Month: March, 2007

Happiness is a bowl of noodles

Thursday, March 29th, 2007 | All Things, Eats

Stop number three on the Chinatown hand-pulled noodle shop tour: Eastern Noodles. This family-run noodle shop relocated to Forsyth from just around the corner on noodle (and dumpling)-rich Eldridge Street. Though still Chinatown-utilitarian, the decor of this newest outpost is just slightly brighter and perhaps a little cleaner than the others.

The Times Peter Meehan wrote up this little place in 2005, in a piece from which I lifted the title of this blog entry. Like him, we put in our order for bowls of beef with hand-pulled noodles and sat back to watch the show. A man — the owner, Lanzhou-trained Jianbin Gao — measured out a wad of dough and went to work, stretching and pulling the dough into increasingly thinner strands. The noodles twirled and flipped through the air in his expert hands, intermittently slapping against the floured counter. According to the Times, Gao and his wife opened the original noodle shop in 2001 to follow one they had operated for a decade in Fujian before moving to the United States.

Pulling Noodles

Gao made short work of the dough, after which his wife took over, dunking the noodles into a vat of broth deeper inside the kitchen, and topping our bowls with a pile of beef and greens. (White, take-out plastic dishware seems to be standard issue among these shops.) The texture of the noodles was delightful — firm and just chewy enough, as they would remain to the last strand. The soup broth was fine, too, but to my tastebuds, fell just short of the richness of Sheng Wang’s, for which we compensated with a generous — perhaps too generous — spoonful of chili oil from the table.

Eastern Noodles

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Keep it moving

Thursday, March 29th, 2007 | All Things

On a sunny, but slightly chilly Spring day, I came across this busy vegetable market on Forsyth Street in Chinatown, literally in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge.

Terrific selection and perfectly ripe produce, at a fraction of the price it would command just a couple of subway stops uptown. Earlier this year, SYB clued me into a fascinating NPR feature investigating how it is that Chinatowns around the country are able to offer produce at prices so much lower than mainstream outlets – and in some cases, lower even than wholesale sources. The conclusion: shoppers in these areas typically buy produce more frequently, and primarily for use the same day, so only buy when the fruits and vegetables are at the point of ripeness, i.e., the very point at which the distributors are most desperate to unload their supply, and are therefore most willing to offer deep discounts. By contrast, larger-volume urban/suburban outlets (e.g., chain supermarkets) want produce with shelf life to allow for the largest window of salability. In addition, the larger chains need to maintain a more or less constant supply and variety of stock; smaller makeshift outlets like the street vendors are able to absorb last minute items and in smaller quantities, since they are generally not expected to maintain the same stock supply from day-to-day. Shopping this way requires more flexibility from the buyer, but the trade-off can be tremendous value.

Forsyth Street

Forsyth Street

Forsyth Street

It’s a tough way to earn a buck, though. A 2002 New York Times article offered a glimpse into the vendors’ lifestyle: rising before dawn to spend hours scavenging for leftover produce at places like the Bronx’s Hunts Point Terminal Market. One vendor interviewed for the article described standing in the cold all day, to earn a pitiable $30.00. Meanwhile, city officials pressure the often-unlicensed workers for clogging the streets and attracting vermin in their wake.

And sure enough, by the time I walked by this street just an hour later, all these vendors were packing up their crates (and any hopes for a profitable day) under the glaring, watchful eye of the NYPD.

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Kick up your heels

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007 | All Things, Events, Film

The launch party for the 12th Annual Gen Art Film Festival was being held tonight at té casan — inexplicably, a couple of weeks in advance of the actual festival, which runs April 11 through 17, 2007.

Broome Street

The SoHo shoe emporium opened its flagship store on West Broadway to some fanfare in November 2006. On paper it seemed an odd choice for a party venue, but once we arrived, it was clear that all was not just about the shoes.

M met me on the sidewalk outside, where the Gen Art gatekeepers had set up a table amid the red carpet and floodlights. The sleek, tri-level space was designed by Ron Pompei — and emitted a vibe more gallery than store. Against the mirrors and blank white canvas of walls, and beneath the elaborate chandeliers, the wares stood out like pieces of art: careful stagings of ballet flats, metallic chainlink stilettos, patchwork leather and suede boots, fancy kicks, crystal-studded sandals…

Which in its way is apropos. The idea behind té casan — Gaelic for “a woman’s path” — is to introduce limited-edition footwear collections, of artisan quality: handcrafted materials and signature detailing at “attainable” luxury price points. The company’s creative director, Asil Attar, interviewed 55 emerging designers before settling on the final team of seven, most recruited from the respected fashion houses of Alexander McQueen, Versace, Vivienne Westwood and the like. According to the company literature, the single-run editions are limited by state, with the pieces numbered individually on the soles, adding to the couture cachet. As the té casan brand evolves, new designers will be introduced, and none of the collections will remain in the store longer than three years. With most pairs in the $200-$300 range, the price tags are higher than Nine West, but much lower than say, Manolo Blahniks or red-soled Christian Louboutins, which run in the $500-$700 (and up) range. As we wandered among the increasingly crowded floors, we noticed several pairs marked half-price, which almost make the shoes a fashion-forward bargain.

The store’s central curving glass staircase is edged with mirrored disks; the lower level features a built-in bar station (which functions as a tea salon during regular shopping hours) and throughout the space are domed dressing areas outfitted with bench seating for trying on the wares (or mingling with other party guests) in semi-privacy.

Gen Art Film Fest party

Gen Art Film Fest party

Actress Nicole Forester with Gen Art president, Adam Walden:

Gen Art Film Fest party

Afterwards, we continued our evening over dinner next door at Cipriani, where the food was pricy, but almost besides the point. We entertained ourselves by attempting to decipher the relationships of our dining companions — father and daughter? grandfather and granddaughter? hmm… – all while trying not to gawk at the most orange woman either of us had ever seen in our entire lives.

Cipriani

Gen Art Stamp

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