Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hungry for a Tad Bit More From Fine Dining

The guacomole for two, above, is on the Restaurant Week menu at Rosa Mexicana but will cost lone diners $7 extra. Alas, inviting cuts of steak such as the Angus, below, are not on most steakhouse RW menus. Top photo from www.rosamexicana.com; bottom from www.delmonicosny.com.

I arrive a few minutes late, but it is clear from observing a full house of lunch patrons who seem in no hurry to leave that my hosts are not ready to receive me.

After about 15 minutes Yours Truly is seated at a table for four at Café Boulud. On the NYC Restaurant Week Summer 2010 menu, there are only three selections for each course. I start with the Summer Corn Chowder (w/espelette, scallions, vanilla oil), followed by the Roasted Leg of Lamb (w/polenta gnocchi, heirloom tomatoes, mushrooms, rosemary jus). Is there any question that I will not have the Strawberry Parfait for dessert (cheese cake, berry compote, vanilla Chantilly)?

I am sitting contentedly, alternately reading my romance novel (a stress reliever) and looking about me at the well-orchestrated operation that is Café Boulud. It is clear by what I can see on the plates of other diners that there are quite a few people experiencing Café Boulud at RW prices ($24.07/$35 for lunch/dinner). Just as I am about to return to my heroine and hero who are taking a rather scandalous stroll into the bowels of Vauxhall Gardens, a server visits with an amuse-bouche in the form of a risotto ball. It is served in a miniature shallow bowl on top of a pile of uncooked rice. A very nice presentation. When I bite into the ball an explosion of flavors is set off on my palate. It is a good beginning.

Soon after, a server brings me slices of baguette and butter, which I eat sparingly until the arrival of the chowder in a bowl a hair smaller than a tea cup. There is no corn visible in the chowder, yet it is massively redolent of sweet corn. It’s as if I am eating straight from the cob. There are the other agreeable flavors, too, i.e., vanilla oil. Clearly, though, the corn is the star of the dish.

Much the same is my experience with the latter two courses. I am eating each element separately to get its unique flavor. And then together with the others for the cacophony. No doubt, this is the way Tom Colicchio/Padma Lakshmi and the other “Top Chef” judges experience food all the time. It is also very much like listening to jazz or symphonic music.

Several times my server or one of the others stops by to ensure I am enjoying myself. Incidentally, the service is very good. There is a retinue of fetchers and carriers. All men. One whom I believe is the captain on two separate visits asks my opinion of the meal. Because I am at a Michelin-star establishment and wish to speak intelligently about the food, I am not so laconic and trite as to utter, “It’s good.” I share my assessment of the chowder, disclosing that I grew up eating sweet corn.

At the completion of my meal after tea, which I took with complementary Madeleines that arrived warm and ensconced in a pristine white napkin fancifully arranged like a bag with folds, the captain again solicits feedback. Everything is marvelous, I give him to know. I relate to him the myriad flavors that teased my palate and how good it felt. “I just wish there were more,” I conclude.

He peers at me, picks up my tea vessels and shrugs as if to say, “I know the portions are very small, but the food is quite excellent, n’est-ce- pas?”

Indeed, they are minisculesque, my lone quibble with Boulud. To be fair the parfait portion is OK and the chowder vessel is not inordinately too tiny. The leg of lamb, though. The four or five thin slices on my plate are little bigger than a quarter, with a few clumps of polenta the size of moth balls and trace amounts of heirloom tomatoes and mushrooms. I left not quite hungry, but not nearly full. I could have easily eaten more and not have been stuffed. This was a meal well-suited to one who’d had his/her stomach stapled or a Lady who Lunches. Not so for someone with a reasonably hearty appetite, who by the way did have breakfast, and was also fortified by a risotto ball and a passel of Madeleines. And two glasses of water. And several cups of tea.

After Café Boulud, I recalled what Paul Daniel Quatrochi asked me before RW kicked off. That is, are the top-tier restaurants stiffing dinners in some way? He wondered whether they were putting out less than top-shelf fare. No doubt a few, at the least, are. Others have other ways, as I believe Café Boulud is doing with the pared-down portions, of giving RW week dinners just a little less. (See: http://www.vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/07/dont-serve-him-banal-greens-and-pasta.html)

Does one really expect to get the same quality/quantity at RW prices, especially at venues where the same meal may easily cost more than $100? No, but one hopes. One hopes that the brains behind the schemes reason that money can be made on the bar as PDQ suggested, or on goodwill. That is, if they set out a splendid meal for as little as $24+change, they will get repeat business. Perhaps not on a regular basis, but surely on special occasions.

