I'm a little slow today. I just switched to Sanka. So...have a heart?

Friday, September 14, 2012


Tomorrow is my birthday.  Well... an hour and eight minutes from now is my birthday.  And it's weird. This is the first birthday that I'm actually starting to dread getting older, because the very first effects of getting older are starting to hit me.  Like a weird ache in a wrist or a knee or a rib or a toe or a foot or an elbow from some long-forgotten stupid thing you did. (For the record, I have an ache in all of those things).  This post isn't meant to be as depressing or gloomy as it's going to be -- for the record. 

I was just on FaceBook, and I saw my birth date (I call it my birthday) on my page.  And it was strange to look at because I realized that's a piece of information that is going to be on my tombstone (hopefully I'll have one - I want there to be a place where people can come and throw themselves on my grave and weep...)  That date, that's about to come up, is the marker of an important piece of personal history -- the date on which my life began according to official records.  And that date is one piece of three (or four) pieces of enduring vital information about me that, distilled to the most basic are, my Name, my Birth Date, my Death Date and my Social Security Number.

We come into the world, we go out of it. Maybe we do good; maybe we do evil; maybe we do not much of anything of consequence.  And not to sound defeatist or "Debbie Downer"-istically pessimistic, but none of us will be known beyond more than two generations from now. It's more probable than not that our lives - our hopes and dreams, and acquisitions and loves, and frustrations, and triumphs and failures and terrible-falls-down-stairs, and amazing-chili-that-we-make, and funny stories and awesome race-times, and all the other experiences that made us unique and made us people, and brothers and sisters and parents, and friends with other people will, essentially, be distilled down to three, maybe four pieces of information that establish that we ever existed: 

Our Name, our Date of Death, our Social Secutity Number and...

Our Birth Date.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Macchialina Taverna Rustica

Last night Lauren, Lindsay and I went to Macchialina, which is the Pubbelly gang's new place that opened at 8th and Alton, where Sylvano used to be.  It's Italian food.  It's pretty awesome. 

This post is going to be short and sweet, because I feel like death, but that's just because I downed two bottles of wine at Macchialina, and then a liter of beer at Hoffbrau, and then a Delirium at the Abbey. So, today's not gonna be a good day. 

But last night was good.  In fact, it was delicious.  Macchialina doesn't take reservations, so we sidled up to the bar and drank a bottle of wine while we waited the hour for our table.  The barternders were really nice, and took us on a little tasting flight of the wines that they had so we could choose which we liked.  While we were at the bar, we noticed that everyone, EVERYONE that works at the restaurant is really attractive. And nice. So... there's eyecandy.  Friendly eyecandy. 

The negatives:  It's very small, and it's very loud.  Once it takes off, good luck getting a table there, I'd say, especially since the diners seemed to be of the "camping" variety.  But maybe that's because the people watching there was really good.  I'm not sure. Also, the Broccolini.  We ordered a little dish of that and it was pretty awful - it came with a hardboiled egg on it and some grated cheese on top.  It was bitter (all the broccolini I've had lately has been extremely bitter... I guess I had a spate of good luck with broccolini before now...)  So, that was sort of disappointing.  Their desserts aren't anything to write home about, either. A berry strudel we got came in an adorable little braid, that tasted like soap and rosemary.  A banana bread pudding needed some chocolate chips in it.  Last, their portions are on the small side, and on the expensive side for what you get.  L and L both said it was more like Barceloneta where it's a bit more costly and the dishes are smaller, than like Pubbelly where you can eat until you're gonna burst, and only come out with a $50 check per person...

Now for the positives:  For starters, we got some fried olives, which are big pitless green olives rolled in breadcrumbs and fried.  They were fantastic, even though they were served with some unmemorable sauce.  We got a pasta and meatballs dish -- I'm assuming these meatballs were made of veal cheek and pork.  The meatballs were heavenly - super light and nom-worthy.   We got the shortrib lasagna - also very tasty (I'm not going into great detail about these dishes because... it's pasta and meatballs and lasagna with short rib, both of them in red sauce - what more can be said?)  The undisputed star of the meal was something so simple - rustic (BUTTERY GARLICKY) toast slices served with a dish of fondue.  OMG.  I get tired of fondue after about three bites, but I could have housed an entire order of this by myself. We almost ordered another one, it was so good, but instead, we ordered another round of toast (for $2) to finish off the "fonduta," which was soooooo creamy and garlicky and lemony and just... just fantastic. 

