Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Oh, Alison!

Tonight everybody was screaming "I love you Alison!" People are obsessed with Alison Goldfrapp. I kind of am too.

I remember seeing her on late night TV years ago, singing her single "Utopia," hitting all these bizarrely high notes and thinking she must be lip-synching and then realizing that she wasn't.

I got free tickets to a Goldfrapp show at Irving Plaza around the release of their second album, and I remember not being able to take my eyes of Alison. She had all this sparkly stuff on her face and some crazy flapper outfit on, and given her band's change in musical direction from Portishead rip-off to electro dance, she did all these little moves around the stage. Entrancing.

It's been a few years since I've seen her live but I've been lucky enough to get some freebie promos of all the remixes and singles released since then, and I happily bought the excellent new album Seventh Tree after listening to the full album stream several times over on ArtistDirect.com.

Tonight's show at the Beacon was a little disappointing to me because Alison was recovering from a cold and we got to see her nasty side, stomping off the stage after some technical difficulties, cursing into the mic. But she also had a great little stomping march dance and more sparkly stuff on her face, and despite the cold was able to hit those piercingly high notes in "Utopia" once again. And I was really glad to see her live again, and to be able to share it with Edith.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Not So Perfecto

I did a conference call with Paul Oakenfold today because we didn't want to not do a call with Paul Oakenfold. But in the world of children's music, I don't think there's much we can do with him.

Still, it was a bit of a thrill. And he sounded exactly as I thought he'd sound, pronouncing "direction" as "die-rection" and referring to his son as "my boy."

I wanted to tell him how much I liked "Faster Kill Pussycat" but I got shy.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Best Intentions

I had a lot of good intentions this weekend. I was going to try to lose another 0.5 lbs. I was going to do a load of towels at the laundromat. I was going to find a mate. But as usual, I'm kind of feeling bad on Sunday night, faced with my own failures, dreading the failures I'll encounter in the week ahead.



On Friday when Edith invited me to Shake Shack, we figured we'd walk there from work (a good 30 mins) and we'd only split a burger and nothing else. After waiting in line for 75 minutes - and the "light activity" calories we burned by doing so - I was really wishing for an entire burger to myself. And fries. And custard. And a pizza.



Obviously we were still hungry so we went across the street to Eleven Madison Park for some wine and free bar snacks. Unfortunately they were out of their delicious olives so I ended up snacking on spiced peanuts and some waffle chips. We ordered food and got a mysteriously tiny potato gnocchi dish for $19. We ordered more food and split an unsatisfying pizzetta. I binged on bread basket rolls and butter. We got chatty with Sam, the "wine captain" (aka somellier I suppose), but he left before we were able to say goodbye. I want to fix him up with Michelle.



While leaving Eleven Madison Park, we decided on a trip back to the Zombie Hut on Smith Street in Brooklyn, near the Carroll St. stop. When you're out on a Friday night, you've got enough recovery time in the rest of the weekend so you can tell yourself it's ok to kind of just keep going. Besides, I was getting goo-goo eyes from a pretty cute guy across the bar. Two flaming shots and a tropical frozen bowl shared with Edith and Eric later, the cute guy turned out to be a dud, and I was still starving. Back to Manhattan to Blue Ribbon, which serves food til 4 a.m., to split some catfish with Edith and spill a glass of white wine all over her. Not exactly how I planned to finish the evening off, but clearly I was done for the night.



On Saturday I was feeling guilty about my caloric yet hunger pang-filled evening the night before, so I waited four hours to eat after getting up. I tried to behave myself a little more by having a relatively healthy brunch at Penelope (smoked salmon-wrapped poached eggs) and not drinking at Swift during Daria's party. But talking to Daria's friend who was celebrating her 35th birthday and was totally freaked out really made me want to drink, so we left and stopped at the Bar Veloce-owned Spanish wine and tapas bar Carrera. I threw the food diary out the window, flirted with the swarthy bartender who subsequently disappeared, and drank two glasses of Spanish wine with an order of the pan con tomate (not nearly as good as Bar Jamon or Mercat) and the piquillo pepper.

