Sunday, December 24, 2006

On Christmas Eve eve...

We spent Saturday in the city: we had tickets to see Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, and then we planned to go get something to eat after that. Jeff joined us.

None of us are big Martin Short fans, but we had all seen pretty good reviews of the show, and we had an opportunity to see it inexpensively (less than a third of the usual ticket price), so we went.

The reviewers, on the other hand, must have loooved Martin Short. The show was okay, but it was only worth what we had paid for it. It was a series of fairly unrelated vignettes narrated by Short, starring Short, even poking fun at Short. But what could have been rollicking comedy was only modestly funny. The audience responded politely, but the show just didn't have the punch it needed to make it really good. Perhaps that's why it's closing in two weeks.

At any rate, his ensemble case was quite good, and one of them, Capathia Jenkins, was fabulous. Broadway should be so lucky to see a lot more of her.

One of the funniest, but unoriginal pieces was the ad-libbed portion (it was ripped off from Dame Edna), where Short, as Jiminy Glick, interviews an audience member on stage. Our audience member, a nice guy and personal trainer named Matt Green, played along well. But having seen the Dame Edna show twice, my non-expert opinion was that Short's ability to ad-lib paled in comparison to Dame Edna's; she ruthlessly skewered guests with pithy, well-made observations and back-handed compliments.

Followng the show, we were trying to figure out where to eat. I was voting for Via Emilia, since pinknest had recommended it and her recommendations have been good. But unfortunately, it didn't open until 5:00...and the time was 3:45. We didn't want to wait an extra hour and fifteen minutes in a city full of last-minute-shopping-obsessed tourists and locals; we needed to eat and get back home, because Jess has a terrible cold and wasn't feeling great.

So we chose one of our many standbys for good food, Veselka, in the East Village at 2nd Ave. and 9th. At 42nd Street (ugh...Times Square at Christmas), we picked up the S line to Grand Central, caught the 6 to 14th Street, and then took the L over to 3rd, where we walked from 3rd over to 2nd, and then down to 9th. This area of the East Village is known as The Little Ukraine, and is full of Ukrainian-owned businesses. On our walk there, we passed now-extinct 2nd Ave. Deli at 2nd Ave, and 10th, which is now completely boarded over, as if something new is preparing to open in its place.

If you never ate at the 2nd Ave. Deli, you missed one of the city's best kosher delis...perfect pastrami; chopped liver that would convert a non-liver lover; amazingly crispy latkes; scrumptious stuffed cabbage; and challah that was outstanding (but for a Jewish mother, only Bruce's makes better challah).

It was depressing to walk over the "star walk of fame" on the sidewalk in front of the place, with Yiddish names of distinction from the theatre as well as other disciplines. Original owner Abe Lebewohl, a master of food-crafting from the Ukraine, had opened the place in 1954, and turned it into a New York institution. Tragically, Abe was murdered in 1996 on his way to make an early-morning bank drop, and his death is a mystery that has never been solved. His son took over the place after his death and ran it for nine years, but unfortunately, 2nd Ave. didn't make it.

Surprisingly, there was no wait for a table at Veselka. It's also a Ukrainian place, popular for its pierogies and Ukrainian meatballs over noodles. While the food is wonderful, it's not known for its snappy service. On a scale of 1 -5, (5 being best) I'd give it a 4 for food, but a 2 for service.

For an appetizer, I had the simply remarkable Christmas borscht, which made me wish that they served it year-round. The earthy flavor of fresh beets was perfectly complemented by the deliciously tasty beef broth. Freshly chopped dill spiraled around two mushroom dumplings. I ordered a cup, and I wished I had ordered a bowl by the time I had finished it - which was about 90 seconds after I'd started. But I'm glad I didn't get a bowl, because I wouldn't have been able to finish my meal. Jess had a cup of chicken noodle soup, which was sans noodles, but looked delicious. He needed the chicken soup, my poor sick puppy.

Jeff and I had the always-wonderful beef stroganoff, with tender roasted beef and large pieces of sautéed fresh mushroom prepared in a sauce of beef juices and fresh sour cream and ladled over tender egg noodles. Jess had the baked macaroni and cheese. It was all delicious comfort food that warmed us before our venture into the oh-so-slightly chilly evening air.

We walked back up 2nd Ave to 11th, where we stopped in at a favorite of ours (and one of the city's best bakeries), Black Hound New York, where we couldn't resist the coconut cake with lemon curd filling, the outrageous banana custard in an edible dark chocolate cup, covered in whipped cream designed to look like marshmallows, and my personal favorite, the German Chocolate cake, which is, in my opinion, the best German Chocolate cake you will ever taste. It even beats my mother's, who holds the rank of goddess in the cake world. We were too stuffed to eat it, and because it's a "pick-up only" place, that was fine...we happily exited with stash in hand.

If you have the opportunity to go to the Black Hound, you will be torn between the many choices. Besides the aforementioned, the fabulous triple chocolate mousse cake is wonderful; the carrot cake is probably the best version of that cake I have ever tasted (I don't usually like carrot cake); the chocolate white chocolate cake is divine; and the chocolate raspberry cake, sinful. And there are an assortment of cookies and truffles as well. Cakes here aren't light, they are heavy, dense, buttery creations. Thanks to our friend Aaron, Photoshop and SwishMAX genius, for turning us on to it. Mwah. That's a gift that has kept on giving!

Following the bakery, Jess and I caught a cab to Penn Station for the railroad ride back home, and Jeff was off to run some errands.

Have a very merry Christmas, everyone.


At 9:11 AM, December 27, 2006, Blogger Aaron AAG said...

Martin Short - ick

Black Hound - mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

At 2:04 PM, December 28, 2006, Blogger pinknest said...

mmmm, borscht! i haven't been to black hound and that coconut lemon curd cake sounds DIVINE!! must go!!

At 1:08 PM, December 30, 2006, Blogger knottyboy said...

Do you even love me in the least? For god'sake you're killing me with the talk of good food. Christ almighty my tummy is rumbling horribly. Oh I've got to get my hairy ass, big head back to NYC and dig in.
Happy New Year hunny bunny,

At 7:04 PM, December 31, 2006, Blogger MzOuiser said...

Gawd, this made my stomach rumble. I do remember having the latkes at the 2nd avenue deli, many moons ago. They were heavenly. I never knew that story about the owner though!

Happy holidays loveys. Hope Jess is feeling better!

At 6:19 PM, January 02, 2007, Blogger pinknest said...

happy new year!!


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