ANDREW DORNENBURG & KAREN PAGE's Web Log
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Named to MUG 400 for its "distinctive contribution to life in New York"
"If you asked me what I came into this world to do,
I will tell you:
I came to live out loud."
—Critic and novelist Emile Zola (1840-1902)
"There is nothing under the sun better for man than to eat, drink, and be merry. Go, therefore, eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with cheer.”
Starbucks at 41st & Lex: unchanged since last week's blast
Emergency vehicle reflected in Starbucks' window
2005 SoloRosa Syrah Rose (l.) at Park Avenue Summer
Green and yellow summer beans, apricot-almond vinaigrette
Maine sea scallops, peaches, almond granola
Monkfish Milanese, spaghetti squash, pepper brown butter
Lamb tenderloin salad, farro, grilled apricots
Cheesecake mousse with brown sugar crumbs, peach nectar
One of Richard Leach's uber-chocolate desserts at PAS
Garnish your own drink at Park Avenue Summer's "Ice Bar"
Saturday, July 28, 2007 — While we're happy that more and more businesses on Lexington Avenue near last week's accident site have been re-opening (and that they've reportedly qualified for federal disaster aid via the U.S. Small Business Administration, according to today's paper), the Starbucks at the corner of Lex and 41st Street (right across from the blast) remains closed. It's a surreal sight: Latte drinkers abandoned their drinks, newspapers, books, jackets, and even laptop computers to run for their lives when the explosion occurred Wednesday night. We peeked into the window this afternoon, and thought it had reopened — but no, the store was just littered with the same 10-day-old abandoned plastic glasses now growing mold on the windowsills....
In all the craziness, we missed almost all of Restaurant Week — that two-week period of $24.07 three-course lunches and $35 dinners at some of the city's better restaurants. But what we lacked in quantity visits, we might have made up for in quality: We loved our single Restaurant Week lunch excursion to Park Avenue Summer. When we'd read that chef Craig Koketsu was an alum of the kitchens of Gray Kunz and Jeremiah Tower, that was enough for us to want to check out his food. Coupled with a positive review from "Insatiable Critic" Gael Greene (no small feat!), we felt we placed our single Restaurant Week bet safely — and it paid off indeed. Chef Koketsu is someone to watch, and James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Richard Leach's desserts still shine.
For anyone else who might have missed Restaurant Week this summer, here's our consolation prize: A number of restaurants plan to continue their Restaurant Week menus of $24 lunches and $35 dinners through Labor Day. You can check out details here.
Park Avenue Summer is at 100 E. 63rd St. (Park Ave.), Manhattan. (212) 644-1900. Web: www.parkavenyc.com. In the first of its planned seasonal changes of decor and menu, the restaurant will close for a week and re-open as Park Avenue Autumn this fall.
We were impressed to receive a letter from our 4th District City Council Member Daniel Garodnick a week after the explosion, offering his assistance and notifying us that the Red Cross (877-RED-CROSS) has free medical and mental health services available to anyone "suffering as a result of the explosion."
Our thanks to Laura Day for forwarding this inspirational story on YouTube about Louisville's Patrick John Hughes and his blind and wheelchair-bound musician son Patrick Henry Hughes:
Photo credit: Carol Guzy
The Capital Grille's burger & wine
Thursday, July 26, 2007 — What a crazy week or two it's been: injuries, explosions, evacuations, et al. What could be more comforting at a time like this than a good burger with a great glass of wine?
In our column in this week's Washington Post, we share our tips and those of other industry pros on what to drink with all kinds of burgers this summer, and what pairings of wines and burgers can help you create delicious and soothing harmonies:
"Xylophone," in addition to being one of the highest-point Scrabble words we can think of, is a useful analogy for thinking about wine and food pairing -- and for organizing your own wine and burger tasting this summer.
Before sitting down to taste, arrange your wines in a manner inspired by the percussion instrument of graduated wooden bars: from light-bodied to full-bodied, using the wine's alcohol level (low to high) as an estimate. When taste-testing wines of similar alcohol levels, you might line them up by color (yellow to pink to red), which can suggest a crescendo of flavor intensity.
Either way, it's then easier to make generalizations about the styles of wine you enjoy best with certain foods: often lighter wines with lighter foods, and fuller-bodied and -flavored wines with heavier foods.
