Friday, May 8, 2009

La La La Lanterna

I can't stress enough that the beauty of New York is that around each corner is a gem of a place (or a man peeing on the street).  

I love the popularity of back gardens in New York - not so much gardens as glass enclosures - but gardens nonetheless.  *There are some restaurants that have actual gardens without a roof, this is a story about not one of those.

The theatre school alum that live here in NYC convened in one such garden the other night and I think you all should go.  It's called La Lanterna and it is located in the West Village on MacDougal at 3rd Street.  

This is why:

I got there first and sheltered myself from the rain. I was instantly welcomed into the cozy dark interior with tiny wooden tables and a tree lit with fairy lights.  The owner, a lovely old Italian gentlemen (who later I saw reading the 'Big Butt' page of an Italian newspaper - or at least I think it was a newspaper) scurried to the garden to see if there was a table available.  No.  So I sat at a little table and waited.

By the time all my friends arrived, a table big enough had become available and we went to the back (this is incredible for NYC - you usually have to wait hours!).  The garden is basically like a greenhouse with tables.  And flickering candles.  And fairy lights.  And a fountain.  So not like my grandma's greenhouse at all.

We sat for hours, as the rain tapped on the glass ceiling and the sky grew darker.  The food is good, not over-the-top amazing but tasty and enjoyable.  They specialize in thin-crust pizzas and panini's.  I had the pesto pizza which was flavourful and lovely, especially with the creamy goat cheese.  I also had the most delicious cappuccino AND a mind-blowing tiramisu.  Like crazy mind blowing.  I love love love tiramisu!  And La Lanterna's was creamy, light, and flavoured perfectly with marscapone, cocoa and coffee liqueur.  I clapped.

The waitress let us sit there and catch up for FOUR hours.  How nice is that? I realize sometimes you want to bill, but I appreciated the 'sit and relax' atmosphere.  In the dark, the glow of the candles, the sound of the rain, and good friends gave me that warm, cozy feeling I miss sometimes in this big city.

I loved La Lanterna so much that I met my friend the very next day for cappuccino's in the garden by day.  As you can see in the pictures I highly enjoyed myself.  

It's the perfect spot to sit and write for hours without evil daggers from the servers trying to get you to leave.  You almost have to ask them if you can leave.

Conclusion?  When in New York and in need of shelter from the rain, a corner to talk to a friend, or a sanctuary from busy Manhattan streets, make La Lanterna your destination.

I am making the Engineer go right now for some damn tiramisu.  I am actually drooling. . . 

Monday, May 4, 2009

Hero Hero, Tasty Treat

I am a fairly well-traveled individual, but I must admit that at times I am fairly clueless.  It surprises me that sometimes I can be completely clueless in a city that is a) English Speaking and b) North American.  But I am and that is all there is to it.  It's as if I have to do these 'new york' things (usually with food) and sometimes get them wrong with my indecisive nature.  That is why I ended up with the bagel with lox AND grape jelly that one time.

The cluelessness I am referring to happened last week when I discovered that a corner deli near our Brooklyn home is famous for its sandwiches.  I LOVE sandwiches. Like really really love them.  So my excitement was at an all time high as I set out to Jesse's Deli for a cup of joe (look at my lingo ladies!) and a hero sandwich.  Problem is?  I don't really know what a hero is.

I go into the deli that is also a corner store - the common thing here right?  And I promptly look for a menu behind the glass case of meat.  There is none.  Uh oh.  Maybe they don't serve sandwiches anymore.  I dully look around for another patron to see if someone else is ordering a sandwich.  Nope.  

I look at the Adam's family look-alike behind the cash register and ask if they serve sandwiches. She looks at me as if I am some sort of reject. Of course they do.

Oh right. Okay.  Ummm, do you have a menu?

Now she talks to me like I am slow, but in a nice way at least.  No.  I just pick what I want.

What?  No!  I may love food but putting it together is not my strong point!  I can only follow recipes!  I have no ability to create a dish blending flavours together that will sing in your mouth!  Same goes for sandwich construction.  It's an art!  An art of blending the right cheese with the right meat, adding some things like olives or capers to give it a certain 'je ne sais qua' with the right amount of mustard.  And now she wants me to make up my own?  With her watching?  There was like a bazillion meats behind the counter.

Anything?  Oh dear.

Now the girl is joined by her dad, who I suspect is Jesse, and her mother, and then what I can only assume to be the brother (family owned joint right?) all watching me in amusement. I smile at them all and say:  meat.  That's right.  I just said 'meat' and that was it.  

What sort of meat?

I glance at the case and rack my brain.  Ham!  and Salami!

