[October 3, 2013]
Dear softrice fan:
The Movie Club is also the Coin Collectors’ Club. Stephen and I are corrupting Mandy into joining the hobby. Her newest acquisition is a 1 oz Fine Silver Coin for the Year of the Horse (2014) from the Canadian Mint. The coin comes in an artfully designed silver square box, marked with the same curvy waves pattern as found on the horse’s body. Neither lover nor I were born in the Year of the Horse, but maybe I should have gotten one just for its pleasing aesthetics.
432 Sixth Avenue
New York, NY 10011
The money saved is used to finance our burger expeditions. Yun and her crew have already made numerous return journeys to an Umami Burger, a Californian import in the West Village. They have developed a religious obsession with the restaurant’s ketchup.
Lady Luck favors the Prince of Heaven. There was no wait necessary to welcome my arrival. Umami Burger has two floors. The upper floor is a bar with round tables for bigger groups, while the ground level is a spacier setup for individuals, dates, and small gatherings of friends. We sat on the right wing tip.
Stephen demands an order of Smushed Potatoes. These were double fried creamer potatoes with roasted garlic aioli. Smush lives in between the cultures of smashed and baked. Although they do not have as large of a fan club following, smushed potatoes are good enough to start its own community.
A visit to Umami Burger would be incomplete without a tasting trial for their Truffle ‘Em Thin Fries. The culprits are standard issue fries, sliced thin, and topped with a wham of truffle cheese and truffle salt. Their sentencing was a disappointing heartbreak. The fries were lacking crisp and missing salt. I do not like them. The only white truffle fries that I can get for lover is MK’s in Chicago.
Since our table did not order any alcoholic drinks, the waitress was disinterested in explaining the three spoons of accompanying dipping sauces for our fries. The two neighboring men, with the crown of alcohol on their table, receives preferential treatment. Our waitress showered them with attention and offered elaborate debates on what each condiment was and did.
Victoria judges the house ketchup to be as addictive as crack. Although it was better than those from a mass-produced manufacturing line, I would not smuggle them out of the restaurant as Victoria would. I did not even like using the other sauces. The thin fries worked best with the white truffle sauce.
Unfathomable in his ordering strategy, Stephen has the Original Burger. The bun is a boring house party for parmesan crisp, shiitake mushroom, roasted tomato, caramelized onions, and ketchup. He loves it beyond a doubt, refusing to trade his original version for a Truffle Burger. The latter was overwhelmingly salty for his palate.
While the two big men next to us cautiously debate whether they can finish three burgers, Mandy and I act on our ambitions. We have a Truffle Burger each and split another. Yun’s raving recommendations insist that I must have my own Truffle Burger. Greatness cannot be shared.
The Truffle Burger is a house blend of beef with roasted garlic aioli, house truffle cheese, and truffle glaze. It is one tasteful mess of oil and grease. Their crispy exterior is incomparable to burgers elsewhere, while the beef patty is an optimal combination of moisture and leanness. The white truffle sauce is somewhat light, yet understandable at this price point. I cannot help but feel that the burger is missing lettuce and tomato though. Meanwhile, Mandy itches from its one step removed from perfection; she dips her burger in ketchup and taste completeness.
Freeing the cows from slaughter, Mandy and I pilfer the skies. We split a 5-Spice Duck Burger between the both of us. This house party uses house ground duck, peach apple chutney, Chinese 5-spice, and Madagascar pepper. All of which are topped with crispy duck skin and garlic aioli on a bed of caramelized fennel.
I was hoping to identify a burger for lover, who does not eat beef. However, the Duck Burger sported a strong gamey taste, along with some rawness in the middle. Mandy explains that duck meat does taste like this, even in Chinatown, and Westerners do not cook duck to the fullest. I may have to stick with Peking duck and French breasts. Weirdness struck me out of this playing field.
Ever since May-Ling asked me where was my favorite ice cream place in New York, I have been pondering the same question. In our search for the best ice cream, the Movie Club scatters across the neighborhood. Our choicest find was Grom, a gelato chain known for superior Italian sweets.
233 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10014
The three of us were indecisive on our flavors. Extensive debates bounced between different selections without a settlement, ultimately entertaining the gelato girl as we became the US Congress. She was nice and patient with us until we were ready to commit.
Being the most decisive in the club, Stephen orders a Frappe. His drink was made with five scoops of ice cream with milk, while his cost was the same as our smaller servings of ice cream. The dessert was undeserving of a picture or notable mentioning, but Stephen got value with his purchase.
Mandy has two scoops. Her prizes were the Nocciola with tonda gentile hazelnuts and the Caramelo Al Sale with caramel and Himalayan pink salt. The texture of our gelato was too mushed, seemingly melting into liquid form. Mandy liked her hazelnuts. The gelato failed to achieve premium standards otherwise.
My gelato trophies were Pera with pear pulp, Nougat, and Cachi with persimmon pulp. Pear held the highest expectations, due to its refreshing juices, and yet it fell into the worst tasting category. Nougat was the flavor of the month. Similar to Mandy, I enjoyed its nutty rotation with the remainder of the slush. My favorite was the persimmon, because it is a fruit that I rarely have, and this was a chance tasting.
Grom was unexpectedly bad. Contrary to foodie reports, they are a forgettable gelato factory. They do not make it onto my best desserts list to share with May-Ling.
While I was having my gelato, Stephen and Mandy played on their phones. They were updating their Facebook statuses. This is why the modern world has problems connecting with each other. Everything social is done online.
Stephen disappears into the train tracks, leaving Mandy and I to walk home and explore future conquests. Perla is nearby; anything Italian was good with Mandy, so she is up for this restaurant next time. We walk pass Da Marcella, which is where Mandy had the best Italian food ever. I can bring Honey. And further down West Houston was Ushiwakamaru. My eventual big celebration with May-Ling can happen here!
Planning cannot replace fate. After Mandy and I separated, I randomly come across Kei Kei. She is good and looking forward to appearing on softrice. I also find out later at night that Chubby Chinese Girl was at Umami Burger too, except she went in an hour after my entourage. We will have to arrange a future convergence. Lover will be happy to know that my double peach blossom luck is still kicking lightning faster and more powerful than Chun Li! New friends enlarge my world, and I broaden hers.
Always in a puff of smoke,