Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fairway Market in Paramus, NJ

When I first received word that my favorite city grocery chain was opening a new store mere minutes from my front door, my heart skipped a beat; could it be? Visions of avocados, artichokes and mangosteens piled to the ceiling danced in my head. I could almost taste the flakiness of the baked goods, the saltiness of the house-made pickles. Its arrival, I reasoned, just might make the rest of this year of relative post-college solitude bearable.

I first became familiar with the store while attending a private high school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side—otherwise known as Fairway country. Leaving the city by car every evening via the West 125th Street entrance to the West Side Highway, I marveled at the size of the flagship store and at the hoards of people swarming its parking lot. Few grocery stores in Manhattan can boast their own private parking lot, but as they say, Fairway isn’t like any other market. It draws people from all over the metropolitan area, from the Westchester to Connecticut. And I can understand why. As a college student residing in Morningside Heights, my pilgrimages to the 74th street store became an almost-weekly ritual. Even when my tiny uptown kitchen was fully-stocked, I couldn’t resist entering the Fairway wonderland to admire the exotic dried fruits, the international selection of olive oils and bins of organic granola.

And now Fairway has followed me to New Jersey. Once again, it has become my source of unparalleled satisfaction and frustration. The Paramus Fairway is, in a word, enormous. It offers anything and everything you can imagine, served up with a decidedly New York attitude. The produce is copious, the bakery stocked. The cheese selection is the best I’ve seen, even after working in a gourmet cheese shop. The deli counter is a sight to behold, and the nova is sliced beautifully thin right before the customer’s eyes. Mozzarella-making is on display, as is sushi-rolling. For the hot beverage-seeker, the coffee and tea selection is a dream.

My one significant beef with the New York stores is that they tend to be crowded, somewhat confusing to navigate and, needless to say, overwhelming in the variety of items they offer. The newly-opened Paramus, New Jersey store is the same, with the addition of awestruck mall-walker types (some carrying cameras around their necks, tourist-style, no joke) clogging the already-crowded aisles. In order to get to the conventional grocery section, one must make her way through, well, all the good stuff, clearly a strategic (and ingenious) decision on the part of the Fairway management. This mission is never undertaken with as much rapidity or frugality as one anticipates. Then again, for better or worse, isn’t that the quintessential Fairway experience? Come see for yourself.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Living on my own for the first time, I’m slowly beginning to learn how to cook, and I’m always on the lookout for a quick and easy recipe. So when my Aunt Christy sent me one for her Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies, I had to try it out. These cookies are tasty, and nothing beats homemade cookies from scratch. The extra effort you put into making them yourself is totally worth it, and totally delicious. 



1 t. vanilla

1 stick of butter  

1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

2 c. sugar  

2 1/2 c. quick cooking oats

4 T. cocoa  

1/4 c. peanut butter

1/2 c. milk

Mix the sugar and cocoa in a saucepan. Add milk and butter, bring to a boil stirring constantly. Let it boil for 1 1/2 minutes, keep stirring. Remove from heat. Add the remaining ingredients, and drop the mixture onto waxed paper. 

Note: Have all the ingredients measured before you start. When you remove the pan from the heat, you will have to work fast. After adding the remaining ingredients, stir until the mixture begins to thicken and will hold it’s shape when dropped by teaspoon onto the waxed paper. It will harden fast. Also, setting the waxed paper out before you start cooking will make things easier. Enjoy!

Job Interviews

My name is Wendy and I am unemployed. Save your pity, it's not as a result of the current economic meltdown, rather, it stems from an unwillingness on my part to take orders from a tyrannical, evil, tragic waste of skin at my previous employ. Being unemployed by choice is much like being a drug addict by choice, eventually things will get better or you will die, not necessarily in that order.

As an unemployed, I have recently been subjected to a series of bizarre psychological experiments, also known as 'job interviews'. Depending on the industry and position being applied for these awkward meetings usually take place in either a small, poorly ventilated room or a huge, luxurious conference room in the sky with sweeping views of the Brooklyn or Manhattan skyline. If it is the latter, take a good look around because even if you do get the job you will end up in their own version of the former and never be allowed into this room again. It is merely corporate America's version of a shiny red apple. Don't fall for it.

If you're very lucky, you may only have to endure one interview where all relevant decision makers are in the room at one time armed with their own pertinent, relevant questions just waiting for your well thought out, confidently delivered answers. More likely, you will suffer through 30-60 minutes with some middle manager where you both pretend to be something you're not and say exactly what you think they want to hear, which most of the time you have misjudged.

If the middle man is a guy and you are a girl, he will speak solely to your breasts as if they are applying for the job in your place. If he thinks there is a possibility you will get drunk enough at an office party to sleep with him, you will be called back for a second interview where you will repeat the process with a more senior manager. Sometimes there are even third and fourth interviews with people in HR but these are never a reflection of the fierce competition for the job, just a validation for people who have job titles like 'Specialist' and 'Executive' but are not especially knowledgeable or professional and serve no real purpose. If the company trusted their human resources ability I would hazard a guess that these were the first and only people you would meet when applying for a job and your skill set, not your cup size or shagability would be the deciding factor.