Prepare a tasting sheet for taking notes. Listing the wines down one side of the page and the foods across the other, create a simple grid. Into each of the boxes, note your impression of each pairing using a five-point scale, from +2 (perfect) to 0 (neutral) to -2 (awful). After a few glasses of wine, you might skip numbers in favor of smiley or sad faces, a technique we learned from restaurateur Danny Meyer: The broader the smile or frown, the more intense the judgment.
Our "wine xylophone" this week consisted of four wines representing a range of styles: 1) 2005 Wild Horse Central Coast Chardonnay ($17), an oaked wine dominated by pear with notes of vanilla; 2) 2006 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir Rosé ($20), a crisp and elegant pale pink rosé oozing strawberries; 3) 2005 Les Jamelles Vins de Pays d'Oc Pinot Noir ($10), a wine rich with black cherries and blackberries, and beautifully balanced by tannin; and 4) 2003 El Coto Rioja Crianza ($13), whose deep blackberry flavors are given structure by tannin and mystery by a hint of smoke.
We tasted each against a "burger xylophone": 1) a lean turkey burger, half with mayonnaise and half with ketchup and mustard; 2) a rare tuna burger; 3) a veggie burger, heavy with root vegetables and wild rice; and 4) a traditional (beef) bacon cheeseburger.
To read the rest of our column "Burger Buddies" (no, we don't title our own columns!), click here.
Alex Grey starts his tour of his Chapel of Sacred Mirrors
Artist Alex Grey explains the transition from the Psychic
Energy System (l.) to the Spiritual Energy System (r)
Alex between his paintings of
Artist Alex Grey describes his paintings in the Yellow Room
"Mr. Grey's paintings, as detailed and anatomically accurate as medical illustrations, present man as an archetypal being struggling toward cosmic unity...Grey's vision of a flawed but perfectable mankind stands as an antidote to the cynicism and spiritual malaise prevalent in much contemporary art."
—The New York Times
"Grey's insistence that art should be a revelatory and healing force in our culture should resonate with artists in virtually any discipline."
"Bad art copies, good art creates, great art transcends."
—Ken Wilber, the philosopher we had the pleasure of meeting several years ago at the home of our friends Tony Schwartz & Deborah Pines, whose new book The Integral Mind we're looking forward to on 8/14
Sunday, July 22, 2007 — Anyone who's ever taken or taught a class at Kripalu or the Open Center or Omega Institute (we've visited all three as instructors or students) is probably familiar with the work of artist Alex Grey. Shortly after a friend mentioned his work to Karen over lunch last month, we browsed the East-West Bookstore on lower Fifth Avenue before "The Real Dirt on Farmer John" started at the Quad Cinema around the corner, and Karen found herself drawn to and then engrossed in a book on Grey's work. She followed up with a visit to his Web site, where she read about the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, a Manhattan exhibition of 21 of Grey's paintings "offering devotional portrayals of the universal human journey from birth to death with healing, love and enlightenment as the iconic narrative."
On a whim, late yesterday afternoon we called the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors to double-check how late it was open last night, and whether we might slip in for our first visit before its closing at 6 pm. We were informed that artist Alex Grey would be leading a tour of the Chapel at 6:30 pm ('til "about 8 pm," we were told), and took it as a sign that we should do that instead.
More than three hours after arriving at the West 27th Street loft, we were still there, part of the group of dozens from around the world (including Australia, Brazil and Japan) who had gathered to sit cross-legged on the floor listening to Grey take us through his paintings as he provided detailed background on their inspiration, symbolism, and inter-connectedness.
It was one of the most memorable and thought-provoking Saturday evenings we have ever passed in New York City...or anywhere else.
Artist Alex Grey is at www.alexgrey.com.
Chapel of Sacred Mirrors is at 542 West 27th Street (bet. 10th and 11th Avenues), Manhattan. Web: www.cosm.org
Wild Edibles' Michael Poli gives lobsters a weigh, but the...
...lobsters would rather get away!
