“`If you knew Time as well as I do,’ said the Hatter, `you wouldn’t talk about wasting IT. It’s HIM…Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock…We quarreled last
I ran across the movie, Don’t Go In The House from 1979 by chance, and the title reminded me of my niece once saying, “Guys, I have a question. Don’t go outside.” While I realize that is not a question, …Read More
The London of my day was a filthy city, where waste buckets were dumped onto the streets, where baths were rarer than birthdays, where deadly plagues were an inevitable part of life, and where the air of the city was …Read More
The first issue of HungryLit has arrived! A motley band of writers and poets have here assembled to enrich the world with new words, new ideas, and new creations. Click on the cover below to begin your exploration into the …Read More
Wine can bring us moments of pure bliss. In a glass of wine you can find a snapshot of Elysium—quintessence and elegance and complexity bottled up exquisitely.
Wine can take us to heaven, but only beer can bring heaven to …Read More
I can do a remarkable impersonation of Michael Caine introducing himself and then eating an invisible banana (or whatever invisible fruit is preferable and in season at the time). It was at a party, while doing that very impression and …Read More
I am not a rich man. Sure, there was a time when I had some wealth, due to my share in the original Globe Theater, but that burned down long ago, and I have been dead for 400 years, and …Read More
“`If you knew Time as well as I do,’ said the Hatter, `you wouldn’t talk about wasting IT. It’s HIM…Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock…We quarreled last March…it was at the great concert given by the Queen of Hearts, and I had to sing “Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! How I wonder what you’re at!”…Well, I’d hardly finished the first verse,’ said the Hatter, `when the Queen jumped up and bawled out, “He’s murdering the time! Off with his head!”‘
`How dreadfully savage!’ exclaimed Alice.
`And ever since that,’ the Hatter went on in a mournful tone, `he won’t do a thing I ask! It’s always six o’clock now.’
A bright idea came into Alice’s head. `Is that the reason so many tea-things are put out here?’ she asked.
`Yes, that’s it,’ said the Hatter with a sigh: `it’s always tea-time…”
Sometimes it’s difficult to be inspired when you’re at home. There’s a comfy couch (or in my case, a sort-of-comfy futon), a TV, food at your disposal if you’re lucky and have been responsible enough to visit grocery store recently….and so sometimes it’s tough to fight the vibes to just kick back and relax on said futon and watch the aforementioned TV. So when I REALLY need to get work done, I need to leave my apartment. And finding a place to study in the city is no easy feat!
So, I’d like to tell you about one of my favorite places to go to do work: Argo Tea. It’s a chain but I usually go to the one on 26th St and 7th Ave. When you walk in, you’ll instantly know why it’s one of my favorite places to work. Walls full of windows on two sides make it well lit and full of daylight. And it’s very spacious and open. You don’t feel like you’re walking into a closet and bumping elbows with people as you try to make your way to the line to order a drink or as you balance your computer on your teeny tiny table that you might be sharing with a stranger who enjoys talking way too much people he/she doesn’t know (e.g. you!). Nope, that’s not the case at Argo Tea. I can ALWAYS find a seat!!! This is pretty amazing when you consider how swamped other cafes get with their share of college kids, entrepreneurs, people on business meetings, and then your general cafe oddball character.
As if that’s not enough, they have a ridiculously awesome menu! Especially if you like tea! I find it saddening to look through the tea options at most cafes, as you usually have your generic brand tea bags and maybe a decent chai latte, but Argo Tea has, as you might have gathered from it’s name, a specialized menu of tea drinks. You can get your coffee and cappuccinos if you like. But it’s very much a tea drinkers heaven! And even a coffee drinker might be convinced to order tea when seduced by flavors like: Tea Sangria, Red Velvet, Chocolate Mint, and Mojitea! And they have cute little sandwiches with interesting things like chai-infused cherries, brie and chicken. Yum!
I’ve been accidentally falling in love with the seasonal flavors only to have my heart broken when they are no longer available. But c’mon: Valentea (sweetened hot hibiscus tea with passion fruit flavoring), Irish Creme, Green Tea Strawberry Créme (with strawberry puree and milk!).
