Section mm; Column 0; T: Men's Fashion Magazine; Pg. 76

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LOAD-DATE: February 28, 2008


GRAPHIC: PHOTO: Adelaide Fives, left, and Amy Abrams, far right, designed the space at In Good Company in the Flatiron district of Manhattan. (MARILYNN K. YEE/THE NEW YORK TIMES)


Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

1039 of 1231 DOCUMENTS

The New York Times

February 27, 2008 Wednesday

Late Edition - Final

Two Siblings Stuck in a Junkyard World, Struggling to Survive and Dream


SECTION: Section E; Column 0; The Arts/Cultural Desk; MOVIE REVIEW 'CHOP SHOP'; Pg. 5

LENGTH: 776 words

Because the last shot of Ramin Bahrani's ''Chop Shop'' is as quiet and matter-of-fact as most of the rest of the film, it takes a moment to register as a metaphor. For nearly an hour and a half we have been immersed in the rhythms of daily life in the battered Willets Point section of Queens, and Mr. Bahrani's hand-held camera has remained studiously fixed at street level. Now, all of a sudden, it pitches upward to follow a flock of pigeons breaking toward the sky, a shift in perspective that also changes, subtly but unmistakably, our understanding of the movie.

Like its prosaic title, or like those homely birds, ''Chop Shop,'' written by Mr. Bahrani and Bahareh Azimi, dwells mainly in the realm of the literal. Filmed inside shady auto-repair businesses, on bleak overpasses and in vacant lots in the shadow of Shea Stadium, this film, like Mr. Bahrani's 2006 feature, ''Man Push Cart,'' is concerned principally with the kind of hard, marginal labor that more comfortable city dwellers rarely notice. But there is nonetheless a lyricism at its heart, an unsentimental, soulful appreciation of the grace that resides in even the meanest struggle for survival.

When you stop to think about it, the life of Alejandro (Alejandro Polanco) -- known as Ale -- should be cause for despair. A skinny, fast-moving boy a year or so from puberty, he sleeps in a makeshift room above the shop where he works. His main concern, aside from the daily scramble for cash, is his older sister, Isamar (Isamar Gonzales), who seems more passive than her brother and more detached, perhaps self-protectively, from her emotions. Their parents are never seen or mentioned, and school is more an abstract notion than a real possibility.

Ale's plan, equally a childish fantasy and a hard-headed entrepreneurial scheme, is to save enough money to buy a broken-down vending truck and fix it up so he and Isamar can sell hot meals to chop shop workers and customers. Isamar works in a similar business and also sells sex after-hours to drivers who park at the edge of the neighborhood. Ale's desire, all the more acute for remaining unstated, is to rescue her from this fate and also, more generally, to formulate the plausible idea of a secure adult future for the two of them.

Mr. Bahrani does not treat his characters with pity, and they feel very little for themselves. Perhaps this is because they are too young, and too focused on the present-tense demands of getting by, to dwell on what they don't have. But the film's emotional restraint, while impressive, also feels limiting. Mr. Polanco and Ms. Gonzales have the wary inscrutability that often characterizes nonprofessional actors, and though Mr. Polanco is a lively and likable presence, there are times when his performance is tentative and stiff.

Mr. Bahrani was born in the United States and lived for a while in Iran, his parents' native country (and Ms. Azimi's), and the influence of recent Iranian cinema on ''Chop Shop'' is unmistakable. The oblique, naturalistic storytelling, the interest in children and the mingling of documentary and fictional techniques -- these have been hallmarks of the work of Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi, but they are rarely deployed with such confidence or effectiveness by American filmmakers. ''Chop Shop'' suggests the potential of such an approach, which has roots in postwar Italian Neo-realism, to compel an encounter with local reality that is both poetic and clearsighted.

Whether the situation in ''Chop Shop'' is entirely realistic is another question. I found myself wondering not only about what had happened to Ale and Isamar's parents, but also about the total absence of any adult or institutional concern with these children's lives. The shop owners pay Ale his wages and teach him new skills, but there is a hardness in their dealings with him that struck me as implausible. That may be wishful thinking on my part. Or it may be that I was taken in by the rough surface of this film, seduced into mistaking a subtle, artful fable for the cold, hard facts of life.


Opens on Wednesday in Manhattan.

