Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Pizza Quest: Roundup #1

[Here are reviews for a few pizza places I've been to recently. All of them will be added to the Pizza Quest pages. Click here for the entire list.

PINCH - Park Ave. b/w 28th and 29th
*1/2

I ran in one night and grabbed a slice...or, uh, quadrangle or whatever the appropriate pizza unit would be to describe six inches of pizza thing (PINCH stands for "Pizza by the Inch," so you order a number of inches off of a big slab of pizza). Dude. This is not good pizza. The crust was insubstantial (not thin - weirdly airy and fall apart-y), there was too much damn cheese, and the sauce was weirdly sweet. I finished it and thought, "That's the best Ellio's pizza I've ever eaten." If I were in a more charitable mood, I might try to spin that as a compliment. Feh.

Sullivan Street Bakery (Hell's Kitchen location) - 47th St. b/w 10th and 11th
**** (but it doesn't matter)

The bread at Sullivan Street Bakery is one of my favorite foodstuffs in the world. And so is the pizza. The pizza -- thin, crispy, and square, served room temperature with no mozzarella -- is made out of deliciousness. They offer only a few varieties, but all of them are excellent. The potato and rosemary is my favorite (the thin sliced potato gets crispy around the edges and tender in the center), followed by the marinara (tomato sauce, and, err, that's about it). The problem is that while amazing, these slices don't scratch my pizza itch. Meaning, if I think to myself, "I could go for a slice," a slice of Sullivan St. pizza won't satisfy me half as well as the crappiest slice from Mr. Super Crappy, himself, Famous Ray. It depresses me to say that, but I still love you, Sullivan Street Bakery. Please don't be mad at me.

Mariella's - 8th Ave. b/w 56th & 57th
*

Oprah's friend Gayle was sent on a quest for the best pizza in America. She went to three places - first, the one she went to in college, second, what is oftentimes called the best pizza in the US (Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, AZ) , and third, Mariella's Pizzeria in New York (at the suggestion of her driver). This was a quest in the same way that purchasing boneless chicken cutlets is hunting. I'd had Mariella's a couple times and had literally no memory of it, so I decided to give it another chance. This is far from great pizza. In fact, it might not even be good pizza. The sauce was way too sweet and had too much oregano in it. The crust was tough and chewy. The cheese blanketed the pizza completely. Actually, blanket is too gentle a description. The cheese suffocated the pizza like a plastic bag. I also got a white slice (mozzarella and riccotta) and it was even worse. Bland riccotta and that layer of mozzarella without even bad sauce to break things up. There are several better pizzerias within a five block radius (John's on 58th, Sacco's on 8th, even the two Angelo's -- one on Broadway and one on 57th), let alone the entire city. While people having irrational love for a pizza place is nothing unusual (*cough*salandcarmines*cough*), this is particularly disappointing because Oprah's word carries, I hear, some weight. And so, Oprah viewers will come to New York. And those tourists will go to Mariella's. And they will think that's what good, NY pizza tastes like. Don't believe the Oprah-generated hype.

Totonno's - 2nd Ave. b/w 80th and 81st St.
**1/2

Tara and I had nearly the same experience at the uptown Totonno's as at the 23rd St. location. We ordered a half-plain/half-sausage-and-garlic and it was good, but not great. It's like a blurry photocopy of the original in Coney Island. The same kinds of tastes - - coal oven, good cooked sauce, fresh mozz, same taste to the crust. Yep, it's the same kind of pizza (Genus: Totonnus), but not charred enough, and just not plain ol' amazing enough (Species: Underwelmicum). As a bonus, they do have signs up making fun of the pizzeria next door that sells pizza by weight. I can't remember them exactly, but it's sort of like, "Why the hell would you buy pizza by weight?" Okay, I'm exaggerating. Slightly.

