May 2005

Memorial Day at Coney Island featuring the Poignant Cinematic Masterpiece, “Coney Island Days”

Take the F train or the D train downtown to the very end of its run and suddenly you’ll smell the sand and surf and behold the wonder that is Coney Island. Today being Memorial Day, our train was packed and Coney Island was choc-full o’revelers. My whole life I’d always heard of Coney Island, but I’d never been there (except for the one time dad drove us through there to show us where he used to work—he used to work across the street from Nathan’s!) And while Coney Island is certainly a far-cry from its more reputable days, it was fantastic to walk along the boardwalk and to behold sights like the enormous and somewhat timeless Wonder Wheel:

Liz, Lisa, John and John’s friend Michael joined me for a Coney Island adventure today. I had planned for us to eat at Totonno’s pizza but, sadly, Totonno’s is closed on Mondays. So our primary eating destination was Nathan’s. Here’s the crew out front (Michael, Lisa, John and Liz):


It was John’s birthday today (happy birthday, John!) so I offered to treat him to his share of hot dogs, corn and lemonade. One drawback was that the line for Nathan’s was ENORMOUS. I’d say we spent 65% of our time at Coney Island waiting in line at Nathan’s, if not longer. Look at my frustrated crew:


We eventually split into two lines to see which line would move faster, and this woman tried to cut in front of Lisa—but Lisa held her ground. Still, the picture is worth preserving:


Finally—and, really, it was such a relief–we reached the window and ordered our food. For myself, I ordered two hot dogs and for the table we ordered two large fries. We secured ourselves a table and we dug in. Honestly, these hot dogs were delicious:


It’s hard to believe that hot dogs–a pretty generic item–can be that much better in one location than they are in other locations. And I grew up at Nathan’s: Nathan’s in Oceanside, New York and the Nathan’s in Boca Raton, FL. But these were the best. They were plump and juicy and bursting with flavor. I read a list recently (anyone else read it?) that listed the 50 most important things to eat before you die and one of them was a hot dog at Nathan’s on Coney Island. I feel so fulfilled!

We then made our way around, filming the video you’re about to see. We spied this sign on the back of a schoolbus and found it very funny that it was necessary!


Our last stop was the confectionary store, not Phillips (which is, apparently, closed?) but Williams–right next to Nathan’s. Here’s Lisa with a candy apple and Liz with cotton candy:


The candy was great as was our day on Coney Island…

But don’t take my word for it. Lisa, who as it happens is a grandmother and 80 years old, put together this video of our time there. We hope you enjoy it!

A Modern Meal at The Modern

Danny of A Year In Food contacted me recently and asked if we could go on a joint food-blogging expedition. I said “sure” and we agreed to sample the modern food in the bar room of The Modern.

We met out front, and while I waited I snapped this photo which I’m really proud of. Isn’t it cool?

Upon entering, Danny (who made the reservation) gave his name and the host asked if he could take my coat. “No thanks,” I said nicely. My coat is like my purse: my pockets are stuffed with my camera and notepad, so I need it for the meal. The host gave me a look like, “Well, if that’s what you REALLY want.” And then a female host came (aka, a hostess), the male host said something to her and she saw my coat and said, “Sir, can I check your coat?” and I said, “No thanks” and there was another awkward pause. The male host said, “I already asked him,” and she said: “Oh, ok, it’s not big deal you can keep your coat.”

She led us to a table in the middle of a very modern-looking room. A very tall waiter came over with a drink menu and asked us what kind of water we wanted. We said tap and he exited.

Danny, who’d been there before, suggested I try the mango-passionfruit mojito. When the waiter returned I ordered that and Danny ordered a drink with champagne and rose petals. We proceeded to study our menus.

The menu at the Bar Room at The Modern is divided into three sections labelled, quite appropriately: 1, 2, 3. Each section is priced similar to the others and there’s nothing to indicate that the items in each menu are somehow related, such that menu 2 features a mushroom soup, menu 1 features a crab salad, menu 3 features scallops (though it is indicated that menu three involves mini-sized entrees.)

