Category Archives: explore

explore: santa monica

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I have a soft spot for Santa Monica. In 2011, after the last MLA interview I’ll ever do, Tony and I celebrated his Sunday birthday by getting a bus from downtown LA, where we were staying at the Biltmore, to Santa Monica. The bus, which was beautifully shiny and new, cost about a dollar, and took an hour or so, winding through Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, and past all kinds of shiny monumental buildings, before letting us out by the sea. It was cold then, but not cruelly so, and we walked along the waterfront and the pier – I seem to remember we bumped into one of my former Columbia students, incongruous in his sweatshirt among his childhood friends, who did a double take on seeing me too. One of my favorite photos of T and me, me in a black coat and red lipstick, we took here amid the birds of paradise.

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We walked along the pier and bought tacky Route 66 fridge magnets, and I thought about the end of that road and how unimaginably beautiful this place was, and yet how relatively unassuming, a little faded, unafraid of the places where it was showing its age. Dinner was at the supremely cheesy Mexican restaurant at the end of the pier, sitting outside near the fire pit, serenaded by Mariachis, but of course even the mediocre, tourist-trap Mexican places in LA have cold beer, outstandingly fresh guacamole, and do what they do well.

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On this trip we went back to Santa Monica for only a couple of hours before flying home, and I realized how deeply it had touched me although it was only, again, a brief visit. I insisted we go, instead of lazing around the beach house in Orange County where we’d been staying the weekend, and I couldn’t explain why–just said, trust me. The houses are pink and blue. Continue reading

explore: astoria park

A few shots in the sunset tonight down at Astoria Park and the river, playing with my 50mm/1.8 lens. Happy summer:

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explore: wine tasting in greenport, li

I got to go out to the North Fork of Long Island this weekend, to celebrate a friend’s upcoming wedding with wine, a gang of fabulous ladies, more wine, an amazing dinner, and a reasonable dose of terrible dancing.  We toured four wineries (Corey Creek, Lenz, Jamesport, and Sherwood House) in the most ridiculous white stretch…vehicle…thing… (Escalade? Hummer? I didn’t arrange this, nor do I drive) which was hands down the silliest and awesomest way I have ever been picked up from a small town train station. Here are a few pictures of the wineries and their amazing gardens.

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In-your-face Bedell rosé at Corey Creek

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The weather was hot, grey and rainy, but cleared up enough later in the afternoon for us to sit outside at Jamesport.

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The wineries were all beautifully landscaped, with all the Adirondack chairs you could want. Although there are lots of people passing through on tours, they’d also be lovely places to spend an afternoon (or a wedding, which they all host, if you happen to have one meeeeellion dollars.)

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There was live music at both Lenz and Jamesport. That can be good and bad news.

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Lenz hosted us in their warehouse space, and because we actually seemed interested in the wine (I guess expectations are low when you roll up in a white stretch…thing) they were nice enough to share their limited edition Old Vines merlot, which was smoky, dry, and delicious. I can’t describe wine.

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Jamesport, our third stop, had an even better treat: a wood-fired pizza oven and fresh oysters. The weather obliged so that we could sit outside.

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We sat inside at Sherwood House’s Jamesport Tasting House (apparently North Fork winery of the year) in a beautifully decorated private dining room.

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explore: do it (outside)

It’s hotter than balls in New York right now, but it’s cooler by the river, in the evening, if you can fight off the bugs. I’m writing a piece for my dear friend Ali’s fantastic online art review Artvehicle about the current exhibition at Socrates Sculpture Park (which will have a more decorous lede) so this evening I walked down there to take some pictures. I’ve written about Socrates many times before, and it might be my favorite outdoor space in the city. I love the combination of a community-minded space and a genuine curatorial vision; I love being able to visit a farmer’s market in an outdoor gallery, and I love the juxtaposition of picnic space, views of the city, and weird, challenging, quirky, colossal, and silly art.

Here were some of my favorite pieces from the main show, Do It (Outside), conceived and curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, which presents a series of instructions from artists on how to create a piece of art, which cannot be permanent and must be dismantled at the end of the show. It raises all sorts of questions about creation vs. “realization,” and highlights the importance of space, collaboration, serendipity… plus, there’s candy (courtesy of Felix Gonzalez-Torres) and lounge chairs.  Continue reading

explore: new neighborhood eats

Astoria’s never *not* been a great food neighborhood—it tends to be the one thing any New Yorker who’s never been there knows about it. Although things are changing rapidly, as the old Greek places start to close and the influence of All Things Brooklyn makes itself felt, there are still more great places to eat within walking distance than we could reasonably get through in a month of all-out gluttony. What with one thing and another we ended up eating out a lot this holiday, including at two new places.