Which brings me to the 'Recruitment Agent' who is, for all intents and purposes, a job pimp with an ill fitting, cheap suit and stained teeth in place of the white cane and rabbit fur coat. Be wary of the job pimp. He or she is looking to turn you out for money. They will have you on your knees quicker than you can cover your teeth and they will put you in front of any employer regardless of suitability or your own personal career goals. If you get the job they will take all the credit, if you don't it is all your fault and they will treat you like an over 30 actress in Hollywood and stop returning your calls. These people are the reason for the saying "Cut out the middle man." Like any movie starring Ben Affleck, I suggest you avoid them at all costs.

Confucius said "Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life." A beautiful philosophy, until it ended up in a fortune cookie produced in a Taiwanese sweat shop. I rest my case.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Madiba Restaurant

Just got back from a fantastic dinner with my father at Madiba Restaurant (195 Dekalb Avenue). Madiba is a South African restaurant with an adorable style (think coca-cola bottle chandeliers) and very good food. They get a lot of their produce from the Fort Greene Farmer's Market (one of my favorite parts of my neighborhood) and donate some of their profits to a few South African Charities. Overall, just the eclectic yuppie type place I love.

My father ordered a Yebo Burger with slapchips, and the meat was ground different than normal hamburger meat, creating a denser burger, with wonderful seasoning and my favorite toppings, mushrooms and carmelized onions. I ordered the Durban Bunny Chow with vegetables. The curry was pretty average, but the serving style was great (it came in a really good bread bowl that was shaped like store-bought bread is shaped), and the sambals that it came with were fantastic, particularly the sweet ones.

It was a little pricey, but not astronomical (dinner with two cokes and tip came to $44), and the front seemed like a nice place to hang out for a bit with a drink. I would definitely recommend trying it if you're in the mood for something new.

Poland Spring Bottled Water

no need for a whole case, just one bottle is fine
I am generally totally against bottled water. However, I did happen to have a bottle of poland spring in the back of my refrigerator given to me by my parents when they dropped me off at my apartment last winter. And how lucky, since the water in my apartment is frequently shut off! Today this happened, and so I am happy for my poland spring emergency water which actually doesn't taste as weird as I remember. It's almost as good as the tap water from Sarah's house which was the best tap water I ever drank.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

AnInnerGlow Productions

I'm having a hard time posting my friend Aaron Levesque's latest short film, Facebook Sally, but you should check it out regardless. It's also a semifinalist in a contest on, and if you like it, you can go vote for it there.

Facebook Sally is one in a long line of films that Aaron has created. My favorite is What A Girl Wants, which I think should be retitled, but which I find very funny. The set up for it is really adorable, and the timing works for it in a way that I think Aaron has trouble acheiving in other movies. Aaron's films are mostly comedies, and he's got an interesting sense of humor that can be off-putting at times, and really quite hilarious at other times. This is one where it's just off-beat enough to work.

I think that what's most incredible about Aaron's films is that you can tell just how deeply he loves them, and I know that he's given up on other things to work on them in his spare time. He has no formal training, except for one film class (I think), and I really think that if he could do some formal studying, his work would improve vastly and his pacing would move a little faster. As it is, though, he makes this stuff in his spare time, while studying for his Pharm.D. and working, and while I know he'll be a great pharmacist, I hope that one day he's able to follow his dreams of making film a bit more seriously.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cheer Up California

I've been feeling a little down lately, but this bit of art made me feel a lot better when I saw it posted on That Unreliable Girl just now. It's called "Cheer Up California" and it was created by Neon Gray. Most of the art that I like gives me an immediate feeling, and the best art for me is the art that recalls this original feeling again and again, even as your understanding of it grows more nuanced. This piece was an instant pick-me-up, and just what I needed to see when I saw it. Although it's a little advertisement-like for my tastes, and maybe a little obvious, sometimes all you need is to be told that it will all work out. And a bright red balloon.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Coming home to eat

I'm home in Durham, NC this week and as usual most of the outings involve food! I can't decide what to review so I'll do mini summaries of everything.

Neo Monde, Raleigh: This middle eastern restaurant is near the airport, so we typically go on the way home after someone flies in. It is way better than any other falafel I've had in NC, and they have a bakery right on the premises. Always really busy at lunch with Raleigh-Durham area professionals and is a nice alternative to the shopping mall chain restaurants selection.

Ox and Rabbit, Durham: Everyone I know who grew up in Durham up until the early 90's remembers the beloved McDonald's Drug Store. The when I was in high school, it closed for the first time in decades and sat empty for the longest time. Last summer it opened again as Oxand Rabbit, and I was skeptical until I heard the young couple who own it also grew up with the original and strive to honor it with their new shop. They still have the bar with syrup pumps so you can choose your own soda flavor or milkshake. When we were little we would always get "chocolate cherry coke!" and it's comforting to know that is still an option, apart from making our own with hersey's and cherry coke which my friend Kate used to do after moving away. They also have some novel gifts which I've never bought, and fancy milkshake flavors like Lavender Vanilla which I got last Thursday.

