love: summer nights at moma & sarabeths

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Beth & baby Geoffrey show off the Greatest Sign Ever, in the sculpture garden at MoMA this evening. I would follow that arrow anywhere. There was live music, there was espresso gelato, there was wine, and my dear friend in town for just this one night, from Michigan. Summer in New York is sticky, muggy, and stinky, but when it brings impromptu music, a stroll up Fifth Avenue with your best girlfriends, and a long, gossipy dinner, I’ll take it.

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taste: caesar salad (again)

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I’ve written about Caesar Salad before, but this was my attempt at Bon Appétit’s recent no-messing real version. If you don’t want raw egg and anchovy in your Caesar, well, you’re in the wrong aisle. Pre-packaged mayonnaise is thataway. Since I didn’t have six people to feed, I cut their recipe in half, used regular green lettuce and some thinly shredded red cabbage, some ends of a baguette I had in the freezer (semi-thawed, tossed in oil and fried until they set off the fire alarm), cut the oil down and increased the lemon juice. Oh, and threw some anchovy chunks into the salad, because anchovies are so wrong they’re so, so right. What I’m saying is I played this by ear until I got a smooth dressing that knocked us into next week. It’s strong. It’s really strong.  I won’t venture my own version, because raw eggs and fear, but I urge you to try BA’s.

love: astoria bookshop

Such a lovely evening yesterday meeting the ladies behind the Astoria Bookshop, aka the one thing necessary to make my neighborhood complete. Lexi and Connie organized a meetup for local book nerds (well, they didn’t put it quite like that) to hear about what people want in a bookstore. Serious discussions were had about flooring choices, event spaces, how to shelve YA and romance, and the pros and cons of a bookshop cat. The new shop is going to be about a 3 minute walk from my front door, under the subway tracks at 31-29 31st Street. They plan to open mid-August. Here’s to female-owned businesses improving the neighborhood!

 

taste: rhubarb compote

This very quick recipe is for the lady at the farmers’ market last weekend who saw me buying rhubarb and wanted to know how to cook it. I don’t think I steered her too wrong. Rhubarb is another of those fruits (vegetables?) that I *hated* as a kid (hello kale) that are now everywhere, and some of my very favorite things. I know fashion influences what we find attractive, but it’s a bit more disturbing to think that it influences how we taste, although I’m sure it does. I don’t know what it was about rhubarb that I used to hate. Probably the texture, and the slightly cloying smell, or perhaps there was too much or too little sugar in the rhubarb crumble we got at primary school. I loved rhubarb and custard sweets, though (sorry, teeth).

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(See how much prettier things are with the good camera? Man.) As a compote, poached in the simplest way, this has been a lovely breakfast all week (once again inspired by the Paris market, where the stalks were twice the size). Even though the rhubarb stalks from the Socrates farmers’ market were a bit wilted in the afternoon heat, once washed and sliced into one-inch pieces, all streaky green-and-pink, they looked fine and fresh. In a medium pan, I half-covered them with water and sprinkled them with about a quarter cup of sugar, and heated them gently until they did their thing–obligingly collapsing together into a a lovely rosy orange mush. I turn off the heat while there are still a few visible chunks, so this takes about ten to fifteen minutes. I had nothing on hand to jazz them up – orange juice and/or zest, fresh ginger, or strawberries. But chilled and served in glop over plain yoghurt and sprinkled with granola, they don’t need anything else.

love: wimbledon

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I don’t come from a sporting family. My dad loved Formula One, and didn’t think any sport worth watching that didn’t have a machine involved. My mum would get caught up in the pageantry of the odd World Cup or the Olympics, and my brother played and followed rugby. But we all paid attention to Wimbledon, and it was as much about the ritual as the game–although I’ve come to love the game, in all its elegant simplicity, much more in recent years. Although I know it’s statistically unlikely, I remember Wimbledon as happening in hot weather, sitting inside on the floor in front of the TV with the curtains closed, getting caught up what actually seemed to me to be drama, unlike any other sport that laid claim to that. When we were eleven, my best friend Lucy and I worshipped fifteen-year-old Jennifer Capriati and used her multiple earrings as evidence that we, too, should be allowed to get our ears pierced. I rooted for young players, good-looking players, flamboyant players, humble players, players who were polite to the ball kids and players who yelled at the umpire, players who threw their rackets to the ground and players who jumped in the air.

