Quote of the Week. “Oh my god, the butter.” ~ V. following two weeks in France.

The Random Switch is On

My friend A. and I walked into The Modern and received an immediate friendly welcome by the staff who remembered her from her days of employment at the Danny Meyer restaurant. Our plan was to see the Pipilotti Rist installation Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters) at the neighboring Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The MoMA, however, was a swarming hive of tourists lining up to see the closing Van Gogh exhibit. We had underestimated the power of the hordes that were still on holiday on the second day of the new year.

I can’t say we were horribly disappointed to have a cocktail (or two) at The Modern instead. The affable host rearranged a few bar stools for us, and the bartender, who would prove to be expertly skilled, invited us to begin with a shot of tequila. A. and I looked at each other and quickly decided that tequila would be a fine starter. The Manhattans we were craving could wait.

The tequila we received was of a caliber too fine for shooting, so we sipped. While A. was in the ladies, a gentleman to the right of her empty seat struck up a conversation about art. A few hours later, as the three of us wandered around the MoMA, I realized that finicky switch which controls randomness in my life had been flipped to on. Most likely this was caused by the recent break-up. I’ve always attracted more randomness as a single girl, for better or worse. So, yes, ladies and g’s, here we go again.

But first, The Modern. Manhattans followed the tequila--whiskey for me, brandy for A. The bar and it’s expert tender made specifying the type of whiskey or brandy you prefer an unnecessary gesture. It’s also the type of establishment where you are willing to pay the top-shelf price of whatever liquor they choose to mix your drink with.

As one would expect of any restaurant associated with the MoMA, the design is exquisite--the furniture, the lighting, the surrounding art. The Bar Room where we sat features a photograph entitled “Clearing” by Thomas Demand, a German artist who creates life-sized paper and cardboard models and photographs them. He then destroys the model. It was not until A. pointed it out did I realize the forest in the photograph at the back of the room was not real.

While A. conversed with the gentleman at the bar, I talked an art collector and photographer sitting on my left. We discussed whether knowing how to use a camera is essential to being a photographer. I have finally decided to take a basic black-and-white photography class working under the theory that actually understanding the tools and the medium will help me take better pictures and shoot subjects which currently intimidate me, like people or documentary “moments.”

Okay, enough digression. I’m sure you are wondering when the randomness comes into to play. The art collector left the bar and A. and I continued to talk to the gentleman to her right. We felt a little defeated by having so easily let our art mission turn into afternoon cocktails. When the gentleman offered to bring us through the long lines with his museum membership we agreed.

We spent an awkward hour or so negotiating the crowds of the MoMA. The Pipilotti Rist installation is stimulating and soothing at the same time, but it was too crowded to truly become engaged by the giant video screens. Fortunately, it’s on display until February 2nd. Sometime during our excursion, I noticed that the gentleman from the bar was wearing a latex glove on his left hand. Weird. Did he have a fresh tattoo? I couldn’t see one. A medical condition? Sensitive skin? Allergies? Why only one hand?

A. and I didn’t discuss the glove, but we agreed to bow out of drinks following the exhibit with an excuse of having to head home. I did, however, give him my card. Despite the glove, I still function like Digital Girl, and it seemed an opportunity for a good story.

A. and I headed downtown to Mama’s on Avenue B and 3rd Street. We ordered fried chicken and tasty sides at the restaurant and sat down next door at the bar. The happy hour special was $3 pints of Guinness. We had two because the bartender overcharged us for the first round. As always, the food from Mama’s was comforting. I never remember, however, to heat up the food in the microwave before heading to the bar. And, although the chicken is super tasty with it’s crunchy spicy crust, the sweet potatoes were mushier than I prefer and the greens were in need of a little something.

On that Saturday, I went to the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx to take photos of plants and to see the Henry Moore sculpture exhibit. While there, I had an afternoon coffee in the Garden’s cafe. It struck me that it’s very difficult to feel alone walking deserted paths in the snowy woods and empty gardens. The wind that plays the pine needles soothes the soul with a rustling lullaby, and the light that graces the curves of the sculptures eases the troubles of the mind. Conversely, it’s too easy to feel lonely in a cafe full of strangers while drinking coffee and snacking on crackers from home.

