Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two To Tango

I lovingly fingered the straps to my favorite pair of Comme Il Fauts as I gently slipped my feet into them. Often referred to as the Manolo Blahniks of tango and made in exclusive batches of around 50 pairs a model, these beautifully crafted heels are exquisite and very, very comfortable.

The music started, my partner held me in an embrace, and in one sweeping movement, proceeded to step on my foot.

Being a tango school drop-out, getting back into the fold has proven more difficult than anticipated. My regular partner, Yuri and I had a quest to "catch up" to our former tango instructor, Robin Thomas. He no longer taught the Basic level, which led us to study under different instructors until a later point. This evening was no different at Dance School B:

"One more time!" the instructor barked. "Right foot in! Right foot out! Step forward! STOOOOP! STOOOOP! What are you DOOOOOING?!"

We repeated the steps in a military cadence. There was resignation in each of my class partners' eyes. Some huffed in impatience, other danced in defiance to their own tune. I merely smiled and followed. After all, there is much to be learnt, even from an instructor whose methods may be more...militant than nurturing.

Learning to tango is a pursuit of passion. You have to want it, and you have to want it bad. This is not a dance where you take a month-long crash course and expect to hit a milonga and know all the moves. In fact, it takes years to truly master the craft, but only a few moments to love it.

Everything in tango is about intention. The way a man leads his partner is projected through his confidence in movement, his chest leading the way. If his intentions are clear, his partner is able to move in the right direction, even if blindfolded. Alas, in the valley of tango beginners, the two left-footed advanced novice is Queen.

Photo: © Tango Slovenia. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cinéma Verité: “Strangers”

I accepted a last minute invitation to the Israeli Film Festival yesterday evening. I have always held a curiosity for cultures unlike my own. Even more so, when my passport dictates that I am not allowed to visit. South Africa was crossed out when apartheid ended, and Cuba too, is now a possible destination. But Israel remains out of reach. (Of course there are ways, dear reader, but we will not discuss them).

I normally dismiss love stories as loathe-worthy, saccharine-filled, gag-inducing flicks of boy meets girl and they live happily ever after. However, I am ever humbled by "Strangers," a movie of love, sacrifice, second chances and the power of choice, directed by Erez Tadmor and Guy Nattiv.

Rana and Eyal, both in Berlin for the World Cup, meet on the metro and grab each other’s bag by mistake, sparking a chain of events that lead them both on a life-defining journey. Lubna Azabal (of 2006 Golden Globe winning, “Paradise Now” fame) is paired with TV heartthrob, Liron Levo. The connection between the two was what made the film so incredibly powerful. I was floored to learn that the movie was sans script. Despite the back and forth in English, Hebrew and French, both actors were able to deliver an authenticity of character and dialogue lacking in other films that utilize multiple languages. The scenes shot at the World Cup were especially intimate, capturing the excitement of the moment.

“Strangers” represented to me, a symbol of hope. That differences can be put aside. We are defined not by our past. Who we are being in the present and the choices we make, are what determines our future.

I was touched! Inspired! As the lights came on in the theatre, my movie buddy gave a slight yawn, turned to me and said, "What did I miss? I fell asleep after the disco scene."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dirt Candy

When you’re feeding a tough audience of carnivorous New Yorkers whose vegetarian forays have been marred by creations like, “kelp on a plate” and bean fueled dragon bowls, you better bring it. Amanda Cohen's newly minted Dirt Candy on East 9th St. has brought'n it alright, and oh is it sweet and sassy.

Reading Amanda's (formerly of Pure Food and Wine, Heirloom) declaration on her website, “I don’t care about your health. I don’t care about your politics either,” I knew I had found a kindred sister from a vegetarian mother.

Something you may not know about me, dear Reader, is that I am an unabashed meat lover. One who unapologetically converts the leaf eating, yoga chanting types. Mr. C and I often chuckle about how an order of short ribs corrupted Missy's sensibilities. She spent the entire weekend holed up in her apartment with a bucket of KFC. But I digress.

Upon entering Dirt Candy, you are greeted by pressed recycled wood paneling framed by opaque glass. In this cozy establishment, the atmosphere is warm, the service attentive yet unobtrusive. Mr. C and I ordered the hush puppies to start. The hush puppies were just so but it was the sweet, subtle maple butter carressing my tongue that left an impression.

My second course was a parpadelle dish that I barely recalled, save the disappointment I felt when tasting it. While the parmesan crusted pine nuts were a nice touch, I did not care for the grape balls and the overall sweetness of my entree. The naked cauliflower however, gets a plus for its slightly charred taste.

Mr. C's stone ground grits with pickled shitakes and a tempura poached egg faired much better. This entree sold me with its comforts, like a warm, toasty blanket on a cold day. There were some "Aha!" moments with this dish, one being the mustard greens sneakily leaving a bite on my tongue.

No meal is complete without dessert. We ordered the chocolate cake with chocolate chili ice cream and sweet potato sorbet as well as the popcorn pudding. The sweet potato sorbet really resonated with me. This is what my Japanese grandmas’s sweet potato sorbet tasted like: sweet and filled with memories of home. (Alas, this is if I were Japanese and had a grandma who could cook, much less whip up ice cream). The popcorn pudding was just delightful. Happy, crunchy, buttery caramel popcorn was paired with a subtle pudding.

One can truly see Amanda Cohen's vision for Dirt Candy. Amanda is extremely chipper and highly likeable. Her enthusiasm and passion for her craft is reflected in her earthy, yet complex dishes. With a little fine-tuning, Dirt Candy has the potential to be the vetegarian establishment it is meant to be

Plough on, Dirt Candy, plough on.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween Adventure

Halloween has always been an adult soiree in NYC. Fairytale and children's tv character themes rant rampant. I too, fell victim to the trend and sported an Alice in Wonderland outfit that was super cute.

Several notable costumes:

Spotted at Union Square

Kermit and Miss Piggy...

15th St. & 5th Ave.

Little Red Riding Hood & the Wolf in Grandma's Jammies...

Tompkins Square Park

The adorable...

9th Street and Broadway

The sexy...(absolutely love this modern take on a 19th century footman)

9th Street and 2nd Ave.

The bizarre....