Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Le Peugeot

The tale of the bike: the poor little Peugeot, purchased on the LES last year, languished outside my house for months through the winter of 2006/2007. Its original saddle was stolen the first night. I got a new one and bolted it on. The lock and chain cost as much as the bike and weigh a lot more. And after a couple of rides on it was I was freaked by crazy people and all the ways one can die on a bike. So when Marijke, bless her 6'1" Dutch heart, arrived for her internship with HWandV this spring, she looked at it hopefully and off she went. That bike went all over New York, to places I've never even heard of. Night and day. I was in awe and humbled. Then Natalie took it over. Now so thoroughly jealous I rode it back from Park Slope to Cobble Hill last weekend, after she left for Denmark for two weeks. And over the Brooklyn Bridge I went this morning to work, up through City Hall and Chinatown and at last to Forsyth Street. It was a lot of fun. I also think I have very high testosterone levels as a result. Now I know why Natalie's language would make a marine blush. She rides the bike so much! Mother F%**$#!! people are CRAZY. And STUPID! But it's fun. The bike is making very interesting rattling noises which are new. What did you girls do to it?? I guess it's the potholes. But I'm hooked. And still alive. Touch wood. Put me on a runaway horse any day.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Check out Vince's Smart Phone

CLICK on this:
Coriolistic Anachronisms - A Vancouver Blog and Photoblog

Yes, I've done it. I've whipped my phone out as I walk past the construction workers gathered on Bergen Street on the way to the F train. I look at it to check out who's calling (obviously it's on silent mode and vibrated in my handbag), smile, take the phantom call and say, Oh Hi! no, I'm still in Brooklyn, hm, hm, I listen for a while and nod...and get past them no problem. No avoiding their eyes, no coy looking down, no jitters. I can't wait for my first Walker Talker with real voice response!

Chicken of the Week (hi Dan!)

Ever watched the medieval Blackadders with Rowan Atkinson before he sold out and got Mr Beaned? The unforgettable turkey-stuffing by the pestilential Baldrick? This picture makes me think of him. Many of my terrace herbs went inside: thyme, tarragon, fennel. I even put a little basil in, but I was overexcited. I hadn't made roast chicken for so long, and was inspired by Edible Brooklyn, whose recipe uses even more lemon than I do, and that's saying something. My kind of people. Anyway, under and around the boid I put roughcut red onion and shallots, squeezed two lemons over (they said four) and popped it in at 425' (about 210C) for an hour and ignored it, adding a tiny bit of water to the pan so the nice bits getting caramely didn't get charred totally. OH! And I actually put some butter on it, something I never do, because chickens are so fatty and selfbaste anyway (I don't think they were so fat in the days of Edouard de Pomiane [this link is a slightly annoying love-fest tribute to him, but I like his books, with the exception of: The Jews of Poland, which is illuminating about the food and basically anti-Semitic. Reader beware. I admit, when I did read it only two weeks ago, my hair stood on end. At least the book seller had warned me.], and Elizabeth David (she is beyond reproach)...Le President, French butter I get for $2 for a half brick at Sahadi's. Yum.

The darkest bits are the onions and shallots. I deglazed with some Mulderbosch rose I had left (at $10 here it's a steal. Really good rose, too, made from Cab. sauvignon). The chicken reminded me of long-ago days in Bloemfontein when my mom would drive out with me in her little Mini, to pick up two roast chickens for Saturday lunch (I think) from Cathy, a lady who lived on what we called a plot (smaller, more run down and more unorthodox than a farm, on the outskirts of town). They would be warm still, brown-glazed with butter and lemon, and misting up their cellophane covering, and the whole Mini would fill with their delicious scent. And that was the chicken my mom made when she made roast chicken - butter, lemon. It's still my favourite thing in the world.

