February 22nd, 2005

Chirping Chicken

bedfull_o_books and I had spent the afternoon wandering through Central Park, from Frederick Douglass Circle to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, looking at The Gates. Now, we were hungry and looking for food. We passed Chirping Chicken. The array of chickens broiling in view of the window caught our attention, so we went in.

Chirping Chicken
1260 Lexington Ave. (at 85th St., in Yorkville)
Manhattan, NY 10028-2006
Tel: +1.212.517.9888, 9889
Fax: +1.212.794.1503
Daily 1100-2200
(last visit: February 2005)
Subway: 86th St. (4, 5, 6 lines)
Free Delivery with $5 minimum order (one assumes there's a distance limit)

Chirping Chicken is one of three restaurants of the same name. It includes "The Original" in its name, although this may be one of those "Ray's Pizza" sorts of situations where origin and history are disputed.

Decor is downmarket: white tile walls and cheap tables. Don't go for the ambiance. This is strictly a plastic tray and paper plate kind of place.

The chicken, however...excellent. Broiled just right, with crisp skin and juicy meat, lightly seasoned with rosemary, and served with small plastic tubs of their simple tomato salsa, which lends a clean, fresh accent, complementing the chicken perfectly.

We shared a "Combination 1/2 Ribs 1/2 Chicken", for $11.99, which comes with pita bread and a choice of cole slaw, potato salad, or white rice. We got the potato salad, which was disappointing. The ribs were acceptable, though the barbeque sauce they came with was uninspired. The pita bread was quite nice, having been coated in olive oil and then grilled to a toasty crispness. However, all of this simply brought the quality of the chicken into higher relief. This is great stuff.

And cheap. The combination fed us both. We looked for dessert afterwards, but we were quite satisfied with our meal.

There are other items on the menu--various burgers and a greek salad--but I imagine they only exist in case you bring someone who just doesn't like roast chicken. Don't bother with the other stuff. Order the chicken. A whole chicken only costs $8.99, and it comes with pita bread and the tomato salsa.


After dinner, I took bedfull_o_books downtown for ice cream. There are a couple of options within a short walk of each other: Cones, and Mary's Dairy. (One memorable evening adamhmorse and orichalcum had asked me to decide which to go to and I suggested "both?".) I'd never gotten around to writing either of them up, so this seemed a good opportunity to copy down prices and do the typing.

272 Bleeker St.
New York, NY 10014-4104
tel/fax: +1.212.414.1795
(last visit: February 2005)
Subway: Christopher St./Sheridan Sq. (1, 9) or W. 4th St. (A, C, E, F, V, S: Grand St. Shuttle)

Cones, established in 1998, serves Argentine-style ice creams and sorbets. The ice cream is similar to Italian gelato, and thus lighter than the rich American premium ice cream served nearby at Mary's Dairy. Cones has a great variety of fruit sorbets, and their ice cream selection usually includes some unusual flavors.

This visit, we tried the pear and the ginger, both sorbets. The pear was subtle, and even had a bit of pear stem left in the sorbet, but was unfortunately drowned out by the ginger, which was quite forceful. This was probably more the juxtaposition than a failure of the pear, though bedfull_o_books said it had some of the bad features of real pear, though it tasted fine to me.

Prices are about what you'd expect in this neighborhood: a sugar cone is $3.21. 1, 2, and 3 flavor cups are $3.43, 4.37, and 5.52, respectively. A waffle cone with 2 or 3 flavors is $6.21. All of the preceding prices are before tax, while the prices for a pint ($9.50) and quart ($17) are non-taxable.

Mary's Dairy

It's been a couple of weeks since sarabellum and I went to Mary's Dairy. As I mentioned earlier adamhmorse and orichalcum first brought me to it on an evening where I visited both Mary's Dairy and Cones.

Mary's Dairy
171 West 4th St.
New York, NY 10014-3888
Free delivery with $15 minimum purchase (probably in the local area)
Subway: W. 4th St. (A, C, E, F, V, S: Grand St. Shuttle)

Mary's Dairy is the ice cream place in the neighborhood to go to for full-on American-style ice cream decadence. They have a variety of flavors, all rich, all dense, divided into two groups: Mary's super premium handmade, and Mary's exotic ice creams. The exotics are more expensive ($4.95 for a small vs. $3.25 for the other flavors), but include expensive bits mixed in. For example, the Ying Yang is their milk chocolate ice cream with bits of bittersweet Valrhona chocolate. The Hawaii Five O contains their Killer Chocolate flavor with Callebaut chips and Macadamia nuts. The Sandy is a belgian chocolate ice cream with bits of pistachio halvah. And so forth.

