a p p a r e n t l y

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The Dog and Duck

The Dog and Duck, SunnysideThanks to the wonder that is my neighborhood babysitting co-op, Mr Apparently and I were able to spend a lovely Valentine’s Day dinner on our own in this new-ish local establishment. If I recall correctly, The Dog and Duck, which took over the space vacated by Bliss, opened just before the holidays in December. And the reports I heard from friends in the neighborhood were uniformly bad. But the space looks terrific and I wanted to see for myself, so we gave them a while to get the kinks worked out and chose last night for our visit.

I will offer this caveat: Valentine’s Day may not be the best day to judge a restaurant.

Our experience did not begin well. We arrived at the relatively early hour of 6:30. Only two tables were seated. Our lack of reservations confused the hostess somewhat, but she amiably offered us the table to either side of the door or an incredibly romantic banquette awkwardly tucked behind the only two patrons at the bar. She also offered to “set a table” for us if we’d like to wait at the bar, and so we did. All the tables were already set for service, but clearly this was some sort of restaurant-speak for “you didn’t make a reservation, and so you will have to wait.”

At the bar, we were asked, “Whadda yiz guys want?” By now I was ready to abandon ship and head over to Claret, but we asked for a menu and, after being asked again what the bartender could get for “yiz guys,” we each selected a beer from the eight or ten offered on tap. The tap to the Newcastle, however, wasn’t working. The hostess invited us to our table by pointing to it and noting that we could go there whenever we pleased. I ordered a bottle of Blue Point. The whole experience was confusing. We paid for the beer and moved to the table.

Once seated in the most secluded and rather lovely corner of the restaurant, we were able to breathe and look around. The venue has been built out beautifully. When the staff is moving at an appropriate pace, it feels like a fine dining experience. Each fixture and fabric has clearly been chose with utmost care. I loved just sitting there.

Our server, while charming, had to check with the kitchen to answer each of our questions about the menu. He was amiable, with the slightly mocking smile of a young Christian Slater. Once we’d ordered, our appetizers came out quickly. The restaurant began to fill up.

From the special menu, a salad of lobster poached in butter with citrus was a disappointment. The lobster meat tasted dry and bland; the citrus and balsamic overpowered it. In the dimly lit room, the cubes of lobster and citrus appeared identical, resulting in a strange, unwelcome game of roulette with each bite. But a generous serving of duck liver pate, served in a mason jar with thick bread and cranberry jam, was absolutely delicious (and available on the regular menu). The experience was improving, although our empty plates sat on the table for quite a long time, until another waiter noticed and whisked them away. This attention, however, wreaked some sort of havoc with the flow of service, as we sat unattended for quite some time following.

Stick with me here. This is the good part.

Our entrees were excellent. Fabulous. Incredibly sound and wonderful food. My filet mignon was cooked exactly as I’d requested, was generous without being overwhelming, and was covered with just enough melted blue cheese to add to its flavor without becoming a cheeseburger. A large portion of Gruyère gratineed potatoes and a small serving of sauteed spinach rounded out the plate. Mr Apparently’s lamb shank, I’m told, was equally pleasing. (Dear Reader, of course he offered me a bite, but lamb is just not my thing.)

By this time, the staff could have used roller skates. Each server and manager moved so quickly as to be a danger to those in their paths. More than once I witnessed a hasty runner dash to the center of the dining room, only to realize he had no idea where to deliver those plates he carried. The flow of traffic was odd, as if the more trips around the dining room a server made, the more he might be able to accomplish, rather than simply handling what was required within arm’s reach and then moving on.

I had ordered the prix fixe, and so an attractive dessert of strawberry mousse in a freestanding chocolate quasi-heart shape was set before us.  I had not been enthusiastic about the dessert options, but the mousse turned out to be delicious, right down to the garnish. The menu also pronounced chocolate-dipped strawberries to be part of the meal; they were not forthcoming. A cup of decaf tasted as if it had been made earlier in the day.

By the time we were ready to leave, we could not. The place was packed, and only by closely following a server could we finagle our way from the back of the house to the door. Everyone was boisterous and happy, and there was not a seat or perch to be had.