The other thing I know she's been making lately is chicken soup, to take to sick and sad friends. One very sick friend, flattened by chemo, had been unable to eat anything until he was given some of her soup. Oh dear, I'm sad now. And he ate her soup.
I have started making chicken stock regularly. I went through a phase of deboning chickens and kept their weird, naked-looking carcae (...), then made stock out of them. I also make a salad of poached chicken, and use the broth left from the poaching as stock. There's no comparison with a stock cube. If there is secret to good stock, it's onions and garlic. I like to use three kinds for depth of flavour: in this case, red onion, scallion and garlic. You can use shallots, too. I used whole cloves of garlic, about half a head, slightly squashed with a knife. If you have celery or carrot all the better. Peppercorns, fresh parsley, a bayleaf, maybe thyme. Cover chicken with water and simmer for about an hour. You can then reduce it after you've strained it to concentrate the flavour. For avgolemono soup, to the strained stock add the juice of two lemons and off the heat whisk in about three to four egg yolks (two per person, I'd say): too hot and they will scramble.
Enough about food already. I need to eat.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Check Mate*

It's a typical Sunday: delicate dresses festooning the bathroom where they drip dried yesterday, after I did my laundry. I always procrastinate when it comes to putting them away and doing things like ironing. Ugh. It's like unpacking the dishwasher. Curiously unsatisfying. I am wearing glasses, not contacts, but at least it's the new Alain Mikli's. The table is littered with the weekend's doings: Netflix, Edible Brooklyn magazine, camera, recipe book, Johnny Cash cd.

*I am newly-filled by my Friday purchase of a relacement-stovetop espresso maker. I killed the last one and finally it just said, No More, and refused to squeeze out any more coffee. I managed to melt off its handle (it seems I am drawn to fire); then its lid came loose. But I used it for at least another three months, wrapping it in a napkin to pour. Finally, realizing that I would be coffeeless Saturday if I didn't stop at the overly-cute and frostily Connecticuttian kitchen supply store on Atlantic (where do they get their staff? They just are not from around here), I bought the one that this morning quietly made coffee, with none of the romantic thundering-of-horses-around- the-bend noise to signal that it's ready. It also has an extremely annoying picture of a little Italian, mustachioed man on it, but I turn it around so I don't see him. Why did they mess with a perfect design?

So now I am ready to put together a PPT presentation of my work to show a friend of Eric and Mimi's who went to school with them (so it's Harvard I have to impress), who has been advised by Eric that I am the person who should design a 1.6 acre garden for an 18th century stone house he is renovating for clients in Nyack, NJ. Oh dear. I think I actually am the person to do it but the Ivy League does not fail to fluster me. He told me rather pointedly that Eric's word is all he needs. Like, Pressure!

Outside from a white sky there is dry thunder. The cat is under the stone table on his bright kikois, bedouinlike.

If I do it well (the presentation I mean, today) I will reward myself by transcribing two pages of TE Lawrence's description of a lamb banquet onto this blog. And if I fail, I will punish myself by transcribing two pages of TE Lawrence's description of a lamb banquet onto this blog.

Ah, the first drops are falling and the cat is beating the door to come in. Good weather for working.

7.18pm ^0^ Thank god for frickin' loopholes: I did not FINISH my presentation (which is looking not bad), so I don't have to transcribe a lamb banquet at all! Tomorrow...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Feathers will Fly

This picture I copied from the Gothamist, where I was directed by Citybirder, and then, reading all the way to the bottom of their comments comes the revelation (alleged) that the guy who took this picture and submitted it to Gothamist in the first place, owns a slingshot (catty in Safrican) and shoots WALNUTS at all birds who sit on his terrace. This from an insider. Citybirder responds meanwhile and says to insider, I need to speak to you offline: this is a federal offense.
The hounds have been let loose.
What next??
Will the walnut shooter be nailed to his own perch?

Friday, July 27, 2007

My Daily Leaf

"Veg", closely followed by "veggies",  is one of my least favourite words, a prejudice fostered by my mother who bristles when she hears it.

So it is ironic that the purveyor of my daily fresh produce purchases is so-named. In fact until I took this photo I didn't really know what it was called. Odd. In my head I referred to it as Mr Lee's. I just duck in under the awning after exiting Sahadi's next door with my French feta and coffee, or pancetta, stand in front of the fruit and vegetables, and plan dinner. I am the most loyal patron of their bunches of arugula. Perhaps I've cracked through some kind of two-year ceiling, because only in the last few months has the otherwise reticent Mr. Lee started to smile at me and chat a little ("Ah, there you are!" is his longest utterance yet, and gratefully received), and Jimmie - who mans the opposite till - and I have been on Hello Jimmie, Hello Marie, How are you terms for only a little longer. One of the regular Mexican workers with a serious haircut and beatific smile always greets me shyly, and I him.

