Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Barney Greengrass "The Sturgeon King"

The other weekend we had brunch at Barney Greengrass on the Upper West Side (541 Amsterdam Avenue at 86th Street).

We hadn't heard about this place until we read the article in which Nora Ephron said this is kind of her joint. It seems many people who've lived in this city still don't know about this place despite it having been around since 1908. Then again, this town is saturated with a million restaurants. When you walk into Barney Greengrass, you'll notice it's divided into two sections - the front part is where they sell what they're best known for (sturgeons, lox, sable, whitefish) behind glass cases and the other section is their cramped dining area.

They're known for their fish more than their meat so that's what's recommended you order here. Barney's restaurant menu is extensive so there's head spinningly a lot to choose from. The downer is it's quite expensive. But this place is the kind of place you'll only find in New York (certainly can't find anything close to this in our hometown) so we're going to take advantage of the only-in-New York experience, even if that means we have to bring some extra change.

The Pastrami Omelet. We saw this on the menu and we knew we had to order it. The anticipation to eat this was fierce. But it sounded a lot better than it tasted. It was dry and lacked flavor.

This is the winner right here. Simple classic breakfast champion.

Wow look at this view. This lox and bagel was actually better than the one at Russ and Daughters (and the one at Russ and Daughter's was one of the best so that should give you a sense of how good this was). Next time we'll know how to order here as the regulars were doing - an order of fish with everything else (bagel, eggs, cream cheese) on the side.

Too bad we missed their 100th anniversary day when they were selling their food for what it used to cost back in the day when a sturgeon sandwich set you back $1.75.

It's a Sick World

Ah, viruses. My friends and former co-workers used to always laugh at my obscene germaphobe ways. And no matter how much you wash your hands, how much you over-use that hand sanitizer after getting off the crowded subway, how regularly you take those extra vitamins, those damn viruses and bacteria get to you one way or another. It doesn't help that spring time here means schizo weather - one day it feels like summer, the next the start of winter. We've been driving ourselves nuts by watching the food channel and it doesn't help that it's the start of BBQ season. We want so badly to go out and get some burgers, ribs, steak, pizza, and anything and everything with cheese now!

Another thing you notice when you're home so much is the whacky things that take place on your street. Since we've been here, I've witnessed a man getting robbed and beat up at our subway stop, and late at night while we try to sleep we hear a mix of people fighting and drunken people making no sense whatsoever and some jerks blasting their radios at 3:00 am like it's a freakin nightclub. Just in this week alone, we heard a man crying out for help and a few days later a woman loudly calling authorities since she just got robbed in front of our place. Heck, we even have fake crime scenes on our street. Photos below of what looked like a CSI-esque filming with the fake dead body, fake police cars and all. Unfortunately, these pictures eerily looked like the images outside our apartment the first night we moved here.

And que the smoke.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Dark Poet

Edgar Allen Poe's most remembered for his dark, cryptic, mysterious, strange and fantastic gothic tales. Nothing cryptic or dark about this upper west side location where he's remembered.

Oddly, one block west was the Edgar Allen Poe cafe which claimed he also once resided in that location. We were a bit disappointed to see just this plaque on some modern building.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Men at Work

Workers on a Lunch Break statue based on the iconic 1932 photo of construction workers taking a lunch break atop a steel beam (800 feet above the ground) on the RCA Building at Rockefeller Center.

This statue was on top of some man's truck asking for donations to take photos of it. We're not sure where he drives this around but when we took this photo, he was parked in front of Boom Restaurant on Spring Street.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Shiny Happy People

The other week while we were walking throuh SOHO, we saw a familiar artist's work through the doorway of the True Dharma Monastery store.

Incredibly, the sales person at this store had no knowledge of this artist's name despite the fact that two of the store's walls were covered with this artist's paintings. We then inquired about the price of each piece; they ranged from $300-$500, and this price range was for the reproductions. She said apparently the originals cost upwards of $100,000 to $200,00. We, of course, can't even afford the reproductions but let's say we were going to drop $400 on one of these, we would damn well want to know who this artist is so we can find out the meanings behind these curiously odd paintings that we can't get enough of. Behind these overly exaggerated happy faces, is there a political meaning or social context we should know about? For now, all we can do is smile when we see these shiny happy people paintings.

