New York

facebook-check-in-nfc-smart-poster-300x300“I just need to get out of the apartment.” I whined to my friend Blaine on the phone.

“It’s raining.”  He replied.

I looked out the window.  It was just drizzling.

“I don’t care.  I need to do something different today.”

“Spend a little time on Facebook this morning?”

Ooohh.  Busted.  It was true though. That morning I had fallen into a k-hole of friend’s Facebook check-ins as they were out exploring, tasting, and experiencing the world.   My life looked really black and white in comparison.  Of course, I know that this is a common trap to fall into these days. 

While Facebook might be good for keeping up with people without exerting very much effort, it is basically a way to promote your life by showcasing only the highlights. This summer I ran into an old friend at a party and I told her how jealous I was of her vim and vigor (the activity I only know about through Facebook).  She replied that her life really wasn’t that exciting, it’s just that you don’t post on Facebook about sitting on your couch crying while eating a pint of ice cream.

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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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m.-wells-dinette-300x225That’s a loaded statement so let me describe the dish before we go any further. It’s a pot of clam chowder — with a light cream base — with succulent, dinner-sized hunks of pork, rosy-pink and tender as a clam, floating in the broth. You spear the pork onto your plate with a fork and then ladle up the soup from the bottom of the pot where the spiced and diced potatoes, clams and vegetables are lurking. Oh baby, oh baby.

This all took place at MoMA P.S.1 in Queens where we caught an early dinner at the M. Well’s Dinette, which serves as the museum’s commissary. It’s not easy to catch dinner there because the Dinette is not open for dinner, but I guess we qualified as a very late lunch.

Whatever.

The M. Well’s Dinette is the second incarnation of this concept from Hugue Dufour and Sarah Obraitis, who are partners in life and business. Hugue came to New York via Montreal’s Au Pied De Cochon and first opened M. Wells, where he dazzled and shocked New Yorkers with his fun, fat and filling take on the eating experience.

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kampucheadiningroom.jpgAlex and I have been dating for almost four months now.  We have shared several meals and conversations together beyond Casa Mono.  As our relationship has settled into a ‘monogamous’ place, we have both expressed fears about reaching a ‘monotonous’ place, – when your boyfriend lives in the same neighborhood, in my case the West side (Chelsea/West Village), every date begins to take place within a twelve block radius – emphasizing the potential for “monotony” (not be confused with monogamy).   And, while the dining options are both vast and enticing, you start to feel like you are placing your relationship under quarantine.  

On a recent Wednesday night, we ventured out.  We took what to us was a somewhat lengthy cab ride to a restaurant on the Lower East Side (Allen and Rivington) and as soon as we stepped out of the cab, there was a breath of relief.  I thought to myself, “We’re not old or boring…we just underestimate taxis.” 

Our destination was Kampuchea, an eatery known partly for being the only Cambodian restaurant in the city.  Needless to say, neither of us are exactly connoisseurs of Cambodian cuisine, but since we were brave enough to leave our neighborhood, our palettes were gung ho for leaving the country altogether.  

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manana.jpgFor someone who considered “nursery food” buttered tortillas with Jalapenos or cheese enchiladas, it is with more than just a foodie interest that I seek out Mexican restaurants wherever I live.  It is an emotional imperative! I am not Latino, for if I were I would probably have had a far more sophisticated concept of comfort food – Enchiladas de Mole Poblano for example– but being raised in Southern California coming from Texas roots, it is natural that Mexican food was a staple in our family’s diet. Well, more to the point Mexican restaurants were a staple in our weekly routine. I could count on my buttered tortillas with jalapeno bits most Thursday and Sunday nights.

So, to find the muy cool Mañana just off Madison Ave on East 61st Street, less than two blocks from our apartment was reason to rejoice. While Mañana has a decidedly un-traditional look, the subtle and authentic flavors filled my heart with memories of Puebla, Mexico City, Vera Cruz and my local storefront café in Toluca Lake. Greenies will enjoy the eco friendly décor and if you are of a mind, there is a tequila and mescal menu, which includes a Don Julio 1942 at $650 and the old standby Amateur del Mexcal, “Fresh green apple muddled with Canton liqueur, fresh lime. Juice, guanabana fruit shaken with Del maguey crema del mescal and scorpion mescal completed with a cactus and lemongrass salt rim” neither of which we ordered.

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