Sunday, March 23, 2008

city of brotherly something or other

On another, but similar note, I was talking with some of my neighbors this morning and they related a rather funny gentrification story to me. On our street, on the next block up from where we live, there is a newer condo development that opened and filled up a little over a year ago. My neighbor's house is right next door to it. The condo has 2 small patches of grass in the front that have been fairly well neglected since they were laid down. There are also two Keep Off The Grass signs which piss me off to no end. I do not like Keep Off signs no matter what, but especially in a town with so little grass. But that's another screed. Apparently my neighbor was allowing her dog to sniff around on their patch of grass. She has her own yard, but happened to be out front talking with some of the neighbors and she always has her little dog with her because the dog has neurological damage and can't even walk. So some guy in the condo opens his window and shouts "Get your fucking dog off the grass!". My normally kind, friendly neighbor shouted back up "Why don't you come down here and say that to my face! You have to come out eventually and I may not know what you look like, but I know what you smell like, and you smell like shit!". This was retold to me by the other neighbors with looks of awe on their faces for having the good fortune of having witnessed such a battle between the old and new. And of course for having seen our sweet neighbor go batty on some stupid dipshit. Good times.

new local restaurant review

For the sake of full disclosure, I am typing this while I watch Music and Lyrics for, like, the 5th time. And I am not ashamed, even if some would think perhaps I should be. And they can suck it.

Anywho, Jamie and I went to a new local restaurant Saturday night and I thought I'd report back for all of my pizza loving friends. It's called Toby's Public House and it's on 6th Avenue and 21st Street in "South Slope", aka Greenwood Heights aka our neighborhood. We've been watching the construction on the space for over a year, so it's nice to see it up and running. I've seen a lot of talk on other blogs and websites complaining about the "No Strollers" sign they have placed in the window, but personally I'm pretty okay with a place that draws that line in the sand off the bat. And anyway, the place is way too small and crowded with tables and a big bar to fit even one stroller, let alone more than one. We were pleased to get a table as soon as we went in, around 7:30 or so on a Saturday night. Every staff person we interacted with was really nice and there were 2 big tvs with the basketball games on, so my dining partner was happy.

The centerpiece of the place is the really beautiful woodfired pizza oven. The menu is not huge, but it's pretty well rounded with a couple of salads (breasole, arugula) meat or cheese plates and about 10 types of pizza. They also had a pretty good selection of beers, including the Stone IPA, which is delicious. We got the mozzarella, tomato and basil salad to start. The mozzarella just melted in my mouth, the tomatoes were sparse, but that's to be expected in March and the basil was virtually non-existent. We got the double portion which was about 5 slices of cheese, half a tomato and 4 pieces of basil for 17 dollars. Delicious? Yes. Overpriced? Yes. The pizzas are individually sized and we got the Napolitano which was anchovy, olive and caper with mozzarella and the something that neither of us can remember the name of, but it had sweet sausage and red onion. Both pizzas were very, very good, particularly the Napolitano. Jamie felt like the sausage one was a little bit skimpy on the toppings, which it kind of was. The pizzas were 14 dollars each which, while not cheap, was really not outrageous for how good they were.

We got one shared salad, 2 pizzas and 2 beers and including tip our bill was almost 75 dollars. And here's the thing, our food was good, even if the salad was a little on the smallish side, the service was great, the atmosphere was comfortable and casual. But as we were walking home Jamie said "That was good, but it didn't feel like a 75 dollar meal." And it didn't. It feels wrong to pay that much for a meal in our neighborhood, especially a meal that was spent watching a basketball game. And just because you can charge that much for a meal on 21st Street doesn't mean you have to. I did however see the meat and cheese antipasta for 2 as we were leaving and it looked so good. We both feel that if went back, the antipasta and one pizza would be the way to go, but I can't say when we'll go back. I just wish we could have restaurants and amenities without it automatically translating to overpriced places. I suppose overpriced boutiques are the next signpost on our slow march toward "development".

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Coney is open!

For those of you who enjoy the shrieking release that is a ride on the Cyclone, Astroland opened for the season today, with another year's reprieve. We had such a great day, despite the crummy weather.

We took a couple of rides on the Cyclone and enjoyed it as much as ever. There is one difference this year though. They have added new/additional padding to each seat and now most people have to ride solo instead of together. It ended up being pretty great because I could brace my feet and didn't fly around much at all. We then walked over to Tottono's and downed a large sausage pie and a small anchovy between 4 of us. A lot of food, but with the delicious thin crust, not so much that we didn't have a little room for our next stops. We also had a great celebrity sighting at tiny little Tottono's in Ira Glass from NPR's This American Life. That's my kind of nerdy celebrity sighting!

We then headed over to Brighton Beach to visit a market that my Hungarian friend has been telling me about for years and to do a little recon on a restaurant that I think I'd like to go to for my birthday this year. M & I International Foods is a large Eastern European market on Brighton Beach Avenue, in the heart of Little Odessa under the El. There are 2 different meat counters, one for fresh meats and one for cured meats. I got pork loin roast for 3 bucks a pound and we got 2 kinds of sausages. I wanted to get some blood sausage, but it's hard to justify when I know I'm the only one who's excited about it. But know if you're in the market for blood sausage, a chicken type version of haggis or any other speckled fresh or cured meats, this is your place. There were also 2 large baked goods counters. I think the difference between them was that one was more dessert type cakes and cookies and the other was breads, both sweet and savory, and breakfast pastry. I bought a cheese and apricot danish for tomorrow morning and a layered not-too-sweet pastry filled with cherries, raisins and nuts. The abundance of all things cherry was something I was particularly excited about. I love cherries and apparently so do Russians. I also bought some sour cherry syrup that is meant to be used as a cocktail mixer. We got strange capers that are kind of mangled looking and brined, but not in vinegar. I got a very large jar of pitted sour cherries in cherry juice (4 bucks!) and Jamie got pickles (of course), a bottle of some Russian beer, of which they have a large selection and some spiked lemonade stuff. In all, totally worth a trip to Brighton Beach.

