Archive for December, 2012

On Sunday , my wife and I  celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary and our family treated us to dinner at the avant-garde Middle Eastern restaurant Ilili. Sunday evening  was cold , damp  and drizzly  and it wasn’t very pleasant  driving to New York City in the winter dark. However , all was forgotten when we entered the restaurant  .

Ilili has a strange layout. The narrow entry leads into a very long room with a  bar to the right, in  back , Beyond it are the restrooms . A door in the wall to the left leads to a similarly elongated  dining area with seating for about a hundred diners . The whole restaurant space feels like a large room which has been cut in half lengthwise.  There may be more seating elsewhere but exactly where it is remains a mystery to me .

The dining room ,as well as the entry/bar,  has mirrored walls and initially , it feels like one is dining in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.One soon gets used to it though , particularly after the food arrives  and there is no more time to look at the surroundings . Before I concentrated on the food , I did notice that the pattern of the cubbyholed walls  was replicated in the open ceiling with its  framework of wooden beams through which hung the bare lightbulbs ; it made for a pleasing amber glow that bathed the dining room .

Ilili bills itself as contemporary Lebanese but it could as well have called itself Middle Eartern or Mediterranean . The dishes have Turkish , Greek, Egyptian , and Persian influences with an occasional nod to Asia. I would term it avant garde rather than fusion , but however you label it , the food is good , very good. The menu is  divided between  the traditional  ( Hommus , Baba Ghannouj , Tabbouleh , Fattoush , Moussaka , Labne  and Shawarma)  and the contemporary . Since we had dined at Istanbul , a very good Turkish restaurant in North Brunswick, NJ the week before we decided to forgo the traditional and stick to the contemporary , eclectic side of the menu.

When we dine out , whenever possible , we order family style  and share the dishes so as to sample as much of the menu as we can. One of the things I liked about Ilili’s menu is that most of it comes as small plates , ideal for sharing  . Between the six of us we ordered ten different small plates , some of them doubles. The first dish we tried , Katayef & Veal Bacon was probably the best . The slices of meat were paired with pickles and peppers and  swerved in small purses ( like mini pitas but softer and pillowy). Excellent. Other winners were the Kebab Kerez ( Lamb-beef meatballs in a sweet-sour cherry sauce  with kataifi and scallions) ,Duck Shawarma ( Nicely crisped duck and chicken breasts in a fig purée with a side of garlic whip), Mekanek ( sauteed lamb sausage with lemon and pine nuts ), Black Iron Shrimp (  Large grilled shrimp speckled with spices , served with  jalapeño , garlic and cilantro), Melted Haloumi Cheese over sliced zucchini  with Cherry tomatoes and Mint, and Shishitos à la Plancha ( Grilled Japanese shisito peppers with lemon and sumac). Other dishes we ordered were Chicken livers with a Pomegranate sauce & lemon ( My wife said they were excellent) and Bone Marrow ( Large beef shin bones split sown the middle and roasted  till they were piping hot , served with a sour cherry tabbouleh  and pita pillows. The last was my idea and , while I’m not sorry I ordered them , there was precious little to eat and at $ 19 , it was expensive and not worth the price . The only other criticism I have is that they could have been a little more generous with the Haloumi cheese.  Every other dish was very good and I’d have no hesitation in ordering it again except that……

There are so many other dishes on the Ilili menu that I’d like to try. I wonder what the Tuna Belly with Avocado mousse and Barberry  Chutney tastes like . Or the Grilled Octopus with Cauliflower and Pine nuts.  Or Phoenician Fries flavored with Sumac and parsley.Another option might be to go for the Mezza Royale  Platter  ( $ 139 ,  13  mezes) .

The main plates , many of them meant to be shared by two diners , also look very interesting  but I prefer sticking with the small plates . To see the complete  menu go to   www.ililinyc.com .

After the assorted little dishes , we were not much in the mood for dessert but still tried four of them , family style of course. They were all pretty good but the one I liked the best was the  Pistachio Financier. Service at Illili is very good and dining there was a great experience . We will go back .

Ilili 235 Fifth Avenue (between 27th and  28th Street) , NY , NY 10001. Phone : ( 212) 683 – 2929.

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I don’t like politics and I avoid talking about it . With my e-mail buddies too, I steer clear of politics ; there are so many more interesting things to discuss. Most of my friends , like me , are middle of the road Democrats but two of my e-mail correspondents , guys that I used to work with , are staunch Republicans . No problem there , even though for the last three years they have peppered their e-mails with ” jokes” about President Obama and dire warnings about how the country is going to the dogs .I’ve never responded in kind . Their funny e-mails I laugh at and the rest I delete immediately. It does bother me , I admit, when they refer to the President as Obozo and Obummer and make scurrilous jokes about him and the First Lady. No matter what one’s political beliefs , the office of the President should always be respected .

After the election , I thought the jokes and e-mails would stop but they didn’t . So I sent my two friends a gentle suggestion ” Now that the election is over , perhaps it’s time to move on and stop with these political jokes .” One of them got the message but the other didn’t . Perhaps I should have been more direct . Perhaps I should have said ” Hey , dude! The election’s over . We won . You lost . Deal with it . Stop with these stupid political e-mails . ”

On second thoughts , I don’t think even that would have made a difference . Over the last fifteen years , the American public has been polarized beyond belief. It’s now all politics , all the time .

