Category Archives: Reported

First Impressions of Talde

I don’t want to tell you about Talde being hot, or about how annoying its chef, Dale Talde, was on Top Chef. What I want to tell you is what eating at Talde was like in spite of that, or, better yet, having nothing whatever to do with that.

I went for brunch even though I had no one to go with me, because dishes like “pretzel pork chive dumplings” and “lobster buns with chile mayo” prickled the pleasure centers in my brain as soon as I heard of them, and wouldn’t stop prickling them. My wife was busy having brunch out herself with a friend, and I wanted something fancy, special, and delicious, too, to compensate for not having been invited.

I was surprised that in this case, hotness did not mean superciliousness, and I was welcomed with warmth even though I was a woman dining alone who did not want to sit at the bar. Also that Talde was so good that it made me want to communicate minutely about every aspect of the food I could, as though it were a piece of poetry or a weird white flower growing on the moon.

Talde is an Asian-American restaurant (that’s what its owners call it) in Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York. I ate the bacon pad Thai, which is an oyster-and-bacon pad Thai at dinner, and was stirred to a degree that bordered on emotion by its sour, complicated, enlivening flavors. With fat chunks of bacon, it tasted of lime, of fish funk from the great sauce called nam pla, of salt, and an almost indescribable tanginess. I wanted more fat and even more of that funky fishiness – probably the addition of oysters at dinner helps it. There were some peanuts, but I wanted more, and some more minced herbs for contrast. Even so, I loved it so much that its peculiar sour mix of flavors has stayed with me a month later. I ate the entire bowl, even though it was huge and mostly noodles.

One more thing: Talde’s cappuccino. I got it because they only had Americano, cappuccino and latte, and for me cappuccino is the least offensive of the three. (I prefer coffee, and I need it at brunch.) Usually cappuccino at restaurants that do not specialize in outrageously-good coffee is terrible. This cappuccino was, strangely, the best I’ve ever had.

It was strong and buzzy enough to hold up to all that milk, it did not taste like a would-be coffee dessert or coffee for weaklings. It was bracing, yet a little fruity – coffee, with a dose of steamed milk, the way they do it in Spain.

(c) Donna Minkowitz 2012

Mile End Sandwich

So sad to go to Mile End Sandwich last week — the new Manhattan offshoot of the delicious (and ultra-hip) Montréal Jewish deli in Brooklyn — and have there be no seating there whatsoever. THERE WERE NO CHAIRS THERE. We were supposed to take our voluptuous but ridiculously expensive sandwiches and cram them down our digestive cavities in the time we could muster standing at a long ugly beige “standing table.” The standing table made the experience of eating comfortable only for a maximum of five minutes. Clearly, the intent was for us to fress down our food and get out of there as soon as possible, freeing up the space for a new cohort of suckers.

Indeed I felt exactly like a factory-farmed cow, making money for the Mile End empire at the maximum rate per time spent at the trough. My tongue sandwich on pumpernickel was really tasty but tiny, and it certainly didn’t make up for the feeling that the owners didn’t care one bit about my comfort or my sense of being welcome and at ease. It reminded me of eating at the Momofuku Ssam Bar, where David Chang deliberately installed wooden boxes to sit on that were as uncomfortable as possible, and polluted all the vegetable dishes with a soupçon of meat to assert his contempt for the vegetarians who had hoped to be able to eat at his restaurant.

Or of once, when I was having dinner at Rosewater in Park Slope and I asked the waitress if they could please leave a certain side dish off the entrée because I knew it would play havoc with my acid reflux. The waitress furrowed her brow. “Chef really doesn’t like being asked to change things.”

I like food. It’s true. A lot. So much that I am willing to spend a crazy portion of my 99% income paying for fancy, delightful, hormone-free stuff. But I am not willing to eat at restaurants that ignore the original meaning of the word: to restore, to make feel at home. It’s called the hospitality industry because proprietors are supposed to make us feel like we’ve been given hospitality, as though we were guests at somebody’s house.

Chefs, even really good chefs, are not rock stars. They are there to serve us, in exchange for our hard-earned dollars. They are there, at the most basic level, to care for us. Despite the less-than-stellar seating at Mile End Brooklyn — most the seats don’t have back support, but a significant minority of them do — I have always felt cared for there. The servers are warm and welcoming. And there are seats to sit in. At Mile End Manhattan, I felt like just another critter to stuff with silage to advance the bottom line.

 

(c) Donna Minkowitz 2012

Lust on the Corner of South Third

Photo: nyctaxiphoto.com

Lust on the Corner of South Third

I wrote this piece around 1988, when Williamsburg was extremely poor and  druggy. I had a part-time job there as a bookkeeper to a pair of rapacious artist/landlords. Just found this little essay/prose poem in a drawer.

