Sunday, November 28, 2010

"king" of the moment

nadal, photographed by alastair grant/ap, during his match against tomas berdych. the O2 arena, nov 26, 2010.

i woke up this morning, really excited, thinking about...tennis.

there was a fantastic semifinal match yesterday, between my maximum favorite player and andy murray. it might have been one of my favorites of the year, and quite possibly the best indoor tennis match i've seen since 1982 (when mats wilander went down to john mcenroe in the longest match in davis cup history, a 6 hour - 22 minute grind that scarred my heart for years).

nadal defeated murray in three sets.

you know me--i couldn't rattle off the score, or remember significant points without looking at notes or a news report. but i won't forget the faces, the expressions of either player. tennis players are not an undemonstrative bunch--in between the vamoses and the come ons, they'll grimace or frown, raise an eyebrow (in the case of nadal). or he may look like he's about to choke the life out of his... racquet (murray). and then sometimes they say nothing--nerves, fear, doubt, exhaustion can be read in their eyes for a half-second between points, when they catch the eye of someone on their team. and then they shake it off. and hit a winner. not sure if there are any still photos to evidence this (probably because photographers are tethered to the sidelines). but believe me, the match was full of those moments from both players. it was exquisite, fun tennis.

i also thought of one pose after he earned the win--a few photographers got this shot.
nadal has a couple of victory moves in his repertoire (usually he's dropping down, flat on his back). i wondered after this one, how he'd celebrate. but his simple victory smile was entirely appropriate for the tone of the match and respectful of his relationship to murray and murray's home crowd. it's one of the things i like most about him--his sense of place, his sense of a moment. he seems more often than not to understand things wider than himself, even when the moment is "his." it was true when he was younger (i'm recalling his matches against agassi during the andre summer farewell tour) and as he was establishing his dominance over federer (at the australian open a couple of years ago). a few suggested he seemed almost too good?

i wonder if that will change, if someday he will change with more titles, more money, more adulation. who could blame him, i guess, if it all went to his head? i suspect it will not, but there is no way to know.

so for now, enjoy...


nadal d. murray 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (6). london, uk. nov, 27, 2010.
photo: kirsty wigglesworth/AP

Friday, November 26, 2010

home style: thanksgiving, 2010

i have always had a tendency to downplay our family thanksgiving celebration.

when i was growing up, the holiday was positively traumatic for one reason: no turkey at our table. we had ham. i used to mope about how un-american it was. (the fact that my family was not american, not by birth anyway, except for me, didn't make a difference. we lived here.)

as our family grew, and my american-born cousins were old enough to collect their loud voices over "the turkey situation," our table started to take on the appearance of something more traditional. turkey is now a standby, next to the prime rib and the pork lechon and the barbeque skewers (yes, my people enjoy bbq skewers all year long). we made room for more dishes with potatoes (even the sweet ones) and green beans and brussels sprouts. we now have pies filled with apples and they sit next to pear tarts and flans and fried bananas (and other weird filipino treats).

but i'm still sometimes guilty of judging this holiday, more than any other, on ideas of what it should be, based on lore, rather celebrating what it is.

for us, thanksgiving is, more often than not, a very full house, a game of musical chairs (the music being the meal). we attack the table in waves, and shift from chair to couch to standing spot, while stories and jokes are told at a loud and fever pitch in two languages (so amid all the laughing, some of us get a little bit lost. we laugh more, anyway). and then eat more.

not sure a thanksgiving gets much better or happier than that.

here are a few photos from this year's good time.

mom's roasted brussels sprouts, with bacon.
or is it mom's bacon with roasted brussels sprouts?
homemade lumpia
lechon
filipino-style bbq
with jason (and a skewer)


does this count as a vegetable?

pancit - my aunt makes this better than any restaurant could

see, we had a turkey (not for long)

grace before the meal

cornbread stuffing--this one might be my new favorite, love the sweetness of the bread
my contribution this year: blum's coffee crunch cake
apple tart

pear tart

yes, this is a purple and orange and white dessert, made of glutinous rice.
you can understand why a kid would think this is the height of weirdness, yes?

turon! fried bananas, drizzled with caramelized sugar

6 cousins and a baby.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

lowcountry: we got "low low low low, low low low low"

i'm not gonna lie. after allison and i decided we'd go to low country for dinner, i had hands in the air stuck in my head, all afternoon and evening ("she hit the floor, shorty got low..." and it's still in there today).

catchy as that little interlude is, lowcountry doesn't seem like a joint that's going to play much
girl talk, or flo-rida, for that matter:

it's like i was 22 again, hanging out in some (hot) dude's basement.
not that that happened when i was 22.


i actually don't remember hearing any music?

what we did walk into on monday was "fried chicken and football night." they offer sweet-tea-brined fried chicken, macaroni salad, and barbecued black-eyed peas--and football-- for $19. an offer difficult to refuse...but, allison and i decided to save the fried chicken for a future visit.

our dinner went like this:

a michelada: modelo beer, tomato juice, and hot sauce.
grilled baby octopus
anson mills farro, pickled pear, boiled peanuts, smoked yogurt.

i didn't discern the "pickle" in the pear or the "smoke" in the yogurt, but i loved the assertive sweetness and the char in the grilled baby octopus. nice layered flavors and textures going on here.

brussels sprouts...with apple butter.
does that sound odd to you? well, if you have any interest at all in brussels sprouts, please order these. the salty, glossy leaves stayed crisp . the touch -- just a spoonful? --of apple butter woke up the palate. we loved these. loved loved loved.

cornmeal dusted catfish
carolina red rice and beans, chow chow remoulade...

our server mentioned that this dish changes his opinion of catfish forever (he was formerly disinterested). he was right to rave. these are generous fillets, perfectly fried. i thought i recognized tomato in this remoulade that gave it...you guessed it, a little sweetness. i loved how they blanketed the fish with it.

and: the humble red bean? it's lovable again, as a side here (with rice and sausage).


for dessert: bourbon banana bread pudding. this might have been the single, slight disappointment of the evening--maybe our server built this up a bit too much? it was very warm and wet banana bread, but the custard that i look forward to, was missing. a crisp top would have given a bit of texture and caramelization. the sauce would have been more memorable if it had been a bit thicker and boozier.

(we like 'em thick and boozy.)

but...allison and i are still high on lowcountry. we're plotting fried chicken biscuits and bbq sliders for the next game night. i've had the sliders before--they were one of my favorite "tastes" at the back to basis event in september.they described it then as a "north carolina, lightly smoked pork shoulder." i hope it's the same preparation. it was wonderfully refined, even with all that delicious slaw spilling out all over...


***

lowcountry is at 142 west 10th street, between greenwich avenue and waverly place.

they accept reservations at 212.255.2335 or via open table.

Sunday, November 14, 2010