April 20, 2008

(Thanks to Snow for the title.) wink

Dear friends,

I am working on the Complete and Utter Tale of Bakerina’s Really Big Adventure Out West, but it’s going to take me a while.  Hopefully I’ll get it finished before I fly home tomorrow night, but in the event that it has to wait until I’m back in New York, I can at least offer the following teasers:

1.  Everything I said on Friday morning about Grace’s being the hostess with the mostest?  To quote the late and much-missed Madeline Kahn, it’s twue, it’s twue!  She has been spoiling me utterly with magnificent food, she has driven me all over San Francisco twice in three days, and she has been a kickass conversationalist through it all.  If you have a problem and you need someone with a clear head and a wise heart to listen to you, Grace is so absolutely, positively your girl.  And she’s an awesome driver.

2.  If you have ever been to San Francisco, then you understand why it’s so important to have an awesome driver showing you around—or to be an awesome driver yourself.  I have lived in hilly places (hi, Pittsburgh!) and I have visited mountain towns at staggering elevations (hello, Estes Park!), but I have never, ever, ever in my life seen anything like the hills in San Francisco.  I will confess that the first time Grace drove us down a hill in Pacific Heights, I instinctively put out my hands in a way that caused her to say “honey, are you all right with this?” Even though I knew that there was more road on the other side of the tipping point, I just couldn’t see it, and half expected us to shoot off the road into empty air.  I got over that quickly, though, and can now ride down steep winding roads with the best of them—but I’m still glad Grace is doing the driving.  smile

3.  I have been reading Jo Spanglemonkey‘s blog for such a long time that even though she and I have exchanged email and commented on each other’s blogs as well as on our beloved Scrine, I still view her with the openmouthed, wide-eyed awe that even the most hard-bitten New Yorkers use when they see David Bowie at the art supply store.  I really, really hope that I didn’t have that expression fixed on my face when Jo and Grace and I all went out for fish tacos at lunch.  Luckily for me, Jo is every bit as warm and whipsmart and funny in person as she is en blog.  And her hair is fantastic.

4.  As I’ve mentioned here before, ‘mouse is one of my oldest friends on the internet (in a years-of-acquaintanceship sense, not in a chronological-age sense).  He has been a font of wisdom, a champion, a cheerleader and the kind of friend that makes me think that I must have done something good in my past life to deserve having him in this one—like, say, saving a busload full of nuns and orphans from careening off a cliff.  Dear friends, I got to meet this kind and excellent man on Saturday.  The only reason I am not bubbling over with fulsome, enthusiastic praise for his overall excellent self is that I hardly know where to begin.

5.  Enough suspense.  I know what the $64 question is:  Now that you’ve been to both Northeastern and Santa Clara, have you made a decision? I would dearly love to say that I have, but the fact is that I was blown away by both of them in equal measure.  They both have a terrific curriculum, an awe-inspiring faculty and an impressive, engaging student body.  I have a scholarship waiting for me at Northeastern and a job waiting for me at Santa Clara.  I’m going to have to pick one of them—or say no to both and either go to Pitt or hope that Cardozo gives me an admission offer soon.  Lloyd and I are going to have to make some decisions.  I will be home on Tuesday morning, and as soon as I’m done embracing Lloyd hard enough to crack a rib, we’re going to do just that.

Proper travelogue will follow, hopefully sooner rather than later.  smile

Posted by Bakerina at 11:27 PM in • (0) Comments
April 18, 2008

Dear friends, there is more and better text to come, and once I return home, there will even be pictures to go with it (curse this desire to travel light and to leave the laptop with the photoediting software at home!).  I’m just sending up a flare here to confirm that despite the best efforts of pre-rush-hour traffic and terminal construction at JFK to thwart me, I made my flight by the skin of my teeth, flew across the country without incident (save a little bumping around in the midwest, which is, apparently, something I’ll need to get used to if I fly this flight path on a regular basis), and am now being spoiled, utterly, by the amazing and wondrous Grace.  I would natter on about what a joy she is to talk to, how sweetly she’s been taking care of me ever since she picked me up at the airport, how beautiful is her house and how lush is the view from the patio, but to do so would cut seriously into our sourdough-pancake-eating time.  Grace is taking me out for sourdough pancakes, and then we’re driving to San Francisco together.  I’m having such a blast that for the first time in my life, I don’t care if I sound gloaty and obnoxious.  Oh, yeah, you wish you were me right now.