That Sunday, I received an e-mail inviting A. and I to the gentleman’s apartment for dinner on Friday night. To A.’s distress I actually considered it. I am, after all, fascinated by food, and I’m always curious about New York City apartments. I had his business card, and we were a team. How unsafe could it be? Yes, yes I know; the invitation was strange. A google search conducted by A. also revealed that he was too old to be in my preferred age range. Still, it could be interesting, could it not?

A. was not available over the weekend, so I arranged a solo date for dinner out on Saturday and asked him to pick the place. In the meantime, A. sent a text saying, “I had a flashback of that glove he had on - did u notice that?” I had temporarily misplaced the memory of the glove. It was just too strange, and his age really made the date pointless. I canceled the date. Yes, a potential new restaurant lost and the story of the glove to remain forever a mystery.

The past week was packed with activity - yoga class on Monday night, meditation circle on Tuesday, open house at School of the Visual Arts on Wednesday, open house at the International Center of Photography on Thursday, drinks and dinner out on Friday, and lunch in Jersey and dinner in Manhattan on Saturday.

The random switch remained on with a touch of supernatural making its way in. Thursday afternoon I had a prominent heart-shaped red mark on my forehead that appeared mysteriously and was witnessed by co-workers. Friday evening, a heart-shaped clearing appeared in the foam of my Manhattan at Punch on Broadway and 20th Street. I was there with one of the same co-workers, who told me it’s a sign of something good related to matters of the heart.

It was my first time at Punch. They mix a good Manhattan, using house-made bitters. It was a tad sweet for my taste, but I still had a second round. To avoid being completely smashed and sucking down bison burgers at midnight at Heartland Brewery, which is what happened last time we went out together, we ordered snacks.

Our waiter suggested the potato skins. The small cubes of double-smoked bacon sprinkled over top add an intense salty flavor that heightens what otherwise might be reminiscent of an appetizer from T.G.I. Friday’s. (In my mind the chain is only a step removed from fast food.) The lemon-roasted artichoke salad with a walnut and roasted red pepper tapenade was very nice. The winter vegetables had a great flavor and were perfectly al dente, but were covered in a bit too much oil. The calamari was unimpressive.

We followed dinner at Punch with a drink at MetroCafe & Wine Bar on 21st Street. The appeal is a selection of 100 wines and 21 flights, though the space is a little brighter and more open than my preference for a wine bar. After two Manhattan’s, I couldn’t bring myself to have a glass of wine. I ordered an indistinguishable lager. On the way home I decided two Manhattans was more than enough. I'm getting old.

Saturday’s adventure was part of an outing associated with the blog called Jersey Pie written by friends Kendall and Jennifer. I highly recommend following their quest for New Jersey's greatest cherry pie. Jennifer and Kendall led another friend M. and I to the Miss America Diner, “the old-fashioned diner with homestyle cooking,” in Jersey City. I will let the Jersey Pie writers decide what to say or not say about our search for pie that day. I suspect the the burger was a pre-fab patty, but tasty enough. And, the company was fantastic--good people and fine foodies. The service was very friendly, and the coffee was excellent as well. I also loved the trek, and the views from the Light Rail of Jersey in the snow.

Saturday night, I was excited to learn about a vegan restaurant called Dang Lai Palace. Although an anonymous commenter has stated there is no real connection to Zen Palate other than a few displaced chefs, the scallion pancake is exactly the same as Zen Palate's and it can’t be beat. The sesame medallions are similar but with a different wonderful flavor and texture.

This was a long one, but before I sign off, I wanted to thank the voters who participated in last week’s poll! Those of you that don’t like the title are too polite to say, but I will take the six votes for "love it and want to eat it." Be sure to answer this week’s poll and tune in next week for more adventures!


  1. Random comments about food:

    The "kobe" burger at Metrocafe (their quotes, not mine) is really good, and they have some tasty dim sum. And they once served me the best glass of Nebbiolo ever, against which I will judge all future glasses of Nebbiolo.

    Punch's tiny little muffins (maybe a brunch-only treat?) are yummy - and adorable to boot.

  2. Dang Lai has no connection to Zen Palate except that after ZP closed a couple of the chefs went to work at Dang Lai


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