From the October compendium gatherum of questionable pumpkin ideas: The Smiling Pumpkin Ale at the Heartland Brewery. A pear and pumpkin tart with cinnamon sauce at the usually excellent and otherwise sane Les Halles. Pumpkin margaritas, pumpkin martinis and pumpkin beer at Tapika. Pumpkin soup, pumpkin mousse, pumpkin cookies and pumpkin tarts at Cookies & Couscous. Mozzarella pumpkin cutouts on the Neapolitan pizza pies at Pintaile's.
The city respires as one in sighing veneration of the lovey lovey orange squash. In the golden light of the pumpkin.
We've shilled endlessly over the years?obsequiously, elaborately, with great groveling sycophantic gusto?for Aquavit and its Scandinavian-based cooking. Now we'll shill for packaged food products the restaurant's peddling through ABC Carpet & Home. Swedes on a crazy Martha Stewart trip, just like everybody else at the end of this decade: diversifying, spreading horizontal tentacles, disseminating kozy komestibles in wee pots and jars for the delectation of Whitebread?a race that overran the island of Manhattan like lice in a DP-camp blanket before the fireball fell from the sky and the whole goddamn place blew, boy: gone, goodbye, nothing but the black, hollow sun screaming from the sky over Carnegie Hill's famined ruins, in which hollowed-eyed survivors hunted stray curs for nourishment and sport.
Anyway, wee pots and jars. A traditional Swedish mustard sauce, with hints of white wine, dill and coffee, will cost you $8 the container, and will usefully accompany your gravlax and shellfish. Also lingonberry and cloudberry preserves, $9 each. Also ginger cookies, at $15 a tin, for lacing with benzene and feeding to young cousins during the holidays. Also, for $10 the pound, excellent coffee, which you'd think Swedes?that placid, plodding and genial race?wouldn't tend to drink a whole lot of, but who actually, we're told, are crazy for the stuff.
Aquavit gift baskets, by the way, which contain the coffee, the cookies and the lingonberry preserves, are available at Chelsea Market, or can be ordered at 888-650-9500. They cost $35.
Monday, Nov. 1, at downtown's 200 Fifth Club, GQ food writer Alan Richman hosts the appealing if goofily named event "Big Red," which we're told will be "a red-hot evening of red meat and red wine," presented by the New York chapter of the American Institute of Wine & Food. It's like this: beef specialties from such estimable establishments as Beacon, Gallagher's, Keens Steakhouse, Les Halles, Maloney & Porcelli, The Palm, Mignon, Peter Luger, Smith & Wollensky, Steak Frites and Tribeca Grill will be paired up with appropriately huge red wines from event sponsor St. Francis Vineyards; and you, having paid the event's $125 fee, will consume as much as you can get your lips around over the evening's three-and-a-half hour (7 until 10:30 p.m.) course. The 200 Fifth Club is located at 200 5th Ave. (betw. 23rd & 24th Sts.). Call the AIWF New York at 447-0456 for tickets.
"Cheap Eats" hollers the cover of last week's Time Out New York, and that's okay. The magazine's honorably adduced the sorts of authentically inexpensive holes-in-the-wall and dumps most of which we sophisticates here at Soup to Nuts?who pretend to a culinary catholicism but who'd just as soon eat at Savoy every night of our lives?probably wouldn't enter in a germ warfare suit.
The Bowery's Kam Cheu, at which, TONY's at pains to point out, eggrolls are "greaseless" and packed with only "quality pork"? Mmmmmm. Or how about the Irish Cottage, on 72nd Ave. in Forest Hills, which, a TONY correspondent informs us, is maintaining the refinement and glory of Gaelic cuisine in the old sense ("If you think Irish cuisine is an oxymoron..."). Yeah, brother. And who over at TONY dug up this place Smile of the Beyond, an "uncommonly peaceful luncheonette over at Parsons Blvd. in Jamaica"? That's the sort of scrupulous research that could either give a city magazine a good name or else come this close to dumpster diving.
By the way, Los Mariachis Restaurant, another TONY pick, is located at 805 Coney Island Ave., between Cortelyou and Dorchester Rds., in Kensington, Brooklyn. Kensington's in the vicinity of Midwood, not far from Borough Park. You'll never, ever, ever go there, not once. Our thanks to TONY, by the way, for including a NYPress distribution rack on page 16 of that same issue.
Oh, wait, here is a cheap eats restaurant we can steer you to. It's Sirtaj, a fine Indo-Pak off Chelsea's 6th Ave. that for about 10 years now has been dishing up food to taxi drivers, the Soup to Nuts office and others marooned in this gastronomically bleak neighborhood who appreciate this good and inexpensive cuisine. The menu's suspiciously long for the kind of operation that scrawls its daily specials on tacked-up paper plates and stores delivery bikes in the dining area. And, granted, a common Sirtajean flavor permeates most of the dishes here, just like in the communal kitchen that is 6th St.?but here it's a good flavor. Sirtaj's got all the basics: a whole mess of curries, including chicken shaag bhuna, keema peas, lamb vindaloo, matar paneer, alu gobi and brinjal bartha; lamb, goat, chicken and vegetable biryani; samosa and pakora appetizers; tandoor bread favorites like roti, naan and paratha; and creamy mango lassis. While we can't quite agree that the restaurant offers an "inspiring atmosphere," as its takeout menu boasts, the drop ceiling, fluorescent lighting, linoleum brick-patterned floor, struggling potted plants and sparse magic-marker art at least amount to honest decor. The place is what it is.
