Monday, August 30, 2010

New York Favorites

New York loves its dancers! Especially around the Lincoln Center (66th st W). That NYCB ballerina is beautiful but where's the turn-out?

New York loves Japanese noodles! At the teeny restaurant Totto (52nd st W between 8th & 9th), I had a delicious vegetarian noodle soup.

New York loves art! The Frick collection is not just one of my favorite museums in the world. It's also one of my favorite places - the art is displayed in Mr Frick's home, so luxurious yet cozy.

New York loves being a little crazy! A wood horse and hippo went for a ride around the city last week...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Cheesecake Nerd

Cheesecake - I always loved it and have been craving it these past few weeks in NYC, so I have set on an altruistic quest to find nothing short of the best. My stomach will know no rest until I have tried all the renowned cheesecakes of NYC; I have been compensating the tender creaminess with a side order of chilling and complex Norwegian thriller, The Redbreast, by Jo Nesbø.
Of the cheesecakes I have tried, the one from the exquisite, tiny bakery Two Little Red Hens, at 2nd avenue and 86th street East, is by far the best I have ever had - ever. Light, not too sweet, tart and fluffy, it's just perfect and well worth schlepping up to the Upper East Side. The people who work there are friendly and you can see how much they care about what they bake. My only regret is that the cakes are served on paper plates with plastic spoons.

The same is true at Magnolia, one of the city's most famous pastry places since a popular TV show I loathed featured it in one episode. The place has a bit of a "chain" atmosphere (I went to their outlet on Colombus and 69th), with an uninvolved staff, and the vanilla cheesecake was pretty good, if too sweet. I took delight, however, is spying on the trendy and elegant girls who came in for a sugar fix - don't you love this young woman's shoes (below)?
As for Yura on Madison (Madison at 92nd), though it came highly recommended, don't bother. The pastry is just okay and the staff just acts bored, barely paying attention to you.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Breakfast With Madame X

I have long been fascinated by Madame X, the stunning portrait by John Singer Sargent, so I really enjoyed reading Strapless, a book that explores the life of the mode, Amélie Gautreau, and her relationship with the painter - the painting caused a scandal in Paris, causing socialite Amélie's downfall and, of course, a falling out with Sargent.
I wish there were more books about the relationships between artists and their models.
I read a few pages of this volume over breakfast at Smooch, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where everything is fresh, organic and simply delicious. Last weekend, I had their wonderful granola with vanilla yogurt and fresh fruit before dashing off to their nearby flea market.
The book has led me to rediscover Sargent's oeuvre. Even more than Madame X, the painting I find the most magical is Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, below.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Let's Take The Bus To Work!

Take the M7 bus to work with me! I hop on in the 70's West. A few blocks south, at 66th, we drive past the Lincoln Center and the prestigious Juilliard School...

... then the bus goes around Colombus Circle...

... past Carnegie Hall...

... as yellow cabs whiz past beautiful buildings...

... I get off at Times Square, with its orgy of billboards...

... and leaving 42nd street behind...

... I reach 38th street, in the old Garment District, where dark little stores still offer sewing machines (new or vintage), dress forms and all kinds of little things.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dean & Deluca Snack

On the first floor of The New York Times building (8th ave and 41rs st), and a mere 2 blocks from where I work in Manhattan, Dean & Deluca lure me with all their delicious, fresh (and overpriced) goodies. I can never resist a good scone; the one above is cranberry, but the oat scones they get from Balthazar's are memorably tasty. Another treat is a Siggis yogurt - they are made with a grass-fed cows' milk, very little sugar (actually, agave syrup), no additives, and no starch, pectin or other junk despite ending up pudding thick. Here is how it works: Skyr is the traditional yogurt of Iceland. It is made by incubating skim milk with live active cultures. The whey, the water naturally found in milk, is then strained away to make for a much thicker, creamier, concentrated yogurt. So to make just one cup of skyr, with all that water going out, you need 3 - 4 times the amount of milk required to make a regular cup of yogurt. As a result of this process skyr comes out with 2-3 times the protein count of standard yogurt.
As for the ginger ale pictured, it is a simple blend of fizzy water and actual grated ginger, with some cane sugar syrup.
I love sitting there with a book - such as Mind's Eye, by Hakan Nesser, a super smart and chilling crime novel set in Sweden.

