You've heard of retail therapy. It's big with the ladies but some guys use it to. The idea is something has got you down, feeling sad. You just go out shopping bringing something back that will make you feel good, at least momentarily feel better. So no that 12 pack of paper towels wouldn't count, a nice blouse or fancy power tool you don't need at the moment would count. Everyday moments around the apartment still remind us of our beloved Sam. We think we invented a new term travel therapy, although we probably didn't. Planning a getaway meant among other things what do we do with Sam? Find a pet friendly hotel bringing him along, have him stay downstairs with Freda or drive 90 minutes south to Camp Bengi where he could run a round with his cousin by marriage, Shelby? Since Mrs. Columbo has a three day weekend we're getting out of Dodge on Friday heading to Boston or Ocean City, MD. Just for a change of scenery, for travel therapy. I haven't booked anything yet. I'll open the Hotel Tonight* app later or maybe tomorrow morning and just wing it, living on the edge! The plan is to just get in the car and go.
Boston is the north route in our four hour drive window. I've been there a couple of times in the early 90s but the wife has never been. So Boston would make an interesting city of discovery. With plenty of opportunities to seek out good coffee and lunch. Boston being the cradle of the American Revolution for Independence would be fitting for President's Day Weekend. Beantown being a major city means there will be more to do than don a tri-corner hat and roam around 17th century architecture looking for a good madeira. Since it's February fighting a Sox fan at Fenway is out, perhaps some decent live music? www.mentalfloss.com/article/56690/why-boston-called-beantown
Ocean City is our south route plan. Unfortunately this particular weekend going south offers no respite from the winter chill. If we head that way it's just for the sunrises over the ocean. Anyone who has experienced a good cup of coffee on the balcony during sunrise over the ocean knows there is magic in that moment, travel therapy! The fine folks at Visit Ocean City have assured me that the town is open all year with food and music available.
No matter which direction we head we'll cover it here. Te deseo una gran taza de café.
*This blog is not a paid partner of Hotel Tonight. **Listening to The Essential Electric Light Orchestra.
Dear readers, all six of you but growing! Our dear Sam has passed. Yesterday was a day of draining emotion and I'm not interested in revisiting all of it. We were in hospice mode for Sam. My focus was on his happiness and comfort. I just wanted to let everybody know I'll be able to get back to this blog's purpose. I also wanted to leave a few pics of Sam, the way I want to remember him...damn, crying again.
First, why did I headline this Bonus Content? Because my blog is about grabbing breakfast, coffee or lunch in and around NYC. It's about movie and occasional TV series reviews. My blog will cover day time events and exhibits in the New York Metropolitan area. My blog isn't about my struggles at the gym, hair loss or why won't Mrs. Columbo stop talking during an episode of Poldark. Still, I'm hoping to build an audience, an online community. There will be times I think it appropriate to pull back the curtain and share a little more about my personal life. For example my dog being diagnosed with cancer, it effects me and what I'm looking to provide here.
Sam is a wonderful, friendly soul. Many ordinary noises frighten him. He's a shadow following you from room to room. He smiles a lot and really enjoys car rides. He likes going to the vet and the groomer. He likes hugs and cheese. He's a golden retriever so he likes the water and has a life expectancy of 11 human years. Sam is a bit over nine years old and he was recently diagnosed with cancer, a week ago. I think they call it hemangiosarcoma, there were other big words. We brought Sam to the animal hospital on a Sunday because he collapsed late Saturday night and was lethargic. At the vet waiting to be seen he sparked up, he was like his old self. Seemingly full of vim and vigor. When the doctor returned after examining Sam she recommended we prepare our selves to put him down. First some fluid would have to be drained from around his heart. Then he would have to spend the night and likely wasn't coming home. Devastated, that is all I can say about how Mrs. Columbo and I were feeling. The waterworks.
