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

Tuesday, July 31

L'Arte Del Gelato

Watch your back, Grom.

Although L'Arte Del Gelato isn't new—they've been dispensing delicious desserts near the back of Chelsea Market for three years now—a few weeks ago they opened a more readily accessible place in the heart of the West Village. It's a small, efficiently-run parlor which, given the general amazingness of this stuff, should instantly become the go-to spot for downtown sweet-treat seekers.

I've already been a couple of times, and, with the help of Bo and Co, have tried at least a dozen different varieties, including Chocolate and Pear, Dulce de Leche, Raspberry, Mint Chocolate, Lemon, Dark Chocolate, Coconut, Tiramisu (which tasted unbelievably like egg nog, which I love), Strachiatelli, Panna Cotta, Cappuccino... and each one was a total winner. The texture is rich and creamy, without a hint of greasiness. The flavors are deep and fresh and explosive and complex. This is, without question, a destination ice cream parlor.

L'Arte Del Gelato is located on the corner of Seventh Avenue South and Bleecker Street. A two-flavor small cup (which, as you can see from above, is not small at all) costs about $4.

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Sunday, July 29

The Cyclone / Astroland at Coney Island

Scoboco finally made it out to Coney Island this weekend—we've gone at least once a season for a good number of years now—prodded into taking that long subway ride by the promise of a sand sculpture competition. And while the artistry on the beach was a good deal less than inspiring (see below), it was definitely an excellent excuse to say goodbye to Astroland (soon to fall before the developer's dozers), and, most exciting, for Bo's maiden voyage on the legendary Cyclone.

Now, I'm no real Cyclone veteran either, having ridden the great clackety beast only once before. But what a joy to share the experience with my beautiful daughter, screaming and laughing and holding on for dear life (none of that insane "hands in the air" stuff in our car!) as we hurtled 60 mph up and down the old (circa 1927) wooden tracks. Unbelievably loud, unbelievably adrenalizing, unbelievably fun. Co, by the way, would have none of it, and happily watched us from across the street.

We also walked through Astroland proper, and laughed at the kiddie rides that once seemed so daring, at the goofy haunted house which we had giggled our way through a couple of years ago, at management's hilarious attempts to class the joint up a little...

And, of course, Bo and Co had to take their traditional Water Flume plunge which, they admitted, gets a little less thrilling every summer.

As for the sand castle/sculpture competition, an annual affair, and sponsored this year by the very developers who are soon going to rip it all down,* well... lets just say that it all kind of seemed as tired and forlorn as its environs. Here's a few pictures:

Apparently this guy wins every year...

...and this guy always comes in second.

This was my favorite, created by two teenagers who stumbled upon the contest that morning. I especially appreciated the caption. (Just outside of the image: the turtle is about to eat a fish.)

The development's construction union sent a representative, who went to town with dry ice and working train tracks, all seemingly set in some sort of mad prehistoric landscape.

The Cyclone and Astroland are located at the end of the D, F, N and Q lines. The D train takes about 45 minutes from 59th Street in Manhattan. Cyclone rides are $6, and you can immediately re-ride for only $4 more. There was no line to get on when we went, at around 4:30 in the afternoon.

* For better or worse, who's to say? New York City has always been about commerce and change, and a lot of the things we love today had to have replaced something else. If it's done well, it'll be great; if it's lame, it'll be lame.

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Saturday, July 28

Paris Sandwich

How many Banh Mi places are there in Chinatown? Yeah, I have no clue either. But what I do now know is this: Paris Sandwich offers a thoroughly satisfying version of that vinegary Vietnamese delight, making it an excellent quick-bite option if you find yourself hungry in that part of town.

Only about six months old, clean, cheesily-decorated and super casual, Paris is the sort of friendly, family-run place at which you may find the counter worker's children reading and coloring at one of the tables, waiting for mom to get off work (and they'll happily share their table with you until another one opens up). More important, as Co and I discovered on our way to the HP7 party last week, the food is first rate, especially at these prices.