Virtually none offer everything on the regular menu during RW. Anyone perusing the menus on the RW Web site can quickly confirm this for himself. That’s to be expected. Also expected is a little more sincerity in the offerings – certainly as it concerns the steakhouses, for example. An acquaintance desiring to wine/dine me for my birthday suggested eating some cow.

After a perusal of the nearly 20 RW steakhouses, one question: Where’s the beef – the prime cuts – not medallions and tips? Lunch diners are almost out of luck at Delmonico’s. Sure, there are Delmonico Steak Frites, but one can get steak frites any old place, but at a steakhouse Vintage All Natural Short Loin Steak 28-Day Dry Aged is more appropriate. There is the option to order the Delmonico Steak for $15 extra, and the Filet Mignon is only available at dinner. Out of six available entrees, one is steak and available, one is steak but is not available and the one that is available will cost you extra.

At the Bobby Van’s in the Helmsley Building, two of the five entrees at both lunch and dinner are steak. Medallions of Beef Bordelaise is available with no strings attached. Petit Filet Mignon w/Bernaise Sauce, however, is $10 additional. Interestingly enough, while the steak dishes remain the same at lunch and dinner, there is some change in the other entrees. Similar such limitations/offers are in effect at all participating Bobby Van’s locations.

Angelo and Maxie’s Steakhouse offers one of the better deals for those looking to eat high on the hog – or cow – for $. Four of six dishes are steak, including a Grilled Filet Mignon and Chabroiled New York Sirloin Steak. Please note that two of the steak dishes are only available at dinner.

Meanwhile, random calls to several eateries, including Mesa Grill, 21 Club (Lincoln Center) and Rosa Mexicana (which is offering its famed guacomole) revealed that the RW week menu portions are not smaller. The proof, however, is in the pudding. I called Café Boulud several days after I dined there and was informed – though there was a slight pause before an answer was proffered – that its RW meal portions are the same as on the regular menu. One hopes not.

How can Café Boulud and similar offenders possibly justify so little food at prices that are on average $$$$ for an appetizer/entrée/dessert, even if it is local, organic and corn fed?

Learn more about NYC Restaurant Week Summer 2010, participating eateries and their menus at http://www.nycgo.com/restaurantweek/; get the recipe for Rosa Mexicana’s famed guacomole at http://www.rosamexicano.com/ChefsCorner/Recipes/tabid/89/Default.aspx.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fighting Formidable Foe w/Fierce Frocks

Designs from Byron Lars, above and Whistle Flute below will be on sale tonight in a sample sale benefitting cancer research. Photos from www.fashionfightscancer.com.

ONE does not hear much from him these days, but Byron Lars is still sewing and reaping.

Tonight, the legend-in-the-making and outfitter of first ladies and first dolls is putting some looks on a runway at the Audi Forum for no less a cause than Fashion Fights Cancer. It’s raison d'être is to raise funds/awareness about cancer research.

BL is on a bill with Tadashi Shoji, a newish fixture at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and a few others who are throwing pins and needles, tucks and folds at the Big C. The beauty of the fashion extravaganza, hosted by actress/songstress Suzy Malick, is that it morphs into a sample sale. Every look on the runway will be available for purchase. Here’s an opportunity to also own some names that may be smallish today but will be huge tomorrow: Thuy Diep+Whistle Flute+Lotusgrace+Kahri by Kahrianne+Kerr Karen Millen.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit two cancer-warrior orgs: I’m Too Young for This Cancer Foundation and The Cancer Research Institute.

Fashion Fights Cancer will jump off from 6:30p to 11:30p today at New York’s Audi Forum. Learn more about Fashion Fights Cancer and purchase tickets at http://www.fashionfightscancer.com/live/?q=Tickets; about I’m Too Young for This Cancer Foundation at http://i2y.com/index.shtml; The Cancer Research Institute at www.cancerresearch.org/.


