Saturday, May 26, 2007

Soul Man

I took a couple of pairs of shoes to the local cobbler this week. I'm a big fan of owning a good shoe, and having it repaired as appropriate.

I was very pleasantly surprised by both the level of workmanship, and the price. I asked for a small rip to be repaired, and they not only fixed that hole, but relined and strengthened all three other sides of the pair of shoes at the same time. And they were shined to within an inch of their lives, too.

When I went to collect my shoes I had to wait a good ten minutes as the little man hunted through his collection of finished work. Each bag of shoes had a numbered ticket attached, but for some reason they were not sorted in any logical order. He inspected the ticket on each bag until he found the right one.

An interesting approach, but room for some improvement.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Food Glorious Food

Last Saturday we went to a street fair just outside the apartment. $40 bought us a ticket to the Taste Of Tribeca festival where 60 neighbourhood restaurants set up stalls to allow us punters to sample their food.

The proceeds from the entrance ticket went to local schools, and gave us the opportunity to have six "tastes" from whichever stands we chose. In between the light spring showers we wended our way from stall to stall to see what we liked the look of.

The more famous restaurants had long lines, so we deliberately picked the smaller venues. I had a fantastic pulled pork bun with barbecue sauce, smoked salmon, a country terrine, a wonderful lamb kebab, a ricotta cheesecake, and two empanadas from our local Argentian restaurant. Yum!

It was a busy event and as we negotiated the crowds we were entertained by live bands. My favourite was The Dueling Elvis's (who played alternate Presley and Costello covers). Another highlight of the event occurred when we went up to our local sushi restaurant's stand. We said hello, we were given heaps of food, and they refused to stamp our ticket.

Proof positive that you can inhabit a friendly neighbourhood in New York.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

White Room

I went to a book tour event tonight promoting Marco Pierre White's new biography. White was late and whilst we waited for his car to arrive we were entertained by none other than Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain. They merrily swapped stories of White and their various experiences with him, and generally clowned around for the assembled crowd.

Bourdain and Batali were a hoot, and clearly enjoyed playing up to the audience. I've read a lot about both chefs and it was great to see them in the flesh.

When he finally arrived, White was something of a disappointment. He spoke quietly, looked at the floor, and seemed to be none too proud of his antics in the 80s. He kept reiterating that he regretted pursuing the Michelin stars so fervently, when he should really have been doing something that was more "worthwhile". He wouldn't even be drawn on the Ramsay reservation-book scandal.

As I stood by a shelf containing a "Highway to Heaven" box set, I wondered quite why he had bothered to turn up. At least he came out in favour of the freedom to eat foie gras, I suppose.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Zeroes and Ones

I thought it was the longer words that might lose something in translation from English to American, so I was surprised when something short and simple caused me problems the other day.

In a meeting about a particular strategy I was working on I described a numeric parameter as ranging from "nought to ten". This drew confused looks from the rest of the table. I looked back at them, and realising that something was not being understood, I said "You know, one, two, three....". Suddenly there were moments of enlightenment in the room as people realised what I was trying to say.

Apparently the word "nought" is very rarely used here, and certainly not in the context of a range of numbers.

It would appear that I still have a lot to learn before I can claim to be fully bilingual.

Monday, May 14, 2007

State of Independence

We spent the weekend in Washington D.C.

Washington is a picture postcard perfect city. All the important sights are strung out along a large green corridor called The Mall, with The Capital Building at the one end, The Washington Memorial in the middle, and The Lincoln Memorial at the other end.

During our limited time there we managed to tick off most of the important things, noting that The White House is rather small, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was altogether quite moving, and that the return capsule of Apollo 11 was really rather cramped.

It seemed like a fun town, and I'm looking forward to going back later in the year.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Loco in Acapulco

New York can do exceptional Mexican food pretty easily, something I didn't appreciate until I'd been here a little while and had tried a few places. London has a handful of people making an effort to bring this cuisine to the masses, but the results are generally pretty lacklustre.

I've always like chillies, and find the subtle roastings and liberal spikings in Mexican food pretty compelling.

The 5th May is an excuse for a bit of a party in New York. Cinco de Mayo is a national holiday in Mexico celebrating a local victory over the French in 1862, but due to New York's large Mexican population, the holiday is unofficially celebrated here, too.

So, last Saturday was a great excuse for some ceviche, fish tacos, tortilla soup and a few Coronas.

Muy bueno!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Super Trouper

We live pretty close to New York's bustling Chinatown. It's about a 15 minute walk, and like stepping into another world.

The streets are busy twenty-four hours a day, people sell anything and everything from impromptu stalls, and the smell of food lingers in the air. I recently saw someone buying live crabs from one of the vendors. The unlucky crustaceans were unceremoniously placed into a paper bag with tongs, and the bag continued to wiggle as the lady carried it away. It would have made quite a sight on the subway.

One of my favourite things to order in Chinatown is the soup dumpling. Xiǎolóngbāo (as they are known in Mandarin) are delightful steamed buns with a mixture of meat and rich broth hidden within. At first they are a little tricky to eat: there's a high probability of injury as the hot liquid can have a tendency to squirt onto your lap. But once you've got the hang of it, they are a wonderful thing to eat: the combination of soup, meat and bun is fantastic.

I haven't worked out how they are made yet. I suppose they are the ship-in-a-bottle of the food world.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Sunset and Vine

I was at work a little later than usual today (partly due to my job, but more realistically due to the miniature remote controlled helicopter someone has recently brought into the office).

As I walked home up Broadway I was struck by how delightful some of the buildings looked as the sun was setting. The Woolworth Building was a particularly pleasing shade of orange, and even some of the plainer office blocks looked pretty.

We often see fantastic sunsets from the apartment window. Looking past the construction sites in the foreground you can see glorious oranges and reds as the sun disappears behind the Jersey skyline.

In some ways pollution can be a beautiful thing.