Monday, June 7, 2010

Green thumb: mostly successful, partly disappointing

The urban window ledge herb garden of 2010 experiment continues with a fair amount of success. Basil continues to grow. New leaves are sprouting every day. This is by far the pick of the litter. The plant is growing strong and the leaves are quite fragrant. I want it to keep growing and enter it into a competition, like the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, but for plants.

Dill is doing very well, too. However, it is tall and skinny (like me) and falls over sometimes (also like me). Comparing my plant with the picture on the seed envelope, I see that dill has a long way to go. Dill worries me, and I find that it requires more attention than its neighboring plants. It seems like dill is teetering on collapse everyday and I don't know what to do other than prop it back up.

Rosemary has make significant progress since my last update. It still doesn't look anything like rosemary, but I have faith that the plant pictured below is indeed rosemary. While I have no reason to worry, there is some concern that rosemary will have the same stability issues as dill is currently experiencing. It does appear to be growing stronger, but so was dill before it really sprouted up in the past few weeks. I can only hope that rosemary's slower growth rate will lend itself to a stronger stem. (Please bear in mind that I know almost nothing about gardening vocabulary, so pardon any faux pas).

Which leaves lavender. How disappointing. Below is a picture of lavender, taken yesterday. Don't see it? That's okay, because there is nothing there. Despite the second planting, lavender is still an utter failure. I am thinking a second basil plant - given its success - would be in order. I could also attempt a new herb, but fear similar results, which would lead to the natural conclusion that this pot happens to be cursed. In the meantime, I continue to water this clump of dirt along with the other plants, though I feel like I'm Geppetto spoon feeding Pinocchio. Only less crazy. And without a mustache.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I'll take you to the Meatball Shop

The meatball shop does one thing, and they do it well. Yes, they have salad and veggies, and amazing ice-cream sandwiches. But in terms of entrees, there is meatball and only meatball. No appetizers. No need. Five kinds of meatball (including a special which was roast beef and cabbage when I visited), four kinds of sauce, and four ways to order. First you pick the size: bowl (four to an order with focaccia on the side), slider, smash (two meatballs on toasted brioche), hero (three meatballs on Il Forno baguette with side salad). The smash and hero come with your choice of either provolone or mozzarella cheese. On top of that, there is a choice of either white or whole wheat for the hero. Then you pick the meat (pork, chicken, beef, veggie, special), you pick the sauce (tomato, spicy meat, parmesan cream, mushroom gravy), and you try not to stare at other people's plates while waiting. All of this on a menu that has checkboxes and has been laminated, with the preferred items marked off using an erasable marker.
I went with the hero, pork meatball, spicy meat sauce, provolone cheese, whole wheat baguette, Brooklyn lager on tap. Was ordering whole wheat on a hero like that similar to ordering a large diet coke with a Big Mac value meal? Perhaps. Then again, whole wheat bread adds flavor that white bread is normally lacking, although I am sure this would not have been the case here. (See photographic evidence here.)
Immediately after ordering, I noticed a lot of people went with parmesan cream sauce and I began to regret my decision. I was not disappointed by the spicy meat sauce. Not at all. I just wondered whether the parmesan cream would have been better. I will have to wait until my next trip to find out for sure.
The pork meatball was just great. It held up well in the sandwich, neither falling apart nor stubbornly refusing to be bitten into. Well-seasoned, good sized and quite filling. Il Forno's bread did not dominate the sandwich as is the case too often. The spicy meat sauce was actually a little spicy, which means it was really spicy since my sensitivity is a little dulled. The light green salad served its purpose well, occasionally breaking up the succession of weighty bites from the hero. My pork meatball, provolone, spicy meat sauce, whole wheat hero did not go quickly, and I found that I was pretty well stuffed by the end.
The waitress sensed my defeat at the hands of this meatball hero and asked if I wanted the check. She was pleasantly surprised (possibly because a bigger check equals a bigger tip) when I mentioned wanting an ice cream sandwich. Like my first visit to Butter Lane, they were out of one item and it was exactly what I planned to order. No caramel ice cream, hence no peanut butter cookie / caramel ice cream sandwich. Apparently the waitress' favorite. So I went with chocolate ice cream and, once again, was not disappointed. Rather than make a mess, I broke up the cookies with my spoon and assembled small bites from the fractured cookie. This was after a first failed bite that squeezed out a fair amount of ice cream back onto the plate. The ice cream sandwich disappeared in near record time - the ice cream was melting and I had to act fast.
And for the grand finale, the check totaled $19.25 after tax. Not bad at all.

The Meatball Shop, 84 Stanton Street (between Orchard and Allen)

I do not like beef jerky. However...

Only known photograph of "asian beef jerky place"
(from Google Street View)

A few years back, my friend Alex and I were wandering around the outskirts of Chinatown so he could find this beef jerky place he had been raving about. Exact address unknown. That is just how we roll; by intuition.
Thanks to a trip downtown this weekend and Google maps - more specifically street view - I have pinned down the name and location of, what was previously known as "the asian beef jerky place."
After a few trips, I remembered that the beef jerky place is on Elizabeth Street, somewhere south of Houston and north of Canal, on the west side of the street. I couldn't even remember if there is a sign outside and, if so, what language is on that hypothetical sign. With this post in mind, I set out for the asian beef jerky place with the goal of not only obtaining some of that fine beef jerky, but also coming home with a name and address.
It was hot. It was humid. The sun was blazing and there was no shade while walking south during the early hours of the afternoon. But I persisted and came upon my beef jerky heaven; Malaysia Beef Jerky, Inc. Of course I forgot that this little store has no air conditioning, so I found little relief once inside. Other than relief from my hankering for that fine asian jerky. The store is split in half by the counter. An older Asian woman sits on a stool in the back corner while another woman tends to the customers (me being the only customer at that time). Behind me, the wall is lined with the typical market refrigerators, though not stocked with the typical market fare. This leaves a fairly narrow walkway and I can imagine it being difficult to maneuver on a busier day. Although, I cannot imagine it ever being all that busy in here. I could inquire, but I am not sure I would understand what the woman says (subsequent communication issues on both our parts confirms this), nor do I have the patience to figure what odd delicacies might be stored in the various cardboard boxes and plastic bins being refrigerated.
A quarter pound of spicy pork and a quarter pound of beef jerky later and I was back out on the street, unable to resist tearing a piece from each wax-lined bag, noticing the heat, humidity and sun just a little less than a few minutes earlier. Only now I really needed a bottle of water.
With a name and address now in hand, I got a little curious and hit the internet to see what anyone else might have to say. What did I find? The dinky little store pictured above has a website! A website! They will ship the beef jerky to you. This was mind-blowing, even with the rudimentary website setup. I am still in shock and must stop typing to fully gather my thoughts. 

Malaysia Beef Jerky, Inc., 95A Elizabeth Street (between Grand and Hester)