"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: Food

Taster’s Cherce

Food 52 gives Chamomile Lemon Cupcakes with Honey Buttercream Frosting. Why the hell not?

The Chosen Beverage

Happy Passover.

Taster’s Cherce

It was getting late, well past lunch, and I still hadn’t eaten anything. The sun was out yesterday but it was cold. I got off the subway on 231st street and walked due west to the barber shop. On the way, I passed Sam’s Pizza, a hole-in-the-wall in Kingsbridge.

I’m not a pizza groupie but I probably eat it as a stand-by more than any other street food. Sometimes, it’s just the perfect food–enough to satiate your hunger but not enough to make you full. I walked into the place and that New York City pizza smell enveloped me (who knows, maybe you get the same smell in Philly too). I can’t explain what the smell is exactly, but I know it when I smell it–it is the scent that immediately authenticates a pizzeria in this city.

Iniside, the place was small with no-frills. The front window was big, and opened during the summer; a gumball machine rested on the counter as you walked in. A kid was standing at the counter eating a slice and a thin but strong-looking man worked behind it. The soda fountain had an “Out of Order” sign on it. There were a few tables in the back, the walls covered in fake wood. An old Coca Cola sign hung on the back wall.

I ordered a slice. Three short, round-faced, Spanish kids came in and each ordered a slice too. A fat woman and her daughter ordered a pie. The pizza man moved deliberately. He smiled and had some charming words for the women. Otherwise he was, if not sullen, blank.

The slice was good, thin at the tip and then doughy–but not too doughy–at the crust. I soaked the grease with cheese, garlic powder and hot pepper flakes. Before I finished it I ordered another one. The pizza man was making a fresh pie. He clapped his hands clean of flower, took my bill with the tips of his fingers, and gave me change. I asked him if he always worked alone. He said that he did.

“Wow, that’s a lot of work, bro.”

“I got no choice,” he said without self-pity, just resignation.

I ate the second slice. The kid next to me ate too and didn’t say anything. The three Spanish kids stood in the back, talking softly. The mother and her daughter waited in silence. It was warm. My stomach felt warm too, which was comforting because the wind cut through me when I walked out of the door.

[photo credit: dM: nyc]

Taster’s Cherce

As a kid, I sometimes had cereal for breakfast–I went through phases with cereal, actually–but mostly I ate toast with butter and jam. And sometimes we’d get lucky and mom would buy a jar of nutella, the chocolate hazelnut spread. It’s just terrible for you, chock full of partially hydrogenated oils, but it sure does taste good.

More simple eating pleasures for a snowy day.

Cup of tea–or coffee–a slice of good bread, and a schmeer of the good stuff. Maybe some sliced bananas. Who knows, go crazy.

Hideki Matsui and the Loss of (My) Revenue

Hideki Matsui was my meal ticket.  This may smack of metaphor, but it’s almost literally true: every time Matsui homered, the curry shop/Matsui Shrine nearby my office handed me a coupon good for a $2 discount on a future meal. He helped put hundreds of dollars in my pockets over the years – in July 2007 I cleared over $20 bucks just by scheduling my curry fix to coincide exclusively with Godzilla’s crazy dinger binge. Other periods were not so lucrative.

His lengthy injury bouts took a toll on my bank account (pack a lunch? never!) but even a few months on the DL had not prepared me to contemplate a Matsui-less (ergo curry-for-more) future. Based on the resurgent 2009 campaign topped off with the two pillars of Yankee immortality, the World Series Championship and MVP, and the lack of superior options, I assumed Hideki Matsui would collect his ring in pinstripes.  And another $50 bucks or so would be in play for me in 2010.

Brian Cashman assumed no such thing. Matsui was either not in his plans for 2010 or he was such a low priority that the Angels could snap him up with some lip service about the outfield and a reasonable 1 year contract.  But whereas Matsui’s water logged knees may have been deemed too risky, Nick Johnson’s taffy tendons and balsa wood bones apparently pass muster. Matsui must have some grim future knee-cap disintegration scheduled to finish second to Nick “the wrist” Johnson in a reliability ranking.

All of this is to say I will miss Matsui. He was a terrific Yankee and, probably because he lacked a readily accessible English-speaking public persona, I created a very favorable one for him. I’ll miss his unorthodox bail-out hitting approach that seemed to preclude anything but a foul ball to the first base side and abandoned the outside corner as scorched earth, but remarkably produced a heckuva lot more variety than that.  And by opening up his front side so early, he got a good look at left-handed release points and smushed them accordingly.

His booming extra base hits in Game 6 of the latest World Series were fantastic representations of his pull-power skill, but it was the opposite field single that was the key hit of the game for me . That 2 out, 2 strike, “getting the job done” liner dulled the razor edge of the game to something less dangerous.  While in the stands for an interleague game versus the Cubs in 2005,  I watched him size up the loogy summoned to preserve a slim Chicago lead and I knew Matsui was taking him deep.

And yet after 7 years as a Yankee, my lasting visual memory of him is going to be from his very first year here.  In Game 7 of the ALCS, Matsui bested a tiring Pedro Martinez during the Yankees epic 8th inning comeback. While I can still picture his ringing double, the indelible image from that inning is not his sweet swing. It’s his celebratory jump and spin after scoring the tying run. Millions of eyes found the spot where Posada’s bloop was going to land and then swung in unison toward home plate to see Matsui tie the game. We all jumped up together.

Go Go Curry plans to follow Matsui to Anaheim with a new branch (the Manhattan location will stay open, phew, but will they continue to celebrate his Angel homers here in New York? It’s a little unseemly, no?)  So will some fans, advertisers and some ticket sales to be sure. Even still, the Yankees coffers figure to be full. But what of their stature in Japan? Matsui grew up dreaming of being a Yankee - an advantage in the initial courtship. Future generations of Japanese stars may dream of Boston and Seattle before the Bronx – especially if the emerging consesus of Matsui’s departure harbors the specter of Yankee disrespect. This is only temporary and in the evolution of Japanese player movement, possibly meaningless, but there’s no need to hasten the Yankees decline in prestige by treating a national hero shabbily.  I hope they treated him well right to the end and he gets the send-off he deserves.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver