A dad and his daughters, loving life in New York City

Thursday, May 31


When planning my dinner with Zane and Kira the other night—they a couple of teenagers on their way to see Brand New at the Gramercy Theater; me simply eager to spend a couple of hours with this couple of teenagers—I had the following parameters: casual, reasonably priced, satisfying food, Flatiron area, a little bit exciting. Yes, I could have gone the Shake Shack route, or Dos Caminos, or even Les Halles.... but then I thought, screw it: I want to try Ryan Skeen's beef cheeks at Resto, so that's where we're going.

We arrived at the pretty, airy room at 5:30, beating the crowds by a wide margin (despite getting two-starred in the Times last week, the place wasn't full even when we left at around 7:15) and proceeded to dig in. The menu is brief (six small plates; six "grand" ones), the food neither light nor subtle, and it seems best to show up ravenous. Three starters got us going: perfectly cooked, citrus-infused Scallops, nicely combined with arugula and grilled brussels sprouts, unnecessarily burdened with spongy bits of chickpea waffle; Bitter Baleen, which consisted of five plump and gooey fried porkballs with cheese, dipped in grainy mustard aioli; and—my favorite—three heavenly Deviled Eggs, creamy and zingy, perched atop slices of crispy fried pork toast.

Our entrees were equally successful. Zane stuck with a Burger, no onion, and called it "awesome." And the accompanying frites? "Awesome." Kira was a tad more adventurous, and was rewarded with two lovely fillets of Loup de Mer, served on this night with water chestnuts, beurre noisette and—most inspired—pulpy bits of grapefruit, which worked beautifully with the meaty fish. Meanwhile I was wolfing away at my unbelievably tender Beef Cheek Carbonnade, rich and sticky with its dark beer marinade, three hefty slabs soaking the pile of frites waiting below.

Then, dessert. Zane ordered the best of the lot, the delicious Walnut Tart, which was really more about chocolate and caramel than any nut I've ever tried, and ridiculously decadent after all we had just been through, but he's a young man, and had no problem finishing all of its gloppy goodness. Kira went for the more sensible Sorbet, and was particularly pleased with the mango. I chose the mini-flight of Belgian Chocolates—several pieces each of top-notch praline, cinnamon, and extra noir, with a few chunks of excellent peanut brittle thrown in just for fun—enjoyed a few nibbles, cried uncle, and brought the rest of it home.

Resto is located on 29th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues. They only take reservations for parties of six or more.

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Wednesday, May 30

The Receipt at 59E59

More a series of skits (or, at times, mere ideas for skits) than a fully-realized play, The Receipt is nonetheless a mercilessly charming and often funny 80-minute show by Will Adamsdale and Chris Branch, two clever young blokes who you will definitely hear more about in the future. Performed as part of the Brits Off Broadway festival currently going on at the spanking-new theaters at 59E59, the show begins with our two heroes—narrator and "lead" actor Adamsdale; sound effects guy and all-other-characters Branch—acting as archaeologists of sorts, puzzling over the artifacts from a city that sounds a lot like 2007 London, or New York. This leads to riffs on all manner of modern woes and idiocies, from ubiquitous advertising ("These people had such short memories they needed to be told everything: 'Eat here.' 'Buy this.'...) to our enslavement by technology.

Then the "plot" kicks in for a bit: the story of a man who finds a receipt on the sidewalk and, in a desperate need for some kind of connection, seeks out the piece of litter's owner. Then it's back to more stand-up—often incorporating well-done audio punchlines—and vaguely related SNL-like routines, the back to the story, etc. Among the themes explored are extreme urban alienation, corporate inanity a la The Office, bureaucracy of all kinds (even at a Starbucks-like coffee shop), the extreme insincerity of branding, and the lameness of adult contemporary music (you'll never hear "You're Beautiful" again without giggling).