Danny and I decided to order different things and then share them. Our drinks arrived and my mojito was delicious, though not necessarily worthy of its $16 pricetag. We ordered our food and prepared to feast.

Bread was brought, and bread we et. Then the first course arrived. I had the foie gras torchon with muscat gelee & toasted country bread:


Danny had the arctic char tartare (hey, that rhymes!) with daikon and trout caviar (not photographed by me, but photographed by Danny and soon to be featured on his site.)

My foie gras was nice* (*I realize it’s bad English to say that: no, my foie gras didn’t help an old lady across the street; but somehow it seems appropriate, sometimes, to describe food as “nice”), I really enjoyed the muscat gelee. Then, halfway through, we switched and I really enjoyed Danny’s char tartare. That had more flavors going on.

For Course 2 I had the Artichoke Soup with Lobster:


Danny had the charred octopus with warm potato salad.

My soup was really watery at first and I was disappointed. Then it grew on me. Then I attempted to eat the garnishes on the side. I ate the lobster first and then I dug into the artichoke. Sometimes I earn my title “Amateur Gourmet” and sometimes I sink below it to “Moron Gourmet,” and here I fell into that latter category as I shoved artichoke leaves into my mouth in one heapful, thinking they’d be tender and I could chew them. I couldn’t. I had to spit them out. It was nasty.

Danny’s octopus was interesting but not my favorite. I liked the texture of it and I liked the way it was cooked, but I needed a contrasting flavor like a vinegar or a citrus component to give it some acid. But then again, I’m the putz who ate artichoke leaves.

For course #3 I had Braised Pork Cheeks with sauerkraut and ginger jus:


As you can see the presentation’s really pretty, and the texture of the cheeks was pleasantly tender and light. Again, I could’ve used more flavor. That’s my big complaint about the MOMA: there were no great wallops of flavor.

Danny had the Grilled Quail with chive spaetzle and lentils and that had more flavor, but not a ton of meat. I kept thinking he’d ordered squab for some reason which became a running gag throughout the course. “How’s your squab?” “My what?” “I’m sorry, I mean your partridge.”

These guys next to us noticed we were taking pictures of our food (and it was pretty funny to have not one, but two people at a table for two photographing every dish) and they said, “We’re on eGullet too—we’re excited to see these pics posted.” They thought we were eGulleters so we let them sustain this belief. (Well, actually, I am an eGulleter–adrober on there, check out my old stuff: I was adrober before I was Amateur Gourmet.)

For dessert (and dessert’s my favorite part of any meal) I had beignets with maple ice cream, caramel and citrus mango marmelade:


These were great–I loved the dipping sauces. Danny had blood orange carpaccio with pomegranate granite and lime and that was very refreshing too. (Pomegranate granite: that’s also fun to say. Wow, danny ate char tartare and pomegranate granite—no wonder he was an English major.)

All in all I’d say my MOMA meal was fun because of the company and the environment, but I wouldn’t encourage anyone to rush over there for a meal. At least not in the bar room. Maybe the restaurant proper has more impressive fare, but for the money these small plates of frequently not-so-flavorful food left me mostly disappointed. Then again those artichoke leaves were dynamite!

(Make sure to check out Danny’s site in a few days when he reviews our meal, maybe he’ll have a differing view. I think he may have liked it more than me!)

I Did It! I Finally Did It! (Caramel Corn Success)

Remember my favorite kind of failure? It’s caramel corn! I’ve attempted caramel corn 8 times and each time I failed miserably. Constantly my readers offered me recipes from their grandmothers and constantly I ignored them.

Well—two days ago I finally looked myself in the mirror and said, “SELF, pull yourself together and make caramel corn! Use a reader’s recipe!”

I used Christine’s recipe (sorry, Sara, I know you posted your grandmother’s recipe first but Christine’s was the first one I read when I went back in my archives.) It worked like a charm. I’ll reprint it here using Christine’s words:

Okay here goes. Never fail Caramel corn.