In summary: a mixed experience. The restaurant looks more formal than the menu and staff prove it to be, and so one’s expectations should not be set too high. The kitchen seems to have their act together to a greater degree than the front-of-house staff. The well-appointed tables in the back corner offer privacy and even charm, except during frequent moments when a porter opens a door to the brightly-lit basement stairs to deliver provisions to the kitchen.

I would suggest timing your visit on a weeknight, when you can sit for a while and enjoy the atmosphere. I expect The Dog and Duck will become a much-loved local establishment, certainly offering a more comfortable experience than Bar 43 and even a more refined atmosphere than Quaint. The food shows great promise. Just be prepared for a disconnect between the look of the venue, the quality of the food, and the overall visit that you will have: the room promises a type of experience that, at least at present, it cannot deliver.

How to Peel a Head of Garlic in 10 Seconds

Holy garlic, Batman. Are you one of those people for whom the odor of garlic just sticks to your fingers for days? I am. I love the stuff, but I don’t love smelling it on my fingertips at 7am.

I do have one of those silicone roller devices, and it works well to remove the papery garlic skin. But there’s still a lot of handling involved.

Now those nice people at Saveur.com have saved me from ever having to peel garlic again.

via Man Made DIY | Crafts for Men

Busytown Fabric!

Richard Scarry gets a lot of snuggle-up-with-a-book time in our house. Now, what to make with this new yardage due out in October?


Busytown Fabric from Quilting Treasures.

Why you should buy local wool, from WhipUp.net

“Processing wool in Australia is fast becoming a dying art, and wool needs to stay in Australia for creation from sheep to skein in order to support small farmers and micro business.”

Kylie Gusset wants Australian wool to be processed in Australia. Most Australian merino is shipped to China to be cleaned and is then sent back to Australia for spinning.

Does American wool go to China for scouring? What about all the lovely wool from South America?

I’m curious to learn more about the process of making commercial yarn. Not to mention commercial ice cream (also mentioned in the article).

You can help fund Kylie’s project on Pozible, a crowdsourced funding platform similar to Kickstarter.

Why you should buy local wool — whip up.

A Rainy Sunday Project: Alien “Uglydoll”

lpq

Saturday morning we had breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien, where I tried the Oatmeal with Stone Fruits and Granola to see if it held a candle to my beloved Harvest Porridge. (It was tasty, but it’s no farro porridge.) After a trip to Hecksher Playground, via the most strange entrance to any public playground ever, we found ourselves at the mecca of all things toys, FAO Schwartz.

We followed an unfortunate employee sporting a giant life-size Uglydoll costume to the cars and trucks department. Apparently Jr was fascinated by the Uglydoll. I reminded him that he has one – it’s “out of rotation” in his closet. When we arrived home he was insistent that we immediately find the little green plushie, who was given a place of honor on his pillow.

Yesterday Mr A and I were informed that the Uglydoll was lonely and needed a friend. Because apparently the stuffed dinosaur, crayfish, dog, manatee, gnome, Totoro and robot plus the three plastic bugs that live on his bed are not enough? Regardless, supplies were gathered. Jr was very specific as to the number of eyes (3) and their location, as well as the number of legs (also 3). Mr Apparently made sketches. I was dispatched to the sewing machine, where an old pair of wool pants was dissected and emerged as the alien’s body.

garblidge

Meet the newest member of the menagerie, Garblidge. He eats bug sandwiches.

For Michael

When I first met Michael, he looked like a girl. We were 18, and he was playing Sebastian in a college production of Twelfth Night. His hair had been cut and highlighted to match the pixie ‘do of the woman playing Viola. That the two were a couple at the time made it all the more bizarre. This was just the first of the ridiculous juxtapositions that I would discover Michael consumed as a sort of alternative fuel.

michael mclaughlin

Joel, me, Michael in Norfolk MA, 1996

Our friendship was fast, strong and not unlike an onion. His first dorm room contained a giant inflatable snake; his last was a tiny, secluded haven imbued with a faint scent of Indian cigarettes.

