New York

NathansHotDog.jpg My dad was a two job guy.  We lived in a representative, working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, which was to me, the paradise of the world.  Representative I learned years later meant not just Jewish people, like us, but an equal mix of almost everything else.  The working class is obvious.

My dad worked at a brokerage house on Wall Street as a runner from 9 to 3.  That was his first job.  His second job was at the Morgan Annex branch of the US Post Office, in mid-town Manhattan.  He had started at the PO as a teen-ager, and was in it for the longest possible haul, a modest pension being the carrot at the end of his rainbow.  His hours on that job were 4 pm to mid-night.  He rode the subway to work.  He never owned a car.  Once in a long while he got driven home. 

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ImageI recently saw a new show on the Food Network called “Food Feuds”. I like it – I get it. It’s a simple premise: in towns all across the country there are passionate disagreements about “the best” – the best burger, the best fried chicken, the best barbecue ribs, the best ice cream. Disagreements of this kind can be fun, unlike political disagreements, which can be fraught with pain and suffering. On Food Feuds, chef Michael Symon heads to a town where rival food joints vie for supremacy; he listens to local fans make their case, samples the foods, and then declares a winner. But “the winner”, of course, is only that for some of the people, not all. And if Michael Symon came to LA and crowned In-N-Out Burger over Fatburger, I would think he was certifiable.

So let’s agree that good people can disagree.

My friend Dean, for example, is a very good person, a brilliant entrepreneur, patron of the arts and devoted family man, but when it comes to one of my favorite foods, Chinese soup dumplings, Dean and I are on opposite sides of the fence, not to mention the country.

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balthazar1v.jpgI have always wanted to eat at Balthazar. After many years of fruitlessly trying to go to Balthazar, I finally succeeded. Maybe it was the way the restaurant teased me over these past few years that I had become thoroughly intrigued: The restaurant’s Parisian frontage and the crowds of diners seen through the windows beckoned me. Maybe it was the promise of la vie Bohème. From afar Balthazar has that je-ne-sais-quoi look, but from up close it seems just a bit faux and overdone. I think the restaurant tries too hard to look authentic with its crackled mirrors, dark paneling, and dim light fixtures.

To make sure I got in this time, I made reservations almost three weeks in advance, but I still could not get the specific time I wanted. Still the eventual time was suitable enough for a stress-relieving Friday night out this past week with my friend Amanda of the Undomestic Goddess. When we arrived, one of the many hostesses confirmed that indeed the reservation was made, but then told us to wait for the maître d’ to direct us to our seats. A little confusion followed in which we were stormed by a large group coming from the bar area and then another group entering. We almost didn’t get served—a somewhat sordid start to an evening meant for relaxing.

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milkbar.jpgThe Upper West Side just joined the world. Move over East Village; now us UWS Jews can sneak out of synagogue on the High Holy Days and chow down on steamed pork buns without leaving our own neighborhood.

A branch of Momofuko Milk Bar opened last week on Columbus Avenue and Eighty-Seventh Street and yes, your energetic reporter was ever ready on the spot to check it out. The menu features milk shakes, floats, cereals with milk, pies, cookies, candy, stuff like that. But then there’s a little section called Buns and that’s what I was after.

Eight bucks buys you a steamed pork bun; add a dollar and you get a fried egg on top, which I did. I carried it over to their little wooden bar and pulled up a box to sit on. They had napkins and plastic forks on the bar and big squeeze bottles of hot chili sauce everywhere you looked. The egg made it a little hard to approach. I didn’t quite know how to lift this ample-sized bun and bite into it while still keeping the egg – which had been fried over-medium, I’d say –from running down my chin.

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balaboosta-300x199I had one of the top ten dishes of the year today in the middle of what could have been a dreary day. It was raining and I was limping around puddles on my way to a lunch meeting in Soho.

I had just come from the podiatrist, my throbbing foot wrapped to within an inch of its life to protect the plantar fascia, the ligament that goes along my arch to my heel.

I had injured it, as athletes will do, in some moment of extreme competitive zeal, which I cannot at this moment recall. It only hurts when I walk, Mother.

So, I was in pain, I was late, I was wet, I was peckish. Not a good potential lunch partner.

I was meeting two fine fellows who work for my book publisher, so they know their way around a lunch table. They had chosen Balaboosta on Mulberry Street and I’m glad they did.

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