A Little Pick-Me-Up on a Slow Night in the Big City
William Gaines and Richie Rich, above, backstage before RR's show at EPOCA restaurant. Below, the designer on the red carpet post-show. Top photo by Yours Truly; bottom photo by William Gaines.

OUT of the gate first is a white sheer tunic/T-shirt. Underneath, a black bra and thong are clearly visible. It’s followed by dresses with hemlines that end at mid-thigh. They have sequins, flow and sashay appeal. Strictly for those with precious little junk and loads of attitude.

It’s Monday night. In August. In New York. It’s a little sleepy until Richie Rich injects this bit of life into it, plus a white/cream pantsuit that channels Cher during her “Sonny and Cher” days. And the hot pants set in a hot print. And so on.

Half the brains behind Heatherette and half of the team that introduced the Muse Collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in February. Himself is giving the party people at EPOCA restaurant a little fashion spectacle that unfolds on a red carpet littered with colorful confetti. The night also marks the launch of social shopping club, eZipit (eZipit.com), that promises to save members some moan-naye, even on Richie Rich,

“I’m here to help my friend, and it’s August so why not come out and have a few drinks and have some fun,” the ice skater/party animal/businessman gives Yours Truly to know before the show backstage, which doubles as upstairs at EPOCA.

And, “no,” none of the flashy/sassy/fun/frolicky frocks that are visible on the confetti carpet will be on the runway when RR shows at Lincoln Center on opening night of M-BFW (9 September).

Don’t Be So Quick to Judge a Fashion Plate
Patrick McDonald and Ralph Rucci, above, got dressed for August's big summer fashion party, as did Simon and Alex McCord, below. Photos from Patrick McMullan Company.

PATRICK McDonald, he of the ubiquitous hat and heavily-crayoned eyebrows.

When Yours Truly first clapped eyes on the fashion writer/consultant/plate, my first thought was “What a Snob!” In my playbook, this creature was looking down his patrician nose at the world at-large. I had no proof except for his general carriage/bearing. These are the sorts of observations that I usually keep to myself for good reason. I know better, but I don’t always do better.

This impression held I until I saw PM on Bravo’s “Launch My Line.” He is one of the nicest, most gentle, most civil, most well-mannered souls one will meet on God’s green earth. Each week on the show he remained as chill and unflappable as ever.

Fast forward several months later to the other night at the annual summer party of The Couture Council of The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology). In a nutshell, the Couture Council raises funds for/awareness about the museum. At any rate, it was at last year’s party at designer Charlotte Moss’ (and Council member) smashing Upper East Side townhouse that I had that fateful sighting of PM.

On Tuesday evening, he is as affable and engaging as ever as he moves about the upstairs rooms at the Cultural Services Building of the French Embassy. There he is in a rather animated conversation with Ralph Rucci, a former Couture Council award recipient. He warmly greets a parade paying its respects, including Alex McCord and her main squeeze, Simon (“The Real Housewives of New York City.”)

After about an hour of observing him, I approach because it is imperative that I atone for my stinking thinking. Blankly, he stares as I recount my first impression of him and how that all changed when I watched “Launch My Line.”

“Thank you,” he says with some amusement.

“Are you going to do anything with the line?”

“No. I did it just for the fun of it.”

“Really,” ask I.

“Yes, it was just for fun,” he reiterates.

PM thanks me profusely and begs off attending my (re)celebration of my 28th birthday later (beauty sleep) but he will show himself at the Couture Council’s annual benefit luncheon on 10 September at Avery Fisher Hall. This year, the luncheon will honor Karl Lagerfeld with the special Fashion Visionary Award.

Learn more about the Couture Council and The Museum at FIT at www.fitnyc.edu.

A Brand of Love to Be Envied and Imitated
Perry Ellis International created a special polo for Project Beach, the company's initiative to help with the recovery of the Gulf Coast. Photos from Perry Ellis International.

LAST week, Perry Ellis International asked to be liked.

The global brand with a mad jones for coastal environs requests this week that all who have one, wear their hearts on their sleeves or more specifically, PE’s sleeve.

The garment in question is a polo shirt, fabricated from white cotton and embroidered with a pelican logo. The shirt is the latest prong in Project Beach, so christened by PE to put its money, mouth and manpower behind efforts to help in the recovery of the Gulf Coast after BP’s massive oil spill into the waters of South Louisiana and neighboring/nearby coastal states. Fittingly, the pelican is the state bird of Louisiana, my home state.