I got one of their combinations: one scoop of their vanilla and one of ying yang. I don't generally like bits in my ice cream, but I had to try the combination of bittersweet chocolate and milk chocolate ice cream. Wow. It was a variation on the classic combination of vanilla and chocolate, but richer and creamier than ever. (I feel my waistline expanding even as I recount this.)

Waffle cones are an extra dollar. Other prices are (exotic/super premium): 5.95/4.25 for a regular; 7.95/5.25 for a large; 8.95/6.50 pint; 14.95/9.95 quart. Dry toppings are 50 cents, whipped cream is another buck, various sauces and syrups are $1.25, while fresh strawberries are 1.75. They also do sundaes (5.95), banana splits (6.95), double creams (a Krispy Kreme donut with a scoop of ice cream on top for 4.25), and so forth. Hot and cold drinks are available.

They also have sorbets, which are fat and dairy free; and lite soft serve. But if you're here, get the real thing. You want something light, go to Cones instead.

Taste of China (actual Chinese name: Chuan Yuan, or Sichuan Garden)

Mom and Dad took bedfull_o_books and I to a Szechuan place their friends had taken them to recently. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Taste of China
233 East Main St.
Clinton, CT 06413
tel: +1.860.664.4454
lunch specials available M-F until 1500

There could be a set of restaurant listings composed entirely of places my parents recommended. Most of them would be Chinese, but all of them would be excellent. This would be one of them.

Taste of China's Chinese name is a much more accurate description of the place. The head chef specializes in the famous fiery cuisine of the inland Chinese province of Sichuan (or Szechuan). And he does an excellent job.

The four of us shared six dishes. Dan Dan Noodles ($3.95) weren't as hot as some, but nonetheless quite flavorful, if a bit small. It went up from there, though: the beef noodle bowl (4.95) was large and spicy. The chunks of beef had clearly been marinated, because they carried the flavor of the sauce. Dry sauteed string beans (7.95) were tossed with garlic and scallions. Ma po tofu (7.95) was peppery, and deep in spicy sesame oil. Best were: the Chengdu dumplings (4.95), again covered in the hot sesame oil but also sprinkled with sugar, a Sichuan specialty; and the tea smoked duck (11.95), which was juicy, with its skin still crisp. (I'd tried the tea smoked duck as a leftover from one of my parents' previous visits and had not been impressed, but it was obvious now that it had simply not travelled well. You should obviously eat this dish fresh.)

We had plenty to take home.

Service was excellent, possibly because the waiter doesn't get that many Mandarin-speaking parties in Clinton, CT. My parents chatted with him while I translated for bedfull_o_books.

How to destroy the Earth. (silly, but amusing in a geeky sort of way)

From http://ned.ucam.org/~sdh31/misc/destroy.html (similar writeup at http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1449507):


"Destroying the Earth is harder than you may have been led to believe.

"You've seen the action movies where the bad guy threatens to destroy the Earth. You've heard people on the news claiming that the next nuclear war or cutting down rainforests or persisting in releasing hideous quantities of pollution into the atmosphere threatens to end the world.


"The Earth was built to last. It is a 4,550,000,000-year-old, 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000-tonne ball of iron. It has taken more devastating asteroid hits in its lifetime than you've had hot dinners, and lo, it still orbits merrily. So my first piece of advice to you, dear would-be Earth-destroyer, is: do NOT think this will be easy."

"Mission statement

"For the purposes of what I hope to be a technically and scientifically accurate document, I will define our goal thus: by any means necessary, to render the Earth into a form in which it may no longer be considered a planet. Such forms include, but are most definitely not limited to: two or more planets; any number of smaller asteroids; a quantum singularity; a dust cloud."

(forwarded by st_rev)
  • Current Mood
    amused amused

(no subject)

Me: "Why is it that there are all these guy songs saying 'I'm sorry I'm such a jerk' and all these girl songs saying 'My boyfriend's a jerk, and I'm leaving" or "...but I still love him" or both?

bedfull_o_books: "That's just the way life is, man."

The Friendly Toast

The Friendly Toast is one of bedfull_o_books's favorite places. On our last visit, unbeknownst to us, another party of friends had planned to go on the same day. They surprised us with their arrival as we were waiting for food.