The bad news: The Receipt has finished its run. Sorry for the late review, but Debbie, her parents, and I just saw it last Friday night, to unanimous appreciation. The good news: there are plenty of other things happening at the nicely-designed and comfortable 59E59 (located at, yes, 59 East 59th Street), including more Brits Off-Broadway productions, through July 1.

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Tuesday, May 29

Aurora Soho

Reliably good, reasonably-priced restaurants are a welcome addition to any neighborhood, but when the apparently much-loved Aurora of Williamsburg opened an outpost in western Soho recently, the anticipation machine cranked up a notch or two. Debbie and I went on Saturday night to sample the molto-appealing rustic Italian menu and see what the excitement was about. In the end, we weren't totally convinced, but there were enough truly tasty moments to give the place another shot once the kitchen gets settled in a bit.

As an antipasti Debbie ordered the I Carciofi, a crispy artichoke and white bean salad with fresh mint and shaved pecorino, all of which was too chewy, too dry, mostly flavorless. There are much, much better versions of this dish all over town... at Otto, for instance, and most especially at Col Legno on East 9th Street, which Debbie turned me on to a couple of years ago. Meanwhile my La Quaglia was more successful, a rich and succulent roasted quail stuffed with kale, foie gras (yes, you were right, gorgeous), leeks and apple puree. This had excellent balance, lots of flavor and a fun crunch.

We both opted for le paste as our mains, and, again, I chose the clear winner of the two: Le Pappardelle, for which the wide pasta was infused with black pepper and tossed with tender braised veal cheeks and pieces of crisp asparagus. Although perhaps better suited for winter—it definitely had that comforting "brown" flavor of well-made hearty stews, which also perhaps confused the asparagus a bit—I was hungry, and this totally satisfied. Debbie's Gli Gnocchi was perfectly pillowy, and the tomato sauce fresh and bright, but the crab-meat topping seemed not to really go with anything else, making the whole dish feel a little off.

Then, dessert, which was delicious: a milky, intense fennel pollen Pannacotta with delightfully sour, caramelized rhubarb and sweet chocolate sauce. Not Debbie's thing, true, but it actually may have been my favorite part of the meal.

Aurora Soho is located on Broome Street between West Broadway and Thompson. We made reservations for 7:00, which maybe wasn't necessary, but the place was pretty full the whole time we were there. Also noteworthy: the generous, interesting breadbasket.

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Friday, May 25

Top Five Spring Movies

I saw 24 movies in theaters between the Vernal Equinox and Memorial Day weekend. These were my five favorite:

1. Waitress
2. 28 Weeks Later
3. Once
4. In the Land Of Women
5. Spiderman 3

Close six and seven: Air Guitar Nation and Black Book.

Am I wrong? What did I miss?


Van Gogh and Expressionism at Neue Galerie

Despite my usual resentments toward the Neue Galerie—too expensive for such a small space (an exclusionary tactic?); too uptight, with no one under the age of 12 allowed—I decided to swallow my righteousness and check out the Van Gogh and Expressionism show. And while there certainly were a number of beautiful works on display here, the whole thing had a somewhat stale, been-there-done-that feel to it. In fact, I wish I held on to my indignation a little longer, and skipped the exhibit entirely.

The concept is simple: how Vincent Van Gogh, both in his creative techniques as well as his emotional intensity, posthumously influenced the works and lives of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Vasily Kandinsky, Otto Dix and others of their German/Austrian Expressionistic ilk. Fine. But many, if not most, of these works—there are 60 pieces in all, both drawings and paintings—seem to be from the Neue Galerie's permanent collection, so if you've been here before, you've seen these Klimts. If you came for the Schiele show last year, you've seen these Schieles. If you went to the Van Gogh exhibit at the Met in 2005, you've seen many of these VVGs. Again, there is some magnificent art here—I particularly liked the Kandinskys, and the portraits by Oskar Kokoschka, and perhaps most of all a series of graphic, dynamic Kirchner woodcuts hanging in the upstairs hallway—and I know I wouldn't sound so cranky if I hadn't paid $15 to see these six small rooms. But I did. So I am.