The limited edition (1,304 in all) polo is being hawked solely on PerryEllis.com. PE will funnel up to $15K from polo sales into Project Beach.
.
Keep up with Perry Ellis Inernational’s Project Beach rollouts at: http://www.facebook.com/PerryEllis.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Helping to Return Life to the Beach

The beach often serves as a breathtaking backdrop in Perry Ellis advertising campaigns. Photos from Perry Ellis Interntational.

WHO can’t help but like Perry Ellis, that legendary purveyor of high quality men's and women's apparel, accessories, and fragrances? Especially when liking PE can spell something as meaningful as helping to clean up that awful Gulf Coast oil spill.

It’s quite simple, really. Facebook users, meaning most of the universe, can prompt a donation to the National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf Oil Spill Restoration Fund by “liking” Perry Ellis. For each of the first 10,000 new “likes” on the PE Facebook page, said company will donate $1 to the restoration fund, up to $10K.

Trendsetter that it is, PE can see the writing on the wall. Once BP finishes its Keystone cops-style plug effort, there will still be much work to be done, especially in my home of Louisiana. To that end the uber brand is throwing money and, effort at this massive mess through an initiative aptly christened Project Beach. The Facebook likefest is but one component of a multi-pronged effort. PE is wisely partnering with the NWF.

“The coast has always been home for the Perry Ellis brand. Whether winter or summer, our creative team takes inspiration from the beach, and as a Miami-based company, we appreciate life on the coast every day. We’ve also used the beach as a backdrop for our ad campaigns for decades,” Brett Dean, chief marketing officer of Perry Ellis International, waxes somewhat passionately in a company press release. “It’s difficult to watch this disaster and not feel compelled to help. With this initiative, we have an opportunity to reach out to our customers and fans to help National Wildlife Federation toward a long-term solution for the Gulf Coast.”

Amen to that.

During Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week next month , PE is to recognize NWF’s restoration work but is tightlipped about what precisely that entails. Perhaps, Yours Truly will see for herself on 13 September - that is if she is invited. Later this year when its cool to cold in New York and around 67 or 70 degrees in South Louisiana, Florida and Georgia, PE will journey to the Gulf coast to shoot its Spring 2011 campaign - a company first.

Learn more about Project Beach at the Perry Ellis Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PerryEllis; about the National Wildlife Federation at www.nwf.org.

Back in N'Hood and Convenient to Famed Train
Deejay Mirandom, above, performing her special brand of magic in the booth. Partygoers, below, are all smiles in Harlem's reburshised H&M store. Photos by Jason Kempin/Getty Images North America.

IS it one’s fertile imagination or is H&M opening and reopening stores all over the place?

Could this be a leading indicator that The Great Recession is loosening its stranglehold on the economy? One can hope; one can pray.

Yesterday a.m., it happened in Soho. Yours Truly was not present. She was, however, Uptown in Harlem for a pretty grand reopening of two sleek, spacious, well-lit floors decked out in the very product that has made H&M a major go-to brand for everything on trend and well within the confines of small budgets.

The joint is jumpin’ and the fish are bitin’. Or rather partygoers are bitin’ the fish, specifically fried catfish nuggets (w/a smashing sauce) from Sylvia’s. The famed eatery and Harlem Institution brings it, too, with fried mac&cheese balls amongst other delectables, including a pork thing that had a strong salad-ey vibe.

Speaking of delectables besides the product, with which H&M is parting for 25 percent less than usual, plus offering various re-opening day promotions. It's also putting gift cards into the hands of members of the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem, as well as making a grant to that worthy organization.

Speaking of, there is Ger Duany looking as beautiful as the day I fist clapped eyes on him a few years ago on the Buckler runway. One’s heart is going pitter patter …

Did I say the joint is jumpin’? Deejay Mirandom is seeing to that. When you are situated a block or so east of the Apollo Theater, you gotta bring it. Girlfriend - her resume is so long it causes eye fatigue. In shorthand, she’s a renaissance woman. She goes there. Mirandom isn’t throwing down Beyoncé/Jay-Z/M.I.A. She passes over new school/old school and goes straight to the classics: Marvin Gaye. Yes, Marvin. Gaye. Etiquette dictates that I pay my respects. Mad props to Mirandom.

