Thursday, June 24, 2010

Yet Again

Barely a week after I swore not to neglect you ever again, I realize I'm going to have to beg forgiveness (again) and break that promise.  I'm headed for foreign shores until after the July 4th holiday, and will be taking a break from posting while I'm away.

But in the meantime, a few things I've been enjoying lately:

1)  The British Larder:  A gorgeous food diary (aka blog), all of the recipes on which I have the desire to eat, about a third of which I have a desire to make.  Regardless of the feasibility of the recipes for the average home cook, the photos are consistently mouth watering, and given the hot and sticky weather, the ice cream and sorbet recipes are terribly hard to resist.

2)  AllSaints Spitalfields:  This British retailer recently opened a US outpost in Soho, and this weekend, while wandering the streets of downtown Manhattan, the store and I were properly introduced.  An odd cross between Vivienne Westwood, Rick Owens and Osklen, I loved virtually everything.  And shockingly enough, I didn't find anything to be inordinately expensive.  Certainly a spot to revisit upon my return, when I am perhaps in a bit more of a shopping mood.

3)  The Cooking Channel:  Ah, real cooks cooking on TV again.  I DVRed loads of shows I'd never heard of and came up with a few winners.  Bill Granger, who I'm sure has become passe in his native Australia by this time, makes what looks to be light, tasty and easy food in a beach house setting.  His sunny humor, handy tips and appealing recipes have endeared him to me enormously.  And Anjum Anand, on her show Indian Food Made Easy, lives up to the title.  She knows a ton about the cuisine, and her recipes look not only delicious but are also considerably less work than those of my beloved Madhur Jaffrey.  And, in addition to introducing me to entirely new TV chefs, this channel allows me to indulge my love of old Nigella episodes to my heart's content.  Along with a few old Julia Child episodes and a Galloping Gourmet here and there (Ms. Child has held up much better than Mr. Gourmet I must say) the network has a bit of something for everyone.

Until after the holiday...enjoy yourselves while I'm away!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Dawning of a Season

Regardless of what is happening with the weather or my weekend travel schedule, I never feel that summer has truly arrived until the summer fruit graces the farmers markets with its presence.  There is absolutely nothing better than those sweet, delicate and ephemeral berries and stone fruits fresh from the farm stand on a hot Saturday morning. Rhubarb, you ersatz fruit, begone (until next April at least)!

Strawberries always seem to come first.  And then come the good strawberries, those whose perfume you can smell from a foot away.  Then the rest of the berries, a few currants thrown in, peaches and then the heaven that is cherry season.  I can't wait.

In the meantime, I'm settling (hardly) for a breakfast built around the tiny, sweet, peak of the season strawberries.

With a baguette from Balthazar spread with Ronnybrook's incomparable unsalted butter and Agrimontana preserves along with a fried egg, the start of the day just does not get much better than this.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Blooms From Hotel to Home

The hotels I tend to stay in when I travel are of the slightly funky, off-beat variety, and yet I have a small obsession with the really nice ones, and I invariably pay them a visit when given the chance.  The lobbies and other public spaces are often the best part anyway, and they don't cost $500 a night to enjoy.

I've had wine at the Emiliano in Sao Paulo while sitting on a absolutely fascinating chair, I've had a relaxing bit of tea at the Four Seasons in Istanbul, a languid afternoon cocktail at the fabulous Alvear in Buenos Aires, and formal tea at the Peninsula in Hong Kong, in all cases while staying in cheap and cheerful accommodations down the street.

And in New York, despite the fact that I live in an apartment downtown, I'm no less taken with my local hotels.  I've taken in the sultry scene at the Bowery Hotel on more than one occasion, and before the Bowery it was The Mercer that I would frequent  The Soho Grand has been host to more than one delightful evening, and I will forever adore the bar at the Carlyle for those evenings when I feel like being a grown-up.

So I'm sure that you can imagine the draw that the newest hot spot New York hotel, the Ace Hotel, held for me (although as I was happy to learn from Terry B, who stayed there recently, that you can enjoy a room for significantly less than one might think).

photo via hotel website

The bar and restaurant are terribly popular, which means that in the interest of my own sanity I've generally steered clear.  But the Ace does happen to be on a route that I find myself walking fairly frequently during the workweek, and as it was particularly hot and humid the other day, I felt justified in stopping in for a bit of a respite in the form of an iced coffee from Stumptown, which by the way, more than lived up to its excellent reputation.

