Where have all the great stories gone? I really feel like things are happening in little fits and starts, and I’ve barely had a meal, much less a good one, or anything worth writing about happen at all in a month or so. That’s what happens when you work at home.
So, just a few notes: Istria Sport Club, one of those mysterioso Astoria spots that’s been on my list to check out since 1999, was finally investigated, for Deb’s birthday. There’s something magical and transporting about the combination of white patio furniture, fluorescent lights, and Astroturf. It helps to have the clicking of dominoes, the shuffle of cards, or some trash-talking in another language in the background. But it’s the basic recipe for an all-purpose not-very-developed-country-somewhere-around-the-Mediterranean vibe–in this case, Croatia, but it could’ve just as well been Egypt. And of course, the food helped: grilled squid with tons of fresh garlic, and…well, at the moment I can only remember those squid. Oh yeah, there was a whole fish and a gigundo veal chop. And some Istrian wine. (The waitress, with a keen eye for a bargain, really thought we would be better off with the 1.5L Concha y Toro, but we insisted.)
I did have a little thrill of discovery, which I’ve been missing just because I haven’t been doing much shopping, when I finally went in this pastry shop that I’ve noticed tucked away in this half-empty cheesy two-story strip-mall near 23rd Ave. It’s called Artopolis, and it’s straight out of (I imagine) the ritziest nabe in Athens–all white, with stacks and stacks of cookies and cakes, and mini-baklava (baklavathaki?), and big jars of whole fruits in sugar syrup: cherries, miniature lemons, quince. I don’t even like these things, but I like that there’s somewhere near me that I can buy them in bulk. And they look beautiful, all lined up in shiny jewel-colored jars.
Also, new developments at Kabab Cafe: Ali finally changed the menu (I’d forgotten there’d been an old one–he never really passed them around), and put all his most recent great creations on it: the stuffed lamb with pomegranate sauce, the chicken in apricot sauce, the beets with dill and honey…as well as some new things: sweetbreads with mushrooms and pickled lemons (almost overwhelming–crazy taste sensations going on), and the most velvety meatballs in a cinnamon-y tomato sauce with potatoes. The menu means you don’t get his three-minute-long speech about the specials, but it’s also great for those with bad memories, like myself. And there are still specials: we got squab, and never has so tiny a bird packed so much flavor. He also served it with two mini-bastillas–little phyllo pastries with squab and cinnamon–”like baklava with meat,” said Peter as we smacked our lips (and guzzled our drinks, but more on that below).
There’s an an exciting new arrival, the mysterious Satirius, and I didn’t even mean for that to rhyme.
His (OK, he’s not that mysterious–I know who he is, and I know he’s a he) second post about a surreal evening in Times Square was perfectly evocative. It made me think 1) of being on the smoking ledge at the AMC 25 theatre on 42nd Street and looking over the monstrous facade of Madame Tussaud’s and into the glittering, seething mess on Broadway, and getting a surge of adrenaline and thinking, Wow, what an amazing time/place/life…and then about three minutes later thinking, Wow, I feel sick. Get me out of here.
Also 2) of my own night before. The word ‘fireworks’ triggered a dull echo in my hung-over brain–hadn’t there been some point in the previous night, during which a whole bottle of Jim Beam was consumed by four people over dinner at the KC, when someone said, “Oh look–fireworks!”? For a few minutes after reading Satirius’s post, I was convinced that we had in fact seen the very same fireworks he was talking about, and I’d just forgotten, because after the mint juleps, there had been beers at the Irish Rover, where you always have to have at least three drinks, because the buy-back is the third, and my beers had been white-trash strong Stellas, with ice. But then a couple more patchy memories surfaced from the night before, and one was me looking down at Peter lying on the pavement, inexplicably with his bike on top of him, and the other was of some red, fizzy, smoky street-level fireworks…most distinctly not related to the unveiling of the dazzling new C2 billboard that Robert had witnessed. Rats. Another night in Astoria.
But really, parents and friends of parents and just plain concerned friends, it’s not usually like that. I pretty much never go to the Irish Rover precisely because something like this (though never this bad) happens. I can’t believe I’m almost 32 and I still can’t say no to a free drink.