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Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Trials and Tribulations of Manchego

Part I

Buenos dias.  My name is Javier.  When I was a boy I felt lost, and I didn't know where to go or what to do.  One day when I was running around the hills of Spain I came upon a sheep farm, and I smelled something, something salty, creamy, and a little tangy.  "What is this delicious smell!?" I thought.  I ran home and told mama.  "My little, hombre," she said, "you had your first smell of manchego cheese!" 

Finally I knew my life's purpose.  I returned to the sheep farm and had my first taste of manchego cheese.  It was smooth and ever so pungent.  Senor Poope, the owner of the sheep farm, saw my passion, and he offered me a job.  He started me off in the pastures tending to the sheep which would provide the milk, but as time went on Senor Poope allowed me to work in all parts of the cheese process.  My passion increased until all I could think of was manchego cheese!

One day, many years later when I was a young man, I was walking to Poope's dairy, and the hills were very green and there was a fine breeze.  I saw Senor Poope and he smiled, he was always smiling, and he said "Javier, you are a good young man."  Then he grasped his chest and fell over.  I ran to him.  "Senor Poope!" I said.  "Javier, the sheep, the dairy, the cheese," it will be yours.  I looked at him with great tenderness.  "But Senor Poope," I said, "I can't bear this great responsibility."  He looked at me one last time and spoke: "I have taught you everything I know."  His eyes closed and the smile returned to his face and he died peacefully among a great friend.

It was then I understood the great mystery of the universe and manchego cheese.

To be continued....

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Chronicles of Creams

Spiral: "winding in a continuous and gradually widening (or tightening) curve, either around a central point on a flat plane or about an axis so as to form a cone."

Paris-brest: "Created a hundred years ago to honor a bicycle race, wheel-shaped choux pastry stuffed with hazelnut mousse and hazelnut nougatine, topped with powdered sugar and toasted hazelnuts."


Before Braggadocios Roberts left for Paris, I made one request: "Bring me a Paris-brest."  If you've never tasted a Paris-brest, you must.  Go to wherever fine Fresh pastries are sold, and buy one and eat one.  

I have sampled my fair share of Paris-brests, in America and France, and they've always been individual sized wheels of pastry and hazelnut cream.  When Braggadicious returned she carried a large bag filled with a cake-sized box.  "Damn it!" I said.  "I wanted a Paris-brest, not a wedding cake!"  I opened the box and was stunned by what I found.  It was a Paris-brest, but a Paris-brest unlike any I had ever seen.

First, it was massive.  But it wasn't a traditional wheel-shaped pastry.  Rather, it was a curving structure, starting from a center and sloping around and around outward, a creme spiral for the ages.  The pastry was delicate and tender with powdered sugar and crushed hazelnuts.  The pastry was filled with dollops of incredible hazelnut mousse.  

It was one of the finest cremes I've ever tasted.

La Patisserie Cyril Lignac
Paris

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Chronicles of Creams

A brisk fall day, October, 2017, the year of our lord.  Have a lovely pasta dinner at Dell'anima, a wonderful neighborhood trattoria in the West Village, with Braggadocios Roberts, a cute and stylish member of the New York media elite.  We lick our plates of pasta clean and demand the check.  "Waiter, bring the check right away!"  The check is brought.  We pay.  We leave.  It's time for cream.

The Office is  an "intimate speakeasy" in the Mandarin Hotel, located on Manhattan's Columbus Circle.  Sometimes it's good to be connected to the media elite, because I wouldn't have known of this fine establishment were it not for Braggadocios.  We enter the Time Warner Center and take the elevator to the 57th floor and enter the warm, elegant, yet rustic speakeasy, and are struck by the views of Central Park South.  We are led to a cozy room filled with handsome leather sofas ans chairs, solidly constructed wood tables, bookshelves with volumes of Dickens and "How to Hunt Geese," crackling fireplaces, etc.

Now to the cream.  The Office has table side sundae service, whereby you are brought 1) a portion of vanilla ice cream in a sundae dish; 2) a rotating glass serving platter filled with assorted goodies -- brownies, peanut butter bars, candied fruits, various pieces of chocolates, and, the piece de resistance, a mound of freshly whipped cream; and 3) homemade fudge and butterscotch sauce.  Yes, these items are brought before you, and you are amazed by sheer, creamy spectacle of it all.

I instantly got to work filling my ice cream dish with all manner of treats, sweets, and creams.  I took nearly the whole mound of fresh whipped cream and plopped it onto my sundae, the fluffy yet firm cream mixing with the cold, hard ice cream.  "Oh my god this cream is amazing!" I shout in sheer joy.  Braggadocios urges me to contain myself, but I am in cream heaven and cannot hold in my screams of creams.

The maître d' approaches.  "Sir, we understand our creams are exhilarating, but you are frightening the guests.  Please, let me escort you to our soundproof chamber that we have for just such occasions."  The maître d' is a skilled cream technician and leads me to the chamber, expertly orchestrating his staff so as to transport my sundae along with me.  We arrive.  The maître d' presses his hand to a fingerprint scanner, which then opens up a retina scanner, which confirms the identity of the maître d'.  "Chamber ready" a computerized voice says.  "Sir, I cannot follow you beyond this point, but the pod is controlled to keep your sundae at the perfect temperature and you will be able to fully express your cream emotions."  We shake hands.  "It's been an honor," says the maître d'.  I take my sundae inside the chamber and I hear a loud suction noise as the door is closed. Now, it is just me and my creams and my screams.

