Monthly Archives: May 2009

An Open Letter to Broadway

Dear Broadway,

Thank you for consistently showing me, that no matter what age I am, my image will always be reflected back at me.

-AVB

Thirteen: The Musicalreasons to be prettyNine to Five: The MusicalGod of CarnageGrey Gardens33 VariationsBlithe Spirit

Things That Make Me Think Twice

I was shopping for a baby gift for a friend who recently found out she’s having a girl. She’s over the moon about her pregnancy, and, her excitement being as infectious as it is, lead me into a cute baby boutique a few blocks from my apartment to browse and perhaps buy a gift for said unborn child. But, quite unexpectedly, I found it. The dress that I had get for the friend’s baby. The dress that I had to get for every girl baby in the world. The dress I had to get for my baby. Wait. What? The baby I don’t have and, until that moment, wasn’t sure if I would ever want to have. But life is funny. My future flashed before me bathed in a pale pink cotton/silk blend with a round neck, tank sleeves, and a bell shape. I suddenly wanted a child more than anything else in the world. Someone who may or may not share my DNA, but a little person with thoughts, opinions and feelings that have a voice all their own, but sprinkled with my influence.

A male friend of mine recently told me his feelings on becoming a dad for the second time:  ”I never thought I would be the parenting type, but for some reason, it really suits me. I like the idea of being able to control some small piece of the world, but do it from an egoless and selfless place. That’s nice.” In that moment, standing there holding a tiny dress meant for a six month old girl, I got what he was saying.

Picture 1 16-42-07

I bought the dress and took it home to wrap, but couldn’t bring myself to fold it up and put it in a box. I laid it out on my white chair, stretching the limits of the skirt to its fullest potential. I imagined a child wearing that dress. Not my friend’s baby per se, but a baby. Maybe even my baby. I wondered how long I would sit there with her on my lap inhaling her sweet baby smell as she fell asleep in my arms. How painful it would be if she woke up screaming in the night when cutting her first teeth. What her first word might be; her first sentence. And, as she grew older, the perfume she might wear, the books she would read and if she would be anything like me or anyone in my family. Would I see my sister in her, my mother, my father or grandfather? Would hazel eyes gaze back at me in rebellion or the blue or brown pools of my father’s/sister’s/mother’s eyes flash before me? Will she succeed in doing the things I did not?

But, then I thought of the world. Of things like cell phones and Facebook, text messaging and ‘tweens in skimpy bikinis. Of growing up too fast and not playing with dolls long enough or spending hours reading a book under a crab apple tree. And, even if a childhood lasts a little longer and is a little more innocent than my mind thinks, it still goes by in the blink of an eye.

I kept the dress out on the chair for a few days. I got used to it being there, of walking by it every time I entered the living room. But then, I realized, it’s not mine. It’s a gift that will leave my hands and travel across the country to live a life and be worn, with love. I folded the dress carefully, wrapped it in tissue paper and placed it in a box. I wrapped the box in bright pink and white floral paper, tying it with a pale blue bow. I wrote out the card to my friend, telling her: “your greatest story is about to be written.” Her story is coming soon. Mine is still being outlined.

Per Se by Day, Tacos by Night

Bushwick is the new(er) hipster capitol of Brooklyn. Populated by 20-something writers, artists, musicians filmmakers, muses, freePicture 1 spirits, and, until recently, a hipster grifter or two. As yet ungentrified, this neighborhood provides the perfect juxtaposition of irony and a laid back blase attitude common among the suburban-raised, middle-upper middle class Net Generation. They might wear thrift store skinny jeans and old Chuck Taylors, but they accessorize with the latest iPhone and the perfect pair of Ray-Bans or Moscot glasses.

Bushwick and its close brother, Williamsburg, are places I’ve been finding my un-ironic, un-hipster self in more frequently due to my job locale and my group of friends. This is where I also found myself dining one night at the apartment of a friend of a friend. I was told it was a “taco night,” but that the invite was a much coveted one, given the chef and the crowd. The chef is Cameron Wallace, a fellow 20-something who also happens to be the bread baker at the gastronomic heaven, Per Se.

Entrance of Per Se

Entrance to Per Se

The day of Taco Night, I was sent a text message with an address. I arrived promptly at 7p, my requested $10 in hand to “tip the chef,” and pushed through the apartment building’s blue door (also the same color as the doors at Per Se) spray painted with the number 855 (a decidedly un-Per Se detail). Our chef de cuisine was en-route, so we sat around drinking PBR or Corona (it was BYOB, can you guess which one I brought?) Chef Cameron arrived shortly after, armed with bags from Whole Foods and a box shipped all the way from San Diego (where Cameron was raised) containing flour tortillas and fire-roasted peppers in olive oil. “I’m taking a short cut today,” Cameron confessed to me, “I’m using store bought flour tortillas. Normally, I make my own, but there wasn’t time.” He continued to explain as he unpacked tins and Tupperware full of half-fried fish and marinated pork, a head of cabbage, and various & sundry spicy sauces and homemade crema. “But, these tortillas are fresh from California, my mom shipped them to me just yesterday.”

