandoned the food of my home state? Not at all. Wendy and I went to Reservoir in South Orange for her birthday. If you live in the area, you may know of it - great word of mouth. And with good reason. They serve up a nice thin-crust pizza. Wendy and I had one of those, some bruschetta (which was seriously out of this world - thick cuts of toasted bread which were crispy on the outside, but east to take a bite out of, with ridiculously fresh tomatoes and onions and a nice balsalmic maranade). We also had a penne dish which came with an excellent marinara sauce, mozarella and prosciutto. I highly recommend it, and in fact think I will suggest to Wendy that we head back there soon. Also, in typical Jersey , cash-only, Italian fashion, the prices were quite low - all that food for $30.
Well, another weekend has slipped by me and I had intentions of multiple entries, but as it is late, I have a cold... and sadly work tomorrow, I will have to postpone.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Anyway. Growing up, I was not athletic. I played soccer like most kids in New Jersey, but I was not good. And as you get older, it becomes less about playing for the enjoyment and more about playing to win, and the kids who suck gets yelled at by the other kids for sucking. That was me - sucky. Also, I was that kid in gym class who was always the second to last picked (usually there was one kid in a class who was worse than me.... actually, said kid was usually not worse than me, but just happened to be less popular and sometimes you'll take the skinny kid with no reflexes over the kid with cooties). Not helping any of this was the fact that I seemed to perpetually get knocked in the head with the ball. My mom used to buck me up with sotries about how, when she was in high school, she failed gym, but she was the class valedictorian so who cares?
On the flip side of all this, I love team sports. Love love love. Baseball, soccer, basketball, hockey, and I bet I'd love rugby if someone would explain it to me. But since the age of 15, the only sports I have even bothered playing were tennis and golf - solo sports. That is mostly because, if you suck at those sports, the only person you disappoint is yourself. I hated that look that the good kids on a team would give each other when you struck out, or popped up, or dropped the fly ball - it was just so much easier to be a spectator.
Our firm softball team was formed last year and when I heard there was a team, I wondered how I could weasel out of playing. At the same time, I like watching softball and wanted to be supportive. Also, I wanted a team jersey. Our team captain, a fellow associate, is a pushy young man and somehow I got railroaded into playing. Tonight was my first game. Wendy gave me these words of advice: "Don't get hit in the head with the ball. I know you like to do that."
During first year of law school Josh went out and bought a Nerf bat and balls and as a break, we would go out behind the school and just hit the ball around. It was a great stress reliever and a great motivator. I learned that I still remember how to hit a ball from when my sister taught me as a kid (in an unrelated note, my sister taught me all the really important stuff in life - how to write my name, how to tie my shoes, the alphabet, and how to hit a ball). So I felt vaguely confident that I could hit the ball, though I was pretty sure it would just be an out. But still, so long as I didn't strike out!
I really didn't want to play any defensive role, though - I am not so great with catching a ball with a glove. So one of the paralegals and I traded off with catching duties, which seemed the place where I would do the least damage. At my first at bat, I did indeed pop up. But I didn't strike out! That was seriously my main concern. It takes effort to strike out at softball, and I know I am bad, but I didn't want to be that bad. I wasn't the worst catcher ever either, and after a few innings, I was definitely getting a handle on using the glove.
My second at bat - one of our law clerks had reached first base, and there were no outs. So no pressure - I could make an out and there would still be two chances for the rest of the team to score a run. But I got a hit! I got a hit! Grounder towards third base and I beat the throw. Hooray! Eventually, thanks to the people on the team who are actually adept at this sport, I scored a run. The aforementioned law clerk and I were both thrilled that we had contributed.
During the top of the 7th inning, though, the batter took a big swing and foul tipped the softball.... right into my face. Umm, yeah, it really hurt. Right into my eye. I staggered around for a minute, afraid to pull my hand away from my face, until one of my cohorts pulled me off the field. Luckily, other than some quick swelling, I could still see. But I might have a shiner tomorrow. After consultation with the teammates, it was agreed I should take out my contact lens before my eye could swell shut. Fun. Then there was some conversation about how I shouldn't over-ice my eye because the vitrious fluid could freeze. Also fun.
I called Dad when I got home to tell him the news. He was, naturally concerned, and wished I had been wearing a mask. But when I told him I had gotten a hit and scored a run, he couldn't contain the excitement in his voice: "You did??? That's wonderful!" Dad loves sports too, and I think he always quietly, secretly wished he had had athletic daughters he could go root for, instead of a coupla nerds who stayed inside reading (one of whom was always fighting him for the sports section). He asked if I cried when I got hit. "Nope." "You didn't cry, and you got a hit. You're tough, kid."
