Tag Archives: NYC

The SliceMan Finisheth

Hi World, it’s ILTTAG’s first post of a brand new, fluffy, sweet-smelling year.  Hope the first half of January has been kind to you and yours. On a blog where the whole idea is to look at the little things which make this world a better place to hang out what is good enough to lead with?  Well, it’s early enough in the month of January that resolutions are still a relevant subject matter. Most of us will be at hat point where we are testing out our New Year’s Resolutions, if indeed you were brave or crazy enough to make any.  To be honest…if you’ve still kept yours by the time I’ll likely be done with this post (I’m guessing mid to end of January) then well done, sir or madame! I salute your willpower.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Today’s entry celebrates both my love of pizza, my love of NYC, and the tenacity of a dedicated blogger.

172. Sliceharvester.com  www.sliceharvester.com

The gist is this: a pizza lover and native New Yorker does a top to bottom appraisal of EVERY by-the-slice pizza joint in Manhattan…and the island is lousy with them. If you consider ALL of NYC’s boroughs you actually get past the thousand mark). I only discovered this blog recently because Huffingtonpost reported that he–the author– had finished his gastronomic odyssey.  What a wonderful idea, eh?  Just when you think there is nothing new under the sun, somebody finds a novel approach. And what perseverance! I envy his willpower…and his geographical location. What this blog says to me is that you CAN see things through…you just have to choose more awesome and delicious goals.

Better, more delicious goal-setting

This guy writes in a style which is very more-ish.  He also knows a lot about music…so if you dig on indie rock you’ll probably enjoy reading it on more than one level. I think he’s ALMOST a hipster but he comes across as earnest enough to pass my instantaneous and totally unwarranted judgment.  I mean, I think you can be someone who appreciates kitsch and pop references and mom jokes and still NOT be a hipster douchebag.  Plus, here’s his criticism of someone’s ‘smug’ attitude on a blog he was reading a pizza article from: “I am now 100% certain that whoever is involved with this blog is a total boneroni and needs to get run through a cycle in the douchewasher. I am seriously so pissed.”  So, this guy, who mostly remains anonymous throughout his blogs…but is reported to be Colin Hagendorf…checks out, I reckon. Here’s a big old news article celebrating his reaching of the finish line:  WSJ

I like Mr. Slice Harvester because I can relate. In an early post, he mentions he’s got a band, two jobs (including one where he waits tables at a diner–I was in restaurants for ages!), several side projects AND he was running his blog and printing a zine. Well, shut my mouth next time I gripe about not having enough down time between my day job, my sketch troupe, my stand-up gigs, my wife-being, and my blog-writing to play Arkham City. But, I think an important point to take from his success is also to make your side projects FUN. It’s bad enough working to make a living. But, if you want to exercise your creative impulses too, make sure you’re having a good time.

Immediately, upon starting to read this blog, I had questions.  How does one realistically plan out a task that involves that much chewing and metro-card use, I wondered.  Well, I found that Mr. Harvester started at the northernmost tip of Manhattan and then gradually worked his way down both the east and west sides. Usually, he had one day of the week dedicated to pizza eating.  In fact, he ate 7-9 pieces a day once a week on average.  He also changed up the friends he met every week–which I’m sure helped to keep it interesting and fun. I’m curious about whether or not other foods were consumed that day or if did a sort of Man VS Food style approach of water only…maybe even consumed the day before.

Anyway, back to the SUBJECT contained within the pages of sliceharvester. Pizza.  This isn’t the first time that I’ve written about pizza in this blog.  See here: Pizza Boy and here: Artichoke  I love it. Pizza is always the answer to the question: If you could only ever eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Pizza is delicious, potentially nutritous, the ideal fix for a meal at teenage slumber parties.  It’s just fun!  What other meal gets its own game? (Ok…mabye besides Hamburger Time).  The commercial jingle for this has been in my head all week.

Whilst I am enjoying my daily journey through the backlogs of his blog, it is horribly painful in some ways too.  Each blog post has at least one centerfold of a pic. They are literally mouth-watering these pics..this photographic journalism…this pizza porn.  Even when the review is a bad one, the pictures still look pretty damn good.  Here is a sample. I should mention that this isn’t my pic and is property of sliceharvester.  Speaking of which…a LOT of the pics I swipe to decorate this blog aren’t mine.  I need to sort that out. Do I need to credit photogs or what?  Who  knows this info? What if no credit is listed? Does it matter at all that I make zero cash money from this blog? Help me Google, you’re my only hope.  Anyway, here’s the pictorial equivalent of my own personal longing:

Gah!