Speaking of Harlem, my male colleague and I take a numbered train to H&M against my better suggestion. It’s closer, he insists. We board the Express train at Times Square - that is whichever is the 1, 2 or 3. It feels a lot like a local to me but I don’t say anything. When he leaves Harlem for a Missoni party at the Standard Hotel (Meatpacking District), I learn later that he gets the A train.

“I was downtown in less than 20 minutes. I can’t believe how fast I got to 59th street,” said he. “You are so right; the A train is much faster.”

Word: Take the A train!

Learn more about Deejay Mirandom at http://www.mirandom.com/; Boys & Girls Club of Harlem at http://www.harlembgc.org/.

Oh Happy Day! for Betsey (and for Me)
Yours Truly and Betsey Johnson at her birthday party at her Soho boutique. Photo by Lawrence Pinkston

IS that a pink Cadillac parked outside the Betsey Johnson boutique in Soho?

Yours Truly whizzes by so fast she doesn’t get a good look. The pink, though, is unmistakable. The first sight I see is young ladies in hot pink sleeveless dresses. Inside, more young ladies gadabout in tutus and other girly attire. Just as I walk in a pink girl is coming toward me with a tray of chocolate brownies with a raspberry on top. I’ve arrived too late to have a massive cupcake with pink frosting.

Who’s that on the mike? None other than herself - BJ. She’s thanking her fans and followers for coming out to help celebrate her birthday today, 11 Aug. Last year, she celebrated in part by journeying to each of her four Manhattan stores. “It was a zoo,” one of her people gave me to know a couple weeks back when I phoned with my unnecessary RSVP.

Soon, she’s done jawing and is taking photos with a knot of admirers.

I need to talk to BJ. I do some fast, sweet-talking, and the young Michigan-born (like me!) p.r. maven promises to see what she can do. We Michigan girls are a capable bunch. Before BJ dashes out of the store and into her Betseymobile, I have my audience.

“Happy Birthday, my birthday is August 2,” I gush.

“Happy Birthday, BJ says.

Then we say, “Cheese!”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In God's Country, Good Eats, if Not a Good Home

The bench outside Pies and Thighs adds to its homey appeal. The white wine Sangria, below, is not the one on the menu at the Cornerstone Restaurant and Lounge but it looks nearly as refreshing. Top photo from www.piesandthighs.com; bottom from www.foodnetwork.com.

“I was surprised when you told me you lived on the Upper East Side,” avers CP who is Brooklyn born and resides in Bay Ridge with her two lovely children.

Yours Truly is a little ashamed to disclose that in the four-plus years that she has lived in New York, she’s only ventured into Brooklyn a handful of times, and then not to the most fashionable n’hoods.

Brooklyn. God’s country is what one of my church pals calls it. Of course, she resides there. The image of Brooklyn emblazoned on my psyche is the one that was placed there in the 90s when I lived in Boston and would come down to New York to visit friend/colleague, KG.

It is Friday (6 August) night and CP, this Paris buddy-in-the-making, and I are dining at Hundred Acres to commemorate our respective birthdays (Me 2nd/Her 12th). I’m having fried chicken breast w/greens, while she is enjoying a burger and a mound of fries that is driving me to distraction.

KG lived in Park Slope, which I Loved with an obvious capital L. It reminded me of Boston’s Back Bay and the South End with its row upon row of imposing brownstones and eclectic shops. When I moved to New York in 2006, though, I knew I would be moving to Manhattan. Not necessarily the UES, but definitely Gotham.

CP recommends Forth Greene, which she talks up like nobody’s business and to a lesser extent, Williamsburg. Both would be an improvement, she declares, over the blandness and sameness of the Upper East Side. Without further elaboration, I am unfortunately and surprisingly looking for a roommate. In Brooklyn, I don't find a roommate or a home, yet I find some essentials.

Because I didn’t quite know how to get to Fort Greene. Didn’t look it up, as the idea was on the brain when I awakened Sunday morning to prepare for church. It took some moments for my companion, LP, and I to get to the heart of the place. Where resides interesting shops, restaurants and upwardly mobile/progressive peeps of various ethnicities about whom I’d gotten an earful less than 48 hours earlier.