1 cup butter

1/2 cup corn syrup

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 cups brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

6 quarts of Popped corn(use the kind labelled Mushroom popcorn)

Heat your oven to 250F. Melt the butter, stir in the corn syrup, sugar and salt. Bring the misture to a boil stirring constantly. Boil without stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the soda and vanilla (Careful! it foams!). Pour over the popped corn and mix well. Spread the coated corn into large cake pans and bake for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Let it cool and eat! You can add peanuts or any other nuts if you like. Trust me on this one. Would my Grandma lie to you?

No she wouldn’t!

I halved the recipe because that recipe would’ve made too much. It’s interesting to note that when you add the baking soda and vanilla the consistency becomes very strange–it almost looks like caramel shaving cream. Be not alarmed. I’d also note that it pays to stir well and when it cools try to keep it from forming flat clots on the bottom. Here’s my finished product:

Delicious looking, no? Thanks Christine! Or, rather, thank your grandma!

Ordering Outside The Box: Five-Spice Beef and Cucumber Salad from Grand Sezhuan Int’l

I think it’s funny how people who tell other people to “think outside the box” are often people who live their lives very much inside a box—like motivational speakers or corporate peer group leaders or, I dunno, Bob Saget-types who you encounter in your day to day goings-on. If I were a motivational speaker, though, I’d encourage my listeners to EAT outside the box—that’d be the name of my book: EAT OUTSIDE THE BOX, meaning : order things you wouldn’t get normally.

In the spirit of eating outside the box, I decided to do away with my usual humdrum order of General Tso’s chicken from some humdrum Chinese place and order food from Grand Sezhuan Int’l on 9th Avenue. I did some Chowhound research and apparently the thing to get is 5-spice beef (which is cold) and cucumber salad. I placed my order and they arrived quite quickly:

The cucumber salad wasn’t that interesting, I must be honest. It tasted like sliced cucumbers in sesame oil.

The 5-spice beef, however, was really interesting–it was packed with flavor and it was difficult to determine where that flavor came from. The options ranged anywhere from cloves to tannis-root, like Rosemary wears around her neck in Rosemary’s baby. I’ve taken to wearing 5-spice beef around my neck and it really helps in warding off witches, as well as warlocks, wizards and basically anyone with an acute sense of smell. But I was glad I ordered this weird food the other night: to quote the Spice GIrls, it spiced up my life.

Street Fair Corn

Saturday, 6th Avenue was blocked off from 23rd street down to 14th street and lots of booths and stands were erected to create what was most likely a street fair. I’m not sure if this street fair was in honor of anything in particular or if a bunch of people got together and said, “Hey, let’s have a street fair!” (this seems very unlikely since there were so many booths—even Starbucks had a booth.) The food at this street fair looked a lot like the food I’ve seen at 99% of the other New York street fairs: sausages are big, so’s lemonade. But at this particular street fair the far-and-away most popular food was roasted corn. Here’s the corn booth:

I feel like roasted corn is a good bet because there’s not a lot to get in the way by way of chemicals and preservatives. These guys basically cooked the mostly husked corn on an open flame and the squirted butter and sprinkled salt on it. The corn cost $2. Here’s my cob:


If the corn were perfectly in season, it would have been delicious. But the corn wasn’t particularly sweet yet—maybe because we’re not in the height of summer. As it stood though, the butter and salt helped a lot and it was fun eating corn on a stick walking back home where dental floss awaited me: I needed the dental floss to get all that corn out of my teeth.

Sheparded to Shopsin’s, Mmmed at Magnolia, and Ignored and Imprisoned at The Spotted Pig

This post is a sensational post in three ways: (1) I will write about a secretive New York foodie sanctum, (2) I will praise a cupcake I formerly dismissed, and (3) I will remove from the shelf of my highest esteem a place that I fell in love with on my birthday.

Let’s start with (1) the secretive foodie sanctum.

Thursday was James Felder’s birthday and as I said, we took James out to brunch. (James took this picture so he is not pictured. If you’d like to see him in a kilt, you can do so here). James requested that we go to Shopsin’s and I was more than pleased to oblige. I’m a huge Calvin Trillin fan and Calvin Trillin’s essay on Shopsin’s–which you can read in his fantastic book “Feeding a Yen” (it was the first food book I ever read)–paints the place as a quirky, culinary anomaly. James Felder added to the mystique.

