Monthly Archives: October 2008

Cafe Grumpy and Irving Feller

A few blocks away from my house sits Cafe Grumpy, an energetic, spacious welcoming coffeehouse on Meserole and Diamond in Greenpoint. They have another store in Chelsea which I haven’t visited yet but I just have to share my love for this place. Rows of round tables line the walls and its livelier, noisier here with speakers pumping The Blow, banging of expensive espresso machines and loud laughy chatter from the awesome barista to her regulars. The walls are painted orange, like my room, which is the sexiest most warming shade that casts a beautiful nostalgic glow when the sun hits. In the back is a huge open space again with tables lining the walls and art hangs from the sides and above. Its the antithesis of stuffy but is still cozy and heartwarming. I love sitting in the front, the quiet back room gets me sleepy, and typing away on my laptop amidst the clang bang splitter splatter.

Last week I noticed a new installation of paintings that are huge, minimal, abstract and in conversation with works of Sol Lewitt, Joan Miro and Matisse.

These are the works of Irving Feller, an furrier/artist based in the neighborhood. He is the proud owner of the family run Manhattan Avenue Furrier and he pours in his passions to fur collaborating with Native Americans across America providing trade of goods.

Before he is a furrier he is an artist having been hired during WWII as an artist creating posters describing treatments for syphilis and gonorrhea. He attended art school in Paris and Art Students League in NY and his vocabulary ranges from abstract to figurative in various modes of color and style. I love them, and to think I can experience in the cafe that I love, I’m in heaven.

I’m daydreaming about visiting Mr. Feller’s shop and taking his art and nutty character to expose to the world, not to mention propose to curate shows in this cafe. I’ll have to dabble my fingers into their world.

Come to Cafe Grumpy and join me in the reverie.

NYTimes article about him

Cafe Grumpy site

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weekend recap

Sooo…I gained 5 lbs in the last 3 weeks. And although there are more tragic events around the world I can’t help take this as a point of departure for my current state of spastic multidinous mental combustion. There have been so many monkeys in my brain jumping from one nerve branch to another keeping me from writing in my blog, contemplating on those art shows and reflectively reviewing them. Its a transitional moment in my life, with a possible move in store, and I just have to schedule my schedule properly so as not to overwhelm and mentalize myself.

Things that have been on my mind lately: I saw an amazing loft for rent on craigslist in Carroll Gardens that would be shared by 3 people and it would’ve been a perfect opportunity for me to utilize the living room as an event space, to curate/rotate art work, hold happenings and extend my network. But I was thinking way to above and ahead of myself. Before I start showing anything and organizing anything I need to build on my nonexisting network and get myself back into the art loop. I haven’t seen any shows all summer and anytime I browse through any of the billion art mags and blogs that float around I feel so abandoned, outcast and misinformed. So rather than obsess over my TONY, New York and New Yorker magazines that list events I know I won’t attend, I’d like to take the next few months, the next year, to do some serious research: recall some art history barely learned in school, keep up to date with all the worthy and not so worthy shows around town, attend openings and not be such a self-conscious dork and actually talk to people, and eventually build a network of trusted people (rare) that will help pave my way. I know this is all real personal blibber blabber that you don’t care to hear, but I need to get it out of system and make myself as transparent as possible so I can unwind that anxious knot in my solar plexus and third eye. So in the end, that loft in Carroll Gardens was sacrificed, it was too expensive and not the right timing. I’ll make a new post about renewing my lease and start a search for a roommate.

I’ll also post a separate post about my friend Cristina’s daschund Reggie who is in the hospital for intestinal obstruction and needs YOUR help in paying for the bill. Cristina is a dear friend and also has a blog you should check out. More on her later.

