Ohhhhhh Olive Oil gelatO at Otto (and pizza and pasta too)

Saturday night (which was last night) my friend Jason and I went to dinner at Otto, Mario Batali’s pizza restaurant one block north of Washington Square Park.

IMG_1.JPG

I have to say that the technical aspect of our meal–meaning the reservation making–was really enjoyable. I called before we went and they had one table left at 6:15. I took it. Then when we showed up (about 30 minutes after making the reservation) there was this giant wait for parties of 2. (A 30-45 minute wait). Because of my reservation making we were seated right away. Woohoo!

Once at the table, the pseudo-waiter asked us if we wanted any wine. We did. He pushed the expensive stuff; we asked for something cheaper. He pointed to something semi-cheap. We said: Ok, two glasses. He said: Why not a bottle? It’s really a better value. We said ok. We were upsold. We accepted it.

We also asked if he could take our order, we were hungry. He said he wasn’t our waiter, but ok. I ordered a mushroom pizza. Jason ordered a butternut squash pasta. He left and a busboy brought bread wrapped in paper (like a gift–we had to unwrap it):

IMG_2.JPG

The bread was good. The wine was good. If we were Catholic, we may have transubstantiated. Instead, we talked. Then our food arrived.

Here’s my pizza:

IMG_3.JPG

Here’s Jason’s pasta:

IMG_4.JPG

I must say that these were both a bit disappointing. Since Babbo is my favorite restaurant in the world, I expected miracle pizza and pasta. Instead, my pizza was like an interesting experiment. The experiment goes: let’s see how little we can put on here so that it still tastes good. So basically it was bread, cheese and mushrooms and parsley on the top. It tasted very nice. The crust was nice. I wasn’t writing home about it.

Jason said he liked his pasta, but I knew he didn’t love it. In fact he stabbed at it very intermittently. I got to the point where I offered to trade half my pizza for half his pasta. He complied. I actually enjoyed his pasta–it was fresh-tasting and simple. Not spectacular though.

At this point, we were ready to write the evening off as just “ok.” Then the dessert menu came. Having eaten from the Otto Gelato cart in Washington Square Park, I knew what we had to do. I also knew that olive oil gelato (which I’d never had and sounded scary) was supposed to be far and away the best. So Jason and I chose 3 flavors: olive oil, pumpkin and ginger. Out it came:

IMG_6.JPG

Jason and I dipped our spoons in nervously. Olive oil gelato? What could this taste like?

*Cue music*

HEAVEN

I’M IN HEAVEN

*end music*

We were oohing and ahhing so loudly that the two ladies sitting next to us who were also ordering gelato asked us what was so good. We told them olive oil gelato. They ordered it too. When it came they oohed and ahhed also. It was an ooh ahh festival.

What made it so great? It was sweet, it was creamy, it was sultry and–most importantly–there was salt in it. It was peculiar. It was head-scratchingly good. We devoured it in 45 seconds. We then ate somewhat less greedily the remaining pumpkin and ginger. That was good too. But it was no olive oil.

In conclusion, should you go to Otto: (1) make a reservation; (2) don’t overpay for wine; (3) choose a pizza or pasta but don’t expect to have your head blown; (4) order olive oil gelato. Have your head blown.

Your Inner Broadway Diva (Marie’s Crisis)

I have two friends in from out of town, staying with me. Actually three. But the third is staying elsewhere, except when he’s not—his stuff is here. It’s very complicated.

The first two, Raife and Brian, are easy-going sorts. They’re easy to please. Raife’s an actor. Brian’s a playwright and may soon be a dramaturg. With their interest in theater and their need for amusement, I said to them last night, “Do you want to go to a tightly crowded bar in the village with a red piano where everyone sings show tunes?” Naturally, they said: “Uhhh, sure.”

Lisa came with and we skipped on down to Christopher Street and 7th. Wrong street. It was one up.

Once inside, we were all a bit timid. They were doing a 42nd Street medley and none of us were too familiar. Then they shifted to other before-our-time classics like “Hey There” (the Rosemary Clooney song, not “Hey You” the Pink Floyd Song). Nervous glances were exchanged.

We got drinks. We found a bench in a corner. And then it happened…

“The hillllllllls are alive…AHHHHHHHHHHAHAHAH with the sound of musssssssssic…”

We were on our feet. Everyone was singing. We knew this!

Then of course, “Let’s start at the very beginning…a very good place to start…when you read you begin with ABC, when you sing you begin with…”

Anyone? Anyone?

DO REI ME.

THE FIRST THREE NOTES JUST HAPPEN TO BE…

Come on, you know it’s blaring in your head. That’s what’s wonderful about Marie’s Crisis. It seems like a dangerously horrible idea from the outside, but once you’re sucked in it’s like jumping in one of those inflatable bouncy machines at kids birthday parties.