It’s a friendly place. A place where you can feel comfortable, so that you can muster your creative energies to put them to productive use as you sip your steamy hot or icy cold cup of deliciousness.
I frequent the one in Chelsea:
275 7th Ave, New York NY 10001
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I ran across the movie, Don’t Go In The House from 1979 by chance, and the title reminded me of my niece once saying, “Guys, I have a question. Don’t go outside.” While I realize that is not a question, the advice , is sound. (At least in the film it is, I have no idea what the out of doors situation was like to cause my niece such great concern.)
Like all of you, I admire a movie where a man catches on fire straight away; great, now I am hungry again. Anyway, as the movie progresses to the next scene, I start to get a very familiar feeling…it reminds me of another film, but I can’t quite put my hairy, yet remarkably useful finger on it…a young man who lives with his abusive, overbearing, religious mother…a bed and breakfast of some sort is coming to mind…one word title…Patholigist…Pediatrician…Sociopath…anyone? I give up.
So, the young man, Donald finds his mother dead in the house and takes it…badly. This is displayed by a zoom in on his face, which is making a series of ugly expressions, not unlike someone eating a piece of bad fish or getting a whiff of a one and a half star motel room in Oklahoma.
Donald does what anyone would do in his troubling position, he pretends she is just asleep and demands that she drink her tea. At this point, the tea thing is not happening and that is when the random voices say he is free and he can do whatever he likes. Obviously, he plays his disco music super loud and jumps on the furniture and smokes and fucks up some Precious Moments figurines real bad.
The figurines are clearly the last straw and Donald starts to hear his dead mother’s voice too-so he checks on her- yup, still dead. Now, things start to get weird and he sees flashbacks of his mother abusing him, you know, like holding his little arms over huge flames on the stove (gas, obviously), but in all fairness, she did warn him not to run and/or yell inside the house.
At this point, Donald is still hearing the voices, which is very distracting while driving and separating the whites from darks on laundry day. Okay, so now he spots a woman at a plant/flower shop and the shop is closed, but he begs her to just sell him something simple for his sick (dead, so really sick) mother and she does, reluctantly.
Now, plant lady has missed her bus and wide-eyed, Donald offers her a ride. After plant lady accepts, he suggests stopping by his house to drop off the flowers to his mother. Again, she hesitantly agrees. This can only be a mistake. (Dogs know it.) He eventually gets her to come inside to say hi to his mother, who undoubtedly, will be unable to have much to say back.
The plant lady starts wandering around the house, seeing strange, but typical, dead/abusive/mother/awkward/disconcerting/delusional/son stuff. It is now clear that Donald has a problem with using inside voices, as he yells and makes plant lady jump, “Mother must be upstairs!!’
Big surprise, she’s not upstairs, and something really bad happens, but let’s not spoil it. (You’re chained to the ceiling, naked-go!) I won’t say why, but it is apparent at this juncture, that Donald has some mild to moderate fire abuse issues and his friend at work, Bill (who looks a bit like Bill Pullman) speculates on this very matter.
By this time, Donald (who I am just now noticing looks remarkably like Bill Bixby) has found his thing (giving unsuspected, stranded women a ride and then setting them on fire, maybe). It is, at this moment, abundantly clear to me that, Don’t Go Into The House should have been called, Don’t Need/Take A ride From Some Guy That Looks Like Bill Bixby.
Donald (Donaldbill)’s friend from work (Pullman look alike, Billbill) tells him that if he is not at work Monday, he is out of a job. Donaldbill assures Billbill he will show up (as soon as he is finished punishing his dead mother, by burning a bunch of random broads, like his head voice friends want; he does not mention that part to Billbill).
Now Donaldbill has decided he needs some order around here, and instructs the crispy, not living dames to “Stop laughing!” This should not be too difficult because nothing is particularly funny and no good shows are on and they are dead. Midway through, I pretty much have the gist of this movie (hears voices, flame broils dames, mom laughs, I get it) and just want it to end.