We started with a trio of Shrimp Summer Rolls, which were appropriately light and nicely flavored. Nothing revelatory, but definitely well handled. I also ordered a Green Tea Waffle as a starter, which was freshly baked, sweet and delicious, and had no business being listed under "appetizers", but did turn out to be a perfect dessert.

While we were wolfing our rolls, they were making the Bahn Mi, which you're then called to come pick up at the back counter. Co had the Shredded Chicken, marinated and moist, with the requisite pickled carrots and radish, a few sprigs of cilantro topping things off. I went for the classic Pork Roll and Pate, done up "spicy", and I loved every bite. I think what really elevates Paris's Banh Mi are their baguettes, which are baked on premises, and arrive warm and soft and crusty.

Paris Sandwich is located on Mott Street, about half a block up from Canal. Our dinner for two ran us about $12.

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Friday, July 27

Summer Movies: Part 5

A quick look at what I've seen of late...

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix could be my favorite of the series so far: it's funny and tense, tender and thrilling, the cast just seems to get better and better, and the last 15 minutes or so had me totally in tears (yes, I'm a sucker for all that "love will win out" stuff). All the regulars are back, obviously, and in fine form, but it's the newcomers that contribute some of the movie's best moments, especially amateur Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood (her scenes with Harry are among the most satisfyingly romantic of the year... especially when she holds his hand at the end), and Imelda Staunton as the maddeningly unfair new Hogwarts headmistress, Dolores Umbridge. Note: Bo and Co saw this with their mom and liked it less than I did (I think they miss the wonder/innocence of the earlier films), but what do they know?

I figured Bo and Co would love Hairspray, and I was right. But I was frankly a little surprised by just how much I enjoyed this movie-based-on-a-musical-based-on-a-movie (I found the Broadway show pretty mediocre)... and I was shocked at how much my dad liked it! Clearly: fun for the whole family. Why? In addition to the infectious energy, enthusiasm, and attractiveness of the entire cast, the non-stop showstoppers, the excellent clothes, and the terrific dancing, what really made this work for me was Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnball, the overweight teenager who not only lands a coveted spot on the local TV dance show, hooks up with the hottest boy in town, and solves the problem of race relations in the city of Baltimore, but she also manages to be ridiculously excited and optimistic all the time without ever being annoying. No mean feat, that.

There is nothing surprising about Talk to Me, the biopic of Petey Greene, con-turned-media star (radio DJ/comedian/Emmy Award-winning TV talk-show host) who took Washington DC by storm in the late 1960s through the 1970s: not the way Greene wins over wary white people with his charisma and charm; not the ups and downs of his relationship with his ambitious employer/manager/best friend Dewey Hughes; not the way fame (and alcohol) eventually burn him out. But though the movie follows an entirely predictable trajectory, it definitely made me laugh, it moved me when it was supposed to (most notably on the night of Dr. King's assassination), and Don Cheadle, here as Greene, certainly makes for a fine companion for a couple of hours.

Everyone's talking about Sienna Miller's performance in Steve Buscemi's Interview, and they should: Miller nails the part of no-last-name-necessary Katya, the vapid, spoiled, yet wily celebrity who's famous more for whom she's sleeping with than for any cultural contribution. Steve Buscemi is also good (albeit in a typical Steve Buscemi role) as the smart, world-weary, boozy journalist who's been assigned to interview the megastar, and is horrified that he has to write a piece of such a fluffy proportions. But the movie as a whole was too mean-spirited for my tastes, the verbal sparring tiresome and repetitive, and the characters eventually so dislikable that I found myself just wanting them out of my life.


Wednesday, July 25

MyMix 7.25

I make a new On-The-Go mix just about every morning. Here's some of what I'll be listening to, shuffled—in fact, on my Shuffle, which is a great summertime supplement for the regular iPod—today.