The biggest surprise was last night, when I purchased a basketload of things: dill, new red onions with stalks, ripe avocados, green beans, new peas, fennel, scallions, red cabbage, raspberries. "Have a wonderful DINNER!" said the new woman behind the till, and giggled, as though she'd said something risky.

* Oh. And two packs of Marukawa gum. It's freakily delicious. Instant fruit flavour in the mouth, weirdly accurate (my first taste was melon), which fades fast, but is worth it.  99c for an 8-pack. The packaging is very good and they're good presents. Totally artificial in every way. A time will come when we become nostalgic for the wonders of chemical cooking.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Home again, Home again, jiggety jig

Pausing the Peugeot, looking back at the lanes for people and bicycles. The bicycles whizz past. Some are professional: bike messengers and sportsriders show zero mercy for slow tourists, who lumber or skip out of their way according to their origins and circumference; other bikes are regular commuters.

This afternoon I saw a girl cycling home in a pretty skirt, with basket attached to the front, fleece-lined, in which was sitting happily a Shiba inu puppy (I have eyes for them at the moment - makes me think of Monty Python: "Eyes, eyes, fresh eyes!" - sorry), eyes slitty, ears back, teeth rattling in the downhill wind.

Cadman Plaza Park on the Brooklyn side. These plane trees are shedding last year's bark, making them luminous in the late evening sun.

Shed, shed, shed. Camouflage for urban wars.

The nice new bike lane on Henry Street, so that Shiba inus can ride safely home. The green is a trial run, to see whether cars stay out of it better than they usually do. It's retro-minty.

Quiet Amity Street around the corner from home, looking west, towards the water.

My row. You can juuust see my fig tree sticking up at the top in the middle.

Brooklyn Walking Tour

On my way to the Brooklyn Bridge for my regular walk/run, I pass this little garden on Henry Street. I stop to look at it every time, and there is always something blooming, which is clever in this tiny space - everything is perennial - no annuals. I skulked a bit to take this picture: there's an elderly lady sitting with her feet up on a chair, reading, in the little livingroom in the basement apartment. I'm sure it's her garden. Then again she could be stuffed, and something sinister could be going on.

On the Bridge over the East River- I love it when I see these little yachts passing beneath. I wonder where they've come from and where they're going. They can sail all the way up the Hudson, then via canals, to the Great Lakes (one of my dreamtrips), but I'm not actually sure whether yachts or any watercraft, can get to the Hudson on the so-called Harlem River, which connects the (so-called, again) East River (it's a tidal strait) to the (correctly-called) Hudson River. Phew.

Yeah, it was a bit of a shitty, hazy day. Looking south from the bridge, the beginning of New York Harbour, Governor's Island in the middle of the picture.

Pointing towards Brooklyn. These feet, or caissons, for the Bridge, killed the second (Washington) Roebling, son of the architect, John, who himself died after having his foot squashed at the Fulton ferry landing below (gangrene). The son got the bends (then christened caissons disease) after descending too many times into the depths of these massive footings, which must have been pits of hell for the workers shovelling mud up and out. But they made a beautiful, moving thing. I always find myself thinking of Whitman when I walk over this bridge. He walked and walked and walked here. In Manhattan, in Brooklyn; using the ferry, friends with the captains, in ice floes and clear weather, and at last walking across this bridge when it was completed in 1883. It was as wonderful to him then, the city, as it is to me, over 100 years later.

I want to touch these cables the way I want to touch some trees. Although they are silent you almost hear them, humming.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Inventing Beauty

The day is sodden, in the best sort of way, with steady drips on the terrace right now, and no more rain. It's very '50's-glamour to walk home from work with sandals in hand, dress clinging to legs, standing in streams in the gutter. It's another story on the way in to work, steady downpour, where no dry clothes wait, no glass of wine (or bowl of coffee for that matter), and wet feet stay wet. In vain I tried to interest people in onion soup (or a boiled egg, for that matter) at Balty's. There's no romance anymore.

