Saturday, February 02, 2008

Birthday Dinner Number Two

Well, the Mysterious Chinese Woman is special so she got to have two birthday dinners, with even more to come. This time her Mysterious Chinese Sister took her out and I got to come along. I also got to pick the restaurant. I knew they both liked French bistros so I thought Chez Napoleon on 50th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue would be a good choice, and I wasn't disappointed.

Chez Napoleon

When you walk through the door you can easily imagine that you just came from a stroll along the Boulavard Montparnasse in Paris. It is a small restaurant that seems even smaller than it is because it is divided in two.

That Bistro Look And Feel

As you might imagine, the walls were covered with all kinds of Napoleonic artifacts. I have a friend who is a big collector of all things related to Napoleon and I have the fact he would love this place.

Wall Hangings But No Beheadings

The Napoleonic theme is much in evidence on their menu too, as you would imagine.

Suitable For Framing

The menu features classic bistro dishes which is to say traditional home cooking. I had a beef dish that was kind of like a small pot roast, but not dry and stringy like my family used to make it. It was moist and tender and had obviously been cooked for a long time at a low temperature. Classic braising.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman had a nice piece of cod that was prepared like the sole we usually order when we go to Armando's in my neighborhood. Lightly browned with a lemon butter sauce. The Mysterious Chinese Sister had the duck and she said it was delicious.

My only complaint was that everything came with boiled potatoes. I am not a big fan of boiled potatoes. But I was told by the waitress that it was traditional and to be quiet and just eat them. I was feeling right at home here.

They only have a small service bar with but one stool. That stool was occupied by Marguerite Bruno, the owner and Chef Grand-Mere. She is now in her 80's and this restaurant has been hers and her family's for at least 50 years. In her 80's now she doesn't work the kitchen but keeps a sharp eye on everything that goes on. In a way she reminded me of Pilar at Montero's.

Bar Man And Marguerite

Oh, and best of all, I finally got my cheese plate.

Worth The Wait

If you are ever in the neighborhood, or even if you have to travel a bit, you owe it to yourself to stop in here. I would certainly recommend that you make reservations because the place is packed.

Chez Napoléon on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 01, 2008

Saul Man

That heading has nothing to do with anything but I thought it sounded cool. It was the Mysterious Chinese Woman's American birthday and I let her choose where she wanted to go for dinner. She picked Saul's, a great restaurant on our neighborhood that I have been to before. In fact, I took her for dinner there on her birthday two years ago. And when my friends Bruce and Donna came to visit not long ago they treated us to dinner one night and we picked Saul for that occasion as well.

Saul On Smith Street

It is a fairly small restaurant although they claim you can book if for parties of up to 200. I have no idea how they could fit in that many people. It really is a great restaurant, I have never been disappointed with a meal there. And the staff is really friendly as well. You would think they might be a bit more stuck-up but not at all.

Most of the tables are quite small, seating just two. I guess it is considered to be an intimate setting to take a date, or a Mysterious Chinese Woman.

Mysterious Chinese Woman

They don't have much of a bar, just about half a dozen stools for people who are waiting for a table. But what the hell, I still managed to have a drink there even though we were promptly seated when we showed up for our reservation.

Cocktails At The Bar

The food was, as always, fabulous. I started with a wonderful foi gras that was uber rich and so filling that I couldn't even finish my main course. I didn't feel the least bit guilty about eating it either. I just recently saw an episode of Tony Bourdain's show, No Reservations, where he visited a farm where they raised geese to make foi gras. The geese are very well treated and, although they are force fed to enlarge their livers, they really don't seem to mind it. Unlike people, they don't gag when they are force fed because they don't breath through their throats like we do. And geese store fat in their livers so an enlarged liver, in a goose at least, isn't unhealthy. Of course you do have to kill them to get the liver, but then you have to uproot a carrot to eat it too. Life is cruel.