On Monday we spoke to the cardiology resident and determined we'd take Sam home. Maybe he'd survive a few weeks or a few days. Don't expect more than six months we're told. I'm in hospice mode. We had a scare on Friday but Sam seemed to muscle through it. Did you know before Spanish Harlem there was a Little Italy on the upper eastside? It's basically just Pleasant Avenue now. I had planned to blog about it this past week but felt Sam needed me at home. I think this week I'll be able to pull myself away for a few hours. I'll check out Rao's on 114th and Pleasant Ave, tell you all about it.
David MacNeil the CEO that runs WeatherTech, the floormat company. Has bought a $6M Super Bowl ad to thank the university veterinary school that saved his golden retriever from cancer. I'll try not to let the wife, Mrs. Columbo. See me cry while I'm watching a football game.
Third Avenue Ale House, 1644 3rd Ave, 10128
As a rail head I was long overdue for checking out the 2nd Ave subway. Originally proposed in 1920 three station service started in Sep 2017. When will the rest be completed, who knows? For now I was headed to the end of the line at 96th street. A part of town where the Upper East Side meets East Harlem.
I walked around a few blocks looking at window posted menus. My desire for the lamb burger stayed forefront of my mind. Third Avenue Ale House was the call, although had it been a few hours earlier breakfast at the Barking Dog would have been my choice.
I walked into the gastropub finding it immediately pleasing. The beige walls are also partially exposed brick, wood and iron. Edison like bulbs bathed the pub in a relaxing gold hue. I had arrived after the lunch rush, before the happy hour crowd and was told to seat myself. I set up my typical perch with room to spread out and see everything. The front half seating is almost exclusively high tops, the back dinning room is standard height seating. Wood back chairs with minimal seat padding but I was never uncomfortable.
I started with a Clyde Mays bourbon old fashioned, standard presentation with regular ice cubes quick to melt and water down my drink. Ahhh, it was tasty though. The appetizer menu had some interesting items among the usual choices. I ordered the Truffle Rosemary Popcorn then took my time looking through the menu. Interesting salads for those who eat salad, add chicken to any for $5. A few times I was tempted to deviate from the Lamb Burger. One of the specials was a Mushroom Risotto, oyster and shiitake mushrooms with green peas, truffle oil, shaved parmesan. I've got this obsession with good risotto lately. I decided I'd order it as a side dish. The Lamb Burger, ground lamb, fresh herbs and spices, tzatziki sauce on an English Muffin. I opted for the garlic sautéed green beans over the fries for $2. Ordering was fast and friendly with both the bar tender and waiter working in tandem.
Music is contemporary rock at the perfect volume to give the place some energy yet still hold a conversation. Stuff like Believer by Imagine Dragons or Always All Right by Alabama Shakes. There are a few muted screens around broadcasting games and ESPN cackling hens.
The Chateau Sainte Michelle Mimi Chardonnay arrives just before my main course. It was decent on first sip, by the third I was really enjoying it. The Lamb burger arrived without the tzatziki sauce but unfortunately the fresh herbs and spices weren't enough to carry it. It wasn't terrible, the meat was moist and tender just lacking something. Add the sauce and it tastes like a gyro on an English Muffin, not that there's anything wrong with that in my book. The Risotto was pure pleasure. I intended not to scarf it all down as I had dessert to review. I left a morsel or two. I finished my deep dive into this gastropub with the Gelato Tartufo, artisanal vanilla and chocolate gelato with a liquefied raspberry center & chopped nuts, hand dipped in rich dark chocolate, finished with a raspberry drizzle. Now just what in hades am I supposed to say about that? Pro Tip, let it sit for about five minutes then enjoy. A dessert perfect for sharing. I may have to bring Mrs. Columbo to the ale house during outdoor seating season for the popcorn, risotto and a cool chardonnay.
Damage before the gratuity is $85. Keep in mind that is an appetizer, two entrees, two adult beverages and dessert.
Yes, I went to an ale house and didn't have beer. They have 18 on tap that rotate through the seasons and nearly 50 different bottled beers. You'll find something to like.