Once we turn off of Vanderbilt Avenue onto DeKalb Avenue the heartrate begins to increase exponentially. Either side of the street is lined with shops, restaurants and peeps. Eye candy galore. A very nice young lady who earlier steered us to the heart recommended that we drop in on Chez Oskar but we are bedazzled by the courtyard seating of Cornerstone Restaurant and Lounge just across the street. Not a table – at least not a well-placed one – can be found in the courtyard. We opt to dine inside at the window.

The menu is enticing enough with a little heart – Cobb salad and a little soul – Chicken/waffles, Mac&cheese. LP, likes his cobb and is sufficiently impressed with the mac&cheese to suggest I have a taste. It is good but not spectacular; ditto for my chicken/waffles.

Spectacular is the white wine Sangria. I see it on someone else’s table. It’s a beauty. Heretofore, I’d not the pleasure of a really good white wine Sangria. I ask our server for a sample. Alas, he informs me, it is only made to order – couture cocktail! It being my birth month during which I celebrate the whole of it, I’m in a celebratory mood. I roll the die. Besides, nothing will steal my happiness this month. NOTHING. Not moving; not disagreeable Sangria.

The Sangria is made with Agave, Saint M Riesling, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, blueberries, strawberries, oranges. The fruit mixture, which is soaked in the Riesling overnight, can also include watermelon, blackberries and apples. There is no lemon or lime beyond what is used as a garnish. The combination does the unspeakable to my palate. To LP’s, too, who orders some sort of mixture of Cook’s “Champagne” (I see the bottle and make a mental note to order nothing with Champagne in it) and mango juice. Not only does he drink what I pour for him into a small water glass, he orders a white wine Sangria for himself as soon as he relieves himself of the mango concoction. It's an 8; Sangria is a 10.

Sufficiently wined/dined, we continue our exploration of Fort Greene, which does not easily lend itself to comparisons along the lines of “it reminds me of.” Not so for Williamsburg, most recently famously known as a haven for artists and others in search of “cheap rents” close to Manhattan.

The moment I come up out of the L train at Bedford Avenue, I am thinking of some of those blue-collar towns north of Boston (i.e., Revere). And the comparison could change from street to street. During the several hours I spend here, I am reminded of Hull, Massachusetts (where I used to live), a few picturesque New England towns, Carmel California, and of some towns in the Hamptons I visited years ago. I feel at home.

The place I feel most at home, though, is the storied Pies and Thighs. I decide to dine here – not because of all the writeups, including in “The New York Times” or the loud buzz – but because when I perused its menu online Saturday night I saw rhubarb pie as one of the desserts.

Rhubarb. I was familiar enough with it as a savory. But did not have the pleasure of it as a dessert until I lived in Paris. The boulangerie across from my building in the 15th arrondissement carried it every late spring/early summer when rhubarb is in season. The first time I tried it I was smitten. SMITTEN. On Saturday night, my Monday was already off to a good start. And it didn’t dampen after I spoke to PandT on the horn and was informed that the rhubarb pie was gone for the season. Next year.

There is still the Fried Catfish Box, and I’ll find something else to have for dessert. After a somewhat longish walk down Driggs Avenue from the Bedford Avenue L train, I arrive. I place my hat on one of the hooks, refresh myself in the ladies, and come out to take a seat at a table for four. Immediately, a smile crosses my lips. The table is formica, and the same pale gray color of such a one at which I learned table manners in the house of my beloved grandparents – the people who raised me to be a good person and good citizen of the world. A flood of memories – all of them good – damn my mind. Around my table and the others is a motley mix of chairs that have seen a lot of life.

It’s charming, and as someone who grew up in the South eating fried catfish that was only hours earlier extracted from the lake/creek/brook, I’m impressed with PandT’s rendition. The rest of the box – tartar sauce, cole slaw, pickles – is passable. The cornbread, though, could stand considerable improvement. It doesn’t have a lot of sugar but what is here is too much. Is sugar or flour or too little cornmeal to blame for the cakey consistency, rather than a more crispy one, I wonder. The box also comes with a side. I initially choose fries. At the moment they are out. My server, who offers to take me on a proper tour of W’burg, recommends the watermelon salad.