But home to a drooping terrace (yes, not dripping) where everything is bowed with water, and the very small things have to be beautiful because the big things aren't, very. Great. I've been typing for a minute and it's disappeared. I can't repeat it, it was ART! Fuck. Nevermind, it was all about chives and vichyssoise and Mexican lime soup. And steak! Whatever. It's gone. So, onto the next one....

Filligreed fennel, not a very good picture, but it really is lovely with the water. I'm glad I planted it. It lightens everything no matter where its fronds pop up -

The tarragon I've been thinking about taking out. But I'll be sorry, I know. It's the very first thing to make little downy shoots in March, sometimes even February. In its little frozen pot it seems miraculous, and is, and I eat it the way we should eat: with gratitude and some wonder.

The last lilies. I've given up trying to know which ones they are. Clearly I bought too many that look like this. They should have flowered in August but no one told them. They're not very me. Next year I'll get more Formosas. Except these are about the only Thing happening right now. Maybe phlox. I should find phlox.

Appropos of bad smells, see earlier post. THIS is St Albray cheese. No, I don't know what the two little black things are on the front right. I bought this at the Deathstar today, and it ponged all the way home on the subway, but did not deter the crazy man from slamming down next to me, prompting me to get up uncharacteristically quickly. It's actually factory-made, not artisinal. Something this smelly should be handmade. It tastes wonderful and quite innocent.

After the dishwasher went on the fritz over the weekend the blender gave up the ghost just when the vichyssoise needed whizzing. WD40, a screwdriver and one whack with a hammer and we were on our way. I'm on a mechanical roll. Of course that was two so three was me standing on my head too long in a fit of I-must-stay-very-supple-via-Yoga (it was the Absinthe roller skater's fault), and recrunching the nerve the cabdriver did in a couple of years ago when he challenged a pothole to a one-on-one. And then today I locked myself out, but that's another story. I climbed across (because our fire exit is sealed shut...hm) two sets of rooves in a little black dress in the rain. Quite fun. And my saviour, the old guy who lives next door and who let me into their building to climb out onto their roof (no WAY I'm paying for a locksmith: $150, easy) refused my jar of apricot jam as thanks! He must be an axe murderer. I've never seen his wife.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

When Everyone Else is in the Hamptons...

There's something nice about a quiet city weekend in the summer. Athough I'm not sure that Brooklyn counts. Bar Tabac was hopping when I walked past it on the way to GRDN...now that most of my lilies have finished I'm itching to Plant More Things. The gladiolus bulbs (OK, corms...) that I planted last Monday are already 5 inches high, but if they bloom it'll be in about 6 weeks. When I'm in South Africa, great. Anyway, here's a picture of their pretty little back garden, but I didn't actually find anything I wanted. What do I want? I don't know till I see it. That goes for most things.

The dishwasher made terrible, get-me-out-of-here noises in the night, so I went into its depths and took it apart. It seemed logical. The culprit, one cherry pit, see below in the middle. With the wrong tools (the spanner was too big) it was hard to screw everything up again and when I had finished, triumphant and panting, inevitably, there was one screw left.

Screw this. I know exacly where it goes, too. And unless the thing falls apart again I'm not undoing everything to put it where it belongs. So now my dishwasher has a screw missing. At last we're at a point where we see eye to eye.

On the way back from the garden shop I visited my Muslim butcher for my weekly meat-injection (actually I'm eating meat less and less and I don't miss it. Perhaps I should ask his name. The butcher's, I mean. But I always feel I should draw as little attention to myself as possible when I'm there. Never forgetting Bevan and Mustafa hastily throwing a silk shawl over my bare shoulders in Istanbul, yesterday I was there in a barely-there sundress, dripping steadily with sweat in the unairconditioned shop. Two men were buying a pile of kidneys, and half a lamb, cut into many pieces. I got 12 chops. Thin? he asked, Yes, thin, I affirmed. Again, this lamb is not hung, being freshly slaughtered (the sign with prices, has the word HALAAL in capital print, with stylized drips of black blood sliding from each letter). So the meat is tough unless cooked for hours and hours, and rare lamb chops are as chewy as bark. So you just cook them well done in old SA tradition and chew well. These I marinated in much lime juice and rosemary and they were delicious.

