September 23rd of this year I celebrate 41 years in my present job
and this past Friday I had the opportunity to go back to where it all
began. I was reminded of the song "Ohio. My City Was Gone"
by The Pretenders. But instead of tearing something down and putting
up a shopping mall, the powers that be have renovated what was there
and added a row of incredible eateries. I couldn't believe my eyes. A
Benares Indian restaurant (I've been to the one in Mid-Town) has
opened up right across the street from my former office. You'll see
in my review what became of the office building. Instead of bringing
back bad memories it had the effect of cleansing them.
week, I'm anticipating introducing my karaoke dance partner,
Betty, to her first Indian restaurant. She was totally taken
with the movie The One Hundred Foot Journey and
she now wants to experience it. After hiking, kayaking and
unicycling, hey, why not? I admire Betty's gumption. And, with me
there I can guide her toward the wonderful flavors of Indian cuisine
without her accidentally self-immolating. Also, I plan to win over a
person from the false Indian-Curry crowd to the enchanting Kormas,
Masalas, and Mitahis that makes one want to listen to sitars and
back to my career roots brought back memories both good and bad and
oddly enough the movie I saw deeply involved memories. Enjoy!
Giver(The Weinstein Company, 2014) -
Director: Phillip Noyce. Writers: Michael Mitnick, Robert B. Weide
(s/p), Lois Lowry (book). Cast: Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton
Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Renate Stuurman, Odeya
Rush, Cameron Monaghan, Taylor Swift, Emma Tremblay, Aklexander
Jilliangs, James Jillings, Jordan Nicholas Smal, & Saige
Fernandes. Color, 97 minutes.
of “future-worlds” abound in science fiction. In The Time
Machine (1960), by H. G. Wells, it seems blissful and
innocent until the Morlocks are revealed. In The
Matrix (1999), what you see is not really what you’re
getting. In Elysium (2013) the rich live in luxury
on a space station while the poor scrabble about on Earth. The
Giver puts a different spin on the future.
exact year is not provided, but the initial voice-over states that it
is after “The Ruin,” which is never explained. Everything is
black and white (including the film), and we see a vast area of land
inhabited by several “communities” of people living in perfect
peace, in identical houses, and wearing identical clothing. The
camera pans back to reveal that the whole mini-world is atop a mesa
surrounded by clouds for miles and miles around.
one fights with anyone, no one gets sick (they each take their daily
medication via a push-button injection system before leaving their
dwellings) and no one has a harsh word to say to anyone. When a child
is born there is a ceremony to welcome them into the community. When
he or she reaches the age of nine, they receive their first two-wheel
(white, of course) bicycle at a different ceremony. At the age of 18,
each young man or woman is assigned their “job” or “position”
within the community according to their aptitude (decided naturally,
by The Elders) and thanked for their childhood by the Chief Elder
(Streep). And when people have “fulfilled” their life of
usefulness, they are “released” (we can guess what that word
means) to “Elsewhere” – a term meaning anywhere outside the
area of the mesa.
meet Jonas (Thwaites), Fiona (Rush) and Asher (Monaghan), three
“friends forever,” as they attain their 18th birthdays together.
At the ceremony, where over 100 teens are present, Jonas is number
52. Asher is assigned to be a Drone Pilot. Jonas is skipped and Fiona
receives the title “Nurturer” (one in charge of babies at the
nursery). When all the others have left the stage, Jonas is alone.
“You may think I have made a mistake,” intones the Chief Elder.
But she explains that due to Jonas’ unique qualifications and
abilities (we see one earlier in the movie – he sees the true red
color of Fiona’s hair briefly) he has been chosen to be a
has never been to “the edge” before, and now he must go there
regularly for his training. At a house sitting precisely at the edge
of the high cliff marking the end of the mesa he meets The Giver
(Bridges) in his vast library (Jonas has never seen a book – shades
of The Time Machine). The Giver’s job is to pass on the
memories of the past, including emotions, music, religion, pain, and
war. He accomplishes this in stages through a form of mind-meld,
where the two grasp each other’s lower arms. Jonas learns about
cold and snow and why they were eliminated. He also learns that the
daily injections wipe memories of color, strong emotions, and
anything that would indicate differences (or conflict and
competition) between peoples. Effectively, there are no reasons for
war, hence peace.
a drop of his blood and an apple each day (I’m seriously resisting
the obvious joke here), Jonas fools the electronic injector into
thinking he’s taking his daily meds, and he falls in love with
Fiona and the baby Gabriel (who was assigned to his parents by the
Nurturing Center). He teaches Fiona the apple trick, finds a map
showing the “boundary” of the territory and decides to take
Gabriel across it and thus regain the memories his entire people have
lost and which have been so wrongfully erased.
gives one of his finest performances since The Big
Lebowski (1998) and the remake of True Grit (2010).
Streep is fantastically condescending, eerily confident (think The
Devil Wears Prada from 2006), and maliciously cold in
varying stages. Thwaites is perfect for his role. His outrage at what
the elders have imposed upon the people is genuine and his
interaction with Gabriel is amazing. The Giver is an
excellent movie for all ages (except toddlers and younger). In fact,
I would say that it’s squeaky clean, with only flashbacks of
violence. I was surprised to learn at the credits that Taylor Swift
played a character named Rosemary (The Giver’s daughter, the
Receiver before Jonas), and I didn’t recognize her. The way that
color oozed into the film (rather than “popped” as in The
Wizard of Oz) was a great cinematic effect. The choices of scenes
from memory during the mind-melds were wonderful slideshows of my own
memories. At an hour and 37 minutes, The Giver is
Four out of five Martini glasses.
