Month: August 2009

Parents Part III: Kefi

After cleaning up from the earlier day’s rain my parents and I headed across the park to Kefi, Michael Psilakis’ Greek mega-restaurant on the Upper West Side.  Because the park is always lovely, and was particularly serene on this post-rainy evening, I had to take a few pictures:

Algae-covered Turtle Pond.
Algae-covered Turtle Pond.
Belvedere Castle
Belvedere Castle

We also stumbled upon some beautiful flowers near a fancy building on Central Park West.

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Love. Urban. Flowers.

We met up with several of my amazing friends who helped make this summer super-fun for a rustic Greek meal at Kefi.  Which is huge.  Evidently the original location only sat about eighty people and did not take reservations or serve lunch.  So Psilakis and his business partner decided to move to a larger space that seats two hundred, takes reservation, and serves lunch.  And the place, from what I understand, is consistently packed.  I’d read fairly good reviews of the restaurant.  Frank Bruni complained that there was too much feta, too much salt, too much everything in the food but I personally have no problem with food that is unsubtle.

The restaurant is very, very large, and it seems that smaller parties get seated at big round tables downstairs.  Both upstairs and downstairs were loud, which I have come to expect from New York restaurants, so whatever.  We started off with appetizers; several of my tablemates ordered the white bean soup, Ashley had a Greek salad that looked like it might have been over-dressed in terms of vinaigrette (correct me if I am wrong) and I ordered a few appetizers for the table: the spreads platter which came with pita to dip in tzatziki, red-pepper hummus, an eggplant spread, and “caviar” which I believe was some sort of fish roe but was actually pleasantly salty and had the texture of a grainy hummus, an order of fresh-cut potato chips served with tzatziki (home made chips are always a hit) and the meatballs, which were large, salty-sweet, and came in a sauce that was liberally studded with giant chunks of tomato and cloves of roasted garlic (win).

White bean soup.
White bean soup.
Greek Salad
Greek Salad
Spreads flatter with chips in the background.
Spreads flatter with chips in the background.
Meatball
Meatballs

For dinner I had the sheep milk’s dumplings which came in a sauce of tomatoes, pine nuts, lamb sausage, and something like a pound of spinach.  The dumplings themselves were fantastic: much lighter than gnocchi, like little happy pillows of creamy goodness, but I thought that the pasta-to-sauce ratio was not well balanced (too much sauce and not enough pasta to handle said sauce) and I found the amount of spinach overwhelming.  The flavors were great, I just would’ve liked more dumplings.

Sheep's Milk Dumplings
Sheep's Milk Dumplings

I, alas, do not have pictures of the other entrees (I didn’t want to be overly obnoxious).  My father had the branzino, of which he spoke highly, my mother had a shrimp and orzo dish, Theresa got the macaroni and cheese (which looked really excellent and creamy), Brad had the lamb shank and his comment regarding said lamb shake was: “That shit was awesome,” (thanks, Brad) and Phil and Ashley had flat pasta with braised and pulled rabbit.  I got a picture of that, and a taste.  The rabbit had clearly been braised for awhile, as it was extremely tender.  I have never had rabbit before and I can’t really say much of the taste of the meat, as, once again, it was swimming in extremely unsubtle sauce.  Still, Phil devoured his portion, so I’m assuming it was a win.

Pasta with bunny.  Yes, jessica, bunny.
Pasta with bunny. Yes, Jessica, bunny.

We opted to skip dessert at Kefi for a walk down to the Upper West Side Shack Shack and some custard.  Clearly my parents had enjoyed their first experience at the Shake Shack, and I was fine with one last custard run before I departed New York City.  I had vanilla with hot caramel, and didn’t take a picture because you can see one here.  Custard turned to conversation and ten 11:00 rolled around and we decided to roll out.  I bid farewell to my friends (sniff) and then headed home to finish packing and to get some sleep before my flight out the next morning.  It was excellent spending my last night in New York with food and friends–major thanks to the parents for enabling that to happen.