Directed and edited by Ramin Bahrani; written by Bahareh Azimi and Mr. Bahrani; director of photography, Michael Simmonds; production designer, Richard Wright; produced by Lisa Muskat, Marc Turtletaub and Jeb Brody; released by Koch Lorber Films. At Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, west of Avenue of the Americas, South Village. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Alejandro Polanco (Alejandro), Isamar Gonzales (Isamar), Carlos Zapata (Carlos), Ahmad Razvi (Ahmad) and Rob Sowulski (Rob).



TITLE: Chop Shop (Movie)>; Chop Shop (Movie)>

LOAD-DATE: February 27, 2008


GRAPHIC: PHOTO: Alejandro Polanco in Ramin Bahrani's new film, ''Chop Shop.'' (PHOTOGRAPH BY JON HIGGINS/KOCH LORBER FILMS)



Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

1040 of 1231 DOCUMENTS

The New York Times

February 27, 2008 Wednesday

Late Edition - Final

The Legions Of Frozen Yogurt Push East


SECTION: Section F; Column 0; Dining, Dining Out/Cultural Desk; Pg. 5

LENGTH: 1346 words

ACCORDING to Herodotus, even the mighty armies of the Greek and Persian empires took the winter off from warfare.

But not the forces of frozen yogurt.

Since the Korean chain Red Mango opened a store directly across from California-based Pinkberry in Greenwich Village in December, New York has become the second major battleground for the restyled, fluffed up, fruit-topped new wave of frozen yogurt.

''I'd call it a quiet face-off on Bleecker Street,'' said Dan Kim, Red Mango's president for North America. Since 2006, Pinkberry has opened nine stores in New York, Red Mango has opened four, and competitors like Flurt, Berrywild and Yolato are scrambling to stay in the game.

California is already gripped by tribal conflicts among Pinkberry partisans, Red Mango loyalists, and the fans of Yogurt World, a San Diego emporium where multiple flavors of yogurt and hundreds of toppings are available via self-serve: patrons wander around with an empty bowl and a wad of cash. ''God must have come down and created this place Himself,'' wrote one feverish poster on, the online city-guide site that has become an Internet hub for frozen-yogurt enthusiasts. (Yogurt World alone has about 200 reviews.)

Most of these new yogurt joints, whether on the West or East Coast, are based on a simple formula of fresh fruit toppings on a consciously tart, decidedly yogurt-flavor creamy swirl that drives certain people to distraction.

''At first I used to just crave it after Chinese food,'' said Anthony Castellano, who was ordering at the new Yoggi Spot at Cafe Duke in Times Square, on a lunch break from supervising a nearby construction site. ''And then I started thinking about how it would be good after pizza, and then after burritos. It's really refreshing, but it's still sweet.''

The next day, high-school girls in miniskirts, Uggs and goose bumps stood outside Yolato on the Upper West Side, spooning up soft-serve. ''We come here every day,'' said Shira Cohen, a 10th-grader. ''I start thinking about the toppings even before second period.''

No wonder entrepreneurs, despite the freezing weather, are not waiting to stake a claim. Did the slight chill of the Yukon prevent the gold rush?

''New York has many women, many young people, many Asian-Americans, and many people with a high income,'' said Eric Yun, the United States president of Yogurberry, a Korean franchise with a new store on a busy strip of Jackson Heights, Queens. ''All of those people love frozen yogurt.''

Yogurberry, which follows the basic pattern of tart yogurt with healthy and not-so-healthy toppings, has outlets in Korea, Malaysia, China and Thailand, and is about to open in Syria and Dubai. The first Yogurberry opened in 2004; Red Mango appeared in Seoul in 2002; Pinkberry opened in West Hollywood in 2005. ''There's a lot of give and take in this business,'' Mr. Yun said of the endless speculation over which of the oddly similar, warm, inviting yogurt chains with bright color schemes and Scandinavian design was the prototype.

''It's like fashion,'' said Pinkberry's founder, Young Lee. ''One season, suddenly everyone is doing bell-bottoms, or boot cuts. It's the nature of fashion and the nature of competition.'' Mr. Lee, a 1989 graduate of Parsons, claims credit for the design elements that make the Pinkberry stores subtly appealing: the hanging lamps that look like big creamy swirls of yogurt; the bouncy pebble floors that make each store feel like a playground; the opportunity to pay $5 for a cup of frozen yogurt with blueberries and ''to have a luxury experience, by sitting at a $500 table in a $350 chair, while you eat it,'' Mr. Lee said. (Among the retailers he admires most, he said, are Apple, In-N-Out Burger, Target and Hermes.)

