Culture

Rocco Ristorante

Italian food and culture is rooted everywhere in New York. Rocco Ristorante is one such traditional Italian joint, operating in the Greenwich Village since 1922 that not only has years of history still worn on their unchanged walls but was also a starter kitchen for the Mario Batali. An establishment of this age and character usually caters to die-hard regulars, neighborhood locals and a few well-researched tourists as a walk by doesn’t sell the uninitiated on the traditional style. Fortunately the family style decor and friendly service are still as much a priority as the quality southern Italian food typical 90 years ago today.

Legend has it Anthony “Tony Bender” Strollo operator of several illegal gambling parlors and nightclubs in Greenwich, ordered a hit here back in 1952. While dining in old restaurants such as this in New York, you can’t help wonder what illicit activities and patrons frequented their front and backrooms. Dean Martin and the Rat Pack crew may have graced Rocco’s doors, taken a card game in their backroom or indulged in a traditional meal at the very table you’re eating your Penne Arrabiata and Veal Piccata.

“Nel blu dipinto di blu” (“In the Blue Painted Blue”), popularly known as “Volare” (Italian for the infinitive form of the verb “to fly”) was originally sung by Domenico Modugno, and is the only non-English language song that has reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in America. Modugno became the first Grammy winner for the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1958 for this recording. Here’s Dean Martin’s version, probably sung in one of Tony’s clubs in the Village.

Dean Martin – Volare (Nel blu dipinto di blu)

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Entertainment

Not quite a ‘Situation’

This week I had a friend in town that I hadn’t seen since I was last at Cal Poly; we’ll call him Marc. Marc’s working on 4 months of a long distance relationship, as I had in 2004, however, he’s in the Bay Area, and she’s in Philly (not much difference really to my LA-NY torture). I openly offered the 2nd bedroom in my apartment for them both to crash for the weekend because I know when trying to make a limited physical relationship work, you’ll need to save all the money you can for cross country flights (and get together as often as possible is my recommendation).

Even when you’ve lived in a city for years, decades, or all your life, sometime you’re too close to the “trees” to see the “forest”. I love the opportunity to have outsiders come in and give me a perspective of what they want out of New York. We let the love birds pick our Saturday evening, and ended up going to the Naked Comedy Showcase on Sat at the People’s Improve Theater (The PIT).

I love comedy but they rarely have good food so we started with a local sushi joint and plenty of sake and Sapporo. The PIT is a 2nd floor single room theater located on a deserted Flatiron block. After ascending a narrow stairway, I immediately had a good feel about the evening when the counter clerks, well stocked in bow ties and tweed, offered $4 Stellas throughout the show. However, they didn’t mention the clothing requirements (or lack there of) when we entered…

I had no expectations for the show. I was going in “naked” so to speak, however, I didn’t realize how literal that was until I sat down in the third row (in case there was awkward nakedness I wanted to conceal by the heads in front of me). While chatting with the petite brimmed smiling man in front of us, he stood up and completely disrobed in the manner an early riser would peeping for a shower. An announcement was made to remind the audience that nudity was encouraged, especially in our section, by the viewers as much as it was a requirement of the talent that night.

Sorry, I hadn’t prepped my birthday suit for public revealing yet… wasn’t going to happen.

I don’t think this was what my out-of-town friends has been expecting, especially Marc as he squirmed a little closer to his girlfriend. The show opened with a fully naked Andy Ofiesh emerging confidently from stage right and I instantly “got” the comedy as did the audience. Smiles, shock and wonderment spread quickly as we all stole glances at this untanned, pudgy, red haired man standing in front of us grinning with his thimble size protuberance resting on top of a racquetball sized scrotum. Wow. I guess you have to laugh for a moment.

Most comedy is adult oriented and this just takes it to the next level as Andy, a long standing nudist before comedian, started with “my penis is fun size; you can fit the whole thing your mouth,”. The audience became increasingly more comfortable over the period of the hour as they warmed to each comic’s self awareness and at many times self deprecating humor. 5 men and 1 women, followed Andy, performing in the buff some really good comedy. Those that know me, know I can’t remember or tell a joke to save my life, so I’ll leave that to the professionals and recommend it to all to just try this showcase out for an evening. However, if you’ll be dropping trou, please bring a towel for the chairs and any bar/bathroom breaks (located in the lobby) you may need to take during the show.

