Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Road To Bánh Mì

My allergies have been getting the best of me, but I braved the pollen and joined Eric on a culinary expedition. After winding our way around the Greenwood Cemetery we went the wrong way (several times) through Boro Park under the elevated subway tracks. Eventually we found ourselves in Brooklyn's China Town in the heart of Sunset Park. Somewhere among Asian grocery stores, windows with preserved duck, and street vendors we found our way to Thanh Da 2 at 8th Avenue and 56th street. We were stalking the elusive bánh mì.

How do I best describe a bánh mì? Long story short it's a Vietnamese Cuban-style sandwich — but the best one you've ever had. Thanh Da 2 is an unsuspecting mom n' pop shop with much to offer. As you enter you pass stacks of durian fruit cookies and peanut candies. the temple of Zao Jun, the Kitchen God, is proudly displayed on the back wall. A large plastic Maneki Neko greats patrons from the refrigerator as they sit by the wall counter waiting for their orders. Their menu addresses customers in Vietnamese, Chinese, and English, as it was in Blade Runner. Most people order ahead and pick up as they run their lunch errands.

Sandy, the shop manager, made us two of the house sandwiches (the Thanh Da Bánh Mì #1) filled with three — count 'em — THREE kinds of pork with all the fixin's. I got the spicy one with jalapeños. We also got some shakes, Eric had a papaya and I had avocado, one never knows how spicy these sandwiches will get. Sandy asked if I was Asian, I said "Well... not really." We Pacificos are not considered Asian because we're too many generations removed from any particular nationality— and too ethnically mixed. As I explained to a co-worker one day "You know how Eskimos aren't really Chinese? Such as it goes." Sandy is of Chinese decent but her family has been in Vietnam for generations.

The sandwiches take about 1o minutes to make, the bread is gently heated first, and then stuffed with generous layers of cold smoked pork, roasted pork, or a preserved dried pork. For me it's all about the bread — a wheat and rice flour baguette that's soft and spongy on the inside but a golden, crisp and flaky on the outside. Typically it's filled with layers of shredded pickled carrot and radish, onion, cucumber, cilantro, glass noodles, fresh green chili, and a secret weapon — Vietnamese mayonnaise. Each bite has it's own flavor and texture.

Thanh Da 2 has received glowing reviews from the New York Times, Chow Hound, Yelp, and few other reliable sources. Eric told Sandy he'd review their shop on his show Garden Fork. But the best testament to their success is their food. What can be better than the perfect bánh mì? Another one for later, booya! As the name implies, there is a Thanh Da 1, which is a broth and noodle shop. Another culinary adventure awaits us.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Make Your Own Wedding Bands

(6 week instructional seminar)
May 2nd - June 6th (on Saturdays)
11 am - 2 pm
Cost: $400
Instructor: Sakurako Shimizu

457 Grand Street
Brooklyn NY 11211
Tel: (718) 388-2190

Learn to carve, curve, hollow, texture, and sculpt using different types of wax to create rings, pendants and charms. Carving wax is a wonderful medium to work for creating jewelry. Rich textural surfaces and fluid, carving shapes can be created in wax material and then cast into a variety of precious metals to create a unique piece of jewelry. Wax models may be sent to a professional caster during the week and finished in the classroom to see the process through from start to completion.

Sakurako Shimizu is known for her conceptual jewelry. Her foray into wax medium for jewelry has produced equally exceptional results - and LILOVEVE STUDIO is excited to be able to offer this upcoming Wax Class under her instruction.

About Sakurako Shimizu
Sakurako Shimizu is a New York based artist and independant curator. She received her BFA in Design from Tokyo Zokei Universityin Tokyo, Japan and an MFA in Metals from the State University of New York at New Paltz. Sakurako has exhibited nationally and internationally. Her work has also been published in the Shanghai Morning Post, the German craft magazine Kunsthandwerk & Design, and other design magazines.

Her work is on view at Julie Artisans' Gallery in NYC, Heidi Lowe Gallery in Delaware, and will be included at Love Design exhibition 2009 Salone del Mobil in Milan, Italy and 2009 STRP Festival in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Sakurako is passionate about introducing art jewelry to a broader audience.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sew What? Baby Blankets, That's What.

The first set of baby blankets for the Afghans for Afghans charity drive are done! I couldn't stay for the sewing party, I had to go to a house warming party in Bushwick, psst... there is no East Williamsburg. Eliza and I sorted over 60 squares by size and then arranged them into blankets by color on her dining table. Dinah, Eliza's cat came out to say hello.