“They’re very strict in there,” he said as we stood outside with Diana, waiting for John to show. “No parties bigger than four.”

“Why?” asked Diana.

“Because they don’t want to have to deal with big tables,” he explained. “And they don’t allow cell phone use in the restaurant.”

I quickly turned my cell phone off.

“I once saw them call the police on this guy who was barking into his cell phone—he was a Wall Street type–and they took his food away and asked him to pay and leave. They don’t kid around.”

We went in and saw a large man sitting in the front booth. This was the owner and chef, Kenny, who said hi to James as we made our way to a table. Apparently, Kenny hates publicity—he and Calvin Trillin had a temporary falling out over the article he wrote in the New Yorker. I kept my camera in my pocket and proceeded with extreme caution.

That wasn’t really necessary. The place was pretty empty–it was a Thursday after all–and despite all the rules and regulations, I felt very much at home. The huge glass windows look out on Carmine and Bedford streets and on the windowsill is a collection of toys and Trivial Pursuit cards. Our waitress was, according to James, Kenny’s daughter and she talked to us so casually and calmly I felt like I was part of the family.

I have yet to mention the most extraordinary thing about Shopsin’s. It’s the menu. Let’s let Trillin explain it (although he’s explaning an older version): “[The] menu grew to include at least nine hundred items, some of them as unusual as Cotton Picker Gumbo Melt Soup or Hanoi Hoppin John with Shrimp or Bombay Turkey Cloud Sandwich or Bugaloo-Shrimp Tabbuleh & Corn Chips or Curried Rutabaga Cream Soup…” Jason Kottke posted a link a while back to the Shopsin’s menu which you can read here (it’s a PDF file).

[Having just skimmed through it, I love the Party of Five poem on the fourth page:

Part of Five by Robert Herson

you could put a chair at the end

or push the tables together

but don’t bother

This banged-up little restaurant

where you would expect no rules at all

has a firm policy against seating

parties of five

And you know who you are

a party of five

it doesn’t matter if one of you

offers to leave or if

you say you could split into

a party of three and a party of two

or if the five of you come back tomorrow

in Richard Nixon masks and try to pretend

that you don’t know each other

it won’t work: You’re a party of five

even if you’re a beloved regular

Even if the place is empty

Even if you bring logic to bear

Even if you’re a tackle for the Chicago Bears

it won’t work

You’re a party of five

You will always be a party of five

A hundred blocks from here

a hundred years from now

you will still be a party of five

and you will never savor the soup

or compare the coffee or

hear the wisdom of the cook

and the wit of the waitress or

get to hum the old-time tunes

among which you will find

no quintets.]

As for the food, it was terrific and the portions were huge. James ordered a morir sonando for us to drink. No that’s not a fancy wine, it’s OJ, cream, lime juice and vanilla all blended together into a frothy citrusy mixture. Diana ordered the Blisters on my Sisters which are “corn tortillas, bean, rice/vegetable mixture, covered with 2 fried eggs, broiled with cheese until it bubbles and browns.” James ordered an egg dish that had fried spinach and John and I both had… I’m searching through the menu now to find what it is we had, and I can’t find it, but I know it was fried eggs on fried potatoes with greens and other stuff and it was delicious and plentiful and I could hardly finish it.

Needless to say, Shopsin’s is an experience everyone should have. (Though Kenny Shopsin would prefer you didn’t. He hates this kind of publicity.)

As we were leaving, a couple walked in and sat down. I barely noticed them. When we got outside, James said: “Was that Bjork who came in at the end?”

We walked past the large glass window. It sure looked like Bjork. And I know Bjork’s married to Matthew Barney, the guy who did the Cremaster movies, and the guy at the table sure looked like Matthew Barney. After mulling it over for a bit, it was confirmed: all four of us believe it was Bjork at that table.

And that concludes my account of our meal at Shopsin’s.


Now we’re up to (2) where I praise a cupcake I formerly dismissed.