So there you have it.  Check this place out before it gets completely impossible to get a table.  Now I'm off to eat a bottle of aspirin and drink eighty coconut waters.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Remember When the Internet New?

Remember when we very first went on the "online?" I was thinking about this tonight, because my Bellsouth DSL connection slows down to 1990s era speeds every night (seriously) so it gives me a lot of time to think about things while I'm watching a streaming movie buffer...and buffer...and buffer... for minutes at a time... (GRUMBLE).

We were on the early side of home Internet users in my family... we got it in mid-1993 to communicate with my father when he was stationed in Seoul for a year. The time difference (ungodly early in one house, ungodly late in the other) and the quality of the long distance connection (there was always an annoying delay, and sometimes an echo), as well as the cost of calling Asia, meant that an significant component of our communication was via email -- as a result of that year, both of my parents are pretty fantastic emailers, when we email (Speaking by phone is easier now.) they're comfortable and conversational, and not at all clumsy, disjointed, and clueless like some other baby boomers are on email...

Anyhoo, remember when you would turn on your computer, which was a gigantic box, and a gigantic monitor that sat next to (not on top of) the box, and hear this:

(This is actually later in my family's internetting -- our first internet provider was "CompuServe," and its first interface was accessed through DOS -- so the internet was WHITE TEXT on a BLACK SCREEN, in DOS prompt... I think we paid for it by the hour? Or by the minute?)

That music is so... what is it? Mysterious? Ethereal? Oddly melancholy? (It was 1995 presumably composed in Seattle -- it was the height of the Gen-X-era...and I'm fairly certain that same song is now played in the Regal 18 Theater during the PSAs telling you to silence your cellphones.) It resonated something almost science-fictiony-futuristic - in that you were turning on your PERSONAL COMPUTER.

And then after Windows had booted up, you would insert a floppy disk (it was a hard disk - but "hard disk" was something mysterious in the computer that we would never see and never, ever touch) (also -- remember - "disk" was spelled with a "k," not a "c.") and install the updated internet program that might come once every six months or a year... and the disk would make springy, scrapy, "thp-thp-thp ERRRRRR beep beep!" sounds while the computer was reading it... (when they started sending out the updates on CD, it felt extravagant!) and then you would log into to the latest updated version of whatever your internet provider was back then, by dialing it up on the phone. On your computer.

Like this:


And sometimes you'd get a busy signal. And sometimes, like in the video, it wouldn't connect. And sometimes, you'd spend 20 minutes trying to get the damn computer to dial into some number... off in...God-Knows-Where... And sometimes your parents would be FURIOUS, FURIOUS with you because you had been on the Internet all afternoon long after school, and they COULDN'T GET THROUGH TO YOU AT HOME TO TELL YOU SOMETHING IMPORTANT! (And one day, your family just got another phone line to dedicate exclusively for the Internet).

And eventually, you'd get into whatever foreign computer. And you'd click through pages, using a mouse that had a ROLLER BALL in it (that sometimes you'd need to dust, by twisting the circle on the bottom and taking the ball out and picking the lint off the rollers inside the mouse) but the mouse wasn't clicking over smooth fancy graphics -- no, you were clicking on pixelated menus that also had alt+F-based commands as alternate keys for mouseless people, with nary a curve to be seen, and the menus were done in blues and yellows and reds, greys and black and white...


Now go back to .25 seconds on that video.  Can you remember the "Oh. My. Fucking. God." moment you had when you loaded a PICTURE on your computer screen for the first time?!  As it ticked in, pixellated line by pixellated line, for five minutes (the computer on that Newscast had some sort of futuristic Ethernet capabilities... at home, with a 14.4 kb modem, those pictures would have loaded slooooooowly) and finally
completed, and you were there, just slack-jawed that you had just made a PICTURE appear on your color monitor... (That's what they were called). It felt like you had just witnessed the fucking MOON LANDING all over again!

This was before the Internet was mostly used for porn, and was, instead, mostly used by people who had transcribed Monty Python and the Holy Grail, or who were keeping tabs on how much soda was in the 7th floor common area in a dorm at MIT. 