However, it too turned out to be terribly popular, which meant that I had twenty minutes to kill while waiting in line to place my order.  I took the time to take in the wonderfully dark and conspiratorial lobby  design.

photo via New York Times

It was cool rather than aggressively hip, something that will serve as a sought-after location for some time to come rather than become a dated reminder of the naughts, I should think.

But for some reason, it was really the flowers that held my attention.  When I think of hotel flowers I usually think of large, complex and overwrought arrangements, all of which seem to be attempting to mimic the fantastic bouquets at the Metropolitan Museum and failing miserably.  Or I think of those impossibly imaginative arrangements at the George V in Paris where the celebrity florist Jeff Leatham works his magic.

photo via here  

I love this idea of massive bunches of the same blooms at odd angles.

photo via here

It is sadly a concept that is mercilessly ripped off to mediocre effect in lots of New York hotels, one of which I am forced to walk by every day, staring at the reliably tilted blooms in the streetside window.

But the Ace Hotel engages in none of this floral peer pressure.  Rather, they just go for big, bold bunches (apologies for the Blackberry quality photos).

This clutch of berry-laden branches is something I recognize after haunting James Durr Flowers every Saturday for years...hypernium I think?  I recall loving it in my home until the small berries began to fall off...I was rolling about on the little ball bearings for ages.  But the gradations of green and red are so lovely and really kind of unexpected in early summer.

I've certainly seen these big white spears of flowers in the flower district before...

...perhaps no coincidence that the Ace is mere minutes from said flower district?

And I simply could not get over this wonderfully absurd bouquet on the counter in Stumptown.

Now admittedly it is a tad blurry due to the poor quality of the camera, but in real life it actually did look nearly that fuzzy.  Almost like a series of giant purple cotton balls, like something out Willy Wonka.

And lastly, I loved the simplicity of this vaguely prehistoric looking arrangement in the window at Stumptown.

Unpretentious and understated, but just so stylish.

I was inspired myself to attempt a big, cheap and cheerful arrangement at home.

Easy peasy summer in a vase.  No tilting allowed.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Food and Drink in LaLa Land

Have you all be feeling neglected lately? I do apologize, truly. I have a few excuses but they aren't particularly compelling ones (nothing the average blogger doesn't overcome on a regular basis) so let's just stipulate that my regret is sincere and I won't let it happen again (anytime soon at least). Is that OK?

On to happier things. L.A. for instance. As much as I adore New York, I do love my long weekends in Los Angeles. Something about the sun, the low humidity, the hills, beaches and the blue sky just make me feel joyful and relaxed, even in the midst of that legendary traffic.

view from a leisurely breakfast at Cafe Primo on Sunset

Paul was finishing up an epic charity bicycle trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles this past weekend, so I thought I would fly out to welcome the conquering hero as he made his way into West L.A. I figured after raising an impressive sum for AIDS research and having riden over 500 miles on his own steam, my dearly beloved deserved a big hug at the end.

After an all too brief detour to Orange Country for some family time and a massive meal with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and various partners, I was headed to Santa Monica to meet up with Paul & Co. who, quads still burning, were parked in a sports bar on the 3rd Street Promenade bemoaning England's performance in its inaugural world cup game. At least the English contingent of the group was. The Americans were not so despondent.

Post-game, the riders completed the last three miles of their long journey, and then bikes and gear were loaded into my massive rental car (I must admit I'm sort of missing my obnoxiously big white Ford Flex now that I'm home) and we decamped to the Grafton for showers and relaxation.

For Andy and Laia this translated to pool time and for Paul and I it translated to mani/pedis at Polish, where the lovely owner Mariko, as always, took excellent care of us.  I was feeling so at one with L.A. that I went with sparkly aqua blue polish on my toes.

Then it was on to the food and drink, which, as it was my favorite part of the weekend (or any weekend), is the real point of this post.

Meal #1

Saturday evening was dedicated to exploring the recently opened Soho House West Hollywood. Set on the top two floors of an office building on Sunset, the views were undeniable,

photo via here

the outdoor olive grove was positively inspired,

photo via here

the crowd was buzzing (but in a pleasingly decorous manner), the photo booth and adjacent hallway lined with the product of the booth was loads of fun and the drinks were, appropriately, free flowing.

