Monday, December 01, 2014

Deep Thoughts #110

The only thing I want for Festivus this year is for some enterprising code geek to figure out a way to spread Ebola by smartphone app. NEXT!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Deep Thoughts #109

Do gasbags like Lindsey Graham stand up in public and bloviate because being wrong on camera is the only way they can still get an erection?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Coal Yard Coffee

So I heard about this whole Coal Factory thing that is supposedly going to happen here in Irvington (from here and here), but what I did not know was that there was already a coffee shop operating in a tiny little space that is part of the area where the Coal Factory will be, along Bonna Avenue, between Audubon Road and Ritter Avenue. I found out about that from here (the paper version).

Since they don’t have a real website, I had to check out their Facebook page, and I managed to surmise from that that they had been open for close to a month by the time I found out that they were there. We stopped in the very next day, and it was absolutely—well, vis-à-vis coffee shops, anyway—the best thing ever. It’s very much a work in progress, but they’ve got art on the walls, lots of places to sit, and a very old-school foosball table in the back. You may want to specify that you want your drink to go, if you’re planning to take it to go, or you may well find yourself getting served with an actual glass. You may also find an artistic design of some kind in the foam on top, if you have ordered something that has foam on top.

You will not be disappointed. Much has gone into making the space comfortable for people who want to sit around and hang out, but much has also gone into knowing how to make coffee drinks. One of the baristas behind the counter even remembered from her Lazy Daze days that I was a hazelnut latté guy. My medium non-fact hazelnut latté, easy on the hazelnut, with an extra shot of espresso, was excellent. They nailed the easy on the hazelnut and the extra shot of espresso, which not everyone does.

By the time the Coal Factory developement is done and is ready for its grand opening, Coal Yard Coffee will have been open for about a year. Things will change between now and then, but they are off to a great start—which makes the second consecutive east side coffee shop to hit the ground running, after the successful launch last year of Tin Comet Coffee. The biggest difference is that you have to make an effort to get to Coal Yard Coffee. Bonna Avenue is two blocks south of Washington Street, in a mostly residential area. That’s not going to stop the people in Irvington, who flocked to Lazy Daze when it was open—and I hope it doesn’t stop the rest of you, either. This is not a great coffee shop in the making—it’s already a great coffee shop, and it’s only a month old.

5547 Bonna Avenue

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Deep Thoughts #108

So is it safe to assume that the Colts probably will not rechristen their pleasure dome as Lucas Oil Reichstadium? Maybe if Frau Lucas begs?

Deep Thoughts #107

WASP supremacist liars like Charlotte Lucas always say ignorant, racist things; but the dullards who believe their fake apologies are worse.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Author? I Hardly Know Her!

Recently, I have been working my way through a thick volume of the collected poems of Charles Reznikoff, which has been both more and less rewarding than I expected. I don’t remember where I found out about him or read his poems for the first time, but it was the prospect of reading poems about New York, because I had found out that he was a New Yorker and wrote about where he was from, that led me to the book; and though it turned out that some of them were about New York, but most of them weren’t, it was still mostly enjoyable.

And then, on page 367, very near the end, in a section called Last Poems, the first of six parts of poem #10, subtitled “Just Before the Sun Goes Down,” was this little nubbin:

Of all that I have written
you say: “How much was poorly said.”
But look!
The oak has many acorns
that a single oak might live.

It’s not like I’m ever going to stop writing, and it’s not like I need any especial inspiration to sit down and work a little bit every day. Inspiration to be confident about what I have written, however…that remains in short supply ‘round here. The lines quoted above acknowledge what should be common sense: not everything we write is great work—but anything we write is of value, because who knows how or when what you initially believe to be inconsequential will reveal its importance?

I read those lines by Reznikoff late Tuesday night, and then came across a poem called “Poet’s Guide to the Foucault Pendulum” in the current issue of the Indiana Review while I was out and about on Wednesday afternoon, having stopped to read for a short time in Military Park. I don’t imagine that it’s couth for me to reproduce that poem here in its entirety, but the gist of it is that progress is a matter of perspective rather than necessarily a demonstration of fact.

The world spins under you
in such quiet and purposeful ways;
you move even if you refuse to,
so why bother being so stubborn,
so convinced you’ve never made
any progress at life?

And then moments later we are asked to “witness how slow / swaying adds up to a complete / revolution. This is all you can ask / of yourself, all the world does too." In the simplicity of those lines is the same appeal to common sense that struck me in the lines from the Reznikoff poem. Like I said before, I don’t need any inspiration to go on with the work. What I sometimes lack (“What do you lack?”) is the ability to believe that the going on isn’t futile. Unearthing little gems like these, out of the blue, goes a long way in that respect.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Deep Thoughts #106 - Special Topical How Could We Possibly Ever Forget?! Edition

Did the O.D. greens hanging flags off of bridges and distracting drivers today get the courage to do that by eating Freedom Fries for lunch?

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Deep Thoughts #105

Is this the one Republican who gets that his party, hurtling toward irrelevancy, must now embrace honest-to-Darwin change we can believe in?