The pristine fish market faces the restaurant's tables
Andrew's delicious salmon burger comes with fries, but Wild
Edibles is nice enough to substitute a salad upon request
Fresh mussels are served with an Asian coconut green curry
Poli's refreshing recommendation: Original Sin hard cider
Poli's "Rosebud": His long skateboard (aka "longboard")
"...The raw product is, unsurprisingly, of very good quality: you can make a close inspection of seafood at the fish counter and dispatch it to the kitchen to be simply cooked for a pittance more than it would cost at home. That — honest seafood from an honest kitchen that doesn’t charge like it’s the next coming of Le Bernardin — is the chief appeal of Wild Edibles, and certainly a reason Murray Hillbillies should consider themselves lucky to have this option in the ’hood."
— Peter Meehan, The New York Times, on Wild Edibles (7/18/07)
"For small business owners, this is an economic disaster. Our margins are so small, it takes a month to recover for every business day lost."
— Leo Goswami, owner, Optima news shop at 334 Lexington Avenue, as quoted in The New York Times (7/21/07)
Saturday, July 21, 2007 — "Businesses in Blast Area Worry About Compensation" reports today's New York Times, estimating the loss to businesses in the tens of millions. Scotty's Diner (336 Lexington Avenue), a 24-hour neighborhood staple for custardy challah French toast and decent-to-surprisingly good burgers, estimates its losses at $5,000 a day.
We had a late lunch today at Wild Edibles (535 Third Avenue), whose big day of being reviewed by The New York Times was cut short by Wednesday's explosion. Still, the room was packed by the time we arrived, so we ended up taking the table closest to the kitchen to enjoy our delicious rare salmon burger and green curry mussels while sharing a bottle of Original Sin cider.
The Times review missed one of the best things about Wild Edibles: the warm, welcoming service offered by Michael Poli (better known as Poli). A professional snowboarder who is handsome enough to be a professional model, Poli's greatest talent just might be his knack for making first-time guests feel right at home, and for making regulars (including us) feel like members of his extended family — without ever losing the professionalism that makes us trust whatever dish or drink he's hot for that day. (He's turned us on to the fabulous skate with mustard sauce and the lobster ravioli, in addition to today's Original Sin cider.)
Poli's passion for wine (especially Champagne!) will soon transform the restaurant's list beyond its current New York-only theme, and we're already looking forward to tasting the difference.
We hope you'll join us in patronizing Murray Hill and Grand Central businesses, like Wild Edibles, that have been affected by this week's events.
Wild Edibles is at 535 Third Avenue (near 36th Street), Manhattan. (212) 213-8552. Web: www.wildedibles.com Tell Poli and the rest of the Wild Edibles gang that we sent you.
Police officers and TV camera crews at 39th & Lexington
Friday, July 20, 2007 — They say the air is safe to breathe in Midtown, so we're back in our apartment in Murray Hill and looking forward to spending the first night in our own bed since Tuesday night. How on earth will we ever find a way to thank our friends for putting us up in their home for the past two nights?? Gifting them with one of our treasured Vosges bacon-chocolate bars (completely sold out, ever since Charlie Suisman's rave; see below) was only the start....
View up Lex toward Grand Central from 39th St. at 6:15 pm
Lexington Avenue, filled with smoke, is unrecognizable
Thursday, July 19, 2007 — Update: We were asked to evacuate our apartment building last night shortly after our post below, and spent the night with friends in the West Village. As they're still cleaning up what is thought to be asbestos-tainted debris from last night's steam pipe explosion, we'll likely be staying with our friends in the Village another night.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007 — The loud rumbling that had been dominating our earshot since about 5:55 pm finally came to a stop at 6:36 pm. There had been a large explosion in Manhattan on Lexington near 41st Street — just a few blocks from our home. Televised news reports are referring to it as an underground tranformer explosion.
Photo credit: Julia Ewan
Domaines Ott rose
"An intuitive leap can mark a breakthrough. 'When you're entering an area where the unknowns are high, and experience is important, if you don't rely on intuition you're cutting yourself short, ' says Howard Gardner, professor of cognition and education at Harvard."
Wednesday, July 18, 2007 — As we've mentioned previously in this space, we have both studied intuition with Laura Day, and have benefited enormously from her instruction. Even though the process of "getting" it can sometimes be frustrating (in some ways, intuition is something that can't be "taught" — it must be "caught"), we can't recommend this training more highly.