The Strand Smokehouse opened earlier this year, but we hadn’t made it there before their Fourth of July party yesterday. There was a band playing something appropriately bluesy and down-homey, and there were casks of bourbon and pounds of meat.

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These photos are terrible, I apologize. They’re just phone snapshots, since I still struggle with feeling self-conscious and weird when I take my big camera out to a restaurant, and because I also want to eat and not get rib juice all over my Nikon. But I will be making the effort to up my visual game in these posts.  

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Here’s what we ate, and while the last thing I want to do is delve into any kind of Paula Deen controversy, I think we can all admit that while this is delicious, it is also bananas from a dietary point of view. Meat! Mac and Cheese! Pickles! Biscuits! Bourbon! God bless America–you are all going to die. While we didn’t try the eight varieties of home-infused moonshine (we’re going to wait and enlist Sam in that), we did have a bourbon-mint-chamomile iced tea and a very tart rye Manhattan twist with “hop bitter” and moonshine fruit. I wasn’t 100% sold, but I’d try something else from the list. The space is vast, with a terrace out front, a lovely garden out back, and a cavernous, airy hall between them. Go big or go home. There are huge long wooden tables, and last night there were girls in red, white & blue dresses playing cards and sharing beer from a growler.

Tonight was a little less festive, but just as delicious. Milkflower is what I mean when I say that we’re all Brooklynites now. It’s a new wood-fired pizza place around the corner from us, with a huge floor-to-ceiling window in the front with the name etched on the glass, brick walls and Narragansett lager, locally-sourced veggies and house-made mozzarella and gelato. It hits me where I live.

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I almost didn’t get a picture of it, we ate this special salad so fast: pineapple caprese, with that fabulous chewy house mozzarella, pineapple, tomato and basil in a rich and tangy balsamic dressing. They also have a Hawaiian pizza on the menu. Is pineapple becoming a thing?

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And this was the Brussels Sprout pizza with egg, pepper, and truffle oil. My  dining companion in the appropriately hipsteriffic Lebowski t-shirt wholeheartedly approved its message.

explore: a weekend in Philadelphia

Inspired (as so often) by Sam, who recently took a why-not? trip there, and spurred by the news that a WWI-themed opera would be playing for two weeks only, I decided to look into the feasibility of a mid-February weekend in Philly. For its balmy climate. The stars aligned: we could catch a Sunday matinee at the opera, go out for dinner at a BYOB–giving us an excuse to drink the *outstanding* wine we were given for Christmas–and since it was President’s Day weekend, catch the “American Spirits” Prohibition exhibition at the Constitution Center for free. I found a $99 deal at the city center Sheraton, roundtrip Bolt Bus tickets for about $30 each, and managed to book us into the incredible Matyson for a late-ish Saturday night dinner (not an easy feat, as I’d forgotten that this was the closest Saturday to Valentine’s Day, and shit was BOOKED UP. Urgh.)

Pictures! (and highlights, after the jump.)

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explore: fridays at the noguchi museum

On the first Friday of the month, the Noguchi Museum, just across the street from Socrates Sculpture Park, is open late, is free to get in, and serves beer and wine for $5. You can wander throughout the museum, which was originally Noguchi’s workshop, and admire the huge range of sculptures and designs he produced. If you only know him as a designer of lamps and infamous coffee tables, there’s a whole rough-hewn, monumental, granite-and-metal world to discover. Plus, the shaded gardens are one of the most peaceful places in the city:

Noguchi Museum. 9-01 33rd Road, LIC (at Vernon Boulevard). Weds-Fri 10-5, Saturday & Sunday 11-6. General admission, $10.

explore: office space

One of the things I love about living in a densely populated and wildly expensive city – seriously – is seeing creative solutions to the problems that that density and expense create. Specifically, the problem of space for creativity. Whatever the many flaws of Starbucks, it’s always struck me as one of the most convenient places in New York to park a laptop and get to work, mostly because it’s anonymous enough that I don’t feel guilty for mooching off the electricity and the bathroom facilities on the strength of one black coffee per two hours.