The Friendly Toast
121 Congress St.
Portsmouth, NH 03801-4005
tel +1.603.430.2154
(last visited January 2005)
M-Th 0700-2400
F-Sa 24 hours
Su 0700-2100

The Friendly Toast proclaims "big food, day and night" on its colorful business card. Truth in advertising, indeed. Though it's only open continuously from Thursday at 7AM to Sunday at 9PM, that's still a lot better than most places in the area. And it's definitely big food; the portions are generous and will normally provide leftovers.

The decor is retro-kitsch: lots of vintage formica--50s and 60s furniture in general--lots of tacky paintings on the walls. Great fun, and reminiscent of the Paper Moon Diner in Baltimore. Service tends to be young and energetic, if sometimes overworked.

Food tends towards breakfast and lunch. There's a wide selection of egg dishes, including omelettes and sandwiches, and you can construct your own if you like. This is a place where you can definitely get your "breakfast for dinner" fix. Lunches are mostly sandwiches, and again you can construct your own if you like.

On our last visit, I simply had a Bleu Burger ($8) 9 ounces of beef with red onions and bleu cheese, lettuce and tomato on a kaiser roll. bedfull_o_books ordered one of her usuals, the Orleans fries ($6) sweet-potato fries topped with brown sugar, tabasco, and sour cream. (I've forgotten what else she got, or for that matter, what anyone else got; if they tell me, I'll edit.)

Rounding out the menu are a couple of miscellaneous options: a vegetarian stir-fry (broccoli, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, onions, carrots, green peppers, and spinach, sauteed with garlic, ginger, and soy sauce, served over a bed of rice: $8, $8.75 with tofu) and beans and rice (dirty rice, made with brown rice and seasoning, topped with cuban kidney beans and sour cream, served with homemade toast).

Speaking of which, the "toast" are all made from homemade breads, and include whole wheat, cinnamon-raisin, oatmeal (which stands in for white bread), cayenne-cheddar, anadama (made with molasses and cornmeal), and a rotating special.

The Toast is a great stopover when driving through that little sliver of New Hampshire that actually touches the ocean. Because of its late weekend hours, you can easily drive up when the food options in Boston are closed or unappealing.

Palazzo del Freddo Giovanni Fassi

I had somehow acquired the addresses of a couple of gelaterias in Rome. We were near Termini, so going to the nearest one seemed like the right thing to do.

Palazzo del Freddo Giovanni Fassi
Via Principe Eugenio, 65/67/A (near Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II)
00185 Rome, Italy
tel: +39.06.446.4740
fax: +39.06.446.4777
Tu-F 1200-2430
Sa 1200-0130
Su 1000-1230
(last visit November 2003)
Metro: Vittorio Emanuele (Line A)

another location at
Via Vespasiano, 56 a/b/c (near the Vatican)
00192 Rome, Italy

Since 1880, this factory has been churning out great gelato in a host of flavors. It's a big place, by Italian standards, and as it's in an iffy neighborhood (though near Rome's Chinatown, apparently), you won't find the huge lines of tourists gelaterias in more popular areas tend to attract. The gelato, as I said, is excellent. Cones and cups come in a variety of sizes from € 1.30 to 2.60. I can't remember which flavors we had when we were last there, but at these prices, you can afford try a lot of them.


I forget where I read about Jómfrúin. Maybe it was the Lonely Planet Iceland guide. I had a couple of days on a stopover in Iceland during a trip from New York to Thessaloniki, though, and I'm always fond of smørrebrød, so really, it was a no-brainer to stop in at Jómfrúin.

Lækjargata 4
101 Reykjavik, Iceland
tel: +354.55.10.100
fax: +354.55.10.035
email: jomfruin@mmedia.is
(last visit November 2001)
daily: 1100-1800

Jómfrúin is a Danish-style smørrebrød restaurant in the heart of Reykjavik, with a Danish-trained chef. The open-faced sandwiches are as good as they are in Copenhagen, which is not a huge surprise, but gratifying. Decor is clean Scandinavian bar/pub style: wood panelling and mirrors, but with big windows that let in the sun. Service is friendly and efficient. (One website I used for research tells me it's gay-owned and operated. This was not obvious in any particular way to me but I may have overlooked something subtle.)

There are a large variety of sandwiches, some with fanciful names, like "the veterinarian's supper" (rye bread with butter, liver pate, port aspic, salt beef, onion, and dill). Prices are as high as you'd expect in Iceland, but as I said, they're definitely tasty. And for Reykjavik, these prices are quite reasonable. I had a buff tartar (rye bread with butter, hand-ground beef tartar, horseradish, onion, capers, and raw egg yolk, kr. 990, US$9.35) and a silungahrogn (toast with leaf lettuce, trout roe, creme fraiche, chopped raw onions, black pepper, and a raw egg yolk, served with a dram of Icelandic brennivin, kr. 720, $6.80). Brennivin, the local schnapps, is strong stuff, but it somehow went well with the food, though I probably wouldn't choose to drink it on its own.

