Archive for the ‘Poughkeepsie’ Category

"IT’S HOT OUT HERE, RELOCATE TO POUGHKEEPSIE"

December 14, 2007

-Capone-N-Noreaga featuring Tragedy, “Stay Tuned”

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(I have never seen this many people on Main Street, circa 2007)

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“The Thai spot in Beacon” is conveniently located next door to the “Thai grocer in Beacon,” and on this night I ended up there after thwarted attempts to buy records (the Goodwill on Route 9 had just tossed them all out; though I did get to see a woman try and stuff an irrationally huge, SUV-sized bouquet of balloons into her compact) and go to the museum (the Dia: Beacon closes at 4pm, apparently). So I placed my order and walked over to the grocer to kill time. There were no other customers, and behind the counter sat a five-year-old girl who could barely see over the register. She nodded ‘sup and returned to the glow of her small (but weirdly proportional) television. I bought a bottle of fish sauce, out of guilt, and admired the knives hanging on the wall.

So there I was, carefully nestling two containers of takeout within a womb of old blankets, when I realized: I live 45 minutes away from one of three passable Asian restaurants in the Hudson Valley. The other two: “the Indian spot in the deserted strip mall in Fishkill” and Hokkaido in New Paltz. Forty-five minutes is: about fifty pages of a good book; a not unsubstantial amount of gas; a great conversation; Nas’ Illmatic; an entire episode of Gossip Girl (coincidentally, Dan and Jenny’s mom lives in Hudson).

I was thinking about this earlier tonight while watching Jeffrey Steingarten, Marc Ecko and the guy with the glasses judge Iron Chef America, as inferior a Transpacific translation as Shall We Dance–save for the moments when Jeffrey Steingarten has to talk to Marc Ecko, and Ecko says something “makes him cry like Beaches.” Nobody got the joke and so Ecko proceeded to flail about, kind of like this

and buried his head in his hands, sobbing. The guy with the glasses played along, lamely, and “hugged it out, beach.” Steingarten muttered: “Get a grip.”

I’ve always felt that the American version of the show is awful because of the judging. The Japanese original features guest judges from all walks of life (teachers, television presenters, athletes, dignitaries, etc.), all of whom express the awe we as viewers feel when we witness a master compose a five-course meal exploring the multifaceted wonders of the Burdock root. IN AN HOUR. You’ve got to be kidding me! I can’t even drive to Beacon and back in an hour.

Instead, the American show version traffics in self-important food critics (like the one guy with the Pearl Jam-casualty hair and uncomfortably gleeful laugh), celebrities who aren’t technically famous and that one woman who works in something called “food public relations.” The judgments are drained of awe, the judges sober and critical in a manner that can alienate a lot of us who, you know, just like to eat, foam or no.

But watching Steingarten reminds me how I feel about the aesthetic, whether it’s bound as a book or served to me on a plate: taste matters. Precise description matters. The language we employ to describe pleasure should rise to the height of that pleasure (unless it sounds tacky). Steingarten and Ecko both loved the same peanutty dish, but Steingarten didn’t think Ecko really understood why. And sure, it’s academic: “things we like” are ultimately subjective and ephemeral, and there’s no logic undergirding taste. But for the critic Steingarten, one’s taste is only significant insofar as one can explain it.

And so I realized: no, the judging process is fine. Iron Chef America sucks because of the Russian Roulette-like risk of having to hear Bobby Flay say “Chipotle” every third or fourth episode.

Initially I thought moving out of New York would be devastating, eating-wise. But–and here begins the What I Did At Summer Camp portion of the post–there are many wonderful things about the Hudson Valley. This tomato, for example:

Isn’t that a lovely tomato?

The afternoon I bought it I couldn’t stop palming it, winding-up and practicing my two-seam fastball grip, tracing all the little valleys and creases and dimples.

Of course this was months ago, before the Ice Age came and made fresh produce as scarce as episodes of Food 911 where Tyler Florence flies somewhere to help out a dude. You know what I’m saying.

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“You will notice the relationship these people have with their corn. They stand there in the grocery story, de-husking their corn. It’s what they do. These people and their corn.” –A colleague, on the little league thrills of Smalltown, USA corn consumption

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I had a very strange meal one night at The Artist’s Palate, one of the one or two outstanding restaurants in Poughkeepsie. It is located on Main Street (pictured above), next to the Muddy Cup, a Hudson Valley franchise that seems to believe that people really, truly, deeply, subconsciously desire coffee shops the size of football fields.

I started with a foie gras appetizer, as is my habit, and it arrived with a tiny, poached apple. It tasted like a normal poached apple, only it was tiny. This was the only picture I could find on the Internet that didn’t involve a “tiny Apple iPod.” I cannot confirm that this woman’s hands aren’t grotesquely large; you’ll just have to accept that apples the size of ping-pong balls exist.

So that was strange. I love miniature things, but the miniature apple seemed a little suspect. Why not an adult apple? Or was this an appetizer meant for a five-year-old?


(These are breadsticks. I have no idea why, but they bring the breadsticks out, packaged, about 2/3 of the way into the meal.)

For my main course I had a…miniature chicken, stuffed with rice and mushrooms–very small mushrooms. All that was missing: “micro greens” and a tiny, thumb-sized aerosol can of foamed celery, or something. If you look carefully, the tiny chicken is resting on a bed of baby bok choy.


Not to scale…or is it?

The chicken was plump and juicy, the stuffing slightly gritty but a great contrast. I found the broth and bok choy irritating–it was meant to signify “Asian,” but it was an over-loud way of doing it.

After dinner, I ordered an Americano. Which, in most parts of the world, means a shot or two of Espresso and about 12 oz (or more) of hot water. Instead, the Americano arrived…in one of those Espresso shot cups with the teasingly minuscule handle. It was a shot topped with a splash of hot water. And it, like everything else, was a miniature. I believe it was a mistake, as my friend’s Macchiato arrived in a Friends-style big ass cup.

Confused, I looked around the restaurant to see what other people were eating. Across the way, there sat the five-year-old girl, still unsupervised, making headway into a Porterhouse.