March 29, 2009

Hanco's Vietnamese Sandwich Shop

At some point this winter, the Tea Lounge on 7th Ave closed its doors and has since been replaced by Hanco's, a Vietnamese sandwich shop that has it's primary location in Boerum Hill. Recently, I read somewhere that more bánh mì eateries have opened in NYC in the last year than any other type of restaurant. I haven't had the pleasure of trying one until Saturday.

One glance at the ingredients in a bánh mì and its pretty clear these sandwiches are a delicious by-product of French colonial rule in Vietnam during the 19th and 20th centuries. Ham, pork and pâté with shaved carrots, daikon radish and cucumber served on a baguette with some mayo and butter? Sign me up! Everything inside the sandwich was incredible but the bread really held the sandwich together, literally and figuratively. The baguette was crisp but not to hard, making it possible to eat the sandwich without destroying it.

To accompany the sandwich, MB ordered up her favorite Vietnamese treat, a pair of gỏi cuốn - spring or summer rolls, depending on who you ask. Unlike their fried cousins, chả giò, these rolls are basically a small salad you can eat with your hands. Peaking through the uncooked rice paper, you could see the three medium shrimp resting on a bed of rice vermicelli and greens. The rolls are served with a light peanut dipping sauce.

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March 28, 2009

Spring-loaded - Grimaldi's, Flatbush Farm's Bar(n) and APW Festival Announcement

A week after its official arrival, Spring finally made it's presence known in NYC this evening. Fortunately, MB and I had no major plans so we were able to enjoy a relatively quiet evening in BK. After jetting home and taking a quick nap, we headed to DUMBO for some Grimaldi's pizza with a bunch of friends and some out-of-towners.

If you're not from NY (or you've been living under a rock for the past century), Grimaldi's is one of city's more famous pizza joints. I'd had the pleasure of consuming a few of their slices in the past but it was always during the summer at a "Movies with a View" event under the Brooklyn Bridge, roughly 3 or 4 hours after it came out of the oven. In that condition, I never thought much of the pizza, but after tasting it at it's best, I've got to say their pizza is worth the hype.

The line out the door was as advertised - we waited about 45 min for a table - but we were more than happy to spend the first nice evening of the season outside near the water. Once inside, I couldn't believe how quickly our group of 8 strangers put together a communal pizza order. One white pie, one cheese and one pepperoni. What more could you ask for?

My biggest problem with the 4-hour old Grimaldi's pizza I'm accustomed to eating is the crust. It's usually just slightly charred. On a luke-warm, hardened slice, the carbon makes it taste like ash but when the pizza is fresh out of the oven, it adds just the right touch of flavor. To cap off the meal, MB and I split a cannoli and an espresso.

We thought about staying down in DUMBO for a drink or maybe to catch whatever was happening at Galapagos but decided to head back to the Slope instead. When we got back, the night was still too young and too beautiful to head inside so we took a walk down 7th Ave. Earlier in the evening, I'd mentioned Flatbush Farm's Bar(n) as a potential nightcap locale so it wasn't too surprising when we ended up sipping on a Sixpoint Bengali Ale and a Coney Island Sword Swallower before heading home for the evening.

As we were sitting at the bar, I happened to check in on Twitter and noticed a post from Brooklynvegan about APW. There's been little press about the future of the festival, which was held for the first time last year in Liberty State Park, NJ, but I was keeping my fingers crossed that the people at Coachella Music and Arts Festival would bring the event back for a second year. Looks like I'm going to get my wish. The line-up will be announced on Monday. Brooklynvegan is sponsoring a contest where if you are able to pick the lineup, you'll get Saturday passes. Are you kidding me? This is like a March Madness bracket that I can actually win.
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March 27, 2009

Bjork with The Dirty Projectors @ Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

I just caught wind of a show with Bjork and The Dirty Projectors at a tiny venue that seats 300 people. After quickly checking my calendar, I snagged 2 tickets. As I woke up my wife, I realized the show is on her birthday. Last year, I surprised her with pit tickets for a Radiohead show in Charlotte, NC. At the time, I thought there was no way I could live up to that gift this year. I'm safe for now but I'm screwed in 2010. Read Full Entry

March 26, 2009

The Mermaid Inn

After destroying my friend Ashley's camera last weekend, I was more than happy to help her move a microwave from her office to her apartment, 5 blocks away. After all, she lives/works only about 10 blocks from my office. MB was coming in from Queens so we decided to rendez-vous near our old stomping grounds around the lipstick building in midtown-east. Ashley had more work to do but MB coerced her coworker, Andrea, to join us. We met at Vero, a conveniently located, albeit slightly pretentious, neighborhood wine bar.