How YOU 'doing?

Friday, May 22, 2009

La Sirena Mexican Folk Art

La Sirena Mexican folk art store on 27 East 3rd Street (between 2nd Ave and Bowery) is a tiny vibrantly colorful store that doesn't waste any space filling every nook and cranny with Day of the Dead crafts, Our Lady of Guadalupe art, Lucha Libre figurines, T-shirts, prayer candles, magnets and a gazillion more items (some items so tiny you'd miss it if you didn't look twice).

We've never been to Mexico so we have no accurate price comparison but common sense tells us some of the things sold here are steeply marked up. We couldn't afford to buy some of the things we would have liked to have brought home like the "Day of the Dead" skeleton Elvis in white jump suit but we did walk away with an affordable T-shirt and a $4 prayer candle. The store is definitely fun and visually stimulating.

On the other hand, buying something that will always be in your home doesn't seem as expensive when you think about how much you could spend on wine or beer at a bar like the store's neighboring Whiskey Town.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dave's New York

Dave's New York, family owned and operated since 1963, is a "man's man" clothing store. It was originally opened as an all-in-one stop for the blue-collar working force to purchase quality boots, jeans and head gear at an exceptionally affordable price.

Today, it's still unbelievably affordable, especially considering its Chelsea location. Featuring durable brands such as Levi's, Carthartt's and Dickies, Dave's has earned the reputation for stocking something for everyone (although the options for women and children are limited). Rough Guide deemed this store as the best place to buy jeans in NYC. I have to agree. Recently we purchased a pair of Levi's 501s for $35! The suggested retail price is $48. This was our go-to store during our first winter in New York for thick subzero thermal socks, gloves and $5 beanies.

Stepping into Dave's New York, you're surrounded by New Yawwwk construction workers discussing fashion and function; a funny sight to see. Quality at a good price is the foundation to this no frilly gimmicky fine establishment. Their sales team (dressed in working boots and navy blue vests) is overstaffed and speak a variety of foreign languages and are always eager to help with anything. You won't find the likes of snooty SOHO and Meatpacking sales people here. Third generation Dave, his wife and sons are also on deck to point you in the right direction. Stop on in the next time you are on 6th Ave & 17th, you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sunday Ritual

Our normal in-between-things "every hour is happy hour" Sunday snack stop. It's become our ritual.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Before they ruled the world

Old Skool (original) Macintosh.

Remember floppy disks? VHS? Pagers? Cassette tapes? Walkman? Writing letters? Gasp, remember when you had to take your Kodak film to the store to have it developed? And soon words like fax machines, Facebook and MySpace will also sound outdated (thank goodness). It is strange to remember the days before laptops, iPhones, iPods, and digital cameras. How did we ever manage before emails and cell phones?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Open House

Sunday, May 17, 2009

John Lennon's Home Town Exhibit

Last night we went to the "John Lennon: The New York City Years" exhibit, which opened on May 12th at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex in Manhattan (on Mercer Street). The exhibit was created by Yoko Ono and celebrates Lennon's love of New York City.

Before we entered the John Lennon exhibition room, we were led into a room where they showed us a 10-minute video montage of the great Rock legends. We then wandered around several rooms containing some great Rock memorabilia - costumes worn at concerts, musical instruments, letters to fan - of Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Ramones, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash, and many more. The ones that really made us stop were the handwritten lyrics scribbled on random papers. There were some technical difficulties with our automated head sets, as we viewed certain memorabilia the soundtrack played music from a neighboring exhibit. Imagine looking at Elvis' jumpsuit while your headphones blared Michael Jackson's Billy Jean?!?! There was even a recreation of CBGB and a interactive area that showed you the significant New York places that shaped the music world.

