My girlfriend has the filing cabinet blues.
Eva and I weren’t sure about our evenings, what we were going to do or what was to happen next.
Back at my apartment, our natures had been overlapping; we’re both indecisive when we’re hungry and often indecisive otherwise as well. When it comes to pleasing people that you care about, you want to do and say what’s right.
We were lying down trying to figure out our evenings and planning over one the non-vegan-style vegan restaurants in a 5-block radius of my house, when it hit me: Alfanoose.
Eva had said she wanted vegetables and vegetables they had there, even though it was a ride downtown on the subway and a walk to boot.
When we sat down to eat there, transportation fait accompli, we ate ravenously, Eva with her stuffed-in falafel sandwich that was gone in a blink and I with my mountainous Chicken Shawarma platter that had everything from lemony-tahini covered chicken to tabouli to hummus to an indescribable, before-unseen rice or cracked-wheat variety called mojadara that had tomatoes and red peppers and was orange and was spongy and was delicious.
Back when I worked in the financial district for a time, I would feel somewhat guilty coming to Alfanoose, knowing that even though its Syrian-Lebanese food was superior to the various carts that surrounded it, those carts were offering their ware for half or a third of the price. What kept me coming back, over my monetary guilt, was both the consistent quality of the joint and the fact that I couldn’t find a single cart that would give me french fries or falafel in my chicken-over-rice platter. For some reason, those damn downtown carts find it incompatible.
“I think middle-eastern food is just the perfect food.” I told Eva over bites and white-red sauce dabbled on my cheek. “Others do individual things better, but this is just good and so healthy.”
“Let me stop you.” Eva said. “We’ve had this conversation before.”
It came to back to me we had. And at the same restaurant even, I gestured, pointing down at the table with two fingers, as Eva gave me a reassuring nod yes.
It was when we left that we found ourselves uncertain, courting a black metal filing cabinet that appeared to date from the 60s.
Eva saw it and fell in love.
It should be explained that when I showed Eva my apartment for the first time, I warned her it was messy, which she brushed off, telling me that “you should see my place!”
And then she kissed me.
But seriously, her place is a strange mixture of a hoarding mess, punctured by intense and sometimes unseen organization.
Indeed, it seemed to me that the tension between Eva’s messiness and her need to organize produced a vitality in her and a sense of purpose, an energy like pulling on the ground with a toy Hot Wheel, just to see it go.
Filing cabinets were expensive though and this was there, for the taking.
But we were in the financial district, at night. And there was no way that was fitting in a cab.
The conversation went something like this:
First I was a skeptic and tried to leave, while Eva tried to enlist me to carry it across the highway to her home.
Then Eva was the skeptic telling us to go home, while I tried to find a cab.
Then we both waited for a while, trying to figure out the contours of the thing and the ways it would fit.
A small cab wouldn’t fit it in its trunk and though it might work for the back-seat, a driver wouldn’t want it there, scratching up his cab.
An SUV cab could take it, but a mini-van cab off-duty, whom I described the errand to, shook his head and drove away.
As we stood there, down Maiden Lane in front of Alfanoose, we waited for the SUV cab to materialize out of the financial district, but it never came.
Eventually Eva gave up and convinced me to give up and we walked back towards the train and her towards her house.
As we passed Alfanoose, our server, on his smoke break, tipped his red hat to us, smiled and kept looking toward the street.
“Do you know Alfanoose” I asked at a Le Pain Quotidien to a man I’d just met.
I had recently gotten a couple breaks in my job hunt, interviews out of nowhere, both coming from a man who I thought did not like me, but who ended up recommending for not one but two fairly highly profile jobs.
In past days, I have considered walking in to his office and giving him a kiss on his beardy cheek.
I put aside notions of that, deciding to wait to see if I actually got either of the jobs.
But anyway, in my past four interviews, what I have found myself talking most about, rather than my job experience or my education, are the three words I have, among others, in the “Interests” section of my resume:
“Inexpensive Ethnic Food”
“I’m a food blogger.” I’ve claimed often in these interviews, with a hint of guilt in my tone.
In reality, these posts, while often inclusive of food, many times have little to do with it.
And, even though I have been featured on Eater and used to write on Chowhound quite frequently, more recently I’ve been more involved in the film community rather than the food one.
Still, again I found myself in an interview, in a french bake shop, talking about Bahn Mi and Korean Fried Chicken and Calvin Trillin and artisinal doughnuts or “beignets”.
What can I say: It’s one of those things I can talk about.
Anyway, since I’ve already talked so much about movies and jobs and all that other stuff, I decided to allay some of that guilt by actually posting some food information.
Well, some stuff about ice cream.
A comparative study.
My first outing was a flight of fancy.
It was warm, warmer than today and warmer than it had been in some time.