As the chains are trickling in, a few visionary New Yorkers have already struck out on their own, convinced that they can build a better yogurt. (Most of the chains use a dehydrated yogurt formula that is rehydrated and churned in the store.)

The most extremely artsy -- even artisanal -- rendition is eks, appropriately located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where the yogurt is made from scratch. ''We start with gallons of low-fat milk, we inoculate it with the live cultures, and we sweeten it with a little organic sugar,'' said the owner, Neo Kim.

Mr. Kim also designed the cherry-red stencils that cover the space (''parlor'' or ''shop'' being far too cozy to describe this echoing, Pop Art basement). Last weekend, a second eks outlet began dispensing yogurt in Manhattan, inside a Beard Papa's cream puff shop at 740 Broadway, near Astor Place, making the storefront one of New York's many centers of Asian-dessert-youth-pop-culture.

Helen Lee, a Brooklyn resident who graduated from the French Culinary Institute and cooked at Per Se and Jean Georges, is one of a group that opened Oko in Park Slope last summer. Oko focuses on eco-friendliness, with cups made of corn and spoons of potato starch, as well as on flavor. ''Of course, we tasted the competitors' before developing our own recipe,'' she said. ''Our yogurt is all natural, with lingering flavors and a clean finish, and it's even locally sourced.'' The yogurt Oko freezes is made by a Greek family-owned creamery in Queens, she said.

Flurt, with outlets in Gramercy Park and Battery Park City, is New York's first homegrown chain. Its nonfat formula appeals to the yogurt-is-lunch weight-loss crowd.

Since the first frozen-yogurt craze of the 1980s, many New Yorkers have kept the flame alive, searching for a frozen treat that will magically combine the pure and satisfying taste of ice cream with the appetite-controlling qualities of diet drugs. Most of the early versions of frozen yogurt contained only a small amount of actual yogurt, according to the National Yogurt Association. But frozen yogurt can also be quite luxurious. Yogurt itself can have up to 9 percent milk fat. Both Ciao Bella and Il Laboratorio del Gelato, among New York's best local ice-cream artisans, make wonderfully rich gelato flavored with plain yogurt.

After the initial go-round, plain-flavor frozen yogurt was quickly eclipsed by new fakeries like Tofutti and Tasti D-Lite. But it never completely left the city. A small band of devotees would trade tips about the holdouts at Bloomingdale's Forty Carrots, the cafe at Zabar's, and a chain of suburban parlors called Last Licks.

Apparently frozen yogurt spent its decades in exile well, mutating and gathering strength. Depending on whom you believe, this transformation may have taken place in the timeless gelaterias of Bologna, where a lone genius named Luciano Rabboni perfected the formula for yogurt-flavor gelato. (This is the Pinkberry creation legend.) Or it was bubbling up in the nascent youth-pop culture of Seoul, where the possibility of health benefits often fuels unstoppable food trends (Red Mango).

But that perfect churn of air and water, cream and tang, sweet and sour is elusive, and subjective. Some like it fluffy; others, dense. Some find the tang of Pinkberry excessive, even aggressive; others say that yogurt without tang is just low-fat ice cream. The taste of a good plain yogurt is full of lactic acid, a natural byproduct of fermentation that also gives depth to the flavors of foods like Parmesan cheese and prosciutto. Some of the newfangled yogurts also add citric acid for flavor, lending a bright lemony flavor that is very appealing on top of the sweetness, dairy and lactic tang.

Pinkberry's yogurt is certainly more sour than that of Red Mango, but beyond that the distinctions become arcane, and often bogged down in calorie-counting, the odd flavors of sugar substitutes, and obscure health claims. (Red Mango boasts that there are more than 400 million live cultures in each gram; Yogurberry says that its yogurt has the lowest glycemic index on the block.)

''Ultimately, it has to be about the taste of yogurt,'' said Mr. Lee of Pinkberry's recipe for success. ''If the product didn't back it up, Pinkberry would just be a furniture showroom.''






LOAD-DATE: February 27, 2008


GRAPHIC: PHOTOS: MULTIPLE SWIRLS: Malaika Tapper, above left, and Devon Donahue dig in at Red Mango in Greenwich Village. At eks in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, left and top left, the frozen yogurt is made from scratch. (PHOTOGRAPHS BY TONY CENICOLA/THE NEW YORK TIMES)

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