However, apparently, Donaldbill has also grown a bit weary of his routine and decides to call his only friend from work, Billbill to hang out. Billbill says he has an even better idea and that they should go to a disco because he has “Two live ones.” (I can only assume he means two women who are not dead, which admittedly, would be a refreshing change for Donaldbill.)
Billbill advises Donaldbill to look snazzy for the disco date, so Donaldbill picks out a fancy new disco suit, and now we are cooking! (No offense burnt dead ladies.)
Once at the disco, there is a bit of snap dancing happening, but Donaldbill does not want to snap dance, so his date snap dances with some other dude and Donaldbill promptly sets her hair on fire with a candle (so, presumably, no second date for them).
Anyway, after lots of screaming, Donaldbill runs off and drives away and picks up more women, blah blah, fire, blah blah, voices, blah blah…zzzzzzzz…
Basically, this is just a movie about a motherboy, who burns women to a crisp big time and also enjoys disco music sometimes, but definitely not snap dancing of any kind, standing in front of a dead mother, with an apparent predilection for Precious Moments figurines, who won’t drink her tea, wanting to be loved.
I’m giving this movie one angry thumb up because I have yet to figure out how to make my thumb go down, however, I assure you, it is the angriest thumb of all. Get off my back. Now, who wants S’mores?
The London of my day was a filthy city, where waste buckets were dumped onto the streets, where baths were rarer than birthdays, where deadly plagues were an inevitable part of life, and where the air of the city was thick with flies and stench. And yet, as filthy as those 16th century streets were, our world was clean. Although we had begun to spoil the Earth in numerous ways, mankind was too few to do our planet loss.
But what horrors we have since brought upon the earth! Our bodies are cleaned methodically each day, but our consciences have been stained. Consider this–the number of humans alive today is greater than that of all those who have died since the stone age. We are a pulsating, multiplying horde, in unsustainable numbers, wielding the Earth like a child’s toy. “As flies to wanton boys” we pillage and destroy pure nature with direst disregard.
And yet, in spite of this troubling future, there is great hope. Never has there been such an awareness–scientifically, culturally, and spiritually–of the things we do to the world. In my era, we could not fathom that a creature as diminutive as man could do harm to the Earth. In this beautiful age, so many are fighting passionately for a sustainable, prosperous future.
Rockin’ Raw, a raw and vegan restaurant on Sullivan St. in the West Village, is one such warrior in this fight, and their weapon is fresh, delicious, ethical food.
Do not misunderstand me. I have oft written about the glory of a burger, and dined upon such things as foie gras and veal and wild boar with little thought to ethics of eating factory farmed food. And Alice can barely go a meal without tearing apart the flesh of some animal. I do this because, despite my reservations, it is too painful to me to imagine, in this ephemeral and paltry existence, flavors unknown and tastes
unexperienced. The miracle of food is too powerful to ignore, especially in an age such as ours and a place such as New York City, where the flavors of the world unite.
Rockin Raw has given me hope that one day these flavors may be experienced without the ethical and environmental cost. All the food at Rockin Raw is both vegan and raw. By vegan, I mean that no animal products were used, and by raw I mean that nothing on the menu was cooked.
Allow me to explain the science, beauty, and complexity of an uncooked meal.
For an appetizer, we began with jalepeno poppers. Deep fried and loaded with cheddar? No. The peppers were fresh and raw, filled with a cheddary sunflower paste, and coated with a flax seed “breading”. I was expecting to cringe when I had the first bite, so dissatisfied I was with prior vegan approximations of “real food.” However, I found that the experience was remarkable. This was not a meal assembled in a factory–it was fresh, real, raw food, assembled through human ingenuity into something familiar and comforting.
For the entree, I had the burrito. How does one make a raw burrito? First, the tortilla: flax seed and sun-dried tomatoes are blended together, flattened, and placed in a dehydrator. The burrito is then filled with mixed greens, salsa, delicious and creamy guacamole (if my soul were tangible, there would be avocados in it), and meat, cheese, and sour cream all made from seeds. Strange and improbable as it seems, I, a man who craves meat, found each bite fresh, fulfilling, and
interesting. I could close my eyes and taste the richness of the earth while still paying tribute to that creation I love more than almost anything–the burrito (I could still find happiness in a world where every meal was wrapped in a tortilla).