With any luck, this will pass, and I will settle down enough to write something pleasant to read.  wink Until then, dear ones.

Posted by Bakerina at 01:39 PM in • (0) Comments
April 15, 2008

I don’t know if it was my lunatic one-day train trip to Boston (leave at 3 a.m., return at 7 p.m., do a staggering amount of walking in the meantime), or if it’s my upcoming trip to Santa Clara (fly to San Jose on Thursday night, return on the red-eye on Tuesday morning, do a staggering amount of walking in the meantime), but I have been absolutely, positively, embarrassingly exhausted for the past nine days.  I still go to bed and wake up at my normal hours, but whereas I’m usually out of the house within half an hour of having my breakfast and a shower, I am now...sitting.  I’m not just staring into space, of course; I read, I write, I knit, I write some more, but I do it all from the comfort of my own living room, which makes me feel lazy and sheepish.  I do still go to the pool, but I suspect I’m not working hard enough to do my energy levels any good.  If I added some weightlifting and another form of cardio, that might help, but the thought of doing that is even more tiring (which is not to say that I won’t do it).  Eventually I do leave my house, camera and notebook in hand.  If I’m lucky, I get a few decent shots, but I’m still nagged by the sense that this might be the last free time I ever have in my life, and I am not putting it to good use. 

Lloyd has suggested that all of this sleepy bad attitude is a natural result of pondering the uncertain future.  He has also suggested that feeling lazy and sheepish is not doing me any favors.  When I told him “I have no idea what I’m going to do with my week,” he answered simply, “why not just live peacefully for a few days?” He did not drive a fork into my head, baked-potato-like, the way I richly deserved.  He really is a keeper.

That said, even though I am currently as chatty, thoughtful and interesting as an aspidistra these days, I realize that it’s bad form to have news to share and not actually share it.  In other words, yes, dear friends, the school saga continues.  In addition to Santa Clara (a/k/a Bay Area) and Northeastern (a/k/a Beantown), I have also been accepted to Pitt Law, adding Pittsburgh to the geographic smackdown.  New York City is in there, too, because Cardozo (the law school of Yeshiva University) has waitlisted me, and will keep me on the waitlist until August 25 or until I tell them to take me off of it.  I have not yet heard from Brooklyn Law, but I knew from the beginning that it would be a long shot.  Colorado said no.

Holy moly, now I’m really tired.  smile But hell, there are worse things in life than being tired.  I may be worn out and overwhelmed, but I’m definitely not bored or depressed or feeling assaulted by a terrible job situation.  I’m headed to the land of sun-kissed, thirsty lotus-eaters.  I’ll be staying with Grace—woohoooooo!  I’m staying with Grace!  I’ll have at least a day, maybe two, in San Francisco.  I have a day of meeting more Future Lawyers of America, and, if all goes well there, I might just have a job interview, too.  I’m on the verge of a Grand Weekend Out, and until then, I still have my share of neat stuff to appreciate at home, like, say, this little piece of public art, which Bunni and I found while walking down York Avenue on a particularly horrid, sleety, freezing February day.  I went back yesterday, wondering if it would still be there, and odds my bodkins, it was.  It’s a mock cemetery made from tongue depressors, located on the corner of York Avenue and 67th Street, in the heart of the neighborhood where you can find Rockefeller University, Weill Cornell Medical College and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital.  It’s good to see that the Future Doctors of America have maintained their sense of mordant dark humor—and have managed to keep up with current events on top of it.  Hmmmm.  Maybe what I need is to feel more exhausted, not less. wink