I can sympathize with the onus for this quest as I am oft-praising NYC-style pizza and bemoaning the fact that it only seems to exist in NYC.   Though there are some US cities where locally owned pizzerias (non chain) can create a reasonable facsimile to that crispy yet chewy, zesty-saucy, melty-cheesy perfect slice…I have yet to see anything close to resembling the stuff in the UK. I swear, the good people of Manchester must find me to be the most annoyingly patriotic chump.

How shit is this? I live near a take-away that is actually called ‘By the Slice’. By. The. Slice. These humps DO NOT SELL PIZZA BY THE SLICE. They sell terrible terrible terrible whole pizzas…often ordered by the locals with the abomination of tuna and sweet corn as toppings (this is common in England–if you can find it a can, you can dump it on your pizza). Furthermore, they’re  more of a burger shop and fried chicken joint anyway. Sliceharvester has opinions about joints that spread themselves too thin like that.  If you are putting burgers on your menu, you are NOT giving your pizza enough attention. Anything further removed than a calzone at a pizza house is not a good sign.  Anyway, this joint, By The Slice, is a cruel tease.

Recently, I read a glowing review of the place on yelp.com.  The reviewer actually called it the most NYC-like pizza in Manchester.  So, I ordered one.  Here’s what it looked like:

Here it is...

The only thing that reminds me of home about this pizza is the little plastic dollhouse table that they have stuck in the middle of it.

The pizza took over an hour to come–let me remind you, this place is a block away from me–, it was lukewarm, had too much cheese and  not enough sauce, and a spongey moist crust. Heartbreaking.

The only purpose that I can think of for this pizza is if someone had to force feed you something of caloric value because you had so much to drink that you blacked out…they saw that you were barfing even in your black-out state and that you needed something to line your stomach and hence prevent your death. Only then…and if administered in the smallest does possible.

I’m currently reading these blog posts in order and haven’t come across some of my fave shops yet. (I mostly hung out in lower Manhattan when I lived there and I’m only at the Upper East Side part of his journey right now.)  So, I’m hoping we have a mutual appreciation of both Artichoke and Pizza Mercato. I’m curious how much we overlap in what makes a good slice.  We shall see.  At any rate, next time I pay New York a visit, I will hit the travelogue of sliceharvester up again. Maybe I’ll try somewhere new.

In non-pizza related news.  I just HATE HATE HATE people who kick my seat in the movie theatre. I hate it so much I started a FaceBook page. If you don’t like that either–getting kicked repeatedly when you’re trying to watch the latest Pixar film…or chatty morons, or people who leave their phones on…or who smell really bad…or any other level of ill-mannered movie-going behaviour, join up! You are welcome here… https://www.facebook.com/pages/Society-Against-Chair-Kickers-SACK/262865050442950

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Run, Batman, Run!

I’m not what you’d call a sports fan.  I like playing some sports.  I really enjoy the occasional basketball scrimmage, for instance.  But, I don’t particularly enjoy WATCHING other people play.  Maybe it’s because watching people be active makes me want to get out of my seat more.  Maybe it’s because they’re getting paid huge sums of money to essentially have fun and get famous.  Maybe it’s because I don’t understand all the rules of some sports (like in the case of American football).  Whatever it is, it’s always more entertaining to play a game than simply view it.  Sure there are some feats of athleticism that are so amazing and impressive that I don’t mind watching–gymnastics is a good example.  But, equally, there are some sports that are sooooo unspectacular to watch that I just can’t bear it.  Rowing, golf, bowling…all fun to do and not fun to view.  My girlfriend will watch ANY sport.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that I came into the T.V. room to find her crying over a darts match once.  That’s right, crying.  Apparently, some underdog was winning.  (In my opinion all professional darts players are underdogs…at life).

Then there are the sports that are neither fun to watch nor participate in.  Marathon running comes to mind.  In fact, this past weekend was the celebrated London Marathon.  It’s one of the ‘big five’ marathons on the international circuit and comes in at just over the 26 mile mark (like all the biggies).  It’s also the NUMBER ONE fundraising even in THE WORLD!  Yes, even bigger than “Idol Gives Back” (you know, the annual episode of the program where they send people like Fergie into the third world and get them to hug poor black people).

