Kitchener and Creature Comforts

1 January – 3 January

Kitchener. Small city. Brother and his friend cook excellent vegan food. Must gain mastery of the seitan. Dumplings, noodles, salads, good wine. Good coffee at Matter of Taste. See movie of True Grit. Good adaptation of Norwood’s book of same title.

Jazz with no photos…

Those who know me will know that I have little to no musical appreciation. I am frequently getting into trouble for not successfully identifying which Beatles are alive and asking questions like “Is Marvin Gay a one-hit wonder?” Despite an aversion to noise in general, I sometimes find myself listening to music. This occurred on several occasions in New York. I don’t know how to write about music so I’ll write about where I heard music and conclude that I liked it.

The Jazz Vocalist Series at Zeb’s
We walked up some narrow stairs to a large Manhattan apartment. The room had wooden floor boards, cream-coloured walls and wood panels attached to the walls to absorb the sound. it had been fitted out as a music studio. About sixty plastic fold out chairs were set out in rows in front of a microphone, piano, double bass, jazz guitar and assorted audio paraphernalia. There was a portable metal coat-rack – the kind you get at Ikea – and a little side table with a bowl of potato chips, a plate of cookies and bottles of wine and cranberry cordial. A “Private” sign hung over two double doors that led to the rest of the apartment. This is Zeb’s and every Wednesday night he holds a jazz vocalist series followed by open mic. Zeb (jazz guitar) and his friends backed up the night’s lead – Gregory Porter. Three days after accepting the gig at Zeb’s Porter was nominated for a Grammy. He can often be found singing in various venues in Harlem. Porter sang. The band played. I liked it a lot. I particularly liked Be Good, the chain-gang song and 1960. What? Afterwards, many other jazz singers stood up for the open mic. It’s hard to believe I paid only $10 for the privilege.

Cedar Walton at the Village Vanguard
It was 10pm and cold and necessary to have a coffee from the Roasting Plant with its hi-tech grinding roasting coffee machine. We walked to the Village Vanguard, arguably one of the most famous jazz venues in New York and down some stairs to the basement. The room was tighly packed with chairs and tiny drinks tables. Photos of jazz legends hung on the walls. The decor was highlighted by warm but slightly dank green paint. Cedar Walton, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ piano player, was performing that night. We had booked months in advance for the 11pm set. But only 25 people were in attendance. Some turn out for the old jazz guard. Cedar Walton, now in his 70s, was joined on stage by David Williams (double bass) and Willie Jones III (drums). I became fixated by the bass and the bass player. The bass looked handmade. It was made from a lightish wood.You could see the hinges and the glue between the panels. A washer was stuffed beneath the bridge next to a faded pinky-red leather bow sheath. A strap wrapped around the upper part of the instrument. You could see dints and scratches. Am very sorry I didn’t find out the bass’ story or get a photo. The Cedar Walton Trio played and it was good. I liked it a lot.

The Food Pyramid

December 2010

The quest for pyramids is hungry business. Fortunately there is a lot to eat in New York. There is so much to eat that the city of New York has had to enlist the entire population to eat it. The exact chain of food supply, distribution and waste management is not well understood. In 2010 Columbia University published a brief study trying to identify the basic elements of food supply for New York City. City Harvest collects 35,000kg of leftover food a day and redistributes it to New York’s hungry.

Our contribution to consumption was modest. For those who appreciate vegan food, I recommend Ozu’s almond cream, azuki mousse, chocolate tofu pie and jasmine tea; Peacefood Cafe‘s peanut butter cheesecake, chocolate ganache, dumplings, soup and Daiya ‘cheese’; Wild Ginger‘s menu in general and; Quantum Leap’s Big Leap Burger. Happiness indeed for the vegan in New York City.

In the non-vegan category and in general there were many many cheesecakes, cheeseburgers and cheap pizza slices of happiness. Good coffee was hard to find. Roasting Plant Coffee on 7th Avenue had some groovy pneumatic tube grinding and roasting contraption that resulted in tasty coffee. Ecopolis in Brooklyn on Smith Street was also above par. I didn’t partake but who can object to street stands selling milkshakes and cupcakes…

Cupcakes outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Things I have found amusing in New York

Despite the ambiguous name, the 3 Star Coffee a great friendly place for a cheap, decent feed. Family run for over 45 years.

Eight dollars before tax and tip at the Plaza Hotel’s Oak Bar. The service was the worst I’ve had since arriving here. The Plaza Hotel may be a good source of funds for building a pyramid.

A common sight in Central Park and the Upper West Side.