I don’t think I ever really dismissed the Magnolia Bakery, I simply found it absurd the way people waited in line there (when I walked past it with my mom a few weeks ago, the line was wrapped around the block—for cupcakes!) and the faint memory I had of a cupcake there wasn’t spectacular. So I came into this most recent Magnolia experience with a jaded world-view, expecting very little by way of deliciousness.

How wrong I was. You will find out momentarily that this cupcake happened after our meal at The Spotted Pig. I am telling the story out of order, but it’s for dramatic effect. Here’s Lisa picking out a cupcake in the Magnolia window:


In the looks department, the Magnolia cupcakes are certainly behind those at the Cupcake Cafe which are like works of art, but they win big points in the hominess department. Those look like cupcakes a super duper awesome grandma would make for you and leave out for you and your friends.

Magnolia works on an honor system. You load up on cupcakes first, then you wait in line and then you pay. Lisa was buying three: one for me, one for her, and one for Liz who she was meeting later.

Outside on the street, we unpacked our cupcakes and bit into them cautiously. I, of course, chose vanilla on vanilla because I’m a vanilla kind of guy. Lisa chose vanilla on chocolate.

“Mmm,” I said, “This is really delicious.”

“I know,” said Lisa.

“No,” I said, “I mean it’s more delicious than I remembered. This is a really good cupcake.”

“It IS a really good cupcake,” she agreed.

Why did it taste so good? The cake was moist and flavorful and dense and rich and the icing was light and fluffy and sweet and gloppy. It was really a terrific cupcake eating experience. And this is coming from the guy who is #1 when it comes to Google search results for the term “cupcakes.”

We finished our cupcakes and went on our merry way, brightened after the negative experience we experienced at the meal I saved for last.


This is part (3) where I remove from the shelf of my highest esteem a place that I fell in love with on my birthday.

You may remember that on my birthday this year I went to The Spotted Pig. I wrote a post called “May My 26th Year Be Like Lunch at The Spotted Pig.” I was in love with the place and cherished that dining memory as one of the best I’d experienced since I moved to New York.

Since then, I’ve been harping on Lisa: “You have to go to The Spotted Pig! You’re going to die over the pumpkin salad I had there. And the gnuddi!”

It’s rare for me to share a passion for a dish that Lisa can also enjoy since Lisa is a vegetarian. So these were two dishes I felt like she had to try and on Thursday when she called me to go to dinner I said, “The time has come for us to go to the Spotted Pig!”

We made our way together to the 1/9 train and rode down to the Christopher Street station. We walked down Bleeker (though it would have been faster to go down one of those confusing West Village streets that connects everything. I think the West Village is the most confusing place in New York.) We arrived at The Spotted Pig and I should tell you here that I called ahead and asked if they were busy yet and they said “no” they don’t get busy ’til 7:30, and sure enough it was 7:05 and it wasn’t busy.

We were sat at a table in the front. This was the biggest factor that contributed to our downfall. There are only two tables in the front, then there’s the bar, and then there’s back where all the rest of the tables are. The problem is that as it gets crowded the space behind the bar fills and fills and suddenly the two tables in the front become invisible.

At the beginning, though, we were treated fairly well. Actually, no. The waiter came over–he looked like an extra from Melrose Place–and asked if we’d like anything to drink. We said, “Just water, please” and he asked “Sparkling or mineral?”‘ and we said “Just tap is fine” and he gave us a look that said: “Die.”

Then we met the busboy with an attitude who came with the water and a little cup of marinated olives. This was an exciting moment in the history of Lisa and I dining together because as you may or may not remember, Lisa hates olives. She even spawned her own category The Great Olive Campaign in which I tried to make a case for olives with little success. But this night at The Spotted Pig, Lisa tried not one but TWO olives. Here she is with that look that says, “All right, I know I said I won’t eat olives, but it looks like I’m gonna give them a try!”


I tried to pre-approve the olive before she ate an olive. I felt like this was too spontaneous to be a true edifying olive eating experience. In the cup were small little green olives and then large kalamata-like olives. I am of the belief that Lisa will like kalamatas before she will like any others. This belief was confirmed when she said the tiny green one “tasted like feet” and the kalamata-one tasted “better” but not to the point that she enjoyed it, but to the point where she felt like it “didn’t taste as much like feet.”

