Swearing at Thirty-Six

Busy birthday weekend…

Saturday, one of my friends passed the New York and New Jersey Bars. While there is a whole another part of the bar application that is required in New York, in New Jersey, once you pass the only thing left is to be sworn in. In one of those quaint but nice things in New Jersey, New Jersey attorneys have the authority to administer the oath to new attorneys, so Saturday night we went to Arthur’s Tavern in Hoboken to perform the deed and have some steaks, both of which went well.

Sunday for my actual birthday, P and I went to see the new Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire matinee at the local theater. Yes, it was $4 cheaper, but it seemed that there was only one projection guy running three rooms, because there were long delays between the pre-previews, the previews, and the actual show. Much swearing, but the movie finally got on track. Not spilling too many things from the movie, but it was good but dark, and at 2.5 hours, really butt-breaking. It was sort of something of a cross of an intermediate episode of Lord of the Rings with Judy Blume. A lot of horror perhaps more appropriate for October 31 than November, and a lot more adolescent angst perhaps more appropriate for a summer movie. There were several Asian actresses in this one, including the Indian double dates for Harry and Ron, and the unrequited I don’t-know-what scene between Harry and Cho Chang, played by Scottish-Chinese Katie Leung, which lasted all of 5 minutes. I guess I shouldn’t talk, because I have a strong Brooklyn accent and my relatives have strong Carribean accents, but wow, that Scottish brogue was really on. She pretty much looked like my cousin from Toronto, but with long hair. Good movie, but there is obviously more to come.

For dinner, P took me to Babbo, Mario Batali’s flagship restaurant near Washington Square Park. Some restaurants are just marketing — this place actually delivers. Here’s what we had:
1. Free: marinated herbal chickpea crustini – had a garlic-cumin flavor.
2. Babbo salumi antipasti plate – a variety of cured meats made by Mario’s father salami store Salumi in Seattle.
3. Gnocchi with stewed oxtail – amazing! Every cuisine has a archtypical benchmark dish to determine if the kitchen is any good: for Italian food, it’s gnocchi – a dumpling-style pasta. If not prepared carefully, it can either be library paste or rock hard. Prepared well, gnocchi are light, fluffy pillows of pasta flavor. The oxtail is ragu-ed into a stew, and the bones are removed, and then melded with properly prepared gnocchi, and then topped with, as Mario says on his show, “The King of All Cheeses”, grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
4. P had Grilled Lamb Chops with Eggplant and Lemon Yogurt; I had the Duck with persimmion and aged balsamic vinegar. Both were very well made.
5. For dessert, I had a saffron panecotta with cinnamon gelatti, and P had the assorted gelatti and sorbetto. P said that the flavor was very similar to what she had inItaly. They slipped a short candle and a Happy Birthday piped along the top of the plate.
We had a small caraffe (250 ml) of wine, a Montegradella Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2001. According to some websites that I saw, the Valpolicella wines are so underrated, that wineries usually print the appellation in very small print. This was an amazing red wine — it shifted as the courses went along. First it was strong and full bodied; then when we had the gnocchi, all of a sudden, it became spicy with wood notes; then for our main dish, it was fruity and palette cleansing.

Overall, we were very impressed, and a very nice birthday treat by P. Thanks!

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