Pepe's - Bridgeport, Ct.
***

Yes, yes. I know the original Pepe's is in New Haven, and, yes, I know I haven't been there...but I was in Bridgeport. What do you want? Cunningham took me and Tara to Pepe's, where the pies are irregularly shaped, sliced into narrow wedges, covered in strange toppings, and ginormous. Oh, and they're pretty good, too. It was in the same pizza family as Modern Apizza and Sally's (unsurprisingly), but was a bit better than either. Again, the crust wasn't charred on the bottom the way I like it (though it was a coal oven, what gives, Connecticut?), the cheese was slightly overcooked to my tastebuds, and it was a bit chewier than I prefer, but it was quite good. We got a small white clam pie (excellent) and a large (meaning: huge) pie split between plain and bacon (good). Bacon? Yeah, bacon, pancetta's unruly, nitrite-filled cousin. The bacon was a bit much, I have to admit, but the pie was pretty tasty. Bridgeport, like New Haven, also has a line to get in. We waited a good half-hour early on a Saturday evening. While waiting we looked in on those who were already eating, comfortable and warm, and felt deep stabs of envy. So, if you want good pizza and an opportunity to break the tenth commandment, head to Pepe's in Bridgeport!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Randominnyc Explainer

Slate's Explainer apparently can't answer all the questions it receives, especially those of somewhat dubious validity. Anyway, instead of mocking Slate, I've decided to pitch in, to shaaaaaare the looooooad.

Q: Why do train whistles at night always sound lonely and mournful? Not so in the daytime.
A: Because train whistles are made from unbaptized babies and unbaptized babies always sound sad at night because that is when they feel their separation from the Almighty most acutely.

Q: Lasers are now powerful and small (at least I think they are), so why don't our troops carry laser guns?
A:Because lasers can't go through overturned tables. Watch GI Joe, people.

Q: What would happen to the stock market if a meteor impacted the earth? What would happen to the global markets and the U.S. market? Say a meteor hits inside U.S. borders and takes out two states.
A: The price of Meteor Insurance, INC would likely go down somewhat.

Q: How clean is bar soap in a public bathroom? Is it "self-cleaning," since it's soap? It seems like a health hazard to me.

A: What Five Year Plan are you currently living under that there are still bars of soap in your public bathrooms?

Q: Why do humans die so young? In biblical times, people lived for several hundred years; now living to 100 is considered a long life. What happened?
A: Why do leprechauns no longer hand out gold? Why didn't that genie grant my wishes? Why doesn't Sparkles the Unicorn come visit anymore? The answer: Fake shit doesn't happen.

Q: Just suppose, one day someone wants to sell you an old gold bar. You don't know if it belongs to any treasure, and you can't find out if there is any reward for it, if it was a lost treasure. How would you go about melting it and selling it? The same would go for a gemstone about the size of a dinner plate. How would you go about selling it? If you're living in a country that is corrupt and you cannot trust the government, or anyone else, what can you do?
A: HELLO. I AM THE PRINCE OF NIGERIA. PLEES SEND ME YOUR GOLD BAR FOR TO GET MY TREASURE OUT OF THE COUNTRY.

Q: What is the richest religion? Scientology has a lot of Hollywood stars and I think they actually make their members give money, but Catholicism is a very old religion with its own country. Also, Islam has a lot of members but I don't know about their money situation.
A: Scientology is that friend with the nice apartment who misses his credit card payments. Catholicism is your aunt with the house in Westchester who gives out pennies on Halloween. Islam is that guy who works weekends as a cab driver even though he doesn't have a taxi license.

Q: Are UFOs confirmed to be from other Alien Planets?

A: Yes. That "U stands for Unidentified" thing is a fucking smokescreen.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Random Idiot on the Internet Tells you his Favorite Music of 2006. Now Pay Attention.

Hoo-ray!

- Tom Waits - "Orphans" As good as everyone says. If not better. Weird. Eclectic. Pitchfork called it a "shadow best-of." That's pretty true.

- The Thermals - "The Body, the Blood, the Machine" Angry, tuneful, witty. What else does one need?

- Justin Timberlake - "FutureSex/Lovesounds" This album is made up of only good things. Like sex. And Michael Jackson when he was cool. And Prince. I listen to it all the goddamned time.

- Neko Case - "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood" I can't stop listening to this album. Her voice is so good. The songs make weird, unexpected turns.