Monday, June 26, 2006
Our IT guy at work had tossed out the idea of a trip before co-worker K had quit, and she had gone ahead and made plans for a group of us to go. Originally, the trip was planned for the same day as Kate's wedding, and so I thought I wouldn't be able to go. I was understandably pouty, and Philly kindly offered to go with me to Luger (he has been on many occasions and proclaims their hamburger to be his favorite above all others), but my co-workers rescheduled so that I could join. While I have a great deal of fondness for Matlock, I am not close with anyone else who was going, and so to some extent, I wish I had been there with Phil & Co. or the law schoolers, but whatever.
Long story short, we all met up at Matlock's prior to steak dinner, because he lives in Brooklyn Heights and it's a lot easier for the Jerseyers to get there than to where Luger is located (Williamsburg, near the Marcy Ave subway stop, which is not the easiest subway line to get to) so that we could all head over together. And not surprisingly, K wound up not coming, but that's neither here nor there.
We arrived at PL in time for our reservation, all of starving. We were seated on the second floor, and as expected, the decor looks like it hasn't been updated since the 50s and the place is really rather brightly lit. Unexpectedely, I found the waiters to be a gregarious bunch, all quite polite and nice, and while I had been warned that requesting a menu would be met with "attitude," we were offered menus by our waiter and there was no roll of the eyes when we accepted the offer.
Phil had told me to be sure to order at least one slice of bacon prior my steak. I had asked for a description, but Phil simply said that it was fantastic and he didn't want to say any more than that. As our IT Guy remarked, "This is bacon that will buckle your knees." It actually did. A thick slice of Canadian bacon, and I really don't know what else to say about it except that it was the best damn slice of bacon I've ever had.
Matlock and I split the steak for three, medium rare, as did another pair at the table and we all pretty much stopped talking when the steak came. For the record, there is a steak for two, but the steak for three was surprisingly manageable when you split two orders between four people. The steak is a porterhouse cut, dry aged and broiled. It comes out on a plate, gets tipped up so all the juices and grease accumulate and get spooned over the steak. Also, the steak is sliced for you, making the sharing process a heck of a lot easier.
The steak was, and forgive me for all the superlatives flying left and right, the best I've ever had. I simply cannot compare it to other steaks - its flavor, thickness, juiciness were in a class by itself. I do, however, wish we had ordered the steak rare. The medium rare was a little too close to medium in my opinion (though the filet side was actually quite good in terms of rareness).
We also had sides - creamed spinach (delicious, though really, it's hard to muck up creamed spinach), German fried potatoes (think hash browns) and french fries. All quite good. Dessert? Matlock and I split the chocolate mousse cake with plenty of schlag (fresh whipped cream) on the side. Again, outstanding.
Yes, I wanted to die by the end of the meal, though that was temporary. A few weeks ago, I ate so many onion rings in a sitting, that I felt ill for the rest of the day. The nice thing about great food is that no matter how much you stuff yourself, you don't actually feel sick at the end of the meal. Very full? Yes. Maybe a little too full? That's debateable. But later in the evening when I was playing poker back in Manhattan, I did not feel nauseous when the guys ordered pizza. So there you go.
I look forward to many trips back to Peter Luger (hopefully next time with dearer friends). The end.
PS - I'll have my Deadwood and Entourage commentary up tomorrow evening. For now, it's bed time (I think my body is still digesting steak).
Monday, June 19, 2006
That is how I felt today.
Today is my last day of vacation, and as I considered going back to work, I found my relaxation waning. I am also still without air-conditioning because I am stupid, cheap and lazy.
When I returned from my sister's father's day barbeque, missing my mother, already stressed about work, berating myself for the things I should have done (but did not) over vacation, I proceeded to have full meltdown while attempting to make a decision about buying an air-conditioner on Best Buy online (every actual store I went to today was sold out).
Thanks, Wendy, for answering the phone and talking me off the ledge, and helping me to figure out what air-conditioner to purchase. Now all I have to do is remain cool till I get to my shitty air-conditioned office tomorrow.
So, after last week's Deadwood, I was a little nervous - had the show lost its edge? It felt like a set-up episode and it was nowhere near as strong as "A Lie Agreed Upon," which kicked off season 2. My fears were totally allayed by this ep - strong characterization, humor, advancement of the plot, intrigue - everything an episode of Deadwood should have and I was reminded of why I think this is hands down, the best show on television. At Kate's wedding, her co-worker Matt and I stood around talking about the greatness of Deadwood and I am fully prepared again to throw my allegiance behind it.
I love the addition of Gerald McRaney (Major Dad) as Hearst - the new camp villain. I was completely taken by surprise when his sidekick Captain Turner grabbed Al from behind and Hearst stapped Al in the hand with a hammer!!! Unbelievable! And what did I love more than that? Bullock offering to go up and "finish the cocksucker off" right then and there. Who would have thought last March that we would see a Bullock/Swearengen alliance?