Appetizers were tasty, dessert was gorgeous and the entrees...well the entrees were better than at the Soho House in New York. But really, food isn't exactly the point of this place now is it? So the entrees could be forgiven.

The place had quite an airy yet at the same time intimate feel, I suppose because it is not so massive as some of the other locations are. And because the space was rather open you felt present in all of the spaces, not as though you were missing out on some secret good time in a room hidden away.

photo via here

And the art's not bad either.  This Harland Miller piece caught my eye immediately on the way in.

photo via Remodelista

The print may be a bit small to read here, but the book title reads "This Is Where Its Fuckin At", and the subtitle reads "Least It Used To Be".  Given the vitriol Soho House can draw for its trendiness, I found the message hilarious, and quite pleasantly self-deprecating.  More of Miller's works in this series can be found here.  I have to admit I'm tempted by more than a few of them... 

Meal #2 (aka my favorite)

The restaurant Gjelina seemed to be nearly screaming at me through the blogosphere design they say, great food, nice vibe...with a friend that Paul and I wanted to catch up with who lived in Venice mere minutes from the place, brunch there almost seemed like destiny.

Expecting a massive wait, you could have knocked us over with a feather when they seated us immediately. Recovering from my shock, I looked around and realized that the blogosphere had indeed been correct. Cool design?

Check.  Especially that big marble block of a sink.  So industrial-luxe.

Great food? Absolutely.

If they put this much effort into their cappucinos you can imagine how good the eggs were (the pizzas also looked incredible...I had serious food envy of the neighboring table). And I have to admit that although I often order breakfast meat sides, I am disappointed by them 80% of the time.  However, I'm still dreaming of Gjelina's bacon and sausage four days later.

But perhaps what I loved most about the food was that though it was all undeniably flavor packed, I did not feel even close to comatose after eating. For brunch this is highly unusual, which is why I often take a pass on the ritual.  But were I a resident of any neighborhood in the vicinity of Gjelina, I assure you I would be quite the faithful brunch goer.

Meal #3

I've raved before about Suzanne Goin's cookbook Sunday Supper At Lucques.  It has been my go to for impressive dinner party dishes ever since I got it.  So you can imagine how excited I was by the prospect of attending an actual sunday supper at Lucques.

Walking into the place was a bit like entering a rustic European farmhouse, but newer (as everything in L.A. invariably is).  It seemed comfortable and unpretentious, and I felt confident that our sunday supper experience would be a pleasing one.

Stress of any sort was minimized by the well priced prix fixe menu, a version of which graces the table each and every Sunday.  And when asked for an appropriate wine pairing for my entree, the waitress gave one definitive recommendation.  I loved the lack of equivocation.

I found the food good in that simple, clean, locavore way.  It wasn't transcendent, but not all food is meant to be.  It was quality, pure and simple.  And any cuisine-related lulls in the meal were quite effectively erased by the presence of Michelle Obama, who is apparently continuing her national tour of farm-to-table restaurants, and her daughters two tables away from us.  As is so often the case, she was far more beautiful than television had led me to believe she would be.

To give the place a truly fair shot, I would love to return one day and order off of the full menu, hopefully with the first lady in tow.  I imagine both the food and the conversation would be of quite a high caliber.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Black with Envy

Do you know how when something catches your eye, you start to see it everywhere?  First I found that J. Crew was way cuter than I had recalled, then I actually started shopping there with some regularity, then I kept seeing items in magazines and then I saw that Michelle Obama loved it with some fervor.  So I suppose it logically follows that the woman behind it all would be the next "thing" to catch my eye.  Supported by the legendary retailer Mickey Drexler, the incredibly J. Crew looking Jenna Lyons, as Executive Creative Director, is seemingly the woman behind the relatively recent cuteness, and she's out and about these days touting the line.

photo via

First I began getting "Jenna's Picks" emails every so often, telling me which 10 J. Crew things I simply could not live without.  I managed to live without most of them, but would have enjoyed purchasing the vast majority of them had I the luxury of unlimited buying power.

Then I began seeing her in various press blurbs.  Her easy smile and flowing hair were not easily forgotten.  And then she showed up on Oprah in the absolute coolest sequin jacket and my cyberstalking began in earnest.

Although from what I can tell she seems like a poised, talented and kind woman, I have to admit that it really was her house that had me transfixed.  And I am clearly not the only one (although this obsolete magazine title alone should tell you exactly how behind the 8 ball I am).

