Month: February, 2007

A pair of parties

Friday, February 16th, 2007 | All Things, Eats, Friends

After weeks of drama, the day finally arrived for TL and LN’s farewell reception. The luncheon ended on a sweet note with a custom cake from Fairway Market, which was the best choice, given our extremely limited budget, and need to accommodate various food allergies (chocolate) and dietary requirements (kosher). Ah, good ol’ Fairway. By pre-paying the order earlier in the week, I managed to avoid most of the morning crowds already forming at the registers. But getting that immense white cardboard bakery box to the station along snow dusted streets, and then downtown on the subway during rush hour, was another matter entirely. Comical, actually… but only in retrospect.

72nd Street Station

Best of Luck Cake

Next time, perhaps we’ll try the custom cakes at Billy’s Bakery in Chelsea or Umanoff & Parsons in TriBeCa. And spring for the delivery service.

After work, party # 2:

After several big birthday blowouts, SYB decided to keep the festivities low-key this year with drinks and dinner among his nearest and dearest, which also included JL (x2), AH, RV, AB and of course, HYB. I wore my “Team Servilia” tee for the occasion because, you know, “Atia is a Tramp.”

I had recently won a happy hour at Stone Creek — $10pp open bar! – so the stars seemed aligned to make Curry Hill the starting point for the evening’s plans.

Curry Hill

After some remarkably efficient imbibing, we made our way over to Bamiyan, chosen based on the success of previous outings and for its proximity to Stone Creek. We could not, however, walk out those doors without dropping a pair of quarters into the jukebox, branded awesomely enough, Rock-ola. Don’t stop believing!

Don’t Stop Believing

Over tasty and mostly vegan Afghani food, the table talk turned to lookists. We determined that SYB may be one, but that actress Mischa Barton almost surely isn’t. (I’ll spare you all the photographic — read: pornographic — evidence. You’re welcome.)

Happy birthday, SYB!

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Wonton soup for the soul

Thursday, February 15th, 2007 | All Things, Eats

Another Thursday lunch in Chinatown. Earlier this month, New York magazine named New Chao Chow on Mott Street as one of the best places to go for “slurping down some wontons” as part of a larger feature on all things Chinatown. Chaozhou (or “Chiu Chow” as it is known in Cantonese) is a city in eastern Guangdong province, 150 miles northeast of Hong Kong. Chaozhou refers to the dialect of Chinese and to the cultural group. Over the centuries, Chaozhou emigrated to Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia, forming their own distinct communities in each country. While the decades immediately following the 1950s were ones of generally restricted or controlled migration from mainland China, there was a notable exodus by those fleeing the communist rule into Hong Kong. Refugees from Chaozhou, in particular, converged and settled into their own enclaves among the Cantonese in the British colony.

The dialect may be different, but “chiu chow” cuisine is rather similar to Cantonese, and is notable for its delicacy, fresh ingredients and piquant flavors, particularly in its seafood and vegetarian dishes. New Chao Chao specializes in the cuisine of this region. Another chiu chow restaurant I like is Chao Zhou in Flushing — across the street from the Queens Borough Public Library, and immediately identifiable by the immense red bowl on its roof.

In his New York Times piece on the city’s best chicken soups, Ed Levine named New Chao Chow’s “the greatest wonton soup that I’ve had in New York,” citing its “amazing golden broth” which “doesn’t need either its fabulous wontons or its fresh cilantro and scallion garnishes to enter the Chicken Soup Hall of Fame on the first ballot.” On his site, he declares the soup one of the best eating bargains around the country; I paid $4 for a large bowl of the house wonton noodles soup.

Robert Sietsema of the Village Voice dubbed New Chao Chow the place for “Choicest Chiu Chow” in his 2004 roundup.

The wontons, to my taste, were just fine — not much better or worse than most one would encounter at any of the long-standing noodle shops in Chinatown. (But that’s pretty good indeed.) I agree with those who noted that the broth is what distinguishes this bowl above some of the others — light and immensely flavorful, and tasty enough to stand on its own.

New Chao Chow wontons

Special delivery — perhaps for the Lunar New Year Flower Market in Columbus Park (February 16-17)? Maybe next year.

Chinatown flowers

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Love Lost readings

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007 | All Things, Books, Events

From February 8 through February 14, Altoids opened a pop-up Curious & Original Chocolate Shoppe on Bleecker Street to celebrate the launch of its new Altoids Dark Chocolate Dipped Mints.

On Valentine’s Day, the company partnered with the nonprofit writing lab and free tutoring center 826 NYC (local chapter of the Dave Eggers-founded organization, 826 Valencia) to host a special night of “Love Lost Readings,” expressly for those seeking a literary respite from the Hallmark-manufactured madness.

Attendees sampled the dark chocolate mints (pretty good!), tiers of red velvet cupcakes, copious glasses of wine and artistically presented cups of espresso drinks by baristas from independent coffeehouse Ninth Street Espresso.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Andy Selsberg, contributor to The Believer, The Village Voice and GQ, described the most dysfunctional relationship ever. Starlee Kine, contributor to NPR’s wonderful This American Life, read her New York Times break-up piece from 2006. Leo Allen, stand-up comedian and prolific reader, added some levity to the love-weary festivities, and for the finale, author Jonathan Ames read terribly funny and terribly sad excerpts from his new book, I Love You More Than You Know.

For the event, Altoids printed up a selection of glossy postcards with tongue-in-cheek takes on traditional Valentine’s Day messages, suitable for a recent or imminent break-up: “I’ll love you until someone better comes along,” “We’d be made for each other if I were a jerk,” “It’s you. Not me,” “Another day closer ’til death does us part,” and my personal favorite, “I plan on breaking up with you over e-mail.”

Love Lost Cards

You can laugh or you can cry.

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