When we left at 1 a.m. as they were closing, it started to rain so I just gave up and went home.


poached egg with smoked trout
Brunch at Bar Milano today, whose menu continues to impress me, was offset by swimming at NYHRC, but I'm still feeling a bit stagnant. Stagnant physically certainly, but stagnant socially too. I don't know what it really does for me to sit alone at Bar Milano, reading the George Clooney issue of Esquire, and having four different service staff wait on me and ask if everything's ok. Is that really better than being home alone?



I intentionally didn't go to Bar Jamon this weekend because I also don't really know what it does for me to stand there at the bar, drink for free, meet people who I'll never see again, and go home drunk. Sure, I get to chat up the bartender who I love, but it's a bartender who just treats me like a good customer, doesn't really remember anything about my life, doesn't really ask me any questions....Or maybe that just means he's a typical dude.



Anyway I think it's a bit sad that the biggest sense of accomplishment I have over this weekend is getting a mani/pedi and finding a gorgeous Anne Klein coat at Filene's Basement for more than half off.



But I guess I need a bit of calm before I start travelling again. Next stop: Las Vegas and Death Valley.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Little Therapy

It's been a long time since I quit therapy with my clinical social worker Neil, who I verbally abused during our sessions, but I'm still always in the market for a therapeutic spa treatment. When I heard about Spa Week's $50 treatment special at participating spas, I jumped at the chance to try a Swedish massage at my neighborhood place, Essential Therapy. Technically I'd actually missed Spa Week but they extended the special for an extra week.

I like a place that really does it up with the incense, candles, and Indian fabrics. I know it's pretentious and too self-consciously yogic, but it's better than the white clinical look that lots of places go for. At Essential Therapy, the waiting room's floor is made completely of cushions. I like walking on something soft.

I was a little surprised when the guy who came to fetch me was the guy that was going to give me a rubdown, and I felt inclined to warn him that I wasn't wearing any underwear. Normally with a female that's just sort of a courtesy, to establish your nudity as a warning, but with Nick, a very New York-y dude unexpectedly working in such a setting, it felt more like a test.

What was more of a test was my description of all my physical ailments, and he failed miserably by pretending to be perfectly familiar with my disorder and then asking which foot it was in. I spent a minute or two trying to explain it wasn't a foot disorder and he begged to differ, so I just gave up and asked him not to rub me too hard.

In the end it was a pretty good massage, but I'm so spoiled by Deborah at Crunch being so thorough and always running over time that this massage, which was precisely 50 minutes long and skipped my tight chest entirely, felt a bit like a cheat. But at the discounted price of $1/minute, it was a good deal. And I did get a little third eye facial massage action out of it, which was a bonus.

Too bad carrying my gym bag the three blocks home kind of wrecked what the massage accomplished. And if only I weren't so stressed out about everything, I might've been able to enjoy it more.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Lesser of Two Regrets

"You want a bacon-wrapped lamb chop?" Eric was being nice by offering a bite.

"No thanks," I said, not wanting to have to report lamb and bacon in the food diary.

"I really feel like you're missing out on it..." he said, not tauntingly, but honestly. Of course, it was the perfect thing to say to get me to eat the bacon-wrapped lamb chop.

In truth, I always feel like I'm missing out on any food I don't try, even if it's something I know I won't like. When I mushed the fatty bite around in my mouth, I felt a sense of regret eating it, but only for the calories. I probably would have felt a greater sense of regret if I hadn't eaten it.

We were eating dinner Saturday night at Employees Only, a hidden gem of the West Village that's better-known for its fine cocktails than for its food, but it's a great dinner place. Edith and I always look forward to the steak tartare which is rich in shallots, truffled capers, and dijon mustard and hasn't made us sick once despite being raw beef.

