Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Odds & ends – in and out of the east village

This past Saturday night we (a group of four, that is) decided to make a pilgrimage of sorts back to the East Village, ending up at La Mama, at 74 East 4th St., which is currently celebrating a 50-year anniversary. 

We began the evening at Pangea, a restaurant at 178 2nd Avenue, between 11th and 12th, noted for “featuring a menu of American, Mediterranean, and Asian cuisine(s).” And, while the resto is not all that sophisticated, we had a very positive experience (a friendly and responsive wait staff, very reasonable prices, as much time as we needed & wanted at the table).  We dined on a few items that proved quite tasty – including an avocado-based salad with arugula (@ $8.); a generous portion of fried calamari with a chipotle pepper dipping sauce ($9.); a seared salmon filet in a sweet soy lemongrass vinaigrette, accompanied by organic red quinoa pilaf w/carrot, fennel, red pepper, and ginger (@ $19.); a sumptuous order of moules frite (PEI) sautéed w/wine, garlic, tomato & fresh basil, accompanied by perfectly done string fries ($17.); and a Moroccan “chermoula” chicken breast w/cilantro, lemon & ginger, served over a tabouleh salad of bulgur, tomato, and parsley mint ($16.). They list a few wines by the glass we deemed would pair well with dinner, including a fruity, medium-bodied Alsace Riesling, medium-dry & fruity Italian rose, and a Simonassi Malbec (each $8-9.) all of which we consumed at intervals throughout our meal.  You should note, too, that they also run a fairly diverse prix fixe dinner (2 items, including appetizer and main course) for $16.95, from 4:00 to 7:00 pm, daily.

For dessert, and to bring closure to the first part of the evening, we decided to walk down Second Ave. just one block to the Black Hound – an exquisite little shop filled with all sorts of baked goodies, most on view:  individual pastries of all varieties (chocolate-chocolate, coconut, hazelnut, almond apricot, pear almond, chocolate marzipan, chocolate Gianduja, “ebony & ivory,” raspberry-chocolate); cookies (perhaps 30 different items, from apricot sandwich hearts to raspberry spirals, chocolate hearts & chocolate almond meringue); and pies (how ‘bout honey peach?), tarts (chocolate or pumpkin pecan, apple ginger?), cakes (hazelnut espresso mousse?), chocolate truffles, candies, confections, and savory items (such as Chile cheese sticks).  Overwhelming to the eyes … and triggering off all sorts of sweet signals to the taste buds. We opted for two individual pastries (@ $7.50/pastry) – a chocolate, jelly, ground marzipan pastry with white chocolate crust (very rich, indeed!) and a chocolate-chocolate mousse cake (smooth and luscious).

We next drifted another block (or so) down on 2nd Ave. and shared these two good-sized chocolate “gems” between and among the four of us, along with three robust coffees and a chai (tea), while sitting at Starbucks.  We were then sufficiently fortified for the brief hike down to our 10 pm show at La Mama – Poor Baby Bree in “I Am Going to Run Away” – in The Club, their 2nd floor saloon-like venue ($10./ticket).

“I Am Going to Run Away” is a vaudeville-derived story-in-song created and performed by the uniquely talented player-songstress, Bree Benton; the show contains lyrics and music seemingly “scavenged” and adapted from the late 19th & early 20th centuries.  Although the musicians are solid and Ms. Benton performs some dozen (+) songs with considerable verve, elan, emotional range, linguistic acumen & vocal (period) agility, the show, as a dramatic, theatrical & musical piece, is simply not utterly engaging.  “I Am Going to Run Away” – which aims “to preserve and revive popular song and entertainment” from our vaudeville tradition – seems to me to succeed at, well, just that.  More important for me, however, the piece brought to mind the works and art of the inimitable Edward Gorey (remember The Willowdale Handcar, Or the Return of the Black Doll?).  And precipitating that kind of recollection – and that “discovery” – is, I suppose, enough!

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