Thursday, December 22, 2005

Partying On Smith Street

I decided to go back to PaNe e ViNo for dinner tonight, it really did look like a nice place when I was there yesterday and the bartender, manager, or whatever he was treated me well and seemed very enthusiastic about the restaurant. That is always a good sign. I also decided to check out a couple of bars that I had passed that usually open later in the evening. Unfortunately they were both hosting private parties, as were several other bars that I passed along the way. Nonetheless, I did manage to chalk up another one.

996) NY Perks

This is another fairly new place at 193 Smith Street that isn’t open during the day and wasn’t really open tonight either. There was a private party going on in the back where there is a separate bar under a fairly impressive stained glass ceiling. The manager let me buy a glass of wine there and bring it up front to drink at the bar by the entrance. This was a nice gesture but it would have been nice if he had turned on a couple of lights. I think he was discouraging non-party goers from entering, but a sign on the door would have been just as effective. As it was the only light came from the large screen television above the bar that was showing an Austin Powers movie, and not one of the good ones either. The continue switching between light and dark scenes gave of a disco effect of sorts and also gave Bar Man the beginning of a headache. The throbbing disco music provided for the party didn’t help either. It looked like kind of a dismal party too, people just sitting around and not really talking to each other. Well, it was a bit early so maybe it was just getting started. It looked like the DJ was just getting set up.

The bar up front is fairly small, just room for four chairs and it is kind of a curved, inexpensive light wood affair that wouldn’t look out of place in someone’s basement recreation-room. The area behind the bar was pretty sparse too, just a couple of plain cabinets with liquor bottles on top and a couple of shelves mounted on the rose colored wall. The smaller upper shelf held a few more bottles of liquor and the lower shelf held glasses.

There is considerable space devoted to lounge areas that consist of nice looking dark plush leather looking sofas and love seats and light wood coffee tables. My guess is that people just go up to the bars to order a drink to bring back to their little nook. Even the bar in back where there was a party going on didn’t have anyone hanging at it having a drink. It might be worthwhile to peek in again when this place is actually open, but nothing that I saw would really draw me back.

I had a glass of white wine.

Well that was just one for the night, but that was what I had planned on. I now have hit 996 for the year and have only four more to go. I probably won’t be hitting any until next week though. I am heading out for Christmas and, although we will be going out for dinner on Friday, it is to a place I have already visited. Word is that the subway strike will be over though so I won’t have any problems finishing up my quest.

Oh, just to let you know, The Mysterious Chinese Lady and I did have our dinner at PaNe e ViNo, and it was very good. I had a poppy seed encrusted tuna in some kind of a lime sauce with spinach and potatos and The Mysterious Chinese Lady had monkfish in a rich spicy soup. Service was very good and friendly too. The same guy that served me my wine yesterday was there and he remembered what kind I had and that I liked it, so I had it again. The place was packed and later on they were going to have live Brazilian music, but we didn’t stay for that.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Coping With The Strike

Well, it really wasn’t too difficult. Even though I have gone to so many bars in my neighborhood, new ones open up all the time. I found two today and passed by another two that don’t open until later in the evening. I will probably visit them tomorrow night. Then I will only have one more to hit before my scheduled appearances at bars number 999 and 1000.

994) PaNe e ViNo

This Italian restaurant and bar at 174 Smith Street has been open for about six months now. I was a bit confused because the d├ęcor looked Italian but there was a map of Brazil on one of their flyers. It turned out that they were advertising a Brazilian night with caipirnhas and wine all night. The bar was kind of an angular U shape with the wide center area large enough for six stools with metal legs and round green seats. The top of the bar is dark wood and the front has wood paneling painted to look like green marble that is framed in wood that matches the top. There are silver rails for your feet. Four swollen tube shaped lights, two light lime green ones and two orange ones, hang low over the bar. The end of the bar closest to the front is covered with glasses and the end towards the back has a large espresso machine and a coffee machine wearing a Santa hat.

