Unless you venture to far eastern Queens, food from Kerala is hard to come by in New York. I was eager, then, to sample the menu at Kokum, which features the cuisine of that southern Indian state. A lunchtime vegetarian thali ($10) was pleasant enough to warrant a return visit with friends for dinner.
We weren't surprised to learn from our waitress, on the given evening, that she was raised in Nepal. English-speaking Nepalese servers are increasingly common in New York's Indian restaurants, and their presence in the front of the house doesn't discredit the efforts in the back. (Our waitress added that the kitchen crew converse in Malayalam, the principal language of Kerala, and that she relays orders in Hindi.) I was disconcerted, however, to see that in the two weeks since my lunch the menu (at least, the takeout menu) had already changed somewhat.
It's very possible that the owner is still trying to gauge the appeal of Keralan cuisine in the absence of a critical mass of Keralan locals. (He operates several other Indian restaurants of various stripes and shuttered his previous restaurant on this site, Singapura, to open Kokum.) Considering two items that our table enjoyed — a theeyal ($13) of yam and green banana sauteed with coriander and roasted coconut, and a notably oil-free thoran ($13) of chopped red pumpkin seasoned with jaggery, mustard seeds, and curry leaves — I plan to explore more of the distinctively Keralan dishes on the menu, while I can.
During the first half of the 20th century, "electric appliances" and "smart gifts" were the stock in trade of Connecticut-based manufacturer and designer Manning-Bowman. Waffle irons seem to have been the company's best-known products; today they are collector's items, even when their elegant lines are subverted with a name like Twin-O-Matic.
This sign pointed the way to a seventh-floor showroom in a building then owned by the Doehler Metal Furniture Co. Manning-Bowman, whose Connecticut roots dated to 1832, survived as an independent business until about 1960.
Manning-Bowman Surviving signage on East 32nd St. between Park Ave. South and Lexington Ave., Manhattan
The superdense South Asian ice cream called kulfi ($2) can be flavored with cardamom, saffron, or pistachio, but at this Pakistani grocery it's offered simply in the basic malai, or cream, variety. The sole listed ingredients are milk, sugar, and khua (other transliterations include khoa, khoya, and khawa), made by cooking down milk to about one-fifth its original volume.
Khoa is an easy way to preserve milk in a hot climate. Ultimately it finds its way into many sweets, though this is the only one I know that's served cold, on a stick.