The quest for the perfect coffee shop to work in is one I take seriously – when I lived in Williamsburg, Atlas Cafe on the corner of Havemeyer and Grand, a couple of blocks from my apartment, came close to the Platonic ideal of the working cafe, where the food was good and cheap, the coffee generous, and the clientele earnestly hunched over MacBooks under a wall-sized map of the world made you feel a little guilty if you weren’t.

But sometimes you don’t want to traipse around for the perfect spot, or it’s Saturday afternoon and too noisy to set up your private-in-public desk, which is where the whole industry of workspaces to rent comes in. One day, I’d love to afford to work somewhere as gorgeous as the Oracle Club, in LIC, or Paragraph, or the Writers Room (which pointedly compares its daily rate to the cost of a double latte), but even those rates feel indulgent for now, like joining a gym which just makes me think that I should run outside for free, and admit that the problem is motivation, not space.

So I’ve been hunting around in the NYPL for a spot that’s not too windswept with AC and loud with tourists, and doing my best to make my desk at home workable. Then suddenly something new shows up. How about an office in a tree?

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explore: high line extension

End of the line

Hot day to be walking the length of the High Line, now it stretches all the way from Gansevoort to 30th. The park is so much lusher and fuller than I’ve seen it, bordering on overgrown in some places. Beautiful flowers, sculptures and architecture all the way up – the new section isn’t as wide, and the lawn area is tiny, so it feels more like a promenade than a park. But who doesn’t love a good promenade? The views, people watching, and now food options are great – I had an absurd, but delicious rhubarb and chai-flavored ice lolly for $3.50 (sorry, People’s Pops, but where I’m from that’s not an ice pop. They are long and thin and bright blue and come in a plastic wrapper. They are decidedly not gourmet.)

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The 30th street end is great, because you can see where the line extends, and what it looked like when it was genuinely overgrown, not landscaped and polished.

New & old High Line

It’s definitely grittier this end, since you’re getting down into the Lincoln Tunnel entrance rather than the swanky-pants meatpacking district.

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But enterprise is enterprise, and under the tracks, proving again that New Yorkers will eat and drink pretty much anywhere, there’s a new beer garden and food-truck-stop, Tom Colicchio’s The Lot on Tap.

Food trucks under the tracks

And hey, they have rosé on draft. Can’t really argue with that.

Beer & wine on tap

explore: astoria & lic

[Despite wandering into LIC, this post is participating in the Astoria Blog Carnival, at We Heart Astoria. If that’s how you found me – hi! I have more Astoria posts here, here, here and here.

It has been a gluttonous 36 hours in this neck of the woods. Last night, dinner at:

We counted TX, MS, AZ, AK and ... Ontario? plates

our new local New Orleans-themed restaurant, which served a refreshing Pimm’s, a salty fried catfish, and a decadent side of mac & cheese. The half po’boys were ample and great, and there’s a Sazerac to sample and a whole slew of fried and broiled oysters to explore. The interior has a corrugated-tin-roof, vintage diner tables and lots of floral fabric and service couldn’t be smilier. Didn’t have room for dessert, which is a bit of a shame, given the name.

Then today, brunch at El Ay Si on Vernon Boulevard, which was thoroughly charming, cheap, delicious and comfortable enough that we hung out for nearly three hours. We walked over in the blazing sun to Gantry Plaza State Park, which is expanding rapidly and is a beautifully landscaped, peaceful little enclave with a killer view of Manhattan. There are wooden sunloungers and a row of bright orange hammocks woven out of what looked like repurposed seatbelts. To the girl in her bikini lying there reading House of Leaves, I salute you.

Lawn Guyland gantries. Ignore the damn trash can in the foreground.

The green outpost of the mostly wood-decked waterfront park

I'm always a sucker for a well-placed Adirondack chair

We wandered back inland and happened upon LIC bar, (watch out, music at the link) which had live music in the back yard and was a very nice place to while away a Sunday afternoon. Oh, and there was this:

White tiger & cub, red Buick and co-ordinating laundry bag.

And under the train tracks near Queensboro Plaza, this boarded-up, bricked-up, and beautiful building:

This was clearly a showcase for what they could do. 1892 and crumbling.