Over the weekend I ate dinner for a friend’s birthday party at Zum Schneider, a Bavarian indoor Biergarten in the East Vilage. I can’t help prounounce the place with a heavy bellicose German accent with a hearty throaty obnoxious laugh to follow. The crowd was pretty yuppie but the food was pretty amazing. A continuous flow of carb infested drowned our table, a variety of sausage Weiner Schnitzels and potato salad, cucumber salad, German pancake, apple sauce, apple fritters…We all had a taste of each other’s plates and I overindulged a bit and was incapable of breathing normally shortly afterwards. We went out to some bar nearby (careless blogger forgot name of place) that whose walls were surrounded by classic olden photographs of celebrities and other weirdos. There was a live three piece band who played awful music from hootie and the blowfish to celine dion.

Friday night I browsed the recent Cooking Light issue and was excited to find a recipe that utilized the veggies that’s been patiently waiting in my fridge for quite some time. It’s a simple warming meal: Herbed Chicken and Dumplings. I substituted the chicken for firm tofu and served stir fry kale and couscous (obviously a fave) to compliment.

The recipe:

Cooking spray

8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces (one container tofu cut in bite size pieces)

3/4 cup (1/4 inch) diagonally cut celery

1/2 cup (1/4inch) diagonally cut carrot

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/8 teaspoon dried thyme

3 parsley sprigs

1 bay leaf (mine was dried)

3 cups fat free, less sodium chicken broth (used veggie broth, probably ended up being more bland)

2.25 ounces all purpose flour (about 1/2 cup)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup 1% low fat milk (used soy milk)

1. Hear a large saucepan over medium high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray ( I just used regular oil). Add chicken (tofu to pan); cook 4 minutes (mine was more like 15, till tofu turned brown on outside), browning on all sides. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add celery and next 5 ingredient through bay leaf to pan; saute 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Return chicken to pan; cook 1 minute. Add broth to pan; bring mixture to a boil over, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, chopped parsley, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add milk, stirring just until moist. Spoon by heaping teaspoonfuls into broth mixture (this was the best fun part); cover and simmer 10 minutes or until dumplings are done. Discard parsley sprigs and bay leaf.

Serves two (served me three)

Those little dumplings were so soft and chewy and it wasn’t a soupy dish, more a thick broth, mix with couscous and delight in the combo sort of dish. The best part though was the kale. I’ve never really had kale before but was curious as it looked thick and bitter. But wow, kale is crunchy and bittersweet, between arugula and spinach almost. I should practice learning my taste vocabulary because I can’t really properly describe it, for all I know its sour and meaty to you. Anyway I found a recipe online but basically just sauteed garlic and ginger on a pan in ghee rather than oil which provides the sweetness and threw in the kale, some soy sauce and sesame seeds and a little bit of water. Heaven.

Then, for dessert we ate chocolate brownie cookie  from Choice in Clinton Hill and topped it with Hagen Das Vanilla Ice Cream. Orgasm.

Saturday was errands day, I am shit broke so was determined to keep my grocery shopping to a minimum, so refrained from buying anything but apples from farmer’s market and breakfast material at The Garden. I spent some time in the park with Mellow and quickly after made my way to the NY Art Book Fair, Printed Matter’s annual fair of art books and editions. Printed Matter is a favorite art book store for many, founded by AA Bronson. It was held this year at Phillips de Pury and as opposed to open layouts of the past with just rows of tables, it was more like an official art fair with separated walls giving each vendor a proper booth. This compartmentalized layout made the browsing less flowy but it did provide more focus to each vendor’s goodies. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures, I was too caught up drooling and wishing I was one of many zine/artist book/magazine makers sitting at their humble booth. The difference between a  book fair and an art fair is the lack of pretentiousness, people are far more friendly (not that I am one to chatter, self-consciousness limitation syndrome) and reach out to speak freely about what they’ve got in store to share with you. I’ve seen edition prints, a mini exhibitino by On Kawara, handmade crafted zines and illustrations, theory and criticism books, and artist catalogues. Links to follow.

