29 June 2007


I spent the last week in the south of France in a town called Auvillar (link in French). It's nearish Toulouse and in the middle of nowhere. There is a nuclear power plant right down the road that adds a lovely sort of irony to the place. The people are unbelievably friendly.

The whole trip we had a lovely woman named Sophie cooking for us. We had bread, yogurt and fruit for breakfast and usually a light lunch of beet salad and cheeses. For dinner we had a variety of dishes. A quinoa salad one night, fish stew, chicken. All of it was amazing.

The one restaurant we visited was a wonderful creperie. The food was amazing, the ambiance more so. Picture a giant home on top of a hill surrounded by trees and a garden; it overlooks the lower part of a French village. I had a 3 cheese crepe, it was topped with a huge ring of brie and was rich and delicious. I shared it with my new friend Christine. We then shared a second crepe with bacon, cheese, and mushrooms. For dessert we had ice cream and crepes with butter and sugar. I felt cheated that we couldn't make a second visit work later in the week.

We ate on the huge balcony overlooking the trees and garden as a distant storm rumbled across the valley. There was lightening, thunder. The night was closing in around us, this all equals perfection.

What was not so perfect was the behavior of some of the other people at my table. Why do Americans get so antsy when a meal starts to take a few hours to consume? And why do they continually make claims that it's 'ok it's taking so long' or 'we are in France, I guess it takes longer, which is ok' Americans are the passive-aggressive champions of the world when it comes to other cultures. This is at least partly true. I'm sure that we could all pick another country and make our arguments stick.

I brought a bottle of a 2002 Le Vin Noir home with me from Les Vignerons du Brulhois. Le Vin Noir is black wine which is essentially a very dark purple colored red that tastes a little like black currant jam mixed with wood. It's way to strong for me to just sit and drink, but with a nice strong meal it would work out. The lovely lady at the winery told me to serve it with contif or a strong foie gras. I think it might be best with a nice slab of steak, but I'm not a huge wine head.

At the corner grocery I even found Kinder Surprise. They are chocolate eggs with a little toy inside. The outside is milk chocolate, the inside is white. the toy is usually a silly cartoon character that you have to put together. I got some ninja chimps and a magician with a broom in my three kinders. They are originally a German candy that I grew up with in England, so finding them in France was nice.

It's funny that the thing that most impressed me was the discovery of a childhood toy. But maybe not so surprising as I've been very sentimental these days. I find myself discussing personal histories with anyone who will listen...including these posts.

More later!

18 June 2007


It deeply saddens me that you can't find good pizza near you. Here are a few places I like in Brooklyn and Manhattan:

Little Toninos (BK), they have a pretty good whole wheat crust if you're into that sort of thing.
Lenny's (BK), their plain slice is pretty nice.
Pie by the Pound (Manhattan), you walk in, you select from different flavors, you tell them how much to cut, they cut, they weigh, then you pay.
Rome (Italy), Delicious.

15 June 2007

Cats and Comfort

Being comfortable is something that we as humans talk about frequently. When we are tired, we just want comfort and sleep. Sick? I, for one just need a comfy blanket and a ridiculous movie (Bedknobs and Broomsticks works for me every time). When we are dying the one thing that we always discuss first is the comfort of the person lying there. We are also discussing our own comfort, but don't verbalize it.

For me the one food that is comfortable at all times is pizza. It doesn't matter what my mood or state of mind, it will do. Even if I am in the violent throws of a fever, a good slice will make me sit up and eat. Nice and comfy like.

My neighborhood has no good pizza. For that matter, I have yet to find a truly great slice anywhere in New York City. This may come as a surprise considering the straight up insistence of the NY superiority in the battles of the slice. Honestly though...I'd rather eat Pizza Hut over the limp soggy grease-fest that passes as 'pizza' here in the pomme grande.

My search reached yet another dead end the other night. I had just spent the day taking care of a very sick cat. The evening ended with a trip to the vet and talk of catheters and surgeries that would 'widen uretra.' After the day all I wanted was a good slice of pizza and an episode of MST3K. I ordered from the only pizza place that delivers to my apartment - Gino's - in about 20 minutes I received a very large pizza for $11.75.