Here’s watermelon, cucumber, jalapeno peppers and a little ginger. It’s super refreshing and serves two roles. First, as a more healthful counterpoint to the fried catfish, tartar and cornbread. It doubles well, too, as a palate-cleanser before my lemon-blueberry pie. I’m lovin’it. And look at this watermelon juice! Good table manners dictate that I do not drink from the bowl, after all I am not in France drinking milk or hot chocolate. Instead, I pour the juice into my Shandy, a combination of White Rascal beer and one-third lemonade.

Nothing less than a little bit of heaven, a good appetizer for the southeastern view of Manhattan that awaits me at the East River.

Learn more about Hundred Acres at www.hundredacresnyc.com; Chez Oskar at www.chezoskar.com; Cornerstone Restaurant and Lounge at 718-643-4216 until www.thebrooklyncornerstone.com is live; Pies and Thighs at www.piesandthighs.com.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

4 BUCKS? You Can't Possibly Be Serious!

Comet removed the grime from the stovetop, as well as the base of the toilet and bathtub in the apartment I am subletting. Photo by Yours Truly.

When
I was growing up one could keep the house spic and span with any combination of, say, Spic and Span, Pine-Sol, Mr. Clean, Vinegar mixture and Comet. All good stuff cheap.

So it is no surpise that when I needed to give the bathroom of my August sublet a good, old-fashioned scouring, I would turn to Comet. (Without going into any great detail about this whole sorry business, I’ve had to move apartments and must move again – hopefully for something longterm – in September).

Anywho, my old container of Comet was dangerously low and I was in need of another. What a traumatic experience, the moral of which is that Comet should always be cheap. It should never cost more than, say, $1.25.

First stop, Duane Reade pharmacy. I don’t normally shop at DR because I find it too expensive, instead preferring CVS pharmacy. I knew not of one near me east of Lexington Avenue in the 90s. But there was a DR just a few short blocks away. In the interest of time I decide that DR is better than nothing. Besides, Comet is cheap, so it can’t be too expensive. Moreover, I was incented by the image of the base of the toilet and bathtub in the sublet.

While I am a bit taken aback that the Come costs $1.59, I reason that I should buy it because I have both tidying and unpacking to do before I dress for the evening. Time is of the essence, I remind myself; this is not the time to quibble over 50 cents. I grab a package of three sponges, too. The total is almost $7. On general principle, I simply cannot do it.

Rushing now and walking too many blocks to CVS. I hate what corporate has done to my CVS. Not only did the suits (or hoods) put self-checkout registers in the store, they ordered that the store be reorganized. No doubt, so one such as Yours Truly will wonder all about and purchase things she doesn’t need. After a fruitless search for Comet, I turn to the manager who informs me that the Comet is on aisle 8. He walks me over to where I was only moments before. No Comet.

“We are out,” he says. “Several people have asked for it and I have told corporate but they haven't sent any. We have the liquid.”

As calmly as you please, I strongly suggest that he inform corporate that if several people are asking for powdered Comet, it should stock it. To add insult to injury, there are no sponges. What kind of joint is this?

On the way back to DR where I will have my head high when I re-enter the store, I pass a locksmith shop that makes keys and sells various sundry items. Comet is among them. Just as I am about to grab sponges, I ask the salesclerk the price of the Comet. It’s $3.99! Yes, $3.99. I repeat: $3.99. I could not get to DR fast enough to pony up $1.59, plus tax.

Later that evening, I share this tale of woe with my buddy, DJ. Am I certain that the locksmith shop Comet was $3.99, she asks. I am and later stopped by to reconfirm. It’s $3.99! She also informs me that she buys Comet at the supermarket where it is much cheaper. Rarely do I shop at supermarkets anymore and certainly not for cleaning products. That’s what CVS is for!

Kicking around a day or so later after a turn in nearby Charles Schurz Park. The park is home to Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence, though the current hizzoner, Michael Bloomberg, lives in his swanky townhouse on East 79th street, on the west end of the very street that was my home in fatter times.

Anywho, after the park I stop by a Gristedes and later a D’Agostino. Both stock Comet. Gristedes sells it for $1.19; D’Agostino, 95 cents. I’m sure it can be had a little cheaper, but neither price is out of the question. Even if the locksmith shop owner buys the Comet retail, as another with whom I share the story suggests, it is inconceivable that it should be so costly.

$3.99 for Comet? Surely, he jests.
 
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