Then we finally entered the Lennon exhibition. We loved the things he said of New York, written on the white walls of the exhibit. He said he loved the anything goes attitude in this city, how free and alive he felt here, and that although he was born and raised elsewhere, he LIVED in New York. Lennon and Ono moved together to this city in September 1971. Ono apparently showed Lennon the nooks and crannies of this city. He also said of New York, "If I'd lived in Roman times, I'd have lived in Rome. Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself." We feel the same way.

One of the first things that blew our minds was Lennon's "New York City" shirt he wore for his iconic photo taken by photographer Bob Bruen on the roof of an East Side apartment in 1974. The shirt was also given to Lennon a year prior to the shoot by Gruen - they just cut the sleeves off for the shoot. It was a shirt Lennon loved and to see it (stained and all) was unbelievable. This one faded and torn shirt has spawned thousands of recreations and bootlegs. On every NYC street vendor's table there are two types of shirts for sale: I Heart NYC and the shirt Lennon wore in that photo. We took this photo months ago from one of those T-shirt street vendors.

The exhibit also shows Lennon's fight with deportation, his green card, his handwritten lyrics, his piano from their Dakota apartment, his guitar from his concert at the Madison Square Garden with Elton John, and self portrait drawings. Our favorite drawing was the self-portrait of Lennon as the Statue 0f Liberty with the black power salute. There were four large screens playing rare footage of John and Yoko - peace protests, their time in New York City, and even the "Woman" video we always watched on You Tube.

One of the last things visitors will see is a small canvas bag wrapped in a plastic bag behind a glass case. The canvas bag is from New York's St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center and it contains the clothes Lennon was wearing when he was murdered. The final image is a photo Yoko took of Lennon's blood-soaked glasses. She included these pieces in the exhibit to send a message about gun violence. There was a white wall with sharpies attached to it where we got to sign our anti-gun violence message to President Obama.

The John Lennon: the New York City Years was a fantastic exhibit and will be much appreciated by all Lennon and music fans - it was John's love story to New York City told now by Yoko who said, "When he came here, he felt it was his home. He was head over heels in love with this city, and when you're in love, you forget you had a past."

No photos were allowed and there was no way we could sneak any photos in. The exhibit is open everyday, and not typical of other exhibits, this one is open til1:00 AM. We thought it would be small and wouldn't spend much time there but we were there from 8 to 9:30 PM. We love music and we appreciated everything that was on display. We had a much better time here than we did at the waste of space eyesore that is the Experience Music Project in Seattle.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop

Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop was included on Anthony Bourdain's list of old school and uniquely New York institutions in his "Disappearing Manhattan" episode of No Reservations. On Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop Bourdain said "Continuous service of these fine [lime rickeys and egg creams] for 70 years, sublime tuna salad on white, and prices that are pretty much along 1985 lines. But most important, this is not some lame-o Johnny Rockets recreation, this is the real thing." We're not followers but we definitely trust Bourdain's food taste. So weeks ago we found ourselves across from the Flatiron building at Eisenberg's (between 22nd and 23rd streets on Fifth Avenu.

The interior is small and narrow and probably for the full experience you should sit at the counter. The decor and their menu apparently hasn't changed much since it opened in 1929 when it catered to the working class people in the area. The onion rings and fries were basic.

The pastrami sandwich was dry. We wouldn't order this again.

But their tuna salad on white bread was excellent.

Their menu has the right mix of things we'd want at a New York sandwich shop. Their beverage list still includes milk shakes and chocolate milk. But you apparently have to know what to order here or the experience will be very hit or miss. Stay away from the pastrami sandwich and burgers. Order the tuna salad. Other recommended items included their BLT and Reuben sandwiches. On our next trip back, we will try the tuna and egg salad combo sandwich. The service was okay but that was to be expected of a place like this with one waiter (and definitely better than the kind of overly rude service you'd receive at Katz's). We'll end with this quote from a 1998 New York Times article on Eisenberg's Sandiwch Shop: "If this tiny, kevetcy little shop were a person, it would be Mel Brooks doing the 2,000-year-old-man."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Shilla Korean Barbeque House

Most New York carnivores like us don't have backyards to grill meat when that certain craving starts coming on. So we head to Midtown to places like Shilla Korean Barbeque House on 37 West 32nd Street between Broadway and 5th Avenue. This restaurant is located right at the entrance to "Korea Town" Street (a street of side-by-side Korean restaurants). It's a clean restaurant that consists of three floors where you can barbeque away. It's apparently the restaurant where celebrities from Korea like to visit when in New York.