Soon they were playing “Cabaret,” “My Fair Lady,” “Chicago.” Here’s Lisa and Raife doing “They Both Reached For The Gun” (notice how his mouth never moves; almost):

Img_3137_1

I think alcohol is an important component to enjoying the Marie’s Crisis experience. The combination of drink, show tunes and Christmas lights creates a certain New Years Eve-like quality that makes the evening feel more special than your average evening out. The other thing I love is that here is this room full of strange, wildly different people (old men, young men, black men, white men, Asian men, Lisa) who have a shared passion for what is certainly no longer a vital medium of musical expression.

Here’s a glimpse of the magic inside:

IMG_3.JPG

One of the best things about the crowd is that every so often someone will sing a solo, even if they’re not talented, but with such passion as to almost win you over. And in songs with dialogue, people vie for the opportunity to recite what they’ve memorized. Like with “Cell Block Tango” from “Chicago,” there were men staggered around the room ready to go, “I loved Albert Lipshitz, more than I can say.” The funniest was the part that’s performed by the Russian in russian (you know that part, where she goes “Not Guilty”)—this Asian man stood up and did the monologue in Japanese. The crowd loved it.

Friend #3 Andrew and his friend, Sam, came to meet us. They walked in with looks of horror on their faces. They shifted uncomfortably. They slurped down drinks eagerly. They resisted the Mary Poppins medley and my rousing rendition of “I Could Have Danced All Night.” They promptly left.

Marie’s Crisis isn’t for everyone. But for those that it IS for, it’s a hell of a good time. You can’t argue with the look of showtune/alcohol-induced ecstasy on these faces:

Img_3136

We GOBO Together Like Shamayamarama dippy dee dip tee ta

In my many travels around the city, I have built a mental catalogue of places that look like places I should someday visit. There’s an Italian place on Bleeker street, the Indian restaurant around the block from where I live, and GoBo–“Food For The Five Senses”–on 6th Avenue near NYU.

Last night was a reunion of sorts. I haven’t seen Jen H. in years and she and I were close as close can be in college. There’s also Lisa (who I haven’t seen enough of since I started school) and Annette who I’m not sure if you’ve met yet, but she and I are going into business together some day. I suggested it last night when she said she wants to go to business school. I’d tell you my business idea but you might steal it. All I’ll say is that it involves large vibrating radishes.

Anyway, we started our walk in Chelsea and headed down towards the Village. On the way we saw KYAN from Queer Eye. I wanted to ask him about my shaving technique but he looked preoccupied. We continued on our journey.

Eventually someone said, “Dudes, where are we going?” It was Ashton Kutcher. How did he find his way into our group?

Someone realized that two of us out of the four were vegetarian (Lisa and Jenny) so I suggested GoBo–“Food For The Five Senses”–which was close to where we were standing and served vegetarian cuisine. “For the Five Senses.”

Ends up Lisa’s been there before TWICE. She was worried because she’d had one really positive experience and one really negative experience. The negative experience happened on her birthday. But she was ready to try it again. We would be there for her.

From the street, the place looked to me like a cheap counter-service place with plastic forks and knives and large red trays. How wrong I was. Inside, this place was fancy–with cool funky decor (large square light fixtures over every table) and a tranquil Eastern vibe.

The hostess was incredibly accomodating even though we didn’t have a reservation. Here’s Jenny and I on one side of the table:

IMG_1.JPG

And here’s Annette and Lisa:

IMG_2.JPG

We were all very hungry. Three of us ordered bubble tea. Have you had this yet, my Amateur Gourmet reading audience? It’s quite fantastic:

IMG_2.JPG

Let’s see–from left to right there’s passionfruit, black tea and kumquat teas with tapioca pearls. The large straws allow you to suck up these gelatinous little balls. At first this was fun, but I quickly grew tired of it. The straw was humongous. Sometimes 80 pearls would clog its artery and I’d have to use my knife and fork to perform bubble tea straw bypass surgery.

For an appetizer, we ordered yam and yucca fries:

IMG_3.JPG

And some kind of dumplings with tofu cheese in them:

IMG_4.JPG

The idea of tofu cheese grossed me out, but it actually tasted really good. You know, now that I think about it I think GoBo may have been VEGAN food which is all the more impressive since that would preclude the use of eggs and milk in preparing many of these dishes. Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect on this accomplishment.

*Cue Enya’s Orinoco Flow*

*Kill the Enya*

For my entree, I ordered ginger glazed shitake mushrooms on greens:

IMG_5.JPG

Terrific. Great textures, great flavors. We quickly stabbed our forks into each other’s food. Jenny got a killer butternut squash risotto. Annette got nori (?) wrapped tofu (?) that was tasty and Lisa got something in something something that tasted really good.

When the check came, I grabbed it and opened it up and said, “If anyone can guess the total dollar amount, I’ll buy your dinner.”