Alice had the pasta dish–Tallarines Verdes de La Lala. The noodles were made from raw squash and coated with a pesto sauce. It had all of the flavor and satisfaction of a regular pasta dish, with a kind of freshness and purity that cooked food can never give you.
But I know you, readers. I know that some of you are shuddering with each word, gagging at the word “vegan,” thinking, “that sounds awful,” and dismissing the idea that something raw and unprocessed could ever be satisfying. I am asking you to give it a try. Before you turn away from this thought, here are six reasons you should reconsider:
I will leave you with the words of Kahlil Gibran, from the chapter “On Eating and Drinking” from his magnum opus The Prophet–a book that, about 15 years ago, brought a new era of spiritual and poetic awakening to my life:
“Would that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by the light.
“But since you must kill to eat, and rob the newly born of its mother’s milk to quench your thirst, let it be an act of worship.
“And let your board stand an altar on which the pure and the innocent of forest and plain are sacrificed for that which is purer and still more innocent in man.”
The first issue of HungryLit has arrived! A motley band of writers and poets have here assembled to enrich the world with new words, new ideas, and new creations. Click on the cover below to begin your exploration into the world of HungryLit.
Wine can bring us moments of pure bliss. In a glass of wine you can find a snapshot of Elysium—quintessence and elegance and complexity bottled up exquisitely.
Wine can take us to heaven, but only beer can bring heaven to earth. Beer is the flavor of life—complex, bitter, sweet, filling, fizzing with entropy, bringing warmth even at its coldest, flat and stale before its time.
If you wish to escape—to fly off to Neverland—wine is the way to go. If you want to be here and now, drinking the marrow of life, you need beer.
And if you need to drink beer, German beer is never a bad choice. Germans know something of the bitterness, sweetness, order, chaos, joy, and sorrow of life, and the these things, along with a small dash of hops, yeast, water, and malted barley, are the ingredients of a good beer.
In search of the true flavor of life, I went off to Lederhosen, a German bar in the West Village. I had the Kulmbacher Eisbock, a potent 9.2% ABV brew with that trippe. Kick that sends your tongue into epileptic fits. Another diner promised it would taste like banana bread. I could not find that flavor, but it was intriguing nonetheless. It was a beer Nietzsche would have loved—an uberbeer, stoic and proud, a little bitter, and sure of itself.
Other beers at the table included Schlenkerla, a smoked beer tasting of a fire-heated cabinamong the mountains of Bavaria (much like those mountains painted on the mural overlooking the dining area), and Kostritzer black lager, a pleasant potable, smooth and dark (and a beer with a history—the first Kostritzer brewery was founded in 1543—22 years before I was born—and the poet Goethe lived off their black lager for months when sickness made it difficult for him to eat).
The only thing Germans know as well as beer is the food beer pines for in its lustful dreams. Foods like pickled herring (do not judge beer for this strange attraction—the heart wants what it wants), German potato salad, and sausage of every kind, including the currywurst and bauerwurst we ordered.
Bauerwurst is not like Bratwurst or other things you might think of when you think German sausage; it is more like a close relative of the hot dog—a swollen, juicy hot dog, more wholesome and dignified than its dirty-water cousin. The currywurst was similar to bauerwurst, with some German interpretation of curry added in.
As for my first experience with pickled herring? Do not fear it, as I once did in my younger days. The slight fishiness is offset by the pickling process, and all the improbable flavors mixed together on the plate—mustard, cabbage, and fish—combined to form something pleasant, unexpected, and refreshing.
We live on a quick segment of time—a thin thread of experience emerging from and returning to limitless oblivion. In this flash of consciousness we are given, ephermeral and saturated with wonder and mystery, there is a great debt we owe to ourselves: some new flavor, or sensation, or parcel of knowledge must be offered up to our experience every week and every day and every hour as tribute to the tenuousness of our lives. Our existence is not a gift—it is on loan from the cosmos, and she will one day claim what she has given.