Great.  What kind of ham?  What kind of salami?  


Honey ham?  Spicy salami?



What kind?

Oh.  Uh.  What kind do you have?

Anything.  Cheddar, muenster, provolone . . 




What kind?

What kind do you have?  THIS IS WHERE A MENU WOULD BE HANDY!!

Roll, white, multi, bagel, hero . . 

Hero?  Hero?  What's that?  I've heard of the New York hero.

They all look at me in shock. Have I never had a New York Hero (insert thick Brooklyn accent here)?

No.  I say and smile.  I'm from Canada.  They all nod and smile then coddle me.  It's here that they all start helping build my hero sandwich so that it is the best tasting sandwich ever.  It's been such an ordeal but finally the brother passes me over a wax-paper wrapped sandwich and I turn to leave the shop.  Just in time for a new customer to say he wants a liverwurst hero with  extra cheese. Oh god, I think, that sounds good.  Ooooh, I am learning the fun things I can have!  Pate hero?  HELLO?  Delicious!

Anyhoo, I head home with my hero in hand.  Proud that I have accomplished yet another New York food fame thing.  I get home, sip some coffee and open my sandwich.

I realize I have had a hero.  It's a subway.  But don't let Brooklyn-ites hear me say it.  I am pretty sure the Subway chain is banned in this borough.  I can see why.  This hero far surpassed anything I've ever eaten there.  Still.  It was just a sub sandwich.

note: this is not a picture of my hero - but another Jesse sandwich. It will give you an idea of how much stuff they put on them!

Bollywood Bridesmaid

It's been quite some time since I actually talked about the life of a bridesmaid.  Which, I must admit, is now over.  How odd.  For what seemed like forever, I was the go-to bridesmaid with at least 2 weddings a year.  

I retired the taffeta and uncomfortable shoes last September, in a dear old friend's wedding.  And what a wedding to go out on.  It was a four-day Bollywood wedding that had its fair share of drama, colour, and Bhangra dancing.  So I am sure this is going to be at least a four-parter friends.

Let's start with ensemble number one.  Miss Indian Bride had them made for us in India.  They are what she referred to as 'suits' - leggings and a tunic top.  Mine was a lovely peacock green colour.  And although I gave MIB my exact measurements, the little Indian ladies must have assumed they were in metric, or in imperial, or in some magical measurement that they thought there was no possibility of someone being as big as me.  Either way, the leggings didn't go past my ankles and the tunic got stuck on my breasts.  

Needless to say, the outfit needed tailoring.  But one can't exactly take an Indian suit to any old tailor.  One must go to the Indian tailor in Little India.  That means I had to find it.  And I was with my father. . . .

We traipsed to 49th and Main, searched out the address which was at the top of a tiny flight of stairs above a Bollywood movie store, down a long hallway and into a tiny apartment that doubles as a store front. The little lady pointed me to the change room so I could show her what needed letting out.  

Do you see a problem here?  Like the fact that the tunic didn't fit the first time?

So I peeled it on again, sans the leggings which I told her to let ALL the way out, stepped out of the change room only to have her shake her head and shoo me back in.  

Yeah.  I know.  I told her it was tight.  

Then it happened.  I got stuck.  Stuck pulling it off my body in such a way that my arms were sticking up and I could not get the tunic up or down.  

There are things in life that should never happen.

1.  You should never pass gas in a library.  
2.  You should never pee you pants laughing (in public anyways).  
3.  And you should Never Ever have your father with you when trying on bridesmaid outfits that are too small.  Because inevitably, he will have to come into the change room (which is too small, so you BOTH have to go out in front of the tailor and the grandmother who stares at you with horror), close his eyes (because you yelled at him to do so) and rip a tunic off of your body that will also take your bra halfway up your shoulders.  

A moment that we would both like to forget.  

The leggings were let out ALL the way only for me to discover that the damn material stretches and is supposed to be gathered around your ankles.  Because I let mine out, they stretched so much so, that hem fell past my toes giving me the look of Kermit the frog.  So when I forgot, yes forgot, the groom's wedding ring in the car and had to dash out of the temple to get it, a foot of green material extended past my toes and almost hit the bride's aunt in the face.

Bibimbop Me Home

New York is the city that never sleeps right?

Lies!  On Sunday nights people go home early and close their restaurants.

While enjoying the music at Carnegie Hall, my tummy growled and gurgled embarrassingly and my thoughts drifted to hot ramen soup at Ippudo . . . . 

So we hightailed it to Union Square only to find that our only regular haunt had closed 8 minutes earlier!  GAH!  I was in the hangry mood, the mood that mixes hunger and anger.  I wanted nothing more than my ramen damn it!!