Marc and lady wanted to hit the NY club scene, which these days I’ll respond rhetorically under my breath “What scene?”. Marc being about 9 years younger than I had more interest in the “Jersey Shore” styled clubs of Vegas and NY so I pointed them to Crimson – a new spot in the Flatiron with a party hosted by Dirt Nasty (a Hollywood based Crunk-Pop “Rapper” – I don’t know, I’ve never heard of him).

If expressing my ignorance of Dirt to Marc didn’t date me as an “Old”, then the idea that I would pass on the fist pumping party at Crimson may have. Although researching Dirt for this post, I realize now there’s enormous irony for Dirt to start his US tour at the latest Christian Audigier fashion themed club, promoting his latest track “Fuck Ed Hardy“.

Dirt Nasty, Andy Milonakis & Rich Hil – Fuck Ed Hardy

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I didn’t actually get to take photos today. Instead of the club I still went out for wine and beers with the lady and then whiskeys with the boys. We all woke around 11 only Marc got 4 less hours of sleep than I and I still felt two times worse (more Old). We had a good brunch at Jane, mostly because I didn’t have to deal with the typical 30 min. to hr wait with most of the tourists on this wet Sunday.

Here’s a shot from when Washington Square was nice last fall and this LA man trying to do his best impression of The Situation.

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Photography

Bad Day? …it Happens

I know it shouldn’t be a bad day; it’s Saturday, but I don’t have weekends so every day is the same to me. It’s not just me, as there’s always someone with a worse day than I. I’ll just listen to some late 90’s punk and feel better:

Against All Authority – All Fall Down

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Sports

Battle of Wits and Brawn

From the NY Post:

A baseball executive says former Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon “is going to be lucky to get whatever he gets,” if he signs somewhere.

The AL exec told MLive.com that Damon and agent Scott Boras misjudged the market for the 36-year-old outfielder.

“Sometimes, we ask for too much,” the source, requesting anonymity, told writer Steve Kornacki. “Then, the smoke clears and you ask, ‘Where am I?’ And now, I can’t believe anybody is going to offer Damon more than the $14 million and $6 million the Yankees did.

“If you turn them down for that, you deserve one year for $3 million or whatever he is going to get. In February, teams have got guys in place. My feeling is that now he is going to be lucky to get whatever he gets. It’s still supply and demand in this game. And Johnny’s arrow is in the middle or going down.”

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Well, maybe not all wit. Sorry Damon, you’ve now lost it all….

Face to Face – Lost

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Food

Fit and Surviving

To say that not working for five months has been easy living is to believe a comfortable facade. I’m sure there’s levels of emotion within the psyche of an unemployed person, but I never looked them up. I’m more analytical so I’ve measured my emotions more by my actions.

I was pissed about my group and products being cut from the core business but not very long as that emotion washed into more personal and family focus for the first few months. As the holiday approached, the interview and hiring cycle stopped and I concentrated my time on that imaginary checklist I never had the opportunity to do. Some of which includes:

    1. Tour unknown parts of New York City
      Read more books
      Upgrade and redesign my websites
      Spend more time with my woman
      Spend more time with friends and seek out new ones
      Learn new skills (both in and out of my core career focus of tech)
      Get my fitness on
      Refocus energy on my hobbies: Photography, Music, Wine and Cooking
  • To a major extent I’ve done all these and it’s really time I get back to work. I’ve been interviewing and pursuing positions of interest with more vigor than when I first moved to NY.

    Interesting thing about having no income, is you learn very quickly how to save money and spend it more appropriately. I’ve been doing a lot of frugal shopping in places where the typical Manhattanite doesn’t. I’ve also found the epicurean and fitness value of making your own soup stocks – which I’ve been doing weekly.