When I read articles on the internet , I used to also skim the comments to see what others thought . I don’t do so any longer because , no matter what the topic , there will be a sizeable number that will drag in politics or race. It can be an article about the Lakers or about oil exploration or about food trends. No matter.  Someone or the other will tie it to President and his imagined failings . The comments are so devoid of reason or intelligence and the tone so vicious that it makes one despair for the future of this country. Having access to a computer seemed to have liberated people of their inhibitions . Unfortunately , it has also brought out their worst instincts .

There was one such haven from these bozos , the New York Times . No matter what the topic , I could always expect to read thoughtful , well-informed , comments by New York Times readers . They seemed to be from a different planet altogether compared to the Neanderthals that infested the internet message boards. I might not always agree with their point of view but I could appreciate where they were coming from . They stuck to the point and never went off topic .

Alas , that is no longer wholly true .

I was reading a New York Times review of the new release ” Lincoln ” when I came across a response that read  as follows :

“A Liberal Interpretation of President Abraham Lincoln or  “Lincoln meets Obama”
The Mis-Interpretation of Lincoln and the Constitution
“Lincoln”, the movie, is a contrived leftist attempt to demonstrate that President Obama is following the righteous path set by President Abraham Lincoln thus allowing the Obama Presidency to rewrite the Law of the Land, our Constitution, so as to seize Absolute and Total Control of the country without a thread of “Constitutional Law” to support his case.
Lincoln, who in the movie knowingly misrepresents (falsehood) his actions and the law, and declares “War Powers that enable him to imprison individuals without a trial”, thereby eliminating a person’s right under the law to be charged with an unlawful act, I.e. “Habeas Corpus”.
If any of you that read this have any interest in preserving the United States, then we the people must stand up to this “Tyranny of Disinformation” and demonstrate to each individual, one by one, what is the true meaning of the US Constitution and not the convoluted teaching of the “Liberal Educators in the Elementary, Middle Schools, High Schools, and Colleges. ” 

What kind of person looks at a movie and goes of on a rant about “liberal educators ‘ ? That was just a rhetorical question . I already know the answer to that one . It must be somebody like my friend “Jim “. I attended his daughter’s  wedding  and at the reception , Jim got up to propose a toast to the newly wedded couple He did raise a toast but    then inexplicably , he launched into a diatribe about liberals and how the Communists were taking over the country. ! Imagine that . At the happiest moment in his daughter’s life , he was spouting politics !

I have another friend who  believes , as I do , that it’s no good discussing politics. If someone believes differently , there is no way you are going to change his mind . Nor should you want to . He ‘s entitled to his opinion just as you are entitled to yours . And , no matter how much you discuss politics , it is not going to make a whit of difference in the real world .

So,  please, let’s talk about something else . And, please, let it be something other than the Lakers who aren’t doing at all well at the moment ….


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1,428 Americans ( so far) have signed a petition to the White House website We the People urging that the government  “Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016”. A Death Star , of course , is a manmade armored planet , the size of the moon , which will be capable of pulverizing entire enemy planets with fearsome death rays . It exists only in the fertile mind of George Lucas and , even without the yawning “fiscal cliff” , we just do not have the resources or the technology to even dream of  bringing it to reality. The cost of a Death Star , were we capable of fabricating one , is a whopping $ 15.6 septillion , or 1.4 trillion times the U.S national debt. Even the cost of the steel required to build this monster is a prohibitive $ 852 quadrillion . I can’t wrap my head around terms like  , septillion, quadrillion  and trillion but I don’t need to know them exactly to figure that building a Death Star is a non-starter. Any ninth or tenth grader should know as much but , still , 1,428 adults  thought fit to sign this ridiculous petition.

The same day that Yahoo featured news of this petition , the Siemens Foundation announced the winners of its annual national science contest.Top individual honors, and a 100, 000 $ prize ,went to 17-year-old Kensen Shi of College Station, Texas. He combined two previous algorithms into a new and more efficient one that helps robots find a safe path around obstacles.The runner-up was Jiayi Peng, 17, a senior at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, N.Y., who won second place for her work building and studying a model that simulates the neuron network in the brain.

Top team honors went to a trio of seniors, Jeremy Appelbaum, William Gil and Allen Shin, from George W. Hewlett High School in Hewlett, N.Y., for their research on a protein linked to tumor formation. They will share a $100,000 scholarship. Second place team honors went to Daniel Fu and Patrick Tan of Indiana, who created new math techniques that make it easier to analyze networks of genes and proteins in the body. The networks are responsible for body rhythms involved in things like sleep. They will share a $50,000 scholarship.

Did you notice something about the names of the winners ? Of the seven, six are Asian Americans and one is a Jewish American. I mention this only to make the point that mainstream Americans still shy away from the sciences . It should be apparent by now that the future belongs to the scientists and the engineers and the technocrats and yet most young Americans don’t seem to see the writing on the wall. The only technology that they are interested in are the latest video games.and social networking. And that is why we have people who think the Death Star can actually become a reality.

Thank God for the people like those who entered the Siemens contest , the winners and the non-winners  because it is they who will determine the future of this country and whether we can be competitive in the global marketplace. I am heartened to read that Jiayi Peng, the only female competing for individual honors, said she’s interested in studying math or physics in college. We need many more like her!

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