After the diaspora of graduation, living in different states and time zones in the last decade before long-distance was essentially free, we turned to letters. Stacks of letters. He would mail multiple mismatched pages scrawled on the backs of old resumes and tiny fringed papers torn from spiral-bound notebooks. The pages would encompass several days, sometimes weeks, revealing out-and-about musings from the Hungarian Pastry Shop or a shaded bench in his hometown. The return addresses were often absurd: “Bureau of the Internal Revenue, Office 4.” His envelopes tied shut with string and paper buttons.

michael mclaughlin

Lauren, Michael, me, Deanna. August 2006

We etched a skewed parallelogram over the country: California, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts. Whenever we were in the same state, which turned out to be surprisingly often, Michael and I would meet for dinner. We’d conjure up novel ways to hire each other for film projects and guest-artist lectures.

michael mclaughlin

Manhattan, 2006

Michael and I lived in Boston at the same time, and then moved to New York at the same time. We held candles with his neighbors on September 12. He talked me into a trip to New York to perform in one of his puppet plays, long after I’d stopped performing. He always created the puppet costumes at the eleventh hour.

michael mclaughlin

Sunnyside, 2008

michael mclaughlin

Sunnyside, 2008

My neighborhood is something of a haven for our college crowd, and by the time he was to drown in Mexico two years ago, we had reduced our wingspan from two thousand miles to four blocks. He was one of the first people to hold my newborn son. We made fewer plans yet enjoyed more spontaneous cocktails.

michael mclaughlin

Michael filming Richard Serra, 2006

Two years, or twenty-three, have gone into writing this post. It’s just a snapshot; anything else I might like to say veers into territory too emotional or personal. But Michael is disappearing from the web, and I want him to have just a tiny place that is still google-able. He will always be right here.

michael mclaughlin

Dia: Beacon, 2006

michael mclaughlin

Dia: Beacon, 2006

Summer Stash

I once really enjoyed stashing yarn; now I tend to purchase it only by the project. Because seriously, unless you’re exclusively a sock knitter, how could you possibly just intuit how much of a particular yarn you’ll need for some undefined future sweater?

I break this rule regularly for gorgeous single skeins while on vacation.

Also, the one under-the-bed box I allow myself for storing yarn is completely full. Mostly of gorgeous single skeins purchased on vacations.

In the past couple of years, I’ve found much more enjoyment in stashing fabric. I’m still somewhat tame; I tend to make just one or two orders of unpremeditated – that is, not earmarked for a particular project – yardage orders each year. And I really do try to use up stash fabrics before buying new. Again, however, exceptions are easily made while traveling.

I love to knit, but rarely do I take out the box of yarn and gaze at its possibilities. Each of those single skeins will ultimately end up as a lace shawl or lovely scarf. I learned my lesson with the beret. But the fabric…it’s so delightful to dream up a project, or be inspired by a tutorial, and riff through the stash to select which fabrics to use.

Mr Apparently gave me a bias tape maker and Ellen Luckett Baker’s book 1-2-3 Sew for my birthday, and so clearly a little stash renewal was in order. Look at this restraint! Only 7 yards!

summer stash

That’s because I have a gift certificate to Hawthorne Threads pinned up over my desk, waiting patiently.

 

Summer’s Crafty Goodness

Why is it that I always find myself sewing – which by its nature means, turning on the iron – on the hottest days of the year? Apparently heat inspires me. Here are just a few of several projects I’ve completed lately.

magnolia hat

This sun hat was a commission from a lovely friend. The inside has a little secret – a contrasting fabric with a pretty picture that reminds me of her. I’m not going to show you what it is, but I’ll tell you it’s a Heather Ross fabric.

manly pincushions

A bride-to-be in California commissioned two Very Manly Pincushions for her wedding. I’m not entirely clear on the role they’ll play, but I love that she’s doing something very creative!

nesting hen pincushion

We made a trip to Fish’s Eddy, where we got some new egg cups. This means that the nesting hen egg cups I bought at Anthropologie a few years ago (and which really aren’t very good at holding eggs) – will be repurposed.

I couldn’t resist a piece of this Suzuko Koseki linen fabric printed with vintage sewing images, and so of course it became a potted pincushion.

The FedEx man just rang with a package I’d forgotten about – a fresh stack of fabric! Stay tuned for pix…

Ramen, Really: Chang’s Lucky Peach

So after a couple of excellent pizzas at Vapiano, we walked over to the Strand for some book browsing. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about the Strand; surely everyone who has ever set foot in NYC has been to its 55,000 square feet containing over 18 miles of books. And if you haven’t been there in some time, you should return – a recent(ish) renovation has left the store more spacious and easier to navigate than in years past.