One small step for man, as they say.

Now, on to the food. The food is spectacular at The Spotted Pig. I am not recanting that notion by any means. I started with Eden Brook Smoked Trout with Beet Salad, Chives and Sour Cream:


It was truly delicious. All the flavors complimented each other in strange and exciting ways. Smoked trout and beets? Horseradish? Now that I think about it, it has a certain whiff of Judaica about it: beets are in borscht, horseradish is on the seder plate and Jews love smoked fish. And chives are ever-popular in cream cheese.

Because the pumpkin salad isn’t in season anymore (curses!), Lisa had the Jerusalem Artichoke Salad with Goat Cheese, Hazelnuts and Lemon (the picture came out blurry, so sorry that you can’t see it.) Lisa also loved her salad. I think she’ll agree that it was the strange combination of ingredients that made it great. “Plus,” she said, “I love nuts in salad.”

For our entrees we ordered more appetizers. I had this risotto that featured more smoked fish (haddock, I think) and a poached egg:


At first I was wary of the risotto because if you look at it, it looks a little separated out (moreso in life: the liquid layer and the solid layer parting). And if this risotto was a failure on a technical level, it surely made up for it in flavor. The pang of that smoked fish mixed in with the brightness of lemon and the greens and then the creaminess of the egg yolk was divine.

Lisa was less enthusiastic about the gnuddi, but fairly so, I suppose, because (a) I had built it up so much for her and (b) her plate of gnuddi wasn’t as pretty as the time I had it before. (If you follow the link to my birthday post, you’ll see how nice the gnuddi looked.)

Now if the service had been fantastic throughout the meal, I think we would have probably raved over our experience. Even if the service had been adequate. But the service sucked. We really felt like they hated us. Our water glasses were constantly empty and when we asked for more water the busboy with an attitude would walk away, take a long time, then return, fill our glasses, we’d say “thank you” and he’d walk away without responding. When we got our entrees we had no silverware so we waited thinking “they’ll bring silverware” but they didn’t bring it so we flagged down a waiter and asked for silverware and finally, after a long while, we were brought our silverware.

Even more hostile, when the busboy with an attitude did show up it would happen at inopportune times like when he took Lisa’s salad away while she was still finishing it. The worst part was at the end when we wanted a check and we sat there for what felt like 20 minutes trying to get the waiter’s attention while he commiserated at the other end of the bar and poured wine and tended to the tables in the “people we don’t hate” section.

You’ll notice in the title I use the word “imprisoned” because when I went to the bathroom, I used the door with the MAN icon on it and when I opened it there was a simple urinal inside. I did my business and when I went to push the door open, someone was blocking it. The sink was directly opposite this door and there was a big man at the sink. I couldn’t open the door more than a crack so after I hit the man with it I said, “Oh, sorry” expecting him to get out of the way. He didn’t. I stood there in this tiny urinal room. I pushed the door again and he didn’t budge. “Excuse me,” I said louder. Then I realized he was talking on his cell phone having a loud conversation. I felt like I was on Candid Camera. So, working up the courage and prepared for confrontation, I pushed the door really hard against the guy, squeezed my out way and gave him a death glare. He was too busy on the phone to notice.

Then I noticed the crowd by the bar, in the back. They were men just like him: men in suits on cell phones, a young Wall Street type crowd that probably threw lots of money around here. Were we treated like crap because we weren’t ordering drinks like these guys? Or was it my imagination?

It takes a lot for me not to want to dessert at a place where I love the food. And I love the food at The Spotted Pig, but both Lisa and I wanted to get out of there which is why we ended up at Magnolia, only a just a few streets away. At Magnolia, despite the crowds, there was warmth in the air and we felt welcome. At the Spotted Pig, we were treated like swine.

Coffee Cake, Meet Your Maker

My brother stayed with me a few weeks ago and was shocked to learn that I didn’t own a coffee maker. “I am shocked to the core!” he said or didn’t say depending on whether or not you think I’m Frasier and my brother is Niles Crane.

