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Posts Tagged ‘NYC’

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.

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?

Cheese, Glorious Cheese

Hello, again. Let’s not comment too much on my absence and just say that it takes a good seven days to recover from a twelve-day trip. I don’t know where the other week went.

Our local farmer’s market has been rather consistent over the past year. Except for Ballard’s Honey, no new tents popped up when the market reopened in June. So it was with great delight that I noticed two or three new vendors this past Saturday. And I can’t tell you who all of them were, because everyone else was overshadowed by the offerings of Ardith Mae Farm. Shereen and Todd Wilcox milk about 40 goats in Hallstead, Pennsylvania, and the resulting cheese is some of the best I’ve ever tasted from a sheep, goat or cow.

At this point I should note that the Apparently family doesn’t know a great deal about some foodie topics that people really pride themselves for enjoying, like Burgundy vintages or heirloom beans or cacao percentages. But we know our cheese around here, and this is the good stuff.

We tried the chevre, which was a solid, delicious offering, but it was a single taste of a peppercorn pyramid that won me over. Mr Apparently and I tried to make this piece of cheese last for more than two meals, but it was simply impossible. With its subtle bloomy rind, spicy peppercorns and fluffy, chalky center, the half-pyramid that we purchased was devoured within 24 hours.

You can find places where one can purchase Ardith Mae Farmstead Goat Cheese here, or just head to the Sunnyside Greenmarket!

Also, thanks to the NY Department of Agriculture and Markets for rescinding their ridiculous decree handed down in June (or rather, suddenly enforced after 40 years on the books) that prohibited artisanal cheese vendors from slicing and packaging cheese to order at markets. Customers and headline writers are happy once again.

 

I Have No Opinion About My Neck.

nora ephron

I’ve just finished reading Nora Ephron’s new book, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. Of course, this book is not actually new. It came out in 2006, but I got pregnant the same month it hit the shelves and so I’m several years behind on all popular media and culture. Yesterday at the gym I finally saw a Lady Gaga video.

I came across Ephron’s book at the library and felt I should read it based on the fact that it is dense with stories of living in New York City, which are exactly the sort of stories that I love, and also because I sat next to Nora and Rebecca Pidgeon at a Ricky Jay performance in 2009, on the day my cat died. The cat is irrelevant to this story but I’ve just read two hundred pages of Nora Ephron and so extraneous details are bound to make it into whatever I have to say for the next forty-eight hours. I also have no great love for Rebecca Pidgeon, but as long as I’m name dropping I might as well get Nick Pileggi, Nora’s husband, in there as well. He sat to her left.

Another reason I thought I should read this book is that Nora’s two favorite topics at the moment are aging and New York City, and since I am not getting any younger and live in Queens I thought she might have some erudite advice. It turns out, however, that Nora Ephron is not like you and me. She may rationalize all her purchases based on amortizing them to the cost of a cappuccino, but she still owns a home on the Upper East Side and has her hair blown out twice a week.

I like the way Nora thinks, but perhaps I’m just not old enough for her insight yet. I’m older than twenty-six, the age at which she feels, in retrospect, that one should parade around wearing a bikini as often as possible, but I’ve yet to replace all my shirts with black turtlenecks. I do, however, agree that “The reason you’re waking up in the middle of the night is the second glass of wine,” and I currently have a blackberry-yogurt pie with a Keebler graham-cracker crust in the oven, because “There’s no point in making piecrust from scratch.”

In writing this post, I discovered that Nora has a new book, by which I mean one that came out last year. It’s apparently about aging and memory. I hope to read it before 2015, but only if I can remember.

Le Pain Quotidien’s Harvest Porridge

I’m no fan of chain restaurants, but the Belgian bakery chain Le Pain Quotidien can have my $3.25 for a decaf cafe au lait any day. I love the (reclaimed) communal tables, I love drinking (organic) coffee from a bowl and I love any (sugar-laden, highly calorific) baked good they care to put in front of me. Raisin bread topped with fresh ricotta and drizzled with honey and figs tastes even better when you call it a tartine.

harvest porridge

photo from Le Pain Quotidien

My all-time favorite dish at Le Pain Quotidien is a winter special called Harvest Porridge. It’s an oatmeal-like mush made from farro, almond milk and dried cranberries with pecans, walnuts and a quartered strawberry on top. I never ate oatmeal as a child, and even now I prefer it heavily sweetened, preferably with chocolate chips and marshmallows, a last reminder of the sort of communal living one does in one’s early twenties, where four young artists share a house but rarely go food shopping, leaving one to forage for midnight snacks concocted from whatever pantry staples are on hand. That is to say, hot cereal in its most nutritious form has mostly escaped me.