Land of Talk: Magnetic Hill
Spoon: You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb*
Battles: Atlas
Nouvelle Vague: In a Manner of Speaking**
White Rabbits: Kid on my Shoulders
Bishop Allen: Bishop Allen Drive
Menomena: Rotten Hell
The Frames: Underglass
Fleetwood Mac: Landslide
Interpol: No I in Threesome
The Chemical Brothers: The Pills Won't Help You Now
Voxtrot: The Start of Something
Rihanna: Umbrella
The Decemberists: The Crane Wife 1 & 2
Straylight Run: How Do I Fix My Head
Project Jenny, Project Jan: Negative
Brandi Carlile: The Story***
Elliot Smith: Bottle Up and Explode!
Beirut: Mount Wroclai
Jem: Just a Ride
Joseph Arthur: Diamond Ring
Radical Face: Welcome Home****
The Sunshine Underground: I Ain't Losing Any Sleep

* I've never been a serious Spoon fanatic—sure, tunes like Jonathan Fisk and My Mathematical Mind rock, but I've always felt the band's albums lacked depth. However, I must say that their new disc, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, is one of my favorite CDs of the year. The Ghost of You Lingers, Underdog, Rhthm & Soul, Black Like Me... I can't seem to get enough. Oh and if you haven't seen the Underdog video, please do so now.

** Thank you, A Might Heart, for introducing me to this song over your end credits. I'm not as convinced by other Nouvelle Vague covers—they do bossa nova versions of 80s new wave and punk—but this take on the Tuxedomoon classic is so sultry and sad.

*** Totally corny, totally poppy, totally great for summer.

**** Thanks to Out the Other for this discovery. She did a great mid-year best-of, complete with mp3s, a few weeks back. Definitely worth a look. And listen.


Tuesday, July 24

Men Kui Tei

When I realized the other morning that Bo, Co, and I were going to be smack in the mid 50's around dinnertime that night, I turned to the great—though, for me, usually irrelevant—Midtown Lunch for suggestions.

The man did not let us down.

I mean, I can't say our meal at the ramen restaurant Men Kui Tei will have us hurrying back to the neighborhood anytime soon, but it definitely was rich and satisfying, inexpensive, and almost certainly better than some randomly chosen spot in this usually grim (touristy, tattered, tawdry) culinary stretch of Manhattan.

We started with some serviceable Gyoza—fat and fried with a nice crispy exterior, but too reliant upon scallions for my taste—and a quartet of sad, mushy Shu Mai, saved from complete blandness by the dipping sauce and mound of wasabi-like mustard.

But we were really here for the noodles, and, overall, they didn't disappoint. Bo and Co split a bowl of Miso Ramen and enjoyed it very much: the broth was heady, the noodles firm and flavorful, the two pieces of roast pork sufficiently tender. Just for variety I tried the Hiyashi Ramen, served cold, the nicely chewy noodles mingling with shredded pork, fried egg, pickled ginger, cucumber, and fake crab, all in about an inch of lively sesame sauce. This was perfect for what it was—the genre was not transcended, but neither was it defiled—and we all three walked out of there full and happy.

Men Kui Tei is located on 56th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. The room is unattractive, the service fast and friendly. Apparently there's a second Men Kui Tei in the East Village, but for God's sakes if you want ramen in that neighborhood please go to Momofuku, Setagaya or Rai Rai Ken instead.

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Monday, July 23

SATees back-to-school preview: Now for bigger kids, too! Plus: Save $10!

Double Breaking back-to-school news about SATees!

OK, it's a little early to be thinking about school, but ever since Debbie and I launched SATees: Big Words for Little Kids a few months ago, we've received lots of requests to offer them in larger sizes.

So here they are!

Now, in addition to the ever-popular onesies and infant/toddler tees, you can put one of these ridiculously sophisticated—but oh-so-appropriate—words on bigger kids, too, from sizes 6 - 14.

BONUS: Get yours today and SAVE $10 off of any purchase of $50 or more.
Just enter this coupon code at checkout: CouponTee.
Offer good through August 31.