The Neue Galerie is located on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 86th Street. The Van Gogh and Expressionism exhibit runs through July 2. Admission is $15 (as much as $14.99 more than the pay-what-you-wish Metropolitan Museum across the street), and no one under 12 is allowed; under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

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Thursday, May 24


Italian/South American pizzeria Piola has been Scoboco's default casual restaurant in the Union Square area for a couple of years now (copying Debbie and her daughters, of course). The attractions are many: reliably tasty and satisfying food; varied, inexpensive menu; fun, design-y decor; fast and friendly service. With many combinations of people and on various occasions, both lunch and dinner, I've pretty much always enjoyed the foldy, nicely-balanced, thin-crusted pizzas, the generous, dress-your-own salads, and the hearty pastas.

Anyway, someone told me recently that, despite living in the neighborhood, he had never been to Piola, thinking that the place "looked too cool to actually have good food", so I thought maybe a post was in order... and last Saturday's apres-movie meal with Bo and Co provided the perfect opportunity.

As usual, we ordered a few things and shared. The menu lists nearly 50 pizza varieties; right now we're hooked on the Rio de Janiero, topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella along with chunks of grilled chicken, melted catupiry cheese (this stuff is fabulously rich and creamy) and flecks of fresh parsley. Another go-to choice of ours is the D'annunzio salad, a huge bowl of mixed greens, tomatoes, corn, bean sprouts, hearts of palm, mozzarella, avocado and hard-boiled egg.

I have less experience with Piola's pastas, but again, it seems like you can't go too badly wrong here. In fact, on this night, it was Bo's favorite part of the meal, a hefty serving of Penne Cividale, with its tomatoes (which, honestly, were a little on the unripe side), Parmesan, rosemary and chewy strips of Parma ham. All of it was more than enough food for the three of us, and all of it costs under $40... including my only real must-order item on the menu, the refreshing and uniquely uplifting Guaraná soda.

Piola is located on 12th Street, just west of Broadway. It's open from 12 until 12 every day. With its high ceilings and music, it can definitely get pretty loud.

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Spring Movies: Part 5

Last two before Summer '07!

The sweetest movie in theaters right now has to be Once, which was just as affecting, romantic, and filled with great music as I had hoped. (Debbie was less in love, but still liked it quite a bit.) The filmmaking here is simple (mostly handheld camera and straight-ahead lighting), the script honest and cute, the performances winning, the story slight to say the least: "Guy", a heartbroken Dublin street musician played by Frames frontman Glen Hansard, meets "Girl", a charmingly feisty Czech immigrant played by Markéta Irglová, with whom Hansard recorded a CD last year, too. Guy and Girl walk around and talk and flirt and eat in each other's homes. They feel a definite physical and emotional connection, but are unsure what to do with it. They play piano and guitar and sing a lot instantly likeable songs together. They... well I let you found out for yourself. Make no mistake: this is definitely a musical, meaning that we watch as somewhere around ten songs are performed in their entirety by the Guy and/or the Girl. But what lovely songs they are...

Switching gears, Scoboco went to see Shrek the Third last Saturday evening, braving the babies and the texting-parents and the kids kicking the backs of our—ok, of my—seat. Yes, this is a total product, and nothing new (if you weren't fond of Shreks 1 or 2, 3 will not be the charm). But Bo and Co had more than few good laughs, I felt reasonably entertained and smiley almost throughout, the hit-to-miss ratio of jokes was pretty high, and in the end the three of us felt like we had a fun night out at the movies. Just keep those expectations low.


Wednesday, May 23

Tia Pol

Another point in favor of the tapas format, besides the whole "make your own tasting menu" thing? They make for an ideal excuse to hold a table (or a bar stool) for an extra-long dinner. You can order some plates, eat some plates, chat for a bit, order some plates, eat some plates, chat some more, order some more plates...

