I needed to shop around some Manhattan Army & Navy surplus stores but my stomach said lunch first. As I passed by I thought about a nice pub lunch at Molly Wee. Some place I've enjoyed before with my father but I wanted something new to me. I came across American Whiskey, 247 W 30th, NY, 10001.
Still dressed for Christmas the décor is Barn/Distillery which is hardly unique but it works. You walk past the long bar with all the extra accoutrement you expect mixologists at work. With interesting tasty cocktails as the result. I walk in after the lunch rush and before the dinner crowds. I ask for a table with some privacy, space and comfort. I'm pointed in a general direction and I'm told in a non-dismissive way to sit wherever I wish. I pick my perfect perch. The chairs are the metal frame, wood seat variety. Not exactly comfortable. My chair wobbled but I stay focused I'm here for good food and drinks. The music is at a perfect volume to have an easy conversation or just unwind, a nice mix of Tainted Love, Journey and Prince classics. I could've done without Ice-Ice Baby.
The food menu is a simple single page. The theme seems French Kick, which means varying degrees of heat to otherwise traditional French fare. Incase of emergency break glass: you'll find a proper burger option. The booze menu is a nice comprehensive binder as one would expect in a place that has whiskey in the name. The table of contents lists on Page 18 special and exotic whiskey. Could the Pappy Van Winkle be on the menu? Why yes it is but there is note to check with your server as all listed may not be available. Fortunately for my wallet the Pappy 20 year at $85 was unavailable. I ordered the Strike Me Dead, Rittenhouse Rye, pink peppercorn, vanilla and pecan bitters. It was thoroughly enjoyed as I took my time with my food options. I was also promptly served a bottle of NYC tap water. Seriously, for those out of the know NYC's tap water is reputed to be excellent.
I ordered Bison Carpaccio, black garlic molasses and Grana cheese. Imagine very thinly sliced roast beef but bison. This appetizer was dominated by delicious black garlic with a perfect slightly sweet finish. As I pondered the menu the waitress proved to be more than somebody entering my order on a tablet, she answered all the right questions. I settled on Bavette Au Poivre, peppercorn demi, frisée salad. I ordered my steak medium so as to not bloody up an expected cream looking sauce. The steak arrived medium-rare with the peppercorn demi being darker than expected. A quick sampling of the gravy reveals that BBQ sauce is a deviation in the recipe. I'm not entirely sure of the cut but it was generously topped with peppercorn which dominated my palate upon first bite. I wasn't looking to prove my machismo to my lunch so I scraped off most of the peppercorn thereby having a nice meal. The frisée was treated as garnish, so mostly ignored. I pared this with the house Malbec that was decent, not something I'd necessarily seek out at the liquor store.
I capped off my visit to American Whiskey with the Third Marriage, Woodford Rye, Barking Irons Applejack, Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Blackstrap bitters and nutmeg. The nutmeg looked like debris fell into my drink and the large orange peel just got in the way. After ditching the cocktail garnish I was left with a tasty drink I really enjoyed.
The damage before gratuity and DeBlasio reaching into my wallet was $86, keep in mind that is two cocktails and a glass of wine. Have a coke with lunch to stretch your budget. The baño is clean, spacious and well equipped with two hand dryers! Dress is casual.
If you’re a hardcore fan of the original trilogy. To maximize enjoyment of this film, perform whatever mental exercise you must do to avoid hate watching. Only then do you have an opportunity to enjoy J.J. Abrams latest effort in fan service. There is practically nothing new going on here, there is plenty to get tired of. If you’re looking for some kind of redemption over the handling of the Luke Skywalker character, you’re not getting it.
The franchise at this point has become a PG-13 Game of Thrones except it doesn’t matter if characters die. Time and space don’t matter, physics doesn’t matter. Irreversible erasing of hard-drives don’t matter. There is plenty of rehashed Sith vs Jedi dialog. Wasted cameo appearances instead of supporting roles. Why cut big checks to Billy Dee Williams and Keri Russell only to not use them in any meaningful way? With the exception of a festival it’s a dull looking almost colorless film. That dullness contributes to the massive fleet as seen in the preview trailers looking ridiculous.
John Boyega has a standout performance portraying strength and maturity in Finn. Daisy Ridley’s Rey continues to be the best element of the latest trilogy, the answer of Rey’s parents is finally satisfying. Kylo Ren has at last become interesting to watch, I imagine Adam Driver appreciated that. There is a chemistry on screen with Ridley and Driver that is only briefly maximized. At this point good riddance to Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron.
For all the faults of The Last Jedi at least interesting risks were taken. The same could be said of Solo. Gareth Edwards' 2016 film Rogue One is the modern-day Star Wars masterpiece. There are several moments in The Rise of Skywalker worth seeing for the completist, even a couple of real gems. Just don’t re-arrange your schedule to do so. If you don’t like crowds wait a couple of weeks, maybe stream it at home if your HDTV is big enough.