We had "Internet" for about a year and a half without the "World Wide Web" as it used to be called... and I only saw my first picture on the Internet about four months into having it... and that picture... was the cover of Time Magazine. 

Getting into the "World Wide Web" with the first browser we had, "Mosaic," is a topic for another day but...
these are just somethings I should probably remind myself of every time I get annoyed that a movie on my projector that I'm getting from the internet is taking a long time to watch... it wasn't that long ago that we were satisfied to watch, RAPT, as a badly-scanned still image slowly appeared on a computer screen, awed by the fact that this picture CAME THROUGH THE TELEPHONE!

OMFG! (That word hadn't been invented yet.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Dining Room.

If I were posting this at Eat It, Miami, I would give the Dining Room an "Eat It." But I'm not posting it there. Because this is MY blog, and even though sometimes when I'm drunkenly posting, I accidentally post my posts on Eat It, before realizing it and deleting the posts, and putting them here, because I'm so rusty and out of practice from blogging, I don't feel that my posts live up to the quality demanded by Colin, Eat It's stern-but-fair proprietor.

And even though I'm only starting this post, I can tell it's going to take me a while to get down to brass tacks - I'm a little unfocused right now, even though I had nary a sip of booze (more on that immediately below).

That said, The Dining Room, in the 400 block of Washington Avenue, was delightful. Their menu is small-but-tasty. Lots of fish on it (fish isn't really my thing. at all.) and since I'm not eating carbs (because I'm trying to be less fat [it's working!]) my menu options dwindled down to three sexy possibilities.

It's here that I'll point out that I was with my gorgeous and recently-married friend, Lauren. Lauren loves the "shout-outs" so I fully expect to receive an email tomorrow from her, with lots of exclamation points. We were both stinky from working out, but we threw clean clothes on, and gave ourselves whores'-baths, so we looked respectable enough to be...eating on the Street on Washington Avenue.

Backhanded compliment time - there's a noticeable lack of urine smell outside on Washington on that block. Love-Hate must not be doing well. (Rimshot!)

No, but really, the place is small - I daresay their outside seating is bigger than the dining room, which is dominated by a huge chandelier...and that's really all I noticed about the decor. But I didn't need fancy decor, as I already had a view of the shuttered Harrison's, and Lauren's radiant face. (Lotsa exclamation points, LDoy.)


We got three things. I got the crispy braised pork (!!!) Lauren got the filet mignon churrasco, and we split a side order of brussels sprouts. Our waiter told us that we got the best things on the menu. I agree. Actually, I got the best thing, Lauren got the second best thing, and the sprouts were kick ass, too.

First, they brought out bread (sigh) with truffle butter (yum!) and sweet n' spicy pickle rounds. I'm a sucker for pickles, and these guys sure were tasty... especially when gobbled down with truffle butter. What? Like you've never put butter on a pickle before... Riiight.

The pork seemed to be braised belly, from which a good deal of the fat had been rendered out, served on top of a cidery green paste, with sweet (radish? apple?) slaw on top, and dabs of white bean puree. It. Was. Awesome. Sweet, and savory and crunchy and cool, and hot, and the white bean puree was like mashed potatoes (WHICH I MISS SO MUCH.)

Lauren's churrasco was a spiral cut filet mignon (tender!) served with chimmichurri on top, with a quartered yellow tomato, served with rings of fiery chile. I've never had tenderer churrasco in my life. The chile rings were suuuuuper spiiiiicy.

The brussels sprouts were served shredded with...toasted cashews, I believe? They were really good.

We joined the clean plate club, and I chided my dinner date for eating TOO MUCH OF MY WHITE BEAN PUREE.

My water glass was never empty for long (I was drinking like a camel. Lauren started to get concerned, like I might have diabetes or something, but I had just done yoga before I ate so I was thirsty.) and the service was attentive.

The waiter was a tad chatty, but we just chalked it up to our not used to nice people, and we decided we were probably in the wrong for not wanting to engage in prolonged conversation. Also, I mean... we're nice... but our niceness has been tempered by living in Miami for 10 years. (Yikes.) (I'm using a lot of parentheticals today, aren't I?)