As always, we can count on Charlie Utter to spell out the episode's theme. The ep was called "I'm Not the Fine Man You Take Me For." While Charlie and Joanie stand outside the Ellsworth house, Charlie listen to Joanie beat up on herself and recounts how, despite the fact that Wild Bill was his dearest friend with a true and kind spirit, Bill himself had a tendency to believe he was a bad person. I found this scene especially touching, if only because of a) the closeness with which Charlie still carries Bill's memory and b) because I know I myself have had similar conversations with friends. Tonight, some of the people of Deadwood with good hearts doubt themselves (except for Sol Star who is adorable as ever). And I liked how Jane's story about the alleged hero Custer plays into this theme as well.
There is a flip side to the episode's title as well - George Hearst may have seemd innocuous at the end of last season and the premier last week, but he is most certainly not the fine man we might have taken him for. I am really looking forward to seeing how this unravels.
And can I admit something somewhat shameful? I am so pleased that Bullock is being a little less of a tool this season. And good work to Timothy Olyphant for managing to show that while he has committed himself to his wife, Bullock has not lost his love for the widow Alma. The scene where Bullock asked Charlie to watch over the Ellsworth house and find out how Alma does in surgery - surprisingly touching.
On to Entourage. While Deadwood may be the best rounded show, Entourage is decidedly the most fun to watch. Loved the references to Almost Famous, and as ever, Johnny Drama made me laugh out loud more than once. I love how this show manages to make you root for people with whom you have nothing in common. Vince continues to grow on me, and I am always secretly touched by how Vince and Eric's friendship reminds me of Kate and myself (as for who is E and who is Vince, it changes every episode). And while Ari is a scene stealer and I love him, I really don't think this show would be half of what it is without Kevin Dillon's Johnny Drama. A review I once read pointed out that he clearly bring a little self-knowledge to the role considering he is Matt Dillon's less famous brother.
HBO, you are my summertime television savior. Thank you.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Wednesday found me in the city. First stop - the Shake Shack to pick up lunch for Anhabelle and myself. Then to crappy Times Square to surprise Anh with lunch. We chilled in her office briefly, enjoying our coldish burgers (getting uptown took longer than anticipated) before we headed over to day care to visit Ben. I haven't seen Ben in nearly 6 weeks, and he has gotten much bigger. Interestingly, Ben has one of the only "normal" names of the kids in daycare - some of the names I'm pretty sure are made-up. But all the kids are pretty darn cute (not as cute as Ben, but still).
Next I headed up to Willis's law firm in the "civilized" (Anh's term, and can you blame her? working in Times Square sucks) part of town over on Park Ave. Will and I chilled in his office with it's creepy glass doors and did our usual schpiel. Will and I would like to be in private practice together, but realize this would be a pointless exercise - no work would get done and we'd just sit around drinking coffee, swapping stories.
I eventually made it over to West End to poker buddy Sharif's apartment. Reefy and I were both shut out of the Radiohead tickets when they went on sale on Ticketmaster, so we pooled out resources and got a pair together off of ebay. I got into Radiohead in college, thanks to roomie Janet. And interstingly, I'm pretty sure Philly decided I was okay when he asked me one day at lunch if I liked Radiohead and I answered with an enthusiastic yes.
I have never seen Radiohead live, so I was pretty damn excited. But first, Sharif made us some alcoholic fruit smoothies. Yummy. Anyway, back to the band. Totally lived up to the hype. I dropped a large chunk of change (the better part of my NJ tax refund) on this ticket - far more than I've ever spent on a single ticket before and it's a little hard for me to say at this moment if it was worth it. I think it was, though.
Anyway, I got to hear a lot of songs I love, including "The Tourist" off of OK Computer (my favorite Radiohead album) but they didn't play "Let Down" which is my favorite song off that album (other highlights of the evening for me were "Kid A," "Paranoid Android," "No Surprises" and "Everything In Its Right Place.") It's interesting now, to listen to this album that Janet played so many times in our room and wonder why I love that one song in particular more than the others. I haven't reached a clearly articulated reason yet, but I'll let you know when I do.
The evening ended at Ginger Man, which was once again quite good, and this time not colored by a burger coma. And in other, yet related news, Philly and Emily got engaged this week. Phil is one of those people in my life, because he has been so prominently featured in my blog, that people who have never met him will ask me how he is doing. So it seems apropos to end with that, and offer the warmest of congratulations for what I am sure will be a very happy life together.
Seriously? I have never in my life seen Kate look so beautiful, and this is in eleven years of friendship. Yes, yes, everyone says that all brides look beautiful, but Kate looked especially gorgeous. I like the picture above because, aside from showing off her lovely dress, she looks so happy. And I didn't even have to say anything funny to get this shot - totally candid moment on her part. That's how happy she was to be marrying Bart.
After the ceremony, the very dopey photographer took our photos outside. He was slow. There was a gang of random local kids taunting us. No fun. But bridesbutler Jason got a nice shot of me, Pablo and Kate flipping off the camera. Then we got to go to the reception! Hurrah!