And when this repo man of mortality comes I would not lower my head in shame and cry, “but I have never had bauerwurst! I have never tasted pickled herring!”
Chuck’s Margarita Grill: A Restaurant Review and Tale of Gothic Horror
By our special guest author, Edgar Allan Poe
I was breaking into an uncontrollable perspiration, and my head was swimming. What had been done to me? I clasped at my innards through this stranger’s coat, as though my hands might pass through the clammy skin of my abdomen to assuage my aching organs. As I slumped down from a bench in Branford center to the night’s unforgiving cold concrete, I pondered… how did I get here?
I had arrived at Chuck’s Margarita Grill in Branford early in the evening filled with merriment and determined to make the night all the merrier. My bartender Reynolds slid me the first of my Cuervo Gold margaritas, a tasty confection suited to the tropics. Two of these accompanied a small bowl of salsa, and some over-fried and oily tostado chips.
“How strange it is, Reynolds, that a watering hole once simply called ‘Margarita’s’ has now come to be called ‘Chuck’s Margarita’,” I noted to after washing a mouthful of rim salt down with citrus glory. “’Margarita’ surely conveys a Mexican flavor. But surely ‘Chuck’ does not. Should it not be ‘Carlos’?”
Reynolds took little note. The Branford Regal cinema had let out, and a few tight-sweatered “Twilight “ enthusiasts had settled into the bar next to me. They fiddled with their iPhones and took little note of Reynolds’ attempts to take in their physical charms.
The choice of food was to be had off of a Mexican menu, which was of the normal trifold variety, and from an American menu, which was scrawled onto a plastic barrel. “Los Nachos Fantasticos Grande, and the fish tacos,” I said to Reynolds. He nodded and disappeared.
I hungrily consumed the nachos, which were larded with cheese and mild beans, sour cream, jalapenos and house made guacamole. There was nothing special about these. The fish tacos soon followed, as did two more Cuervo Gold margaritas.
I thought little special of the meal, and as I stood to leave, I felt the distinct onset of borborygmos… a rumbling of the intestines so profound, the young ladies at the bar took notice over the jukebox selection of Triumph’s “Tonight We’re On the Loose.”
Indeed, something was on the loose tonight. I made my way quickly to men’s room, and barely made it to a stall before a great explosion from my nether-throat startled other occupants into a hurried departure. And as I sat there, with little warning, I vomited into my shirt and underwear.
When I felt it had subsided, I washed up as best I could. I had ruined my coat hopelessly, and deposited it in the waste receptacle. I then searched the coatrack for a replacement to protect me against the night’s chill.
Having found a suitable fit in a man’s topcoat, somewhat over-sized, I made my way out. Driving away I only reached the idyllic center of Branford, and stepped from the car to once again vomit, this time into the still, quiet night air.
What had taken hold of me? Was it this Cuervo Gold acting as a Gold Bug, biting me and sending me into madness and despair? Cursed Reynolds… what had he served me?
I looked up to see black bird, a raven, observing me with interest. It astonished me as it spoke. “Nevermore.”
“If only,” I said, but knew I would vomit again. For on this midnight dreary, I found myself quite weak and weary.
I shall eat at Chuck’s Margarita Grill… NEVERMORE.
Edgar Allan Poe, our guest writer this week, began his career as a 19th century author and literary critic. He is now involved with Connecticut politics.
I can do a remarkable impersonation of Michael Caine introducing himself and then eating an invisible banana (or whatever invisible fruit is preferable and in season at the time). It was at a party, while doing that very impression and pantomiming fruit eating that I first learned of the film The Island, from 1980, starring Michael Caine. The film starts strong, and much like Tom had Rene at hello (I was once held captive and forced to watch Jerry Maguire and listen to Color Me Badd for fourteen hours, which is how I learned English and shame and that I do not care for small, blonde, mostly balding gorillas with above average-sized heads), The Island had me at axe-wielding pirates, people in small swimming bottoms, and numerous flying bloody body parts.