fist_taco

Almost looks like Cameron's fish taco

In no more than a 35 sq. foot kitchen, Cameron got to work, frying the fish up again in pots. “I half-fry them in advance,” he explained. “I don’t want them soggy and they need to be eaten hot. But I like to do my prep work.” Cabbage was shredded by our hostess, Mariah, who is a caterer, while Mariah’s sister, Ariana, took out plates and utensils for the twenty guests that packed into the apartment. Everyone taking up the small square footage in the kitchen served a purpose. Mariah as sous chef, Ariana calling in the orders, Cameron cooking and plating, and I, serving. Watching Cameron cook and prep masterfully in such a small space brought to mind the word that hangs over the door in Per Se’s kitchen, “Finesse.” Chef Cameron illustrated every aspect of finesse, with his “refinement and delicacy of performance,” execution and artisanship. Each taco was hand-crafted and made in small batches. The pork had been marinating since early morning. No detail was left untended.

After serving a few tacos, I finally got to taste my own. First, the fish taco. Perfectly fried, but not greasy, you could still taste the fish and how deftly it blended with the cardamom flavor of the lightly drizzled sauce. The cabbage added an extra crunch while the squirt of lime gave the fish a little zing and some chopped cilantro cleansed the palate. It was more than a taco, it was an experience. As I savored the first (and then second) fish taco, I asked Cameron what brought him from bread baking to taco making. “Actually, it’s because I couldn’t find a decent taco in New York. Believe me, I tried. I’ve gone everywhere, but nothing like the ones I grew up with in California.”

Even still, other San Diego and California natives at Taco Night felt Cameron’s tacos take it to a whole new level. After some coaxing, I got the full story out of Cameron. “After I quit my job at different restaurant in New York, I went back to California for six months and studied the tacos I liked,” he told me. “I traveled up and down the coast and as far down as parts of Mexico, just to see how they did it there and where our tacos evolved from, what worked and what was unique to each area.” Just like the discipline at Per Se, there is discipline to Cameron’s tacos. “I combined the best of what I liked,” he said. “What was essentially pleasing to the palate, what textures worked, ingredients, preparation in advance, last minute. Sometimes I have to take out what I love if it doesn’t work within the combination. But I still continue to experiment. That’s why we have taco night.”

There is another method to the Taco Night madness, as I soon learned, between bites of the juicy, spicy pork taco with crema and bits of diced, raw onion. Cameron, as modest as he is about admitting it, also desires to have his own taco stand. “He wants a little place in the East Village, somewhere downtown or in Brooklyn,” Ariana (Cameron’s biggest supporter/Taco Night waitress) told me. “By opening up Taco Night and spreading the word, we’re hoping it will lead to investors for Cameron. It boils down to word of mouth in the end.”  Abra la boca. Spread the word.

After serving a few tacos, I finally got to taste my own. First, the fish taco. Perfectly fried, but not greasy, you could still taste the fish and how deftly it blended with the cardamom flavor of the lightly drizzled sauce. The cabbage added an extra crunch while the squirt of lime gave the fish a little zing and some chopped cilantro cleansed the palate. It was more than a taco, it was an experience. As I savored the first (and then second) fish taco, I asked Cameron what brought him from bread baking to taco making. “Actually, it’s because I couldn’t find a decent taco in New York. Believe me, I tried. I’ve gone everywhere, but nothing like the ones I grew up with in California.”

Even still, other San Diego and California natives at Taco Night felt Cameron’s tacos take it to a whole new level. After some coaxing, I got the full story out of Cameron. “After I quit my job at different restaurant in New York, I went back to California for six months and studied the tacos I liked,” he told me. “I traveled up and down the coast and as far down as parts of Mexico, just to see how they did it there and where our tacos evolved from, what worked and what was unique to each area.” Just like the discipline at Per Se, there is discipline to Cameron’s tacos. “I combined the best of what I liked,” he said. “What was essentially pleasing to the palate, what textures worked, ingredients, preparation in advance, last minute. Sometimes I have to take out what I love if it doesn’t work within the combination. But I still continue to experiment. That’s why we have taco night.”

There is another method to the Taco Night madness, as I soon learned, between bites of the juicy, spicy pork taco with crema and bits of diced, raw onion. Cameron, as modest as he is about admitting it, also desires to have his own taco stand. “He wants a little place in the East Village, somewhere downtown or in Brooklyn,” Ariana (Cameron’s biggest supporter/Taco Night waitress) told me. “By opening up Taco Night and spreading the word, we’re hoping it will lead to investors for Cameron. It boils down to word of mouth in the end.”  Abra la boca. Spread the word.

johnny_automatic_open_mouth