As Harvard professor Howard Gardner suggests, intuition is something that can benefit you in any area of creative endeavor. Today, we share how intuition contributes to the creation and enjoyment of wine in our weekly wine column in The Washington Post entitled "Leave the First Impression to Your Sixth Sense":
We owe Uma Thurman, who believes in the power of intuition, our thanks for inadvertently turning us on to the most elegant rosé we have ever tasted.
A year ago, our author friend Laura Day ("The Circle," "Welcome to Your Crisis") shared a couple of bottles with us from a case of Domaines Ott rosé that Thurman had given to her. We found ourselves smitten with its refined flavor and texture, which echoed the delicate silkiness of the scallops we enjoyed with it. The 2005 Domaines Ott Chateau de Selle Cotes de Provence rosé ($33), whose bottle resembles a gigantic perfume flask, is reminiscent of strawberries and cream.
While there are better deals to be found in the world of rosés — including Domaines Ott's own second-label 2005 Les Domaniers rosé ($17), the alluringly complex 2006 Belle Glos Pinot Noir Blanc Oeil de Perdrix ($25) and the incredibly food-friendly 2005 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rosé ($11), which impressed us during a recent tasting — we're still very fond of the Domaines Ott Chateau de Selle rosé and its ability to win over every rosé skeptic we've set it before.
Day gets our thanks for writing the book that has inadvertently done more to expand our appreciation and enjoyment of wine than any other: "Practical Intuition" (Broadway, 1997). In his back-cover blurb, Nobel laureate and DNA co-discoverer James Watson describes intuition as "facts hidden in the brain."
Learning to hone intuition has much in common with learning to enjoy wine: Both processes are too often hampered by participants' fears of making complete fools of themselves. But the former can open you to facts hidden in your brain that aren't accessible through your five senses — and those same facts can serve to deepen your appreciation of wine. Studying intuition with Day included eye-opening exercises: in one, participants who were asked to intuit the mystery contents of a brown paper bag from more than 10 feet away came up with adjectives that included "yellow," "sour" and "fruit" to describe what turned out to be a lemon. After that, being able to detect notes of raspberries and cream in a rosé or hints of violets and earth in a syrah that you're actually tasting doesn't seem crazy at all — even if it is only fermented grape juice.
Many vintners count intuition among the secrets of their winemaking success. "I stop and listen to the fruit," says Chuck Reininger of Reininger Winery in Washington state. "My greatest tools are my palate and my intuition." He said he uses them to determine how to capture and enhance the best of that fruit in his wines. While his palate registers the flavor and he uses numbers (such as pH levels) as guidelines, he ultimately lets his intuitive, artisanal side steer his decisions regarding when to pick the grapes and how to ferment them to create the balance he's seeking.
Brad McCarthy of Virginia's Blenheim Vineyards credits "100 percent" of his winemaking success to intuition. He says he uses intuition to "see" the path his grapes will take from the vineyard to the bottle to the table.
"Intuition comes in as you look at the grapes on the crush pad and ask, 'What are they going to be?' " he says. "At that moment, I am instantaneously 18 months down the road pouring a tasting for the wine buyer at Charlie Trotter's," the Chicago restaurant, "and hearing, 'We'll take it all, if you give it more structure and intensity.'" He uses intuition to guide the bets he places on that professional relationship and on his winemaking strategy.
Steve Edmunds's Edmunds St. John wine label declares on the front of every bottle, "Produced & Bottled by Intuition and Blind Luck." Whatever the reason, his 2001 Edmunds St. John "Wylie-Fenaughty" Syrah ($30) is the most alluring syrah we've tasted in recent memory. Its power stood up to a broiled rare rib-eye steak and brought to mind France's Rhone region as much as, or more than, it did its native California.
When you sample our longtime favorite 2005 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare ($13), your intuition might transport you to France. The fact that this is a California wine doesn't make you wrong. Indeed, the winemaker's notes describe this dry, crisp, pale pink wine's "spiritual homeland" as Provence, despite his nontraditional addition of white grapes to the blend. The whole point of wine is to enjoy the trip — and for a better price than what any airline is ever likely to offer you.
Bonny Doon's Randall Grahm says a biodynamic approach to winemaking affects not only the wine, but also winemakers themselves, giving them "the ability to see the natural world with more sensitive eyes and the gradual cultivation of powerful intuition."