A little more than one glass of wine and a plate of cheese later, we'd covered some important ground. To start, MB and I are going to look into The Modern as a venue for our anniversary dinner. It's also quite clear that, barring some unforeseen circumstance, we're headed to Gramercy Tavern with Andrea and her husband, Adam, sometime in the not-so-distant future. But the most relevant decision was to vacate the premises and head to The Mermaid Inn in the lower-east side at the corner of 6th and 2nd.

It wasn't a tough sell. We were sold the second the words "lobster roll special" fell out of Andrea's mouth. $20 for a good lobster roll ( a lobster sandwich, actually) and a Blue Point Toasted Lager? Sign me up. Sadly, we arrived at 7:25 and the special only lasts until 7 PM but that didn't really have much effect on the outcome other than the size of our bill. After splitting a half dozen oysters, half east coast and half west coast, we dove into our sandwiches.

"Sandwich" doesn't really do the dish justice but it's decidedly not a roll. There's no traditional New England-style hot dog bun. Instead, The Mermaid Inn uses a flakey roll with a brioche-like crust and croissant consistency. The replacement is more than acceptable and compliments the lobster meat well. Kissed with just a bit of mayo and Old Bay, I liked the lobster consistency, although the meat wasn't quite as chunky as I would have hoped for. I also liked the chives. They got me thinking about Spring. Paired with the sandwich were some mediocre Old Bay fries; I'd give 'em a 6.5.

At the end of the meal, we were served a small cup of chocolate pudding - forgettable, but an appropriate ending for a simple meal - and a Fortune Teller Miracle Fish. According to that small piece of plastic, I'm either fickle or dead.

[Update] For some reason, I completely forgot to mention the soundtrack to our meal, which was nothing short of awesome. MGMT. Kings of Leon. Frightened Rabbit. Either they use an incredible satellite radio station or someone put together a kick-ass playlist.

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March 23, 2009

Choice Downloads - February

Many of my posts last year came in the form of the Tunes at Work series. During the workday, I'd listen to my +130 GB music collection on shuffle and track the songs I liked the best. At the end of the week, I'd post links to my favorites in the iTunes store. I want to resurrect the series but I'm going to change the format a bit.

Starting last month, I've been downloading music like a fiend, most of it free and nearly all of it unprotected. By the end of February, I'd collected 103 songs or nearly 800 MB of music. As I've listened to the music, I've ranked the songs using iTunes' five-star system. What follows are direct links to the 4- and 5-star music I think will be worth your while. I should point out that most of this music is relatively new but you'll also find several are older tunes that have only recently arrived on my computer.

The tunes will be hosted on, an awesome site for hosting content of all varieties; if you don't know about it, you should check it out. There's a broad range of genres represented, everything from folk to house to metal. In future posts, I may do a little background on the individual bands and why I like the songs but for now, just enjoy the tunes (links to the music are after the jump).
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March 21, 2009

PSA - No Mr. Grifter, I Did Not Break Your Glasses

A few weeks ago, MB invited me to a happy hour with her coworkers down in the financial district. As I wandered around looking for the Pound and Pence, a dude came out of a doorway, looking the other way, and bumped into me. I kept walking but I was polite enough to look back and offer a half-hearted apology. That may have been my mistake. I noticed the guy was picking something off the ground but didn't think much of it and continued on my way.

As I got to the corner of Nassau and Liberty, I could start to feel someone behind me. As I rounded the corner, I pulled my head phones off and started to glance over my shoulder. Halfway to Broadway, I could tell this guy was coming after me, so with a mounted police directly beside me, I turned to face the guy.

He held up a pair of crunched glasses and started complaining that by bumping him, I'd caused him to drop them and they'd broken. In the head of the moment, I didn't think to say, "Why would your glasses be crushed if you just dropped them on the ground," but the New Yorker in me made it very clear that he bumped into me, not the other way around.