We get to the K of C in Washington Township and bartender Steve sets the bridal party up with some drinky-poos. Thankfully, Kate's sister Liz-Ann(ie) had the foresight to bring champagne in the limo so we could all have a nip.
Liz-Ann and I wore the same dress (though mine sadly did not come with a sweatshirt). Next to her is McKenzie - groomslady and fellow pale Irish lady.
Anyway, bartender Steve said that this was the first wedding he ever worked where the bride and her maid-of-honor were drinking straight scotch. That's cause we're classy, Steve. After we were introduced, I was told it was time for my speech. Gulp. But it went fine - luckily I had worked out most of what I was going to say the night before.
Then it was time for some dancing. Woooo!
Kate, her mom and dad share a moment while Bart and his mother dance. Kate's family has been my adopted family for years now - over the last few years, I have spent Christmas Eve, Easter and 4th of July with them. I have always considered myself very fortunate to have not only my own loving family, but Kate's as well.
Too soon it was over. Happily, we were all staying at the same hotel. Pablo and I were sharing a room, but strangely we were given a king sized bed when we had asked for two doubles. Pabs went to go ask for a switch. No switcheroo, but Paulito worked his magic and got our room comped! (Good thing too, as I apparently kicked him all night and he didn't sleep so well - sorry!)
Now the newlyweds are off in Jamaica... without Kate's very nice new pair of Ray-Bans because I lost them. Bad maid-of-honor! I miss them and look forward to their return (Kate and Bart's, though if the glasses showed up, I'd be happy about that too).
Bart, love, you're stuck with us now!! Ha! On the plus side, I totally think the next time I come to DC, we should do "A Little Respect" as our karaoke song.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Ahem. So, this lady here is Kate, the bride to be, light of my life. And with her little veil on, she really did look like she had just made her first communion, which is what she told everyone in NYC who asked her if she was getting married. On Wednesday, Kate and Bart will pack up the car and drive to New Jersey in preparation for the big day, which is Saturday. For Kate, I am missing the first day of World Cup and the Belmont Stakes, though with Barbaro out of it, who really cares?
People have asked me if I am having issues with Kate getting married - honestly, I'm not. It's all quite surreal and I have actually been experiencing sympathy stress about the whole event, but I am not sad or tweaked about it. I'm just happy for them. Last night when I called to talk with Kate, I wound up chatting with Bart for awhile and he walked me through all the stuff that Kate is stressing over. Some of it silly, some of it legitimate, but all of it understandable - and Bart, bless his heart, handles it well. You see, Kate can be crazy, and so can I. A sample conversation from last night.
Me: I dropped my dress off to be pressed this morning. It's wrinkly.
Kate: That's good.
Me: Yeah. But I got worried. What if they mess it up? What if they burn a hole in the dress? What if I pick it up on Friday and there's a huge iron mark on the dress.
Kate: That would suck. Also, that's a completely irrational fear.
Me: I know. I couldn't help it. It kept me up for a little while last night. Also, I started worrying that I would get a pulmonary edema and have to be in the hospital for your wedding, and how much it would suck to know the wedding was going on and I couldn't be there.
Kate: Yeah. I've had a complete and consuming fear lately that something will happen to my face. Like I'll get a black eye before the wedding.
So you see, we are crazy. The mildly endearing part is that at least we know we are crazy. My point in all of this is, Bart knows how Kate is, deals with it well, and loves her to pieces. So how could I feel anything but happiness about their marriage? And I don't feel anything other than happiness.
But don't get me started on how stressed I am about work.
Annnnyyyway, the point in all of this was to sum up the bachelorette party! It was a great time. Ruby Foo's, though not the best food in the world, was festive, had some nice cocktails, and was very appropriate for the situation. Gotham Comedy Club was actually hysterical, and it's always nice to go to a comedy show that is funny.
Karaoke was at a place called Muse, right near our hotel in Chelsea. By this point in the evening, things had gotten pretty sloppy. But I will say that Kate did sing "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and brought the house down, her co-worker Selene and I sang a raucous duet of Madonna's "Dress You Up" which was fun [for us, but not for anyone else], Kate and I got teary-eyed singing the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" (which is a personal favorite), and I'm pretty sure we all sang "Sweet Caroline" twice.
So now you know how a first communion gets celebrated.
Next week, I am on a much-needed vacation from work. My plans are loose, which I love, though I know there will be a trip to visit Anhabelle at work (and Baby Ben at daycare), a Radiohead concert (wooooo!!!!), a possible trip to see Shakespeare in the Park, sleeping, reading, and not working.
I'll be better about blogging. Ish.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
The Shack opened in 2004. It is, according to its website, a "roadside" foodstand. Here's the deal - you stand in line, order your food, wait for said food, grab a table and eat. Given the inexpensive prices, rave reviews, and quality burger, the lines can be quite long. But as Frank Bruni of the Times puts it, it's the Dairy Queen of Manhattan, and who can pass that up?
