Taking a few days away from the office – much needed, frankly, considering the latest oh-great-what’s-else-is-next in the land of Dysfunction…
Friday afternoon – spent at the Cloisters in Manhattan. Never been there before, so it was great. Too bad about the humidity, but it was worth it – the beauty of the museum and the art in it – medieval stuff, shipped to the New World for our enlightenment of what it was like several hundred years ago. Oh, and the view from Ft. Tryon Park – if it weren’t for the sight of the George Washington Bridge, I’d have forgotten that it was Manhattan. Well, the tip of Manhattan (the long train ride kind of made that obvious – but the A line’s pretty fast enough).
Restaurant Week: Cafe Centro at Grand Central, on Friday night. Crab cake appetizer – (ordered extra, not on the Restaurant Week menu) – mmm. I had the ricotta and spinach raviolo appetizer – mmm. I had the Atlantic salmon, entree – eh, okay. Sampled a bit of my brother’s Roasted Long Island Duck breast – thumbs up. My sister had the surf and turf – quite a filet, really. Our youngest brother had the bass – meaty, for a fish. Dessert was wonderful – I had the red plum orange confit; two of us had the chocolate pot de creme (a really rich pudding); and one of us had the blueberry shortcake. Appetizer and dessert would make for a perfect summer meal, really.
Finished reading “The Dante Club,” by Matthew Pearl. Hmm. It’s a good page-turner – strange murders occurring in 1865 Boston, in a city fatigued by the Civil War. Meanwhile, poet Henry Longfellow is working on his translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, ending with the Inferno – and he and his Dante Club – including fellow poet James Lowell and Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes (the rather insufferable father of a future Supreme Court justice, who has his own guest-star turn in the book). The Dante Club realize that the murders are connected to their working on the Inferno – and they race to catch the murderer before things get worse. Author Matthew Pearl’s official website has some nifty features on the book. The verisimilitude of Boston – no surprise, as Mr. Pearl attended Harvard as an undergrad (and perhaps he included Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., since he himself is a graduate of Yale Law – and what self-respecting lawyer wouldn’t want to insert a member of the bar in a fictional work… mmm, okay, I’m not sure if Mr. Pearl is indeed practicing, but oh well).
It ran longer than I would’ve expected, but it remained a page-turner – good suspense. As a mystery though – well, I guess the clues were laid out in a fair fashion, but when I as the reader was fingerpointing just about everyone as the murderer and then felt kind of weird about how it ended – how many chase scenes can you have? – well, let’s put it this way: thumbs up as a novel; thumbs okay as a mystery.
Saw “The Simpsons Movie” on Saturday – long lines, yes – so missed a bit of the beginning. Consistent with any really good Simpsons episode, it balanced humor, angst (like how many times are we reminded that Marge has far more patience than most wives in putting up with Homer’s insanity? or how Bart has likely suffered a great deal with Homer as a pitiful father?), and heart-warming moments. But, was it a great movie? Well, not quite (depends on what’s your standard for “Great American Movie”). Like recent seasons of the Simpsons, aspects of the storyline really made you wonder what on earth were the Simpsons’ writers – umm – taking while writing the script and plotholes abound, as usual.
And, viewers beware – it is a PG 13 movie, and you ought to be a tolerant Simpsons fan to really enjoy it (various moments make only great sense if you’ve seen much of the past 18 (!) years of the Simpsons; when I left the theater, one mom just didn’t get it – oh well, evidently, she hasn’t watched much Simpsons). I guess some hardcore Simpsonites may feel the movie wasn’t daring enough, but I thought it was good enough (this isn’t Family Guy or South Park, for heaven’s sake). Oh, and stay for the funny moments during and after the credits.
Speaking of the Simpsons, I have yet to make pilgrimage to the 7-Eleven in Times Square as it temporarily transformed itself into the Simpsons’ Kwik-E Mart. This article profiles it for us, and observes that, yes, there are stereotypes (not every convenient store owner’s going to be like the Simpsons’ Apu; and, one day, the Simpsons will have a better portrayal of East Asians than the irritating Cookie Kwan (who, yes, is a tough cookie, but has the stereotypical accent).
“I Click, Therefore I Amazon,” by the Washington Post’s Stephen Hunter, notes that it is way too easy to buy stuff on-line, when there’s one-click shopping.
The infamous 5-second rule of whether to eat food that fall to the floor isn’t valid (no really?) – since if your floor’s dirty, your food will be contaminated no matter what. Or, at least, it depends on your level of disgust and risk aversion.
NY Times on the rise of the halal food vendors in NYC – as the hot dog is arguably being supplanted; the accompanying video is also an interesting glimpse on demographic and culinary changes in the city.
Plus, a NY Times article on the Tokyo Sushi Academy in Queens – taught by a Korean. Jennifer Blevin writes on how the students have their own dreams of opening restaurants and how Kimura Kim, their teacher, pretty much runs the place:
Mr. Kim, 55, is a bald man with a snippet of mustache and a keen, puckish manner. Born in South Korea, he studied sushi in Japan for four years before coming in 1990 to New York, where he apprenticed under a chef named Jae Sook Hwang. In 2004, he opened his school in Flushing, and hundreds of aspiring sushi makers and restaurateurs have taken his six-week, four-hour-a-day course. Tuition is about $1,000, he said.
On Thursday, five students gathered around a long wooden counter at the school, on Union Street near Northern Boulevard, in a tiny office adorned with Chinese paper lanterns and leafy stalks of bamboo.
First they practiced making decorative garnishes, carving delicate butterflies from carrot slices and forming exquisite rosebuds from tomato skin. Then Mr. Kim taught them to make an appetizer of broiled eel crowned with tufts of whipped avocado.
Later he brought out hunks of coral-fleshed salmon and firm white tilapia — and reminded his students to stand up straight. “In bowling, golf and making sushi,” he announced gravely, “body posture is very important.”
With each student holding a footlong knife at a 45-degree angle above the fish, the lesson proceeded. Don’t point it up too high. Place your thumb on the side. Place your index finger on the tip. Don’t push down, just use the natural strength of the knife. Be very gentle. Get ready to cut.
“Ten slices!” Mr. Kim shouted, sounding like a drill sergeant ordering push-ups. [….]
Apparently, no one flunks. After students lay slices of fish on rice balls, Mr. Kim studied the sushi platters.
“How did I do?” asked Jae Hun Won, a 54-year-old man from Bergen County, N.J.
“You did good,” said Mr. Kim. “But I say ‘good’ to everybody.”