It takes 20 to 25 squares to make a blanket that's roughly 30" by 40". All of these are made of wool and wool/alpaca blends. Aren't these colors stunning?

Everyone really put out their best work. Naomi gave me that last set of 12 crochet squares at Prosect Perk and Eliza got a few in the mail.Isn't it amazing what you can do with your leftover yarn? I like the hippie patch-work appeal. I think Janice Joplin would've loved these. Eliza, Liza, and Liz put everything together and while Dinah oversaw the entire process.

All photos by Eliza Brown

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Has Everything Gone To The Dogs?

Here's a pictorial metaphor of the recession — a hemorrhoid billboard advertisement parked in front of an near empty luxury condo. As the global economy continues to hemorrhage, unemployment has climbed to above 8%, new construction is almost at a stand-still and people are still paying more than half of their take-home pay on their mortgages or rent. Bad time to be a realtor, no?

Chronies in Albany proclaimed Atlantic Yards project a done deal telling us we should just pack our things and accept it, but now the words "done deal" has taken on a new meaning. In our Prospect Heights hamlet, the threat of the Atlantic Yards development has ground to a screaching halt, just as architect Frank Gehry pronounced the "AY project is dead". He has since retracted his statement but let project staff go. AY developer, Forest City Ratner still proclaims the project will return. Bartender Mike says "Bull S***!" as Freddy's bar is still open for business in the alleged demolition area. One question: Who is going take responsibility for destroying our neighbothood? Half demolished buildings stand where busiensses once thrived.

These recent events read more like a soap opera than news, "The PH"? It seems everything is going to the dogs. Even this little guy. Meet Charlie, Eric and Lynn's new golden lab pup.

She protested her afternoon walk by plopping down in in the middle of the sidewalk, but I got her to chase the bee-shaped cat toy up the block and up the stairs. Further scientific proof that dogs like bees, even the fake ones. But as much as she loved chewing on the bee, this tiny toy might present a choking hazard.

So I made this Tunisian crochet dog toy — for ruff play. Charlie took to it right away like... well... um... like a dog to a bone. It's made from construction grade masonry line, the same cotton line used to snap chalk lines onto concrete. I stuffed it with "dog nip" — shredded single socks that re-appear after I do the laundry. Now I have a reason to hang onto those unmatched singles.

Chewing is an essential part of a young dog's life. It helps them shed their "baby teeth". The act of chewing into this toy also flosses Charlie's teeth with each bite. Unfortunately it won't do anything about that dog breath. Maybe I should've tossed some Altoids in there. Judging from these photos Charlie will wear out long before this toy will.

Eric Rochow is the host of Gardenfork, a web-video show about, cooking, gardening, green living, and stuff. Check out his show on The Greenhouse.

Friday, April 03, 2009

A Less Sanguine World

In my efforts to demystify the feline world I've done more research. I noticed that Bhindi loves blue — you might say "he eats it all up." But Lola on the other hand couldn't be bothered with Bhindi's new cat toy, she seems to prefer yellow. She guarded her yellow toy the way a tiger would lord over a prized kill.

Cats by nature are predominantly nocturnal creatures, their eyes are attuned to seeing motion in low light. Although they lack the ability to perceive the color red, they see many shades of gray, more than our human eyes can see. As most environmental and graphic designers know, yellow and black are color combinations used on traffic warnings for clear, long-range visibility at night. Before the commercial hybridization of flowering plants, yellow was also the most common color in the plant kingdom. It's most attractive to insects.

If it weren't for the painful sting, a bumble bee's combination of motion and color would make a playful snack for both cats and dogs. Very high in protein I hear. From what I've read and observed, red and orange are less attractive to cats, appearing as gray or dull brown. I've adjusted color levels in the photos below to demonstrate what a cat might possibly see.

Human Color Perception

Feline Color Perception

Human Color Perception

Feline Color Perception

But other sensory factors play into feline behavior. A cat's hearing is five times greater than ours, they can hear ultrasonic sounds that precede an earthquake. Even more impressively, cats can hear a grocery bag rustle through a heavy wooden door. Cats also have an olfactory system that is on par with dogs, but you probably can't get a pregnant cat to find truffles. I cat sat for a friend once and found that her cat had pried the bedroom door open and chewed the heals of my socks. There's one reason to not leave your socks on the floor.