    I have a relationship with all my local purveyors including my butcher. “My guy” is known for many quality meats but I love that I can buy pounds of left over chicken and beef bone on the cheap and freeze them until needed. When I have 6 hours of home time (typical when I work from the home office), I’ll hack up a couple handfuls (to expose the marrow) and roast them in the oven with a little olive oil and salt for 45 min at 375. Toss them in a large stock pot filled with water to within an inch of the top (about 2 gallons in my case). Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat to simmer and slow cook while stirring occasional as the pot reduces and creates layers of tasty bone fortified stock. About an hour before it’s done I’ll toss in the rough cut veggies (just ginger and onion for Asian based chicken stocks, and on top I’ll add varying amounts of carrots, celery, thyme, bay leaves, and even black pepper depending on the depth of flavor I want to create).

    Cool over night. Skim the fat. Package and freeze for use. Easy.

    With that stock, I’ve made hundreds of dishes for lunch and dinner but especially important this cold winter are the many soup options you can derive from home made chicken stock. The most important reason for this is the health factor. You can control the sodium and quality of ingredients that go into your base and thus improve the quality of food ingested.

    Here’s a Butternut Squash Soup, I adapted with the influential help of Ina Garten:

    Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with West Indian Curry

    * 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    * 3 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
    * 3 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large)
    * 2 cups chopped Yukon potatoes (3 medium)
    * 2 tablespoons West Indian curry powder
    * 5 pounds butternut squash, peeled with seeds removed (2 large)
    * 2 sweet apples, such as McIntosh, peeled
    * 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    * 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    * 2 to 4 cups home made chicken stock

    Condiments for serving:
    * Scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and sliced diagonally
    * Roasted salted cashews, toasted and chopped

    Preheat the oven to medium/medium high temp (about 400). Roasting the vegetables first concentrates the flavors before the puree of the soup. Rough chop the onions, potatoes, squash and apples into even, 1 inch cubes. Mix up all pieces with the olive oil and half the salt and pepper and spread evenly onto 2 sheet pans.

    Put both trays in the oven and roast for about 35 to 45 minutes, until very tender. Turn the veggies occasionally and rotate the trays top-to-bottom and front-to-back at least once (halfway) through the baking process. Heat the chicken stock to a simmer.

    On this particular day, I didn’t have “West Indian Curry Powder”, and I really had no idea what was in those generic bottles at the grocery store labeled “Curry Power”. A very quick google search turned up this mix for “West Indian Curry Powder” and I had all the ingredients so I created my own.

    When the vegetables are done, put them through a food mill fitted with the medium blade. (Alternatively, you can place the roasted vegetables in batches in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add some of the chicken stock and coarsely puree.). When all of the vegetables are processed, place them in a large pot and add enough chicken stock to your level of thickness in soup (I used about 3 cups). Add the curry powder gradually to taste (you may not need all 2 tblspns) and the rest of the salt and pepper (also to taste).

    Bowl and serve with suggested condiments for crunch.

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    The thing about interviewing for a new job when you currently are without, is you’re viewed as almost the underdog in the process. Once you get past the paper screening though, it’s all gravy for this professional. I’m getting closer to the goal as certain preferred employers are taking notice. When others are not (and it’s usually the HR gatekeepers, not the hiring managers) I found this song figuratively appropriate for the process and literally appropriate because the band is called Spoon.

    Spoon – Underdog

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    Picture yourself in the living room
    Your pipe and slippers set out for you
    I know you think that it ain’t too far

    But I, I hear the call of a lifetime ring
    Felt the need to get up for it
    Oh, you cut out the middleman
    Get free from the middleman

    You got no time for the messenger
    Got no regard for the thing
    That you don’t understand
    You got no fear of the underdog
    That’s why you will not survive

    Food

    Are you Stupid?

    Sodium Chloride, the chemical name for the simple white substance used auspiciously in many religions, ubiquitous in the Northeast during the winter melting sidwalks and accelerating rust on old cars, and one of the oldest seasonings known to man used to preserve and flavor food for all.

