Monday, April 27, 2015

Deli in the New Jersey "burbs" + Churchill (the play), a Ramen resto in mid-town west & Stoner (the novel)

Picasso - Jacqueline seated, w/cat, 1964
I know (and you know!), I've been mighty derelict in my blogging duties and utterly remiss - since this past January, 2015 - in sharing my takes on cultural activities & culinary outings & events. 

Despite all the snow we've experienced this winter, 
essentially occluding my normal peregrinations around & about the Metro area, 
still, there has been much to write about (the two Picasso gallery shows that surfaced in Chelsea, for example) ... But, all the while, under a winter funk, I've resisted taking to the keyboard and generating a blog post or two or more.

First up , there's a dining spot I've been meaning to mention for quite a while, out in Livingston, due west a couple of miles on Rt. 10 from West Orange in the New Jersey "burbs": Eppes Essen (@ 105 E. Mount Pleasant Ave., Livingson, NJ; tel. 973/994-1120). 

Pastrami, seulement
Eppes Essen is an excellent, friendly, full-fledged kosher-style Jewish deli with great pastrami sandwiches (@ $15.75) & superb stuffed derma ($14.99), a Jewish deli delicacy with an outer casing of cow or sheep intestine & stuffing, traditionally made with lard or chicken fat then, a la Eppes Essen, plated along with large perfectly done 
mushroom slices & surrounded by chunks of tender bits of 
egg barley, all artfully submerged in a "thick & creamy"
brown gravy.

Stuffed derma, w/kasha
Dr. Brown's cream soda ($2.95, the can) is always available, naturally, to quench one's mildly salty-ballasted thirst owing to the large bowl(s) of cole slaw and numerous "new" pickles (gratis) that one eats in anticipation of the pastrami sandwiches - on perfectly baked "Jewish rye" - which will come with silky & substantial Russian
dressing ... and finally the large potato/mushroom (or kasha, depending on your taste!) knish ($5.99) the two of us have also ordered and were, simply, "forced" to take home.

Then, in mid-March, chancing a new burst of snow - and absolutely no relation to pastrami sandwiches, nor even to Dr. Brown - we were able to see a wonderful solo production of a newly created theater piece, entitled Churchill: The Play, at the New World Stages, 340 West 50th St. (between 8th & 9th Avenues), a "must-see" (!) one-man piece transported from "a sold-out, critically acclaimed" Chicago run. Adapted and performed by Ronald Keaton and based on the life and words of Winston Churchill, the play proves a triumph, a perfect melding ... of a fine actor; a simple, functional & workmanlike set; and the exquisite words (many direct & memorable quotations each of us recalls indelibly etched in our psyches) of the heroic and extraordinarily articulate British Prime Minister, before, during & following the war. 

Ronald Keating as Winston Churchill
One memorable quotation, 
of the dozens uttered and integrated into the show, from, arguably, the most quoted man of the 20th century should suffice to demonstrate (with both irony & arrogance) the depth & keenness of Churchill's wit: "I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter...."

The ostensible (historical) "genesis" for the play - in which Churchill reminisces, presents & conducts (shadow) arguments, explores his thoughts out loud in his "own" voice and at his own pace - is the immediate post-war period when President Harry Truman has invited Churchill to Fulton, Missouri where he will deliver his famous "iron curtain" speech ... to America and to the world. It is now March,1946 and Churchill has lost an election, been forced to retire; but, Truman has provided Churchill a public forum - the platform - from which we can all play witness to a riveting production and the indomitable Churchill, again, in his own gem-like words, phrases, historical "parsings," monologues, and, even, re-constructed dialog (from Churchill's point of view, that is).

New World Stages - 50th St. West
With Ronald Keaton as Churchill, the show is scheduled to run through mid-July. You would do well to purchase tickets and head over to West 50th, between 8th & 9th, to see Winston Churchill come to life via Mr. Keaton in what can only be described as "provocative, heart-warming, hilarious" ... a performance both resonant & masterful, at times somewhat understated & restrained, at times forceful & commanding; yet, a performance that, according to New World Stages publicity, "reveals the man behind the legend." 