I arrived early - at about 7:20 and Phil was already in line - we were soon joined by our burger comrades, and let me say - as the weather was lovely, the company lively, and the smell of burgers, fries and shakes intoxicating, the wait did not seem as long as it was. How long was it? It took about an hour from getting on line to sitting down at a table with our food.
I had a Shack Burger, and it was certainly tasty - the meat quality, which AHT pointed out, is better than most of the inexpensive burgers. My one complaint is that all the burgers are cooked the same (medium), unlike the Burger Joint, where it's cooked to specifications. And while the "shack sauce" was good enough, I didn't think it was out of this world - in fact, it was maybe a little to tangy for me. The french fries would have been disappointing, except that I had cheese fries and I think the cheese was just what these fries needed - very tasty. And the black and white milkshake - heavenly.
A little too heavenly. I had that uncomfortable "I ate too much" feeling, but could not stop sucking down my milkshake. Phil made the mistake of ordering a "concrete" which is a frozen custard. Basically, it's like a very large and very serious DQ blizzard. Phil had the Shack Attack concrete, which was chocolate custard, hot fudge, chocolate truffle cookie dough, valrhona chocolate chunks and chocolate sprinkles (Wendy, this was sooo in your wheel house). As Phil would say, this dessert was no joke. I had one bite and that was more than enough for me. After a double shack burger and fries, Phil did an admirable job on the concrete, but I think he was hurting after the fact. Jeeves had a Chicago dog along with a shack burger and a shake. I think the Shack lived up to our expectations, though Jeeves and I are both inclined to say Burger Joint might have a better burger.
Jason left us and we trudged up to The Ginger Man, and I would have been excited to go there under normal circumstances. GM is primarily known for its ridiculous selection of beers, but at this point a beer was about the last thing my stomach wanted. Phil and Rajeev kept asking if I was okay, but what I really wanted to do was lapse into a burger-induced coma. Instead, I sipped my Lindemann's Peche (delicious) and stared into space, occasionally throwing in my two cents about fantasy baseball, Phil's beard, and my tummy ache. After about an hour, I came to, but it was pretty touch and go there for awhile.
I really did like The Ginger Man, though - it had a really nice, laid back vibe, comfy chairs and the aforementioned beer selection. I would definitely return.
And as for the Shack, I would certainly return there again, so long as I had good company to stand in line with me. And perhaps I could exercise some restraint and lay off the cheese fries. Or the milkshake. But seriously? It was a really good shake.
My current apartment is in a nice, quiet hood, slightly more upscale than B-ville. It helps that my downstairs neighbor (aka, my landlady) lives with a Nutley cop. Anyway, you can imagine my surprise this evening when I heard cursing and screaming from the street - one of our neighbors was involved in an altercation and it looks like Nutley's finest are just now leaving the scene. So, a little excitement in my quiet neighborhood, at the end of a holiday weekend.
Friday, May 26, 2006
This pretty lady is Rhona Mitra. She's an actress - you might recognize her if you watched Boston Legal or Nip/Tuck. I think she's been in some movies, too. She is also the live model for the video game Lara Croft. Anyway, enough of that. the other day at lunch, Matlock told us that he has been watching Boston Legal, the first season, and that he really liked her. Ever helpful K then told us that one of the other associate's buddies dates her. This buddy is apparently short, a bit pudgy and not rich. He just had the guts to go up to Ms. Mitra in a bar and talk to her. And he has a "great personality."
Matlock was through the roof with joy, which I didn't understand, because suddenly it meant that he had a chance with her. He wouldn't shut up about it. On and on and on until finally when he said, "If I were with her, people would look at me and assume that I had a "great personality" because clearly there would be no other explanation for why she was with me," I responded with "Yeah. And they'd assume she had a really low self-esteem." I immediately felt bad - it was a mean joke.
But I think what got me going was the idea that when average guys (please note that when I say "average" I mean people who don't look like movie stars... and probably not your friends that you refer to as "my hot friend," cause everyone has one) hear about other average guys getting a hot chick, they assume they can do it too. Perhaps that's the attitude to take. But it suddenly seems like the average guy expects, ney, demands a hot chick.
Women don't think like this. First of all, we have no examples to follow. I tried to think of examples of very attractive Hollywood men dating average looking women. I came up with two. Matt Damon's wife was a bartender when he met her. But she's actually pretty cute. This isn't the greatest picture of her, but I've seen her looking downright pretty. And Tobey Maguire's fiancee, Jennifer Meyer is rather homely.... but she's also the daughter of the president of Universal. That was the best I could do. And when I hear about such things, I do think that said girl is lucky, but it never makes me think that I suddenly have a shot with a guy like that.
First off, average girls never think they could get a Brad Pitt. And even if average girl did get Brad Pitt, she would be wracked with neuroses the whole time about how out of her league he is and how all the beautiful women are making eyes at him. But not guys.