Shockingly–and I mean this is truly shocking since there was no way she could have seen it from across the table–Annette said, “94 dollars.”

She was DEAD ON. I fell out of my chair. Paramedics rushed me to the hospital and Annette had to pay for MY dinner. I highly recommend this technique should you ever lose a game of “how much did dinner cost?”

I Like It When You Call Me Beard Papa

I have no time to write this post. I have to write 10 pages of a screenplay and read “How I Learned to Drive” by Paula Vogel before tomorrow morning. But I feel the need to tell you about cream puffs. Specifically, the cream puffs my playwriting cohorts and I ate yesterday on a break between classes.

You see, across the street from the Tisch School of Dramatic Writing is Beard Papa’s:

Img_3037

I’d passed by it many times. Inside, I saw people eating cream puffs. I thought this was a wonderful thing.

So after Forms of Drama yesterday, we rode the elevator down and people were talking about food.

“Who’s up for cream puffs!” I said gleefully.

People stared at me strangely.

“No seriously!” I pressed. “There’s a place across the street called Beard Papa’s. They sell cream puffs and we should go eat them.”

The group splintered. Some wanted something more substantial. The smart ones went for the cream puffs.

How to describe Beard Papa’s?

“I don’t understand this place,” declared one perplexed playwright after we sojourned inside. “It’s a place that only sells cream puffs, and where little Asian women yell at you.”

The second part was a fair reflection of what was happening inside. When it came time to order our puffs, a little Asian woman began yelling back: “One cream puff! Anything else?” Then she yelled our order to the cream puff man:

Img_3038

After the whole ordeal was through, we went outside and ate our puffs:

Img_3040

How were they?

I don’t think anyone was thrilled with them. First of all, they were messy. If you want to find someone attractive, don’t watch them eat a cream puff. Second of all, they’re just a little too baked for my taste. I prefer my cream-stuffed dough to be fried. In other words: a donut. Donuts make sense. Cream puffs leave many people–including the people I go to school with–scratching their heads and wondering where their money went. But all in all, I’m glad we tried Beard Papa’s. Should I ever encounter a school emergency that requires a ready supply of cream puffs, I’ll know where to go.

Panini at Murray’s Cheese Shop

Murray’s Cheese Shop is awesome. There was a huge article about it in the Food Issue of The New Yorker a few weeks ago and I think it’s safe to say that Murray’s is one of our nation’s greatest purveyors of cheese.

Of course, it’s rare to be walking through Greenwich Village on a hot day and say to oneself: “I could really go for a slice of Gouda right now!” So I’ve walked past Murray’s many times peering through the window, admiring the displays and scurrying on by. I almost did that today:

Img_3002

But then I noticed, in the window, a sign that said they also sold paninis. I was hungry. It was lunch time. So I got the Italian panini with prosciutto, mozarrella and Italian dressing. It rocked!

Img_3004

The bread was great, the meat was great, the cheese was great. All in all, it was great.

Next time I’ll go with the intention of buying a block of new and exciting cheese. Then I will eat it and tell you about it. For now, though, please accept my panini post.

Oh Babbo, My Babbo: An Epic Poem

IMG_1.JPG

And then the bread of crusty crust

sparking such debate

Lisa saying: “Eh, it’s ok”

And me saying: “It’s great!”

IMG_3.JPG

The waitress steered us brave and clear

through a menu tough and tricky;

A pasta here, an entree there

and “God, not that, it’s icky!”

Beginning with an autumn salad,

Lisa declared: “It’s warm!”

IMG_4.JPG

Mint Love Letters graced my plate;

Their function quashed their form.

IMG_5.JPG

And then the entrees landed fast

our mouths screamed out: “Oh Looky!”

Lisa had the pumpkin lune

complete with grated cookie.

IMG_6.JPG

I, in turn, enjoyed the duck

a full-on flavor attack;

when the waitress asked: “How’s everything here?”

I could only answer: “Quack, quack!”

IMG_7.JPG

Our table cleared, we took a leap

two desserts that we would order:

chocolate hazelnut for Lisa

with a caramel chocolate border.

IMG_8.JPG

I, of course, partook of lemon

crostini to be exact;

so tart, so sweet, my soul complete:

our dinner’s final act.

IMG_9.JPG

Blissful was our countenance,

our faith in life all mended;

We left on wings of glory

Forsooth! My New York trip has ended.

Babbo Bathroom Review

IMG_10.JPG

Fittingly, the last in our series of New York Bathroom Reviews belongs to the best: the Babbo bathroom was a bathroom-goers treat. Decorative flowers, a lovely smell, and a unique, quirky space: the Babbo bathroom has it all. There are very few bathrooms that evoke a desire to stay, and part of me–completing my task–seriously considered taking up residence right there atop the toilet. But alas, I returned to Lisa, and completed our meal. A little piece of my heart stayed behind, though. I should probably see a doctor about that.

Grade: A+