Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Leaving Again

I was back home for two days. I'm leaving now for New York and hope to be able to post some recaps and photos when I get back.

Be good while I'm gone!



Katz's Deli

Pastrami close-up
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Look at that pastrami! Just look at it...Tell me that doesn't totally kick the ass of Carnegie Deli's thinner, fattier pastrami. So hot, so juicy...

On our final afternoon in New York we stayed in the room for absolutely as long as they would let us and then checked our bags and hopped the F Train to the Lower East Side so we could get ourselves some Katz's. Some matzo ball soup, a potato knish, and a couple of sandwiches later we were two happy campers. Katz's treated us right, as always.

With a couple of hours to kill, we took a stroll through Chris's old haunts and saw the staggering amount of gentrification. We hit ABC No Rio and talked with Steve Englander about the plans they have for the place since winning their fight with the city. Even in the few relatively short years since the last time I was back to the neighborhood I can see the incredible difference, with twee little boutiques selling frilly lady things and expensive shoes and the various frat-boy-magnet bars and upscale restaurants pushing right up against places like ABC. I can't even begin to imagine what it's like for Chris to see how things have changed since he first started going to punk rock shows there, what, twenty years ago?

After ABC we strolled over to Porto Rico for some of their Brazilian espresso beans. I've found nothing like them here in Seattle (especially in our neighborhood, which is criminally under-served in the coffee house/espresso bar category) and we walked away with two pounds of coffee to bring home, at cheaper than Seattle prices to boot. As Chris said, say what I will about NYC, it's not completely without its boons.

A walk past NYU, a stroll through the snowy and strangely vacant Washington Square Park, a brief stop at a Starbucks so I could pee and we headed back to the New Yorker to pick up our bags and catch our shuttle. An ungodly long time later (squeezed into the van with eight other passengers and a small mountain of luggage for two hours and with a ride through Queens during rush hour) we arrived at JFK and finally headed for home. I was still full of Katz's perfection of pastrami, though if there'd been a Junior's Cheesecake outlet in our terminal I probably could have done my duty and had a piece... in tribute... for science. I boarded the plane with the line from Soul Coughing still ringing in my head: And you can stand on the arms of the Williamsburg Bridge / Crying hey man, well this is Babylon

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Cheese and charcuterie platter
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Throughout our convention schedule, we kept our spirits up knowing that we had a reservation for three on Sunday night for "the cheese." As soon as I heard that it was possible to make a meal entirely from the cheese options available at Artisanal, I knew it must be mine. The restaurant offers other French classics (and Chris did eventually try their steak tartare) but for me it was all about the cheese.

We walked to the Park Avenue location just as the snow they'd been threatening all day was beginning to fall. We were a bit confused trying to find the place (especially since my Palm was on the fritz and so I couldn't pull up my map or walking directions) but I was under the impression that traditionally if the address is "2 Park Avenue" the entrance would be on Park Avenue, not halfway down the block on a cross-street. But I quibble... once we found our location, we checked our coats and were seated immediately. Our first waitress was young, friendly, even perky. She wasn't put off by our stated intention to "maximize our cheese experience" or when we asked to please just bring the courses as they were ready... I mean, if you're going to have an all cheese meal, how do you decide exactly when to have the cheese plate versus the fondue course?

The menu was glorious! We settled on a Stilton and Sauternes fondue instead of the special sharp-cheddar-based "100 cheese fondue" and the only thing I regret is that there wasn't more of it. We started with cubes of assorted breads for dipping but after the first bite I knew we definitely needed some apple to go with it. Our lovely waitress brought us some right away and it was perfect. Just writing up the experience makes my mouth water all over again.

Next we had the cheese and charcuterie platter. The platter was comprised of a Valençay goat cheese from France, Constant Bliss cow's milk cheese from Vermont, Tomme de Savoie cow's milk cheese from France, Comté traditionally unpasteurized cow's milk from France, Kuntener raw cow's milk cheese from Switzerland, and a Shropshire Blue from England, plus three or four different cured meats, gherkins, quince paste, a fig concoction, green grapes, and sliced apples and pears. We also had another assortment of breads, including a dark bread with nuts in it that was beyond words when combined with some of the meats and cheeses. It was at this point we asked for some mustard, which again was cheerfully supplied.

Unfortunately, it was also at this point that it started snowing harder and our cheery waitress left for the night. Instead we were attended for the rest of the evening by a very stern and formal woman who was absolutely ruthless in her stiff, European attention. When I got up to use the bathroom during the meal, my plate was removed and only replaced when I resorted to eating straight off the table. She was also intent on straightening my silverware while I was using them! I'll admit to being a bit put off at this point, though the food was still excellent.