But around the corner sat Sura, a Korean restaurant that was open until 11!  We clamoured inside, to find the most gracious hosts (I would not be so nice if two new diners came it 10 minute before closing).  The room is comfortable and cozy, with subtle Asian accouterments dangling from the walls and ceilings all melding together to be a comforting and classy place to grab some rice.

If you visit NYC and love Korean, I recommend this find.  I am not a Korean connoisseur at all, but I do know fresh and tasty food when I get it.  And even though I desperately wanted my bowl of ramen, the hot stone bowl of beef bibimbop did the trick.

It came fast and steaming with lean ground beef and brown rice, only 500 calories!  And full of green veggies!  Plus really lovely and flavourful.

The bar was well stocked with jars of home-infused soju:  traditional Korean alcohol infused with fruits and herbs.  They were a beautiful sight with all the colour of the fruit/herb of which was being infused.

I will go back any day for some comfort Korean and a shot of super nice service - which will be quickly opposed the minute you walk out the door and find some idiot urinating on the street yelling at cabs.  

All in a night in New York right?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Symphony Epiphany

The Engineer and I sauntered down to Carnegie Hall to delight in the classical stylings of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  It is our second Carnegie Hall symphony of the year, and my first symphony experience since my parents dragged me to the Winnipeg Symphony when I was a kid (then led by Bramwell Tovey - who then moved to Vancouver and is spending the summer in NYC - is this guy being in every city I am in, a sign I should go see him or something?)

NYU Stern students were given free tickets from the Creative Director, Clive Gillinson, after his talk in the 'Leaders of New York' series.  Except our seats were very front row, in front of the cellos.  We couldn't see a thing.  

My view was literally the ass of some cellist.  And I know this is horribly uncouth of me, but my first thought was that I hope she doesn't pass gas during the overtures.  I probably would after all.  I sometimes pass gas doing lunges.  

Due to the fact I could not really see the musicians, my experience was to simply experience the music.

That I did.  

I sat there, letting my mind drift to summer fields in Alberta and good books and scones (random I know).  I also started thinking about my own career choice and the path I am walking down.  

I am an actress.  And although I love the actual craft, it has come to my attention over the years, that I don't necessarily like all the crappy baggage that comes with it.  Unfortunately, I still can't simply walk away.  

I have been in a pretty serious funk recently.  It's lasted a fairly long time.  What exactly is it in this business that gives my stomach a sinking feeling? And for some reason, the rushing notes from the violins made me realize that I hate permanently watching my weight.

That's it.  Not the auditions, or the rejection, or the crappy scripts.  It's the sheer amount of time I spend focusing on body issues.  In any other profession, I am slim with an athletic frame.  In the world of Hollywood, I am 'Bridget Jones-esque'.  I kid you not.  One breakdown actually used this description.

Lately I have been especially playing into the assumption that there is a game to be played and I have to be willing to play in it.  That means working out EVERY SINGLE day (which I do) and laying off all things good, like sugar, carbs, and citrus (damn you South Beach).  I agreed to play the game because even my most favorite of the curvy actresses have caved in.  Literally.  They all lost weight.  Kate Winslet is skinnier, Scarlett Johannson is no longer her pretty curvy self, and even Nia Vardalos was surprisingly skinny.

But for some reason, listening to the music, I realized it was a shitty shitty game to be playing.  I certainly don't begrudge working out.  I love sweating.  I feel deep satisfaction in getting strong and having sweat drip into my eyes.  

It's the food thing.

Not to say I can give it all up and eat McDonald's.  No no no. I love healthy food.  Nutritious food that tastes fresh and flavourful is great.  But do I have to give up eating dim sum with the Engineer, or fresh butter on hot french bread, or steaming bowls of Thai curry?  

I think that the game Hollywood starlets play is a deeply sad one.  How could anyone possibly be fulfilled on a life devoted to eating raw food?  RAW?  That one makes me shake my head in complete wonderment.  I mean sure, Demi looks great for her age, but give that woman a chocolate cake already!  Sure she is married to a much younger, hot male, but she still looks like she has a pole stuck up her ass.  It's the freak-ass raw food!  Or refusing to eat fruit?  No sugar?  None? Like not one cookie here and there or a cup of sweet tea?

All of a sudden, when I realized that I would rather indulge in the amazing delicacies this world has to offer than spend the rest of my life handcuffed to eating only to stay alive, I thought 'nah' it's not worth it.  