Afterwords I headed over to Deitch to catch the last day of Chris Johanson’s show, I was dismissive at first but the installation kind of grew on me. Im impressed the all encompassing environment that every show at Deitch provides, I’m sure it must cost a fortune but Jeffrey Deitch is an admirable art dealer who has a keen eye and a balanced budget to keep providing cutting edge shows.  More on this later.

In the evening I cooked a simple pasta dish with kale and pancetta and garlic. Unfortunately I don’t remember which recipe I followed but it wasn’t a super special dish so I won’t digress further.

Sunday was a beautifully warm sunny day which only prevented me from writing. I obssessed ALL weekend about this loft and traying to make a decision just becoming increasingly annoyed at my indecisiveness. I spent some time at the cafe but didn’t stay long. Evan joined me to the park and we ran into a dog holloween parade/costume contest and although I knew abou the event, I didn’t think to dress up Mellow in a costume. We did go to District Dog to try on an outfit but that was about as far as I would go. After witnessing this though I plan on dressing him up and torturing him next Holloween.

why...me...

Kudos to those who handmade the costumes. 1st prize went to the G train, who was a bit stubborn and delayed in advancing up to stage. 2nd prize were to the boom box and mix tape, impressively detailed, with matching breeds! amazing!

The parade/contest made me feel like I was really part of a community, there were familiar faces, familiar dogs, laughter, light hearted goodness everywhere and I thought, why should I move when I’ve developed friendships here in the last year and live right freakin next to the park and I have a beautiful big renovated apt already? In the end I’ve decided not to take the loft and resign the lease and stay put. I realize I run away whenever I am comfortable, i won’t be doing that this time.

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TWD: Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes

This weeks TWD menu is Chocoloate Chocolate Cupcakes chosen by Iheartfood4thought. I wasn’t too excited going into it, and I’m not too excited with what came out, but here is the report.

I am not a big fan neither cupcakes nor thick glazes, its too foamy and the creamy thickness of glaze makes me a bit nauseated, the way cheesecake will make you feel after one too many bites. Nonetheless I wanted to make them for the hell of it and I followed the recipe pretty verbatim except I don’t have baking soda so I just added another 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder. I don’t know the difference between the two so I disregard ones significance for the other, if you can tell me the function of baking soda in juxtaposition to powder, please do enlighten me.

Since I find cupcake and general cake glaze nearly abominable, I skipped that part of the recipe and after 10 minutes in the oven took out the cupcakes and sprinkled coconut shreds, which were such a treat in my coconut brownies. Big difference, as aromatic as the replacement topping was, it was silly to just assume it would somehow melt and smooth onto the cupcake. Instead it just sort of stayed there unmoved, like a pile of dried leaves, crunchy and dry and tasteless. I did dump the burnt shreds and was left with a thin layer of coconut sprinkles.

The cake itself I must say was pretty good, it was slightly crunchy on the outer layer and almost brownie-like in the middle, it wasn’t foamy which I feared and wasn’t too thick or chocolately. It was definitely a mild unassuming taste. I approve. But from all the TWD recipes I’ve baked so far, I am very sorry to say I wasn’t as ecstatic with this choice. I do look forward to next week’s recipe: rugelach!!

Murray’s Bagels in Chelsea always sold these rugelach in chocolate, apricot and berries and the guy who took the order on the phone would get all flirtatious and send me these as a free treat and a few times even added a cigarette upon using him as a confession stand pouring out my stress filled hair pulling day. It was a nice combo back then. Anyway if your’e around that area definitely check it out and treat yourself to a treat.

And yes, all my pictures suck big time. Between my trusty iphone and a untrusty t megapixel canon digital camera I am yet to take inspiring food pictures, there is only so much complaining I can do before I invest in a good one, but honestly, we’re livining through an economic crisis and such luxuries will have to be put on hold for awhile. So till then, dear reader, please be patient and sympathetic to my pathetic attempts at food photography, its a mere low grade reference for record keeping my experiences.