Our final courses came somewhat more slowly. Chris has the steak tartare and both Steve and I had the French Onion soup. It was perfect French Onion Soup weather, after all. Steve enjoyed his very much but I found mine to be burned on top to the degree that any bit with some cheese in it was tasted charred and unpleasant. I think I left most of the cheese in the bottom of the bowl, which kind of defeats the purpose of French Onion soup, in my opinion. If it hadn't been the end of the night, the end of a nearly two hour long meal... if perhaps the lighting had been brighter and I'd realized the cheese wasn't just browned but was burnt sooner, I might have asked for it to be redone. I'm not the sort who sends things back lightly and I didn't want to drag out the experience any further but it was a disappointment. Again, with Cremant's perfect Gratinée des Halles still vivid in my mind, it was hard not to be disappointed. It was the difference between this:
and this

After the third course, there was no way even the three of us could have shared a single dessert, no matter how good. The mile-high cheesecake would have to wait for another day. I did order an espresso, though. Absolutely necessary to cut through the richness of the meal and help steel us for the walk back to the hotel in the snow.

Overall Artisanal was a fantastic experience. It was not even the most expensive dinner of the trip. The slightly sour note of the change in servers and the oops of my too done soup were far, far outweighed by the gloriousness of the rest of the meal. I was happy to know we'd be sending Steve home having fed him properly at Artisanal.

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Ruby Foo's

Ruby Foo's menu
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
When we made the decision to go to Churrascaria Plataforma without the New York group, we tried making reservations at a number of other places. I called up what seemed to be several promising options until my Palm literally blew itself out in my hands. I've never seen anything like it (well, not since the lightbulbs stopped blowing themselves out of the ceiling and the Xbox 360 got fixed...) and I was ready to throw in the towel, declare New York City the winner and leave for home on the spot.

Thankfully our talented New Yorkers stepped in to fill the void and secured a reservation for eight at Ruby Foo's Dim Sum and Sushi Palace.

I came away fairly impressed with Ruby Foo's. The restaurant was large and didn't have any trouble accommodating us for a late dinner. Our waiter (who could have been Elijah Wood's brother) was pleasant and attentive and I had a second Kirin before my first was empty, a big plus where I'm concerned (remembering how I had to nurse my single glass of wine through a two hour dinner at Cremant). I'd hoped to get someone to share a big platter of sushi with me but I alone was interested in sushi that night and had to settle for trying only three of the dozen or more specialty rolls offered.

I was absolutely stuffed by the time I finished, but I'd again had nothing except a Clif bar, a latte, and an ice cream on the floor of the show so I was famished when we sat down. Chris and Brian had the Peking duck, Bill had the filet mignon chow fun, and I started with a large bowl of miso soup with enoki mushrooms (perfect for a cold night and delicious to boot!) and eventually settled on the Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass roll, the Dragon Roll, and the Snowball Roll (Tuna and Crab Rolled in Crisp Tempura).

Unfortunately, with the convention not closing until 9pm on Saturday and us needing to be back at the booth by 10am on Sunday, I wasn't feeling very peppy once full of dinner. Many of the guys had commutes back out to New Jersey or other locations outside the city proper and after walking back to the hotel area (which was not a short walk) I could barely stand and was forced to bid the fellows farewell.

Chris popped into a store to buy a drink to take back to the room and I slipped upstairs intending to get ready for bed. Steve, worn out from the previous couple of days, hadn't even had the energy to join us for dinner and was already in bed asleep when I got back. Of course, once again my anti-technology aura struck (not content to have wiped out my Palm) and I was unable to open the door with my key. It did nothing at all, so I just parked it in the hallway until Chris came up and let me in. I had knocked softly when I first couldn't open the door but Steve was already in bed, fully ear-plug-enabled and sleeping soundly and didn't hear me. Knowing Chris would soon be up, it wasn't worth waking Steve but I cursed my anti-technology aura for the additional inconvenience anyway.

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Churrascaria Plataforma

Action shot
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
We originally thought that this was going to be the place we'd meet up with the New York guys, our friends and frequent authors who live in the area, on Saturday night. Communications broke down, though, leaving us uncertain of whether any of them could make it and we literally tried to get reservations at a dozen other places for Friday night unsuccessfully, so we decided to just make the jump to Churrascaria Plataforma on Friday and make plans for Saturday elsewhere if we could reach the guys. (Of course, after enacting this plan, we learned that they all had intended to join us at Churrascaria Plataforma, just none of them remembered to let us know that before the day.)

