Mad Men Season 5 Premiere

images via amctv.com

After a hiatus of almost eighteen months, AMC’s Mad Men returned on Sunday evening with a two hour Season 5 premiere. We got a sense of how much time had passed by seeing that Don and Megan are married and now live in a de-luxe apartment in the sky, Pete Campbell resides in Connecticut and has the kind of commute Don used to have when he still lived in Ossining, and Joan is on maternity leave raising an infant who everyone thinks is her husband’s while it’s really Roger’s. Business-wise, SterlingCooperDraperPryce is struggling as much as it was last season. Pete Campbell is miserable, the secretary pool is in disarray without Joan, and Don is more focused on being an attentive husband than convincing clients to use the agency’s ideas (oh, if Betty could see him now).

A surprise 40th birthday party for Don serves as an excuse to get most of the major players together in one room, and to also create booze-induced tension, as is tradition on this show. I wasn’t crazy about the cabaret performance that Megan had arranged for herself, but was glad that it at least served as material for Roger’s mocking. Call me evil, but I was hoping that Don would have cast her aside by now. We see little cracks forming in their relationship, which reminds me of Dr. Miller’s statement to Don (right after he dumped her) from last season’s finale: “I hope she knows you only like the beginnings of things.”

It’s also made clear that Megan knows all about the Dick Whitman secret. Since I’ve never trusted Megan, it seems inevitable that her knowledge of his true past will burn him in the near future. Unlike all the previous seasons, there was no lingering concern or feeling of doom in this episode about his secret coming out, so I wonder how long it is before that problem gets raised again.

Betty Francis and her husband are nowhere to be seen in the episode, only being referred to as “Morticia and Lurch” by Don when he drops the kids off after a weekend together. At the end of last season Don and Betty had found a moment of civility towards each other, but it doesn’t appear they’ve progressed much from that point. Roger Sterling and Pete Campbell have grown to be my two favorite characters on the show and I loved seeing them irritate the hell out of each other. I also got a kick out of the badger hair shaving cream brush that Don received from his kids because my father has received the same gift from me twice in the past.

Overall, I enjoyed the premiere. The show’s creators planted the seeds for quite a few story lines this season, as well as a look into a changing social climate surrounding the characters. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

Apotheke

Cocktails
9 Doyers Street, NYC
(212) 406.0400
Website

Next door from Pulqueria, cocktail lounge Apotheke has a street-level entrance, but a chronically closed appearance from the outside. Inside, stoic young bartenders (ahem, mixologists) in lab coats take their jobs very seriously as they pour, shake, and style fancy drinks from a pharmaceutical themed menu. Each mixologist appears to only be responsible for executing a subset of the cocktail list, while middlemen in vests and handlebar moustaches harmonize orders between them and also help liaise with customers.

I was in the mood for tart and spicy, so there were several suitable choices that I tried: Root of the Earth, Jasmine Sour (my favorite, when made without the egg whites), Chinatown Julep, and Blueberry Mauritius. The boys behind the bar were more than accommodating about omitting ingredients if it suited my taste. Although I don’t normally order heavily fruit-based cocktails I was ready to try several of their specialty drinks and was very pleased with the combinations.

Clockwise from left: Blueberry Mauritius, Blood Orange Bourbon Sour, Dr. Ruth

An Evening with David Lynch

Last Friday evening I walked over to the Jack Tilton Gallery on the Upper East Side to take a look at a month-long exhibit of artwork by David Lynch, the great filmmaker who wrote and directed (among other responsibilities) such mind-bending films as Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. The gallery was extending its hours for what it touted as a reception with artist in attendance (the term “reception” used very loosely). Once there, I not only got a chance to see his mixed-media pieces, but I also got to see Lynch himself.

When Lynch entered the gallery, he found himself in the middle of a sea of people clamoring to speak to him. He then spent about fifteen minutes graciously shaking hands and posing for photos. One of his young fans approached him and said, “There’s like ten people in this world that are on my list of people to meet, and you’re like…near the top”, at which point everyone in earshot started laughing:

As he stopped for a few minutes in a narrow hallway leading to the back room, I was standing right across from him. Instead of thinking of something interesting to say to him, I decided to continue taking photographs. Thanks for looking into my lens, Mr. Lynch!