We then went to the little restaurant I wanted to check out. It's called Cafe Gelchik and it's on Coney Island Avenue, just a few blocks past the market. We were pretty full already, so we just wanted to sample a couple of things. We got the mixed pickled vegetables first. The standout there was the pickled watermelon, which is addictive. We then got the pelmini Moscow style, which is little meat stuffed dumplings baked in an egg custard with a crusty cheese on top. So delicious. This was followed by the sour cherry vernicki, which is a larger dumpling, more like a true potsticker in size and shape. This was exactly what I was looking for. They also have a green borscht, schnitzel, at least 10 other kinds of dumplings, loads of sausages, etc, etc. For a drink we got their specialty, something they call compote. It's basically a fruit juice with cherry, apple and other juices with a few pieces of macerated fruit at the bottom of the glass. It was really good as far as juice goes. They don't sell booze, but it's BYO, as witnessed by the bottles of vodka on almost every table. I can't wait to go back to this place, but with a better appetite next time.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Going in to work each day has become increasingly more depressing as the days go on. The store closes on March 31st and as of now, almost 1/3 of the shelves are empty. Huge amounts of the store are on clearance and we all find ourselves having the same conversation over and over and over with people.
"Oh no, why are you guys closing?"
"What's gonna come in to this space?"
"What's going to happen to all of you?" [These are the kinder people, the ones who are concerned that we will all have jobs]
And on and on.

It just sucks because there really isn't anything to do with most of our time since we don't get shipments and have very few books. As a result, all of the employees are bonding even more than we already have over long periods of working together. Now everyone's even more bummed about not working together anymore. I'm really going to miss some of these people, but I imagine my next store will introduce to me lots of new, nice people. Unfortunately, I don't think my new store on the Upper East Side will have any regular tranny customers or nearly as many meth addicts and about this, I am sad. I love the diversity of the customers at my store and I just hope that the new store isn't as vanilla as I fear it will be.

say ahhh

I'm still sick, although I do now have my voice back. And along with my voice I've gotten a horrible spasmy cough that wakes me up at night and pleasingly colored stuff blowing out of my nose. Well, pleasing if it wasn't coming out of my nose. I'm off work today because my sweet husband has to have an endoscopy. He plays it off like this: "You can just put me in a cab and go back to work.". Um, no. They have to put him out for this and he wants me to stuff him in a cab and go back to work? Silly man. So I'm off work today and meeting him at his doctor's office. Hopefully they will be able to get to the bottom of his constant reflux problems. He did say that they told him to get a certain kind of pillow that basically will prop him up elephant man style while he sleeps. It's a shame that he has such a fondness for all things pickled. I can't help but think that vinegary goodness doesn't help. I think we're going to try to watch the screener copy of No Country for Old Men today (thanks Erik & Dani!). Nothing like paralyzing fear to put you on the road to healing!

Monday, March 03, 2008


We had a big weekend planned. Saturday was Jamie's birthday party (thanks to everyone who came!) and Sunday was Marc's curling adventure in New Jersey. By Friday night I was sick, sick, sick.At the party on Saturday I wasn't able to participate in any of the revelry, although I did put back a whole bottle of Martinelli's sparkling cider. Sunday I missed curling and spent the day on the couch. And today I had planned to go to work, but my head feels terrible and strange. It feels like someone gave me a swirlie in a toilet filled with wet cement. But the best part is my voice which is totally shot. I sound like the offspring of Kathleen Turner and a honking goose. So I am couch bound for one more day. But I took advantage of the wonderful Watch It Now feature of Netflix. I just finished watching The King of Kong, which I really loved, despite my indifference to video games. But it also features Funspot, which I think is one of the greatest places on earth, due to their pinball machine selection. I'm not the only one in the family who loves Funspot. Marmoset has recently sung it's praises also.
Here are a couple of pictures that I took a few years ago when we were there. The best thing about that trip was that when we walked through the doors I didn't feel compelled to stick with anyone else, we all just were drawn to what we were drawn to and that's how it should be. The outer perimeter of the main video game room is lined with pinball machines. I nearly giggled with happiness. I played at least 20 different pinball games before I settled on the Addams Family, which was a great game. The pictures were taken on an old winding type camera, so the quality is pretty lousy, so sorry.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


I don't know what brought this up, but Jamie and I saw something yesterday that reminded us of a show we used to love called Petkeeping with Mark Morron. It used to be on Saturday mornings and he was known for his Lon Gisland accent and that he had 15-20 different species crawling all over each other on his set. He had a gigantic Flemish rabbit named Harvey. One of the reasons we loved to watch his show was that he showcased animals that were not just cats and dogs, namely rats. He was a great champion of the rat. Here is an old clip of him talking about reindeer, using Harvey as his prop.