Michael Caine plays a reporter who plans to go and investigate the disappearance of a number of sail boats and yachts in the Caribbean, but his ex-wife throws a human wrench into the works by dropping off their son with him for the weekend unexpectedly. Caine decides to bring his young son along on the investigation with the promise of a fun trip to Disney World (just as soon as they solve the whole missing boat mystery because surely that won’t take up the entire weekend). They set out on a drive, stopping along the way to maybe grab a snack, buy a gun for the kid to play with on the way to Disney World, and take a leak. They then hop into a tiny plane with a shady (he is decidedly sweaty and wearing little shorts) pilot, and after a crash landing of sorts, they all flee the wreckage mere moments before it explodes.
Caine and his boy find themselves on an island, which is pretty much abandoned, save for some old nut-ball man and some law officer type person. Caine tries to make the most of their misfortune by renting one of the crazy man’s boats and taking his son fishing (practically the same thing as Disney World, so everyone wins). Things seem pleasant for the moment, I mean, what could possibly sully a nice relaxing fishing excursion? An ill-tempered pirate with a great big knife jumping up out of the water
and onto your little boat that you rented from some wack-job on a desolate island. The good news is Caine still has his boy’s gun and shoots the tetchy pirate, killing him. The bad news is there are more pirates with more really big knives and now they are really mad.
The indignant pirates take Caine and his boy to another island with nothing but a shit-ton of fuming pirate men and one livid, very recently widowed (by Caine’s gun-toting hand) pirate woman. After a fair trial of spitting and shouting and laughing and taunting and setting various things on fire, the pirates decide that Caine should be the widow’s new thruster man and make a baby with her in the hopes of strengthening their gross, incesty bloodline (let’s face it, these guys are not getting out to the clubs to pick up non sister/mom/daughter/cousin/aunt/grandmother dames much) with Caine’s wang. It is also deemed appropriate to take Caine’s boy, rename him Rhubarb or something, and turn him into a ruthless blood-thirsty murderer who hates his real dad (Caine) and only answers to his new dad (Crabbypants Pirate). As you can imagine, a process resulting in changing everything one has ever known or loved as the base of their well-being and very existence would take a while, like a good two to three hours.
Caine (now prisoner/breeder man) and his boy (now biological dad hater/new little brat pirate) are brought along on the next yacht pillaging raid, upon which Caine notices many large bags of cocaine and the pirates encounter and kill many drunk/high people and one ready to fight everyone while donning only his tiny underpants guy. Fortuitously, some Coast Guard people are looking for this cocaine and stumble upon the pirate yacht takeover and things seem to be looking up. My point is, cocaine saves people. Or, maybe not and they are all severely knived and die horribly. But, as luck would have it, there are plenty more Coast Guard people and lots of cocaine to find…so that all of them can be brutally slaughtered too, leading to some confusing Coast Guard radio talk, “Our men were attacked by pirates.” “Pilates?” “Pirates.” “Pyrex?” “Pirates.” “Prom dates?” “PIRATES!” Now, I don’t want to spoil things for you, but let’s just say Micheal Caine suddenly turns into Rambo and we all know there is nothing like a giant blood bath to remind you who your real daddy is. All right, we’re going to Disney World!
I am giving The Island one angry thumb up because, in the words of a reasonably furry man who is wise in the ways of life, love, and oatmeal, “It’s the right thing to do and a tasty way to do it. Diabeetus.”
I am not a rich man. Sure, there was a time when I had some wealth, due to my share in the original Globe Theater, but that burned down long ago, and I have been dead for 400 years, and all my copyrights have long expired, so my income has been quite limited in the centuries past. Alice and I, a graduate student and a teacher these days, must live from paycheck to paycheck.
And so, to you wealthy readers who prate about luxury, who favor champagne and caviar as a midday snack, who fly to Aruba for a weekend in a private jet to battle the ennui, who live in estates with an “east wing” and go for treatments from your personal Swedish masseuse in your personal spa while enjoying food prepared by your personal chef, I declare that you do not know what luxury is. Luxury is too common for you. Luxury is banal and ordinary. You have forgotten how it feels.
Luxury is a rare and precious thing, and when I cradle it in my arms, oft for no more than an hour, I am sure to admire it wholly and completely, to savor it’s warm embrace, to treasure the moment of completeness it brought me. Luxury, much like our lives, is ephemeral and precious. One must never take it for granted.
Alice and I, poor folk though we are, were seeking out this Sunday night an evening of pure luxury. There were many reasons for this quest, chief among them the celebration of our lives together, in honor of St. Valentine, who, against the cruelty of Roman law held secret services between Roman soldiers and their lovers. We sought as well a rest from the vicissitudes of life—a reward to ourselves for the hard work and the long hours.
Yet I had still another reason for my quest of luxury, unknown to Alice until the moment the truth was unveiled. My true intention this evening—my motivation for a romantic evening and an expensive restaurant and an outpouring of luxury—was to ask of Alice her hand in marriage.
I know what you are thinking. You are remembering something you may have learned in your High School English class—that I had already married—to Ann Hathaway in the 16th Century—and had three children—Hamnet, Judith, and Susanna. A marriage of convenience, I assure you, from a past life, from which all parties have perished through the passage of cruel time. This is a new eon, and I seek a truer love.
Love, unique among luxuries, does not get stale with age. It grows with each day, and new facets emerge. It is not a single luxury, but a journey of luxuries—like a new glass of wine each day, a new experience in each hour together, a new sensation, pure and perfect, radiating through your life, bringing warmth and joy to each corner of your soul.
Alice and I, through our seven and a half year courtship, have known love in many forms—silly, silly love of youth, the tumultuous love full of struggle and doubt as we fight to make sense of our dreams, and the mature love on the other side of the mountain, sure of itself, perfect and complete, readying us for all that is to come.
We began the evening at Vin Sur Vingt, a Wine Bar on West 11th Street by 7th Avenue. We experienced a delightful wine flight in the intimate, romantic setting while two gentlemen played Flamenco guitar (including an ironically serene and pretty version of the Rolling Stone’s “Paint it Black”). We gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes, and spoke of our lives together.
But that was just the beginning. For the place of the proposal I chose Aureole, Charlie Palmer’s famed French Restaurant in Midtown. Normally I am wary of any restaurant within three blocks of Times Square, but my research into the location promised a romantic, classy setting, different from the tourist traps that define the area, and a prix fixe meal of divers, magical experience, to rival the magic of love.
In case you are wondering the word “aureole,” from the Latin for gold, does not refer to a part of the breast—that is “areola”—but to that golden glow surrounding sacred figures in religious paintings. Since I was seeking such a glow in my own life, it seemed like a fitting destination.
The restaurant did not disappoint. Each course that came was a miracle of science—an ingeniously crafted work of art arranged on the plate to dazzle the eye and offer up to the senses experiences never before known.
It began with a complementary amuse-bouche with egg, ham, and caviar bathed in a savory dash of pork broth. Then came the appetizers—foie gras for me, and butternut squash agnolotti for Alice (short rib and hazelnut and a number of other dazzling flavors arranged carefully on each plate), complemented by the Prosecco I ordered when Alice was off in the bathroom.
Then came the main course—Pork Loin with black truffle jus, and aged ribeye. The food was so marvelously arrayed that I insisted Alice take a picture. It was a few moments after the photograph that she noticed the ring in my hand.
And then came the most spectacular, delightful, delicious part of the evening—she said, “yes.”
All that followed was divine, and endowed us with that same aureole that the name of the venue promised—there was indeed a sacred glow about us from that moment on.
Dessert was a chocolate soup and a toffee pudding with Maker’s Mark ice cream each adorned with a candle and the word “congratulations.”
Luxury is all around us. It is in a rich meal in a rich restaurant, in the crackling of a spoon against crème brulee, and in an elegant cappuccino. It is in the feel of satin and velvet under your fingertips. It is in a warm, percolating Jacuzzi that nibbles on your skin. But it is also in the palm of your hand pressed against the palm of the woman you love. Luxury is sharing Darrel Lee mango licorice with someone special while sitting on a futon and watching “The Walking Dead.”