Rick's Diner, Durham: Here's an example of an old fashioned southern diner. They play 1930's music and have good eggs florentine and good biscuits and the kind of heavy white coffee mug with the very thick sides. I'm surprised they have a website, but not surprised to see that they were friends with John Hope Franklin who lived in Durham until he died last week.

Durham Farmers' Market: I went this Saturday late in the morning with my dad. I like this market better than ones in New York mainly because there is the terrorizing threat of seeing people I know, like my 5th grade teacher who sells produce from his farm. It's also the only market in town, which makes it more central and communal without all the crowds and aggression of the Union Square Green Market.

Bliss Boutique Bakery, Chapel Hill: I went here with my friend Kate on Sunday hoping to find the coffee shop 3 Cups which apparently closed. The aesthetic of the website pretty much explains it all. Trying to be very trendy but still using the font comic sans. The cupcakes were pretty good though.

Elmo's Diner, Durham. Another southern diner. This place is inexpensive and reliable. I am vegetarian again, but had to order the chicken and dumplings anyway. This place is always a nice mix of locals and duke students and tons of kids running around. I usually see someone I know here and this time it was Emily from my job last summer.

Sybil Ludington

If you grew up in Putnam County, as I did, you know that the single greatest hero of the American Revolution was not George Washington, nor Nathan Hale, nor Paul Revere. It was undeniably Sybil Ludington, who rode a horse through Putnam and Dutchess Counties in the rain to gather the colonists to fight the British at Danbury, CT.

Ludington is much, much cooler than Paul Revere for several reasons. First, she was a woman. Automatic bonus points. Second, she was only 16 when she made the trip, which I imagine did not involve riding side-saddle. Third, she rode through my hometown, only the greatest place in the world after a few other really great places. Fourth, her wikipedia entry uses exclamation points!

But the most important reason that Sybil Ludington is the coolest hero of the Revolution is that she has an awesome statue in Carmel, NY that foams at the mouth. I mean, literally, white plaster from the inside bursts out of her mouth every few months, and someone from the town has to brush her teeth to keep her from looking rabid. You can read about it in the New York Times, in the first article I remember reading in that paper.

The truth is, though, she is rabid. The most rabid, bad-ass revolutionary there ever was.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Valentino: The Last Emperor

I recently went to see Valentino: The Last Emperor at Film Forum, a charming little theater located at 209 W. Houston.

Before the film, the director, Matt Tyrnauer, spoke briefly, informing us that the film took two years to make, that it was somewhat difficult to shoot because of the quirkiness of its subject, ahem Valentino Garavani (the very-tanned, very-legendary fashion designer), and that by the time they were finished they had over 290 hours of footage. He also told us that the film was barely advertised, barring some publicity from Oprah. This pleased me--I like the idea of advertisement in the form of word-of-mouth.

The film is a documentary, which does not tell the entire story of Valentino's life. Rather, it focuses on his last two years as the designer for the company he founded 45 years ago. It is, at once, a love story and a charming elegy, for Valentino and for fashion. It mourns for the end of his career and for the way fashion once was--in an ever-so-blithesome way.

n.b. Despite the lack of advertising, the film's box office numbers have already surpassed those of Monsters vs. Aliens.


This is the first Easter I've spent in a non-Muslim country in two years, and since I'm surrounded by it in a way that I'm not used to anymore, I'm going to write down a few of my feelings on it. I would go so far as to say that Easter is the best moveable feast in all of Roman Catholicism, post-Vatican II. This is because Shrove Tuesday is not technically a holiday, and because Ash Wednesday is a moveable fast, not a feast. I have lots of memories of waking up to enormous baskets of Cadbury creme eggs, brightly colored Peeps, and usually a stuffed animal of a rabbit. The greatest Easter basket of all was the first one we got while on vacation. We were in Disney World, and my parents surprised my sister and I with a box of Disney chocolates and probably a little souvenir or something. It was fantastic.

What isn't fantastic about Easter was that the church was always packed and you had to get dressed up in uber-frilly clothing. When I was Catholic, I was a legit Catholic, and went to church every Sunday and didn't really mind it, but holidays sucked, because so many people only go on the holidays (I take special pride in knowing that when I stopped being Catholic, I went cold-turkey and never played that special half-religious game). Plus, this holiday is a pretty weird one to be celebrating, although I didn't think of it much at the time. Essentially, we were celebrating a zombie story. Kinda weird. I liked then (and part of me still kind of likes now) that there was a lot of pain involved in Lent, what with all the fasting and the penitence and the going without, but it's a pretty violent time in the liturgical calendar, and it ends with a dead guy coming back to life.

Luckily, while we were at church (usually we'd get there an hour early and still have to sit in the basement with one of the B-list priests), my father the heathen would be hiding plastic eggs around our yard for us to find when we got back. That was awesome. Even more awesome, at Sarah Lawrence my first year, someone hid plastic eggs around campus, and instead of candy, s/he'd put a cigarette in each one. Awesome. After the egg hunt, we ate ham.

And yet. While Easter is the most important holiday for Catholics and the best moveable feast there ever was, Christmas still kicks its ass, mainly because there are no zombies and you get real presents.