Until the porridge, which I ate on every trip to LPQ in the winter of 2009-10. And oh, was I disappointed to find it was not the seasonal special when I visited last fall. But to my great surprise, yesterday’s trip revealed the porridge at the top of the specials board. I cried out in surprise and delight, amusing the diners seated on either side of us (who surely and wrongly expected that my son, rather than myself, would be the one to disturb their meal. He, by the way, prefers the pain au chocolat and a soft-boiled egg).

And now I will stop rhapsodizing about the porridge and point you to both the recipe, reprinted at The White Blue Sky from Shape Magazine, and a blog called Northeast Locavore, who seems to be equally fond of the stuff and has already done thorough research on cooking farro and has adapted the recipe to ingredients you may be more likely to have on hand.

Thanks to both of them. And now I am off to order some farro.

Mmm, Tasty: Brooklyn Flea

Every since I picked up a promotional postcard at the Renegade Craft fair two years ago, I’ve been itching to visit the Brooklyn Flea. Last month Mr. Apparently took advantage of a solo morning to check it out, despite protests that I wanted to go as well. Since he brought home a little vintage glass bell for displaying my grandmother’s watch-brooch, I forgave him, but I’ve been eager for a next trip.

brooklyn flea

This morning he planned to take Apparently Jr. to the Flea while I went to the gym. Wisely, I postponed my plans. The day was perfect for a visit to Fort Greene, the Brooklyn neighborhood we’d briefly considered several years ago. It’s way more charming there now.

And the Flea was impressive, not only for the vintage and antique vendors who actually had stuff worth perusing at the relatively late hour of 11am (eyeglass frames, anyone? multiple sellers!), but most notably for the food purveyors, who offered everything from freshly ground brewed coffee, lobster rolls and buffalo jerky to artisanal okra pickles and organic hot dogs with Japanese curry and kimchi…on the same dog.

Having recently watched a video on how hot dogs are made, I opted out of that particular delicacy, but I did indulge in a pulled pork sandwich and had a taste of an even better one made by two guys from Porchetta NYC. They don’t even have a tent, just a table with a metal bin piled with hard rolls, a roasted Niman Ranch pork loin and a big knife. At some point a smear of pesto made its way into the sandwich. It was perfect.

Mr Apparently’s bahn-mi style Asia Dog was deemed tasty, but not as delicious as his previous order of the aforementioned curry and kimchi version.

All sandwiches were, however, overshadowed by the incredibly delectable “Bonfire” caramel/ chocolate/meringue stroopwafel from The Good Batch. Described to us as “like a s’more,” it was considerably more delicate and salted-caramel-laden, and thus more delicious. I apologize for not snapping a photo of my son’s face covered in in meringue-marshmallow goodness, but my fingers were too sticky even to consider reaching for the camera. Lest you wonder what a stroopwafel looks like, here’s a shot of a different offering from The Good Batch’s web site:

stroopwafel from The Good Batch

Thank goodness for nap time. The prospect of a 45-minute train ride with an oversugared, fading toddler drove us away before we could indulge further, but not before securing macaroons and a chocolate brownie cookie (vendor unknown, but I’m guessing Choice Market) for future experimentation. Would it surprise you to learn that Apparently Jr’s first words upon waking were, “Can I have a bite of the brownie now?”

Suffice it to say, I spent nap time at the gym.

Maker Faire, Part Two: Robots and More Robots

This part is going to be brief. There were robots. And more robots. Then tacos and some amazing strawberry lemonade, and then more robots.