Hmmm, now what?  Maybe I could make a happy career out of being the slightly overweight best friend?  I think that is a good theme.  Even in the scripts I write, the character I imagine myself playing always is associated with food and is of the round variety (my sneaky way of getting cast).  The quirky best friend always has more fun anyways . . . .  and you know why?  Because she is ALLOWED to eat craft services!!!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

An example of how life is NOT the movies

Yesterday I met my friend on the Upper West for tea at the lovely 'Alice's Tea Cup' which serves big pots of steaming tea along with fresh scones complete with cream and jam.  I'm just telling you because you should go if ever in New York.  Just like its name, the tea shop is whimsical.  Full of mismatched tea cups and cozy surroundings to shelter you from the spring rain.

After tea, I headed back down to Soho to see Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) and Donald Petrie (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) do a talk about their upcoming film, My Life in Ruins.  Unfortunately, the foreboding clouds decided to release their cargo on the streets of New York in the form of a torrential downpour.

I have to admit, it was sort of fun.   Coming up from the subway station, putting up my umbrella, and dashing around the puddles on a warm New York night.  I love walking through the village and Soho mostly because it is the New York you think it is going to be - cobble streets, yellow cabs, tiny restaurants and bars full of happy people sheltering the storm.

Even though I had my umbrella, I still got pretty wet.  But I felt like I was in a movie.  Walking the dark shiny streets, dodging cabs, being on a mission to find my friends in Sex and the City.  I imagined myself to be like Carrie or Charlotte or any movie star really, gleaming cheeks from the moisture, hair sexily stuck to my neck in curls, looking for a break in the clouds.  

I arrived early, got a front row seat, and promptly went to the bathroom to add some gloss and tousle my now curly and rain-sexy hair.  Then I looked in the mirror.  UGH.  I look like a drowned rat!!!!!  Not some uber-glamorous movie star in a Brad Pitt movie!  My hair was curly AND frizzy AND flat against my skull.  My mascara dripped on my cheeks that were NOT gleaming with moisture but red from exhaustion.  I was just about to see an actress I admire and a director who could maybe cast me one day, and I looked like a wilted/water-dredged homeless girl.

Thank goodness for emergency bobby-pins, SMASHBOX O-Glow blush, and a dab of lip gloss. I might not have looked like a movie-star but I was at least presentable.  And glad too, because I talked to Nia.  Like an idiot I am sure, and it will be cast on iTunes for the world to see, but at least I looked sort of normal.

Sheesh.  What else do movies lie about?

The Cello

My parents are shocked at our Facebook/Twitter/Blog generation who tell the world all that is private and no longer keep anything sacred.  I say, meh, things in life are funny and ridiculous and if I can make my friends laugh behind their desks on Monday mornings than so be it.  

This will be one of those TMI entries. 

Before I was ever in a long-term relationship, I used to worry, actually worry about the day in which I would be in a long-term relationship, sharing close quarters with a man, and have gas.

THAT is what I worried about!  Not meeting him, or getting along, or believing in fundamental issues. No.  I actually worried about what happened on those days that I had bad gas.

Before the Engineer I never spoke about breaking wind, or doing a number two (aaack - the shame!) or any bodily function.  The idea of ever doing these things in the vicinity of a BF was beyond me.  I would run down to the gym in my building, or make the guy go get me a Starbucks, or hold it all in for a week (this is what led to my hospitalization in 1998).

So you can imagine that getting comfy with Engineer may have taken a while. Ummm, nope. On our second date, I got the flu. Like really really bad.  So bad that the Engineer finally had to take me to the doctor for a shot of penicillin.  It was a late-night clinic near a drug store and they had run out of the shot.  The doctor asked the Engineer to run to the drug store, and get the shot she would call in. As he was leaving the clinic she yelled, actually yelled, after him to also pick up some Imodium to stop my diarrhea.  I think that was the end of my 'delicate flower no bodily functions' charade.

It's sort of gone downhill ever since.  It's been very liberating actually.  No longer do I feel the horror of bloating, I can let it pass and not worry that the Engineer is going to judge me.  

Not that he likes it.  But he does put up with it.  And it makes him laugh.  He has a sort of annoying habit of imitating the noise after the incident.  But I suppose me letting one go is also annoying.  I think he takes a secret thrill in getting the pitch just right.

We were at friends the other day for a BBQ, and they have a cello.  The Engineer thought it would be funny to play me a song on the cello.  A song of my farts.  And that is when he proceeded to play different notes to the hysterical laughter of my friends as he described the unfortunate noises I can produce.  

That's when I thought, 'the romance is officially dead'.  My question?  How do I go back to a level of secrecy and demure feminine behaviour after my boyfriend has played the songs of my toots for a BBQ audience?