Murray Street (just off Church Street), New York
sparks memories like dining in a brand new restaurant across the
street from the building where one began a 41-year working career.
Until seven months ago, Washington Market Tavern was Eamon’s Irish
Bar, and right next to it was The Blarney Star at 43 Murray: Two
establishments that could be found in the dictionary under “dives”
and “joints.” I remember being in the latter one only. Across the
street is the sleek Equinox fitness salon and family condos that was
once 120 Church Street, original home of the Internal Revenue Service
in downtown New York, and also unfortunately home to large families
of four and six-legged creatures.
that’s all changed now. In fact, the entire block has changed. If
it were not for the characteristic brownish red color of my former
office, I would not have known where I was. Washington Market
Tavern’s fashionable charcoal grey exterior open onto a spiffy,
cream white interior trimmed in chocolate brown. The bar on the right
is long and is backed by an impressive shelving unit displaying their
extensive collection of spirits. The semi-circular banquettes forming
booths on the right are the only remnants bespeaking a former bar
occupied this space. Down the middle are these clever tables that can
be lowered or raised to accommodate drinkers on stools or diners in
chairs over-hung with twin shaded chandeliers. The young lady at the
Captain’s Station led me to the last of the latter kind of table.
The bar was populated from end to end the entire time I was there. A
young man took my water preference and presented me with the menu,
wine list and cocktail/beer menu.
wasn’t long before I decided on a cocktail that my server, Eptihag
(don’t ask me how to pronounce it, I got it from the tab) asked me
if something interested me. I chose a drink called simply “1850”
– Gin, Jalapeno-infused Triple-Sec, Cilantro, Lime and Agave
garnished with a slice of cucumber. It was only mildly spicy, tart
and citrus-y, refreshing and different. And . . . I love cucumbers.
food menu was a single card arranged in four categories; Raw, Garden,
Ocean and Farm with four entries each. Eptihag (I think I’ll call
her my server from now on) indicated that they were arranged from
left to right in order of size of portion and left me to my thoughts.
I opened the wine list and discovered a multitude of affordable wines
that would go with any meal. I didn’t read any more than halfway,
because the remainder of the list was the over-priced wines.
server reappeared and with her help I chose three courses (to her
enthusiastic approval). I told her that there were two wines I was
interested in – one white, one red – and she helped me choose the
red, a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley entitled “Uppercut”
(yes, the very name intrigued me). Then she went to put in my order
and returned with the most elegant (and tall – 10 inches high)
stemmed glass I have ever seen. She stated that this particular glass
is made just for cabernet (the bowl was nearly half the height) and
this was the first one she’s been able to serve to a customer. I
felt honored. The wine was a deep ruby color and was not too strong
or heavy but fruity and light on the tannins – perfect for what was
must be some kind of fashion involving serving food on a slab of
slate (or is slate cheaper than china?) but my appetizer arrived on a
bed of rock. The Sea Urchin and Wagyu Beef were artfully arranged –
Carpaccio style, with urchin on top – with Squid Ink Tuille (thin,
crisp wafers of cheese) and paper-thin slices of radish in a ginger
glaze and accompanied by a roasted scallion. My server advised me to
experience all the parts of the dish together for the full effect. I
did and it was astonishing. The net flavor was a mild form of wasabi
with delicate beef and seafood highlights.
second course was served resting on a steak knife on slate (again
with the slate?). I didn’t need the steak knife as one of the other
servers provided one before the dish was served. This dish, dubbed
“Wild Mushrooms on Toast,” was definitely an understatement. The
creamy, buttery mound of crimini, shiitake, and chanterelle mushrooms
on a long toasted slice of baguette had me wish Julia Child was
there. She would have loved it as much as I did. As an added bonus,
it was sided with slices of “mushroom sausage” with a dot of
thyme juice. Oh!
almost forgot about the bread (who would dare call this just bread?).
It was a homemade English muffin with a homemade spread mixing
garlic, chives, sour cream and scallions that arrived hot in an iron
skillet. I had to have more than one.
main course (I had to pace myself with the mushrooms, they were very
filling), billed unobtrusively as Long Island Duck, was majestically
displayed on a white plate (finally!) with four juicy medallions in
one row, sliced Romanesco cauliflower (the green one) in the next
row, and two stuffed savoy cabbage portions (filled with duck foie
gras) in the last. And all in a duck jus. Heavenly! The medallions
were tender with a delightful crisp crust, the cauliflowers were
crunchy (not over-done), and the stuffed savoy was pure dining
eroticism. You should have seen my server bubble when I told her.
I ready for dessert after all this? If you’ve been following my
reviews, you know it’s rare when I demur at sweets and this was not
one of those occasions. The Apple Tartlette reminded me what a
wonderful fruit an apple can be when prepared correctly. It was like
a glazed baked apple sliced into swirls with light, thin cake baked
into the swirls. Add cinnamon and it is love at first bite.
it all with my usual double espresso and a glass of Black Dirt Apple
Jack and you have a dining experience unheard of on this particular
block of Manhattan in 40 years. I have to admit that if the
establishments across the street were cooking up food and drink such
as this when I was working there, I might not be the weight (or
shape) I am today. And . . . the Beverage Coordinator’s name is
(get this) Stephen King.