Intuition, not reasoning, is what immediately informs us upon first experiencing a wine that "I don't like this," or "I'm glad I tasted this" or — in the case of the Domaines Ott rosé —"I can't wait to taste this again." Identifying what is responsible for that knowing is elusive to even the most aware and articulate among us, but that only adds to the eternal mystery of wine at its best.
To read the rest of our column, click here.
Laura Day, author of Practical Intuition, The Circle, and Welcome to Your Crisis, is reachable at HealingDay@aol.com.
Dang that Charlie Suisman....If his writing weren't so tantalizing, we'd doubtless be even more productive — and much thinner. His write-up on GetTrio.com that prompted Andrew's photos and our tasting below:
"Gimmicky? Perhaps. But don't pretend you don't want to try just a little bite of Mo's Bacon Bar from Chicago chocolatier Katrina Markoff, the palate behind Vosges Haut-Chocolat .
To replicate the childhood memory of chocolate-chip pancakes served with slices of salty pork, Markoff combined deep milk chocolate with Alder smoked salt and applewood smoked bacon. Possibly the perfect marriage of sweet and salty."
Another benefit of Mo's Bacon Bar: Needs no cooking!
Mo's Bacon Bar tastes bacony...just like the real thing!
As someone who'd named bacon to the list of five ingredients her pre-teen self thought she could live on for the rest of her life (along with bananas, chocolate, peanut butter and Rice Krispies), Karen couldn't wait to try Mo's Bacon Bar. It was even better than either of us ever could have hoped it would be.
Savor the aroma of bacon and chocolate, then bite into the silky chocolate flecked with crispy bits of smoky bacon. It's such a perfect execution of this beautiful marriage of flavors that it makes you wonder why no chocolatier (that we know of) has taken it on before now.
You can order your Mo's Bacon Bar ($7 per bar) here.
On Saturday, July 14th, around 6:45 pm, we were in a cab on our way to meet our friends Rikki Klieman and Bill Bratton for dinner at August in Greenwich Village. As we stopped for the length of a traffic light at an intersection near Broadway and 24th Street, Karen spied a photographer taking photos of a bride and groom in the middle of the street and captured these shots of the scene:
Our congratulations and best wishes to the mystery bride and groom!
DB Bistro Moderne's charming sommelier Arnaud Devulder
Oliver Muller (r.) chats with us and F&W editor Ray Isle (l.)
about his half-bacon/half-mushroom Alsatian tarte flambe
Amuses: Foie gras and grapes, duck pate and cornichons
DB Bistro Moderne's mini-skewers of pork on sauerkraut
Every Monday night from 5-7 pm for the rest of the summer, you can visit Alsace — without leaving Manhattan. Uber-restaurateur Daniel Boulud's DB Bistro Moderne is featuring Alsatian wine and food, courtesy of the talents of sommelier Arnaud
Devulder and chef Olivier Muller. We attending a tasting the other night, in the good company of Food & Wine senior editor Ray Isle and his summer intern Danielle McNally.
DB Bistro Moderne is at
55 West 44th Street (bet. Fifth and Sixth Avenues) in Manhattan. (212)
The tabletop at lunch at Restaurant Daniel last week
(l.) Crab Salad with Tomato Gelee
(c.) Trio of Echerton Hills Farm Heirloom Tomatoes
(r.) Chiled Tomato Soup with Taggiasche Olive
Sancerre, Lucien Crochet "Le Chene," Loire 2004
Pan-Roasted Four Story Hill Farm Chicken,
Morel-Potato Gratin, Fava Bean Puree
Savigny-Les-Beaune, Alex Gambal, Burgundy 2003
Le Buffet de Fromages featured 3 cheese experts, e.g. Max
McCalman (above), serving nearly two dozen French cheeses
Samples of Epoisses, Karen's favorite French cheese
A week ago today, we attended a lunch at Restaurant Daniel hosted by The Cheeses of France — which plans to launch an initiative to capitalize on Americans' growing interest in cheese by encouraging them to enjoy a range of tastes offered by French cheeses via a "cheese plate." Long a staple at upscale French-inspired restaurants, cheese plates are due to be enjoyed in the home, they reason.