The bill came to about $90, which wasn't the cheapest meal, but I absolutely didn't feel ripped off paying half of that plus tip that for an entree and a side of brussels sprouts (and tapwater), which must say something about the quality of the food.

All in all, there was very little I'd change about the place. Which is saying something. I love to complain. Check it out.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Worst. Service. Evar.

Las Vacas Gordas. It's on 79th Street in Normandy, and it's an Argentine Parrilla.

It used to be a place I'd recommend to my friends.

It is no longer, because, now being a firm believer in the veracity of Yelp (which I never really put a lot of stock in, before), the reviews on which state pretty much unanimously, that Las Vacas Gordas has better-than-average meat, and unequivocally the worst table service in the history of Mankind -- after tonight's experience I can tell you that Yelpers are 100% correct.

If you're in a hurry, that's basically the summary of the following blog post, so... y'know. See you in a month when I find the time to post again. (I'm on the South Beach diet to lose this last pesky 18 pounds standing between me and...not having obtrusively large, strange love handles which stick out like pectoral fins...so since I can't drink tonight, I'm home a bit early (and sober!) and I figured I'd pay some attention to this sadly-neglected blog - which is now faring better than the plants I'm intentionally neglecting to death (seriously) on my balcony.)

Las Vacas Gordas has wonderful staff (bus boys... and bread ladies...) and the wost waiter I've ever encountered.

His first name is the singular last name of a pair of famous tennis-star sisters, and he looks like this! You can find him in the Yelp reviews derisively referred to as "that bald waiter." (I decided not to publish a picture of him because that seems sort of a huge invasion of his privacy), and he doesn't give a SHIT. About some tables. Other tables, he adores and it is with them that he the time that he's not running in a circle around the bar, with no clear purpose, or typing into his iPhone ordering system, which, coincidentally, also looks a lot like he's texting people, while he's supposed to be taking orders and delivering food.

The tables about which the Waiter does not give a shit languish, easily discernible by their occupants, sitting silently and sullenly, arms folded over chests, glaring at him. And their cell phones (in their capacity as a watch) (some people looked at watches. I found that dramatic. Because you don't see that anymore.) heaving occasional sighs of hungry frustration.

Gael and I were seated for no-joke, 15 minutes before anyone brought us menus. Slowly. After the Waiter pointed at us and made the international sign for, "The Hostess hasn't given you menus, yet, has she!!?! What's her problem?!"

Then he sauntered over and informed us that because we had just gotten our menus he was going to give us a couple minutes and also they had porterhouse that was not on the menu.

That was annoying. And here's why. We had been seated for a long time, menuless, and an acknowledgement of "Shucks, sorry" would have gone a long way -- certainly much farther than implying that he was granting us an indulgence by letting us look at the menu to decide what we wanted (we already knew -- the enrollada, clearly) and being entirely unapologetic about the inefficiency of the operation.

The man thereafter ignores us for approximately half an hour. Then, (and here's where things go downhill. Further.) he came over to us to tell us that he was going to tell another table that he was going to take our order, so the other table didn't get antsy.

Whereupon he left our table. To go to another table. With whom he had a conversational exchange, whereupon the conclusion of which, he came back to our table. Whereupon I said, "We'll have the enrollada, medium," and Gael asked, "what are the French Fries Provencal," whereupon he looked at his iPhone, geeked out, said, "I'll be right back," and turned on his heel. Whereupon he went to the bar, and fiddled with something, while Gael and I stared at him agog. Yes, Good Sir (or Ma'am), I said agog. Thereafter he engaged in about four minutes worth of conversation. Whereupon he brought something to another table and came over to us and said, "What are you having?"

Whereupon Gael and I stared up at him, eyebrows raised, for an uncomfortable three seconds, incredulous.

Still no water.

No apology.

No contrition.

No acknowledgement, whatsoever that we had waited FOREVER for menus, and that he started to take our order, ran away for no discernible purpose, had a chat, and came back, having completely forgotten both part of the order and Gael's question.

No acknowledgement that we didn't have a bread plate (we figured out why we weren't getting any hot rolls after we ordered...)

So, we had the exact same exchange as before, again.

And I decided that I was not impressed by the Waiter's tableside demeanor.