the tongue depressor cemetery

headstones

towers in the cemetery

Posted by Bakerina at 12:48 PM in • (0) Comments
April 12, 2008

Those of you who have been visiting this silly yellow page for the past few years know that I get a little touchy on subjects like gentrification and the explosion of luxury housing construction in New York City.  I have been accused of romanticizing the past, of vilifying the people and businesses who would make the city better, of wishing we could go back to the good old days of skyrocketing murder rates and gauntlets of junkies in city parks.  While I can understand these opinions, I can’t agree with them.  I do remember when New York City was an easier place to live if you weren’t making hedge-fund money, when you could work a crummy low-level publishing job and still luck into a sublet you didn’t have to share with six other people.  I remember hearing live music every night, going to no-cover gigs and dancing without worrying about whether I was violating arcane cabaret laws by doing so.  I miss that, terribly.  I remember being able to buy fabulous pastries at Lafayette Bakery in the West Village without having to sell blood to pay for it.  I miss that, too.  I also remember being followed to work by filthy-talking perverts taking advantage of my Girl Walking Alone status, and witnessing an escalating argument over cocaine between two dealers in front of my apartment building.  I don’t miss that at all.  What I do miss, most of all, is a sense of place, of knowing that there was room for you in New York even if you weren’t making, and spending, piles of money.  I have no objection to fancy restaurants, or wine bars, or luxe coffeehouses, or even giant expensive ugly apartments, just as long as they aren’t the only game in town.  When there is plenty of housing to be had for the moneyed, but not for their administrative assistants, or the guys who park their cars, or the cooks and waiters who make their dinners, or the bookstore clerks who sell their entertainments, I get a little tetchy.  When a 30-year-old French bakery loses its lease so that an Ann Taylor store can turn into an even-bigger Ann Taylor store, my heart breaks.  And when a beautiful old building, originally built as a clinic for the poor, recently serving as a branch of the New York Public Library, starts sporting signs reading “Buy This Mansion,” I want to start breaking stuff.  I know I’m not alone in my despair, but it is easy to feel alone, particularly when I walk around the city on a nice day and find myself surrounded by adverts inviting the reader to “make Manhattan your own” or “possess your own Soho”.  Somehow I do not think these folks are speaking to me.

Thankfully, I am not alone.  I am lucky enough to have Bunni and Julie in my life.  Not only do they understand my rantiness on this issue—Bunni’s neighborhood has no fewer than four new luxury buildings going up within two blocks of her apartment, while Julie’s neighborhood has been rechristened SpaHa by builders and brokers hot to gentrify—but they also know that the best tonic for this sort of existential dread is to be in each other’s company.  If we happen to be having a really nice meal while in each other’s company, so much the better.  And if we can have that nice meal in a small sweet neighborhood space, the kind where the owners are more concerned with providing really good food than with establishing a see-and-be-seen vibe, and where we can feel, even temporarily, the sense of place and belonging that brought us to New York in the first place, then existential dread doesn’t stand a chance.

“Allright, my little turtledoves,” Bunni wrote to me and Julie one night.  Of course we listened, closely.  Of course she knew we would say yes.

Bunni’s proposal was that we go to dinner at Panorama, just opened in her neighborhood—or, rather, reopened.  I had been to Panorama before when it was Panorama Cafe, located in a swell two-floor, iron-terraced corner building on Second Avenue and East 85th Street.  I had eaten some decent salads, some truly good omelettes and some regrettable bread.  I’d never ordered wine on any of these visits; as far as I was concerned, Panorama was a brunch restaurant, or the place you went when you wanted a big salad and an iced tea.  You might not eat fancily, but odds were good you would eat decently.  When I learned that Panorama had lost its lease, I felt that old familiar sinking in my heart:  another low-key neighborhood fixture bites the dust.  When Bunni told me that Panorama was not closing, but rather moving to the space that M. Rohrs’ House of Fine Teas and Coffees vacated when they moved to their new space on East 86th Street, I was glad to hear that Panorama had a home, but baffled by the thought of it moving into Rohrs’ old space.  I knew the old Rohrs’ well.  The space was tiny, cramped and a fraction of the space in Panorama’s old location.  How in the world were they going to do it?

I am pleased to say that they did it, and they did it well.  Admittedly, a meal at the new Panorama is more expensive than at the old Panorama, but not extortionately so; depending on whether you want a full three-course meal with wine or a small plate or two, you can eat for $50 per person, or for $20, or more or less or points between.  The bread is much better now, and served with olive oil pressed from olives grown on the owners’ farm.  The new wine list is small but impressive:  I had a Rodney Strong pinot noir with my appetizer and a malbec with my entree, as well as a taste of the viognier Julie had with her meal, and was so delighted with everything I tried that I’m all set to come back and try the wine flights once Panorama rolls them out.  The space is beautiful, with exposed brick walls and warm lighting, surprisingly airy and wide-open.  It is not the tiny, packed-to-the-rafters space that Rohrs’ occupied.