For Braggadocios

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Noodle Tickles

Sometimes you just want delicious Chinese noodles.  Yunnan province is known for its rice noodles.  Thin, slippery and springy, with great bounce and fresh rice flavor.  These noodles are good!

I went to Deng Ji II Noodle House in Chinatown to explore some of these rice noodles.  I walked down Chrystie Street and its Chinese markets, the smell of fresh 30 day old flounder in the air, and wandered along the Manhattan Bridge towards Division Street.  Various hawkers peddled their wares under the bridge, the mystery of noodles in the air...the mystery.

I arrived at Deng Ji and entered and found a perfectly humble noodle parlour!  The server could tell I meant business and quickly brought a menu.  "Give me the hot and spicy rice noodles!" I demanded.  The noodles were soon before me.  Springy noodles in a red-slicked broth, filled with chiles, minced beef and assorted flavors and seductions.  I slurped up some of the noodles.  "Damn these are good noodles!" I said.  But the broth...it was addictive.  It called to me.  Here I am!

Deng Ji II Noodle House
Division Street, Manhattan Chinatown

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Pizza Dispatches

It's the beginning of October and the fall crispness is here.  Bring on the pizza!  Don't you love pizza when the fall crispness comes?  The color of the sky is changing, the leaves are turning, and the air is crisp, cool and refreshing...even sometimes a little chilly?  But that's ok.  You can put on a comfy sweatshirt...perhaps a hooded zip sweatshirt?  Then you can order a pizza.

On Friday the fall crispness was here and I decided I wanted pizza.  "I want pizza," I said.  It seemed like a perfect night for delivery.  I decided I wanted to order from Francesco's, a place only about 10 blocks from where I live, but a place I haven't eaten from since before I moved to New York.  The pizza came and it was good.  "This is great regular pizza," I said.  So often in New York, pizza is artisinal or Sicilian or Neapolitan or Detroit sheet pan style or tavern style or whatever style.  Even NY street style is a style.  Francesco's just seems like very good regular American pizza.  The crust was flavorful and golden and is cooked with olive oil.

On Saturday the day was even cooler, dare I say chilly.  On Saturday night there was an electric fall energy in the air.  Jewish people were walking the streets saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"  Oh please!  Although I descend from the tribes of Israel I had more important things on my mind: pizza.  I hopped on a bike and crossed Central Park on a pizza adventure.  Darkness was settling in, and I rode through the park like an insane lemur.  My destination?  Marinara Pizza on the Upper East Side, an establishment I had never been to.  How was it?  Good!  I had a Sicilian slice with pepperoni and a grandma slice.  They had other styles, as well.  From my sampling, Marinara is definitely serving some of the finest grandma and Sicilian pizza in Upper Manhattan, if not the entire city.

After eating my pizza I said thank you.  "Thank you!" I said.  I rode home in the crispness ready for a fall full of all kinds of adventures, pizza and otherwise.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Plump Bastards

Have you ever desired a plump bastard?  I have.  Today I went to Chirping Chicken, a NYC-based chicken emporium, and ordered chicken tenders and fries.  The fries at Chirping Chicken are well executed, and they tasted delicious dipped in honey mustard.  How were the tenders?  Plump and bastardy, if I do say so myself.  Goodbye.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Department of Dockers

Several years ago I wrote off Dockers.  The pants, regardless of the fit - classic, relaxed, straight - were extremely dumpy.  Even the straight fit provided way too much loose fabric in the lower leg quadrant.  The classic fit?  I could practically fit my whole body in just one of the legs!  The classic fit is more like a sleeping bag than a pair of pants! Then Dockers began experimenting with a slim fit, but this fit was way too slim.  What about a pant for a healthy American man, tall and robust, trim, but not concentration camp skinny?  One cold November day at Macy's years ago, I conceded defeat. "I'll never find a nice Dockers trouser that works for me!"

Never let anyone tell you a mass market trouser company cannot change.  Within the past year or so, Dockers has reinvented itself, becoming, in this pant writer's opinion, the premiere middle brow, business casual, American public university-educated, men's pant supplier. If you work in middle management, at a less than elite company, in education or the non-profit world, or simply want to look like you're a well dressed Kohl's shopper who wears reasonably decent clothing but doesn't make too, too much money or at least doesn't care about wearing very expensive clothes, Dockers is for you.

I personally look pretty good with the Slim Tapered fit, although the Athletic Tapered fit is also nice.  The Athletic Tapered fit provides a little extra room in the crotchal and buttockal regions, while maintaining a pretty nice silhouette and allowing for a nice break at the bottom of the trouser.

My current main issue is length for the Dockers pants.  The 32 inseam can be a slight bit too short, but the 34 inseam, the next highest size, is too long.  I recently purchased a pair of Dockers Slim Tapered pants with the 34 inseam, and had them tailored, asking for a simple 1 inch reduction.  When I tried on my pants after the tailoring, the pants are still too long!  It seems like taking another inch would bring them down to 32, making them that slightly too short length.  Should I get another half inch taken off?  Please help!