Day: September 17th, 2006

Starbucks Salon times two

Sunday, September 17th, 2006 | All Things, Books, Events, Music

Brooklyn writer Jonathan Lethem — not to be confused with the other Brooklyn writer Jonathans: Ames and Safran Foer — was billed on the Starbucks Salon program under “Storytelling.” I had signed on early for this appearance by the author of Motherless Brooklyn and Fortress of Solitude.

The latter, by the way, is not about Superman at all, though superpowers do come into play. It reminds me that I still haven’t read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon’s comic book inspired (and Pulitzer Prize winning) novel. I picked up Chabon’s debut novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh after my own wondrous, mysterious Pittsburgh summer, and was immediately struck by the touching elegance of his writing. I still recall vividly how the story captured the poignant thrill, confusion and melancholy of the last summer of youth. At least how I imagined it would all be, during that final year of high school when I was reading it. It’s one of the few books I’ve read and held on to over the years. Perhaps because I liked it so much, I’m ambivalent about its currently being made into a film, starring Peter Sarsgaard, Sienna Miller and Mena Suvari. Though I will say that the movie adaptation of Chabon’s second novel, Wonder Boys, was one of the underappreciated films of 2000. The book itself is very good, also… though I do find the film tie-in edition with Michael Douglas’ big ol’ mug on the cover a little disconcerting.

Back at the Salon (in daylight)…

Starbucks Salon

Although Lethem is a regular on the literary circuit around town, I’d never actually seen him in person, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. This afternoon, instead of pulling pages from an excerpt or essay, he was joined on stage by Isaac Butler, local theater director (and occasional writer and actor). Together, they performed a dramatized reading of Lethem’s short story “Their Back Pages,” about a group of cartoon castaways/castoffs who find themselves on a deserted island a la Lost.

The story was a little slow getting started — the audience at first seemed… perplexed — but as it built some momentum, and the men threw themselves into character, it was quite funny. A brief question and answer period followed, during which there was the predictable fawning over Lethem, who is apparently rather well-versed in pop-culture.

Lethem Storytelling

Downstairs at the Starbucks Gallery, with its off kilter walls:



After the Salon, we walked around SoHo for a bit and then made our way downtown to Eldridge for an early dinner. This time, instead of Super Taste, we decided to try its across-the-street rival for hand-pulled noodle supremacy: Sheng Wang. The subterranean space is about on par with Super Taste in terms of ambience, but their signature bowl is distinct from Super Taste’s in flavor: the noodles swim in a lighter broth, chock full of beef, spinach and pickled radishes, and are topped with a single fat, fluffy, white fishball stuffed with minced pork. The superior bowl, I think, may just be a matter of preference.

Over to Little Italy, where the 79th Annual Feast of San Gennaro was taking place. If we hadn’t been so full of noodles, we would have picked up some zeppoles. Oh, I’m a sucker for zeppoles — all sugared, hot, fried dough treats, actually.

San Gennaro

San Gennaro

Back to the Starbucks Salon for the final show of the ten-day event. Eclectic Method is a trio of DVJs who mix audio and video by blending together music videos and film footage to a mash-up soundtrack, using mixers, DVD turntables, laptop computers and video projectors. For tonight’s performance, they culled material from Madonna, the Jackson Five, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stevie Wonder, Beyonce, Wu Tang Clan, The Bangles, Jimi Hendrix, The Triplets of Belleville, the Oompa Loompa song, Outkast, The Beatles…

The crowd sat transfixed for almost the entire ninety-plus-minute set. Several of the Salon employees broke out into enthusiastic dance, eventually joined by a couple of hipsters. Those not getting their groove on, served up all the coffee and pastries (cheesecake, apple pie, espresso brownies) left in the glass cases in a grand finale-clearing gesture.

Electric Method

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The Circle, then the Square

Sunday, September 17th, 2006 | All Things, Classes, Eats, Events

I got up bright and early on Sunday morning for my sautéing techniques class at Williams-Sonoma at the Shops at Columbus Circle. The class was the first I attended in the shop’s Sunday morning cooking series. I figured that although I already pretty much knew how to sauté, a more formalized instruction couldn’t but help. John, the instructor, explained a bit about the origins of sauté (from the French sauter, which means “to jump”) and the smoke points of different oils. As he talked us through a preparation of chicken with lemon-basil sauce, he offered some practical advice for successful sautéing: gradually heating the pan before adding the fat, not overcrowding the bottom of the pan, and ensuring all the pieces are generally the same thickness and size.



Which reminded me a little bit of the classic SNL sketch, Cooking with The Anal Retentive Chef. R.I.P., Phil Hartman.

Brunch downtown at Chat ‘n’ Chew with SYB, after which, en route to Time Out New York’s “Back to School Blowout” in Union Square, we passed through stand after stand piled high with skeins of colorful yarns and impressive displays of fiber crafts. And lots and lots of squealing women, many lugging around overstuffed shopping bags, along with the occasional shellshocked-looking man – all out for the Eighth Annual “Knit-Out & Crochet” event, also being held that afternoon in the Park.

I recognized a few of the yarn purveyors from around the city (like Seaport Yarn and the Upper West Side’s Knitty City) as well as some of the larger yarn and crafts manufacturers. It would have been very easy to get caught up in it all had I been with someone else (i.e., a woman), but I surmised that SYB probably wasn’t all that interested in oohing over the silks, cashmeres, mohairs and alpacas.

Chat n Chew

Knit Out


Time Out hosted the back-to-school festival last year also, the primary purpose of which is to welcome new — mainly, college — students to New York City and to introduce them to the vast and diverse offerings of the city. I like attending because in addition to being a continuing student – Russian class starts on Wednesday! – it’s nice to be reminded of why New York is such a great place to be.

Heartland Brewery was there in the Square, pumping out free beer from a keg, as was Trader Joe’s with their Mango Lemonade and Chile Spiced Mango samples (chewy, spicy — different.) Peanut Butter & Company had lots of coupons and temporary tattoos to distribute. I let the woman put one on my arm; it had a monkey on it! There were lots of giveaways – nothing spectacular, though SYB picked up a Wicked -emblazoned hand fan, and we both entered contests for Carnegie Hall subscriptions and comedy shows. Fingers crossed!

Back to School Bash

Popped into Max Brenner Chocolate by the Bald Man — the newish cafe/ restaurant/chocolate shop from Israel that opened its first New York City branch off Union Square, drawing crazy, sweet-seeking crowds, and inevitable comparisons to Willy Wonka (minus the Oompa Loompas.) From the moment we set foot inside the door, the rich, heady scent of chocolate permeated our nostrils. And no wonder: there were trays, plates, bins and fountains overflowing with the dark stuff at every turn. It was almost too much. Almost.



Cocoa Market

I hear they serve a chocolate “pizza” — with an optional topping of mini-marshmallows — in the cafe. Is that wonderful… or a little obscene?

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