I told Kate the story of Rhona Mitra and she repeated it to her co-worker Matt. He said, "I like this story. It makes me think I have a shot with a beautiful woman." When I told Phil that an average looking guy would have no problem being with a woman like Rhona Mitra, Phil exclaimed "I'll be that guy!"
What is this confidence? If you got Rhona Mitra, do you really think you could keep her? I think the difference is that guys don't ponder such mysteries in advance. Guys think, "she's beautiful, I bet we'd have a lot of fun [wink, wink]." They don't consider the rest. Ah well, clearly it can work, and guys are the luckier for it - Rhona and her short, pudgy boyfriend live together now.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The reason you now have to ask for any product containing pseudophedrine is because it is one of the main ingredients in crystal meth. Wheeeee! It is also, at least for me, a lot more effective on a stuffy nose (the sudafed, not the meth). I guess meth lab operators like to go in and buy a crapload of sudafed, or they shoplift it, or they bring in a bunch of people to buy a few boxes at a time. And many states now restrict the purchase of sudafed for just this reason. The fair state of Jersey is one of them - you can't buy more than 3 boxes at a time.
So anyway, not all the pharmacies are making you show ID and shit. Target actually took down my name and address, while I was standing there sneezing and snotting all over the place, clutching a bottle of Vitamin C in my other hand. Because clearly, I am running a meth lab, and I need some Target brand non-drying sinus to make my next shipment.
It's not that I necessarily think these statutes are completely horrible, though I do think it's a nuisance and an invasion of my privacy to take down my personal information just because I have a cold and your stupid phenyl whatever product doesn't clear my nose. It's just that it seems like a complete waste of time. I'm pretty sure people who are running meth labs aren't buying their pseudophedrine one box at a time.
I couldn't find anything in the new statute that requires the pharms to take down the personal information on a person buying a single box, but I'll admit I didn't read too closely because I freakin' hate reading statutes in my time off. If they are required, if they aren't required, I come to the same conclusion: the meth lab operators are laughing at us with their gross mouths.
Monday, May 22, 2006
I was reminded of that adage while watching Yankees vs. Mets this weekend. I don't entirely blame Mo Rivera for what happened on Friday. It took me over two hours to get to Blondie's on 2nd Avenue, thanks to dreadful tunnel traffic, and while in the car I listened to the Yanks gain the lead, only to have Randy Effing Johnson lose it. He did this not once, but twice.... because he sucks. Still, Mo couldn't hold onto the tie in the 9th, he gave up what probably would have been a double to Wright. Ugh. To make matters worse, there was a drunken Mets fan who kept chanting "Let's go Mets go!" Jeeves, who takes in stride the shenanigans of other bar folk, asked me what the drunkard was saying. I repeated, and he pointed out that it made no sense. "Let's go Mets go?" Yeah. Anyway, the Yankees staff thinks that the Unit's problems are all mechanical. If by mechanical you mean a brain malfunction, then I agree. The guy clearly needs to see a shrink. I've never watched a pitcher fall to pieces so much over having Jose Reyes on first base.
The next day, though, the sweet taste of victory when the Mets closer Billy Wagner blew the lead and allowed the Yanks to tie things up in the 9th inning (they won it later on). Wagner, who walks out to "Enter Sandman" (for you non-baseball fans, Rivera has been coming out to "Sandman" for years - it doesn't really bother me that Wagner uses it, except that I think it's completely unoriginal - can't the Mets closer get his own song? Why use the song that is so associated with another closer - a Yankees closer at that?), has been solid for the Mets, erasing memories of Looper and Benitez. It was a little satisfying to see him choke yesterday.
But what little satisfaction I got was quickly erased. A-Rod. I'm done with him. I want him to succeed because he's a Yankee. But you know what? He can't hack it in a pressure situation. Tonight, men on first and second, one out, the score 4-3 (Giambi had just hit a sac fly to drive in a run), A-Rod... hits into a double play. I knew he would do that, as soon as the announcer said, "And here comes last year's American League MVP." Emphasis on the "last year's" part, please. A-Rod can't hack it in these situation. His batting stats for when there are men on base are pretty pathetic. Say what you will about Johnny Damon, but he played hard tonight, and in fact the whole weekend. Maybe, coming from Boston where the fans are as (if not more) brutal, he's gotten used to performing in these situations. A-Rod hasn't, and still can't.
I'm so tired of bringing on expensive players from less stressful venues who suddenly become total mental cases when they get to NY. Suck it up! You're playing baseball! This isn't rocket science, or surgery or any other career where the weight of the world should rest on your shoulders. This is baseball, where you throw the ball and strike guys out, or you swing the wooden bat and drive in runs. It's that simple. Close the deal! Until then, no goddamned coffee for you.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
I asked Kate what she intended to sing at karaoke - she said she wasn't sure, that she never knows till she's in the moment. "Do you think there will be some sugar poured on you?" I asked. "I'd say there's about a 90% chance of sugar being poured." She does love Def Leppard.