That's one of the reasons I had such a good time at Tia Pol the other night, dining and talking and dining and talking and reconnecting with my old friend Nanna. The other source of pleasure was Tia Pol's food. Or I should say, two-thirds of Tia Pol's food.

Nanna and I wound up getting eight different items from the menu, including dessert, five of which I enjoyed very much, three of which were essentially ruined by a heavy hand in the kitchen. Take the Huevos Rellenos (please!): three creamy deviled eggs "al pimentón de la vera" (basically chili powder), which would have been more than enough flavor as is, but then someone in the kitchen added so much dijon mustard to the mix that that's all we could taste.

Or the Laminas de Setas special, a potentially delicious oyster-mushroom carpaccio topped with manchego and marconas... and so much raw garlic that we couldn't even finish the plate. Our other special, the Chopitos, or fried baby squid with sea salt, also had potential—and, in fact, several pieces were exceptionally oceanic and tender—but as Nanna pointed out, the dish felt like it had been cooked sometime before, then reheated, which only emphasized the blandness of the batter.

But there were excellent plates to be had here, too. We both found the Garbanzos Fritos totally addictive: salty, warm, spicy and with a surprisingly airy crunch. The best dish of the night might have been the Montadito de Crema, a wonderfully intense fava bean puree sprinkled with buttery beyos cheese on two slices of toast.

Also first-rate was the Pinchos Morunos, two rich and juicy lamb skewers jutting from a hunk of bread. And the tender Txipirones en su Tinta—squid in its ink with a small mound of lemony, parsleyed rice—is definitely worth a try if only for the black, briney sauce, which we greedily sopped up with a requested basket of bread. The dessert, too, I would consider a success: a moist and crunchy almond torte (Torta de Santiago) in a swath of dulce de leche and partnered with a scoop of mystery flavor ice cream which, frankly, contributed not much more than "cold" to the dish.

Tia Pol is a sliver of a place in Chelsea, on Tenth Avenue between 21st and 22nd Streets, and it gets crowded. When I arrived at 6:15 on a Monday evening, two bar stools were the only seats to be had. When we left at 9:00, the wait for a table had to have been 45 minutes.

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Monday, May 21

Roxy Paine in Madison Square Park

The revitalization of Madison Square Park has to be one of the city's great success stories of the aught years, transforming this six-acre plot from a decrepit haven for junkies and thugs to a vibrant, grassy public space that's packed everyday at lunchtime (thanks in part to the ridiculously popular Shake Shack), and that provides a comfortable venue from which to view such landmarks as the beautiful Flatiron building, the slightly silly Eleven Madison Avenue (designed to be 100 stories tall, they stopped construction on floor 29 when the Great Depression hit... so it's all base, no finish), and the Metropolitan Life building (a century ago, the tallest in the world). What we also now have in Madison Square Park is art, usually interesting and fun, currently three new stainless steel sculptures by Roxy Paine.

The clear favorite here (at least, of Debbie and myself) is the show's centerpiece, Conjoined, though I think that's far too inactive a name for such a dynamic piece: two full-size industrial trees, set in the middle of the park's largest lawn, one standing tall, the other lurching in, spindly branches touching in dozens of places. Are they dancing...? Battling...? Embracing..?

Also intriguing is Defunct, which greets you as you enter from the southwest corner. Standing in the park's dustiest patch, this is another bright and shiny tree, 42-feet tall, desiccated, broken, and stumpy from age or disease. It's sad but also strong. Paine's third sculpture is the least engaging, we thought. Erratic is a stainless steel boulder that, despite its scales and irregularities, called to mind nothing more than a baked potato.