There are of course other, less adventurous choices, like the lambasteik (roast lamb on rye, with sauteed mushrooms, mountain cranberry jam, deep-fried parsley, and hot sauce), or the reyktur lax (smoked salmon on buttered french bread, with scrambled egg, dill, and lemon). But I picked sandwiches that looked interesting. All of them are beautiful little pieces of edible art.

A Danish-style pork rib roast with all the trimmings is available at lunch every day. Other hot dishes are also available on special if none of the sandwiches appeal.

On warm sunny days the back terrace is opened for seating. (When I visited, it was November, and thus not at all open, as it was covered with snow.)

El Tepeyac

Long ago, I got a pointer to El Tepeyac. Then girlfriend H, her best friend K, and I went, and were overwhelmed by the enormous portions. At one point much later on, bedfull_o_books and I were visiting antoniusrex. We were trying to think of a place to have dinner, and I mentioned El Tepeyac. So we went.

El Tepeyac Café
812 N. Evergreen Ave. (in Boyle Heights)
Los Angeles, CA 90033-2620
tel: +1.323.267.8668
(last visit August 2001)
Su-Th 0600-2145
Fr, Sa 0600-2300

Someone on Chowhound.com once described the burritos here as "weighing as much as a small child". Be warned, the portions here are gigantic. And the food is nonetheless tasty, and pretty cheap. Most entrees will be in the $9-$14 range, and they will feed you for at least two meals.

There are a number of signature burritos, like the Hollenbeck (pork, guacamole, rice, beans: big) and the Manuel Special (chili, pork, cheese, guacamole, rice, beans: even bigger), as well as all the old Mexican standbys. Machaca is available, and they have menudo on the weekends. There are even burgers and a T-bone steak; but if you're here you should probably order Mexican food. (I haven't been here at breakfast time yet so I can't say anything about that menu.)

It isn't the most authentic Mexican cuisine around, but as my friend M once said, "Cuisine evolves!" The food tastes great, which is what matters.

Once, the neighborhood had a bad reputation. I understand it's improving. We certainly didn't have any trouble on any of our visits, though having said that we've only been there in daylight. Still, the Hollenbeck is named after a local police station, and there are cops around; they love the food here, too. I certainly wouldn't let the neighborhood stop you from coming.

The ambiance is family diner, i.e., casual. There's often a line, but it's worth it.

El Tepeyac has been here since 1955. They must be doing something right.

Restaurant and Shishah Naser al-Masri

Nasir al-Masri is tucked away on a sidestreet full of other, similar Middle Eastern restaurants. This would be no particular surprise if the sidestreet were in Cairo, but instead it's a soi off Sukhumvit Road, in Bangkok's Nana district.

Restaurant and Shishah Naser al-Masri
4/6 North Nana
Bangkok 3/1
tel +66.2.2535582/2547730
fax +66.2.6555299
(neither URL worked at last attempt)
open 22 hours a day
(last visit February 2004)
BTS Skytrain: Nana

As the name suggests, this Egyptian restaurant offers shishah, the customary post-prandial tobacco pipe. I believe it was in the B. 150 (US$ 3.84) range for a pipe, filled with your choice of flavored tobacco, but I won't swear to it because I was alone and had never smoked shishah before, so I didn't try it. (In fact, I had to wait until I got back to Connecticut, where B and T were kind enough to initiate me into the mysteries of the shishah.) There's both a streetside terrace and an upstairs "traditional arabian seating area" for your smoking pleasure. Having now tried shishah, I can say that it is the most pleasant tobacco experience I've ever had.

But on to the food, which seems authentic although possibly slightly overpriced, given the small portions. I had the lamb bbq (B. 140, $3.58) and the lamb's liver bbq (B. 120, $3.07), each of which were a single large skewer of meat and vegetables, done fairly well, but not tough. Rice was B. 50 ($1.28) and flatbread was B. 20 ($0.51). Finally, I also ordered a plate of fuul (fava bean paste, B. 30, $0.77). Put together it was a whole lot of food for around $12.

Ouzou Melathron

Ouzou Melathron is the kind of place which everyone in town who you ask for a recommendation tells you to go to. Sometimes, this isn't necessarily a good thing. In this particular case, however, it's great. So I'm joining the crowd. Go eat there.