There are many would be designers to seem to like to do these pops of color, but so rarely does it look quite as chic as this yellow couch I think.

photo from Domino

So often the style just ends up looking like a Jonathan Adler store but Ms. Lyons has really made it feel quite natural and inviting.

And who knew that such a perfect color of black (blue? grey?) existed?

photo from Domino

In combination with the natural light and the light linens it seems incredibly inviting rather than gothic (as it so easily could have been) to me.

And I have to admit that I thought Cortney Novogratz of Bravo fame had perhaps gone off the deep end a bit when she recommended to a hotelier that he put his bathtubs in full view of the bedroom but clearly she's onto something.

photo from Domino

But just as any incredibly stylish woman knows, enough is enough.  No need for dark throughout the home.  Breakfast nooks should be lofty and light, perfect for your first peek of a new day and a steaming cup of something.

photo from Domino

I could quite enjoy my PG Tips here I think.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Second Chances

I tend to know what I like in life. I make decisions quickly (some might call this judgmental), and once my mind is made up about someone or something it takes a lot to change it. But that said, I'm not totally immovable. I'm a reasonable person after all. In the face of irrefutable proof that I am wrong I will acquiesce to the obvious.

Take Anthropologie for instance. For years I've looked at their catalogues and dreamed of putting on one of those floaty frocks and gliding through cobblestone streets with ruins in the background as the sun sets. And then I get to the store, try on said floaty frock, and find that I look utterly ridiculous in it. Or I find that it's too see through. Or too expensive for what it is.  So by and large I've stayed away.

But recently I've seen the loveliest dishes popping up all over, and they all seem to be from Anthropologie.  First I came across this cheeky deep sea themed dinner plate and was utterly charmed.

And then I saw that the enviably stylish Maryam at My Marrakech was using the most fabulous Fitzgerald-esque gilded peacock pattern at what looked to be a legendary dinner party.

I assumed she had hauled these plates back from some glamorous, exotic locale.  But no...Anthropologie!

And Edible Distractions featured these cute little bowls the other day...

...I couldn't help but picture ripe red strawberries against the charming blue pattern.  Anthropologie again!  Clearly this store can be relied upon for consistently great tableware.  So I've begun to dip my toe back into this retailer, most happily at the new Chelsea Market store.  I'm loving the union jack coffee table/ottoman, I find the cookbook selection to be small but wonderful, and I'm even finding a few of the blouses to be flattering.  However, if you see me wandering around in something that makes me look as if I've lost a flock of sheep please do intervene.

TOMS shoes is another one of those companies that I had (unfairly) written off.  I love the idea of it...a pair of shoes for the poor for every one that they sell to the rich is an undeniably noble construct.  But I have to confess that I never liked the shoes.  Oh sure, the stylish girls in Soho wear them all summer and they look fantastic.  But those shoes need to be at the base of a very long pair of tan legs to look good.  On me they simply lend an air of hausfrau.

However, Monsieur Tom has apparently branched out into new styles that complement the look of us mere mortals now.  No longer confined to the back country loafer, we now have the option of the wedge, and an attractive, comfortable (from the looks of it) one at that.

I am fully on board with this yellow option, but could also be persuaded to get a pair of the osh kosh b'gosh-esque navy stripe.  At $69 per pair, a rainbow of a collection is not out of the question.  Now I can jump on the footware-as-charity bandwagon without compromising my sartorial sensibilities.

And speaking of attractive footwear, has anyone noticed how great the stuff from J. Crew has been looking lately?  Now I've never minded J. Crew of course.  The clothes are well made, the styles are classic and everything is pretty wearable.  But a lot of the clothes tend to scream "J. Crew!".  I don't know whether it is due to a strong stylistic thread running throughout the collection or whether it is because certain pieces get to be so ubiquitous, but I find myself picking pieces out on girls walking down the street quite often.  So again, I've been steering clear.  But this season the shoes are simply too good and too high fashion to pass up.

These platforms take me in a distinctly Prada-ish direction...

...and these have a Pierre Hardy vibe...

...and these brogues are just so "on trend", as Olivia Palermo and Joe Zee would say.

How cool is the color?  Perfect for summer, and who would ever guess that these came from a mass retailer?

So you see I have been sufficiently humbled.  First impressions should not be the last, at least if you have any interest in stylish and well priced table- and footwear!
Blog Widget by LinkWithin