I never had a British player to root for, really–I know tennis players grow up, but Henman to me never quite outgrew  the petulant boy who whacked a tennis ball at a ball girl, and his sheer middle-England namby-pambyness and all the “Henman Hill” nonsense made me secretly happy when lumbering Sampras shellacked him every year. But this year… we were up at nine and it was over in straights that felt like they went to five sets. Well done, Andy – hope you are good and drunk somewhere right now, and you get to enjoy this for a little while, no matter how much you pretend you don’t (good Scottish lad that you are.) I’ll be catching up on the Guardian’s play-by-play… not quite ready to let it go for another year.

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.

love: happy fourth!

It’s hot & sunny & humid, and we’re celebrating the holiday by just lying around, reading & enjoying the quiet. The patriotic display at the Cazenovia Yacht Club,  last summer:

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love: merci

Merci is a fabulously hip boutique in Paris, 111 Rue Beaumarchais in the northern Marais. It’s vast and sort of ridiculous, but in a charming beyond-parody sort of French way. Behind a narrow little cafe that’s also a used bookstore, past the lunching models and the Japanese hipsters, it opens out into a courtyard dotted with sculptures like a ping-pong table made of Chinese waving-cat statues and a stocky red vintage farm truck. It stocks a men’s clothing line designed by John Malkovich, all kinds of fabulously expensive drapey t-shirts made of tissue-thin cotton, and has a whole lower level of kitchenwares, from enamel cups and wooden chalkboards to MoMA-design-store gadgetry.

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And for three euros you can get an adorable little brass necklace in a paper pouch, with a little list-poem of what you might put in it.

THIS BAG MAY CONTAIN your candle
your bracelet your medal
your lipstick YOUR BRASSIERE
your comb your desires
your necklace your books your barrettes
YOUR HEART your ring
your sun
glasses your eyeliner
YOUR ATTENTION your scarf
YOUR IDEAS your atomizer
your earrings
your eyeshadow
YOUR HELP
your perfume
your night cream
your confidence your brush
your ballet shoes your eau de toilette
your cravat your mascara
YOUR HOPES
your swimsuit your hazelnut
YOUR LOVE your hat
your conscience your toothbrush
your stockings your quill pen your gift
your friendship…MERCI

taste: julia child’s clafoutis

So, obviously, since I was just in Paris (I swear, those pictures are coming) I am even more obsessed with French cooking than I was before. I’m trying to master Julia Child’s French omelette recipe, which you can watch on Youtube here. No amount of transcription or description could do it justice; you just have to watch and learn how to swirl and then jerk the pan just so. I sprinkled mine with dill rather than parsley because that’s what I had (my cookbook will  be called That’s Just What I Had in the Fridge: What? It’s Just As Good, And I’m Too Lazy to Go to the Shop)–and it was delicious, although I am still, apparently, too tentative in my wrist action. I shall have to do as JC preaches, and practice with a panful of dried beans.

Anyway, I had no video for this, and was short one egg and a blender, so this is not the glorious puffy clafoutis it should be. More of a claflatis. But it is tart and berry-saturated and I am looking forward to it for breakfast tomorrow:

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Here’s the New York Times recipe that adapts JC, which I followed to the letter except for being short an egg and using a hand whisk instead of a blender. Don’t do either of those things! As usual, I also pulled back a bit on the sugar, so this packs a pretty intense blueberry punch in a chewy, creamy, custardy base.