Saturday, June 17, 2006

A Trip Abroad

Well, perhaps a trip abroad is a bit of a stretch, but we did move to another island, Staten Island. By the way, for those of you who might not know, where we were earlier today, up in The Bronx, is the only piece of New York City that is not on an island.

We took the Staten Island Ferry, always a fun trip, and free as well, and said adios to Manhattan:

And goodbye to Brooklyn too:

And, as the ferry took us by the Statue of Liberty we had to take the obligatory photo which is basically a big head with a tiny Statue of Liberty in the background.

Donna And The Lady

After landing we took a bit of a walk to a place that Donna had read about, the Cargo Cafe.

Cargo Cafe

This is an unpretentious place with a lot of interesting art hanging, and painted, on the walls. There is a pretty decent view of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and there is a bit of a view of Manhattan and Brooklyn interspersed with views of three large apartment buildings, two of which are still being built. The view from them must be quite nice indeed.

Bruce and I decided to have a pre-dinner Martini at the bar, of course.

Bruce And Bar Man At The Bar

After our drinks we headed for the back room, which had the best views, and had our meal under the watchful eyes of some of old friends.

The Pack

Our drinks were very good as was the food. I had a nicely spiced skirt steak and the ribs were a big hit too. The portions were more than generous and they came with large portions of mashed potatoes with onions and stuff mixed in. Very good, and they most certainly were not the instant kind.

Even though this place is out of the way, and that is putting it mildly if you live in Brooklyn, I will return. And I will have the steak again too.

We didn't pay attention to the ferry schedule, kind of assuming they ran every half an hour or so. Well, they do, from Manhattan to Staten Island. They only run every hour in the other direction, at least late on the week-ends. To make matters worse, we missed one by just a couple of minutes so we had a fairly long wait.

Bruce, Donna And The Mysterious Chinese Woman...Waiting

Despite the wait we counted the adventure a great success and were very pleased with the Cargo Cafe.

A Fishy Fish Festival

Don't believe everything you read in the papers. The Daily News had a major article touting the Seafood Parade that supposedly is the Bronx's answer to the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island. It is held in Hunt's Point in the Bronx close to where the Fulton Fish Market relocated. The article said "...they're cooking up fish dishes, crafting fancy fish costumes and building homemade fish floats for a mile-long march through their neighborhood." Well, see for yourself.

First of all, on week-ends the subways never run as advertised so we had to take a somewhat convoluted route to get to this grand parade. We made an erroneous transfer at 125th because the Mysterious Chinese Woman done steered us wrong.

Bruce And Donna At The Wrong Station

The Mysterious Chinese Woman Abashed

Ah, but it was so worth it when we finally arrived. Despite getting a bit lost we did arrive in time for the start of the grand parade.

The Parade Starts

Floats, I don't think so. There was only one, and it would be a stretch to call it a float. The whole parade had maybe 30 people max, most not in costume, and lasted all of five minutes.

The One And Only Float

The crowd trembled in fear though when the local toughs showed up on their tricked out, ah, bicycles.

The Local Bikers And Their Rides

Ah, but the fish, that is what it was all about, Right? After all, "...they're cooking up fish dishes..." Well, there wasn't a single stand that was selling fish. In fact there weren't any food stands at all except for Moe Gridder's Famous BBQ trailer. Well, you have to do what you have to do, so I had a pulled pork sandwich.

Bar Man And His Pulled Pork

The Fish Festival certainly wasn't what I expected but it was kind of worth going to just for the humor of it. The irony was that they were having a street fair a block from where I live that was about ten times the size and where you could get fish. No mile-long parade though.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Show Time At Showman's


You may remember that I visited this place one afternoon last November with my friend Bernie during my 1000 Bar adventure. It is located at 375 West 125th Street up in Harlem. At that time I heard about their Thursday Night Tap Dance Extravaganza. Well, Extravaganza might be a bit strong, but they did have tap dancers.

It wasn't too crowded when we got there so we got seats at one of the four small tables, although in retrospect we should have sat at the long bar. There isn't any cover charge here, just a two drink minimum per set. They also had free hors'doeuvres which consisted of pasta with peppers and sausage. Mona, the manager, assured me she made it herself.

The opening act was Joey Morant, a trumpet player who regularly headlines at Showman's on Thursdays. That is when he is not touring. He said he just returned from Paris and was about to head out to Europe again for another tour that would also take in Russia but said he would be back for the first Thursday in July. He was quite personable and came over to talk to us and really got the crowd going with his band that included a great sax player, guitar, drums, and an organ player. Showman's claims to be the only Jazz Club in New York with an organ (but it is kind of a small one).

Joey Morant And His Two Trumpets

We were enjoying our drinks at our table when a large group came in from Wachovia and crowded the front of the bar pretty much blocking our view and making it hard to get to the restrooms. They weren't being obnoxious or anything, just a bit inconsiderate. There was plenty of room at the back of the bar where nobody's view would have been blocked.

Bruce And Bar Man At Our Table

Did I mention tap dancers? The had tap dancers that seemed to range from an Australian sheepherder to someone who looked like a Japanese manga character.

Tap Dancers

Showman's is a fun place to visit for good jazz every night of the week except Sunday. You can easily get there by subway, the 1 train stops about six blocks away and the A train is right around the corner. Just get off at 125th.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My Favorite Italian Restaurant

Armando's At Dusk

This is one of the first restaurants that I ever visited in Brooklyn, a few years before I even thought about moving into the neighborhood. Now I live just a few blocks away and it remains my favorite Italian restuarant. It is located on Montague street that used to be "the street" for restaurants in Downtown Brooklyn before Smith Street, just a few blocks away, took over the title. Armando's, however, gives proof to the adage that older can be better.

The usual bartender, Paul, knows your name and what you drink. He makes a mean Martini and Armando's serves them in the appropriate sized glasses. The are large enough but not so large that your drink gets warm before you can finish it. A lot of bars use those over-sized glasses so the bartender doestn't have to work so hard. Why make two smaller drinks when you can get by with making one big one (and charge more for it).

Bruce and Bar Man Enjoying Our Martinis With Paul Looking On

The food here is delicious as well and the service is both friendly and efficient. They have the best linquini with clam sauce (I prefer the red, the Mysterious Chinese Woman leans towards the white) that I have ever had. The filet of sole in a lemon sauce is also fantastic. I can honestly say I have never had a bad meal here.

Bar Man, MCW, Bruce and Donna With Xhavit Attending

Xhavit has been working at Armando's for as long as I can remember and is fantastic, as is the whole staff. I still remember one warm December day when they had their Christmas tree up and they moved a table and chairs outside for the Mysterious Chinese Woman and me so we could enjoy our lunch in the sunshine.

Bruce And Donna, Happy With Their Meal

Because, as I said, they make their Martinis small enough so you can have two cold ones, I stopped at the bar and had another after dinner drink before heading on home.

Xhavit, Paul and Bar Mat At The Bar

Paul wasn't getting his due in the pictures so I managed to lure him a bit closer to the camera for one last shot.

Paul and Bar Man

Back in the 1950's when Marilyn Monroe was married to Arthur Miller they used to frequent this place and there are pictues of her adorning the walls along with pictures of other old-time movie stars who may, or may not, have eaten here as well. Pictures of Italian landscapes also hang on the walls and there are nice floral arrangements too. It is a very lovely and friendly place to have your lunch or dinner and it is usually bustling. The bar isn't just a service bar either and a regular crowd can usually be found enjoying a drink or two. Paul will make sure you feel welcome, as will everyone in the place. I hope Armando's stays around forever.