I ordered their special, milk-fed pork, and it was delicious as well. The served it with a nice sized chunk of fried pork fat which I really like. You can buy it in little bags of pork rinds, but that is a poor substitute for the real thing. Only in Mexico can you find it just about everywhere.

Milk Fed Pork and Fried Pork Fat

The Mysterious Chinese Woman had duck but she ate it so fast that I didn't have a chance to take a picture. She said it was very good, and she would know. I did manage to snap a picture of the desert that she ordered, Apple Betty with Calvados ice-cream. Calvados is a pear brandy and this ice-cream did pack a bit of a punch.

Apple Betty and Calvados Ice-Cream

They had a wonderful looking cheese plate as another after-dinner treat but I was so stuffed that I couldn't order it. The waitress said that if I came in before the dinner crowd they would have no problem with me ordering just that and a glass of port. I will make a point of doing just that one day.

All and all we had a great time. The tables are close together and, luckily, the people on either side of us were very friendly so we all chatted together like old friends. One couple had just moved back to Brooklyn after living abroad for several years. The said they were going to go out bar-hopping after dinner and asked me if I knew of any good ones in the neighborhood. Well, they asked the right guy. I rattled off about a dozen within a few blocks and gave a brief description of each one. They decided to just hit a couple and settled on Pete's Waterfront Ale House and Montero's. I hope they had a good time. And I hope Pilar was sitting in her usual spot in Montero's to welcome them.

Saul on Urbanspoon

Bill Who?

Forgive me for being cruel, but I couldn't help but notice certain similarities between these two pictures.

It is tough to actually be able to remember things like this.

How Strange Is This?

You may have noticed that yesterday my blog had a picture of the pin that the New York Daily News distributed. This was a copy of their front page where they also quoted then Mayor Giuliani. Note that they seem to feel the use of the word "ass" was appropriate in those situations, but they are very careful about not allowing it when you post a comment to their articles.

Here is an example of how they censor you even when you are quoting them:

barman Feb 1, 2008 7:22:42 AM Report Offensive Post
I am just submitting this so I can post it on my blog - I want people to know how strange it is that you can have a front page and then issue a pin quoting Rudy Giuliani when he said "We Can Kick Your City's ***" but then asterisk out the word "***" when someone quotes you in your comments section.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

America's Mayor

Now that Rudy is no longer running for president and, perhaps, is wondering where it all went wrong, he should consider this. You can't expect people to believe, as he so often said, that he is America's Mayor when he once, famously, suggested that New York's motto should be:

"We Can Kick Your City's Ass."

Has anyone ever mentioned that Rudy can be, shall we say, a bit divisive.

And then the New York Daily News ran Rudy's slogan on their front page and also distributed pins touting the same slogan:

It looks like at least some cities decided to kick back a bit.

Of course the New York Daily News also seems to be in a bit of denial about how people react to New Yorker's attitude at times. When Iowa Senator Grassley suggested that maybe Rudy's New York attitude cost him votes they referred to him as Senator Hick. Hmm, now that was witty, and only seemed to reinforce Senator Grassley's point.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hypothetical Questions - A Rant

I have been struck by the number of times our President and all of our presidential candidates state that they will not answer a hypothetical question. Now, quite frankly, I am not sure they all know just what that means, but it sure makes them sound kind of stupid.

Why do I say this?

Let's just suppose that the Mysterious Chinese Woman and I were planning on going on a picnic tomorrow. Let's also suppose she asked What should we do if it rains? A reasonable man, such as myself, might say that we could go to a movie instead, or stay home and watch something on television, or go to the bar and drink beer and eat popcorn. In other words, a reasonable man would think about alternative courses of action if, for some reason, the original plan no longer seems like such a good idea. I certainly wouldn't say that I couldn't answer because it was a hypothetical question.