A short while later, he was escorted by gallery staff into a back office, out the rear of the building, down some stairs in the backyard, to a subterranean area off-limits to the throngs. I left shortly after that but found out later that he re-appeared upstairs to speak to people in the rest of the exhibit spaces.

As for the artwork, it was as dark and quirky as his films. Many of the pieces incorporated text, lights, and everyday objects, and contained interesting details when viewed up close. I’m hoping to take a look at the exhibit again soon when the spaces aren’t so crowded.

Macaron Day NYC 2012

Six or seven years ago, the landscape of macaron shops in NYC was drastically smaller than it is today. Back then I used to get my fix from now-defunct Fauchon – oh, how I’ve missed having lunch at Fauchon! The price of their macarons was no higher than $1.50 each and I thought that was exorbitant at the time. The only other shops to offer decent ones were Payard on the Upper East Side (also now shuttered, but the parent of two downtown stores) and La Maison du Chocolat.

Fast forward to 2012 and we have a plethora of choices throughout the city, as well as an entire day devoted to celebrating this tasty treat. When I first heard of Macaron Day NYC approaching this year I dismissed it, not certain that I would be motivated to go all around town to try them at different stores. The day before the event, however, the anticipation of a gorgeous spring day put me in full-on macaron mode. I pulled up the map of participating locations and made a gameplan, charting my trick-or-treat route all along the east and west sides of Manhattan.

I got to the first shop on my list at around 10:30 in the morning and the final one at 3:00 in the afternoon (technically the eleventh shop I visited, although the man behind the counter at Payard was kind enough to stamp me for both of their locations, so I ended up completing the dozen needed for the special giveaway). I finally called it a day when I went to Macaron Cafe a few minutes later only to discover they had finished offering their free macarons. All tolled, I walked six miles and consumed nine regular sized macarons and two miniature ones. Sounds like a pretty good day to me.

I saw all kinds of macarons yesterday: big, small, sweet, savory, red, purple, yellow, green, some were pre-packaged for the promotion, and some were put on lollipop sticks and displayed like flowers. Some shops offered only one free flavor, while others had a large subset of their flavors available. I was hoping someone would offer a square one (a macarré, that is) for the occasion, but no such luck at any of the places I visited.

Along the way I tried not to repeat a flavor more than once, which I accomplished despite having chocolate four ways. I also tried to choose flavors that I normally wouldn’t order. However, I regret not getting coffee macaron at any point (I chose a rose lychee at Francois Payard and, while it was good, that would have been a good place to get the coffee flavor).

Here were my five favorites:

Passion fruit macaron from La Maison du Chocolat. This was the only flavor they offered for free. I was surprised to discover that instead of a fruit jelly, the filling was a passion fruit flavored chocolate ganache. Yum!

Raspberry macaron from Épicerie Boulud. They had several of their flavors available for free, but customers could not choose which one they wanted. Nice size, great fruit flavor, and excellent filling-to-meringue ratio.

Salted caramel macaron from Bosie Tea Parlor. They had several flavors to choose from for the promotion but I knew my day wouldn't be complete without a salted caramel. Also, this is not a fake background, there was an electric blue wall on their neighbor's facade. I thought it would be an interesting contrast. I was wrong.

Chocolate praline macaron from Mille-feuille. They had several flavors to choose from as well. I loved the way the colors looked on the inside, and the ganache filling was delicious.

Dark chocolate macaron, flecked with tiny shards of cocoa nibs, from Mad-Mac. This was a miniature macaron, and my very last one. A great way to end my Macaron Day!

I learned some things yesterday. The chef and co-owner of Mad-Mac was the executive pastry chef for Fauchon’s flagship store that I used to frequent. Candied bacon is always a good thing. The macarons at Bosie Tea Parlor are made in-house by a third-generation macaron maker. And, outside Dominique Ansel Bakery, an older fella who realized we had both requested the lemon macaron (which turned out to be great tasting, but disappointingly crumbly and dry) told me that tasting different macarons across NYC is like “kissing all the frogs before you find your prince”. Food for thought.

Some more of my Macaron Day:

Left-right-top-down: outside Francois Payard Bakery; chocolate praline macaron from Mille-feuille; lemon macaron from Dominique Ansel; lobby of Time Warner Center; counter display at bisous, ciao.; strawberry macaron at bisous, ciao.; rose lychee macaron from Francois Payard; candied bacon with maple cream cheese frosting macaron at Macaron Parlour; Payard macarons at Butterfield Market