So, I don’t want to denigrate the good work that people who run marathons are doing.  Bully for them and their terrific cardiovascular systems  and all the generous people who sponsor them for various charities.  But…it’s boring as shit to watch, isn’t it?  And it makes me my lungs and knees hurt.  That’s why today’s great thing goes to the fantastic group of people who help to provide a bit of spectacle.

129.  People Who Run Marathons In Costume

Here’s a normal boring-ass marathon runner…

http://run4change.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/marathon_runner_355110014.jpg

yeah, yeah, we get it...your fitness level is high.

Here is a heroic person running the distance as Pac-Man.

http://jazzrunner.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/pac-man-marathon-costume.jpg

Now THAT'S worth watching...

I think we can all agree that running a marathon is an incredible feat but it’s hardly a selfless one.  It’s not that I think altruism DOESN’T exist in the world, it’s just…come on…nobody runs a marathon for purely altruistic reasons.  Even if you are running it for charity and not for victory, you know you’d expect some minor rewards to come your way.  You’re running 26 miles!  You want at least a pat on the back if not accolades from your colleagues whenever you bring up the fact that you’re doing it, the pleasure of eating giant meals in preparation for the run and not least, the warm embrace of a tinfoil wrap to wear after it’s all done.  But pity the poor bystander who may be supporting that runner, as a friend or family member.  They’re gonna be standing there for hours watching a bunch of do-gooders jog by in Nikes and tank-tops.  The least you deserve, as a loyal spectator (doing the REAL selfless hard work of cheering people on and handing out cups of water)  is the slight possibility that you’ll be entertained.  Thank God for people like these two banana ladies.

https://i2.wp.com/cache3.asset-cache.net/xc/87447758.jpg

One banana, two banana...

What would be even more entertaining is if their presence caused other runners to do comedy pratfalls.  If only we could get two more runners dressed as ‘rubber chicken’ and ‘whipped cream pie’.  I’m also a big fan of runners dressed as superheroes.  It’s like being at Universal Studios Adventure Island (but with less roller coasters and funnel cakes).

https://i0.wp.com/completerunning.com/photos/SuperManWoman.jpg

You go on ahead, Supergirl. I'm gonna hang back. That last cup of water must've had Kryptonite. I'm all cramped up and shit.

https://i1.wp.com/farm1.static.flickr.com/62/155215684_99777fb528.jpg

I like that The Flash covering his junk with his number. Courtesy.

But, at the end of the day, I’m not critical of ANY effort to make the race a bit more interesting.  I mean, I have no idea what this guy/girl is dressed as, but I still appreciate it.  Let’s pretend that s/he is running as an iced-cream sandwich.  Yum.

http://rodale.typepad.com/.a/6a00e54f86af56883301157063a818970b-320wi

I wish I had a cookiewich right now.

Of course, runners should take some precautions before heading out in a gorilla suit or the like.  It gets mad-hot under mascot outfits, as any poor slob wearing a Chip or Dale costume from The Disneyworld parade can tell you.  I had to wear a mascot outfit once when I was an elf at a Santa’s workshop for The Erie Zoo.  Walking around with a giant costume head was stifling and I felt super clumsy in it.  And that was in the winter and in an enclosed space.  Let me tell you, my hot chocolate breaks were frequent and necessary.  So, here’s a couple of links from runner’s sites about how to do it right:

Elitefeet

Runner\’sworld

Mercifully, this whole costume/dress-up thing is a trend that has legs (no pun inte–well OK, yes I like it.  Pun indeed intended.)  You’ll find runners putting the effort in at most of the major races nowadays.  Whilst NYC’s most recent put out some good efforts (my fave being Mr. Incredible), I think this year’s London race wins by a mile.  They’ve thrown down the gauntlet for the 2010 marathons, in my opinion.  Check out the best of lists here as linked below and judge for yourself.

NYC 2009

London 2010

Come on NYC 2010!  There’s still time to take the title this year.  You can start prepping for the marathon here:  The best costume shop in the world?

