The Smoke Shack Is A Little Old Place Where We Can Get Together (PLUS: Blintzes at Veselka)

Alas, on Friday night, I was without plans. How does a strapping young lad such as myself find himself alone and without plans on a Friday night; especially with his thousands of admirers hurling gushy e-mails at him on a daily basis, stalking him on the streets, throwing themselves at his feet? Well, the answer’s simple really: I have a cold. I was feeling un-well. I wanted to curl into a ball and die.

Then I logged on to the ole instant messager. Instant messager is to our generation what smoke signals were to our Native American grandparents’ generation. (I come from the Rothenberg tribe of East New York.) Sure enough, sitting there online, was Diana.

“Diana, what are you doing?” I typed.

“Nothing,” she replied.

“Do you want to see Capote?” I asked.

“Sure!” she typed back.

Then James Felder logged on. “Hey James,” I typed. “Wanna see Capote with Diana and I?”

“Sure,” he agreed.

“Do you want to eat dinner first?” typed Diana.

“Yes! Of course!” I answered. “Let’s ask James.”

“James, do you want to eat dinner with us?”

“No, I already ate.”

Ah, such are the stimulating conversations that take place on instant messager. If only we could bottle these talks and save them for future generations, they’d be really impressed with our penmanship. Suddenly the question of where Diana and I would eat arose.

“Where we will eat?” I typed furiously.

“I dunno!” she typed back eagerly.

Thankfully, James Felder came to the rescue. “You should try out Smoke Shack,” he suggested. “You have plenty of time.”

And so to cut to the chase: we did.

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Smoke Shack recently opened up on Bleecker Street, right near Carmine. I believe there’s another Smoke Shack somewhere and I will Google it right now to see for certain. [Pause while Adam Googles.] My research reveals very little. This may be the only Smoke Shack.

I think Smoke Shack may have had a cold too because it was pretty alone this Friday night. There were only two tables filled when we entered. The host/waiter guy sat at the bar reading a newspaper most of the time. Diana and I sat near a window and watched people strolling by.

When it came to the menu, we quickly agreed on ordering corn bread muffins.

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These were just the way I want corn bread muffins to taste even if it’s not authentic, though whether or not it is authentic is a matter of some dispute. See: I like my corn bread muffins sweet. These were very sweet, like cake. Stella–my Southern friend and Southern food expert (who joined us, later, for the movie)–says that real Southerners don’t make their cornbread sweet. When she cooked a Southern feast for us on her birthday, she made her cornbread not sweet. And becasue Stella’s sweet I pretended to love that cornbread as much as I love sweet cornbread, but the truth is I really do like sweet cornbread the best. Thank you.

Diana and I both had the same entree: ribs. We liked this entree choice because it came with any side we wanted. Diana chose greens (ugh, what are those greens called? You know: the southern greens you get with southern food? It’s slipping my mind right now) and I had maple whipped sweet potatoes.

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These ribs were nice and meaty and super-tender. Plus their flavor was unlike any flavor I’ve experienced with a rib: there was molasses, which made it sweet, and some kind of curry or spice that created an exotic undercurrent. They were almost like short ribs they were so saucy and moist—we started with our knife and fork but progressed to using our hands. And my maple whippe sweet potatoes were awesome.

So Diana and I enjoyed the Smoke Shack. Hopefully the business will pick up soon.

Then we caught up with Stella and James Felder and saw “Capote.” This is a knock-out movie: I hope Phillip Seymour Hoffman wins the Oscar. It’s really an incredible performance.

After the movie, we craved post-movie conversation. There’s no spot more popular in the East Village for post-movie coffee and conversation thatn Veselka, on 1st Avenue. And sure enough, on the way, who do we run into? John—you know John–from “We Eat Chinatown” and Carol Channing. He was going to meet Himkar who had just spoken to Kirk (who, incidentally, had just hung out with Mini Driver.) We all met up at Veselka and my quiet evening of solitude became a veritable party.

Veselka serves Ukranian food which, because my family is mostly made up of Russian Jews, is very familiar to me. I was torn between ordering a Veselka specialty–a raspberry blintz–or a banana cream pie. “Maybe we can share a banana cream pie,” suggested Diana.

“Oooh, I’ll share with you,” said James Felder.

“Wait she was asking me!” But I was too late. So here’s Diana and James with their banana cream pie:

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And here’s my delicious raspbery blintz:

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A blintz is (according to answers.com): “A thin, rolled blini, usually filled with cottage cheese, that is folded and then sautéed or baked and often served with sour cream.” My blintz was filled with ricotta cheese and it was really enjoyable with the raspberry sauce and the sour cream. “So much better than banana cream pie,” I insisted.

“I like it,” said Stella (who nibbled a little) “because it’s not too sweet.”

The night wore on and soon I was home feeling sick again. But a fun night was had and that’s all that matters.

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