    Salt is a primary electrolyte in the human body, however, in excessive amounts can cause some minor to fatal health conditions. Because of the latter, many governments have instituted recommended daily intakes of the substance and some are starting to legislate it’s use. One such administration is Bloomberg’s here in New York City.

    Mayor Bloomberg’s salt reduction initiative which in all accounts seems to be aimed at fast food joints has created quite a buzz especially in this city’s real kitchens; a source of some of the worlds best cuisine.

    In response to the Health Department’s new salt reduction initiative, the NY Times ordered some food from local restaurants and sent it off to a Long Island lab for sodium testing. What they found may not shock you: A Double ShackBurger, fries and a peanut butter shake from Shake Shack contain 1,980 milligrams of sodium. Two slices of Cajun bacon-cheeseburger pizza from Two Boots clock in at 2,240 milligrams. But the saltiest of them all is the corned beef sandwich from Katz’s Deli, which contains 4,490 milligrams of sodium. Considering that the FDA recommends a maximum of 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day, “having what she’s having” might just leave you with hypertension

    I’m all for recommendations and encouraging businesses or food producers to be more transparent about all ingredients used in their offerings, but I’m not about to be treated like a kid by a “Nanny State” that feels I’m not old enough or educated enough to eat in moderation. Enforcing a ban or restricting usage limits is absurd and I’m with the chefs, cooks and foodies alike in this hoping this doesn’t get anything more than wishful thinking for the mayor’s team.

    Day 34: Be Stupid?

    I still love The Boy’s old old work back when they were a shite NY punk band playing with Murphy’s Law and Bad Brains (ML opened for the Beastie’s on their “Licensed to ILL” tour). Some Old Bull is still a great album and although there’s better tracks per say and in a rough garage distorted sounding way (“Egg raid on Mojo,” Traffic Cop,” etc.), this still fit my post for both cookery and stupidity.

    Beastie Boys – Cookie Puss

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    Personal

    A Light Snow Tonight

    I’m planning on getting up quite early tomorrow and seeing if I can get any good shots before the snow falling now will get trampled… The Kona Coffee is ground even if I won’t be ready for the jolting buzz of the 6 am alarm.

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    Camron – What Means The World To You

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    Culture

    Get Noticed

    With the Superbowl approaching, I hear more discussion around New York about the advertising than the actual game this Sunday. With the Jets out and both teams equally distant from the city, the Advertising is the only game people will be attentive too. So with that I’d highlight some cool outdoor ads from adsoftheworld.com

    Technology

    Jacking Netflix







    Netflix has relieved new and disturbing terms for their service which basically admit publicly, to what they were sued for:

    “In determining priority for shipping and inventory allocation, we may utilize many different factors, including the number and type of DVDs you rent through our service, the membership plan you select, as well as other uses of our service by you. For example, if all other factors are the same, we give priority to those members who receive the fewest DVDs through our service. The type, number, mix and weighting of the various factors impacting shipping and inventory allocation will change from time to time and will be made in our sole and absolute discretion.”

    In other words, if they find you renting and returning quickly, and it ups the amount of monthly dvds you rent, they can intentionally slow down your shipments so you don’t rent too many. They also mention in this section that “most people check out 1-11 dvds in a month”. I guess this is their target # for what they want to allow.

    A good site to book mark now is:
    Hacking Netflix @ http://www.hackingnetflix.com/

    Personal

    New Tumblr Feed – Austin Vegas Dot Dot Dot

    To my 147 RSS Feedsubscribers…. I’m sure you’ve never been to the other pages on AustinVegas.com so I wanted to send an update on the About page (which hasn’t been updated in quite some time) and provide a new feed for subscription to my Tumblr page (design tweeks to follow). The intention is for the content to be different for both feeds… One for original content (this site: Photography, commentary, daily diary etc.) and one for reblogging other peoples content (reposts, funnies, videos etc…) which is the Tumblr account

    Subscribe here:

    http://feeds.feedburner.com/AustinVegasTumblr

    Let me know if you have any comments or feedback! cheers