Saturday, January 9, 2010

Happy New Years

Why do people say that? “Happy New Years.” Is it plural? I certainly hope not – I can barely handle them coming one at a time. Does it come from December 31 being New Year’s Eve? Do we need another lesson on possessives and the apostrophe?

Anyway, Happy New Year, or New Years, to you and welcome to a new year on my blog. I’ve settled into a pretty good rhythm at this point, posting weekly , though may return to twice weekly posts if the muse moves me.

Neil and I kicked off our year with a nice long weekend. There wasn’t much to clean up from our party (thank God for paper plates), so we were able to start 2010 fresh – a new chapter, a new journey.

OK, I’m being glib here. My friend Suzette made me promise to work the term “journey” into a posting. She’s grown weary of every other person on television talking about their “journey.” I have to agree with her. Politicians, reality show contestants – all of a sudden everybody is referring to their recent past as a journey. If you come back from a physical disability to climb a mountain or help rescue Sudanese from the janjaweed militia, you’ve had a journey. If you’ve done body shots off a cocktail waitress or cheated on your wife, you’re not completing a journey.

You’re trying to get a sixteenth minute (and, potentially, pre-empting Glee – shame on you!)

Seriously, have you been watching Glee? This show is GOOD . If Up in the Air was the story of my adult life, Glee is the story of my high school years. Well, at least the part about being a lonely misfit who liked to sing. I never saw a cute football player break into song, but – then again – I grew up on Long Island. We didn’t have many football players and those that we did have spent all their time getting into fights with the basketball team.

Anyway, watch Glee.

I have restaurant news this week, too. Saturday we went for brunch at a new (-ish) Mexican restaurant in the Village: Yerba Buena Perry. Owned by the folks who own Toloache on 50th St and Yerba Buena, this newest site on Greenwich Avenue between 6th and 7th Avenue boasts a great location, good design, and incredible food. The fish tacos are the best in New York (yes, even better than my esteemed 202 on Ninth Avenue, which I’ve raved about for years.) I also tried their arepas – chicken tinga, scrambled eggs, avocado on small corn rolls. Just writing about them makes me want to take Neil there tonight.

Oh – we also saw Precious (we had to – Oprah told us too. She’s told everyone, so you must have seen it, too. She picked the President, she picks our books and movies. Really, when will we simply surrender all free will entirely?) I have to say, aside from some unevenness in the linear progression of the narrative, it was really very good. The lead actress, Gabourey Sidibe, gives a strong, nuanced performance. Mariah Carey is better than you’ve ever seen her (though, that’s not hard, since her only other film role of note was in Glitter. Ugh. Still, she’d good here.) Lenny Kravitz is convincing and compelling (though it’s never clear why he keeps giving Precious money.) Paula Patton, as Precious’s teacher (and 80s sitcom actress Kimberly Russell (Head of the Class) as her lover) are fantastic.

Mo’nique, however, completely steals the film. In a performance that is exhausting, ferocious and utterly unexpected she steals every moment of screen time, keeping you on the edge of your seat with curiosity and anxiety about what she might do next. Clear the mantle – she’s taking home a Globe and an Oscar.

Last night we ate at A Voce Columbus, a recent addition to the Time Warner Center. You know, just as a side note, I’m not sure how they do it – maybe it’s being in NYC, maybe it’s the view – but the restaurants at Time Warner don’t ever let you feel that you are – essentially – eating at the mall. Maybe if more mall restaurants were more Landmarc and less Cheesecake Factory, they’d get a better reputation.

Anyway – A Voce. On third floor, opposite Landmarc, you enter A Voce down a long corridor, which contributes to the feeling of separation from the mall. The hall gives way to an expansive, open room, with generous bar space. The sunken dining room covers nearly a room and a half, and offers spectacular views of Columbus Circle and Central Park. With dark wood floors, white leather and chrome seating that mimics high-end office furniture (it’s weird; it works) and a shiny, light-colored ceiling, the room is contemporary and bright.

The wine list was eclectic, and – for an Italian restaurant – had a surprisingly think selection of French reds and not nearly enough Italian ones for my taste. Still, the selection is broad. We started with a mezzaluna pasta of ricotta, butternut squash, butter and sage, which managed to be rich and light at the same time. While it would have been too much as an entrée, it was perfect as an appetizer. The only criticism I’d offer is that the dish could have used more than a few small squares of brunoised squash. Oh – and maybe a little less butter; after finishing the dish our plate looked like an oil spill.

As an entrée, Neil ordered the beef cheek which was as tender as a braised short rib, without all the fat. Served with winter vegetables, farro and a red wine reduction, it may not have been inventive but it was well executed. I went with the pork chop – a double cut which was expertly seasoned an achieved the very difficult feat of being completely cooked through, perfectly to the temperature I ordered (medium) and hot. With a cut of meat that thick, it’s nearly impossible to cook it properly and get it to the customer hot enough to eat. Oh – and as a side – Brussels sprouts. Roasted and served with a broth that was tangy, they were good but Neil’s homemade variety is better. And I couldn’t taste the supposed Pecorino.

It’s funny, but reading this, it doesn’t sound like a great review, and yet I really enjoyed myself and would go back in a heartbeat. I definitely enjoyed the pork, and my wine was good, but I really think what made our experience enjoyable was the service. Our server was attentive without being over-solicitous, funny and knowledgeable. I left a tip of nearly 30%, which is high even for a 20%+ tipper like me. Between the service and the décor and view, it was a great experience.

Well, that’s about it. I need to go dive in to a bowl of Lucky Charms and then head to the gym. Tonight we’ve got my cousin’s bar mitzvah. Various cousins in various stages of employ, marital strife, and chemical dependence will be converging from around the country – ostensibly for to witness a rite of passage, but really to drink free liquor and to find out who got fat, who got fired and who got divorced.

I can’t wait.

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