There is a moment in the film that felt familiar. I tried to remember which film this was lifted from. It was the Mandalorian, the Disney+ TV show that is doing Star Wars right.
1 star: Life is too short to waste time with this.
2 stars: Maybe you have an irrational fascination with the subject matter.
3 stars: Might be worth checking out.
4 stars: See this. Worth the price of admission.
5 stars: Must see. Maybe see it twice.
Weather, gridlock alert days and family commitments did their best to foil my plans for getting out. So to stay on track I bring you Short Takes Part 3.
April 25th, I was on the road in Stamford, CT. That is where you'll find Lorca, 125 Bedford St.
Manchego! I asked Google for the best place for coffee in Stamford. Lorca was the answer I got. It’s popularity and cozy size could make getting a table challenge. The Manchego sandwich was a delight, egg, Manchego cheese and pesto on toast. Add a side of bacon like I did. Great coffee. Friendly staff.
April 23rd, Mex Carroll's Diner in Red Hook Brooklyn, 192 Columbia St, New York, New York 11231
If you have lived long enough an omelet is just in omelet but Mex Carroll's just might throw you a pleasant curve ball. A large an interesting breakfast menu. Great atmosphere friendly staff and a clean bathroom. Worth considering if you have to grab a meal in Red Hook.
A ‘66 Barracuda with child seats strapped in the back, pulling daily driver duty?
So much did I enjoy Mex Carroll's that later in July while exploring Red Hook with Mrs. Columbo and Handsome Jack we stopped in for dinner on the patio. The Mexican evening fare didn't disappoint, tasty and fresh. The mosquitos buzzing around us on the outdoor patio did disappoint. We move into the dinning room after getting our drink order.
April 22nd, stopped in China Town seeking coffee. Kam Hing Coffee Shop, 119 Baxter St, New York, New York 10013
You can't always trust what you read on Google. Cozy in this case means a small place with the charm of church basement bingo hall. Coffee and having a warm sponge cake, which is supposedly their specialty. Ignore the other chalk board menu items because supposedly they don’t have them. I asked for three different items before the guy behind the counter admitted, "just sponge cake". Mediocre coffee and just sponge cake sums it up. When in China Town skip Kam Hing. There is a place down the street though, to be continued...
May 3rd, Sabrina's Café, 910 Christian St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
So I stopped by Little Italy in Philadelphia. Looking for breakfast Sabrina's Café had great Yelp ratings. Eager, friendly staff. Cozy and popular with a diverse young crowd but also the Korean War vets who have been in the neighborhood for 50 years. Good sign. An interesting menu, I selected the tourist sounding The Philly. Buttered potato roll stuffed with caramelized onion hash browns, pork scrapple, sriracha yellow cheese sauce, fried long hot peppers, finished with sunny side up eggs, it comes with a side salad. Served with a steak knife because you ain't eating this delicious mess with yer' paws. I quickly ditched the peppers, one bite was enough for the morning meal. I often treat side salad as a garnish but not this time. Great cup of coffee. Below are some pics of my stroll through Little Italy in Philly.
Dec 6th, Bistro Cassis, 225 Columbus Ave, NY 10023.
I was long overdue to catch Ford vs Ferrari. It was decided that AMC Lincoln Square would be the venue. First lunch. Pizza? No, I had time to kill and a relaxing no rush meal was in order. An Italian trattoria like Il Violino? No, I was rooting against Italy today. A quality all American burger to celebrate the home team? I just wasn’t in the mood. Bistro Cassis is in walking distance, let’s celebrate our hosts the French.
Step in to a cozy single dinning room that seats about 60. There are high tops by the window for city street watching, something I’d normally choose but again I had over 90 minutes to spend before the movie. So, I went for comfort choosing a small table with banquette seating. At 2pm there is no one under 50 years old in the place other a couple members of the staff. From the interaction of dinners with the wait staff and manager I get the sense locals frequent this neighborhood restaurant. Quite conversation is easily had as the music volume is low and acoustics suppress the noise. The room at lunch is brightly lit with interesting art pieces on the walls. Service starts friendly and fast remaining that way. I have water and bread served as I ponder a drink from the bar.
I ordered an Old Fashioned but wasn’t asked or afforded the opportunity to select a bourbon or rye. The end result was a cocktail I wouldn’t complain about having thoroughly enjoyed it, whatever the mystery bourbon was. I should have been offered a coaster as the glass did sweat a bit. The lunch menu is a single laminated page with proper French looking font. Some one should offer an online French Menu language course. Fortunately, the menu descriptions allow one to skate by ordering in English. Interesting sandwiches like the Merguez D’Agneau, spicy lamb sausage, black olive mayo, coleslaw on a baguette were tempting, of course there is a burger available. I decide on the Quiche Lorraine which the menu says bacon, more on that later. I also order the Steak Tartare to ensure I don’t go hungry and order expensive popcorn later.