I was starving after my Meatpacking District experience, trying to be cool but just being surrounded by hipsters. After getting my hair done, I headed west to check out The Rusty Knot, a somewhat nautically-themed dive bar that serves tiki cocktails and junk bar snacks. The salty pretzel dog is a lovely companion to the minty frozen signature cocktail, especially when you've got someone to share it with. And in between bites you can sing along to "Separate Ways" by Journey, pumping out of the free jukebox.

octopusEven though I'd been there the night before, I also thought I'd be missing out if I didn't stop by Bar Milano on the way home. Friday night's dinner there featured a spring vegetable salad with a garlic anchovy dressing and the grilled octopus in a Meyer lemon reduction with braised fennel and radicchio. Octupus might scare some people but between this dish and the one at Craftbar, it's become totally normal and reliably delicious to me. Saturday night I was full from Employees Only so I skipped the snacks and let the bartender convince me to drink an Old Fashioned made with Virginia Gentleman bourbon, followed by an Old Cuban mixed with honey and some other twist that I was too hung over to remember today.

So together with going to see Priceless at the movies today and dinner at Bar Jamon after, I went out all three days of the weekend this week, a major change from my social patterns of late. The best part? Actually meeting other people who live in my neighborhood who aren't sports bar / Irish pub meatheads.

Any regrets? Only the hangover.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Odd Things

Boy, I really put my foot in my mouth this time. Well, not my foot. A pig's foot.

I ordered the Ragu of Odd Things at Commerce, the new restaurant occupying the former space of Grange Hall and Blue Mill on the wonderfully winding Commerce Street in the West Village. A traditional saucy ragout on orecchiette pasta that tasted like your average beef short ribs but actually consisted of oxtail, tripe (yes, stomach lining) and "trotters" (pig's feet). Most certainly odd, and delicious.
I paired it with a salad of 20 herbs with shaved manchego and a lemon vinaigrette, plus a tasting of every type of bread in the basket, from olive muffin to pretzel. Delicious.
After a Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley (which I hope to visit within the next year) and the Santa Julia Torrontes, I was ready to see the Albee show at the Cherry Lane Theater. Not even tempted by dessert.
And although my dish didn't arrive with a big cloven foot in the middle of my bowl, I was glad I was adventurous enough to order it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Fifth Taste

Edith's and my interests are starting to get so niche, we're going to just have to throw our own events just for the two of us. Last Friday we decided to participate in the Umami Festival celebrating the fifth taste, though oddly attending an event celebrating one of the four tastes, salty.



I didn't know there was such a thing as a salt tasting (having already missed the Umami Festival's water tasting, which is even more bizarre to me) but I was really curious to try it. I'd already experienced the subtle differences between table salt, sea salt and fleur de sel, so I was hoping for some really bizarre stuff.



When we got to the venue, we were the first to arrive and we were certain we'd be the only ones. We faced a room full of folding chairs with paper plates set on the seat, replete with a sampler of five salts and cucumber palate cleansers. In the end, some other people did show up, but boy was it a weird crowd.



Turns out salt can be pink and can be smoky. I really liked the Salish smoked salt from Washington State, which reminded me of smoked fish and really made me want to drink some tequila.



After the tasting we got to "enjoy" a performance art piece that was essentially a musical installation featuring a guy playing various kitchen utensils, appliances and cookware in a one-man symphony of cacophony. The sound of the blenders and the hot air popcorn popper were cool, but all the banging eventually got to me and I had to get out of there.



Fortunately we were able to get a relatively normal dinner at new restaurant Smith's, featuring some of the best devilled eggs I've had and some really delicious brussel sprouts. And a bartender that didn't buy back anything and charged us a million dollars for our wine. Not cool.

Still, a good Friday night out, especially in an era when I'm normally too tired to even go out on a Friday.