Monday, February 27, 2006

Shwarma with Napkins?!

Here's a positive review of an upscale Israeli restaurant in Park Slope, land of strollers and wealthy young folk. My first reaction was: it's about friggin time. Israeli food can be so satisfying when done right - fresh ingredients, sublime grilling of everything from meat to eggplant, the intermingling of tangy and spicy tastes, the vibrant colors - pure perfection. Don't get me wrong, I know Israeli cooking is no culinary Mount Everest (when was the last time you tasted chick-pea foam?), but the food from the holy land deserves respectable surroundings, not the usual sweaty falafel shacks dotting American cities with Jewish communities. You know what I'm referring to - the mean waitresses, unkempt salad/condiment bar, the heat from the shwarma spit, and no attention to decor.

So bravo to this Miriam restaurant, though I find it interesting that they list their wines from Israel as being from "South Europe." I thought Israel was in the Middle East. Even the UN thinks so. And it doesn't really help Israel's cause to be grouped in Europe, just ask neighbor Turkey.

Does the Shark get an Aliyah?

Charles Saatchi, the British art collector who brought Damien Hirst's animals-in-formaldehyde art and a dung-clad Virgin Mary to the Brooklyn masses 6 years ago with "Sensation," also finances a cool London syngagogue. And they just had a cholent cook-off! Perhaps they should have called it a "chamin"-off seeing as how Saatchi is a Sephardic Jew (from Bagdad, no less).

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Friday, February 24, 2006

This Ain't Your Mamma's Shvitz

The NYTimes has a fun review comparing two new hotels here in my little 'hood - the posh Asian-inspired Setai and the free-spirited Andre Balazs-owned Standard. Example of great journalism: when the reporter admits to calculating the amount of water per minute streaming through the Setai's $900/night shower - 12 gallons.

I've had the privilege of patronizing the Standard's co-ed hamam/spa courtesy of my dear friend Rachel (thanks Rache!) and it was a simultaneously wholesome and Dionysian experience. True, there were plenty of sweaty, supple (this was post-yoga class), young Miamians frolicking through the group shower rooms and steam baths, and yes there was wine and figs to be consumed while sitting on the hot marble slabs where topless women were being massaged by sarong-wearing masseuse, BUT there was also lots of talk about vegan diets, electric cars, and organic exfoliators and absolutely NO funny business to be had anywhere throughout the steamy corridors, as if everyone was trying their best to deny the sexual atmosphere.

I was actually disappointed that the hamam room was co-ed, not because I'm anti-speedo (just the opposite!), but because I think it detracts from the ancient tradition of hamam/group bathing. When I lived in Istanbul (you can read about it here), where going to the hamam is as old as kabobs, I was struck by the female bonding going on in the steambaths. It was like being in an oriental version of "Sisters," where women of all generations - tourists and locals alike - chatted, relaxed, and were scrubbed down rigorously by thick-armed Turkish women who sang
in unison as they did their work. And the most romantic aspect of the experience was knowing your mate was being scrubbed down on the other side of the marble wall and reuniting afterwards feeling refreshed, clean, and ready to take on the rest of the day. Or in the case of my man, his looking bewildered and relieved to be done with the experience he described as "not not-traumatic." I guess they don't sing on the men's side.

Foam is SO five minutes ago

This weekend the South Beach Wine and Food Festival pours into Miami for a decadent three days of super-star chefs, overpriced tastings, and general culinary chaos. If you're in the mood to brave the Emeril and Rachel Ray adoring crowds, I suggest heading over the to the Wolfsonian Museum for a screening of "Decoding Ferran Adria," a look at the innovative Spanish chef and his many experimental ways of turning everyday comestibles into foam, mists, and crystallized versions of their former selves. I never knew a canister of CO2 gas was a culinary necessity. Can I get one of those at Williams Sonoma? And I thought I was hot stuff using a "soup dildo," as my friend Mitch calls it.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Jew York University

This just in: NYU has lots of Jews!
Apparently New York University leads the nation in the amount of Jewish students enrolled. And in "L'chaim" tattoos.

Guilt and Pleasure

One of the perks of being a Jewish professional (aside from the lavish liquor-sponsored parties, free electronic gadgets, and daily delivery of luxury goods), is that people are constantly sending me Jewish literature to give to other young Jews. (I'm looking right at you, Shmuley Boteach.) Usually, I'll let it sit in my office until I need room for more shwag, but in the case of Guilt and Pleasure, I was more than willing to spread the love. Here's a magazine that is smart, good-looking, and often humorous. The way you wish more Jews were.

So go, dear readers, and check this out. I particularly enjoyed Mark Oppenheimer's article on the Holy Land Theme Park in Orlando, as it makes me so proud to be living in the state of Florida, a state of lunatics. And Michael Berkowitz's collection of poster art from Jerusalem's Zionist archives had me salivating because, like good Israel-nerds, we have already begun our own little collection of vintage Israeli posters.

Oh, and if any of you want the hard copy, email me your address and I'll send you one, after I finish this case of Vitamin Water cluttering my cubicle.

Friday, February 17, 2006

"The Tribe"

Another great short film on the Sundance site is Tiffany Shlain's "The Tribe," a clever history of the Jews and the creator of the Barbie doll - a Jew, who knew? The website for the film includes something called "Web Talmud," a new-fangled way of looking this internet thing. The film is also narrated by Peter Coyote who I will forever love for his portrayal of a Moshe Dayan-type in the "Hebrew Hammer" and for his dead-on Spielberg making a Yiddish version of The Merchant of Venicee in France in "Le Grand Role." I'm hoping we can coax him into doing something for our next independent low budget Jewtastic movie. Seems that he likes to be a part of those projects.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

There's Still Hope for Iran

I really believe this. Even though everyday there are news reports about how crazy the new president is and how dangerous it is to be a Jew in that country or any country nearby, I really truly believe with all my heart that Iran will one day be a sane place to live and visit. A place where I can visit.