Madison Square Park is located between 23rd and 26th Streets, and Fifth and Madison Avenues. All three of Roxy Paine's pieces will be up until December 31. Note to out-of-town visitors: Danny Meyer's Shake Shack, which serves better-than-average burgers, fries and frozen custard, has a fanatical following. If you're planning on eating here—and it's definitely a nice spot to picnic—allow at least 45 minutes to get your order.

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Friday, May 18

Spring Movies: Part 4

Only one more week until Memorial Day weekend, Scoboco's official start to the summer movie season. Until then, some more from spring...

By far the coolest movie I've seen this year is 28 Weeks Later. The art direction, the cinematography, the camera angles, the relentless pacing, the brilliant choreography of the "action" sequences, the effective use of (what I think is) high-definition video... it's all highly stylized, and it all looks fantastic. Plus, the movie is totally tense, totally terrifying... it's an actual physical relief when the end credits roll (and, btw, excellent ending). The problem? The story is unbelievably dumb. Not the premise, which I love: all of England has been emptied (or has it...?) by the "rage virus"—spread by the sharing of body fluids, within seconds it turns regular folk into frenzied zombies who spit blood all over you and beat you and eat you and crush your eyeballs with their thumbs—and the first exiles have returned to repopulate this Sceptered Isle, starting with a cordoned-off London neighborhood, all under the watch of (not-enough) jumpy American marines. Too bad about that inane B-movie script, which sinks this to a B+ at best.

The story behind Waitress is too sad to contemplate for long (writer/director/star Adrienne Shelly was murdered last November), so let's not. This smart, funny, vivacious movie looks great, feels great, is great. The story, about a small-town pie-baking genius stuck with a horrible husband, is filled with excellent performances, especially from Keri Russell as the eponymous server, Cheryl Hines (completely hilarious) and Shelly as her co-workers, Andy Griffith (of all people) as the diner's owner, Nathan Fillion as the new doctor in town who falls for Russell, Jeremy Sisto as the infantile, super-controlling husband... aw, heck, the whole cast is first rate, all deftly directed to deliver their offbeat lines with honesty, energy and terrific timing. And the whole thing will make you want to eat some pie.

Although a little heavy-handed, Jindabyne was off-kilter enough to keep me guessing throughout, a feeling enhanced by the pallor of menace that suffuses the film. Set in a dusty Australian backwater, the narrative (padded out from a Raymond Carver short story, which I realized I had read about a third of the way in), tells of four working-class guys who, on their annual fishing trip to the middle of nowhere, find the body of a murdered young woman floating in the river. Their reaction (or lack thereof) to the discovery changes all of their lives, as first their spouses, then the entire town, take stock of their actions. Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney, as husband and wife, both handle their complex roles exceptionally well, and though the pacing isn't helped by a couple of unnecessary subplots, this is an intelligent, engaging film.

Maybe our expectations were too high, but Debbie and I both walked out of Away From Her disappointed that the movie didn't live up to its considerable potential. The story is moving just in its description: a husband and wife, married 44 years (though not without some problems), she gets Alzheimer's and breaks his heart by forgetting him and falling for another man. Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsett and Olympia Dukakis are all excellent here, but in the end the script doesn't really give them enough to do, and there are too many false notes rung by supporting characters and, I felt, too much ambiguous hedging on some key emotional points.

Another week, another screening: this time Tom and I went to see Killshot, a Weinstein Film release based on an Elmore Leonard novel, starring the always-welcome Diane Lane, Thomas Jane in full rugged-man mode, a scene-stealing Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a manic, dimwitted thief, and Mickey Rourke as a surprisingly credible Native American hit man. But though things started out in fine, rapid-fire fashion, the second act desperately needed a second twist that never came, turning the whole thing into what Roger Ebert called an "idiot plot" (there'd no plot if everyone—or, at least, Mickey Rourke—wasn't an idiot). Tom spied Harvey Weinstein on our way out. He couldn't have been too pleased.