So I'll report back after I've recovered from tomorrow evening, at least with the parts that are fit for print.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
About six weeks after my mom passed, Pops asked if I would like to go to the movies some time. And this Sunday, that's just what we did - off to the Suffern Lafayette theater to see Mission Impossible III.
Well, all I can say is that Tom Cruise might be one of my least favorite people ever, but he's a decent actor and he makes a good action flick. I don't mean that Tommy Boy could pull a Heath Ledger and star in Brokeback Mountain, but he does make you forget that in real life he sucks, and that's pretty decent acting (I still have a hard time watching Russell Crowe in stuff because he's a such a real-life douche).
I currently hold all action flicks to the Batman Begins and Bourne Identity standard, and MI:3 did not match those two films. Still, it was strong. So first the good.
MI:3 was directed by J.J. Abrams, the brainiac behind Lost and Alias. Alias has a lot in common with the Mission Impossible franchise. I am a pretty big Alias fan, and as such, have a lot of love for Abrams. He loves women and he makes them kick some serious ass, and that is true about this installment of MI. The previous two films have tended towards weak, victimy women who get killed off, or need to be saved by Tom Cruise. Even the "weak" woman in this movie kicks some ass and saves the man for a change.
But I get ahead of myself. The thumbnail sketch without giving away too much. Tom's character, Ethan, is sort-of retired from IMF in that he just trains recruits now. He's engaged to a very nice lady who has no idea what he does for a living (played by Michelle Monaghan, who looks a little like Katie Holmes which grossed me out a bit, except that I thought she did a really nice job, especially at the climax). One day he gets a call that one of his recruits, whom he had recommended for field duty, has been kidnapped by the man she was surveiling. The recruit? Keri Russell (J.J. Abrams created Felicity). The bad guy? Philip Seymour Hoffman. Naturally, he has to go rescue her and then unravel the mystery. Then we've got Laurence Fishburn (looking pudgy, as my pops pointed out), Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Billy Crudup (another real-life jerk who happens to be a good actor) and the ludicrously beautiful Maggie Q.
I know what you're thinking - Felicity in an action movie? For real.
Anyway, being a J.J. fan, there were certain... parallels I noticed in this film to Alias, which is the closest comparison one could make. J.J. loves to add gravitas to characters by explaining motivations. For the first time in the franchise, we get to see that Ethan really wants to live a normal life, but gets roped back in because he feels reponsible for his trainees. Blah blah blah. I could have done without that stuff. In Alias (for non watchers - main character is Sydney, a CIA agent, who is the result of a marriage between a CIA agent (dad) and a KGB agent (mom) - her mother is now a mercenary and eeeeevil... or is she?) a lot of time is spent on dysfunctional family dynamics and pathos - which is part of what makes it great. It's tough to pull that off in a movie though, and let's face it - the backstory here (Ethan just wants a normal life, but he feels loyalty to his team and his trainee) is just not that interesting.
But other parallels work to great effect. J.J. creates and directs wonderful villains - Hoffman was not remotely funny in this movie - he's just mean (kind of reminded me of Ricky Gervais's turn as a bad guy on Alias). The Times described Hoffman best: "With a sneer in his voice and a lazy slouch that telegraphs world-weariness of the most misanthropic kind, he creates an ice-blooded creature who seems as if he would like nothing better than to destroy the earth, and with as much human suffering as possible."
And Abrams really knows how to direct an action sequence - whereas Batman Begins tended to film too closely, thereby making it difficult to see what was going on, and Bourne Identity's shaky camera got tiresome, MI:3 does a pretty solid job of showing off its choreography.
Pops found the film rather convoluted and called me up with various questions after the fact. I thought it was clear enough, and I definitely enjoyed it. Big screen necessary? Probably not. I didn't lie in bed last night pondering details and the truth is that the characters just aren't interesting enough to hold one's attention after the move is over. But it was good escapist fun.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Megs: No, Ma. They're much more realistic. Hunan Cottage. Hunan Shack might be a little more accurate.
There is a place on Route 46 East, just over the border into Fairfield called Hunan Cottage. It's got a statue of a big, roly-poly panda in front of it. Last night I was talking about Chinese food with Mike and Gena and Mike asked me how my brother-in-law felt about eating out at Chinese restaurants. He wondered if perhaps my brother-in-law felt that Chinese restaurants in the States were unauthentic. While it is true that most of the time, my kooky brother in law would much prefer to make his own dumplings, there is one restaurant that we consistently go to, and which my sister and brother-in-law say is pretty authentic. Granted, they don't serve bugs (one of my sister's favorite things to eat in China), but a lot of their stuff is apparently very similar to what you would have in China, depending on the area.