Shortly thereafter, a middle-aged well-to-do Colombian (or maybe Argentine) couple sat at the booth next to us, and Gael and I decided it would be fun to see how long it would take them to get their menus. (Answer: About 35 minutes). We thought they'd have their menus in a heartbeat. (They didn't). I'm gonna call these people "Provoloneta," for reasons that will later make sense.

Enough time now passes between the time that we ordered, Provoloneta sat down, and they still don't have their menus, where I make eye contact with Provoloneta and say, "The service is horrible!" and they both shake their heads and say, "Horrible!" And Mrs. Provoloneta says, "have you already ordered?!" And I say, "Yeah, but it's been forever..." and she knits her mouth and shakes her head, and I sit, smug, in the knowledge that I've poisoned the well against the Waiter, and there won't be any redeeming himself with THAT table, either.

Provoloneta eventually get their menus and order, the Waiter skips away, and all of us sit, as neglected as the slightly-fishy Caesar Salad present at every office luncheon buffet.

Now another table of well-heeled, middle-aged Uruguayans sits on our other side. (I'm pretty sure they were from there). They get their menus pretty quickly. But are otherwise completely neglected. To the point that they're walking away from the table, to leave the restaurant(!!) when the Waiter finally approaches them. I'm gonna call this table "Crab Salad" because they got the Ensalada Rusa, which looked like Crab salad, and that's all I saw them get during my time in Hell Las Vacas Gordas, and Provoloneta is called that because that was their appetizer. Which was plunked down about 3 minutes before their steak came.

So there we sit, Crab Salad, Provoloneta and Gael and I, staring darkly at the Waiter as time goes by, and we grow ever more hungry, while he lavishes attention on other tables, shaking hands, bumping fists, poppin' corks, showing pictures on his iPhone, sitting at their tables (I HATE THAT), blowing up balloons, rolling on a bed, covered with puppies, and playing a fake saxophone to Huey Lewis and the News during an impromptu kazoo-party (with party hats and confetti) that broke out at one of his other tables.

It is at this point that Gael and I decided to try to figure out how to not tip him at all, and how we can get around the autogratuity that they (with good reason) tack onto your bill. (Flash forward - we fail at this.)

FINALLY, the food comes. It, along with everything else on the table, is brought by someone who is not the Waiter. The only food or table article I saw the Waiter handle was a wine bottle, when he opened the bottle sitting on our table, for Gael when she ordered a glass. I never otherwise saw him handle anything that anyone else ate, or ate with. He handled wine bottles and bills. That's it.

We ate our food, which was fine. We were clearly having such an uneventful time with our food, that the Waiter didn't see the need in asking us whether everything was okay or we needed something.

At one point, we asked him for water refills, as our glasses hadn't been filled in about an hour. He gladly complied, by serving water to Crab Salad. Not us.

Somewhere in here, Mr. Provoloneta stalked off to talk to the "DueƱo" who was his friend. Somewhere during this time, too, Mrs. Provoloneta gets her provoloneta, which she tells the runner to take back, because they're leaving. The provoloneta remains, and, so too does Provoloneta, as Mr. Provoloneta comes back somewhat mollified, and icy peace seems to be restored at that table...

Someone besides the Waiter takes our food off the table and boxes the remainder. We ask someone other than our Waiter for the check but she forgets. Gael and I content ourselves with reading crappy reviews about Las Vacas Gordas on Yelp Mobile. A long time later, the Waiter approaches the table and before he can even raise the specture of another two hours waiting for our "coffee or dessert?" I ask for the check.

Gael and I continue to snicker over negative Yelp reviews, some of them directly referring to our Waiter for the 20 minutes it takes him to bring the check, with which he (accidentally, on purpose) flicks some food on my pants. Mind you, we had been nothing at civil to him, with the exception of our three-second bout of incredulity, so his passive-aggression with us, Provoloneta, and Crab Salad (who by this point had received Crab Salad...the remains of which sat on their table for about the last 40 minutes we were there) was inexplicable.

I pay and we leave -- without a thank you, without an apology, and without an intent to ever go back there.

Look. I get it. I've been a waiter in my life - I know how that gig goes, and that sometimes you've got an off night, and I've lived in Miami long enough to be ambivalent about half-assed, inattentive table service. I always leave extra tip even when tip is included, to round it up to 20% or a little more. (What's with this needing to tip 25% now? That's nuts. But people who tip 18% are cheap.)