I believe this because 70% of the population of Iran is under the age of 30. They want their MTV, their internet, their i-pods, and freedom. They will make themselves heard. They are already trying to in underground blogs.

Peruse Hoder's blog, an Iranian who was kicked out of the country for his journalistic pursuits and who recently visited Israel. His photoblog I found particularly addictive, very poetic pics. Perhaps one day I'll take my own.

Yom Kippur Pedicure

Love this essay by Daphne Merkin on Jewish guilt. It's a testament to Merkin's great writing that I connect with this piece given that her struggle is (by her own admission) the Ashkenazi (German-Jewish) brand of walking the religion tightrope. Being a Parsi gal myself, the tension in my house was usually a looser, louder, spicier version of being wracked by the obligation to be pious. And really, who wouldn't go nuts after having to endure 12 years of private school where the dress code mandates this:
To get a sense of the confused atmosphere, you have only to stand outside a Jewish day school like the one I went to on the Upper East Side and watch the girls emerge in clothes that are maximally revealing while being at the same time appropriately unscanty — an aesthetic approach most typically characterized by the long, tight denim skirts that are usually slit halfway up the back or side and look difficult to navigate without resorting to the kind of mincing steps that I imagine Chinese women with bound feet were forced to adopt.

I believe the accurate term is "denim burritos."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Write in the Kisser

Here's an engaging NY Times op-ed from Joshua Foer (brother of Jonathan Safran) on the activity of kissing.
It's true what they say - research really is romantic.

For Whom the Bell Does Not Toll

Some times I ride my bike to work. This puzzles my co-workers and generally solidifies my standing as a hippie curiosity who never does anything like normal people do. But more about that later.

My story today involves my perky little bike bell. A bicycle bell, like a car horn, is meant to warn people in your line of travel to move, get out of the way, draw attention to oneself, etc. I like my bell, it's loud, got a full-bodied chime, and reminds me of an ice-cream truck. Now if only my little ding-a-ling spoke Spanish. Yep you heard me, my bike bell is understandable only to English speakers. Every time I ride on the sidewalks (which I am want to do since Miami has no bike lanes and really what suicidal person would ride on the actual street in Miami, it's like a 3-D video game with flying hubcaps and other detritus) and I see a pedestrian and give my usual 20-yard ring and then as I slowly sidle up the person's behind I ring AGAIN and still the person does not turn around or move out the way until I come to a full stop or swerve onto the grass only to be met by a startled "Que fue eso?" or, the local favorite, "Putta di madre!" The fact that this does not happen with English speakers (who DO heed the bell, and move to the side) leads me to believe that my beloved bell is not ESL friendly. Or maybe all those people are deaf.

Vanity unFair

Read this scathing review of the scandalous Vanity Fair "Hollywood" issue and decide for yourself - either Tom Ford is a marketing wiz or despressingly predictable. Or both.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Gallery Hopping

We like to live on the edge here in Miami so we headed over to Wynwood for their monthly "Second Saturdays" gallery night. There's nothing like traipsing through a neighborhood in the process of gentrification to really make you feel gritty. Aided by our talented friend Jacin, who's work/studio/loft is immortalized in our film, and armed with our own stash of plastic cups, we sought out the freshest art the market has to offer.
Some highlights:
A group show of Columbia University MFA students at Frederic Snitzer's gallery, Peter Barrett's plastic sculptures at Ingalls & Associates, and Elsoca and Fabian's obsessive compulsive BIODRAWINGS made of pieces of insects at Bernice Steinbaum.
Love when artists refuse to use plain-old paint.


Living in South Florida, I am constantly surrounded by two things - the funeral industry and the gaudy-McMansion-real-estate-development industry. Well, there is one man, a genius, in fact, who has decided to combine those two worlds into one fascinating entity - a ritzy funeral home replete with marble floors, neo-classical architecture, a replica of the Western Wall, and lots and lots of beige. Read my article about it for the Forward here.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The World is Too Much With Us

Countries I've visited and/or lived in.
I guess it doesn't count if you've visited a certain teeny-tiny country a bajillion times. Well, I still love you Holy Land, even if that means there's a lot more of this world I've yet to see.
Generate your own map here.

Brown Bag It

Though I'm no longer a Manhattanite, one my fave things to do when visiting the city is partake of some of the best ethnic food the island has to offer. To enhance this dining experience, I often bring a magnum of cheap wine. I have my own list of sweet BYOB spots, but courtesy of New York magazine, here's a list of 50 categorized by neighborhood. Watch out for the corkage fees as they can bump that bottle of Gato Negro over the $10 mark - the horror!

Garrison vs. Frenchy

Weekend mornings are often spent reading approx. 16 days worth of the New York Times (it takes at LEAST two cups of coffee to get through Sunday Styles) and listening to everyone's favorite Midwestern storyteller on NPR. But not only is the breathy Garrison Keillor a magnificent weaver of tales about people from states I will never visit, the man can also write!
I thoroughly enjoyed his scathing review of Bernard Henri-Levy's rambling exploration of America, land of the freaks, in the New York Times Book Review. "A Prairie Home Companion" just gained another fan...

"Pity Card"

While perusing the Sundance website this year, where there is a short film smorgasbord, I was pleasantly surprised by this piece by Bob Odenkirk of Mr. Show fame. It's funny, witty, and employs that brand of irreverent intelligence that is so often "misunderstood" by the "general public."
A trip to the Holocaust museum will never be the same again.