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FORKPLAY October 8, 2013

Red Farm UWS Opens. Georgian On My Mind. Remembering Marcella. The Clutter Queen. 


Dear Friends and Family,


       At last, after a series of unanticipated disasters hidden inside the walls, Red Farm UWS finally opened the door for lunch Saturday. My friend saw Eddie Schoenfeld's triumphant announcement on Facebook and invited me to lunch. Startled pedestrians walking by peeked in. But there was not the usual milling and jostling you see at Red Farm downtown on Hudson St. Not yet, anyway.


       Our waiter said he'd been in training for a month and proceeded to bowl us over with attention -- clearing our plates and chopsticks one time too many. Hopefully, fussy Upper West Sider demands will run him ragged and calm him down. He said he would insist the bar cut down the sweetness in my blackberry ginger-lime soda and my pal's basil lemonade. Result: Two long, cool refreshing coolers.


       As Eddie has pointed out, there are only 14 dim sum on the new menu, so that means dim sum wizard Joe Ng has 986 more in his repertoire. The brilliant chef tends to get serious only at the last minute, so he was still perfecting the lineup as the first cogniscenti staggered in. It's a bright, new play on downtown's raffish look with 79 seats and 15 stools at the bar, especially clean looking by daylight.


       There was no sign of the promised Hello Dolly dumplings, but shrimp and mango wonton with eyes were adorable. Diced tuna with fruit and crisps could be a perfect diet lunch. The veggie pancake inside exquisitely delicate crepes needed some pizazz - dipping them in a hot sauce certainly helped. Best taste of the lunch: marvelous five flavor chicken dumplings. Alas, these oversized pot stickers were a challenge to wrestle with chopsticks and took a sloppy five bitesto eat instead of a more decorous two. That's what a soft opening is for: to adjust the drill. 


       Eddie, Joe and partner Zach Chodorow expect dinner to launch "soon," whatever that means. I'll be back for bok choy dumplings, BBQ pork belly with shishitos, shrimp with Korean rice cake and grilled lemongrass pork chops. Though it's always hard not to order my favorite wide rice noodles with BBQ duck. 2170 Broadway at 77th Street. 212 724 9700.




Our colors today are black for Congress in the dark and green for money.




Georgian On My Mind


       I don't take the $60 round-trip taxi ride to Alphabet City lightly. But the odd and inexpensive Georgian specialties at Oda House made the extravagance seem worthwhile. I'm urging you to make the trek too.


       My weekend restaurant cronies had suddenly become ravenous to explore Georgian cooking after meeting a Turkish woman from a city north of Istanbul near the Georgian border. As soon as she said the word Georgia, I thought: Yes. It must have a cuisine. The obsessed Ethnic Junkie in our adventurous posse did the research. He chose Oda House because it didn't involve crossing bridges. He'd even stopped by for a pre-tasting the evening before and now guided the order.


       We'd come on a bustling Saturday night. The staff rushed about, trying to look like a team instead of a duo. Waiters could barely sidle between close-packed tables in the modest storefront. Even the chef emerged from the kitchen delivering casseroles and platters. I looked around to see what people were eating, analyzing faces. Yes, many homesick Slavs, I thought. But you can just follow my advice by clicking here. Read more to know what to order. 76 Avenue B corner of East Fifth Street. 212 353 3838.




Remembering Marcella


       It was not easy for Marcella and Victor Hazan to leave Venice and their unique apartment, with its custom elevator and the perfect teaching kitchen with a glass hood over the range to capture smoke without obscuring the thrilling view. But the bridges and the damp air were finally too much for Marcella.


       They invited us for an aperitivo and dinner one evening before they left for their home in Florida in l998. As we stepped out onto the street heading toward their favorite Fiaschetteria Toscana, a young American woman asked Marcella for directions. Marcella took her arm, "Walk with me, I'll show you the way," she said. I think now of the obituaries, even the celebrations, mentioning a certain brusqueness, and I remember that sweetness.


       In 1975, in one of those periodic recessions, my boss asked me to write about eating on the cheap. The question I posed to three talented cooks was how to feed four celestially on just $10. Marcella, riding on Craig Claiborne's raves for her Classic Italian Cookbook, was teaching then in her Upper East Side home. Amazingly, she put together a dinner of bucatini all'Amatriciana, pork braised in milk, sautéed spinach and macerated fruit for $11.96.


       Here's what I wrote: "An Italian dinner for four on $10. It's not much of a challenge to Marcella Hazan. 'If you start with pasta, you don't spend much money on meat.' But she is wary of the seductive lures and arrogant prices in the East Seventies. 'Still, time is money. So I shop near home.' As a teacher of Italian cooking, Marcella emphasizes quality, not economy. But certain thrifts are instinctive. Like nurturing a jug of homemade vinegar brewed from the leavings of red wine at dinner.


       "'It won't work in a closet," Marcella notes, explaining the crock's homely presence on her hall table. And of course it makes sense to grow your own herbs. Rosemary, especially, is almost too tough to kill.'"


       Did you cherish Marcella too? Did you, like me, find that with her two Classic Italian books on the shelf, you never needed another Italian guide? Click here to read more of that 1975 shopping adventure.




The Accidental Bag Lady


       Last week, I confessed that I am unduly attached to my clutter. I have friends who assure me that getting rid of your clutter is better than losing five pounds. But I can't bear to separate from favorite dresses I wore 40 years ago that will fit if I just lose ten pounds, or from silly little gifts my former husband gave me when we first met. I even had a hard time letting go of him -- but that's another story. In the meantime, my one positive move was putting my collection of vintage evening bags up for sale on Etsy. Click here to see how irresistible they are. Do your Christmas shopping early.


       That same day a FORKPLAY reader emailed suggesting that if I wanted to declutter, I consult his wife, Mary Ann Peters, a professional Home Organizer and Senior Move Manager. That caught my eye. The idea of a move manager for the elderly. The truth is: I'm stubborn. I'm not ready to have a stranger dive into my piles and closets and tell me what to throw away. And I'm notoriously tight so I get tense with the idea of paying $70 an hour for the trauma.


       Still both Evans and I are concerned with the elderly. One of her specialties is helping them pack up and strip down when they are forced to move to special housing for greater security or economic reasons. "Often their children just can't handle it without everyone getting angry," she told me. "But I can." 


       Alternatively, she helps increasingly frail seniors organize their homes to be safer and to set up a framework for coping: meals delivered, heavy pots and pans arranged on lower shelves, pathways cleared, possessions curated so they don't knock you over, loose rugs folded away, finding part-time aides or a full-time caretaker so they can stay in their own homes. Helping seniors live at home is our goal too, at Citymeals. The meals we deliver help thousands of New York's frail, homebound elderly live out their final years in the familiar surroundings that mean so much to them.


       "If you change your mind about your clutter, call me. You're just frozen in time," she said. "You need to be thawed. I can melt you." Need Maryann Peters to organize you? Email: 


Photographs of Red Farm's mango wontons, tuna salad with crisps, and veggie pancakes, and Oda House's stuffed bread and the chicken livers and gizzards layered in phyllo may not be used without permission from Gael Greene. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.