Saturday, April 28, 2007
Unexpected: Morandi, breakfast at Sfoglia & Land
Balthazar, Pastis, Schiller's and Odeon all have this in common: they look good, the food is good, they're initially jammed by celebrities, and they're all owned by Keith McNally.* So it was a surprise to go to Morandi for lunch and find it unattractive.
The picture above is flattering: the real thing looks like an uglier version of the Pain Quotidien branches. The genuine antique floor tiles, the ceiling beams and the brick arches are kitschy. The room is small and cramped.
The food we had, however, was very good Our pastas of the day, the salads and the stuffed olives were all excellent. The Italian wines were good too, better than the wines at Schiller's. Expect reservations at Morandi to be difficult or impossible for months.
At Odeon, Balthazar and Pastis, McNally brought us French bistro and brasserie food. Morandi, named after the Italian painter, is his first venture into Italian. The food, at least, is a success.
* Or used to be. McNally sold Odeon.
Breakfast at Sfoglia: Someday (when the buzz has gone down), Sfoglia will be a great neighborhood restaurant. We were lucky to go there early, before it became so hard to get a reservation. But for now you can go to their new breakfast service, when they don't take reservations.
They're not crowded at breakfast. Is that partly because the breakfast selection is limited and not to everyone's taste? I had an excellent café au lait, but my pastry didn't grab me. It was a heavy pastry, with a little guanciale, a little pear and a lot of ricotta -- and it turned out to be too heavy for me. But most of the alternatives were similar pastries, and you can't order anything like eggs. I love the "jam" they make for their cheese plates, but I don't want their cheese plate for breakfast.
Land Thai is a short walk from our apartment, and I just walked in for lunch one day. It's a step above the typical Thai restaurant in New York, and its lunch specials are small but inexpensive. The decor is contemporary Modernist chic on a budget. It was a pleasant surprise to find it in the neighborhood.
If it ain't one thing, it's another.
UPDATE: OUR HEROES! At the end of the game Mo got the Yankees' first save of the season (only one team has ever gone through April without a save), and at the beginning Kei Igawa came in in relief and pitched six strong innings — far and away the best innings he's ptiched for the Yankees. Farnsworth pitched well too, and with Wang pitching in his second game since coming off the DL, the Yankees might even win two out of three against the Red Sox.
But on the first pitch of today's game, the Yankees' best pitcher in spring training was injured, perhaps breaking his leg. Twenty-four years old, with a 2 and 1 record and 3.80 era last year, Jeff Karstens was thrown into action against the Red Sox last week without adequate preparation coming off the DL, and now he'll have to go back on the DL, joining Moose and Pavano. If it's not one thing it's another.
Good luck today.
Monday, April 23, 2007
St. Joseph, Michigan
ST. JOSEPH sits at the mouth of the St. Joseph River, where it empties into Lake Michigan. Thirty-miles away, the river flows through South Bend, also giving that city its name.
Sunday was the warmest day in South Bend since I got here, so I got in the car and drove to St. Joe, the most pleasant town in the area, at least in my mind.
I had a good time. It was a good day for walking around. The Caffe Tosi is a good place, with WiFi, and forever Books is a good bookstore. Good, good, good. I never put it on my list of bookstores, because it's small and not especially attractive. But I've been there three times, and each time I've bought books. And that's my test for a good bookstore.
The problem is that on my way to St. Joe, and in my walk around, I kept on running into our uglification of America. See below.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Architects — and why traditional architecture gets a bad rap.
ONE: Because faux-traditional buildings are often designed by people who have no training in traditional architecture, no "eye" and no common sense. Traditional buildings are not ugly.
TWO: Modernist ideologues successfully campaign against traditional architecture and say "you can't do that anymore." They don't say the reason you sometimes can't do that anymore is often because they fight against allowing the study of traditional design. Traditional design can be taught more easily than blobitecture or Starchitecture, since it has principles and standards. But a lot of architectural training is designed to break our understanding and appreciation of those principles.
“Remember, if it's ugly, it's not traditional.”
TRAFFIC ENGINEERS design most of the United States, and this photo shows one of the many problems with that. When designing the entrance to Silver Beach, a county park in St. Joseph, Michigan, they tried to be sensitive and contextual, and the road isn't too large and is mainly in character with the boulevard that leads up to it. BUT THEY DISCONTINUED THE SIDEWALKS THAT LEAD TO ONE OF THE BEST TOWN CENTERS ON LAKE MICHIGAN, just 600 feet away at the end of the road, where the trees are. And there's an AMTRAK station that's even closer.
In that situation, why on earth would they stop the sidewalks that are just a block away, and then make narrow roads unsafe for walking?
HERE's the "structure" they're referring to:
I understand that there's no railing on the pier, but can't they say something as simple as that? This is not Philip Howard's The Death of Common Sense, but we're getting there. I'd be willing to bet that the engineers who designed the pier 100 years ago or so knew the public would use it.
As usual, Kunstler puts things in a colorful way.
The best way to feel hopeful about our looming energy crisis is to get active now and prepare for living arrangements in a post-oil society. Out in the public arena, people frequently twang on me for being "Mister Gloom'n'doom," or for "not offering any solutions" to our looming energy crisis. So, for those of you who are tired of wringing your hands, who would like to do something useful, or focus your attention in a purposeful way, here are my suggestions:
1. Expand your view beyond the question of how we will run all the cars by means other than gasoline. This obsession with keeping the cars running at all costs could really prove fatal. It is especially unhelpful that so many self-proclaimed "greens" and political "progressives" are hung up on this monomaniacal theme. Get this: the cars are not part of the solution (whether they run on fossil fuels, vodka, used frymax˙ oil, or cow shit). They are at the heart of the problem. And trying to salvage the entire Happy Motoring system by shifting it from gasoline to other fuels will only make things much worse. The bottom line of this is: start thinking beyond the car. We have to make other arrangements for virtually all the common activities of daily life.
2. We have to produce food differently. The Monsanto/Cargill model of industrial agribusiness is heading toward its Waterloo. As oil and gas deplete, we will be left with sterile soils and farming organized at an unworkable scale. Many lives will depend on our ability to fix this. Farming will soon return much closer to the center of American economic life. It will necessarily have to be done more locally, at a smaller-and-finer scale, and will require more human labor. The value-added activities associated with farming - e.g. making products like cheese, wine, oils - will also have to be done much more locally. This situation presents excellent business and vocational opportunities for America's young people (if they can unplug their Ipods long enough to pay attention.) It also presents huge problems in land-use reform. Not to mention the fact that the knowledge and skill for doing these things has to be painstakingly retrieved from the dumpster of history. Get busy.