You'll get out of here for under 10 dollars, easy.
Sirtaj, 36 W. 26th St. (betw. B'way & 6th Ave.). Delivery's free. Phone: 989-3766 or 989-6492.
Ariane Daguin and George Faison are owners of D'Artagnan, the game and foie gras suppliers that service a number of very good local restaurants. They're also the authors (with Joanna Pruess) of D'Artagnan's Glorious Game Cookbook, a beautiful new volume published by Little, Brown, and they're presenting a cooking workshop on Tuesday, Nov. 2, at De Gustibus, which is located on the eighth floor of Macy's in Herald Square. The event will run from 5:30 until 8 p.m. Just show up... Also at De Gustibus, and on precisely the day before (that's Nov. 1): an event called "A Thanksgiving With Brendan Walsh," at which Walsh?the respected proprietor of the Elms Restaurant & Tavern in Ridgefield, CT?will discuss "Yankee classics," especially as applicable to Thanksgiving.
Damn. Too bad we're not food writers. Because if we were food writers, life would be a succulent and quivering bud of a thing. Cool faxes from publicists leading us by the snouts to various troughs; our greasy paunches stuffed full of junketeer meals; sacks and sacks of gratis olive oil, breadstuffs, uppity vinegar and other shit arriving at our office all the time; not to mention?were our stars aligned correctly?the chance to maybe cop a feel off Florence Fabricant in a restaurant-opening cloakroom.
Also we'd get to write about sandwiches for Esquire, just like Scott Raab in the November issue. Raab presents us with the gloomy?and yet ultimately redemptive!?agon of some dude named Sam Botnick, under the title "The Greatest Lunch Ever Made," a blurb on the magazine's page 44.
"Sam Botnick brought a sandwich to work every day, five days a week, for the four years that I sold shoes with him," Raab begins. "One sandwich, stuffed with egg salad or tuna or salami and mustard, on seeded rye or pumpernickel or the occasional kaiser roll.
"'What's for lunch, Sam?' I'd ask each morning as we raised the metal grate.
"'Sonuvabitch,' he'd mutter in reply. 'San-o-witch.' In his 60s when I hired on in 1972, Sam had been a shoe dog for 30-odd years already."
Okay. What do you guys think are the odds that that really happened? That is, that Raab asked Sam Botnick what he was having lunch each morning they worked together? Every morning, invariably, out of the almost limitless field of comments it's possible to make to your coworker first thing in the morning? Didn't Botnick ever get tired of it, and tell Raab to stop asking? Didn't he ever slug him? Didn't young Raab eventually get the point and stop bothering the poor guy? Was Raab at that point autistic? Retarded? This compulsion toward repetition?it's theoretically interesting. But here it sounds a bit contrived. It doesn't add up.
"I saw Sam as a simple beast," Raab writes later on, "a pack mule with a bullfrog's jowly head. Back then, it seemed to me a poignant thing: Sad enough for a man to spend his life's span selling shoes, but to pull a sandwich out of a creased brown bag every day smacked of small tragedy and slow death."
The "back then" is perfect. Presumably now Raab no longer believes that it's "sad" to sell shoes and lunch habitually on a sandwich. For God's sake. A fucking sandwich. At least Sam Botnick never wrote for the contemporary Esquire.
"'Big day, Sam,' I'd snort. 'You got a roll.' He'd just grunt and keep chewing. Didn't even lift his eyes."
Aw, come on.
The closing paragraph: "Sam Botnick, I know now, was a man: He fed a family by selling shoes. Grilled onions and a hard-on were not love; love was that sandwich, constant as the clouds. Sam's wife made it, wrapped and bagged it every morning; Sam ate it every day at 1:00 p.m., and liked it fine."
So that's what a man is. And we always thought "a man" was one of those discerning male aficionados of the belle lettres tradition who reads Esquire?the magazine for Man at His Best.
Good wine events upcoming. The next in the series of excellent wine dinners at the Waldorf's clubby, elegant Bull & Bear will occur on Nov. 4. This time St. Estephe's Chateau Calon Ségur will be featured; an appropriately meat-based and wonderfully rich dinner (veal sweetbreads, mignon of venison, the like) by chef Eric Kaplan will accompany the huge Bordeaux. Cost: $135 per mouth. Reservations: 872-4900... Nov. 15, Tribeca's Duane Park Cafe will host a Markham Vineyards tasting: two whites, two reds and a dessert wine, matched up with five courses. Cost: $95. Reservations: 732-5555... Nov. 8 will witness the latest in the "Mondays at MoMA" series. Like this: a guided tour of part of the museum's collection of Fine Modernist Art after hours, followed by wine tasting and what must quite certainly be insufferable live piano music in Sette MoMA, which is the museum's good restaurant. This installment in the series is entitled "The Language of the Body: Matisse, Schiele and Klee." Beaujolais nouveau will be the wine in question. Cost: $27 for MOMA members, $39 for everybody else. Reservations: 708-9403.
Contributors: Beth Broome, Andrey Slivka.
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