Monthly Archives: March 2020

Quarantining With Ziggy

ReasonDear readers, both of you, or whoever is left.  Not many according to my stat team.  I hope this blog post finds you well wherever you are in this crazy world.  Much has changed since my last post two weeks ago.  Its fitting that it was about Green-Wood Cemetery in more ways than you may think.  In NYC at the moment Green-Wood is the safest place to be outside of your residence.  Imagine Central Park without the crowds (I was there last Friday).  Its a world that even days ago none of us could imagine.  Something as simple as a quick milk run to the deli requires careful planning.

I also want to take this opportunity to inform you that Food Tour guides, and restaurant bloggers turns out considered non-essential personnel in NYC.  While some professions like barbers and sex workers are in sort of a gray area right now, my occupation is in what the city calls “Oh, God No” group.  I even got a certificate that I must carry with me at all times while outside and it just has a giant red cross on it.  It basically means that I can get heavily fined, and anyone with a proper certificate (without a red cross) is allowed to use physical violence on me and confiscate all my toilet paper and baby wipes.  There’s a list of what they can take in the back.

In other words, no food tours for a while.  I’ve been home on and off pretty much for two weeks now.  No symptoms for any of us, but this has been quite an adjustment for my family (as for pretty much any family).  The whole experience feels like a super long flight.  You are just sitting there, waiting for the next meh meal, while looking aimlessly at the screen in front of you.  And the people next to you are starting to get annoying.  You are forced to do things you never do like watch CNBC, look at old shutterfly albums, and have conversations with your spouse.

Anywho, unless you’ve been on an isolated, disconnected retreat for the past two weeks with Jared Leto, you probably know that our NYC restaurant universe is in shambles at the moment.  Restaurants essentially turned into charities overnight, and some are doing things they’ve never done before, like deliveries.  Hard to imagine Rezdora, a tough table a month ago turn into a glorified Domino’s.  Its a weird time to ask for help.  So many people are hurting right now, and there’s so much uncertainty at the moment that restaurants and their employees are on the back-burner for most Americans.  We are all trying to survive right now.

But restaurants, not airlines, are the backbone of our economy.  Some New Yorkers are hurting more than others.  While most still have jobs and many even can work from home, restaurant workers in NYC are scrambling.  The way it often works in the food business is this.  Food workers meet other food workers.  They make babies.  And now both parents are unemployed.  Food workers often work paycheck to paycheck and dont save much.  Ever met a wealthy waiter, or even a restaurant owner.  Its a tough business to begin with.

Anyway, these are just a few ways you can help right now besides the obvious (deliveries, ask the gov’t for help, etc).  But feel free to list more.

  1. Buy a gift card.  Its a win-win for everyone.  Some, like Pig and Khao are offering gift cards at a discount. ie $100 for $75.  I purchased one yesterday
  2. Donate to an employee relief fund like Momofuku who employ(ed) hundreds of workers.
  3. Buy online from distributors and stores like Despana.  While we focus on our stressful supermarket and Costco visits, there’s a lot of goodies out there available.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll have more soon.  Stay in, stay safe, stay strong.

Quarantine Supplies

Picnic Supplies

 

Categories: New York City | Tags: | 6 Comments

This is Green-Wood

IMG_2481Charlotte Canda was a young high society debutante in the 1840’s.  On February 3rd, 1845 while coming back from her 17th birthday bash, she was flipped from the horse carriage and died.  Her death, and its circumstances shook New York.  Charlotte herself designed some of the features of her own tomb in Green-Wood.  Her father, who served under Napoleon, utilized some of Charlotte’s elements from the memorial of her aunt which Charlotte helped design a year earlier.  Her grave is 17 feet high, 17 feet long, and her statue wearing 17 rose petals circling her head.  Her fiance (I know, 17) Charles Albert Jarrett de la Marie killed himself a year later, and buried a few feet away.  Not as close as he’d like because it was a suicide. 

It’s one of the many stories that visitors came to see at Green-Wood around that time.  I hesitate to write “cemetery” because this doesn’t feel like one.  But the more I learn about this place the more I understand why it was once NYC’s number one attraction for over 100 years.  Before NYC was a tourist friendly city, people came to see destinations like Niagara Falls, and Green-Wood.  It was our first major park that inspired the creation of Central and Prospect Park.W

Yep, its now officially the strangest food blog in the world.  And my Brooklyn tour where we spend about 45 minutes in the cemetery is the oddest food tour out of 206 in NYC (rank #7 but who’s counting).  NOLA did this!  If you’ve been with me since the beginning, you’d understand my obsession with cemeteries.  Important cemeteries around the world like Zagreb, Genoa, Arlington, and even tiny ones like in Getaria, Spain are a good way to connect to local culture, and history.  Just like food in a way.

