Mar 31, 2012

Mar 29, 2012

you can't get there from here

and here we are, once more riding on the squeaky vinyl seats of the acela "express," mid-way between new york and boston. there's no easy and efficient way to get to princeton from boston. the least painful way is the most expensive (fortunately, today's travel was on someone else) and possibly the slowest: acela from south station to ny penn, transfer to nj transit for princeton junction, then transfer again to the appropriately named "dinky"* (filled with wearers of knit ties and blazers with elbow patches reading deleuze and lacan) which eventually deposits you at princeton station. there appears to be no unified booking system that will get you a routing across all service providers and allow you to purchase all the tickets you need. on the way to princeton this morning, total time door to door was 6 hours and 33 minutes. absolute serenity and lack of congestion in the streets did not quite compensate for waking up at 3.30am.

update: nothing like an account of an european train ride to put american rail service into perspective. thank you tyler brule.

* all-knowing max says: "'dinky' meaning small comes from the trains, not the other way around."

Mar 24, 2012

8 natural handstands

robert kinmont, 1969.

Mar 20, 2012

west coast weather report

i passed through san francisco this week on my way back east, causing two days of nearly continuous mild drizzle across much of the bay area. weather notwithstanding, i walked through the mission as usual to inspect the latest crop of artisanal cafes and stores selling things that are nice but unnecessary, this time beginning at the blue bottle on mint street. by the time i got through soma, i had become most moist. this condition, for which tacos are indicated, coincided with the close proximity of el norteno, a taco truck in the parking lot on the corner of 6th and bryant. the carnitas tacos did not disappoint, nor did the pickled carrots that came with.

aggressive weather promotes the development of moral fibre and philosophical thinking, for instance when you hole up in an ice cave with your sled dogs and reindeer carcase to ponder the transience of life while escaping a blizzard and polar bears. san francisco weather, in contrast, is much more like trying to fall asleep in an uncomfortably chilly room with a buggy thermostat, a too-thin blanket, and abundant finger foods.

Mar 17, 2012


after finishing late at stella! the night before, jake took one for the team and was in the line at 9am for the first seating at galatoire's. i got to a slower start and arrived around 10am after stopping for coffee (but not breakfast, for reasons that will soon become apparent).

ahead of us in the line were at least two people waiting to sell their seating options to fat-walleted diners for whom the allure of galatoire's does not extend to getting up early. for those seeking guidance: the hours before lunch can be profitably filled with the times-picayune (define: picayune) and pimm's cups imported from the bar around the corner. a folding chair may also be useful.

the doors opened at 11.30am and we moved upstairs to the bar, which was furnished with much in the way of wood and tradition. our request for dry vermouth on the rocks was misinterpreted. fortunately, as the bartender noted, "no one ever has trouble moving a couple shots of vodka." after milling about briefly, we were called to the dining room below.

jake and christina go often to new orleans, and are Known To The House. our lunch order was an ongoing conversation with their accustomed waiter, who vanished to put in for "some little bits to get you started." a sidecar soon arrived with robustly sugared rim and darkish aspect contributed by lemon juice of an antique variety. it tasted like no sidecar i'd ever had before but was perfect for those who enjoy dry, oxidative wines. not long after, plates of textbook soufflé potatoes and fried sticks of eggplant showed up. a small dish of powdered sugar came with, to be mixed with crystal hot sauce. i tried this combination to humour the table. everything became blurry after this first sortie, as careful accounting is neither possible nor desirable at galatoire's.

there were several plates of hot oysters, diverse gumbos, and stuffed eggplant (more accurately described as a large pile of crabmeat bound with cream and lightly garnished with eggplant). intermittently, tables of celebrants sang "happy birthday" and expected other diners to join them; this got old by the seventh or eighth rendition. if memory serves, other things that arrived were: pompano fried briefly in brown butter and covered in a shower of crisp almond flakes, several variations on seafood lightly cooked (with garlic) (jake reminds me:) speckled trout fried in brown butter and showered in crisp almond flakes, pompano grilled and festooned with crabmeat yvonne, oysters rockefeller, and a supernumerary plate of brabant potatoes (= with much garlic; jim harrison correctly points out that garlic is a vegetable and should be used in quantity).

jake found bargains in the capacious wine list—a 2005 dry muscat from alsace from dirler-cadé and a 2001 alsace pinot gris from trimbach. the hard truth: i remember nothing more than that they were bone-dry with great acidity, great pairings for a long lunch light on meat and vegetables but heavy on cream and seafood.

dessert was unnecessary but arrived anyway: a perfect creme caramel (see more about gels here) and a sweet potato cheesecake. followed by a tureen of coffee dosed heavily with brandy, cloves, cinnamon, and orange peel, then set aflame.

certainly a nearly perfect meal, though perhaps not ideal for those with genetically high cholesterol levels.

we finished lunch at 5.45pm.

Mar 6, 2012

redmond, wa

there is nothing to eat here except teriyaki. last night, i went out and procured a large quantity of fruit and vegetables to accompany me during the long hours of writing, self-doubt, and evangelical television. a side effect of redmond's population of high tech workers is that grocery stores here sell decent wine. including a radikon 2002 tocai friulano mislabeled for an embarrassing price that did not prevent me from swooping down on it.

Mar 4, 2012

in seattle

right after i landed, i made sure the two bottles of wine in the duffle bag had survived unscathed, then to fox rent-a-car which stretches the definition of "airport car rental" to the breaking point in two of three possible ways. straight in to seattle to pick up some keys from way up north, then back down for a much delayed dinner at ba bar: big, hot bowls of pho, a pâté chaud to share (crisp, freshly baked puff pastry wrapped around a meat filling and topped with a fried egg), accompanied by a shot of clear creek kirschwasser.

now after a full-day coffee crawl (with one truly outstanding espresso from vivace and a nice siphon gedeo at seattle coffee works), i am sitting facing a wall of books, the largest home library about wine and food i have ever seen. and they're really good books.

could get used to this.

Mar 2, 2012


a month ago, i was lucky to drink a glass of birkweiler kastanienbusch riesling from oekonomierat rebholz. the wine smelt of a first-brew high-grown oolong tea (white flowers, green tannins, leaves) and was evanescent but not transient. it stayed around for a while, like a white stone unfolding slowly in many directions. there was too much talking around the table; this wine requires silence and a notebook.

some wines have a power and presence that derives from no apparent source, magical stuff of a lightness that constantly evades capture.

it is true, what they say, that civilization is weightless.

Mar 1, 2012