Month: January, 2007

Say cheese

Saturday, January 20th, 2007 | All Things, Eats, Friends

Oh, MePa… how you once drew me. But no longer.

This once-cool, gritty Manhattan industrial neighborhood — ruined, ruined! There was a time when underground clubs shared the warehouse-lined streets with bloody-aproned butchers and long-legged transvestite prostitutes, but those eventually ceded way to hipper-than-thou hotels, trendy restaurants and wispy fashionistas tottering around the cobblestones on their Christian Louboutin stilettos. Not to mention the cheesy, overplucked, overglittered tourists that descend en masse Thursday through Sunday nights. The void remains. What’s left?

Florent — the stalwart beacon of pink neon on Gansevoort, from which the last of the packing plants have all but disappeared. Owner Florent Morellet opened the small bistro in an American diner space back in August 1985, which makes Florent older than the average club kid.  This late-night haunt, above which the original vintage diner signage still hangs, planted its roots long before the district was ready for prime time. Though the clientele has shifted over the years — in 2003, Morellet began employing a late-night doorman to screen out the most drunken customers — the place remains for the most part, unchanged. And among the trendsetters, i-bankers and fashion editors, you’ll still spy the occasional drag queen scarfing down omelettes, burgers, lentil salads, steak frites, mussels and escargots at all hours of the night.

The place is not without its quirks, but after abandoning the too-chaotic birthday party at G2, it seemed the perfect place to wind down our night. We hit before the post-last call rush and had the dimly-lit eatery mostly to ourselves. Since it was after midnight, we were able to order a round of grilled cheese sandwiches. The buttery, cheddary goodness and hot, crispy fries served as the ideal accompaniment to our musings on the vagaries of love.

Florent

Florent

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Nick knows

Saturday, January 20th, 2007 | All Things, Friends

The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world… “Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,” I thought; “anything at all…”

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Queensboro Bridge

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First Snow

Friday, January 19th, 2007 | All Things, Eats, Friends

New York City officially recorded its first flurries on January 10, the latest-arriving city snow in 129 years. The flakes blew in on a blustery morning, just days after temperatures hit an absurdly high 72 degrees one sunny Saturday. That first snow came and went, lasting less than 15 minutes, with negligible accumulation. This morning’s dusting lasted just a bit longer, long enough for me to snap these photos in Central Park on the way to work.

Central Park First Snow

Central Park First Snow

By afternoon, the three-tenths of an inch that had managed to accumulate was just a memory.

Later, an orange-themed pot-luck dinner party at the B home. (Can other colors be far behind?) Contributions included RV’s ginger-carrot soup, JS’s vegetarian chili, AC’s corn soufflé, JK’s kimchi pancakes, JL’s clementines, BC’s passion fruit mousse, AH’s carrot cake and HYB’s screwdrivers. After work, I picked up an order of appropriately-hued sweet and sour chicken in Chinatown. Can’t remember the last time I had this quintessential Chinese takeout food.

Sweet and sour meat dishes first became popular in the United States after World War II when Asian cuisines (notably Chinese, Japanese and Polynesian) first piqued the interest of mainstream America. Back then, the dishes — heavily sweetened with the addition of pineapple — were served in the “Polynesian-style” restaurants that were in vogue at the time, think: tiki lounges and pu pu platters. In actuality, such menus were based largely on Cantonese cuisine: egg rolls, chicken wings, beef skewers, fried wontons, spare ribs. From the time when Chinese food was first introduced to the United States in the 19th century (imported by the Chinese immigrants from Canton who began settling in California), Asian dishes intended for American diners were adapted to suit exotic expectations. The emphasis was on basic (often fried) meats and vegetables, with a heavy reliance on standard sauces (soy, sweet and sour). The effect is generally referred to as the “Chop Suey syndrome” — named for the prototypical “Chinese” dish that was entirely invented in America.

Authenticity aside, who doesn’t enjoy a steaming platter of sweet and sour chicken (or pork) every once in a while? Chunks of canned pineapple and battered, deep-fried meat, swimming in thick, gloppy sauce of that day-glo color not found anywhere in nature… Okay, maybe every once in a long  while.

But the true highlight of the evening was the premiere of the B family home movies (circa 1985), recently transferred from Betamax to DVD by JL. Who knew that HYB was such an adorable ham back in the day?

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