And yes, indeed the man has been thoroughly revealed by the end of the play - as statesman, writer, wordsmith, painter, charismatic leader & wartime strategist, cigar-smoking drinker, raconteur, orator & speech-maker, wit. But the words, in all, and in all their anecdotal contexts - uttered, memorably, by Mr. Churchill - are what flesh out the man and, coupled with associated political activity, leadership strength & military influence, create & sustain an overriding impression of greatness.

Ippudo - inside view (partial)
Should you have developed a serious appetite while sitting through the two acts comprising Churchill: The Play, let me recommend a walk just around the block to Ippudo / Japanese Ramen Noodle Brasserie (at 321 West 51st, between 8th & 9th; tel. 212/974-2500) ... specifically for buns and bowls of ramen of all varieties, densities & contents. According to the eastern culinary "philosophers" at Ippudo, ramen is "a cosmos created in a bowl."  Or, expanded in scrupulous but simple terms, ramen is:
Ramen bowl w/pork slices

"The basic broth ... derived from the essence of pork, chicken, beef, or seafood, and seasoned with soy sauce, salt, miso, and other important ingredients. It's totally up to each individual chef to decide which ingredients [to include] and how much [of each] to use. Flour, eggs, kansui (an alkaline water) and other ingredients are used to make noodles. The chefs do not simply mix these ingredients together. Their own particular originality is infused into the thickness, length, form, and texture of noodles. Toppings such as yakibuta (roast pork) and ni-tamago (soy sauce flavored boiled egg) are also selectively used according to the tastes ... [& individual] preference[s] of the chef. Soup, noodles, and topping – the trinity brings forth the cosmos. [italics mine] Ramen is quite a creative dish with infinite potential for expansion and diversity."

Pork belly buns
We four ordered a bowl of ramen each (@ $15./bowl) reflecting varying degrees of "heat," of spice, & inundated with a variety of ingredients (e.g., noodles, pork slices, mushrooms, scallions, a "seasoned" boiled egg); a couple of orders of silky-tender pork belly buns ($9.); a plate of Suzuki Hakusai,($16.), a "special" seabass appetizer steamed in nappa cabbage & wrapped in yuba tofu skin, delicately "torched" and served with onions, cilantro & a light wasabi dressing; a
Suzuki Hakusai - Seabass
few Japanese draft beers (Sapporo, Kirin Ichiban, @ $6.) ... and, bingo, we were set for the evening, truly happy campers: stuffed & satisfied! 

The establishment is comfortable and very friendly, albeit crowded and relatively noisy with lots of native Japanese partaking in what seems to be all the various accoutrements of home fare, comfort food ... indeed, Japan's "soul food."

Finally, just a brief tribute, a "catch-up" literary note, really, for John Williams and his 1965 novel, Stoner, which belatedly & unbeknownst to me (and, I'm certain, to many other readers & admirers of the novel) won the 2013 Waterstones Book of the Year for fiction. Apparently, the novel is making a name for itself in the UK and France and has had a greater impact on readers in those two countries than even here in the USA where it was brought out in 2003 as a part of the New York Review of Books "Classics" imprint (a reprint) series.

I just today came upon the announcement of the Waterstones selection of Stoner for Book of the Year, 2013, noted in a online article posted on the mid-April (2013)'s monthly blog. Don't know if I saw this announcement for the prize before or, more likely, this "discovery" was just a fortuitous result of my quirky reading of the content on the current blog post ... involving a click into the "You might also like" link.

In either case, according to ... 

John Williams
"A nearly forgotten literary novel from 1965 has won Waterstones Book of the Year, building upon strong word-of-mouth and high profile blurbs. John Williams's novel Stoner, first published by Viking in 1965, has won the coveted British prize, attracting attention from prominent modern novelists like Colum McCann who said it was 'one of the great forgotten novels of the past century.... The book is so beautifully paced and cadenced that it deserves the status of classic.'" 

Stoner - in Hebrew
"The rather bleak novel is about William Stoner, a Midwestern academic in the early 20th century whose career stalls as his marriage falls apart. Stoner begins a brief, but ill-fated affair with a younger scholar, before retreating into himself as his life draws to a close."

A truly wonderful & deeply felt novel that is reaching, now, an ever-widening audience of contemprorary readers, even readers in farflung cultures as those in book-saturated Israel!

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