Makers love robots. Next to the craft pavilions were two more huge tents: one filled with adult robot enthusiasts and the other, Youth Makers, with kid robot enthusiasts. (Not Kid Robot, that’s entirely different.) OK, so perhaps a few of the exhibitors showed creations that weren’t robots, like light-up anglerfish sculptures and various plushies stuffed with lights. Maybe there was one guy making digital name tags, another scanning book pages and oh, these metal sculptures were pretty cool. Also, I enjoyed watching the little Kelvin Generator make sparks. And someone had created a pulley system that generated music. But seriously? 80% of what I saw involved robots, Arduino boards and/or remote-controlled conveyances.

LEGOSThe Young Makers tent was almost identical except for the youthful excitement and a lot of LEGOS. We had trouble getting the kid to leave the Robofun booth, because they handed him the controller to a LEGO car. I thought we were going to spend the whole morning there.

Inside the museum we found one hundred more exhibitors, most with their own special type of robot. I don’t mean to sound snarky, but I did reach a point where enough was enough. Just because you can successfully build a kit that you ordered online (or matriculated in NYU’s ITP program) does not mean you have earned your own exhibition booth. And if you have one anyway, you should be required to be able to hold an intelligent conversation about what you’ve invented. That said, I had my voice turned into a sculpture with speaker wire, turned a story into knitting and played with various RC devices. We also were able to enjoy the NY Hall of Science itself, including its blissful air conditioning, and to spend a few minutes with the best museum exhibit ever, Mathematica, which I recall fondly from many, many visits to Boston’s Museum of Science. We now return you to your Maker Faire programming:

The best low-tech spectacle I saw was undoubtedly the Egg-Bot, “an open-source art robot that can draw on spherical or egg-shaped objects.” It was incredibly mesmerizing…

Egg-Bot

What did we miss? Everything large-scale. I can’t speak to the life-size mousetrap, the MakerBot and ShopBot, the Diet Coke and Mentos fountains, anything presented by a car company or that required the signing of a waiver. But we did glimpse bicycles that emitted fire, Science Friday’s Ira Flatow and a steampunk guy on a giant tricycle who informed me I was a brave woman for crossing his path.

Did I love it? Yes. Was I the target audience? Only partially. Would I go back? Absolutely.

Maker Faire in Brief…Part One

Maker Faire

Robyn Love's Message to the Universe

Please don’t expect this to be a thorough recap of the World Maker Faire NYC experience, because it would be absolutely impossible to have seen the whole thing in 4.5 hours with a toddler. But what we did see was spectacular, and even the kid – perhaps I should say, especially the kid – had a blast. Some top-of-mind thoughts:

We went on the first day, right when it opened at 10am. I’d recommend this for most large scale events, particularly those populated by enthusiasts and semi-professionals, as everyone’s spirits are high on Day One. The sun wasn’t too strong yet and all the vendors and makers we visited were excited and high-energy. We headed first to the craft pavilions, taking a quick look at some of the vendor booths in the BUST Craftacular…but I’ll confess that I wasn’t too excited about looking at more handmade soap and silkscreened tees. You know how I feel about silkscreened tees.

The craft activities, on the other hand, were not busy yet and loads of fun. The kid and I made a bottlecap ring by fitting a spider button and some sparkly beads into a pre-assembled blank and covering the whole thing with ModPodge Dimensional Magic. AND, they gave me a little bottle of ModPodge to take with me. Yay for sponsors.

Lion Brand Yarn, Red Heart Yarns and a knitters guild (I missed the name, sorry) offered yarn and needles to anyone willing to sit down for a lesson. The knitters guild even had lovely rosewood needles from Lantern Moon, which was delightfully generous. Lots of people were learning to knit! And crochet. And cross-stitch.

Xyron encouraged people to decorate picture frames with stickers and even gave me a Magic Sticker Maker, which is a neat little device that makes stickers out of any flat paper shape, but googling reveals it to be a discontinued product. So I’m not going to get too attached to it. Did I mention it’s totally cool? We have 19 feet of stickability remaining…

Martha Stewart Living’s area encouraged you to cut out and attach to a stick one of the giant orange butterflies featured in the October issue. The big monarch butterflies people carried all around the fair lent additional color and whimsy to the day.

So yes, the craft pavilions were well worth a visit. Everyone was so friendly and generous, including my favorite BurdaStyle booth, who offered one-on-one instruction to make a drawstring bag on a sewing machine. I didn’t have time to do this, but they sent me home with fabric and ribbon to make my own. Thanks as always, BurdaStyle! (And thanks also to Lion Brand for the huge tote bag into which I put all this crafty stuff.)