Anyway, we started going to Hunan Cottage about two years ago. Cottage is completely nondescript from the outside (and also on the inside too) but we specifically started going there because they have soup dumplings. Soup dumplings, or steamed buns as they are typically called, are a Shanghai delicacy whereby the dumpling is filled with a meatball and soup. They are fantastic. Not sure if I have ever raved about Joe's Shanghai before, but that is the place where I first had soup dumplings. Wikipedia's brief entry on the restaurant describes the dumplings. While there are several places to get these tasty treats in New York, they are very hard to come by in the Jers.
As time has passed, though, it's not the soup dumplings that keeps my family going back (while the dumplings are solid, they don't hold a candle to Joe's). It's the Peking Duck. Simply out of this world. The duck comes with all the too fatty areas cut off, with the crispiest, tastiest of skin. Then the server makes a series of wraps with duck, Chinese veggies and duck sauce. The plate costs $25 and it easily feeds 5 people (assuming you are ordering one or two other dishes). The crispy fish there is also quite nice, and the Szechuan dumplings in peanut sauce - delightfully spicy.
I am inclined to believe that when it comes to Asian restaurants, the more Asians you see in there, the better it is. That holds true for Tawara (still the best sushi in New Jersey) and Yakitori Totto in Manhattan. That is definitely the case for Hunan Cottage, where nearly every table (especially on a Sunday at noon) is populated by Chinese families. And I have to say, (as is pointed out in the Times review below), I am glad that we have my brother in law to go with us - he always gets the skinny from the waiters on what the best specials of the day are.
Chengdu 46 gets all the attention for Chinese food in this area, but I think that for the money, the authenticity and the quality, you can't beat Hunan Cottage (granted, the decor at Chengdu is much nicer).
The Times actually reviewed Hunan Cottage a few years ago. I would rank it as better than good, but what can one expect from the uppity, bitter New Jersey section food reviewers at the Times.
Anyway, one of my deeply held prejudices in favor of my childhood county of Bergen (aside from the fact that the malls are just vastly better up there) is that you cannot get proper thin-crust pizza anywhere but Kinchley's Tavern in Ramsey. Some of you may recall that I have a dear friend from college, Lauren, who now lives in Kansas. Lauren is engaged to an old high school chum of mine, Bill (yes, I introduced them and I take full credit for their happiness, but if they ever fight, it's entirely not my fault). Bill loves Kinchley's and I dare say it is what he misses most about Jersey. Can't say that I blame him - Kinchley's is pretty great.
Anyway, some years ago I went to the Star Tavern in Orange, the heart of Essex County (the physical heart, not the emotional one). The pizza was good, reasonably priced, and the joint is a lot less.... grimy than Kinchley's, but still, the pizza was not quite as good.
So it was with some trepidation that I approached the pizza at Lombardi's in Cedar Grove with Mike and Gena last night. Mike and Gena have made Lombardi's their Friday night tradition as of late, and as Mike put it - "I eat as much as I could possibly eat and drink as much as I could possibly drink and I have never paid more than $30." Sounded like a good deal. Also, as you may recall from previous posts, Mike and Gena's taste in food is impeccable and I am always inclined to trust their stellar reviews.
For the record, this Lombardi's is not related to the Lombardi's in New York. The NJ Lombardi's does however also have a location in Fairfield (Mike and Gena prefer the Cedar Grove branch, though, cause it's a bit cosier).
I met up with Mike and Gena a bit after 8pm - the restaurant is located in a strip mall with the Food Town. As such, it's not a huge place, but it is packed with people, which is always a good sign for the quality of food. There is a long bar, with about half a dozen flat screen TVs behind it showing various baseball games. Clearly my kind of place.
We had a bit of a wait for our table - about fifteen minutes. Once we sat down, we started things off with a Lombardi's Plate appetizer (broccoli rabe sauteed in olive oil with garlic, sausage, hot and sweet peppers, slices of cheese and potato chips on top), some stuffed artichokes and a sausage platter of some sort. We followed this up with four pizza pies (I should mention that four of Mike and Gena's friends joined us, so it wasn't just the three of us eating all this food). Gena branched out and had the penne a la vodka. The pizza was razor thin, crispy, with bubbling slightly browned cheese, and a perfect balance of sauce with that. I loved it. It was much better than Star Tavern, and I think I might even prefer it to Kinchley's.
To top it all off, the place itself is filled with interesting sport memorabilia, and is better maintained than Kinchley's. The service is better too, though I must admit that might have something to do with the fact that Mike and Gena are regulars, and have a favorite waitress who takes excellent care of them - I never sat with an empty beer and when we were done with our meal, we sat talking for well over an hour without any pressure to leave. I guess I will have to cast off another Bergen County prejudice.
Let me take this opportunity to remind everyone that Zagat's survey for New York restaurants is currently open until May 14th. Remember - if you do the survey, you get a free copy of the book sent to you when it's published, so get judging!