Parents Part II: Tour of the Jewish Lower East Side

Sunday morning the parents and I woke up, looked outside at the dismal and rainy weather, and decided to brave the great outdoors in order to take the Big Onion’s tour of the Jewish Lower East Side.  The tours are led by history doctoral candidates at Columbia.  Our tour guide was a native New Yorker who is writing her dissertation on public health issues of the turn of the century, and her personal interests definitely became evident in the meandering tangents she’d take in regards to listing the problems with milk available in the Lower East Side, or the unsanitary nature of the streets.

The rain had stopped for a spell when we trekked down to the Lower East Side for our tour, and we spent the first half of the tour with clouds but not-rain.  We saw an old Ashkenazic synagogue, built in an old church,  that is now abandoned, as most of the Jews from the Lower East Side have left.  We also saw old tenement houses and the former headquarters of the Yiddish Forward, a newspaper (still in publication) that was read by the Jewish community in American in the early 1900s.

Old abandoned synagogue in a church.
Old abandoned synagogue in a church.
Tenements.
Tenements.
Pickle Guys
Pickle Guys
Old Yiddish Forward Headquarters
Old Yiddish Forward Headquarters

Then, it started raining.  And raining,  And it rained harder.  And the tour continued, and even though interesting things were happening it was a lot of standing in one place listening to our guide talk for extended periods of time rather than seeing lots of sights and getting stories along the way.  Anyhow, other than the rain it was a perfectly enjoyable experience and I feel further enlightened regarding my cultural heritage, etc.

The tour ended on a little street in Chinatown at the Eldridge Street Synagogue, the first free-standing (not built in a church) Ashkenazic Synagogue in the Lower East Side.  It was built in the late 1800s and has been used ever since, though the main sanctuary fell into extreme disrepair in the middle of the 1900s.  The main part of the building has since undergone a twenty million dollar renovation, so it looks really beautiful.  The building is now both a functional synagogue and a museum. Evidently the main sanctuary had leaks and holes in the wall and all sorts of issues, but the Torahs–which had been left in the ark unpreserved and unprotected–were in mint condition.  Amazing, no?

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Outside of the Eldridge Street Synagogue,
Outside of the Eldridge Street Synagogue

The rain was still pouring when we left the synagogue, so we caught a cab to SoHo rather than walking.  We went to Grandaisy, formerly Sullivan Street Bakery, and I introduced my parents to the wonders of pizza bianca and pizza patate.  By the time we finished eating the rain had ceased (yay!) and we spent the next few hours shopping around SoHo, buying some fun clothes and wandering slack-jawed through the oddity that is Evolution, a store that sells, among other things, human skulls and taxidermy-ed animals.  Around 6:00 we headed back uptown to clean up for dinner and to eat the mini-cupcakes my father had picked up at Baked By Melissa, also in SoHo.

Delicious mini-cupcakes.
Delicious mini-cupcakes.

Anyhow, that was the first half of Sunday.  I’ll update on dinner at Kefi with the friends in a bit.  In the meantime, listen to the podcast to which I linked in the previous post and enjoy the week!

Parents

Last few days in NYC, and the parents are here to hang out for a bit.  This morning I woke up, readied the apartment, and spent some time reading near the park while waiting for my parents to arrive.  The day was absolutely beautiful: not too hot, blue skies, a breeze, low humidity.  Perfect.  I also took a photograph of the outside of my building, just because.

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My parents arrived in a cab with, oddly enough, my classmate Nadja from Pine View c/o 2003.  Nadja is moving up to New York City and, oddly, is staying for a few nights in the building two doors down from mine.  Not kidding, how weird is that?  Anyhow, another Pine Viewer move to NYC.  We should just have our ten year reunions here.