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TWD: Pumpkin Muffins

This week’s recipe at Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Sounding My Barbaric Gulp! and although I was not so excited about the choice seeing as how I’m on a cake/brownie/tart/cookie fix I was glad I went ahead and made these pumpkin muffins and I am very glad/devastated to learn muffins require as much sugar if not more than my preferred sweets.

I halved the stated recipe found in the book and came up with 6 muffins. I had the hardest time finding a muffin pan near my house and ended up with cheap disposable muffin shaped foils. This resulted in more disc-shaped golden muffins rather than your usual round and pudgy and it worked just fine and made it easier to peel off chunks or even just bite directly into it without it shattering. I fine grated fresh ginger because I didn’t have any ground and didn’t use baking soda. The allspice was super present and pungent otherwise a subtle soft savory taste lingers. I love the consistency of light brown sugar and don’t love so much the stench of buttermilk, not to mention I only used a tiny 1/8 of a cup so have this big jug leftover. I forgot to add the sunflower seeds on top even though I had it on the counter amongst the other ingredients, how careless of me. I think it would’ve thrown off the softness of it anyway so I’m happy I unconsciously left it out.

Now I still have a pretty full can of pumpkin puree and i don’t really know what to do with it. I don’t like the liquid jello-ness of pumpkin pie so will have to think of something. Maybe just more pumpkin muffins.

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Weekend recap

Today’s been a pretty off day, woke up late only to witness one of two goldfish having its life sucked out of it by the filter, lifeless and foaming. As if that wasn’t disturbing enough, in my flustered rush to perform my morning routine I knocked over a full mug of tea splashing spilling all over my kitchen. On top of it all Mellow decides to tactfully pee right by the door and my contact lens splits in two right before entering my eye, at least it wasn’t outside, although the pee should have been. My head just wasn’t together so you can only imagine how productive and dapper I was at work. I couldn’t wait to run around in the park, bathe in a cooling sunlight and come home to leftovers. Which was what I did until I looked up from my dinner plate and over at the tank totally having forgotten about the dead fish and found the other one joining the already deceased in the mortuary that is the filter. ugh.

an empty fish tank...

an empty fish tank...

Anyway I’d like to share my weekend with you only because I have this incessant need to archive and historicize my life. yes I can be a self-engrossed attention mongerer but I think its more helpful than hurtful…  …  …

Friday I shopped at the Farmer’s Market and surprisingly found some beautiful glowing red strawberries, fuzzy peaches and some perfectly ripe concord grapes. One of the veggie stands are run by Koreans from jersey and I sampled their stir fried japanese peppers sauted in oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, boy was it delish. So I picked up some peas instead, kale, butternut squash, and zucchini and trotted back home. For baking ingredients I head over to The Garden in greenpoint and am always impressed at their having every ingredient I may need such as pumpkin puree, buttermilk, pancetta, arborio rice, and other things I’ve never used or searched for in a health food store, or from any store for that matter. Until now.

That evening Evan and I ate at one of our favorite spots, kenka on St.Marks Place which may be an area taboo for many but many of my fave eateries are in these few blocks including Crooked Tree, Cafe Mogador, 7A, and that sushi place on St. Marks and ave A. Kenka is the cheapest and loudest of all the above, the most quirky and disturbing in menu and aesthetic. A glass of sapporo is $1.50 or something exorbitant like that. I had to follow up my tonshinhan (rice covered in some gravy sauce and layer of egg) with a strawberry tart at that small bakery joint next to the big famous one on 11th and 1st ave. Sorry, I didn’t take very good notes and wasn’t paying attention to anything than what was going in my mouth. Nonetheless it was a delicious overfilling night resulting in serious food coma. I almost fell asleep riding my bike and talking on the phone (ear phones on of course).

Saturday I spent 2 hours of my morning compiling a list of gallery shows to see (so useless) and trekked over to Chelsea. I’ve been meaning to check out more spaces in the lower east side and brooklyn but I feel like without seeing the bigger more obnoxious shows in chelsea I can’t appreciate the others. Ill be making an LES & BK run this weekend, if I dont get caught wasting away in listmaking. Reviews of shows will follow.