I can say without hesitation that tonight, we had the most nonchalantly inattentive (read: BAD) service I've ever experienced in Miami. So, congrats, Vacas Gordas, for receiving that dubious honor.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

You CAN go home again...

Please pardon this post. I'm incredibly hungover.

Know why?

Because I went to the Abbey last night... and it's a pleasure to be able to say that sentence again.

The Abbey, definitely my favorite beer-hole on 16th between Alton and Lenox, has been shuttered for repairs for the better part of a year, re-opening briefly, only to close down again for remodeling.

I'm thrilled to announce that it has re-opened, and the ownership has done their best to preserve the character.

It's twice the size, a little brighter, a little less smokey, the bathrooms have been redone, so there are no longer cowboy doors on the Men's room door, no longer cheesy 1990s broken tile mosaic on the floor, and no longer carve-able wooden walls, and the added floorspace to the bar lends itself to hipsters getting noisy and rowdy, but all in all, it's the same place that we've always known and loved, just twice the size.

What seems to have happened is they just pushed the western wall over to the western wall of the adjoining bay. The original pews and tables are still there, and the pews still hurt your head when you smash it against the arched pointy corner, from laughing. They've added some communal seating, some free-standing tables, and a big boxy boothy couch-area... they've also locked the original front door so that people can now play darts, un-impeded by people walking through the front door (it also means that you don't risk an eye walking into the place) and bumped the door one bay over... but all in all, there seems to have been a careful eye for details to keep it looking as dingy as it used to look, down to picking glass for the lamp-shades that's speckled to make it look dusty and dirty.

But best of all, Aaron, the friendly bartender I've come to know and love is still there. I was so happy to see him, I gave him a hug.

So, go there, before they get their liquor license, and things change. Have a gallon of IPA and laugh your ass off with your friends about crashing weddings, with a vomiting hangover, dressed in a tulip costume.

I was a little cautious walking in and adjusting to the fact that the place looks exactly the same and completely different...but by the time I left... hammered... as usual.. I was content in the fact that the Abbey is back. And bigger than ever. While it now lacks the dark, dirty, time-stands-still intimacy it used to have, you no longer have to jostle for a beer or pounce on a table for seating. And on the balance, I'm too glad it's back to bemoan the fact that the place has become vastly less inconvenient (I liked everything about the old Abbey, including the lack of seating and the smokiness...). Hooray, Abbey! Welcome back to life! And never leave us again.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


If you're one of us "bright young things," (and if you're one of the "I make +100K plus per year" set), then I highly recommend you check out "Foxhole" which is behind Barton G where the old "Loading Zone" used to be.

Yes, you, too, can party where once LeatherBears came on the floor.

I'm not kidding.

The atmosphere has changed (not that I ever went to the Loading Zone, regrettably), and the crowd is one I literally haven't seen since we used to flood "The Angelic Brewing Company" in Madison, WI, when we all had a set of freshly minted fake IDs from South Dakota (that ID was never, but NEVER confiscated). But I don't say that in a derogatory manner - stepping into Foxhole is like stepping into a slightly-better Purdy Lounge / whatever that club used to be that was on 36th street, 7 years ago (SoHo Lounge!). It's awesome.

Their drinks are strong, their music is late 80s, and their crowd is needy Jewesses, regretting stupid, bitchy decisions into their manicured nails.

It's a fun time. You'll run into people you know there...and even if you don't, you'll meet people you don't give three shits about there, where you'll all knock a couple back and then end up at... the Deuce. And then La Sandwicherie.

Bottom line? The people drinking are pretty and affluent. The bar staff is attentive enough to justify the auto-gratuity. The space is huge, and the music is what they play at Sports Club LA, during a dance-lab session. If you go there four consecutive weekends, you're almost certain to know everyone hovering at the bar...so it's only natural that you'd thereafter move to the upper decks. (There's an upper deck.)

South Beach, we've found ourselves a higher-class Purdy -- you can now bankrupt yourself and ruin your liver -- but it'll be slightly more conspicuous and slightly more embarrassing when it happens -- but you'll be able to "black-shirt" yourself into the JAPpiest den of drunken debauchery since the Astor went out of style.