The banchan here was great - a good mix of dishes and several different types of kim chee. For those new to Korean food, banchan literally translates to side dishes, but in fact banchan is in many respects the highlight and main focus in many Korean households. We appreciated that Shilla put out a lot of banchan. In contrast, when we've visited Korean restaurants in the East Village, West Village, or Union Square area (areas catering more to people not very familiar with Korean food), the banchan consisted of two or three dishes.

And this is what we came here for. We were drooling . . .

Thin and tender pieces of Cha Dol Bae Gi (thinly sliced brisket of beef). We oinked these in about a New York minute.

The Sang Gal Bi was a nice thick and fatty contrast to the Cha Dol Bae Gi.

The waiters and managers were very attentivie to our needs - they cooked our meats for us and kept checking back to make sure the meats were getting flipped and cooked properly. When you order a lot of meat at Korean restaurants, they're very good at giving you table service. And though we appreciated it, we would have preferred a bit less attention. It's a bit odd having a stranger standing at your table watching you pig out.

This was definitely a different way to end the meal. Normally at Korean restaurants you get a variation of the ginger, cinnamon or rice drinks, but at Shilla we received Yoguroto, a very popular Korean sweet yogurt drink, especially popular with children and the grandmas and grandpas.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Piece of Meat

Window shopping for steak lovers like us.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Brooklyn Museum

The Brooklyn Museum is on our list of favorite museums.

The museum includes the recognizable well-known greats.

This Matisse painting reminded us of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

The museum also had a good mix of contemporary art.

There was a stage on this beautiful third floor area. We can only imagine what kind of beautiful music is performed here. Michael, where are you? Billy Jean?

And the classic renaissance art is always appreciated. We also appreciated the current museum's exhibition Gustave Caillebotte: Impressionist Paintings from Paris to the Sea.

This was one of our favorite sculpture there - the squatting man. The first floor consisted of African art and some of our favorites included video footage of tribal dance - some of the dance moves reminded us of break dancing.

Egypt's Pagan and Coptic Sculpture exhibition. This is Top of an Arch with a Nymph Riding a Sea Monster (5th-6th Century C.E.).

The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago - an important 1970s icon of feminist art and is a ceremonial banquet arranged on a triangular table with 39 place settings, each commemorating an important woman from history. The china-painted porcelain plates were beautiful.

One of the museum's interesting spaces is its fifth floor Visible Storage area. It literally was a storage area with some great works of arts - paintings, sculptures, Antique Tiffany lamps, furniture, and hundreds of other oddities.

We loved this! If we had loads of money, we'd buy this for Bopp.

And we'd buy this Leave it to Beaver cartoonish chair for ourselves.

Bronze sculptures by August Rodin at the museum's entrance.

Statue of Liberty replica in the parking lot.

We walked out of the museum to live music accompanied by Capoeira. And people love to lounge about in the grassy area in front of the museum. It's never boring in this city, even when you're relaxing.

We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of (quality and diverse) art in this museum. It wasn't too astronomically large like the MET (although the MET is still our favorite) and it wasn't too slow (like Museum of the City of New York). It was like the perfectly sized museum for a full one-day visit. But you still need a full day here to completely enjoy all the pieces of art.

It's interesting how the subway stops at the Museum locations are always the nicest - like this one at the Brooklyn Museum stop and like the stop at the American Museum of Natural History. Can you spot Shrek?

In contrast, our subway stop consists of pee, crap and beat downs.