I came into my apartment and started up the DVD. Then I opened the box. The pie looked all right, even tasted OK...but...the pepperoni had a distinct sausage taste and the sauce was oddly sweet. The crust alternated between too soft and too hard. The whole thing did little to comfort me, and even less to fill me.

This seems to be the same problem all over the city. Even the 'best' slice I have found (Roma on 7th Ave in park Slope) still leaves me feeling empty and wanting more. Maybe NY is just like that...slightly greasy, hyped beyond belief, violently loved/hated, and at the end of the day it doesn't fill you up and you are not comforted.

Maybe that's life in general.

10 June 2007

I'll Have a Plate of Bland with a Side of Boring

Cheeseburgers are in, bland is out. Peach is in, salmon is out. Edith Piaf is in, eyebrows are out. Steak is in, pork tenderloin is out. Polenta is both in and out. Zoe was bland and so it's out.

09 June 2007

I Just Want Fries With My Piaf

I should disclose that I went into the film knowing a little about Edith Piaf. I knew that her last name is made up, that it means 'little sparrow', and that I liked her music. Knowing only this about Edith Piaf gave me few expectations of La Vie en Rose, which turned out to be a brutally beautiful bio film with an amazing actress in the lead role. The final sequence of this film may just be one of the best edited pieces of film I've seen ever.

Marion Cotillard is probably one of the best actresses I've never heard of. As Hayley put it - she's the Helen Mirren of France - which is probably as good an equivalent as one can get. Mirren was on TV in England in Prime Suspect; Cotillard was on TV in the US in the silly Highlander. Mirren of course has made tons of films but was catapulted to the top of the US conscious by a film where she plays a real life person dealing with death and change (The Queen for those who don't know). Cotillard was in A Good Year with some guy named Russel Crowe. Of course this film is in French but she is nonetheless here for your viewing pleasure.

Another thing that I don't know anything about - but know a little about - is gnocci. I bring it up because Hayley and I went to Zoe after we saw La Vie en Rose and I ended up having gnocci.

I have consistently loved Zoe since moving to New York. I eat there about once a week or so. If not that often, at least every time I go to see a movie with Hayley, since it's around the corner from the Angelika theater on Houston. The food is always good, inexpensive, and in SoHo. It's right by the R train and the Apple store. There's a big front window to people watch, the wait staff are amazing and awesome. The whole place is 10 kinds of fabulous.

But here's the point, after the delectable greatness of the film - and our last great visit - Hayley and I decided that Zoe would be the perfect finish to the night.

We decided that we'd go bar menu, because we never do, and we were feeling all hamburgerish. We asked for the menus and some sparkling water. We pursued. We loved the choices of cheese. Our waitress informed us that the bar menu was unavailable - even though we were given the menus.

In this circumstance I'd most likely get the steak, they have great steak for only $24, which is a steal anywhere, but especially in SoHo. This night I decided to go for the gnocci again, because I was trying to eat a little lighter. While I might not know much about the stuff, I do know that it should not taste like buttered spaghetti. That it shouldn't be bland and dull, and unfilling. I know that I should not have to use salt or pepper on a meal at as good a restaurant as Zoe purports to be. Hayley had pork, which was better tasting than my dish, but just as dull. I'm not discussing the amounts paid for the dishes because I'm pretending it didn't happen.

In an attempt to save the meal and our favorite restaurant for us, Hayley and I decided to get dessert. She had a nice peanut butter/banana tart object that was oddly light and buttery at the same time for $7. I had a very heavy chocolate mocha cake with bittersweet chocolate ice cream on the side for $8. Our waitress (in an attempt to placate us?) sent over some free ice cream in the house flavors (pistachio, cookie dough, mint chocolate chip). We loved the dessert, but still frowned while paying.

Next time we might have to dine at another restaurant in the area (there are several) and go to Zoe for dessert. Or, we might give them one more chance. It shouldn't be a problem to make a hamburger for a customer at dinner time in an averagely busy restaurant on a Friday night. McDonald's manages it and I've seen them with busier crowds than Zoe's probably ever had.

Zoe usually gets a 10, last night it got a 4