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Even if you don’t like sauerkraut…

 

You know how frustrating it is when you get an itch you can’t scratch?  In a similar way, do you ever have a craving for food this is absolutely unattainable from where you are?  It sucks.  Sometimes–quite often, actually, I find myself craving a good slice of pizza (Britain’s isn’t the best) and I can’t have it because it doesn’t exist where I am.  I sure as hell can’t make it the same way that a pizza kitchen in NYC could.  There is no hope.  All I can do is allow the saliva to pool in my mouth as the mental image stimulates my maw-glands.  Unsatisfying.

Sometimes I crave the dill salad dressing from Veselka.

23. Veselka Restaurant in NYC

That dressing is the best.  I swear, I think about it, and I get a phantom tangy sensation in my mouth.  I’ve never been a salad eater, but I’d eat a whole bag of spinach if it were covered in that stuff.

 

Enter for salad dressing...

Enter here for salad dressing...

 

Veselka is a Ukrainian diner in New York’s grimy but trendy East Village neighborhood.  Contrary to the images that that previous sentence might bring to mind, Veselka is a bright, clean, airy, high-ceilinged corner restaurant with loads of windows, outdoor dining and great people-watching.  The service ain’t so great but it’s at least authentic.  That’s kind of part of the charm anyway.  It runs from grumpy but efficient to sloppy and overly apologetic (these tend to be the recent immigrants who think that you’re going to turn them over to the INS if they don’t bring you your pancakes fast enough).

I think one of my favorite encounters with a waitress at Veselka was back when I was University.  It went like this:

My friend Ari’s cousin, Sam, was in town for a spell.  We went over to visit Sam and after smoking a lot of weed, he decided that we should all go find something to eat.  Veselka, which should be used to catering to the needs of East Village stoners, sounded like the best option.  They’re cheap, open 24 hours, and serve breakfast all day.  Anyway, after reading the menu over, oh about a dozen times, Sam calls the plump middle-aged waitress over to ask her for some recommendations.  In his gruff South Jersey accent he says, “So, uh…are these here sauerkraut pirogies any good”?  After considering the question, she responds in her very thick Ukrainian accent, with the most sensible possible answer, “Vell…if you like sauerkraut…”.  Ari and Sam, still in a pot-haze, started laughing so hard that the tears were streaming down their faces.  To this day, we still answer each others questions with, “Vell…if you like sauerkraut…”.

Veselka also is a place that provided me with shelter for eight hours one night.  I was due to move into an apartment share one day and the girl that should’ve been moved out of my space already, wasn’t.  None of her crap was even packed yet and the place looked like a disaster.  There wasn’t even space for me to throw a pillow down to sleep.  I was back from summer vacation early and none of my friends had moved back to the city yet.  So, I was essentially homeless for the night.  I had enough money to afford a cup of coffee and a danish at Veselka.  So, with Margaret Atwood’s latest in hand, I stayed there from midnight until the sun came up.  Most places would hassle you out after a few hours of not buying anything but not Veselka.  They just kept the coffee coming and left me alone.

                                                                                  

This time, not homeless.

This time, not homeless.

 

Veselka (which means ‘rainbow’) has been serving delicious and cheap food for over 54 years. It was opened by Ukrainians who fled to America during WWII.  The East Village, which had quite an influx of Eastern Europeans at the time, was the perfect place to establish this restaurant, newsstand, and meeting ground.  The website gives a whole rundown on the history of the joint.   Veselka 

Take a look at the menu when you check it out.  It’s pretty impressive but what’s even better is that they do most of the food pretty well.  You  know how some menus overshoot their mark…  Still, I usually skip the American-style offerings when there and stick to pirogies–which come in oodles of varieties like sweet potato, regular potato, the aforementioned sauerkraut, farmer’s cheese, and always a couple seasonal ones too like pumpkin or something.  I also love the vegetable combo platter.  You get pirogies, a mushroom and kasha stuffed cabbage, soup, salad, and two slices of challah.  Their challah is cheavenly.  It’s almost like poundcake in its density.  The ginormous selection of veggie food also means I can drag my vegan friends there when we’re hungover.

So hungry...

Lucky!!!!!

 

 In a pleasing bit of symmetry, though they’ve lost a customer in my move to Manchester, this Mancunian supermodel–Agyness Deyn (pictured)–lives in NYC now and eats at Veselka, like every frickin’ day.  So you lose one to Mancheseter you gain one from Manchester.  Still on top, Veselka!