The wall behind the bar is white painted brick with wood shelves holding a small selection of liquor, several types of wine, and wine glasses. The wall opposite the bar is cream colored with a large wood-framed mirror, a picture of a landscape, and a couple of pictures, kind of sketches, of Roman statues. There is a small statue of a Roman woman clutching a toga around her in a failed attempt cover her breasts. The lights on the wall look like dark waffle cones. There is a real nice looking heated garden in the back.

I had a generous glass of red wine and, as I was getting ready to leave the bartender gave me another generous pour. He recommended that I stop in when they have their monthly wine tastings and I do believe I will.

995) La Cantina el Pitayo

Just across the from PaNe e ViNo was this hard to miss place. And, What do you get when you convert a sushi bar to a Mexican restaurant and bar? A Mexican restaurant with a very low bar. A bit humorous when you think about it. I pictured a bunch of tough hombres walking in and sitting down on the short bar chairs and peering up at the bartender while they ordered their shots of tequila and beers. I guess you could stand, but then you would have to hunch over. It is one of those “What were they thinking?” kind of places. The top of the bar is shiny red Formica with small black and white speckles and it sits above about a four inch drop to the ledge where you used to be able to set your sushi. It is a bit low for a drink though, but when I went to set my margarita on the bar top it flopped over. I didn’t notice that set back about four inches from the front the bar it drops down about a quarter of an inch. My drink was replaced but still, what a horrible design for a bar where you might want to sit and have a drink.

Behind the bar is a set of light wood shelves below a fake brick wall. Kind of neat wood shelves hung from the ceiling against the wall with racks so glasses could be hung below them. There were a few bottles of liquor on display including a couple of decent tequilas. But if you are displaying stuff like Crystal Palace Gin and Alexi Vodka one can only wonder what you use for your well drinks.

There were a few cactuses on the bar and walls along with some colorful ponchos and sombreros. The portion of the wall between the bar and the windows was protruding flat rocks that looked like they were left over from when it was a sushi place. The lights hanging over the bar looked like the shades were made from chicken wire rolled into a tube and covered in aluminum foil Christmas wrapping paper. There were a couple of pictures of Zapata on the wall behind the bar but my favorite decoration was what appeared to be a large road kill mounted on the wall back towards the bathrooms.

I had a margarita that, despite being told it was made with fresh lime juice, was obviously made with a syrupy mix and was way too sweet as well as being a kind of sickly green. I probably won’t be running back here for awhile.

Not a bad day, two bars close to where I live so I didn't have to walk far and two more spotted for tomorrow. Just five more to go for the year. Friday I am supposed to be heading out to my sister-on-law's house for the Christmas week-end, but if the subway strike is still going on that might be delayed a bit. We shall see.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Trouble Is Here

Well, I knew I should have saved bars close to home for the final stretch, but I didn't, and now there is a subway strike. I guess I am going to have to do some serious hoofing. Children, let this be a lesson.

By the way, I found another translation of "The Panther." This one is by Stephen Cohn and I think I might like it a bit more, seems to more accurately reflect my state of mind.

"The bars which pass and strike across his gaze
have stunned his sight: the eyes have lost their hold.
To him it seems there are a thousand bars,
a thousand bars and nothing else. No World."

Murph's Bar Guide did a nice little promotion for my 1000th bar, you can check it out here:

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  • Monday, December 19, 2005

    Ready For My Close-Up

    I hooked up with MSNBC today and they shot another segment that should air on Countdown With Keith Olbermann sometime next week. If I get advance notice of the specific date that it will air I will certainly keep you informed.

    992) Twelve

    I met up with the MSNBC crew at Twelve which, to my chagrin, I had visited once before. I didn’t realize it because they also go by XII and that is how I had recorded it. However I caught a break. They have a separate bar in the back that actually has its own liquor license and that is where I had my drinks and MSNBC did their filming.

    The Back Bar

    The manager, Brian Molloy, graciously opened the bar and Amy, a bartender, came back there and served up drinks.

