Friday, May 08, 2009

grillin' in the ghetto

if you live in this town and you have a backyard, a terrace or even rooftop access -- or some other wonderful way to grill at home -- this post is definitely not for you. i'm talking to the rest of us -- those who take to the city parks, the sidewalks -- and yes, the occasional fire escape! -- to roast that meat. in the face of imminent gentrification, unemployment and/or freelancing woes, and The Rising Cost of Everything in New York City, i am determined to live in the ghetto that is west harlem and have my fun.

is it delicious? yes! is it illegal? yes! does everyone do it? of course! memorial day weekend will find absolutely everyone in riverbank state park, grilling tasty things to perfection. this year, i hope to be amongst their ranks.

the requirements are few but very very important. first of all, the grill must be light, as in not heavy. secondly, they must be easy to carry. and last but not least, they must be inexpensive. less than $100? okaaay. less than $50? nice. less than that, if i can catch something on sale.

here's a rundown of my top five "charbroil it!" situations so far.
  1. portable bbq grill -- i'm not a fan of pottery barn, but i'm thinking seriously about getting this one. it's hideable, lighter than light, quite portable. and at 29.99, it's kind of affordable. and cute!
  2. notebook portable grill -- this thing is impressive. it weighs a whopping 8 pounds, it's got 192 square inches of cooking space (18 in x 18 in), it's got a carrying handle and it's less than fifty bucks.
  3. cast iron hibachi bbq grill -- when i had my initial jaunts to harlem to hang out with my big brothers back in the day, this is what they were working with on the fire escape: standard issue cast iron, sure -- but it was so durable that when it fell accidentally (we were on the 3rd floor), one of them just went downstairs, picked it up and cranked it all over again. (ah, harlem in the 80s/90s...those were the good ol' days!) those adjustable racks made it kind of irresistable. and so did the price. only thirty clams!
  4. son of hibachi portable bbq grill -- if i could legitimately grill -- on the beach, say, or even at some tailgaiting function or whatever -- this would be the one for me. when you're done, this thing folds into a self-cleaning oven and it self-extinguishes and slides into a flame-retardant snuff out pouch. here's the kicker: it saves your charcoal. priced out at seventy-something. (not bad...)
  5. cobb portable grill -- this is the one i'm probably going to get. it's only 8.5 pounds, it can roast, bake, smoke or fry and even make a pizza (!!!), so i can basically do whatever i want. (and i love doing whatever i want.) it doesn't require much coal, it's easy to take apart and clean, it's cool to the touch so i can pick it up and go if the cops come along and tell me i have to leave. and yeah, it's a c-note.
that's right, people -- that would be me in a madras plaid bikini on a cowboy blanket in a park somewhere uptown near the river reading zora neale hurston and roasting oysters with some cops looking the other way. that would most definitely be me...

(don't worry, i'll take lots of pictures.)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Since it's recently dawned on me that everyone isn't on Facebook or Myspace, here's a clip of me singing a relatively unknown standard called I'll Never Be The Same from last week's performance with Matt Ray (piano) and Andrew Hall (bass) for A.C.T.I.O.N.'s Harlem Salon in Hamilton Heights, co-sponsored by Jazzmobile. (A.C.T.I.O.N. is an acronym for A Coalition To Improve Our Neighborhood.) What a beautiful night we had. (Thanks for videotaping everything, Paula!)

This is one of the songs that will be on the CD that I'm co-producing with JC Hopkins. Our hostess Helen was sweet enough to invite us back to her breathtakingly gorgeous brownstone for a return engagement when the CD is ready to be released so that we can have a lovely uptown launch.

House parties are definitely where it's at, folks. Especially when they're this elegant.