Here's a small sampling of some our SATee words:

blithesomeWord blithesomeWord

For definitions and many more options, visit our SATees boutique today.

Thanks to everyone for your enthusiasm and support.


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Sunday, July 22

Jim Isermann at Deitch Projects

A few years back I asked a friend of mine if she could please recommend a few things to do in Soho to entertain some out-of-town visitors. Her thorough and thoughtful list included this bit of advice: "Deitch usually has cool shows..." Simple enough, but I'm always reminded of (and usually take action on) her almost-throwaway line when I'm wandering Southern Soho—mostly because she was, as usual, totally right.

Even when the art itself doesn't completely engage me, the generally playful Deitch sensibility, the large open space, and, in the summer, the blast of air conditioning, all always make it worth a look. Like last week, for instance, when I stopped in to see Jim Isermann's Vinyl Smash-Up, 1999 - 2007, for which the artist had covered the huge gallery walls floor-to-ceiling with six different decal pieces, all running into one another.

Now, I was less than blown away by these designs, perhaps especially now, in the age of bliks. Isermann's primary palette isn't exactly my favorite, either. But still, there is something powerful about the overall effect of such a big room, vinyled up so bright. For scale, that's my messenger bag on the floor in the picture below.

And if there's not something cool going on inside Deitch Projects, there usually is across the street. On this day, for example, these two papered-on crushed cones...

And this three-dimensional Stickman piece...

Jim Isermann: Vinyl Smash-Up, 1999-2007, will be on exhibit through August 4. Deitch Projects is located on Wooster Street, just south of Grand. There is also a Deitch gallery around the corner, on Grand Street, just east of Wooster.

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Saturday, July 21

Harry Potter Place on Mercer Street

Obviously there were launch parties for The Deathly Hallows all over Manhattan (and the country... and the world...), but Co and I decided to hit Harry Potter ground zero: Scholastic headquarters in Soho, at which J.K. Rowling's U.S. publisher shut down Mercer Street and fans by the thousands flocked to be a part of what most were calling, in all sincerity, an historic event. Including us.

Co and I arrived at Harry Potter Place at 7:30, and inadvertantly snuck in through the back way on Spring Street, thereby avoiding a block-long line just to get in to the festivities. After goofing around for a bit with the Whomping Willow and the Muggle Board and such, we were still plenty early enough to got a beautiful spot on the actual book-buying line, just around the corner of Spring on Broadway, right in front of Lucky Jeans and its wide windowsill/bench (see below). This was around 8:30, three-and-a-half hours to go. Thank god for that bench.

Honestly, though, time flew by, with gelato breaks and Boggle competitions and happy chit chat with my line mates and Co and her friends being interviewed by the Times. At 11:30 I did a line check: all the way up Broadway to Houston, around the corner and over again to Mercer. Two short blocks-, two long blocks-long. And then it happened. The final chapter of the ten-year Harry Potter story became a 759-page reality, and the explosive giddiness, the shrieks of joy, the huge smiles (much of all this from adults, mind you) made for a truly memorable moment. Here are some more pictures of our night...

The Whomping Willow really whomped!

Dobby was on line!

The Pensieve: signed first editions of all seven volumes.

The face painting—"Aparecium!"—was ridiculously popular, with six artists working eight hours covering a new face every three minutes or so. And, really, they did an amazing job: there were some freaky-looking folks walking around.

Co putting her message up on the Muggle Board...

...and what it looked like in the end. No one, it seemed, could pass up the chance to say "I [heart] Harry!" or somesuch.

The Knight Bus, used as a video studio for fan messages earlier in the day, returned to the party after dark.

The final countdown...

...to total bedlam!

Savoring the sweet reward. Maybe the cutest part of the night was the subway ride home, because at every stop people got on clutching their prize, looked around the car, smiled to see so many other Potter-ites, and then began reading.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows will be available everywhere forever.

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