- The Gothic Archies - "The Tragic Treasury" Took me a few listenes to really enjoy it. And not every song is great...but what's great is great in all the ways I want it to be. Witty. Dark. Rhyme-y. Stephin Merritt is made of smart.

- Sufjan Stevens - "The Avalanche" "Oh, it's just leftovers?" True. But so is that Turkey sandwich on the day after Thanksgiving. And they are both FUCKING AWESOME.

- Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan - "Ballad of the Broken Seas" I feel like I shouldn't like Mark Lanegan. Pretentious, meet portentous. Now make a baby: it's Mark Lanegan. "What a cute baby!" -k

- Thom Yorke - "Eraser" Thom sounds lonely. In a good, pretty way. Maybe he misses Radiohead. Nah, he's just sad.

- Arctic Monkeys - "Whatever People Say I am" So, so good. Did this come out last year? Whatever. They deserve all the love they've gotten.

- Mountain Goats - "Get Lonely" Yes, it's sad. And it's not quite as good as The Sunset Tree. But it's still really good.

- The Scissor Sisters - "Ta-Da" Maybe I shouldn't like this. And maybe I shouldn't eat all the leftover Halloween candy. But I do.

- Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins - "Rabbit Fur Coat" Pretty voice + Good songwriting = Very Good. Bonus: Twins!

Close!

- Yo La Tengo - "I am Not Afraid of You and I will Kick your Ass" I loved the title. Then I just kinda liked the album. Now I quite like the album. Not sure how this is going to wind up.


- Decemberists - "The Crane Wife" Haven't listened to it enough. But when I do, I enjoy it.

- Solomon Burke - "Nashville" Sometimes I like you. But then sometimes you're boring. Be less boring.

- The Black Keys - "Magic Potion" I like the songs, really like them, but can't remember any of them. Know why? 'Cos they sound like all the other Black Keys songs. It's time to make like the White Stripes, Other Rock/Blues Duo, and start experimenting.

- Drive By Truckers - "A Blessing and a Curse" Some really good songs ("Aftermath USA," Gravity's Gone"), but too many that don't do enough for me.

- Tenacious D - Soundtrack It makes me laugh more than it should. And some of the songs are so spot on that it's amazing. And Dio sings on the first track. But it's still not an album.

- The Raconteurs - "Broken Boy Soldiers" Did I like this as much as I thought I did?

- Howe Gelb - "Sno Angel Like You" Haven't listened to it enough, but enjoy it when I do.

- Outkast - "Idlewild" Ridiculously uneven. Pretty damn weird, too. And yet, enough of it sounds enough like Outkast to make me happy.

- Gnarls Barkley - "St. Elsewhere" I loved you. But we drifted apart. It's not you. It's me.

- Bruce Springsteen - "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions" I tried. It's nice and all. It runs on...Folk Power!

- Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Show Your Bones" I liked the first one a lot. This one, kinda "meh."
- Sparklehorse - "Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain" Haven't listened enough. Not as good as "It's a Wonderful Life," but good. I think. Maybe.

- The Hold Steady - "Boys and Girls in America" I like you, but I'm not in like with you. But I'll give you another try.

- Bob Dylan - "Modern Time" You set the bar too high on "Love and Theft" (and "Blood on the Tracks" and "Highway 61 Revisited" and...). This album is good...but definitely not great. Actually, not even sure on good. I haven't listened to it in over a month, except for "Nettie Moore."

C'mon!

- CSS - "Cansei Se Ser Sexy" I do not understand the appeal of this band

- The Strokes - "First Impressions of Earth" Do better. I still enjoy the other two albums against my better judgment. Make me like this one, too. And not just "Juicebox."

- Scott Walker - "The Drift" This album makes me want to cry. In fear. Why do people like this? Terrifying. Like crying-while-eating scary.

- Flaming Lips - "War Against the Mystics" I happily listened to this for a while. And then it started annoying me. And then it just seemed loud and bad. Is this how the rest of the world feels about the entirety of the Flaming Lips' output?

- Nellie McKay - "Pretty Little Head" I gave Nellie McKay the benefit of the doubt last time. And then this happened. When it's not boring, it's annoying. Go make a real album, hippie! (Note: Nellie McKay isn't a hippie.)