The water closet was an ample size, well stocked and clean.
As I sip on my tea, Earl Grey, hot. I promise this will be mostly spoiler free. I'll assume you've seen a trailer or two.
Star Trek Picard opens with a whimsical scene of fan service. A welcome mat for fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation that may have tuned out of Discovery. I dare say it will pull at the heart strings of many NextGen fans. I'm pleased to say the appearance of Data is not just some token cameo.
Any reading about Picard during the run up to the series premiere mentions Patrick Stewart having more influence on the production than he had back in the NextGen days. Sir Patrick Stewart has taken up the cause of rescue dogs, specifically pit bulls. We are quickly introduced to Picard's four legged companion, Number 1. Whom we get to see plenty of, Picard even speaks French to his dog!
Next is the opening credits and theme music. A departure from standard five year mission productions. The orchestral music and imagery is soft. Giving us little hint of the dangers ahead, more about the narrative of fixing a broken man. This Picard is broken. A broken old man of diminished physical ability. Living in fear that his spirit is rapidly diminishing. All while projecting grace and dignity in public. A public figure, a living legend preferring to hide at his vineyard.
Patrick Stewart created a minor controversy while doing press to promote his new series. Saying that Star Trek Picard will tackle the issues of "Trump and BREXIT". Which promptly offended half the internet. That statement of Stewart's is backed up with a scene of a tense television interview with the retired Admiral. Star Trek has a rich history of discussing issues worthy of debate through it's sci-fi lens. This scene carries on that tradition giving us one of the more powerful performances of Stewart in the episode. Frankly, the scene is done well, some people will choose to be offended.
River Tam...excuse me Dahj (Isa Briones) shows up at Picard's vineyard chateau looking for safety. Safety that only Picard can provide. This is when we're introduced to the core element of the series. Picard begins to realize he may have purpose other than tending to vines, other than counting down the days to his bed ridden death.
We then get to see some of Star Fleet headquarters in a beautiful 24th century San Francisco that has solved the homeless problem. We get another powerful scene with Picard and River Tam...apologies Dahj. This exciting scene nearly tuckers out Old Man Picard.
As the episode begins it's conclusion Picard just starts to grasp the notion he'll need a Firefly class starship and a crew to man it. We then get a scene introducing new characters aboard a Romulan Reclamation site. The dialog is a little hokey but the visuals will have the NextGen fan exclaim whaaaaat???
I think the first episode can carry the person who normally doesn't seek out sci-fi. For the NextGen fan you're all in.
4 stars out of 5.
We get a preview of upcoming episodes. Picard puts together a rag-tag smuggler's crew! Fat married Riker! Picard plays with a Rubik's Cube! 7 of Nine is back kicking ass and taking names! Yeah, I'll keep watching.
The roaring twenties have begun. There is an excitement and feeling of optimism as we start this new decade*. What can you expect to see here? More breakfast and lunch reviews from eateries all across the NY metropolitan area, Boston and Philly too. More film reviews. More reviews of stuff to do when the sun is up. Some bonus content as I peel back the curtain a bit, I have fitness goals too.
I'm going to renew my membership with the New York Transit Museum. They hold events and excursions that I'd like you to know about. I'll also explore the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood the museum resides in.
I'll be checking out SPYSCAPE the 007 inspired interactive museum that I suspect is overpriced. I hope I'm wrong.
I'll also reacquaint myself with Manhattan's grand classic museums. Places I haven't visited in twenty plus years.
Some of the other Paper Shade Studio contributors are debuting in this new year. Malaise Muscle will focus on cars of the Disco years. These cars may have not been fast but they sure looked fast, while still managing to be fun. You'll also see reviews of modern cars, everything automotive. The American Libertarian will examine the hot issues of the day from an independent perspective that isn't Democrat or Republican. Occasionally even expressing frustration with the 3rd party that is libertarian with a capital L.
*Technically the new decade starts next year.
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.