(This venue is closed.) It's no Snickers: There's little crunch in a red date and peanut zongzi ($2). When these leaf-wrapped glutinous rice dumplings are boiled, the peanuts inside hold their shape but soften considerably. As for the dates, also known as jujubes, they're picked when they have the size and firmness of crabapples and a color that may be pale green, brown, or some mottled combination of the two.
However, hongzao — red dates or, literally, red jujubes — shrivel and soften as they redden. They sweeten a bit, too, though only within the customary range of traditional Chinese desserts. And inside a boiled zongzi, they fall to pieces.
(This venue is closed.) Gateway to the beach resorts on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic, the municipality of Punta Cana is evoked here, in Washington Heights, by little more than a palm tree on the awning. But use your imagination, and in a countertop scuffed by the passage of many plates, you might see bright sky and fluffy clouds.
My gallina — the meat of an old hen, made somewhat more tender by long cooking — was accompanied by black beans and white rice cooked together ($6 total). In Cuba especially, this black-and-white combo is known as moros y cristianos, or simply moros; in the Dominican Republic, it also goes by the name congrí. Several ladles of gravy were splashed across the beans and rice, at the counterwoman's invitation. Does anyone ever decline this offer?
Punta Cana 3880 Broadway (at West 162nd St.), Manhattan 212-740-0643
(This venue is closed.) It's an eye-catching storefront, even if the menu has no evident culinary connection with the namesake emirate. In particular, a "Dubai burger," though made with halal beef, otherwise seems to be nothing more than your usual well-dressed half-pounder. Perhaps the shop's name is a case of wishful thinking, or perhaps it's an homage to the owner's home country. The counterman this day was simply an employee, from Syria, and I didn't press the inquiry.
(This venue is closed.) Last meal at the "Polish Tea Room.": a roast beef and chopped liver club sandwich (above and first photo below, $11.25). Previously, from several of numerous visits: matzo brie (rhymes with "Midwood High," and more often spelled matzoh brei), bland despite lots of salt and pepper; a pastrami sandwich; cheese blintzes. It's the trio of blintzes, also filled with cherry or blueberry, that many folks say they'll miss most.
The sign for this Italian-American grocery was assembled from a series of glazed tiles fitted together in line. Since the time of its installation — the 1930s is a good bet, by the look of the typeface — one tile has slipped a bit.
"Fruits" is interesting. Perhaps the signmaker need one more word to balance the design, or perhaps it marks a time when fresh fruit was less easy to come by, and so more worthy of note. Cured, less perishable items, on the other hand, would certainly have been part of the stock in trade. Is it just a coincidence that the grocery was mere steps away from Olive St.?
Linzalato Canio Surviving signage, 855 Grand St. (Bushwick Ave.-Olive St.), Willamsburg, Brooklyn
For this humble, out-of-fashion example of the typographer's art, the letters were cut from wood, painted, then mounted with screws. Several, such as the "W" and "N", were fashioned from multiple pieces stapled together. The sign might have been commissioned by Junibois, but more likely it was made at the behest of some long-forgotten predecessor — when a simple "I" fell victim to some mishap, the owner at the time used a shortcut to fill the gap.
(This venue is closed.) Yes, this is the height of apple season in New York. You might go so far as to say that this is the height of baked apple season, too. Even so, you'd be hard-pressed to find a granny smith anywhere else that sports a filling of cinnamon, raisins, maple syrup, and ground tigernuts ($4). The delicate almondlike flavor of tigernuts — which are not nuts at all but rather very small tubers — is more apparent when eaten alone, or when quaffed in one of Organic Gemini's blended horchatas.