- Destroyer - "Destroyer's Rubies" Why are you so loved?

- Pearl Jam - "Pearl Jam" Sounding like you did ten years ago does not a "return to form" make.

- Jerry Lee Lewis - "Last Man Standing" Should be like Johnny Cash's American Recordings. Instead, it's like Santana's duets albums. Poop.

- Elvis Costello & Allain Toussant - "The River in Reverse" Good intentions don't make good albums.

- Neil Young - "Living with War" See: "The River in Reverse"

- Christina Aguilera - "Back to Basics" You, madam, are no Justin Timberlake.

- Beck - "The Information" I cannot hum, remember, or quote a lyric from a song on this album. It makes me sad to say that. Now I have to go listen to "Midnite Vultures" and cry while dancing.

TV on the Radio - "Return to Cookie Mountain" Everyone loves you. I listened to you again last night. You leave me cold.

Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler - "All the Roadrunning" Pretty. But sleepytime pretty. Someone's mother loves this.

David Gilmour - "On an Island" You are not Roger Waters. And now, you sound like his dad. Or my dad. Or...if Jimmy Buffet had played guitar on "The Wall," he'd make an album like this. Basically: there aren't enough bad metaphors to describe how lame this album is.

Wild Card!

- Various - "Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys" Do you need an album of pirate songs? No. But should you download Baby Gramps "throat singing" on "Cape Cod Girls"? Probably not, either. Why is John C. Reilly Singing on this? And, not badly?

- Various - "Plague Songs" Songs about-kinda the plagues in Exodus. Cody Chessnutt's "Boils" is a keeper (refrain: "BOILS!"). As is Rufus Wainwright's Katonah [if only for shouting out the Taconic Pkwy]. Westchester in the HOUSE! Whoops.

- Various - "Harry Smith Project Live" Uneven and probably unnecessary. But watch as David Johansen's version of "James Alley Blues" trumps Wilco's. Also: Nick Cave approaches his scariest with "John the Revelator." Not as scary as Scott Walker's "Drift," but scary. Oh, and Lou Reed's "See that my Grave is Kept Clean" is great.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Someone call the OED

"I hope it was a lot," Tom said with a thin and charmless smile. "I hope it was at least a thousand [zombie-type things that were killed], and I hope they slow-cooked them. I find myself thinking of some restaurant chain or other that used to advertise 'broasted' chicken.'[...]"

-from p. 276 of this edition of "Cell" by Stephen King.

At first I thought I'd spotted the first reference ever to the word broasted in a work of fiction, and was happy. Turns out, broasted has appeared in numerous books according to a Google books search. While most are books on food and/or travel, there are several in fictional works. The two that stand out are Stewart O'Nan's Speed Queen, and Still Life with Crows by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Now, Child and Preston are probably, next to Koontz and Crichton, the closest thing to King's competition in the blockbuster horror-ish thriller category, and O'Nan's book's plot apparently centers around a manuscript being sent to a writer called "The King of Horror" (that's what Amazon says, anyway). Also, I'm pretty sure King blurbed O'Nan's A Prayer for the Dying. Where am I going with this. Nowhere. Except we can now safely say: horror writers love the word broasted.

Finally, for those interested in knowing what broasting is, no, it is not baking + roasting or broiling + roasting (or, as Mr. King suggests, slow-cooking). It's the brand name of a pressure-frying process. One makes broasted chicken in a broaster brand pressure fryer using broaster brand seasonings (an aside: it seems that KFC, at least originally, pressure fried its chicken). I sampled broasted chicken in Indiana at Rachel's Hi-Way Cafe in Alexandria. We saw about 156 restaurants boasting of broasting, and I finally whined enough that we pulled over and ordered some. Before we pulled over, Tara said, "It's just gonna be fried chicken." She was right, but left out the fact that it would take twenty-five minutes for a single order and be styrofoam-meltingly, mouth burningly hot when we finally tasted it in the car. Slate took on broasted chicken here. And, if you'd like to find out firsthand that, yes, it's just fried chicken, you can click here and search for a location near you. But don't.