Finally, Hot Fuzz. I don't know why I keep talking myself into seeing these one-joke movies (The Host... Grindhouse... this), but I've got to stop. Sure, the last half-hour or so has some clever, even amusing allusions to every buddy cop movie ever made, but oh my God at 124 minutes I just couldn't wait for this sucker to end.


Thursday, May 17

Heat by Bill Buford

I'm tempted to say that Heat would have made a terrific long magazine article, except that I tend not to read long magazine articles, so I'm glad that it was a book, because I do read books, even if this book seemed a tad padded, like it might have made a better long magazine article.

Be that as it may, the basic premise here is, to me, instantly appealing: Buford, a New Yorker editor and amateur chef, finagles his way into working as a line cook at Mario Batalli's red-hot, three-star Babbo for a year. The subsequent scenes inside the kitchen—the tension, the craziness, the triumphs, the egos, the nastiness, the screw-ups, the camaraderie—are all totally engaging, filled with funny, technically interesting, well-told stories from a world we appreciative diners out front would rather not know too much about (it's not quite like putting the slaughterhouse out of mind when you're cooking a steak at home, but it's similar). This forms the core of the Buford's adventure, and I loved every minute of it.

Unfortunately, Buford also decides to go to Italy, to learn what Battali learned, from the people who taught him. With the exception of the hugely entertaining portrait of Dario Cecchini, the most famous butcher in all of Tuscany who also happens to be completely insane, Buford's quest, occasionally slipping into an almost mythic tone, feels simply self-indulgent. I don't intrinsically care when people—Italians? Spaniards?—first began using eggs to make pasta, and nothing in the 20 or so pages that Buford devotes to the topic changed my mind. At least half of the book takes us away from Battali and Babbo, and my interest never failed to flag when it did.

Even so, Heat is a quick read, with more than enough memorable moments to make it worth your while. Here's an excerpt, from Buford's time at the Babbo pasta station.


This is an emulsion: an agreement between two unlike elements (butter and water), achieved by heat and motion. If you get it slightly wrong—as when the sauce starts to dry out, destroying the balance between the fat and the liquid—the unlike elements pull apart and break up. Sometimes, during slow moments, I deliberately let my sauce get ugly, so I could witness its snapping back into condition with a small flick of water, like an animated chemistry lesson. Once, I was caught in mid-reverie.

I was making a mushroom sauce that illustrated two things that were characteristic of the station: how to use heat and how to stop it. Like most sauces, this one was prepared in two stages and used only a few ingredients: mushrooms (yellowfeet, although any wild mushroom works), some fresh thyme leaves, a finely chopped shallot, a little butter. To begin, you needed lots of heat. You put your pan on the flattop until it got really hot, until it darkened, until it seemed as though it might start melting, and then you splashed it with olive oil—the pan went smoky very quickly—followed by the mushrooms. Then: nothing. You didn't move the pan until you detected the sweet wood smoke smell of the mushrooms caramelizing. The mushrooms now had a crunchy, sugary crust, not burned but on the verge of burning. You sprinkled the pan with the shallots and thyme, held it until they reacted to the high heat, and then shoveled in enough pasta water to stop the cooking: the pan hissed, steamed, and went quiet. That was Stage One: from high heat to no heat. Stage Two was when the order was fired. You retrieved the pan and made an emulsion: the butter, the swirling-swirling routine, until the mushroom water became a sauce sticky enough to adhere to a pasta.

The reverie occurred at the end of Stage One, when I lifted the pan off the flattop and sprinkled it with the thyme. What can I say? I loved this moment. For a few seconds, nothing happened. The leaves were on the hot metal of the pan, taking in the heat. Then, one by one, they swelled, barely perceptibly, and exploded, a string of tiny explosions, like minuscule pieces of herby popcorn. And with each pop there was an aromatic eruption of thyme. I closed me eyes and put my face into the pan, breathing in the exploding herb leaves. I don't know how long I stood there.

"What the fuck are you doing?"

I opened my eyes. It was Frankie.