With the powers that be behind the Cheeses of France Marketing Council, we shared word of Steve DeLong's Wine Century Club, which awards a free certificate and tastevin to hard-core wine adventurers (like us!) who have tasted more than 100 different grape varieties — and suggested that they consider a similar Cheese Century Club for hard-core cheese lovers who have tasted more than 100 different French cheeses. As this event's resident cheese experts — who included the Artisanal Cheese Center's Max McCalman, Murray's Cheese's Rob Kaufelt, and Daniel's own Pascal Vittu — might attest, what could be more fun than taking on that tasting challenge next?
Restaurant Daniel is at 60 East 65th Street, Manhattan.
The Cheeses of France is at www.cheesesoffrance.com.
Photo credit: Bill O'leary
Calistoga Estate Vineyards' Marvin Stirman
Wednesday, July 11, 2007 — Ever since we started writing our weekly wine column for The Washington Post (has it really been four months already?), our small Manhattan apartment has become overrun with wine bottles. Even after buying not one but five new wine racks, we were forced to discover (and confided to Crate & Barrel co-founder Carole Segal, a fellow Northwestern alumna) that the top of our C&B Shadow Box Tower bookcase alone held nearly four dozen bottles.
So whenever we're able to de-acquisition a few bottles to free up more room in our home, we look forward to the opportunity. That was honestly what we first had in mind when we decided to taste all four Calistoga Estate Vineyards wines, whose labels suggested to us that they were nothing much and might easily be ruled out of review consideration. But we taste every bottle that is sent to us (or will!) and, once we sampled these, we were enormously surprised — and quite happily so — by their contents, which you can read more about in today's column "California Vines with D.C. Roots."
By the way, we'd even open our own wallets to buy a case of the 2003 Calistoga Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon...if only we had any room to put one.
Calistoga Estate Vineyards is run by managing partner Marvin Stirman, one of the most innovative American wine retailers of the 1970s and founder of Les Amis du Vin.
As long-time readers of our Blog already know ad infinitum, we have a thing for Charlie Suisman and anything he writes — Manhattan Users Guide and GetTrio included. (Hey, they're free, so why don't you subscribe, too?) Loved today's tips in the latter, especially this one:
Amid the flurry of attention (anticipatory backlash) that a Miranda July project seems to garner these days, like her recent book of stories No One Belongs Here More Than You, it's easy to overlook the fact that one of her earlier projects, Learning to Love You More, is chugging along and inspiring little bits of art in the everyday for people all over the world.
The website, which July started in 2002 with fellow artist Harrell Fletcher, posts assignments ("Record the sound that is keeping you awake," "Make an exhibition of the art in your parent's house," "Document your bald spot") and displays the resulting work online, in exhibits across the country, and, this coming fall, in a book of the same name.
"Along the way he also became almost a spiritual presence, one with the park...."
— Dan Barry on Alberto Arroyo in The New York Times (12/3/05)
Sunday, July 8 , 2007 — Karen was finishing the third mile of her five-mile loop in Central Park just before noon today and heading south on the West Side when the Mayor motioned for her to stop.
First of all, a clarification: This was not the Mayor of New York City, but the local ruling Mayor of Central Park, with whom she's had a nodding acquaintance over the years as a fellow Central Park regular. Born Albert Arroyo, he was reportedly the first person to start running around the Reservoir, and picked up his title as an honorific.
Since turning 90 last year, the Mayor has been showing his age in the slower pace he uses to wheel his walker through the Park and to his bench on the south side of the Reservoir, where runners who can still manage to see through the sweat dripping in their eyes might notice tributes to him both on his bench and posted near the drinking fountains.
Over the years, our passing nods and waves to one another have sometimes included very brief pleasantries (though he hasn't run himself for more than a decade, he's a natural coach who urges runners on with a "Looking good!") — but he'd never before asked Karen to stop during a run. Her first thought was that perhaps he'd lost his way or needed help. She slowed her pace, took off her iPod's headphones, and stopped with more than a little concern to see what was up.
"You look beautiful," the Mayor told her. He smiled, and continued on his way toward the Reservoir.
You can read more about the Mayor of Central Park here.
"[The new movie 'Ratatouille'] establishes the toque as the new tiara
and affirms the triumph of food snobs
and fetishists, its special effects (the colorful fireworks that go off when a
character bites into something wonderful) validating the idea of eating as
enlightenment, of vegetable stew as revelation."