I sip my Old Fashioned and peruse social media on the phone to pass the time. When a slight disturbance happens. A homeless guy opens the door of the temporary winter vestibule to shut out a common two-word obscenity. The manager quickly responds to defuse the situation and see the guy on his way. Seeing that I was dining alone…one dines at Bistro Cassis. The manager shared with me that the guy accomplished his task, he just wanted to scream an obscenity. We got into a conversation about how these types of occurrences are getting worse. Despite the propaganda from city hall. We talked about how NYC has come a long way and is still a great city but it can all fall quickly. This isn’t a political blog so I’ll stop here.
I washed my hands allowing me to perform my standard check of the facilities. Small, clean, everything placed properly to scrub for surgery and not re-contaminate on the way out.
My lunch arrives rather quickly looking all sorts of delicious. I pair a mystery house chardonnay with my meal. Every bite of the quiche is great although I’m tasting ham not bacon. I’m not disappointed the bits of ham, egg and cheese are perfect together. The flakey buttery cup holding it all together was tasty, much more than a mere vessel. I didn’t do my foodgasm face but it was close. I won’t rave over the steak tartare; it was a nice side dish to my quiche. I’m not a greens guy but I did eat my fresh greens drizzled with a little oil and chopped tomato bits, yummy, hydrating, healthy. I sat back satisfied, not stuffed and pleased thinking I should come back. The damage before the tip was $60. They do offer a soup/salad half sandwich lunch special for $17 so that and a Coke could be a nice option for those watching the budget.
Dress is casual, although I wouldn’t do gym shorts and flip-flops.
AMC Lincoln Square is a decent place to catch an afternoon movie. I’ve never experienced an over crowed rude mob scene during matinée hours. Screens and sound system are satisfactory but it’s time for a seat upgrade, no relaxing faux leather recliners here.
Ford vs Ferrari is a must see for gear heads, catch it theaters while you still can. The car action and racing scenes beg for a proper big screen. Speaking of big. Larger than life gear head icon Carrol Shelby gets almost super hero status in this film as portrayed by Matt Damon. Once again Christian Bale proves he is among the very best actors alive as he portrays Ken Miles. A real man like an Apollo astronaut, who is brilliant behind the wheel, doesn’t suffer fools but struggles to keep his family fed while doing what he excels at. Miles is married but this film is about the bromance between Shelby and Miles as they navigate the corporate grenades tossed their way by suits at Ford. To set up this epic battle some historical deviating was done, Lee Iacocca played by Jon Bernthal mostly just looks into the camera saying little. Tracy Letts plays Hank the Duce as demanding CEO tough guy who just may have a heart. This is a rousing old-fashioned Yankee feel good film played out on the greatest road racing stage in the world, Le Man France. Using very little CGI director James Mangold put drivers in cars, delivering visual excitement in a film shot like the good old days. With a good old-fashioned run time too, don’t worry it never feels like a two plus hour film.
I know it’s not Vanishing Point or Saving Private Ryan but something is coming off my top ten list to make room for Ford vs Ferrari.
So the holiday weekend is coming to a close. I'm planning my next blog-review but for now I'll drop some more short takes. These are from my experiment on Facebook. I don't consider these full blown blog posts. At some point I'll stop back into each of these places for an update.
July 29th, I stopped into Good Eats Diner, at 69-32 Grand Ave, Maspeth, NY.
I'm back in the old neighborhood, hoping for a sighting of my father, Ed. I’ll start with Irish Tea, then the Irish Breakfast. No way I finish this, huge. The eggs are perfect over medium, thick bacon of pork meat not just fat and tasty sausage. There is plenty of black and white pudding*, yet I want more. I don't normally do tomato with breakfast but its's grilled perfectly. Slicing nicely not becoming a mess as the knife runs through it. The large helping of home fried potatoes doesn't disappoint. The service is friendly enough but this Grand Ave eatery assumes you're in a hurry. Large clean bãno. Ed was spotted. I walked with him on Grand Ave while he did his shopping.
*For the uninitiated pudding in this case isn't the dessert Americans are accustomed to but more of a sausage.
Aug 9th, I discovered Egg, 109 N 3rd St, Brooklyn, NY.
A chapter ends then a new one begins*. Starting with a French Press like we used to serve at the cigar lounge. I had the Eggs Rothko an easy-cooked egg in a slice of brioche, topped with Grafton cheddar. Served with broiled tomatoes. I skipped the kale and opted for the locally sourced homemade pork sausage. I also added a side of candied bacon. I finished my coffee with a duck fat lavender shortbread cookie. This was breakfast heaven and a beautiful-beautiful morning in Brooklyn. I got in just before the crowds at 9 AM this place is popular for good reason. El BAÑO was large and clean.