Dark hair, sexy, with an arrogant face like a dyke or a thief, harder chin and hotter eyes than any other woman in decaying Williamsburg. White, with jagged short black hair. Are you a lesbian? One of the most beautiful heads, mouths and jawlines I have seen, here in this wasteland. On Lorimer Street all the women look beaten. Quickly scan the legs, which come out tan and hairless out of light blue shorts. Shaving seldom means everything. I know thousands — but how could I miss so much? Even from far away this one looks sick, every thirty seconds like she’s hit in the face, a slap of confusion, or nausea, or loss. Like a stick across the eyes. She’s tall, and stoops a little. As she passes close to me I feel attraction and pity at the same time, I want to fuck her and to give her aspirins, water, toast. “Sweetheart,” she says, and my heart’s racing, my hips take on warm speed, “do you have fifteen cents for a little juice?” Juice — You bet I want to give you juice, I want to give you mango, guava, apple — I say “Sorry” because I am and “NO” in as loud a voice as I can, I step back. I think she wants me to fish in my pockets so she can step in, step closer and — my instincts say to move. My karate teacher said to always follow my instincts.

Did she have a knife in her pockets or was that just the knife of her face, I was expecting peril but a different peril. Do they really resemble each other? Genet sees a murderer and moans. I don’t, I want a different lover, a different loving — Not this smack in the guts — Not wide nausea filling all the throats on Lorimer — Was her pain as sexy as her rocky jaw, why did my heart move to her fists? I know one hundred reasons women should be tough as rocks. The same: the reasons why I want to open for an avalanche.

(c) Donna Minkowitz 2012

Happy Birthday, Occupy Wall Street

Photo: david_shankbone's photostream

Mayor Bloomberg just made a ridiculous remark about the 10,000 or more folks who rallied with Occupy Wall Street yesterday, including me. He said in his radio address that we were just “a bunch of unions,” not the “real” Occupy Wall Street folks, so therefore the enormous size, power and hope of the march should not be credited to the Occupy movement.

That is absurd. I love unions, and Zuccotti Park protesters, and students, and old people, and nurses, and homeless people, and nannies, and feminists, and writers, and all sorts of folks who just lost their jobs and houses.  And we were all there yesterday. All of us were, and are, Occupy Wall Street.

“The 99%” is the most hopeful — and brilliant — concept I have ever encountered in American politics.   We don’t have to be set against each other to accomplish radical change — the opposite is what is true.

Bless the Y (poem)

Photo: Kenny Holston 21

Bless the women’s locker room where I refresh myself with moisturizer on all
    my limbs my chest my back my feet,
where I lie completely long and stretched in the sauna
warm loose big myself in myself, Continue reading

Lebanese Tomato Sauce

By Giff Constable

I had the most extraordinary sauce at Tripoli Restaurant on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. It was an okra dish with lamb “chunks,” as the menu put it — I love it when chefs use that word — in tomato sauce. The tomato had gotten infused with the mysterious flavor and a little bit of the texture of the okra, and also much more subtly with the lamb chunks, until it had a delicate vegetal umami I wanted to keep tasting all day.

Served with white rice.

Russell, Aaron and Me

Photo: Federico Novaro

All the facts in this piece are as reported by major newspapers, or by me for a Nation article in 1999. This piece was published in Salon in October of that year.

Sometimes the news takes you farther than you really want to go. After I read the first blood-spattered story in the Times, I found myself identifying with Matthew Shepard’s killers, the boys who tortured him for being gay.  I still identify in a way that makes me flinch. I am gay. I hate violence. And I never tortured anybody. Why would I feel any sense of kinship for the creeps who hit Shepard with a pistol butt?

I’ve been channeling them ever since the murder. I can see them in the bar, as he pays for their drinks, as he gets affectionate. They’re 21 years old, and they are starting to get stirred up in a way that’s unusual for them, heavenly and enraging all at once. There is nothing wrong with what Matthew Shepard is doing; he is a beautiful boy who is lonely and romantic and who thinks he may finally have a date. In Laramie, it’s hard to meet people if you’re gay. It’s even hard to meet people if you’re straight.

Maybe, he thinks, he has a lead on a date, even if not the actual date. Gay people in Laramie like to meet other gay people just to socialize, just to meet people who might have friends who’d be dates. I have felt that way, too; it is a universal feeling shared by everyone who has ever really wanted a date, and I can channel Matthew, wanting somebody tender, somebody who might really know the way to treat a boy, someone with lips wine-dark and soft.

Russell and Aaron look like they could be gay, they even look cute. Their hands are dirty, but that only adds to their appeal. They are, after all, roofers. Walt Whitman noticed how sexy roofers are, and they are — those bare chests perched precariously on houses, sunburned awkwardly. But these are also boys who think they’re nobodies, they’re wimps. Continue reading