The parents got settled in and I trekked them over to the Whitney for the obligatory “Hi Parents This is Where I Work I am Now Going to Try to Explain Conceptual Art to You” tour.  Which I think they enjoyed–the Whitney is a really excellent museum, small, manageable, easy to navigate.  I am partial to the institution for obvious reasons but still, Whitney love.  Also, major sadness to be saying my official last goodbye to the museum.  For now.  I’d love to work there again someday, fingers crossed.

We stopped at La Maison du Chocolat to pick up some macaroons and stopped at Saint Ambroeus, the local fancy Italian gelato place, for some gelato.  I had very pure, light-tasting peach and strawberry flavors, and also took a washed out picture of said gelato:

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I should have taken a picture of my delicious raspberry macaroon but sometimes I am a ravenous and unthinking fiend.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering down Lexington and doing a bit of gift shopping at Pylones and a bit of clothing shopping at Banana Republic.  We then headed down to 58th between Park and Madison to have dinner at Tao, which is best known for its giant Buddha and ridiculous scene.  There’s some food too.

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Tao was made famous by that episode of Sex and the City where Samantha has a brief bisexual fling with a Brazilian artist who refers to vagina as “the glorious puceta.”  The restaurant is extremely dark and extremely loud and extremely crowded but there is some great people watching: a combination of tourists, New Yorkers with out of town friends, and young i-banker douchebag types who wear too much cologne.  Anyhow, the restaurant was fun, the food was yummy and Asian fusion and plentiful.

Delicious amazing shrimp and lobster spring rolls.
Delicious amazing shrimp and lobster spring rolls.

Delicious amazing tuna tartare over some sort of crispy rice contraption.
Delicious amazing tuna tartare over some sort of crispy rice contraption.

Sushi with salmon, tuna, avocado, and some other things, I think roe was involved.
Sushi with salmon, tuna, avocado, and some other things, I think roe was involved.

Chicken gyoza potsticker things, not as yummy as the other appetizers.
Chicken gyoza potsticker things, not as yummy as the other appetizers.

The appetizers were fairly delicious and, as usual, better than the entrees.  Why are appetizers always better than entrees?  Also, I forgot to take a picture of the entrees before we massacred them, so the following two photos are definitely “after” shots.

Miso glazed sea bass = good, light, sweet but not too sweet.
Miso glazed sea bass = good, light, sweet but not too sweet.
Kung pao chicken was mediocre.  Sometimes you shouldn't listen to the waitress.
Kung pao chicken was mediocre. Sometimes you shouldn't listen to the waitress.
This might be the only picture of either of my parents from this weekend.
This might be the only picture of either of my parents from this weekend.

We decided to forego dessert at Tao because we were stuffed and I convinced my parents that heading to Madison Square Park for custard from the Shake Shack was a better idea.  We did get little chocolate fortune cookies with our check.  These would have been nondescript, if not for the fact that the best fortunes ever were concealed inside the cookie.

My fortune.  Best.
My fortune. Best.

We left Tao and walked from 58th down to Madison Square Park at 5th and 23rd.  A lovely walk: past the gorgeous windows on 5th Avenue, past the New York Public Library at 42nd Street, past the Empire State Building and to the Flatiron Building.  I love walking in this city, especially at night, when it is lovely out, and quiet, and all the familiar sights change.  Walking aimlessly, with no purpose or destination, is something that I will miss when I return to Chapel Hill.

We did, actually, have a destination on this walk: the original location of the Shake Shack for amazing delicious custard. Yes there was a line at 10:00 that looked fairly long.  Luckily said line was just for burgers, as there is a separate/short line for custard orders.  I had a  vanilla concrete (like a Dairy Queen blizzard but with custard) with toffee, chocolate chunks, and hot fudge, and it was rich and delicious and wonderful and the Shake Shack is such an extreme winner, seriously.

Heaven, in a cup.  I hyperbolize not.
Heaven, in a cup. I hyperbolize not.