— Frank Bruni, in today's New York Times
We appreciated Frank Bruni's sign-of-the-times piece "Foodies at the Movies: Chopped Liver to Hero" on the cover of today's Week in Review section in The New York Times, which you can read here.
It brought to mind this passage from one of our books:
"...Think of the 'Magic Eye' pictures that appear everywhere from the Sunday comics to best-selling books. If you look at them one way, they're merely colorful images on paper — not offensive, but arguably not great art, either. But if you know how to look into the picture, it is possible to see an almost magical three-dimensional image. Not everyone can see the 3-D image; it takes knowledge and practice. But the potential to see it is always there. And just because some people can see it and others can't doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Similarly, in food, some diners have never had a dining experience that has moved them on the level of art. But those of us who have been so moved know that this potential exists."
— from our 1996 book CULINARY ARTISTRY
Interesting that depiction of the title dish that sparks the restaurant critic's revelation in "Ratatouille" so closely resembles the one on page 195 (under "Zucchini") of CULINARY ARTISTRY.
On another subject altogether, there's also a terrific piece by Daniel B. Wood in the July 6 Christian Science Monitor: "The former chief of police of New York and Boston explains why policing in Los
Angeles is different from anywhere else, and how he's working to change the LAPD
culture." You can read it here.
"We are going in the right direction, and that's
why I wanted to stay and finish the job."
— LAPD Chief Bill Bratton, on his history-making
reappointment to a second term
"It's a different Michael Moore in 'Sicko.' He still wears the baseball cap, but he's onscreen less, not so cocky, not going for so many laughs. He simply tells one story after another about Americans who are sick, dying or dead because we have an undemocratic, profit-gouging health care system. Moore's films usually make conservatives angry. This one is likely to strike home with anyone, left or right, who has had serious illness in the family. Conservative governments in Canada, England and France all support universal health care; the United States is the only developed nation without it."
—Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times
Friday, July 6, 2007 — Thank God for out-of-town guests, whose presence demands at least an occasional afternoon and/or evening off, no matter how unbelievably busy we're otherwise finding ourselves these days.
On the Fourth, the lack of sun forced our homemade picnic indoors, where we made the best of the situation by substituting an exquisite bottle of chilled NV Taittinger Brut Prestige Rose Champagne for our planned Thermos of iced tea. (It had the body to beautifully accompany Andrew's pesto chicken and rare sliced steak open-faced sandwiches and side dishes.)
We were all also able to catch Michael Moore's movie "Sicko," which was a simultaneously eye-opening, entertaining, and heart-breaking look at the American healthcare industry. Voters in both parties consistently cite healthcare as their #1 domestic
policy concern, and we marvel at Moore's ability — present and past — to draw attention to crucial issues and to help bring them to the forefront of public debate.
Afterward, our out-of-town guest landed us all VIP seating for viewing the fireworks along the East River — which were still a beautiful eyeful despite having to watch them through the peepholes of our respective rain ponchos.
Michael Moore's Web site is at www.michaelmoore.com.
Photo credit: Nikki Kahn
at Charlie Palmer Steak in DC
Wednesday, July 4, 2007 — At a wine tasting event we'd attended a few months ago, Karen had the pleasure of being seated next to Philippe Newlin, a former Peace Corps volunteer who'd built water pumps in Paraguay who had since found his calling in the world of wine. Today, he directs tastings for Wine & Spirits magazine and teaches wine courses at the International Wine Center in New York — including one in Spanish for natives.
It was meeting Philippe that helped inspire our column in today's Washington Post, "The Wine of Human Kindness" — so we were sorry to go online this morning to see that our paragraph on Philippe's work had been edited out of the piece. Our apologies to Philippe — and our public thanks to him for helping to inspire a column we hope might inspire others:
"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Thomas Jefferson's status as a connoisseur of wine and food leaves no doubt in our minds that enjoyment of them would be part of his expanded definition of our inalienable rights.
More than two centuries after he wrote the Declaration of Independence, enjoying wine and food still grounds us in the present and immerses us in sensual and social pleasure like no other aspect of our daily lives. But some experts, such as psychologist Martin Seligman, author of the best-selling "Authentic Happiness" (Free Press, 2004), contend that happiness — more than simply living a pleasant and good life — involves living a "meaningful" one in service to something larger than ourselves.