Clif HatAs we left the craft areas, we ran to the Clif Kid folks, who encouraged my little one to decorate a recycled-cardboard hat with all manner of googly eyes, stick-on letters and pom-pom aliens. This was a perfect activity for kids, and they of course sent us away with samples of their new chocolate chip organic Zbar, which turns out to be pretty tasty for a packaged snack. Score another one for marketing/branding goodwill ambassadors!

Also of note was fiber artist Robyn Love’s Send a Message to the Universe, in which she yarnbombed a rocket with squares knitted and crocheted by over 100 different people. Including me and several knitters in our neighborhood. And now that the Faire is over, the piece and extra squares have gone to Lion Brand, who donated the yarn, to be made into blankets for Warm Up America. Lovely.

Oops, this was not meant to be entirely a craft recap. But I do commend the staff behind the now-online-only CRAFT Magazine for making the most of its second-tier status next to the robot enthusiasts, arduino programmers and fire-breathing-bicycle operators. Next post, the MAKE portion of Maker Faire…

Roosevelt Island: Living in the Future, 35 Years Ago

Roosevelt Island's Trash System

Roosevelt Island fascinates me. Currently a car-free community to about 12,000 residents, this small island in the East River has previously housed a prison and an insane asylum, but now serves as home mostly to Manhattan office workers.

Wired has a fascinating photo essay on the pneumatic trash system used to keep the island free of garbage-collection trucks. The only other system of its kind in the U.S. is used at Disney World. Europe and Asia, of course, are full of such progressive systems.

New York City’s Trash-Sucking Island | Gadget Lab | Wired.com.

All’s Wells

M WellsStorkbite Stew nearly had a conniption when she heard that Hugue Dufour, formerly of Au Pied de Cochon, and his wife planned to open a new restaurant in Long Island City. Despite a complete lack of signage, the old dining car has indeed been transformed into a vibrant new diner called M. Wells.

Thanks to the complete ineptitude of my local branch of Bank of America, which does not deserve a link, I had the pleasure of pushing fifty pounds of stroller to LIC yesterday, where only the thought of some newfangled old-style Québécois food saw me through. (Yes, we could have taken the subway, but would you want your toddler loose in the bank while you signed all sorts of papers? I didn’t think so.) So we hiked across the trainyard overpass and squinted curiously at the unadorned dining car. A lovely server came outside and held the door while I carried the stroller up the steps, at which point I knew this was going to be pleasant in a way that the bank was not.

Let me veer off on a tangent to confess that I am a complete and total lightweight where alcohol is concerned, and the previous evening I had consumed an entire Corona (the horror!) followed by a 4-hour car ride marked by winding twists and turns. I also had not drunk enough water. So I’d awoken vaguely hung over and still slightly carsick, and the menu at M. Wells spoke deeply to me: in which form would I take my grease? Egg-Sausage sandwich? Bacon, Egg and Potato Hash? Oh no, gentle readers, like the wise Superfast Reader, whose visit we apparently had followed by mere minutes, I chose wisely and shared with Apparently Jr the Crab, Egg and Potato Hash, the subdescription of which promised “Corn Chowder & Hollandaise.” And this is what appeared:

M WellsIsn’t it lovely? Don’t you just want to paint it, or photograph it? I did. And then we ate all of it, along with a hefty slice of Blueberry-Banana Bread and a tall glass of lemonade, which I thought needed sugar but Apparently Jr deemed “not too sour.”

M WellsConsider this not a review but rather an impression, because obviously one cannot judge a restaurant solely on the basis of one trip and three items, but suffice it to say that everything was delicious, the Elvis on the stereo perfectly matched the old-style dining car and the service was a perfect blend of friendly/attentive and hands-off. They were not at all concerned about stashing my stroller in a corner, and although we happened to be the only party at our communal table, I would have found it entirely pleasant to share. The clientele was a diverse mix of hipsters, blue-collar workers and a dad with his son, twirling on the stools at the counter.

I fully intend to bring Mr. Apparently to M. Wells for a next visit, and I look forward to seeing what items they’ll add to the menu when they start serving dinner.