I remedied this a few days ago when I purchased a Cuisinard coffee maker from Bed, Bath and Beyond. Of all the Cuisinards, this was the least expensive—it doesn’t grind the beans—but it’s nice enough to deter me from my habit of spending millions of dollars at coffee shops just for the privilege at staring at other people drinking coffee and reading newspapers and wondering why they don’t buy their own damn coffee makers.

After purchasing my coffee maker, I made a beeline straight for Dunkin’ Donuts which sells the world’s best coffee. I purchased a bag of French Vanilla, made my way home, unpacked the coffee maker, followed the instructions, plugged it in, cleaned the coffee pot, cleaned the filter basket, placed a filter in and went to open my bag of coffee. Only I noticed that I’d purchased Whole Beans, not already ground, and I made my way down the elevator, back to 7th avenue, where I returned this bag of the world’s best coffe: bean version for the world’s best coffee: grinded up like we like it. (Perhaps I will one day buy a coffee grinder!)

Along with my coffee, though, I’d need some pastry—and what better a pastry to make for a new coffee maker then a coffee cake? Do I really need to tell you where I got the recipe? I know you know. You know you know. Must we really? All together now: BAREFOOT CONTESSA. (Yes, yes, I’m so predictable—but you still like me, don’t you?)

So here they are, the happy coffee couple: coffee maker and coffee cake.

Don’t you just love a new appliance? I know Samantha does on “Sex and the City” and so do I. Welcome home, coffee maker… you’re part of the family, now. Don’t let us down or we’ll throw you in the river with your sister, Sissy the underaccomplished teapot. WE TOLD YOU, SISSY, BE SHORTER! BE STOUTER! YOU DIDN’T LISTEN!

This Juice Makes Me Want To Jamba!

Parched on Broadway isn’t a new musical comedy starring Treat Williams, it was my state of being yesterday afternoon after marching around from theater to theater trying to get student tickets for various shows and failing miserably everwhere. (I succeeded tonight, however, with tickets to “Shockheaded Peter” which was awesome and which I will review On The Side.) The point, though, is that I was thirsty—mad thirsty—and hungry too, and like one of those guys crawling through the desert in tattered clothing (except I was wearing my new corduroy jacket that made me look like Woody Allen if Woody Allen were a supermodel) a bright image appeared before me. Was it a mirage? Was it a dream? Was it a Strip Club? It was! I got a job there and I’m quitting this blog business. (They fired me, though, for refusing to shed my corduroy jacket. I’ll never shed my corduroy!)

No, it was JAMBA JUICE. Here’s what it looked like from the inside:

It’s been a while since I’ve smoothied—when I lived in Atlanta, I was a frequent customer at Smoothie King where I’d get a lemon twist with strawberry. Here at Jamba Juice, I stared at the menu lost in a maze of smoothie opportunities.

“Next in line, can I take your order?” said the woman behind the counter.

“Hi,” I said with my winning smile, “What’s YOUR favorite smoothie?”

“Mmmm,” said the woman, “I like Carribean Passion.”

“Do you now?” I said in my best Billy Ocean voice. “I have two plane tickets to the Bahamas with your name on them, let’s make wild passionate love on the beach.”

“Please,” said the woman, “You’re wearing a corduroy jacket. I don’t think I’m your type!”

“You have a point. One Carribean Passion. Small.”

I paid and sat down and watched the team of Jamba Juicers pouring, squiring and scooping liquids and powders into blenders with ice and then setting them awhir. (Is “awhir” a word? It should be!) This is my biggest bone of contention with Smoothie King AND Jamba Juice: those powders. I’m scared of those powders. I don’t like people putting amino acid protein anti-carb Advil cyanide chalk into my drink. It scares me!

Soon they called my name, I got my drink and a straw, took a sip and it was good. The orange and strawberry combo was very bright, a little sharp, and the mango hinted of tropical breezes. All that syrup and powder and ice may be processed and scary, but it’s smooth going down. It tasted fresher than a Smoothie King smoothie, but at the end of the day it’s all the same crap. Sated, I buttoned the middle button of my corduroy jacket and made my way home.

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