A week ago Saturday, Tony and I hit some cool stores in the East Village before meeting Jack, Hanif, and Mark for dinner.
We started by walking across town on 4th Street, which, because it runs mainly north-south in the western West Village, we're able to pick up only a short distance from our door, even though we're also very close to 14th Street. Our first stop, on Lafayette Street just north of 4th, was Astor Wines & Spirits. I took the list of wines we'd purchased during Astor's Bordeaux sale back in January with our favorites circled so we could get more of them. But they were all out of the ones we'd really enjoyed. Sigh. We picked out 15 bottles, including a white Bordeaux—2011 Chateau La Rame—that I'd noted on the list was "worthwhile" (not amazing but worth the $12.96 before-tax price) and a red Bordeaux—2010 Ch. Fantin—that was new to us.
Our next stop, a bit north and east on E. 9th Street, was Pink Olive, a store that Tony and I came across just about exactly a year ago during a jaunt in the East Village that I wrote about for Queer New York. I ended up subscribing to Uppercase. During this visit to PO, I became entranced with another publication I'd never heard of before: Sweet Paul. This cooking-and-crafts magazine is so gorgeous it puts even Martha Stewart Living to shame. (Though I do still love that magazine, and I hope it survives for years to come.) I paged through the two Sweet Paul issues I found on a shelf and decided they were worth buying. There was no price on the covers. I asked the sales gal how much they were. Twenty-five frickin' dollars apiece! I left them behind. You're supposed to be able to read a digital version of the magazine through the website, but so far, I've been unable to get the images to appear on my laptop.
Next, we headed one block north and a little ways west toward Gea's Garden Jewels. I've been getting into houseplants more than usual this winter and wanted to check out Gea's offerings. I've been trying to find a flame violet or Rex begonia—two beautiful plants that like high humidity—to keep under my cloche inside our living room near the window that looks onto the greenhouse. Gea's was a cute little store, but it didn't have what I was looking for and it had more rocks and minerals and fewer plants than I'd expected. I think those two plants will be more readily available in the spring.
I'll get back to the East Village in a moment, but first, here's a shot of a new fern I bought at the Union Square Greenmarket a couple of weeks ago to replace the bushy little one that I think suffered from being both too dry at the top in our hot apartment this winter and too damp at the bottom from sitting in a water-filled tray. I have this one sitting on top of glass beads in the tray. I'm hoping it will get enough humidity without having a constantly soggy bottom.
And here's a beautiful bowl of houseplants that Tracey gave me as a housewarming gift many years ago. I can't remember whether it was for my home in Stockton or my apartment in Brooklyn. I think the latter. I replaced the snake plant last week. I had snipped a large root that was poking up out of the soil from the original one. Unfortunately, that root had been crucial in keeping the plant balanced, and so it kept flipping itself out of the pot. Oy.
On the way to Gea's, we were happy to stumble across Jennifer's Way Bakery, a gluten-, dairy-, and lots of other things–free shop that had been open only three days. We got to chat with Jennifer herself. There was very little left in her display cases, so she's apparently doing very well. She said she had cookies coming out of the oven, but unfortunately, they had oats in them, so Tony couldn't partake of them. Many people with celiac disease can eat oats, but he's found he can't. Oats contain a compound similar to gluten that Tony's body treats like gluten. Tony got a frozen half loaf of bread that he enjoyed some of thawed for breakfast the next morning. I tried a bite and liked it too. We'll have to stop in again soon to try some of her non-oat-containing sweet offerings.
I took a photo of the cute photo of Jennifer's canine "employee of the month":
Our last stop was Ciao for Now, a restaurant on E. 12th Street between avenues A and B where our chef friend Maryann, formerly of our go-to local dinner spot Bistro de la Gare, is now serving dinner Thursday through Saturday evenings.
It was great to see Maryann again. But she ended up putting butter in Tony's broccoli appetizer. Sigh. He realized it pretty quickly, so he didn't have too much difficulty afterward from the brief dairy exposure.
Other than that kerfuffle, we all enjoyed our meals. Mark, Jack, and I all got Maryann's Meat Loaf with mashed potatoes for our entree. Tony got the Pan-Roasted Salmon Filet With Guacamole and Mango Salsa. Hanif got the Roast Organic Baby Chicken With Walnut Butter, which was a dish from BDLG's menu. For my starter, I got a beet and mixed lettuces salad with pistachios.
Here's Tony with his salmon:
Hanif with his chicken:
And Jack and Mark posing with Mark's meat loaf:
Maryann always had wonderful wine selections at her bistro, and the wine Jack, Tony, and I shared at CFN was a winner too: the 2011 Domaine de l'Ausseil P'tit Piaf, which I see is available at Astor.
Tony and I came home after dinner because we'd been away from the dogs for quite a while and they were due for a walk. Jack, Mark, and Hanif went to a fancy wine bar for dessert, Mark told me the next day at the Game Party. If you know how "thrifty" Mark and Hanif are, you don't need to be told that Jack treated there. Hee hee.
At the party, I kicked butt on the anagrams game. Mark took a photo of the words I'd made because he was impressed with my performance. My best moment was adding two A's to LAZE to make AZALEA, which would have been pretty damn hard to steal.
On Friday, Tony was approached by a woman with an about-2-years-old daughter while he was walking the dogs. The little girl wanted to meet Rudy but was also a little bit hesitant. Eventually, she started patting on him with her mittened hands. Tony said the boy was perfect and didn't even try to lick her, which would have been the only concern to have about our basset interacting with a baby. :-)
A couple weeks ago while I was walking Missy, a woman pointed at her and said, "She's got papillon in her." I had actually recently come to that conclusion myself on account of the long hair on her ears. The woman said that her fluffy, curled tail is another characteristic of the breed.
Last night, Tony and I went for "pizza night" at Bob and Jen's. Tony took some ratatouille that he'd made and we'd had for dinner with orange marmalade–glazed pork chops with golden raisins the night before.
To drink with it, we had a pinot noir from Alsace that I enjoyed more than Tony.
Because we haven't seen Jen since her birthday last month, we took her some parrot tulips from the Greenmarket just like the ones I'd bought for myself.
I made gluten- and dairy-free (though not vegan) brownies using this recipe from Martha Stewart. I substituted GF flour, natch, for the all-purpose flour and solid-at-room-temperature refined coconut oil for the butter. I also left out the chocolate chips because I'd used Enjoy Life chocolate chips for the melted semisweet/bittersweet chocolate and figured adding solid ones to the batter wouldn't contribute anything different flavorwise. Everyone enjoyed the brownies. They tasted very much like the by-the-book ones.
We also took two bottles of wine: the good-with-chicken-parm red I mentioned in my previous post and a 1-liter bottle of a white wine from Slovenia that I thought was well worth the $12.96 before tax that we paid as part of our Astor order.
B&J's other guests were Louis, Abbe and Zane's piano teacher, and Fred, a co-worker of Bob's whom I'd met before. He remembered me as the son of "cheap Bill Hawley from the sticks." "That's cheap-ASS Bill Hawley from the sticks," I said.