Friday, September 05, 2014

Deep Thoughts #104

(I only just started watching Mad Men recently.) We're supposed to root for Don Draper—but how can you root for someone who's so—Republican?

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Black Market

Last Wednesday night we completed the Ed Rudisell trifecta and finally got around to trying Black Market. Amy was pretty well seduced by the Devour Downtown menu that included a no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookie for dessert, and even though we didn’t do the planning very well, we pretty much had our pick of seats in the place when we arrived at almost half past seven. I didn’t ask what the building all the way at the far north end of Mass Ave used to be, but Mr. Rudisell and company did well to retain the brick walls and hardwood floors when they built it out into a restaurant.

On another night, we might not have been able to choose our seats, but that night we got to pick between individual seating on the edges of the room, bar seating, and a communal space in the middle that brought to mind eating around the long tables in the conference room, back in the ol’ Clearwater days. They’ve done as much as they can with a small space, as they have also done with Siam Square and Rook—though there is something charming about Black Market that I’ve never felt at Siam Square, and did not feel the one time we tried Rook. I’m not sure what that something charming is…but it’s there.

But enough of that preliminary crap…we need to move directly to the food, because this was one of the best out-to-dinner meals I have eaten in a long time. When we picked Jackson up at my parents’ house after we ate, they asked us where we had gone, and then what kind of place it was; and I had a hard time describing exactly what they’re aiming for at Black Market. It’s not like the other Rudisell joints, which serve specifically Asian food. The phrase I used to describe it to my parents was “contemporary American.” It’s one of those places where the menu changes regularly to take advantage of both local ingredients and foods that are in season, and it’s widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in the city.

After some hemming and hawing, Amy selected the Devour Downtown menu, three courses for $30, which started with a salad of Israeli couscous, blueberry, and melon, with sweet basil vinaigrette and goat cheese. She liked the goat cheese—no surprise there—but seemed indifferent to the rest of it. I ordered from the regular menu and started with a salad of Chioggia beets, cucumber, and feta, with lemon vinaigrette ($9). I managed to overlook the green beans and mint that were also listed on the menu, so those were a nice surprise when the salad came, as was a foundation of hardy chopped romaine. I had never experienced Chioggia beets before, so I looked them up after we got home, and discovered that it’s an Italian beet with red and white stripes on the inside. I don’t recall the thick slices in my salad being striped—which maybe means they were overcooked a bit, but they were still sweet and delicious, a nice counterpoint to the tart vinaigrette and loud, creamy feta cheese.

Amy was less pleased with her second course, described on the menu as Garden Lemongrass-Chicken Broth and Confit with Sweet Corn and Carrots, but which in actuality was more along the lines of glorified chicken soup. I went for the pulled pork sandwich, on a brioche bun from Amelia’s, with mustard-vinegar sauce and two sides ($14). The cornbread with serrano butter was a no-brainer for one of the sides, but I was torn between cole slaw and three-cheese macaroni for the other. In the end, the mac and cheese fiend in me won out, and I was rewarded with a creamy helping of surprisingly well-cooked macaroni and cheese (at least one of the three was goat cheese, but that was the only one I could identify). The cornbread was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, topped with a wee dab of serrano butter that was intensely pepper-flavored, but not aggressively spicy. It reminded me of the Rico’s Hot and Easy cheese we used to sling on the nachos, back in the GC Eastgate days.

Does the sandwich all by itself deserve its own paragraph? I think it just might, and yet I don’t even know where to begin. The airy, perfectly grilled brioche bun? The giant mound of pulled pork, already sauced, yet not so much that it obscured the smokiest smoke flavor I think I’ve ever encountered? The way it was served halfway open-faced, like they knew even before you did that to attempt to pick it up with your hands and eat it like a sandwich was simply out of the question? That mustard-vinegar sauce, which was just as briny as its appellation would lead you to believe, yet also sweet and a little bit smoky itself? The excellent bread, which had grill marks, but wasn’t burnt, and which retained a chewy breadiness even after being sat upon by a giant pile of barbecued pork? I suspect that from this day forward, any barbecued pulled pork that I ever eat will be held up against this sandwich—and probably found wanting.

There was no third course for me, but Amy got the aforementioned chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookie with peanut butter mousse and raspberry sauce. It looked more like two lumps of brown granola to me, but she seemed to like them; and the peanut butter mousse was admirably peanut buttery.

I don’t know what else to tell you. I’m not sure there’s anything left to say—although maybe it’s worth going back to what I said near the beginning, that Black Market has had the reputation, pretty much since the day it opened, of being one of the best restaurants in the city. It’s definitely the best meal I’ve had in a restaurant since we ate at Bluebeard a couple of years ago. Is it better than Bluebeard? I’m not sure I’d go that far—but I’m not sure I wouldn’t, either. They’re really close. I still haven’t tried R Bistro or Recess, or a couple of the newer big deals, like Cerulean and Late Harvest Kitchen. The best restaurant in the city is probably one of the six—and Bluebeard and Black Market set the bar very, very high.

922 Massachusetts Avenue