Writer's Almanac: Federico Garcia Lorca, supreme musician amongst poets, was killed this day, in 1936. See Susan's great post about him. I wrote about him here.
Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
El barco sobre la mar
Y el caballo en la montaña.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Happy Childhood Summers

I'm having problems with my camera's SD card (don't ask...), so I thought that instead of posts from this Sunday's flea+farmers' market in NYC, I'd regale you with some pics from my childhood. How I loved those summers, in Cape Cod/Maine with my god father's family or in the Alps with my 3 cousins! It was all about picnics at the beach in Cape Cod, riding our red little wagon around the house in Woodshole, going for ice cream after dinner and singing songs. In the Alps (4th picture) we'd go berry picking in the garden; the oldest of the children, I was allowed to watch TV later and would also read in the alpine chalet while my mum's sister, Martha, brewed her innumerable daily cups of coffee - oh, that rich Brazilian fragrance. Those were active, blissful days and sometimes we'd fall asleep even before we'd get home (below, my sister Céline in my dad's arms in Bar Harbor).

Friday, August 13, 2010


The Museum of Natural History, a few blocks away from my New York abode, has undergone a serious makeover. Like many old art institutions around the world (the Louvre in Paris and the Covent Garden opera house in London come to mind), the building has a new appendage, in the form of a metal and steel structure. That is where visitors now enter and discover the solar system floating around, as they go up a spiraling, upwards walkway flooded with sunlight.
My ancient Mini iPod has also been revamped, with products from DCI. With those fun earphones, no more need for diamond studs from Tiffany's... As for that tiny cube, it's actually a speaker that allows me to listen to some music and NPR podcasts in my little room.
On my playlist: NPR's Fresh Air, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Bookworm, and music by Björk, Debussy, Bach. What are you listening to?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New York Love

Wednesday morning, at the Theodore Roosevelt Park, outside the Museum of Natural History.
Right sparrow - Hey there, pretty chick. I just flew in from Central Park...

Left sparrow - Oh shut up and kiss me!

Monday, August 09, 2010

A Week End In Connecticut

Summer in New England always reminds me of happy childhood vacation, as my family would spend a few weeks every August in Cape Cod. Sometimes on our way we would stop to visit my mum's best friend from high school, Mary Alice, for more magical and sunny moments. This weekend, I fled New York City's stifling weather and joined Mary Alice in her dreamy Connecticut home. What lushness! From my bedroom window, among the trees, I could glimpse at a stunning red house - a remodeled barn.
In the evening, we attended a production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night on the green in Guilford. For our picnic, I had made asparagus lasagna, and the Good Humor truck was there to provide treats.

At the yacht club, while we had lobster rolls, a seagull too was having lunch... One of the things I enjoyed was checking out the names of the boats - a sailboat owned by some physicians is called Ouch!, which I thought was very funny, but my favorite was the typographically witty one above...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Doors To Burgundy

On our way back from Italy, we stopped in Burgundy and visited the magical village of Châteauneuf. Both the medieval castle, complete with moats and towers, and the 16th century church are beautifully preserved. I took tons of pictures but thought I'd share the ones featuring doors... This post is dedicated, with love, to my sister Céline, who kind of collects door postcards and images.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Final Tribute To Italy

From top:
Olive trees... Ragazze play in front of a store in Argegno... The San Pellegrino bottle dressed in a Missoni design... A classic and irresistible Fiat Cinquecento in Bellaggio... A little girl in a waiting room - Sei una principessa?, I asked her (Are you a princess?); she nodded gravely... A statue outside the church in Tremezzo.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Italian Treasures

Years ago, my friend Chloé introduced me to Santa Maria Novella, which has been making perfumes, skin care products and more in Florence since... 1612! I treated myself to their Acqua di Sicilia cologne, a citrus-based enchantment.

I love writing little notes and cards to friends, so I can never resist beautiful stationery. Aren't these delightful?

Italian is my favorite language. I can never get enough of its literature, so while in Italy I raided some book stores. Of course, I highly recommend Lampedusa's Il Gattopardo, one of my favorite novels ever, with its baroque, expressive writing and its poignant insights into a nostalgic heart; if you haven't seen Visconti's adaptation, The Leopard, watch it ASAP, no excuses. And I can't wait to read Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini, by Giorgio Bassano - I remember watching the Vittorio Da Sica's somptuous adaptation years ago. Right now I'm still reading Italo Calvino's super quirky Barone Rampante (The Baron In The Trees).