Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Awesome, authentic Lamb Gyros at Mohammed Falafel Star

Mohammed, who is from syria and has been in the US for 30 yrs, has been selling falafel, hummus, shawarma, gyros for pretty much as long as he can remember. He has setup shop all over east village and has currently opened his new shop at the corner of 7th and Av B (just opposite the tompkins square park, where just 3 weeks back, i saw the naked, free spirited side of the east village. I came to know about Mohammed through my rebellious friend O.

I must say, upon entering the shop, which is just more than a hole in the wall, one isnt too impressed. It seems empty and the diaply shows a few trays of hummus, eggplant, tabouli, baklava, salad stuff and stacks of raw eggplant and pita bread. Across the counter is a grill with two stacks of lamb gyros being grilled. The place is managed by just one person, Mohammed himself.
Mohammed is an interesting guy. Must be around 50-55. Wears a red t-shirt, has a head band and you see a picture of him posing as a boxer. The guy is always welcoming.

The first time was there, i hesitated between ordering a falafel or a lamb sandwich. I dont eat lamb at any random place. But i gave it a try. And i was pleasantly surprised. Mohammed's lamb sandwich is probably the best i have had. Because he really grills the lamb to a point where the fat is drained out and the meat become crispy, crunchy and just delicious.

And to add to this, he really dresses the sandwich with really fresh cut tomatoes, lettuce, onions with a topping off mild tahini. thats it. Nothing fancy. And you pay $5 for this goodness, pick up a fork and some napkins and then sit outside on the bench. As you savor the delight and see beautiful people walk by, you wonder "what else could one ask for?". Great food, gentle breeze swaying the trees lining the park, and the beautiful passerby as you head Mohammed talk about honesty, syria and life.

Its been only a week or two since i first went to Mohammed's. But i have gone back 3 times since. One with RC on the eve of the techcrunch demo and then with other friends on my night out at the No Malice Palace.

Thanks Mohammed, for keeping food simple, delicious and having the warmth in your service.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Awesome Weekends at B Cup Cafe in East Village

My latest haunt (and almost an addiction now) for some weeks has been a cute, cozy and fun cafe in the east village, the B Cup cafe. I moved to the east village in May (my life as a sublet wonky continues and east village was a neighborhood that i wast itching to come to). To be exact, i move into a pretty nice 2 bed room apartment in Stuyvesant Town (ofcourse, i am sharing it). "Stuy town", as the locals call it, is a unique residential community in the city. A complete township spreading from 14th street to 23rd and from 1st ave to the FDR drive. Within it are really nice apartments, tennis courts, a whole park with its own fountain and more (i know, as new yorkers that is luxury and space, you suburban and rural folks!).

Ok, so the thing with east village is that within a block or two you can pretty much get a cool, hip cafe, lounge, bar, restaurant or anything. I am bang opposite Av B. And on 13th and Av B lies B Cup cafe. Its become my weekend spot. Just lazing, thinking, reading, listening to the great music they have, brainstorming my startups, and gazing (well you know what that means).This cafe has some of the best eye candy in the 'hood.

The cafe itself is a chill place (read my detailed review on yelp). Its brick walls, adorned with abstract paintings, and the nice lamps set a cozy ambiance. The cafe front is all glass with a wavey glass painting showing the steam emanating from a large b-cup of coffee! It sure has its artistic touch that you would totally not find in a starbucks (that is another great thing about the village - all independent stuff). The back section of the cafe has two great couches where you can even take a mid-afternoon nap.

You get to meet plenty of people here, depending on how busy you are. I mean the place has a running line of beautiful ppl coming and going out. And you can strike a conversation if you and they are not too keen on wrapping up what they are doing. Sometimes, someone wants to share the power plug for the laptop (macs are by far the popular choice here) with you and you just get talking. Some come to write and think and ponder life. Like this girl from switzerland who was visiting east village and was writing about the life here. Some come just to sip coffee and laze away the afternoon browsing their friends profiles on Facebook. Some come for serious work (like the indian-american girl who is quite a regular and is usually doing her school/internship work or the visual merchandiser who organizes her travel receipts for reimbursement!).

Bcup has become my startup office - on weekends holding meetings with my team on several startups (will update on that). And then just spending hours listening to the music; coldplay is a favorite here. The owners and staff by now even know what i will order and when :-). And they are the nicest blokes - all three of them. They get great karma points (check them out at their facebook group ).