 

 Writing this entry today has made me really crave this stuff.  I think I’ll go check travelocity for cheap fares.

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Goth name, preppy attire…

The thing about today’s entry is that, I almost feel like I shouldn’t blog about them. They certainly don’t need any help from me in getting publicity. Sure they’re not storming the top 40 charts, but their debut album has been covered by the masses of media out there and it’s been almost uniformly praised. In fact, the Columbia-graduating, Brooklyn-dwelling band are probably in danger of being seriously over-hyped.

But, the truth remains that it’s been an awful long time since I’ve heard an album that is so listenable. Not a track that needs to be skipped. Nor have I seen an American act that is so embraced by other nations. While everyone is hating on us for our politics and pollution, at least we have Vampire Weekend to fix our public relations from a pop culture standpoint.

19. Vampire Weekend

The name ‘Vampire Weekend ‘comes from an amateur film that the lead singer, Ezra Koenig made. It was about about him fighting off vampires in masks. So, yeah, I’m sure it was great. Here is the trailer as found on youtube:

I think it actually looks like what the 10 year-olds put together in “Son of Rambow”. Not that that’s a bad thing.

The album has been compared to Paul Simon’s “Graceland” but I don’t think it means to be so serious as that. The African influence is right on, however. They’re often labeled as purveyors of ‘Afropop’, but they seem to prefer the label of ‘Kwassa Kwassa’, I think. Kwassa Kwassa is a fast paced version of an African rumba called ‘soukous’. I guess that kind of makes it dance hall soukous.

Besides the obvious African influences they credit Squeeze and Elvis Costello for paving the way to their sound. That, to me, seems like a fair analysis of who they swipe from.

Vampire Weekend is also a band that makes preppy cool. For me, that is a gigantic feat. Typically, when I think of preppy guys, I think of all the villains from the John Hughes films, like James Spader in “Pretty In Pink”.

Terrifying...

Terrifying...

I know this music will wind up being co-opted by frathouses across America in another year or two, but I’d like to enjoy their sunny and jammy tunes until someone in a LaCoste shirt and a pair of Birkenstocks ruins it for me. Anyway, in their preppiness, because of their endearing qualities (see film trailer), they remind me more of an army of instrument-playing George Michael Bluths from “Arrested Development” and less of the Spader-type arch-villain prepster. A little nerdy in their preppitude, I suppose. And I like that.

They sound like the kind of band that Wes Anderson would want to feature on the soundtrack for his next film…at home in “Rushmore” or “The Royal Tennenbaums”. Mark Mothersbaugh would probably approve too.

My girlfriend and I were recently back in NYC to catch up with friends and eat some good food and go shopping and so forth. As luck would have it, Vampire Weekend were doing a free performance as part of the Central Park summer stage series. Since I was digging on their album so much, and for once my girlfriend actually sorta kinda liked music that I was listening to, we decided to go. It was absolutely mobbed. The lines were backed up through half of the park. There was no way we were getting in–even

Nice...

though we got there PLENTY early. You could still hear the music though if you sat outside of the gated area, so we resigned ourselves to spreading out a beach towel and just hearing them for free if not seeing them for free. After we’d been relaxing on the grass for about a half of an hour–band still not on yet because, as I mentioned, we were early–the heavens split and the rain, well she did come on down. We stayed it out for a bit…thinking, ‘this too, shall pass’, but it got pretty bad. Like full on high water pressure shower soaking. Also, the thunder and lightening started and we were pretty sure they’d just can it on account of all that electricity dancing over our heads. So, we headed back. Here’s my girlfriend and me fleeing to the Columbus Circle subway stations.

See?  Super-rainy.

See? Super-rainy.

Turns out they put on a show anyway and it was purportedly fantastic…at least according to this poster from youtube who captured some of it with his cell phone. It’s a bit choppy…probably on account of the rain and all. Here they are doing “Walcott”, at the concert that I got rained at of. Did I mention that it was raining really hard? Before I leave you with this clip, I should mention that I just heard their cover of Radiohead’s “Exit Music (For a Film)”. I’d say it’s pretty, pretty, pretty, great…but you should judge that for yourself. It’s on youtube….I just can’t be bothered posting any more youtube stuff on here…

Oh alright, I will. It’s below the first video.



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