Anyway, after a very long day on the convention floor and nothing but a Clif bar and a latte for lunch, I rolled into Churrascaria Plataforma ready to devour the whole place. The restaurant is famous for its "salad" bar, and one should not be fooled by the name. It is not just "salad" but pasta, rice, potatoes, vegetables, cheeses, soup, casseroles, beans, and an impressive selection of sushi. A person could eat nothing but "salad" bar and come away feeling they'd had an excellent meal. I was impressed with the cleanliness and orderliness of the salad bar area, too. It was well stocked and well attended, and once I looked up to see a pair of girls checking the temperatures of the offerings with a digital thermometer and marking the results on a clipboard: no worries about food safety with an orderly operation like that!

Of course the best part of a Brazilian rodizio is the meat on swords. My previous experiences at other places has led me to believe that the poultry offerings are often just not as good as the other meats, so I confined myself to the beef, pork and lamb (though the bacon-wrapped turkey almost got me to cave in). The lamb was particularly wonderful, crusty and salty with a little rosemary. Ipanema Grill still has the best rodizio dish with their salt-crusted tri-tip but Churrascaria Plataforma certainly held their own and their salad bar is second to none. We didn't even attempt the dessert cart, which seems like complete folly to have at a place like that.

Having completely wiped out the virtuousness of our House of Vegetarian mock meat extravaganza, we walked the mile back to the hotel and collapsed into our uncomfortable beds for another chilly, restless night, bellies full of delicious meat.

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House of Vegetarian and Ferrara

"pork" and peanuts
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Jim Crocker, game and comics retailer extraordinaire, is forever being overlooked at game industry buffets and functions, sending up the forlorn cry of "Is there a vegetarian option?" in the meat-centric hubs of Las Vegas or Columbus or Indianapolis. As former vegetarians ourselves, Chris and I are sympathetic to his plight. (Ask Pramas sometime about the french fry sandwiches from the European vegan punk rock tour...)

Upon learning that Jim was going to be at NYCC, Chris had wanted to take him out to Vegetarian Paradise and I was heartily in favor as I'd eaten there before myself and was quite impressed with their mock meat dishes. If I'd had the access of ability to create mock duck or pork dishes like those, I might have kept to a more vegetarian lifestyle myself all these years. Anyway, Steve, Jim, Chris and I walked down to Mott Street with House of Vegetarian in mind as a back-up in case VP was no longer there, which ended up being the case.

House of Vegetarian didn't let us down. I've read some pretty savage reviews online of HoV and all I can say is they weren't eating what I was eating. The "pork" and peanuts house special was amazing, the orange "beef" and broccoli was out of this world. We also had a realistic approximation of General Tso's "chicken" and a dish of soft tofu and crispy noodles that I've forgotten the name of but enjoyed completely. When the portions were set in front of us we worried that we'd ordered too much but couldn't stop picking and nibbling even after we were "done" until eventually we ate it all.

Miniatures trip close-up

After dinner Jim wondered aloud if there might be a dessert option nearby and Chris willingly steered us toward Little Italy, where we stumbled into Ferrara and succumbed to the clarion call of pastries. Ferrara claims to be the oldest espresso bar in America, established in 1892. I had an eclaire and tiramisu martini that were to die for, while the guys engaged in other sorts of creamy and/or chocolate decadence. Despite being completely sated by House of Vegetarian, it was impossible to resist the assortments Ferrara presented. Excellent, excellent stuff. Open late and highly recommended.

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Carnegie Deli

Matzo Ball Soup
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
After arriving in New York and getting settled into our hotel, we decided that we definitely needed to have something to eat before hitting the Javits Center for set-up. Chris is my guide in these situations and he suggested the Carnegie Deli, a mere 20 block walk. Despite his years of living in NYC, Chris was a Katz Deli man and somehow had never chosen the Carnegie Deli before.

The Carnegie is one block further from our hotel than the Stage Deli and was packed wall to wall with tourists and newbies like ourselves. The portions were ridiculously large and more than one of the aging waitstaff was heard to say "Have you eaten here before?" after someone tried to order the "Woody Allen" (their combo pastrami and corned beef sandwich). Chris and I ended up deciding to split one of these sandwiches and a bowl of matzo ball soup each.

I will say the service left something to be desired. Chris tried to order the matzo ball and noodle soup but was served plain matzo ball soup. The soup itself, though not exactly what he'd actually ordered, was tasty and the matzo balls were delicious and fluffy. We were charged an additional $3 for splitting the dinner plate-sized sandwich (which was already pushing $20), which the waitress "split" onto another plate for us with a spoon, dumping a portion into my lap in the process. The sandwich itself was quite impressive if you're into big for big's sake. Taking up the whole plate and served with an additional side of bread, Chris and I each had two substantial sandwiches and made a hefty fifth sandwich to be wrapped and taken home with us. Still, one chocolate egg cream, one coke, two bowls of soup and a sandwich cost us $40 and in the end I had to say that Katz's pastrami was a better product. Katz's Deli cuts their pastrami thicker and it's less fatty, resulting in a better bite all around.