Ouzou Melathron
Karypi 21, 27, 29 (in the Ermion Arcade, enter from Ionos Dragoumi)
546 24 Thessaloniki, Greece
tel: +30.2310.275.016/220.043
(last visit November 2001)
http://www.ouzoumleathron.gr (flash animation)

Ouzou Melathron has been so successful since its launch in 1993 that the three mathematicians who own it are turning the tavern into a franchise, with branches in Lamia and Larissa. Perhaps it's gotten a little too successful, because lines can be long at peak hours.

It's a casual, almost raucous place. The decor is old-fashioned Greek, and the wooden tables and chairs spill out into the street. There's a large wooden sign hanging outside which says "Ouzou Melathron" (in Greek) and 1993, but quite frankly once you get to the arcade you won't have trouble finding it; the place has expanded to take up most of the available storefront.

I don't remember what I ate there except for one quite exceptional shrimp dish: a baked shrimp plate topped with bread crumbs, in butter and lots of garlic. Excellent. The rest of the food was really quite good, and I wish I could remember, but it was over three years ago and memory blurs. Some dishes have quite amusing names, like "The Prince’s Saganaki" (which ketzl has called "exploding cheese"), and "Miaouli’s Bombs". Most are explained on the English menu, but if you can't figure out what something is, feel free to ask your waiter. The service was very friendly, and reasonably efficient given the crowds. My waiter chatted with me in quite good English about where I was from, and proffered the expected comment about having relatives in the States.

You should be able to have dinner for € 15 to 20, not including wine.

They have plans to open franchises in Athens and New York. I worry about standards slipping, but I suppose all you can really do is wait and hope.

Hostel Ruthensteiner

Hostel Ruthensteiner
Robert Hamerlinggasse 24,
1150 Vienna Austria
Tel: +43-1-8934202 or 8932796
e-mail: info@hostelruthensteiner.com
(last visit fall 2001)
U-bahn: Westbahnhof

the entrance, and the hosts

The hostel Ruthensteiner is very conveniently located a short walk from Vienna's Westbahnhof. If you've got a train to catch, or if you're exhausted from a long train ride in, this is the place for you. (The airport bus also goes to Westbahnhof.) It's inexpensive, particularly in the dorms. During the winter season (1 Nov to 16 Dec, and 9 Jan to 2 Mar) you can get a bed in a dormitory for as little as € 11.50. When I was there it was neither very social nor very noisy. They let me stay in one of the private rooms as a single person, and I was quite pleased. There's a four night maximum, which is flexible, particularly during the winter.

Collapse ) My room faced onto it.

Staff are reasonably friendly and efficient, and there's plenty of information available about Vienna and the surrounding area. Lockers are available.

It's a pleasant neighborhood, too. Mariahilferstr. (the main street a block away) has a tram line if you're really running late for a train. This came in handy one morning. Mariahilferstr. also becomes the local red-light street, but that's not a problem; the cops patrol regularly to make sure the sex workers can solicit safely.

And their internet kiosk runs Linux. :)

(That latter was a problem because their ssh client was configured to log in the userid that the kiosk ran; I wrote a short note about this to the maintainer but I don't know that they fixed it.)

Funky Monkeys Backpackers

Funky Monkeys Backpackers
102 Van Wijk Street
Nelspruit, Mpumalanga
South Africa
tel: +27.13.744.1310
mobile: +27.83.310.4755
email: funkymonkeys@yebo.co.za
(last visit August 2003)

Funky Monkeys

I ended up having to stay in Nelspruit because Mozambique has a consulate there. Funky Monkeys is in a quiet residential neighborhood, so it's a few kilometers into town. During the day it's a pleasant walk through leafy suburbs to the city center. At night you should probably call a cab.

Funky Monkeys has dorm space and private rooms. Dorms are R. 60 (US$8) and singles are R. 120 ($16) Some of the double rooms are in cabins next to the main house.

On a nice night they'll fire up the braai (grill) and you can bring your own food to cook on it. There's a supermarket within a couple of kilometers. I walked over and bought some lamb and sausages to grill.

Collapse )

One of the staff thought I was odd because I kept walking to and from town instead of taking a cab, but I needed the exercise and as I said it was a pleasant, if hilly, walk.

Lorna, the owner of Funky Monkeys, is an artist, and a warm and friendly hostess. Her art decorates the house. She was very friendly and helpful, and everybody who got a chance to talk to her liked her.

Funky Monkeys provides safe storage; I left most of my belongings here and carried a small shoulder bag for my entire trip to Mozambique.