    Brian, Bar Man, and Judy (an MSNBC producer)

    Amy, The Charming And Proficient Bartender

    This is a very handsome Irish pub and sports bar located in the Murray Hill section at 206 East 34th between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. This would be a great place to watch a game because they have 17 large plasma televisions mounted where they are easy to see. There were 5 above the bar in the back where we were. They also have little television screens mounted on the beer spigots. More of a novelty than anything else, but they do attract your attention. There were 18 beer spigots with an equal number of beers, and a nice selection too. The top of the bar is bluestone and the ledge for your feet is also bluestone tile. Quite fancy. The front of the bar is made up of frosted plastic panels that are lit from behind. The color of the lights can be changed to match the lighting behind the bar. The lights were just dim white when we walked in because the back bar wasn’t open yet. Brian quickly changed them to a cheery red though. There are square shaped ceiling lights recessed in the beige ceiling. The wooden bar stools have seats of black padded leather.

    The wall behind the bar is covered with mirrors and rows of liquor bottles line the ledges below them. A huge Christmas wreath hangs on the left side of the bar from the walls that are a combination of dark wood and soft orange paint. The dining area has a number of tables in front of benches along the wall and, of course, there is another large bar in the front.

    Everyone was very accommodating and friendly. It is amazing how much time goes into what, I am sure, will be about a two minute segment. When you watch it on television it looks so natural, like I just walked into the bar, sat down, and started talking. In reality it took well over two hours. It was fun though. It was mostly the same crew that did the first shoot so by now we were kind of like old friends, especially the sound man who had to wire me up. Brian invited The Mysterious Chinese Woman and me to come back sometime for dinner and I will certainly take him up on his offer.

    I had a Guinness and then (well, it was a long shoot) a Winterhook, a seasonal from Redhook brewery that was quite tasty.

    993) Wolfgang’s

    By the time we left Twelve it was getting to be late afternoon so The Mysterious Chinese Woman and I decided to pop into Wolfgang’s for a late lunch, early dinner. It was convenient, being right next to the subway station at 33rd and Park Avenue. The bar and restaurant is located in a land marked building with an elaborately vaulted ceiling designed by Rafael Guastavino, an architect who emigrated to the United States from Barcelona, Spain in 1881. I commented that the place reminded me of Grand Central Station and sure enough, his work is in there as well as in Grant’s Tomb, the Great Hall at Ellis Island, Carnegie Hall and numerous other well known locations. His technique of building tiled arches was actually patented in 1885 and it is the technique of constructing self-supporting arches and vaults using interlocking terracotta tiles and layers of mortar. The building that houses Wolfgang’s used to be the Vanderbilt Hotel.

    Wolfgang’s is named after Wolfgang Zwiener who used to be the headwaiter at Peter Luger’s and the menu is very similar with, of course, steaks being their specialty. The take credit cards here though, something Peter Luger’s still doesn’t do.

    Hanging from the ceiling are antique alabaster lamps trimmed in brass. The whole place makes you feel like you are in an elegant bar in old Europe. You are quickly reminded that you are in modern New York though when you look out the arched windows behind the bar and see the traffic outside. This view is somewhat obscured by the liquor bottles on the window sills. Two large elegant bottles of either brandy or cognac sit in individual glass cases that are kept locked. The bar is U shaped and made of dark wood. The floor and walls, at least below the arches, are also dark wood and a half wall separates the bar area from the dining room. Large Christmas wreaths and pots of red poinsettias are place around the room to give the place a very cheery feeling.

    I had a Bombay martini at the bar before we went into the dining room for dinner.

    Bar Man And His Martini

    We had a bottle of wine with our meal and, just so you know, the cheapest bottle was close to $50 dollars and the most expensive I saw was over $1,800. That must be one hell of a good wine.

    Not too bad a day. I had actually only planned on hitting one bar but Wolfgang’s just called out to me so I made it two for the day which gives me 993 for the year and leaves only 7 more to go.