Ask Rudy Guiliani what he will do if he loses the Florida primary and he says "I don't answer hypothetical questions." What does that mean? He has no alternative plans? If he was asked what he would do if he won the Florida primary would he answer the same way? I doubt it.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not just picking on Rudy. It seems everyone is doing it these days. Here is an actual exchange that occurred in a press conference that President Bush was holding:

Q: But Mr. President if you have an invasion plan that you've been reviewing, doesn't that indicate that you've decided to invade Iraq?

The President: That's not the case at all. I mean let's say that there's an alien invasion tomorrow and the whole United States is suddenly forced to fend off hordes of 'saucer people' who want to stop our senior citizens from collecting their Social Security and their Medicare payments. Well if that happened, I'd do whatever it took to defend the interests of our seniors and I hope they'll remember that in November.

Q: Ok...well let's say that there's is no alien invasion. Would we invade Iraq?

The President: Well that's a hypothetical question so I don't think I should answer it. Next question.

I am not even sure what President Bush was referring to as a hypothetical question unless it was, I am guessing here, If there is no alien invasion would we invade Iraq? I also find it interesting that he was kind of able to answer his own hypothetical question of what we would do if we were invaded by aliens.

Now I don't want to suggest that only Republicans play the hypothetical question card.

When Hilary Clinton was asked by Tim Russert if she would support an Israeli attack on Iran similar to the Israeli attack on Syria she refused to answer saying it was a hypothetical question. Again, what does that mean? Does it mean she hasn't thought about the possibility and therefore has no idea whether she would support such an action? That seems a bit scary. Shouldn't someone in her position have at least thought about this possibility and have some idea as to whether or not they would support it? Hell, just say that you have formed an opinion but that it wouldn't be appropriate to reveal it at this time. I can live with that. But to say you cant answer because it is a hypothetical question makes no sense at all. Sometimes it doesn't take long for a question to cease being hypothetical.

Some of you may remember when Under Secretary Sumner Welles was asked "If Russia is attacked by Germany, will she be eligible for aid under the Lend-Lease Act?" Mr. Welles responded that it was a hypothetical question that he could not answer. Three days later the German Army moved into Russia.

After all, aren't many questions, and certainly the most interesting ones, hypothetical in nature? I would think the inability to answer hypothetical questions is a sign of either deviousness or very limited reasoning abilities. Think of it this way. If you asked a chess player what he might do if his opponent played a queen's gambit at the opening you would, I suppose, be asking a hypothetical question. However, if the chess player said he couldn't possibly answer because it was a hypothetical question you might wonder how well he could actually play chess.

In a nutshell, I am tired of people, and especially politicians, who, when asked a simple question of the form If this happens what would you do? refuse to answer by simply saying it is a hypothetical question.

By the way Rudy, the question about what you would do if you lost the Florida primary is no longer hypothetical. Can you answer it now?

Strollers Banned

Some of you may recall that I had mentioned the ban on smoking in bars was having some unintended consequences. One of which was that you were seeing more and more small children in bars. It was my contention that now that the cigarette smoke was gone a bar was somehow considered a "healthy environment" for toddlers.

It is also my opinion that while children in the restaurant portion of a bar were acceptable, there was something kind of wrong about having them in the bar area itself. Needless to say, many took exception with this view. Be that as it may, I see where one bar in Brooklyn, Union Hall Bar, has taken the step of banning strollers.

Of course this step has been met with mixed reviews. However, when you have a young mother cradling her 5-month-old son while sitting at a bar complaining about the ban, you do have to take a step back and scratch your head. Is it just me, or does drinking at the bar with a five-month-old sitting in your lap seem like a really bad idea. Having the kid sitting in a stroller on the floor doesn't strike me as being much better, or safer. It just seems like trouble waiting to happen.

Well, there are still plenty of bars where you can take your toddler with you when you go out for a drink or two, but I applaud Union Square Bar for taking a step toward making their place a bit more adult friendly.

Mark my words though, if you are sitting in a bar when you are five-month's old you may become a real swinger when you aren't much older.

Real Swingers