Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Shake & Soup Cart on 33rd St and Park Ave

I pass a Shake and Soup cart on my way to Citibank a lot, and I'm always a little intrigued by it. I don't think I'd get a shake from there, considering that Shake Shack is also right near the office, but today I finally gave into temptation and got a soup. I was at first a little dismayed at the price, $4 for a small, considering it was coming from a cart, but the portion was just right and it came with a really good, fresh roll. I chose the cream-of-broccoli soup, which was more watery than I normally like, but tasted very good and very creamy. They also serve a wide variety of other kinds, including lobster bisque, chicken & dumpling, Manhattan clam chowder, and tomato. Overall, I wouldn't say it's my favorite office lunch place (not with Tina's, Kati Roll, Times Square Bagel, and really good pizza on 33rd and 5th right around us), but it was pretty good and certainly a lot better than Austin's Cafe.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ant Problems

When the weather got hot a few weeks go, ants started crawling all over my room. I've been trying to find some alternatives to toxic insecticides so here are some reviews for pet-friendly ant elimination strategies.

1. First, I tried peaceful coexistence. My instinct was to recoil and want to kill all of them, but I tried to recall the relaxed attitude people had when I lived in Brazil where ants crawl around indoors all the time. You just make sure to cover up any food you leave sitting out, and leave it at that. This strategy lasted for about one afternoon when I was out of my house and ruminating philosophically about the ant problem from afar. As soon as I came home and saw the ants crawling inches away from my bed, the killing urge came back.

2. I tried to deal with them using household items I already had, after doing some internet research. First, I used a soapy sponge to get rid of their pheromone trails. Then I cleaned their stomping grounds with vinegar, and then sprinkled some cayenne pepper. I also read that ants hate cinnamon and tea tree oil. These techniques actually worked for about five days. I would only see one or two, and I could deal with that. But then yesterday, the ants came back so badly that they had gained new territory by crawling all over my walls.

3. So, things got serious yesterday. I finally got out the bucket of plaster our landlord left in our apartment and used it to close off cracks I suspect the ants were using the get in. Then I coated their stomping ground with vinegar and cinnamon (didn't smell as bad as you think). Finally, I broke down and went to the drugstore, and bought boric acid which I heard is the best non-toxic substance to deter the ants (and roaches). It looks kind of sick to have white powder on my floor, but so far so good.

Stage Two -- Ant removal

Once you have intercepted ant desire to enter your house and closed off their entrance way, you may have some stragglers who are crawling around looking for a way out. I am not very good with dealing with these guys, because when it comes down to it I hate to kill ants with my bare hands.

1. Use a broom to sweep the ants into a dustpan and then wash them down the bathtub drain. This technique is a little melodramatic, but works well for ants on the floor. It was a little cumbersome in my tiny room, however.

2. I admit I panicked a couple times and used some spray cleaner to kill bunches of ants. Obviously this works, but kind of defeated my anti-chemical mission, and plus cinnamon and windex smells really bad together and now I associate that aroma with crawling ants.

3. Try to get the ants to fall in to a cup and wash them down the drain. This was okay, but the ants don't want to go into the cup.

4. Get the ant to climb onto a piece of cardboard and then flick them out the window. This worked okay for capturing the few stray ants I saw crawling, but after awhile I guess they figured out my plan and started detaching from the wall every time I got close to them with the card. Hmm.

I will keep you updated on this situation.

Hacienda Tres Amigos

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I thought I'd write a little about one of my favorite restaurants, Hacienda Tres Amigos, in my hometown of Mahopac, NY. A little bit of history behind it is that it's located in the historic Colasacco building, which is historic for whatever reason is written on the little plaque in front, and also for being a notoriously bad location for restaurants, which, prior to Hacidenda Tres Amigos, hopped in and out of the building faster than something really fast that hops. So, when we first went to try this delicious Mexican food, we were a little disappointed that it was so good, because we expected it to close down about two months later. Luckily, it didn't.

The food is probably no better than most Mexican food in New York, and it's really not very cheap (entrees are between $13-20), especially for Mahopac, but it is the only decent Mexican place in the whole town (which is filled with Italian restaurants), and I would say that all their food is definitely worth it. The interior decor is horrific, and they have a mariachi, and it's ultra family-friendly, so there's a lot of smarm all around, but the guacamole is fresh, the quesadillas are puffy, and the enchilladas are good enough to make me eat meat every time we go. Aftwerard, there's some delicious fried ice cream or bananas to enjoy for dessert.

If you ever happen to be around Putnam County, I would definitely recommend dropping by. It's at 887 Route 6, Mahopac, NY 10541, and there's a full bar. Enjoy!

If you're in London and wish you were celebrating, Taqueria was the only Mexican place I ever found in the entirety of England, and it was excellent.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Atlantic Avenue Tunnel Tour: visiting the world's oldest subway tunnel

Things got wild as soon as we crossed Atlantic Avenue halfway to the median and waited in a huddled group under umbrellas for our turn to climb down into the manhole. The photo above shows what we found when we climbed down the ladder: a dirt room and big beam to duck under, before crawling through a little hole in a stone wall. Then down some wooden steps ("careful--uneven and slippery," said two men sitting on either side of the hole.) Then we were in the oldest subway tunnel in the world.

Bob Diamond discovered the tunnel when he was 19 years old and an engineering student at Pratt. That was 148 years after the tunnel had been built, and probably more than a half century since it had been filled in and forgotten about -- almost. Bob has been leading tours of the tunnel in the 23 years since he discovered it, explaining the tunnel's origins following the tradition of Roman architecture to the point when it got sealed off mixed up in corrupt local politics, and the mythic place it came to hold in Brooklyn oral history and folklore. Even the story of how Bob came to find it is pretty nuts.

Anyway, waiting for 100 people to climb down a ladder into a manhole took quite awhile. But like that guy on the stairs predicted, we all felt it was definitely worth it. We can't understand why you wouldn't also be dying to go see the tunnel, and support Bob's effort to raise funds and awareness to excavate the far end where he believes a 19th century train engine is still buried.

More information on tunnel tours held monthly at Atlantic Avenue and Court St.

Read Theresa's review of the tour here

David Adjaye's Design for the NMAHC

I'm not really a design nut, but I do really enjoy museums, and this article on the National Museum of African American History and Culture made me really thrilled to see the building itself when its completed. Maybe it's the use of the words "shimmering" or "zigzagging" or "intricate cultural narrative," but I am absolutely dying to see this happen, both for the museum collections and the physical structure. It looks like the building is going to be a gorgeous addition to the Mall.

As I said, I'm not so big on design, but David Adjaye seems like an interesting choice, especially considering that he's not African American, but actually British. I like his thought process behind the building, taking cues from a variety of different art forms, including both African and American, as well as making it usable as the both public and private space that a museum needs to be.

I guess lately I'm getting into DC (I literally cannot stop thinking about Tabard Inn, a little hotel where we had the world's greatest doughnuts two months ago, and where we might stay on our next visit). I'm very excited for at least one quick weekend trip down there this summer.