For dinner I followed this week’s recipe over at Barefoot Bloggers, another blog cooking and sharing recipes taken from Ina Garten a.k.a. Barefoot Contessa. Rachel of Rachellikestocook chose butternut squash risotto and since I’m in that warm chewy spice-ful kick I decided to satiate my curious belly and try this recipe. It looked intimidating enough but I’ve stopped inhibiting myself in the kitchen, hopefully I can carry that courage out to the rest of my life’s meanderings.

This is my second time cooking with butternut squash and I can’t emphasize what a pain in the groin it is to peel and chop this stubborn but very delish veggie. Luckily Travis was there and being the generous strong man he is, did all that for me (thank you). I get a anal about the directions, especially since Im a newbie in the kitchen and followed the recipe verbatim, except instead of shallots I used onions only because I had so many left from baking chicken and were hard to find in the market. Also saffron threads are beyond my budget so I used turmeric which provides that awesome mustard yellow color and pinching spice flavor. Everything about the dish was chewy, spice-filled, salty, rich,gooey, the ultimate comfort food for your gratification. I’ve never tried pancetta or risotto for that matter and you can make sure it will be a favorite (urge to make list of favorite recipes starts now…

Such a meal can only be followed by nutella dipped strawberries, which I’ve been gorging on lately and can never really get enough of. The only problem is the nutella always has a way of shooting pain right up from my tooth to my brain. I think I’ve already shared my beef with cavities but I won’t let it stop me from orgasming in the mouth as the nutella and strawberry dance and melt in reverie.

Sunday was spent riding around beautiful Prospect Park in Park Slope. It was beautiful cool day at times windy and chilly in shadow but deeply welcoming and soothing in the sun. I even rolled down a mini hill with Mellow chasing my toppled hair. The ride itself was grueling at times only because I had this crate with a dog in it, I wish I took more pictures, the misgivings of a careless blogger…

Prospect park is a huge hilly woody park, minimally populated, o, except for the breast cancer benefit walk that was going on blocking our path, but at least we rode for a good cause. We witnessed some Jamaican dudes setting up croquet (something I’ve never seen before) and we had to get up and out of their way after a blissful moment of soaking in the sun and wiping Mellow’s ass of leftover business. Careful if you decide to go leaf collecting in the big center lawn area, sniff before collecting.

I came home to bake the next Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, soon to follow. I had risotto leftovers and again, overdosed on nutella and repeated it tonight. When will this food gorging end?

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Roasted Chicken with Joe the Plumber

Thankfully last night was the last debate. As much as its been fun sharing these evenings with friends and food, everyone concurs bake/debate/food is not a good mix and is a sure catalyst for indigestion. Nonetheless it was another night of success in the kitchen, I decided to roast a whole chicken after talking to Amy from upstairs about thanksgiving and her explaining the simplicity and preference of a juicy herbed chicken as opposed to a tedious time consuming potentially dry and charred turkey. So I thought I’d give it a try. I picked up a simple recipe from epicurious and watched this video on youtube but in the end put more instinctual effort.

After washing and patting the chicken dry I sprinkled the outside and the hole with salt and pepper. Mai helped mix a concoction of butter, fresh parsley, dried rosemary and thyme with s&p and reluctantly I slid my fingers underneath the skin and massaged this mix onto the fellow and must admit it was the slightest bit disturbingly sexual. I squeezed a lemon and put the whole thing into the hole along with onions and garlic on the inside and out. I massaged what I had left of the butter/herb concoction and rubbed it on the outside, put it in an aluminium disposable pan and handed it over to a preheated oven at 400 degrees.