We didn’t plan to buy any books. Famous last words, right? After our recent trip upstate, we returned with a shopping bag full of fiction, economic theory, Richard Scarry and the odd embroidery stitch dictionary. It’s not like we need any more books. But I have a weakness for the children’s section, and the last time we went I hadn’t had enough time to do any browsing for myself. As my high school math teacher often said, “You people can rationalize anything.”

We exercised restraint. Mr Apparently discovered the exact book I was planning to give him for his upcoming birthday. Apparently Jr came home with Picasso and Minou"" “>a lavishly-illustrated book about Picasso. I found Lucky Peach, a new food quarterly conceived and executed by Momofuku’s David Chang, writer Peter Meehan, and the team behind Tony Bourdain’s No Reservations.

And to seal the deal, the first issue is almost entirely devoted to ramen. In a previous iteration of this blog, I wrote a post outlining the Apparently family’s mid-2000′s obsession with the noodly stuff. It turns out that in NYC, we have barely scratched the surface. Japan offers no fewer than 20 regional variations – on what is originally Chinese fare – and even has a museum devoted to ramen history and lore.

I can’t think of the last time I’ve spent so much time with a magazine, and I’m only halfway through its thick, glossy pages. Did you know that the Deep South has its own variation on ramen? Or that Ruth Reichl used to toss the packets, doctor up the instant noodles and serve them to her son’s friends? Next in my queue: two articles by Harold McGee (whose classic On Food and Cooking, by the way, is illustrated by a Sunnysider). And then off to McSweeney’s for a subscription, which they wisely begin with Issue 2.

See a peek of Lucky Peach at the Huffington Post. (Steel yourself for some profane language, although in a surprise move, it’s Bourdain who comes off as the soft-spoken one in this lot.) And let me know what you think in the comments.

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Ramen

Every so often the Apparently family hops on the 7 train into Manhattan with only a vague destination in mind. Last night we found ourselves aiming for Madison Square Park, because we thought the line at Shake Shack might not be so onerous at 4:30pm. We were mistaken. Even on a Saturday afternoon, everyone wants an upscale hot dog.

Several happy discoveries were made from this false start:

photo from madisonsquarepark.org

1. Cool yet disconcerting art by Jaume Plensa in Madison Square Park.

2. The recently-opened NYC outpost of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. If ever there were a yuppie cheese shop, this is it. Everything is minimally designed yet handsomely packaged, and you can buy several kinds of frozen mac & cheese starting at $8.75 a box. But oh, the selection of their own and other’s cheeses, and oh, the farmhouse-table dark Cellar restaurant that just begs for a return visit. Those pictures don’t do The Cellar justice – for a below-ground space, it’s lovely.

3. Union Square Park Playground. We’re behind the curve on this one, but this awesome playground is far superior to the generic Luna Park restaurant that preceded it. Apparently Jr loved the real rocks to climb and the secret path through greenery to the slide entrance; his parents loved the very enclosed nature of the whole playground and its slightly hipster attitude: really steep slides, plenty of stuff to climb and weird human-sized metal cattails.

We made our way to Vapiano, a very bizarre Italian cafeteria-style bar and restaurant that is absolutely perfect for people with kids and also probably a good place to meet a large group of friends. Each adult receives a chip card upon entering, and all purchases are scanned to the card; you pay when you leave. Vapiano’s offerings include solid renditions of classic Italian staples: pizza, pastas, panini. The seating areas, full of wood tables with marble insets holding oils and pots of rosemary, has enough ambience for both adults and kids to feel they’re at an actual restaurant, but is casual enough that a fidgety preschooler can take a walk without being given the stink-eye by other patrons. Apparently Jr is generally good at restaurants, and so it’s amusing that Mr A and I like Vapiano for these particular reasons. We also like the food!

What does all this have to do with ramen, you may ask? This post is so much longer than I’d planned – you’ll have to wait until the next post to find out! But muse on this: what would happen if David Chang, Tony Bourdain and McSweeney’s had a love child? It would be a lucky little peach, wouldn’t it?