Month: August, 2006

Lovely Day for Thai

Monday, August 14th, 2006 | All Things, Eats

After spending over an hour calling around to various bakeries in Manhattan and Brooklyn (trying to balance budget with palatability), I finally decided to order SK’s chocolate cake from Fairway Market. After several back-and-forths with Bonnie from the Catering Department, the order was finally confirmed at 8:30AM on Sunday morning. Oof! But at least it forced me to get an early start on the day.

I picked up the cake box from the store on the way into work. The half-sheet cake ended up being bulkier and a lot heavier than I had expected; at that point, though, I had committed to bringing it downtown, so there was no turning back. And I did want to make sure that SK got the proper send-off. I’ll miss having my friend around the office.

I entered the crowded train at the 72nd Street station and was pleasantly surprised when two men stood to offer me their seats. Chivalry is alive and well. Must have been the desperate look in my eye as I tottered precariously into the car.

The cake, I think, was received pretty well: good chocolate flavor, moist with mousse filling and not overly sweet. Good to know about this source for the next time I need a cake to serve 30+ people.

Cake

After work, I was treated to dinner at Lovely Day on Elizabeth. Solid choice — and we did get to make use of the Diner’s Deck — but I think I liked the feel of the space more than the (Thai) food, which was pretty standard. It is one of the more economical options in the SoHo/NoLIta area, though I probably prefer the ever-popular Cafe Habana down the block. The wait staff is model-thin and good-looking, and apparently not too shy about expressing affection for one another. My dining companion seemed sad to have missed the display of sapphic smooches I caught from my vantage point, facing the front door. The decor is “American breakfast nook”: red banquettes, vintage-looking flowered wallpaper, marble-topped wooden bar and a chalkboard announcing the day’s specials.

Lovely Day

Good authentic Thai food is not so easy to find in New York City – yet another cuisine in which the Southern Californians seem to have an advantage. On the West Coast, it could be a function of sheer numbers: far more Thais live in SoCal than here, where the Royal Thai Consulate-General in New York puts the number of Thai immigrants in the city at just about 8,000. As a result, most of our local Thai restaurants – in contrast with say, Chinese restaurants – must appeal to a largely foreign/American clientele, which leads many chefs to adapt by adding sweetness and toning down the bright flavors and chili heat that characterize real Thai food.

Still, I like to keep looking. Sripraphai, in Woodside, Queens, is generally considered the best authentic Thai restaurant in the city. And it cracked the top 5 on New York Magazine’s ranked list of Best Cheap Eats earlier this month. In Manhattan, I like the no-frills Pam Real Thai in Hells Kitchen and Land Thai on the Upper West Side. I’ve also had surprisingly good Thai food in Greenpoint (better known for its Polish cuisine) at Thai Café on Manhattan Avenue.

And now I’m hungry.

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High style @ MCNY

Sunday, August 13th, 2006 | All Things, Arts, Eats, Music, NYC History

Visited the Museum of the City of New York this morning for “The high Style of Dorothy Draper” exhibit. Once a household name, Draper’s influence as a decorator continues to reverberate as fashion moves away from stark minimalist spaces towards her signature explosions of exhuberant color, oversized accessories, vivid cabbage roses, bright stripes and baroque flourishes. A true style icon and pioneer in interior design, she dominated the field from the mid-1920’s until her retirement in 1960, when she was named America’s most influential tastemaker. The exhibition at MCNY is the first-ever major restrospective of her life and career.

Born Dorothy Tuckerman in 1889 to a prominent and wealthy family – her great-grandfather was a signer of the Declaration of Independence – Draper was raised in the affluent enclave of Tuxedo Park, one of the first gated communities in the United States. (The tuxedo was invented there by Pierre Lorillard in 1886.) Draper was a six-foot tall debutante with an outsize personality to match. After marrying George (Dan) Draper, a doctor from a similarly prominent family, she started up a fledgling decorating business in the 1920’s – essentially creating a new market for packaged style in the heretofore male-dominated construction industry. Her marriage eventually foundered, though, and after three children, her husband asked for a divorce. (Ironically, he married another decorator five years later.) Once freed from the bonds of marriage, the 40-year old Draper’s ambition took off: she renamed her company, and through her society connections (particularly, real estate magnate Douglas Elliman) and distinctive style, was able to score several highly visible commissions: the Carlyle Hotel lobby, a row of Sutton Place tenements (which resulted in the quadrupling of their offer price), and the project which put her on the map: The Hampshire House (now a coop) on Central Park South. She designed the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s cafeteria, the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia, the Arrowhead Springs Hotel and Spa in Southern California and the Camellia House Supper Club restaurant at the Drake Hotel in Chicago.

Far from limiting herself to commercial contracts, Draper lent her design sensibilities to projects as varied as the 1952 Packard, a fleet of airplane interiors and the International Hotel at Idlewild (now JFK) Airport. By the 1940’s, her name had developed such cachet that she expanded her empire to make interior design more accessible to the post-War generation of American housewives through the publication of (ghostwritten) books like “Decorating is Fun!“, “Entertaining Is Fun!” and “How to Be a Popular Hostess.” She lent her name to a line of household products, wallpaper, textiles and furniture. She had a nationally-syndicated advice column entitled “Ask Dorothy Draper” — also ghostwritten — that ran in 70 newspapers, 3 times a week.

The company Draper founded is still in existence — over forty years after her death — and her “modern baroque” sensibility has enjoyed a recent renaissance of sorts. Towering achievement for an Edwardian era woman with no formal design or business education.

Draper Foyer

Draper Panels

Afterwards, I stopped for brunch at Itzocan Bistro, a wonderful (and well-reviewed) French-Mex restaurant at 101st and Lexington. The limited brunch menu — a terrific deal at $8.50, including coffee — offered a few intriguing options. I had difficulty deciding between the “Omelet with huitlacoche mushrooms, jalapeno & brie” and the “Baked Eggs with chorizo, poblano peppers & mushrooms.” When in doubt, ask the server; a man who appeared to be the owner (Anselmo?) advised me that while both were good, he personally preferred the baked eggs, though they did entail a bit of a wait. No worries there: I was in no rush to be anywhere else. Overhearing our exchange, a diner at the next table enthusastically seconded the recommendation. He would be in the position to know: I saw remnants of the dish on his plate.

No salsa and chips here: I was tided over with slivers of warm, crusty French bread and butter. Twenty minutes later…
Baked Eggs

The “baked” eggs were in fact just barely set atop a bed of roasted potatoes with buttery mushrooms and wonderfully spicy chunks of chorizo. C’est si bon! (Or is that: Qué bueno!)

Brooklyn’s Outernational at Summerstage in Central Park:

Outernational

Summerstage

Sheep’s Meadow on a lazy Sunday:

Sheeps Meadow

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Love among the produce

Saturday, August 12th, 2006 | All Things

Missed BB’s 7th Annual Big Leo Bash because I was stuck at work past 11:00PM for the second time in a month.   Though I probably shouldn’t complain, since I’d taken last Saturday off to attend DK’s wedding.

I did step outside at one point to pick up a snack at the Whole Foods Market at Time Warner Center.  Yikes.  Does the entire city converge in that store on Saturday afternoons?  Where did all these people shop for food before this 58,000 square foot haute-crunchy emporium opened in 2004?

I’d read somewhere that Whole Foods is one of the prime pick-up spots in the city — specifically, the prepared foods section where singles tend to congregate.  Perhaps the lighting, which makes the organic produce look so luscious, has the same effect on the patrons?

The CNN New York Studio at TWC:

CNN

 

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