We then hopped a cab and returned to my apartment and attempted to settle in with three of us and many suitcases and much clutter.  Which is how we still are tonight, Sunday night/Monday morning.  I am mega-behind in blogging–tons happened today, and I will have to catch up when I return to Chapel Hill.  Yes, that is right, I return to Chapel Hill in about eleven hours.  I will hop a plane at La Guardia and then hopefully be back in North Carolina by mid-afternoon.  I have already rambled on about how this makes me both happy and sad (SO MANY EMOTIONS I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO) so I will spare you anything further.  Just expect some sort of New York wrap-up over the next few days as well as some announcements regarding the future of this blog.

Blog to you on the flipside, y’all.

August

How did August happen, seriously?

Anyhow, Friday evening was lovely, despite the horrid rain and humidity.  I met Ashley at the Whitney, which is open late on Fridays, and which also had an evening concert in conjunction with the Dan Graham show.  I believe this is the last of the summer concerts, but really fabulous events will be taking place into the fall regarding the show, so y’all should check it out.  Anyhow, I gave Ashley a tour of the museum–I love giving my friends tours–and of course was all emo about Friday having been my last day.  Sniff, sigh.

After tooling around the Whitney, Ashley and I stopped at Hale and Hearty for dinner and stopped at adorable puppy shop to look at adorable kittens and puppies including adorable King Charles Spaniels in the window so cute.  We then raced to the Met to try to get in a bit of visiting time before it closed at 9:00.  I left Ashley in the Egyptian section and did a quick-race-tour of the new American wing and the Afghanistan show.  The new American wing is beautiful: spacious, airy, regal and dignified, though I’m not sure how well it serves the small decorative artworks.  The Afghanistan show, works from the Kabul museum, was really stunning, gorgeous works in a gorgeous setting.  This might seem like an extremely imperialist not-politically-correct thing to say, but it disturbs/upsets me that the beautiful civilizations of places such as Kabul and Baghdad have crumbled so ingloriously.  That, however, is an essay for another day.

American Wing
American Wing
American Wing
American Wing
American Wing
American Wing

I love the Met.

Ashley and I then went downtown to meet up with Phil at St. Marks Place, though we took a detour to a used book store first and Ashley found the only book about Katherine Hepburn she does not yet own.  We stopped at a shwarma place because Phil needed food, and then we stopped at Red Mango because I always need Red Mango.  And then we stopped at an amazing Japanese grocery store because Japanese grocery stores are fantastic.  Ashley was all flipping out because she rediscovered all her favorite foods that she ate during her brief time in Japan.  We also bought a green-tea-red-bean-paste ball.  It was sweet but I found the filling a little too gritty for my taste, so I gave most of it to Ashley.  So cool!

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We basically spent the rest of the evening wandering around the East Village, seeing what we saw, talking, bemoaning my impending departure from the city and enjoying the fact that the rain had stopped and the night was lovely.  One of my favorite things to do in this city is just to walk and see what you see, with no destination in mind, just the meandering journey through the streets of the city.  And we did see some fun, artsy things in windows.  Including a sign that inspired this photoshoot:

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Aw, my amazing friends.

We also walked by a window installation of a gallery whose name I could not find.  Said installation was of felt-constructed severed heads on sticks.  Piggy has the conch!

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Frida?
Frida?

We eventually ended up in Union Square for a bit more discussion of things such as Xanadu and the singing of songs from Ragtime.  At least I sang.  Nyah.

Oh, two random celebrity sightings from the week:  I saw John Oliver from The Daily Show in front of Cooper Union on Thursday night and we passed LIEV SCHRIEBER (!!!) enjoying dinner at a cafe by Union Square last night.   Eee.

Allright, time to resume readying the apartment for impending parental arrival.  I leave Monday (?!?!?) but am spending the rest of the weekend with the parents, so expect a few more updates before I head back to Chapel Hill.

Waiting for the subway to take me...somewhere...
Waiting for the subway to take me...somewhere...