I have Angie (aka “Alice”) in my life, forever, and count myself among the 1%—we few, we happy few, rich in love and luck and luxury, savoring the warm glow (or aureole) that each day brings, treasuring each moment together, and knowing that in the trials of life we shall not stand alone.
“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”
“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.”
“Nobody asked your opinion,” said Alice.”
- Alice in Wonderland
I caught up with my dear friend the Mad Hatter today. You may know him by his famous riddles about ravens and fancy ensemble in which he so often dresses and uses to express his very important uniqueness. He’s perhaps a quintessential New Yorker in that fashion. Anyhow, a favorite place of ours to get acquainted with each other’s going-ons is Alice’s Tea Cup. Naturally, because it’s based on our first meeting many years ago at a quite mad tea party. Though this one was not quite as mad, it was filled with the Mad Hatter’s good cheer and puzzling questions about life, our purpose and our modern culture.
Our stimulating conversation was accented with an exquisite pot of tea, the caffeine-free version of the Birthday tea (I don’t think I could have handled the Mad Hatter on caffeine!). We delighted in our sandwiches as well: I had the Lapsang Souchong, smoked chicken breast with slices of granny smith apple and herbed goat cheese on seven grain bread and he had the Croque Madame, grilled gruyere with mayonnaise and whole grain mustard on golden raisin semolina bread.
And our greatest revelry of the afternoon was the devouring of our life-altering freshly baked scones, with raspberry preserves and clotted cream — which one simply cannot do without when eating scones of this magnificence. Of course we split 3 flavors because who could possibly choose only one of the mouth-watering names the evil genius staff choose to put on their menu! We partook in a feast of blueberry cheesecake, pumpkin glaze and buttermilk biscuit scones. We almost had to take a doggie bag home but our fingers could not halt in the delight of such goodness and all crumbs were at last disappeared from sight. Indeed, it was a glorious day for two old friends and our most satisfied tummies.
There are several Chapters of Alice’s Tea Cup around the city. This is the one we went to:
156 E 64th St. New York, NY 10021
The nations of the world are colors on a palette, and New York is the canvas. In our city, home of the United Nations, each country builds a hundred temples to its food, music, and culture. On every corner lives a microcosm of a distant land, a journey of food and flavor, an embodiment of the passion, power, and pulchritude of a culture served on a plate.
When wanderlust captures you, and you long for parts distant and unknown, the MTA can take you there. The flavors and smells of all the world is a subway ride away.
I am prone to fits of wanderlust, and one of my episodes carried me a short distance to Elmhurst, Queens,to a Venezuelan sandwich shop called “Patacon Pisao” (the name roughly translates into “smushed fried plantain pancake”) serves up, not sandwiches, but the resultant offspring of a sandwich if it were mated with a god.
Imagine a sandwich before you. This sandwich of the mind contains, if it is like most of its kind, some meat, cheese, and bread. Perhaps you have added some lettuce and tomato,
along with a condiment such as mayonnaise. Hold this image of a lesser sandwich in your mind, and behold as I transform this vision into a Patacon Pisao sandwich. First, replace the meat with juicy, shredded beef, roasted pork, or any number of delicious proteins. Replace the cheese with fried queso blanco. In lieu of mayonnaise, a mysterious sauce filled with flavors I cannot begin to name or comprehend.
How does it sound so far? Exquisite, perhaps? I have not even begun.
Rid yourself of that tired staple of the sandwich, bread. Breads rain over
the sandwich has worn out its welcome. Instead of bread you have your choice of a deep fried smushed plantain pancake (patron), a corn cake (arepa), or, my favorite, a sweet corn cake (cachapa)–that perfect fusion of sweet and savory of spicy that defines a perfect moment of food.
Wash it down with tamarind or cherry juice, and you will have had an $8 meal to rival the finest of your dreams. And in this dream of food, what flavors will come to haunt you–to smell, to taste, to travel to a hundred paces, to have your tongue speak to you of nations distant and strange and filled with possibility. You will know that to experience the world you do not need frequent flyer miles–you need only a knife and a fork and a metrocard.