*The French Press coffee reminded me of the full service cigar lounge that I used to own and operate. Among the many things we excelled at we served a damn good French Press coffee.
May 17th, I checked out the famous Sylvia's, 328 Malcolm X Blvd, New York, NY.
I needed breakfast and was in the neighborhood. I noticed this Harlem institution opens early. I’m glad I finally stopped in. The dining room doesn’t open till 9:00 so it was coffee shop style counter seating. I didn’t know what Slabside Bacon was but I’m glad I do now. Eggs over medium, butter soaked grits, fresh biscuits and better than average coffee. Friendly wait staff. El banõ could use a makeover but it’s clean. Peeked at the dining room, I’d like to come back for lunch or dinner* with the wife, Mrs Columbo.
*Recently some classic NY restaurants are getting a modern review in local papers and are being criticized for not living up to their reputations. Sylvia's has been whispered about. I enjoyed my breakfast experience. I'll definitely be back for lunch and give you my take.
June 7th, I visited Nostrand Donut Shop, 1449 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn.
Apparently it’s national donut day. I was assigned Brooklyn so I decided to check out the second best donut shop in the borough. This place is old-school just like the neighborhood it’s in. Doesn’t look like they burn down buildings anymore but this part of Flatbush has definitely not been gentrified. I sat at the old Formica counter and ordered the egg and beef sausage platter. I want that sausage recipe tasty like butter. Coffee is nothing special, a step above 1980's gas station type coffee. The staff was friendly but oblivious to the fact that it was national donut day. I asked the Greek lady behind the counter what their best donut was she shrugged her shoulders and with a heavy accent asked me if I like glazed. The donut was fresh and not too heavy on the glaze. Cash only and no EL BAÑO for customers.
June 11th, I stopped into The Bean, 101 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn.
I think I accidentally walked into a vegan coffee shop. I see a list of power proteins none of them are beef, chicken, lamb or pork. I’m having the Nutella Fitzgerald, it is espresso, Nutella and milk. With raspberry rugelach. I don’t hate this. For vegan types there’s plenty on the menu. The place is well staffed for its size. There is a sign on the door clearly indicating for customers only, the key is on a 2 foot long stick, yet El BAÑO is kind of nasty.
Sep 5th, I got a table at Whitmans, 331 10th Ave, New York, NY.
Is This the Best Burger at Hudson Yards? *YES!
I don’t think I was looking for Whitmans, but I found it. I was looking for a "famous" burger cart, I guess another time. Since I don’t have to go back to the office let’s start with a rye old fashioned. If you like to look around in the fridge and throw whatever you have together on the burger you are the creative type. This is a menu of difficult choices for the creative type. I already feel like I must come back. I kept thinking I should start with the Whitman Classic, their signature burger. Yet I chose The Hound, medium. An excellent burger of an applewood smoked bacon infused patty, arugula, smoked gruyere cheese with onion crisps on a potato bun. Paired with the house Malbec. I ordered a side of Blue Cheese Fries because I can’t get enough blue cheese in my life.
I noticed for Manhattan the prices were not outrageous. Upon delivery I quickly learned why. The burger is on the smallish size. Hot damn its tasty though and perfect for those with a smaller appetite. My patty was medium perfect, juicy without the bun looking like a crime scene. Every bite prompts a little grin. Since I had the blue cheese fries as a side accompaniment, I wasn’t going hungry. Pro tip: mix the chunky blue cheese dressing in with the hotter fries at the bottom of the bowl. The blue cheese will taste more like a sauce than a salad dressing poured over fries.
The wait staff were the perfect combination of friendly and attentive, working as a team not free agents waiting to get on their phones. Looking at the bar I expected a decent Old Fashioned and my drink didn’t disappoint. Have I had better in the city? Yes, but this was good enough that I considered a second drink.
The crowd was a mix of busy professionals and Hudson Yards tourists. When I looked up after filling my gullet, I found my self alone around 3:45pm. Then I started really paying attention to the music. It was tunes most would be familiar with but lyrics that were completely unexpected and different.
With three locations I’ll be sure to share a nice meal with the wife, Mrs Columbo. Find a Whitmans at Hudson Yards, East Village and SoHo.
Clean El Bano.
*Yes, my only burger so far at HY.
May 8th, seeking some good coffee, Doughnut Plant, 245 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn.
This is supposed to be the best damn doughnut* in the city. If the carrot cake donut is any indication there is reason for the hype. Premium coffee house brew, excellent. Seating by the huge window is great for people watching. The 2, 3, and 4 rumbling beneath my seat puts a big grin on my face.
*The queen's English.