It was a Friday and I had off from work and I had to go downtown to drop off something at the LESHRC, where I used to work.
My end with the LESHRC is chronicled here, if you’re interested or hadn’t read, but the woman who had failed to protect me as I thought she would wanted her tapes back that I had been helping her digitize.
She talked very nicely to me, as I’m sure a “Reiki master” (mistress?) is accustomed to doing, also those who have to deal with active IDUs.
But anyway, I made a day of it, heading up to Dos Toros to grab a burrito and then walking all the way down to Canal and Allen where the center was.
Along the way, I decided to try somewhere I had heard often about, but never been: Il laboratorio del gelato, a hip joint down on the LES that had always gotten a lot of good press, but that I’d never walked close enough to to try.
When I came near, an annoying thing happened, a group of young office-hipsters cut in front of me all together so I had to wait for 8 indecisive people to order instead of just choosing my flavors.
But I found later it was worth the wait.
Even though il laboratorio advertises many more flavors than it ever has on hand, the mocha/dark chocolate two flavor cup I got, for only $3.25, was not only a bargain, but it was synergistically delicious.
The dark chocolate was smooth without being sharp, something I might criticize, but for that it served well to cut the most acrid parts of the coffee flavors from the mocha.
Together they formed something that, if it was a chocolate bar, would be around 50% cocoa, sweet and milky, with a little bit of a buzz hiding underneath.
The ergo-dynamic plastic spoon I got with it facilitated eating and it’s European allusiveness didn’t even bother me.
Most of it was gone before I could take the picture.
Beer and ice cream.
The only time I’d seen them go to get was in an unfortunate chocolate beer-shake I had had in a styrofoam cup coming out of a restaurant in Red Hook.
Suffice it to say, it was along and unpleasant sipping back to the car to drive home from that beer-shaken subway-less neighborhood.
Here however, at Bierkraft, in Park Slope, these two things mix well.
The “ice cream sandwich” I held in my hand was not nearly as heavy on the beer as my previous tasting. In fact, the beer in it was only used in the brownie-cookies that ensconce the frozen mass of gelato in-between them.
The result is splendiferous, rich and entirely un-finishable.
A nice woman took this picture of me on the street to point this out:
What can I say: I’m a sucker for punishment.
The gelato is creamy and thick, the brownies would have been delicious in their own right. The chocolate chunks are like sprinkles but better.
But there’s no way that I, or even the old “me” that could eat five meals a day, could ever finish this thing.
It is obviously for some other breed of human, the kind perhaps that can swig down gallons or drams of the stuff on tap at Bierkraft.
Or perhaps, for several friends, unafraid of each others’ saliva.
My last ice cream dish came with a touch of refinement: a silver spoon that I stared at for about a minute when it was handed to me with my cup.
“Wait a second that’s plastic isn’t it.” I blurted.
The woman behind the counter nodded at me, sadly, as if I was some sort of confused senior citizen or unawares child.
The ice-cream in question may not even count as not only does it come from a cookie store, but it is, for a large part, cookie dough.
To explain, Ruby et Violette, a cookie store in Hell’s Kitchen I discovered in my days working at The Colbert Report, decided about halfway through my tenure at the show to expand to ice cream, but only as a way to showcase their cookies.
So they created ice creams, hand-crafted, but inclusive of- and centered around their cookie dough. A vanilla cookie would have tahitian vanilla ice cream and some honey to compliment the dough. Cookies and cream would be strands of chocolate and sweat cream with crumbled cookies within.
The flavor I got was “Cool Seduction” a blend of Thin Mints girl-scout-style cookies with Andes’ chocolate mints and dark chocolate ice-cream surrounding.
The texture was interesting, with more gooey crunches than one would normally expect out of an ice cream cup, along with slightly more staying power, due to its solid mass.
My only regret, departing the store to go back to my office, was that I hadn’t asked for the small waffle cone they had once given me for free to put my order in.
It was light and worked a biscuit, clearing after each bite, for the next flavor expedition ahead.
Chicken Shawarma Platter w/Red Pepper Mojadara and Hummus/Tabouli split- $13.75
Maiden Lane between Broadway and Nassau Sts
ACJMZ2345 to Fulton St/Broadway-Nassau
IL LABORATORIO DEL GELATO
Small two-flavor cup w/Mocha and Dark Chocolate gelato- $3.25
Orchard St. between Broome and Delancey Sts.
FJMZ to Delancey/Essex St.
Shameless Ice Cream Sandwich: Brownie-Cookies with Vanilla Chocolate-Chunk Gelato- $5.50
5th Avenue between Union St and Berkeley Pl. Park Slope, Brooklyn.
R to Union St.
RUBY ET VIOLETTE
Cool Seduction Gelato in a silver-spooned cup (flavors vary daily)- $3.75
50th St bet. 9th and 10th Avenues.
CE to 50th St.