The Weekend Miscellaneous #4 (Shabbat, Tompkins Square Bagels, John’s, Veniero’s, Café Mogador, East Village Pizza, Mimi Cheng’s, 1917)

Good afternoon and happy Monday.

Without any further ado or anything extemporaneous, here is the weekend review which I call The Weekend Miscellaneous.

Shabbat – went to my first Shabbat on Friday night. It was hosted by one of the group leaders from the birthright trip that I went on and we had a dozen or so people from the program together in her apartment on the Upper West Side, a couple blocks from the northwest corner of Central Park. We had one guy visit from Israel and another couple of people up from DC so I felt very fortunate once again to live in New York where it sometimes feels like everyone is and everything happens. As I wrote previously about Shabbat, I have come to believe it is an excellent concept when afforded a little flexibility. This first experience only further cemented my perspective. We ate great home-cooked food including challah, vegan curry, and kugel which is like a Jewish version of mac and cheese only a little sweeter thanks to some sugar and cinnamon. We talked about the highlights of our weeks, drank wine and beer, and ate chocolates filled with brandy.

Tompkins Square Bagels – a long line worth waiting in for an excellent bagel toasted with cream cheese. For such a line, one has to be impressed by the efficiency of their system. We were in and out within 10 or 15 minutes and there must have been 75 people inside. I looked at the several different variations of cream cheese and wondered who was ordering all of them, particularly the cookie dough. My only critique is that they are a little light on the everything seasoning for their everything bagels. That said, I grew up spoiled in terms of bagels having had the locally legendary O’Bagel just a few minutes away from my house in New Jersey. Regardless of particulars, TSB will satisfy a bagel craving any day of the week(end).

John’s – this neon sign between the blocks where my buddies Will and Harry live has intrigued me for a while. The three of us finally got to going on Saturday night and it was exactly what I had hoped it would be. No frills Italian food with an old-school vibe and excellent service, all conducive to a great time. We started with an order of buratta and an eggplant parm to share, complimentary garlic bread served alongside it. We followed with the Spiedino Mozzarella Romana which was basically a giant mozzarella stick sliced into french toaster stick sized slices and soaked in a butter and anchovies sauce which made the whole thing taste a little fishy and a lot salty, but in a much tastier way than those words might seem to suggest. We also had a penne with mushroom sauce but what sealed the deal was the cheesecake dessert. When it comes to desserts, I usually tend towards chocolate and I will take a tiramisu over cheesecake nine times out of ten. When the service is good, however, I will relinquish my preferences in favor of the waiter’s recommendations and so by that means only I have had my fair share of cheesecakes. John’s cheesecake was the best I have had. It was cakey and chilled and just unbelievably delicious. Our waiter Tony was great all night to the point where we somewhat expected him to bring limoncello shots with the check. Even better, he brought complimentary and generous second pours for the ports we had enjoyed with dessert. Tony told us how everything was made in house except for the ice cream in the tartufo, including the cannolis which were “good” he said, but the ones on the next block at Veniero’s were “great”. That is the kind of humility I like to see at a restaurant.

Veniero’s – sure enough, I went and tried the cannoli on Sunday. It was great.

Café Mogador – went out for breakfast with my brother on Sunday before the brunch crowds got out of bed. I love waking up after most kitchens are open but before most people are up on the weekends. There is no better time to enjoy a breakfast out. This Middle Eastern spot on St. Marks served a nice breakfast of eggs, hummus, tabouli, and salad with seasoned pita bread on the side. There was a spicy sauce served also on the side which was tasty if you could handle the kick, which if I could, you probably could too. In many towns, this could be a go to spot for me. Here it is just one of many within a few blocks.

East Village Pizza – grabbed a slice in the late afternoon on Sunday to tide me over until dinner after skipping lunch. I ordered a plain slice but audibled to a margherita when I saw it come fresh out of the oven. The switch cost me a buck twenty-five but I could taste the premium ingredients that I paid for. It was a solid 7 slice held back mainly by its mediocre crust.

Mimi Cheng’s – great dumplings filled on the spot and served fresh and hot. Six or eight pieces, boiled or pan-fried made for an easy choice of eight pan-fried dumplings for me.

1917 – saw this in theaters Sunday night with my brother. I continue to be surprised by the quality of movies that were produced in 2019. I loved Parasite, The Irishman, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and while Joker was hard to love, it was easy to appreciate. 1917 I thought was remarkable in the way that it was filmed seemingly without any cuts. You basically had to pick a point within an almost perfectly seamless transition from one scene to another and guess that there was a cut somewhere in there to try and find one. The acting was excellent from the main two characters to the others with briefer roles including the guy who gives them the flare and the single scene appearing eldest of The Stark Brothers from Game of Thrones. My brother argued that it was a better film than the most natural comparison, Saving Private Ryan. We eventually came to an agreement that, although it may have been better technically because of the quarter century’s worth of technological improvements that the 1917 team had at their disposal, it was not necessarily fair to compare the two overall. That would be like comparing the recent Warriors dynasty to Jordan’s Bulls. They may have dominated the same sport, but the game had changed.

I hope people stay healthy this week and that the warm weather today is here to stay.