Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Fairway Review

Well, a little off-topic, though Fairway Red Hook is a legit tourist destination...

[For tourists: The café in the Red Hook branch of this famous NYC family supermarket has an incredible view of the water, blue infinity, big industrial ships, tugboats, water taxis, bridges, Jersey, the horizon. A trip to Red Hook, window shopping on Van Brunt St and having a lobster roll at the Fairway café is a great New York afternoon.]

But the real reason I'm writing this is because I shop at this Fairway almost every day and wish to praise some of its products and pan others. To wit:

Unusually good Fairway-specialty food items:

•The roast beef at the deli counter.
•The lobster salad at the deli counter.
•The aged Manchego, the rosemary-crusted Manchego, the Humboldt Fog, the Livarot, the Moon Madness, the Grafton cheddar in black wax,
•The fresh-made basil pesto--the bright green one--that you can sometimes find on the shelf by the home-made pastas.
•All of the fresh cheese products: Ben's cream cheese, the ricotta cheese, the pot cheese, sold by weight at the cheese counter and in the case next to it. Absolutely superior to any packaged dairy.
•The fresh-ground honey-roasted peanut butter and fresh-ground almond butter. (Machine in the organic section).
•The dark-chocolate-covered graham crackers. (Found across the aisle from the fish counter; you will hate me for introducing you to these.)
•Green's & Blacks dark chocolate bars. (Doorway of the organic section. Imported from England and so yummy.)
•Packaged cashews, slivered almonds, walnuts...all the Fairway-packaged nuts are fresh and delicious.
•Dried cranberry-and-cherry mix. Hard to find and great for fresh cranberry sauce around Thanksgiving.
•The Australian, organic, grass-fed beef, I forget the brand, is, I hear from a reporter who met the farmer, made from real animals, eating only grass, living normal, cruelty-free animal lives outdoors. Anything imported from Australia is bad for the environment, but this is the only Fairway meat I can really vouch for.
•Imported beer. "Duchy Originals" is the Prince of Wales' brand. Also Chimay and Lambics with fruit, if you like those. I think they're fun for specialty events.
•From the bakery: The baguettes, the bagels and flagels and bialys, the sourdough rolls, the raisin walnut rolls, pretty much everything in the self-serve bread area.
•From the dessert counter: the madelines.
•I'm not going to talk about the Fage yogurt and the Wallaby and the kombucha, etc., because that stuff is available everywhere, but Fairway does have a good selection.
•Last, but oh so not least: Ciao Bella sorbet. The Blackberry Cabernet. The Dark Chocolate. The Blood Orange, the Passionfruit....

Things that are bad at Fairway:
•Most of the produce isn't all that.
•Most of the prepared deli-foods are inedible.
•The Fairway soups.
•The fresh salsa and guac remind me of that New Yorker article about the company that imparts flavor to a "tasteless nutrient slurry".
•The rotisserie chicken. It has a good flavor and sometimes is so overdone it's pleasantly chewy and falling apart, but the breasts are too dry.
•The hummus & tahinis (see "tasteless slurry").
•The fresh pastas and gnocchi are not great, and some of the ravioli is downright disgusting (pumpkin).
•Bacon and sausages. Why is the selection so bad?
•Any of those puff-dried vegetables, as well as the big plastic boxes of "veggie chips."
•The bulk coffee ranges from terrible to undrinkable. We replaced our coffee maker twice before catching on.
•Everything at the café, with the exception of the lobster roll is execrable. Including the service. World's worst sandwiches and pizza. I would say that the ham-and-Gruyere croissant sandwich is the closest thing to semi-edible the Fairway cafe produces, but that's nearly as fattening as the lobster roll.
•Fairway does not bake good loaves of bread.
•Fairway does not make good cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, fancy desserts, brownies, etc.

Would love to see comments from other Fairway shoppers!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bangkok becomes ever more amazing

So, it doesn't happen with every destination, but I sometimes start researching a place and find so many great bloggers and cool beta-test websites and interesting literary people talking about the language or the culture that it's really quite exciting. It doesn't happen with every city--and sometimes not with the ones you'd expect (Paris? Why not Paris, people?), or even with most cities, but it turns out that Bangkok is one of the happy few. Maybe eventually I'll get a feel for what kind of cities sponsor lively and loving coverage, and which don't but so far it's always a not-surprising surprise.

Not surprising because Bangkok has always seemed like a place I could almost live. You know that travel thing where you start imagining what your life would be like in every new place? I've sort of dreamed of Bangkok days with the cool arts people I would meet and the jaded Aussies and even the awful spectacle of the sex tourists, these terrible lone men like dinosaurs or deep-sea creatures, pale and wattled...I've seen them in hotels. Anyway, a lot of blabber to say that from the online profile, one, it seems like there are a lot of cool people speaking English in Bangkok and two, it seems like the hotels and the bars and the restaurants are creative, fascinating, very Thai but also accessible to tourists. I'm looking forward to going again.

And, in the meantime, before my city page is up, check out this great blog by Marcel Barang, a translator of important Thai literary works into English and French. It's called "the written wor(l)d en deux langues" and you could live your cool Thai life just by following in his footsteps.