It was in there for 1hr 40 minutes next to a pan of roasting vegetables. I bought these veggies (cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, zucchini) a bit over a week ago and have been using them over and over again, but still can’t seem to get rid of them, and I’m surprisingly running out of ideas about tactfully deliciously cooking them. I’ll have to study my Joy of Cooking a bit more vigorously. Here I just chopped and spread on a pan, sprinkled with salt & peppa, parsley, coriander and some others and poured oil and stuck it in the oven. I think it was a bit bland and tasteless, but I think I was getting sick of these vegetables that I’ve been eating everyday this last week. Plus everyone was more focused on the chicken and the delicious mashed sweet potatoes that Elaine brought from home. Super creamy, warm, sweet and buttery, it went straight to my fuzzed heart and probably alittle to my ass.

It was a pretty silent meal, our attention focused on a fiesty final debate, chuckling occassionally at McCain’s snotty childish eye rolls and getting flustered with his Joe the Plumber obsession. Between him and Palin’s Joe Sixpack we can throw a pretty hefty beer ponging party at a toilet warehouse alongside Joe Redneck, Joe the militant, and Joe Wifebeater. Sorry, maybe that’s too harsh.

Anyway, this debate was far more detailed and articulate than the others, putting aside talking points to openly talk about the negative campaigns and associating Obama with so called terrorists addressing the negative campaigns and the mob rage at McCain rallies calling Obama and Arab and pleading for McCain to fight him, KILL Him. McCain said he at least repudiated these comments and HIS feelings were seriously hurt, the way a 5 year old boy’s feelings are hurt, when Obama didn’t repudiate negative remarks, as if the accusations were comparable.

Bob Schieffer asked some many great questions covering a range of topics such as the economic crisis, tax cuts, health care, abortion, the negative campaign, and the greatest of all, asking if they believed their vice pres mate were worthy and prepared to take over if something ever happened to them. Now we are all comfortable with Joe Biden and his many years of experience and so is Obama. Palin on the other hand, you sensed that hesitance from a mile away as McCain tried to recite a short list of great doings of Palins such as hunting, mixing family feuds into political power, husband power tripping, and cuteness. She gets a medal as the best Tina Fey look-alike also. It was great to see yet again Obama’s tolerance, patience and unbending strength when it comes to tolerating McCain’s many superficial remarks. It was pretty scary hearing McCain’s wish to overturn Roe v. Wade on top of Palin’s merely tolerating homosexuality.

I think it is clear after this high strung marathon of a campaign who we must vote for as our next president.

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TWD swap: Russian Grandmother’s Apple Pie-Cake.

This week’s TWD recipe was Lenox Almond Biscotti chosen by Canela & Comino. I’ve been DYING to make apple pie and biscotti was never a fave, so I swapped and made Russian Grandmother’s Apple Pie Cake which the group made back in March. My book arrived last week and my eyes were drooling flipping through page by page at the many wondrous savoring recipes. I flipped to page 310, took out the dough ingredients and started mixing to my heart’s content. I realize I desperately need a mixer, even a cheap hand mixer will do. My whisk broke in half and my palms were bruising trying to mix the dough and as much the labor is very well paid off, it’s still a pain in the ass. Not to mention the dough was sticky and uncooperative much to not only my own but others dismay as well. I had to take thin slices and patch the top layer together on the sides and just lay the dough on top of the apples and peel off the wax paper. In the end, it came out tasting beautifully even if it wasn’t so aesthetically pleasuresome.

Some alterations:

The receipe requires 3 1/4- 3 1/2 cups of flour but I ran out of flour so mixed in a cup of pancake mix, I think this made it more fudgy than not.

I added 2 teaspons of cinnamon rather than 1 1/4, because I love cinnamon.

Other than that I followed the recipe verbatim and it came orgasmically good. I will try to save some for tonight’s debate and share the wealth, try. So far it’s been very well received not only by my own gluttonous belly but others as well. One friend even proclaimed it was the best apple pie he’s ever tasted, don’t know if we need to reach extremes here, but I am very VERY satisfied with this pie-cake and will be making it again FOR SURE.

Recipe can be found at Burned Bits

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