Of course, all of this would be a moot point if I didn’t love the food.  smile

IMG_0466
Bunni’s scampi in garlic sauce. Much passing around of plate at table.  Yummy noises ensued.

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Julie’s calamari.  More passing around of plate, more yummy noises.

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My salad, a lovely thing made from mixed greens, orange and grapefruit sections, toasted almonds and strawberry vinaigrette.  I am only a little ashamed to admit that I ate a sizable portion of this salad without utensils, although I stopped short of licking the plate clean.  Mmmm, vinaigrette.

For entrees, we opted for pasta, and plenty of it.  Julie was intrigued by the lobster ravioli on the menu, but was also intrigued by the cardinale sauce (white wine, tomatoes, garlic, shrimp and cherry tomatoes) that was featured on one of the other pasta dishes.  She asked the waitress if the kitchen would be willing to dress the ravioli with the cardinale sauce, and happiness!, they did:

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Bunni, no fool she, ordered the paglia y fieno (green and white pasta, peas and prosciutto), which I’m definitely ordering on the next visit:

IMG_0469

I meanwhile, did something I haven’t done since I was a little kid.  Although I’ve made meat sauces for pasta at home, I almost never order them in restaurants, but for some reason, something about a big bowl of spaghetti dressed with meat and mushrooms and tomatoes called out to me that night.

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Not surprisingly, by the end of all this, even without cleaning our plates, even with having enough to take home, we had to forgo dessert, which was a shame because I do like to leave room for tirami su.  I’m not complaining, though.  The three of us came to dinner with minds full of trouble and hearts full of worry, and there will be plenty more of that to come.  For three hours, anyway, we were in a warm, well-lit room, enjoying each other’s company, eating and drinking wonderful things made for us by people more concerned with their food and their atmosphere than with courting celebrities, feeling the sense of place and belonging that is all too elusive for us in our own city these days.  That’s my kind of Friday night.

Panorama
303 East 85th Street (between 2nd and 1st Aves.)
New York, NY 10028

Edit: Bunni has informed me that Panorama is now serving weekend brunch and a sandwich menu.  Woohoo!

Posted by Bakerina at 05:54 PM in • (0) Comments
April 02, 2008

Well, okay, I did at least bother to wash.  I just can’t resist a nice David Bowie reference.  The dazed bit is accurate, though.

Dear friends, it is not only Deep Thoughts of the Future keeping me away from this space.  There is still plenty of that, of course, but there is also a new spring ritual in my life, the phenomenon known as Deadline Knitting.  Last March found me cranking out cotton dishcloths against the clock so that I might present them to Julie at her bridal shower.  This March finds me still cranking out cottony goodness, brought to me by the swell gals at Mason-Dixon Knitting, for another richly-deserving recipient.  Although the party in question is not until next week (and that’s all I’ll say here, lest she be reading), I have only a two-day window to finish everything.  To say that I’m getting a little obsessive about all the knitting is to understate the case, truly.

In addition to knitting and deep thinking, there will be traveling, too.  On Saturday I will be taking a day trip to Boston to attend Northeastern’s open house for admitted students, leaving New York at 3 in the morning - really—and arriving in Boston around 7:30, which should give me time for a nice breakfast and the tallest coffee known to man before I go meet some Future Lawyers of America, tour the campus, hobnob with the faculty at the Museum of Fine Arts, and then catch a late-afternoon train back to New York.  At about the moment I finally recover from traveling to Penn Station in the middle of the night, specifically, on April 17, I will be flying to San Jose so that I can attend Law Preview Day at Santa Clara on the 19th.  For that trip, though, I’ll be sticking around for the weekend and taking the redeye back to New York on Monday.  Just writing that makes me tired.  But happy.  But still tired.  I’ve never been able to sleep on airplanes, but this trip might be the one that teaches me to do it.

I will be back, though, as soon as I can.  After all, Owen wants to talk about eggs and Juno wants to talk about fruit crisps.  Who could stay away in the face of such promising conversation?  smile

Posted by Bakerina at 11:38 AM in • (0) Comments
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