"What the fuck are you doing?" He was standing inches from my face. The others were staring at me.

"I like the smell of the popping thyme," I said weakly. I was expecting scorn or a string of profanities, mockery at the very least. Instead, Frankie seemed surprised and didn't know quite what to say. He face became soft and puppy-dog-like.

"Oh, well, then," he said, finally. "That's all right." I think he was embarrassed.


Wednesday, May 16

Cocoa Bar on Clinton

With the city suddenly awash in excellent dessert-centric dining establishments—Kyotofu, Room 4 Dessert, P*ong, the relatively venerable Chikalicious, Sam Mason's upcoming Tailor, to name a few—you've got to do more than just open your doors in a happening neighborhood, dim the lights, pour some booze, crank up the generic lounge music, and expect people to go out of their way to join you... you've got to actually produce desserts that are, at least to some degree, extraordinary.

And by that criteria, Cocoa Bar is a bust.

After a movie at the Sunshine last Saturday night, Debbie and I had a hankering for something sweet, and so decided to check out this new Lower East Side branch of the popular Park Slope spot. Well, that's not really true... it was me with the hankering—Debbie's "not a big dessert person," as I've been hearing for exactly 3 years and 13 days now—but she was happy to be my date in the endeavor. Anyway, we got comfy in the dark, very brown, reasonably stylish place, ordered a cappuccino, a pot of black tea, one bonbon, one truffle, two full-fledged desserts, and were impressed by exactly nothing.

The white chocolate wasabi truffle? It was OK—maybe a little heavy on the heat—but Vosges does a much better job with these sorts of combinations. The passion fruit bonbon? Jacques Torres makes a superb version, as does MarieBelle; this Smuckers-y mess wasn't much different than something from a Whitman's Sampler. My "entree" was a totally disappointing chocolate peanut-butter torte, reputedly drizzled with caramel sauce (there was some visual evidence of this, but I couldn't taste anything). Too salty, too cold, too blah; you can get a better treat at any number of coffee shops around town. Debbie's order was the best, but still not really good: a ho-hum chocolate peanut-butter brownie topped with a scoop of banana-walnut "gelato" (it was ice cream) and more of that flavorless caramel sauce. This was like eating a banana. In fact, Debbie's tea tasted more chocolately than either one of our desserts.

Cocoa Bar is on Clinton Street between Houston and Stanton. The staff was cheery but distracted with each other. The atmosphere is very much second- or third-date, hoping to get lucky.

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The Wire: Season 3 on DVD

So sad.

It took me about four months, but now it's over... I've seen all 37 episodes of David Simon's masterpiece of a television series that are currently available on DVD. Is there any point in even being on Netflix anymore?

Anyway, Season 3 of this smart, tightly-written, many-layered HBO drama about cops and criminals in Baltimore... overall I'd have to say this was the relatively weakest arc so far—call it an A-minus to the first two season's A-plus-pluses. Yes, the individual episodes were completely compelling, and it probably had some of the show's funniest moments yet, and I won't forget that preacher's nightime visit to Hamsterdam anytime soon, and it's always a pleasure to spend an evening with Omar and Stringer and Bubbles and Rawls and Kima and Carver and Herc and Lester and McNulty.

But I must say I never really got sucked into the machinations of "The Hall"—the politicians and police administration—the way I did the world of the Polish dockworkers and Greek Mafia in Season 2. And the denouement of one of the primary storylines... well you could see it coming a mile away, although I admit the timing was fiendishly clever. And though I personally, philosophically agree with the Hamsterdam experiment, I thought Simon, Ed Burns and their all-star cast of guest writers (this time including Richard Price and Dennis Lehane) maybe got a little preachy about this obviously good idea.

Really, though, these are minor complaints. The Wire remains a work of entertainment genius. Now can anyone recommend a TV series on DVD that I can get into while I await the release of Season 4? Maybe Lost? Deadwood? Anyone...?