The motto of Grace Family Vineyards, which produces Napa's original cult cabernet, is "Wine as a catalyst for healing our planet." Over the years, its wines have fetched as much as $100,000 a bottle at charity auctions, which the winery reports have helped allow it to raise more than $25 million for causes such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Habitat for Humanity and other global programs addressing such issues as juvenile cancer, homelessness and abuse.
Since battling depression and alcoholism, former stockbroker Dick Grace, the winery's owner, has abstained from alcohol for nearly two decades even as his vineyards produced it. "What we try to do is use wine to close that painful gap between those who have too much and those who have too little," he says. A Buddhist, Grace sees that gap as a root cause of many of society's ills: "Until we address that as a larger issue, we will have a society that is less peaceful and harmonious than it could be."
To read the rest of our column in The Washington Post, click here.
Rockefeller Center; Karen w/Rikki Klieman and Gael Greene
Alice Waters of Chez Panisse at Citymeals' Chefs Gone Wild!
Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar & Grill finishes off his dishes
Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns serves up stellar soup
We were happy to meet Georgia chef Scott Peacock...
...who had guests swooning over his fried chicken and biscuits
David Pasternak of Esca shows us his beautiful new book
Chef Christopher Lee of Gilt chats with guests
A farmer making his first trip to NYC, flanked by two chefs
Incredibly refreshing goat cheese ice cream with cherries
"Wine is indeed an industry and, given the exposure charitable events provide, it can be impossible to discern promoting wines from supporting the cause. Regardless, there may not be a need to choose between the two: We might never have discovered the elegant Bordeaux-style 2000 and 2003 Pine Ridge Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon ($75) were it not for sampling them last month at a Citymeals-on-Wheels event featuring a dozen different wineries — including Bedell, Taittinger and Wolffer — that raised more than $1 million to feed the homebound elderly."
—from our column in the 7/4/07 Washington Post of Citymeals-on-Wheels' June 11th Chefs Gone Wild! event at Rockefeller Center
Biscotti from Bis.Co. Latte on Tenth Avenue near 47th St.
Sunday, July 1, 2007 — Holly bakes her own biscotti on Tenth Avenue on the southwest corner of 47th Street. And it's better than in Italy — or so her friends have told her throughout her 15 years of catering, which encouraged her to open Bis.Co. Latte on Friday.
You can buy 20 different kinds of biscotti, each 85 cents or $15/lb., and at least right now you can taste samples of them before making your purchase. Karen's favorite was the Savory Red Wine, Pepper & Olive Oil biscotti (which she'd bet is even better with ricotta or mascarpone), while Andrew's was the Chunky Chocolate Espresso Almond. (We bought a quarter pound of assorted flavors to nibble our way through at home.)
We learned from Holly that her biscotti are naturally low in fat ("only two tablespoons per recipe, which makes 35 cookies," she told us) and low in sugar.
For those for whom calories are no object, you'll find a half-dozen gelato choices, from chocolate and hazelnut to peanut butter and jelly ("as popular with adults as it is with the kids," we were informed).
Holly has the kind of personal warmth and enthusiasm that would make you root for Bis.Co. to succeed even if you didn't like her biscotti. But we do.
Bis.Co. Latte is on Tenth Avenue on the southwest corner of 47th Street in Manhattan. We grabbed a menu before we left, not realizing that neither it nor the brown paper bag of biscotti we'd bought included Bis.Co.'s exact street address or phone number...so we're afraid that's all we can tell you at the moment.
7/8/07 Update: Bis.Co. Latte is at 667 Tenth Avenue near 47th Street. Phone: (212) 581-3900.
While he's better known as half of the team behind 1100 Architect than as a fashion model, our multi-talented friend Juergen Riehm made the pages of Men's Vogue this month in a shoot taking place at Phillip Johnson's Glass House. Congratulations, Juergen!
"Juergen Riehm, along with David Piscuskas, his partner at 1100 Architect, once worked on a restoration of Johnson's Rockefeller Guest House. 'I liked that Johnson wanted to have fun with such a serious subject as perception,' he says. 'To look down from the Glass House to the lake pavilion, this miniature 'Lincoln Center' is so clever in the way it plays with your sense of scale—and your own self-importance.'"