Out of all the famous cemeteries I’ve seen, Green-Wood is still the most striking, and approachable.  While its hilly, and massive, it doesnt require a great effort especially if you have a vehicle.  But yet, many New Yorkers still havent been or dont even know about it.  When I was a kid living in Brooklyn, no one took me there or told me about it.  Today its lost in the shuffle of the many attractions NYC has to offer.  Considering the lack of crowds, its arguably NYC greatest hidden gem, and the best free museum.IMG_5655

Some of the notable sights at Green-Wood:

Battle Hill – Highest natural point in Brooklyn with striking views, Leonard Bernstein’s grave, and Minerva the roman goddess waving to her cousin Libertas (Statue of Liberty)

Inventors like Steinway, Peter Cooper, Elias Howe (Sewing Machine), Samuel Morse (Telegraph, Morse code), and perhaps the most important inventor of them all, Charles Feltman (Hot Dog)

Controversial statues like Civic Virtue, and James Marion Sims (currently in storage) – gynecology pioneer who experimented on slaves.  Green-Wood is where unwelcomed statues go to die.IMG_5666

Henry Chadwick – “Father of Baseball”.  Grave adorned with a baseball theme

Statue of 12 yo Drummer Boy – first Brooklyn casualty in the Civil War

Artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Louis Comfort Tiffany.  I toured with Tiffany’s relatives once.

Bill the Butcher and William Tweed (Gangs of New York)

Notable pets like the infamous Rex and Fannie Howe.  Read about them before visiting.

The grand Nicholas Cage-like Van Ness-Parsons Pyramid.  Nick Cage has a similar tomb in Saint Louis Cemetery in New Orleans.  As of this writing, he’s still alive.IMG_2483

The odd looking bear sitting on top William Beard who painted the famous Bulls and Bears in The Market.

DeWitt Clinton grave and statue that once served as the main advertisement for Green-Wood when it stood in front of City Hall.

Four lakes including the mesmerizing Sylvan that make you forget you are in a cemetery.

The church and dramatic main entrance.  The nest on top of the gate is home to Argentinian Monk Parrots.  One of many bird species residing in Green-Wood.

Charlotte Canda

Click anywhere below to see the images

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Wayla – The Good, The Bad, and the Branzino

Wayla lobster pad thaiWayla, Wayan, Wayo.  Confusing times for Google these days.  Most confusing since Ilili, Leyla, Lilia, and Laila.  I’m not making any of this up.  These are all names of restaurants in NYC that sound and spell alike, and some of them opened around the same time.  Naming your restaurant is as important as naming your child.  I remember spending countless of bathroom hours looking at baby names before finally finding the one that clicked.  Its such a great feeling!  Until she says no and puts you in your place.  “Ugly Baby” should be a lesson to all future owners as that perfect name that is both meaningful, and easy to remember.

Restaurant owners should get into the habit of Googling the names before settling.  Wayla opened close to a year ago, yet when I Google it I still get “did you mean Wayan”.  Maybe Google simply figured me out, and tried to warn me.  Its not far fetched AI to build an algorithm that will match you with the correct restaurants.  But there’s not much AI can do to stop them from over-frying the noodles.  For now.

Wayla, considered by some one of the best Thai in the city, still feels super buzzy today.  Hence difficult to reserve, even though their website hints the opposite.  “We accept a limited amount of reservations each evening and welcome walk-ins”.  What that really means is.. “you see those two at the uncomfortable bar that looked like they havnt seen each other in decades and have much to talk about?  As soon as they are done, we’ll text you.  Meanwhile, go to REI and buy something you dont need”.  I was surprised to learn that all tables are reserved, not just a select amount.Wayla Moo Sarong

Much as been said and written about the Moo Sarong, fried noodle-wrapped meatballs that requires a unique set of skills possessed by only one person in the city.  His name is Liam John Neeson.  Its essentially one noodle wrapped around a pork meatball and if the noodle breaks in the process, you need to start all over.  In Thailand this forgotten dish got a life boost after it was featured on a soap opera, but only the wealthy can afford to have this labor intensive dish.  And here we are, eating it in a Lower East Side basement for 9 bucks.  Spoiler alert:  Its not good.

Its tough to criticize an appetizer that costs $9, but I’ll do my best.  The balls are fried to such a crisp that none of the ingredients shine.  It doesnt taste like anything really.  After the meal, I looked at Insta to see if the colors matched my darker than expected, and saw 50 shades of brown.  I can only guess ours spent an extra 30 seconds in the fryer.  Its $1.50 a pop (you get 6 balls).  For $1.50 you can get a nice plate of dumplings in every corner nearby.  The Chicken Satay ($15) special however was more like it.  Bulky, meaty skewers with an abundant, nicely balanced peanut sauce.Wayla Branzino

The crab fried rice ($24) is one of the better ones I’ve had.  Heaps of chunky crab, albeit as expected for the price of a main course.  The problem with this dish is that there are other attractive noodle/rice dishes on the menu forcing a carb fest.  But I’ll make it easier for you.  Skip the other signature, Lobster Pad Thai ($36) .  The sweet, peanuty flavor of the noodles just doesnt play well with the other dishes and its just an ok use of expensive lobster.  Its a far cry from Wayan’s terrific lobster noodles a couple of blocks away.  Should have listened to Google I suppose.

The saving grace was a fried Branzino ($31).  Normally I wouldnt order fried Branzino in any restaurant but the preparation here was intriguing.  The fish is deboned, flash fried, and cut into cubes.  While I found it much more aromatic than Mrs Z (meaning the fish, not her.  She smelled like Orchids and white Alba truffles).  The fresh herbs and spices was more like the best of Thai on a plate.  The Mango Mousse Sticky Rice was good but could have used some cowbell.  By that I mean something like coconut milk to give it another layer.

Wayla
100 Forsyth St (Basement, Grand/Broome), Lower East Side
Rating: One Z (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Branzino, Chicken Satay

Categories: Lower East Side, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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