If you get hungry, the colorful chalkboard menu is always inviting. The grilled chicken avocado on a ciabatta bread is to die for. The hummus with ciabatta is great too. So is the granola bar. See more pictures of the great food here.

I have been inviting my friends over. They know now why i dont like to go anywhere else but to stay at bcup or in and around the east village. And yes, they do take note of the free nyc rubber that is stacked up in the rest room for all to utilize...

Coffee, ideas, reading, listening, watching, imbibing, relaxing, chilling, talking, socializing ... being at home .. is what the weekends on b cup are like.

And yes if you are wondering what sizes do the drinks come in - yes its the A cup and the larger B cup! I gotta go now. its 9 pm and some one quite interesting has just stepped in ... tall, slender, beautiful eyes and is heading to the back couch...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Meeting the Revolutionary, Mystic, Political Journalist while finding a sublet

I have been living in the city for 4-5 yrs and have been pretty much subletting since 2005. You know, moving from an apartment in one neighborhood to another every 3-4 mths. People ask me why and i just tell them , "you get to see the city. you get to meet new people." But obviously there is much more than just that .... as in this random sublet meeting.

So i was looking for a new sublet as i was to move from my current place in stuy town(14th and av b - great place). I found a guy subletting his place on 9th and Av C (the source is always . Around 11.30 pm i got to his place with two other friends. I really wasnt sure i wanted to move down to this place but i figured i will have a peek. What happened for next 45 mins was very interesting....

So we walked into this guys place (who is originally from south asia. lets call him O) who works as a journalist. Immediately i sensed we were meeting some one very different. O's place is a small one bed room in a 6 floor walk-up. I hadnt met this guy before - he is short, small frame but high intensity. I was late so ofcourse, the retort, "you are just like other desis, always late."

The guy had fallen asleep and so he was a bit dis-oriented but got talking. He explained that he was looking for some one share the place with him for 2-3 weeks so that he could pay the rent as he was broke after his just concluded visit to Denmark (i learnt later to meet his mother after 17 yrs) and holland.

We got talking. My current room-mate, M and a friend S were there too. O lit a cigarette. His living room was small and a bit unkempt. A bookshelf contained some books - about socialism, marxism, history and other stuff (the person is a political journalist). The walls were adorned by paintings (some rather nice abstract stuff, which O said were made by a woman who fell in love with him, some years ago). A big decoration piece made of feathers was hanging from one wall. Another contained a painting of a native American chief. Rather interesting.

So we got talking - i asked him where he was from (meaning where from in India, Pakistan or bangladesh). That was just the first in a string of interesting answers from O. He said , " i belong to mother earth. I am now a citizen of the United States but i am actually the guest of the American Indians." That was quite a statement.

On explained, that we humans have unnecessarily created ugliness and divisions - we all belong to mother earth but just cant live in peace. He obviously was voicing deep felt anger, frustration with the conflicts that have been fought over land. Going further he said he didnt recognize that two countries had a right to their own dominion (one in which he was born and the other in the middle east).

I noticed a book written in the beautiful language of Urdu. I asked O to recite a page - it was urdu poetry - revolutionary poetry by a famous ant-government poet in pakistan. The poem was about "speaking the truth", even when one is threatened, is offered momentary pleasures or enslaved. So this short meeting for a sublet was turning into a politically intense conversation about freedom, revolutions and much more....

Suddenly O got up and decided to lighten up the mood - he showed me his bedroom - small but decent with a cane bed - said i could sleep there while he could crash in the narrow adjoining half-room that served as his library. He turned on some music on a very old cassette player - some folk music. O said from the indus valley civilization , a famous artist who was recorded without knowing about it. The music was indeed beautiful.

O and M got talking. M and S were both really enjoying something they obviously dont see in routine life - and the music sure was making the conversation lighter. Suddenly, O got up and started dancing - says life is music, life is living in the moment. Life is hashish (hash - he obviously was doped out in Amsterdam).

O then explained that he has been an award winning journalist writing for political justice for the under-represented and under-privileged. He offered to make us some coffee but we had to go. Around 12.30 am, we decided to leave. I spent 5 mins talkin to him about the sublet - i sort of knew i may not stay there but i liked O and i thought it wud be a great experience. So i committed to take the place for 2 weeks and give the money. Next morning i caleld up saying i wouldnt be staying there (but i still stood my commitment about the money.

O invited us to a small party the next day - at his friends house who was about to leave for another great city. The next day i did go to the party.

But sure the night was interesting. And as i said, i can add another reason, why subletting in NYC has been so great and interesting. You never know who you meet ....