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familial visit, NYC restaurants, and a bit of geekiness

I was late leaving for my grandmother’s because there was amazing weather this weekend. I love my back porch so much.

I spent some time cleaning out my refrigerator and pretending that counted as cleaning out my apartment. I’d pull together something out of bits and ends and then I’d eat it on the porch in the sunshine. Whee!

I finally left the house around 1pm. I got to my grandmother’s just in time for dinner. We ate. I tried to make conversation. I think her hearing it going. Then we came back to her apartment, and she sat for an hour or two nodding off before going to bed. I read a little, napped a little, watched the season 2 finale of Being Human, and then changed and went to sleep obscenely early.

Going to sleep early meant that I was up at dawn-ish, so I grabbed a beach towel for some traction and did a wee little bit of yoga. Just enough to get circulation in my shoulders and to loosen up my lower back. Then I put the towel away and pretended to still be asleep.

My grandmother’s aide was late, but she was clean enough that I felt no guilt about just helping her select clothes and get dressed. And then we made it to breakfast a little late. You’d think the timing wouldn’t matter, but the dining room gets crowded and louder, and so conversation still didn’t so much happen. But we smiled at each other and had bonding time.

After breakfast, my grandmother fell asleep. I napped and read until noon, when I got her up to go downstairs for a cup of coffee. I tried to entice her into a quick walk around their garden area, but the sun didn’t quite reach into it and there was a breeze, so she begged off. And then, since she was going right back to sleep after coffee, I left around 2pm. But I didn’t go straight home because I’d heard rumor on Twitter about a DoctorWhoNY event involving an intimate (which just means limited to 100 people) Q&A with Russell Tovey, from Doctor Who/Torchwood and Being Human and stuff. And, hey, they scheduled for a day I’d already be in the city and it was only $20. So there.

But I had four or so hours to kill in New York City without wanting to spend too much money or acquire baggage. Eh, so I wandered a bit. I found a nice sunny ledge by Union Square and read there for an hour. And then I found a restaurant a couple blocks from the venue that didn’t seem to expensive. I walked around a little bit more to kill more time and to make sure I’d made the best restaurant choice, and then I circled around back.

So they don’t have their hours posted on the outside. At first I thought I’d heard that their dining room didn’t open until 4:30, but it turns out they actually said 5:30. No matter, because they have a tea room right next door. I tried a lovely, dark tea from southern India, Nilgiri, which is apparently also carried by Whole Foods (they would have told me a package of it but were out of stock). And despite appearances, their small teapots held three cups worth of tea. It came with cute little dishes with rough hewn sugar cubes (brown and white) and a small dish of honey, just wide enough that the spoon looked like it would not fit but did easily. And cream. This was a good visit for tea.

I also ordered a chaat. I was worried that it would spoil my appetite, but I forgot to account for NYC level of prices. It was just the perfect size for pre-dinner nibbling.

So 5:30 rolled over, and I bopped over to the main dining room. I think they figured I was interested in food as they seated my opposite their theater kitchen, which just serviced the tandoori ovens and a grill. I still have no idea how the different bread got made – one of them ended up rolled into a spiral… and then pressed flat? But it was nifty and pleasing to watch. I ordered a soup and dal makhani.

The cauliflower ginger soup… was a lovely idea, but off a bit. For one thing, it was an oddly large portion for the rest of the scale of the restaurant, but I guess that’s not a complaint. It was also perfectly smooth (as if the cauliflower had been pureed and then strained) with small grains of ginger (there were cumin seeds, but I think some of the chewy bits were also ginger). I think I would have rather also had some small pieces of cauliflower, too. I asked for a salt shaker, and that perked it up a little. But I think what it really needed was a sour note – possibly a lovely contrasting swirl of tamarind chutney.

Dal Makhani – So there’s a restaurant near me with amazing dishes with Makhani sauce, but there’s another with only a bland brown dal makhani. It seemed like a good way to judge the restaurant as well as being the cheapest thing on the menu. Now, I’ve had a few restaurants in London charge separately for rice and everything, but they were also noticeably cheaper pricepoints – at $12.50 for dal, I was surprised to be asked whether I also wanted to order rice. I didn’t – I went with a roti instead for more joy. And, yes, their makhani sauce was very like my favorite, rich and reddish. Very well done, and I would eat there again.

I did not order dessert because I managed to just perfectly hit the time I was aiming for.

So I walked the few blocks to Cafe 50 West. This also looked like a good place for dinner – with casserole dishes of macaroni and cheese or artichoke dip. Their soups looked delicious. I just ordered a hot tea, and that was pretty darn impressive. It was a british style tea (broken leaves, and a high ratio of tea to hot water – water added to tea bag at the right temperature), but they even thought to pre-warm the mug! \o/!

There was a cute Q&A with Russell Tovey, which was taped, wherein there managed to be lewd appreciation of his professional nudity while still respecting his craft. After all, he was the one who suggested that one of his dream roles was to play a rent boy (right after wishing to get to star in a remake of The Goonies, but nevermind that). I have a few more of his past roles I now want to find (it’s well overdue for me to watch The History Boys). There was a queue for his autograph. That went well, and I got to talk to a couple friendly people. And I was also reminded why I pick my fannish associations rather discriminatingly. Russell was friendly in line as well, and he seemed to be having a decent time.

He was mentioning that actors in the UK aspire to get to act on American shows because having the larger budgets and whole teams of writers sounds so glamorous. The audience of anglophiles was trying to dissuade him. The most cogent explanation was given by someone pointing to a specific character point for him where he was, as a protagonist, allowed to win the end of the episode’s plotline by becoming more morally ambiguous instead of less and how awesome British shows are for having the courage to do that. And the woman by me nodding her emphatic agreement was the same one who had earlier told me that she hadn’t watched the whole latest bit of Torchwood canon because she didn’t agree with what they’d done with the characters and she didn’t want her shows to be anything less than light and happy. And I’m sure she wasn’t the only one with no internal irony alert.

And after the autographs, there was a viewing of the first episode of the second season with Russell giving commentary. He said some obvious things. Mentioned that the later love interest for one of the other main characters was an ex of that actor. But in general it was pretty tame stuff, so I didn’t stay until the end of the episode.

I walked back to catch the Chinatown Bus home.

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