Suddenly, things got a hell of a lot more heated. He started pressuring me that the glasses were "$99 and I told have no fucking insurance." Stone faced, I apologized again but told him that it wasn't my fault. At this point, he stopped making sense all together, asking me, "Why you laughin', mother fucker. You think this is funny or something?" As I was not laughing, I realized that this creep might try more forceful approach to get his money out of me so I started weighing my option. Unfortunately, the mounted police officer was now nowhere to be found so all I could do was fight or flee. I prepared for the former while attempting the latter.

Somehow, I was able to talk/back my way out of the situation but I was more than a little jittery as I made my way back north on Broadway. Looking over my shoulder, I went into evasion mode, crossing the street just in front of a series of cars, doing everything in my power to make it hard for this guy to follow me. I called MB to find out where exactly the Pound and Pence is located. When she described the exact spot where this guy bumped into me, I made an executive decision to call it a night and headed home.

A few days later, as MB was regaling this tale to her sister, Becca stopped her halfway through the story and completed it, using a lot of the same language as the grifter in our tale. Turns out, this and several modified versions, are classic scams. Although I felt a little weird in the moment, it confirmed that I'd done just about everything right in this situation. How would you have done? Pretty good? What if they guy had done the insulin variation?
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March 20, 2009

Puss 'n Boots, Pronto at the Mercury Lounge

Last night, I caught an unusual bill at the Mercury Lounge featuring a pair of side projects. First up was Norah Jones's all-female cover band, Puss 'n Boots. Featuring Sasha Dobson on acoustic, drums and vox, Catherine Popper on bass and vox, and Ms. Jones on a Fender Mustang, the trio played a relaxed set of classic Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash and Doc Watson tunes, among other tasty covers. Midway through the set, we got a real treat when the girls invited Mikael Jorgensen from Wilco up to play a cover of his band's Jesus Etc. (click here for a clip of them performing the same tune at the Black Swan in Tivoli, NY this past February).

Jorgensen's side project, Pronto, was the second band on the bill. I've got to say, I wasn't very impressed with their performance but I've since gone back and listened to their tunes on myspace and I like them a lot more. The vocals are a little weak but the production is great. The horn parts on All is Golden are particularly choice.

MB and I have long been fans of Norah's "smoke 'n honey" voice since her first album came out in 2002 but watching her perform from 5 feet away made it clear just how good she really is. To her credit, though, she doesn't overpower her fellow band members. In fact, I think Ms. Dobson's demeanor, voice and musical prowess makes her the band's most entertaining member.

I do have to mention how stunning Ms. Jones is. As luck would have it, she was leaving the bar just as I was grabbing a few beers for my crew and I somehow managed to avoid making a complete fool of myself when I struck up a conversation with her. Thanks to Lawrence and Daniel for hooking us up with this awesome pic.

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March 11, 2009

Makin' up for lost time - Mardi Gras

Hello friends. I know it's been awhile since I've posted anything but things have been non-stop since we got back from Florida. So the posts should come hot and heavy for the next couple days. Where to begin? How 'bout Mardi Gras?

MB, Becca and I spent Fat Tuesday at the Bell House, a venue that literally down the street from our apartment. We had been planning this night for awhile. Nathan Warner, a friend of MB's from ND, and his band, The Sugartone Brass Band, were on the bill and they did not disappoint. They're an eight piece New Orleans band and they bring the soul and funk, hard! I can't remember the last time I saw a full band with no electric instruments. Why have a bass player when you can have this guy on tuba?

Beads. Hurricanes. A brass band. Jambalaya from Great Jones Cafe (great stuff - just on the right side of too spicy). What could be better? The audience was definitely having a good time. By the time they threw down Chameleon, I was pretty tipsy so I felt it was my sacred duty to let everyone in the room know how friggin' awesome that tune is.

If I had anything bad to say about the evening it would have to be our hurricane to jambalaya ratio. It was a little, how do you say, off? I guess what I'm trying to say is we had a great evening but a miserable Ash Wednesday. Oh, and if for any reason members of the band come across this post, all I can tell you is the surprise you had at the end of the evening was entirely my doing. You're welcome!
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