Carnegie Deli wasn't bad but I have to say that I wouldn't be eager to walk 20 blocks to go there again.

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Zombified by New York

Got to NYC at 4:30am by my body clock and after two hours of screwing around (and a long-ass ride on the A Train) we arrived at the "old school charm" of The New Yorker hotel, where one could feel the cold wind whistling into the room around the window air conditioning unit, where the only window coverings were roller blinds, and where two people trying to stand up at the same time had to negotiate about where to do it. If that sounds like a complaint, I had a reasonable expectation about what I was getting into and being within staggering distance of the Javits Center was a boon worth paying for. I was less enamored of the location when I was jet-lagged and trying to take a nap in the room before setting up the booth only to find that every siren-wielding vehicle in the city was apparently required to do laps around our building... or at least that's what it sounded like when for two straight hours there were constantly sirens blaring. And not just regular sirens, either, but the NYPD and NYFD seem to have their sirens hooked up to a wah wah pedal and take joy in having scratching contests ("w'-w'-woo'-w'-w'-weeoo weeoo-wee-w'-w'...") interspersed with cabbies, truck drivers and other motorists laying on their horns. Ah, New York.

The Comic Con show hours were brutal. A red-eye flight and set-up the first day, eleven hours on the show floor the second, ten hours open to the public on the third. By the time we got to the last day, the mere seven hours plus booth break-down seemed almost luxurious. Having our booth just kitty corner to Miss Horrorfest where they were playing this video on a constant loop was bad enough (she screams twice in a three minute video, so I figure we got to hear her scream about once every 90 seconds on average) but she was there live on Friday and would occasionally make with a live scream while posing with fans on top of it. We were well and truly zombified by the end.

We had time for about one decent meal a day. I would have a quick breakfast, a latte at the convention center, a Cliff bar for lunch and then, finally, a decent dinner sometime after 10:00pm. I'll follow up with some restaurant reviews and post some pictures of our decadent meals as I have the energy to do so. Got home last night at 3am body-clock time (having adjusted to Eastern Time right away) and finally fell asleep around 1:30am. Had to be up at 5:45am to pick up a Flexcar downtown and pick up Kate in Lake Forest Park so she could get to school on time. Right now I'm fighting the need for sleep and wondering if I dare bust into the Brazilian espresso we brought home from Porto Rico without Chris. I just may have to...

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That's dread you're feeling, chick

Yep, nothing like a trip to New York to inspire feelings of, well, dread in me.

Chris lived there for nine years and loves it. We joke that New York is his mistress. Ray loves it there. Jess loves it there. All of Chris's college buddies who still live there seem to love it. Me? Not so much with the love.

I've made an uneasy peace with New York. I don't want to stab it in its filthy heart when I land or anything. I can appreciate its allure; the culture, the campiness, the subway. There's no Katz's Deli in Seattle. I know New York has its features, it's just that I don't really want a pedicure at 2am so the fact that I could get one if I wanted to doesn't give me that thrill it gives some people.

I just can't share the enthusiasm when I have to listen to all the starry-eyed New York lovers swoon about how gorgeous and wonderful and open all night and perfect the city is... like boys who have been won over by the pretty party girl and just don't understand why I don't find her as cute as they do when she toddles home hiccuping and covered in her own oh-so-adorable puke. There are no piles of garbage as high as my head on the streets of Seattle. No attitude of "Rudeness? Welcome to New York, that's just the way things are, rube!" either. My bus might not be as reliable as the subway but it also doesn't smell like pee. You can ask someone if they know what time it is in Seattle without being immediately greeted with The Scowl that trained New Yorkers have perfected, not just wary of the scam but fully expecting it. I'm just not smitten with this good-time girl and I know admitting that puts me squarely into the cretin category for the millions of people who worship New York and its Greatest City in the World mystique. Ah well, no hipster points for me then.

Of course, it's not just my generalized New York ennui that has me dreading this trip. Because I wanted to take a non-stop red-eye (no sense paying for more nights in Manhattan than you absolutely have to) we're flying on... JETBLUE. (This is the only flight they make from Seattle to New York!) Yep, the airline that's been completely screwed all week because they couldn't figure out how to handle a snow storm that didn't involve holding their passengers hostage on the tarmac for 6-12 hours. They're still canceling flights and trying to clear their backlog a week later!

Then there's the job I'm going to New York to do: work New York Comic Con at the Javits Center, floor hours for ten and eleven hour days. Nothing thrills me with dread like the prospect of working until 8 or 9 at night and then getting up to do it again the next day. A show like GenCon is busy enough that time passes swiftly but Comic Con is a tangential show for us, like the ALA show was. Time is not going to pass swiftly.

I'm consoling myself with the slim chance that I might get to see Steve Colbert. More likely, I'll just see Gary Coleman.

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