Chopped salad of small tomatoes, fine onion, arugula and feta, with some pomegranate MOH-lasses. Drink for the summer - cold white wine with Cassis and ice. At the moment I'm partial to Whyte Estate Sauv/Blanc, from Marlborough, NZ. Movie Freeway with the previously ignored (by me) Reese Witherspoon, who makes you take White Trash seriously, and Kiefer Sutherland. I've never been so pleased when someone got shot. Can't think of a better target. I like his dad.
Sunday bloody Sunday and it will be vichyssoise for dinner and Something, but I don't know what yet.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Worst Smell of Summer

...officially: the NW corner of Broome and Allen Streets. A puddle gathering in the gutter is generating what is the foulest smell I have smelled this summer to date in NYC. For those who cannot access the click-and-sniff upgrade, please close your eyes and imagine: the slimy water left in the vase after the chrysanthemums have been in it for a week; a festering and newly-discovered bag of dead mouses; a slice of unwrapped, room-temperature St Albray cheese; and the unmistakable sweaty sock odour of a freight ship that has just docked and opened its cargo holds to air. Into chrysanthemum-water put mouses and cheese and leave to macerate in re-sealed hold of ship for one week. Remove, blend, strain, bottle and dab on wrists for a July downtown experience.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Park Slope Prairie

Yes, I ate them.

Happy blueberry hedge. They like acid so we added a bale of peatmoss to their planting medium (we planted on the hottest day of the year, last July. It was interesting).

Lythrum (loosestrife - the pink flower); Panicum virgatum (panic grass); Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan/daisy). The loosestrife is this beautiful but invasive presence in our area. You often see it crowding streams and river banks and it's lovely but deadly: chokes other plants out, annoys the foodchain, etc. So I feel a bit guilty putting it here. True, it is confined, and is nowhere near a waterway, but it's conceivable that the seeds can be windspread. Today it had bumblebees knocking into it and getting drunk in its flowers.

Rudbeckia and Miscanthus (maiden grass)

What I love about what I do: I designed this garden last spring, and I come back a year later and everything is growing, fluffing out and doing what it is supposed to do. This is all on the seventh floor of an apartment building in the Slope, very high winds, windchill in the deep minus Fahrenheit, but the rudbeckia is very happy and threatens to take over. Bees browsing through the flowers, all very satisfying...

What to Do on a Rainy Day

Boiling stage: red currants, black currants and raspberries...

Oh, yes.

Well.... There are a lot of things to do when it rains.

I woke to thunderclaps and lighting strikes with one just over the road, and sheets of rain.

But I'll confine myself to starting off with several pounds of fruit from Monday's farmers' market; red currants, black currants, little raspberries and too many sour cherries.Yesterday I picked them from their myriad little bloody stalks and covered them in sugar. This afternoon after work I boiled them, with additions of lemon juice and subtractions of sugar per Bo's mother's instruction (hi Bo!). And it set! At least the red currant one did. I did the sour cherries separately because there was no way I was going to pit 3 lbs of miniature cherries without getting feudal on someone's ass. So to speak. So I decided to make them into jelly, meaning, fruit gets chucked at the end. Coming home tonight I see that the sour cherry jelly ain't set. So I have to reboil tomorrow with extra lemon. Grrr. It'll be fine. But the red currant jam is perfect and it will be breakfast. I'm very excited. Baguette, butter and jam. And coffee. It's a reason to wake up. Bugger. I've run out of butter.

So tonight at Bo's suggestion I went with him and his tall, beautiful Danish Mama and two friends to the Spiegeltent near the Brooklyn Bridge at Pier 17 at the South Pier (it's like New York does Disney/Florida -weird; but the tent is different...) to see Absinthe. I was expecting vaginas to be playing the harmonica (a version Natalie saw -that's the story I wouldn't tell, Bo), and it was actually quite tame, but lovely. Old school, almost innocent burlesque, with some obvious references, some of which were very funny (sock puppets getting out of hand)...very good and beautiful/sensual muscles and muscle control - male, and female - engaged in roller skating (amazing), rope dancing and ...well, stuff. Very much worth going to, and washed down with a bottle of Veuve. The MC was good, with a great and unexpectedly moving Judy Garland impression at the end. Dinner later at rowdy-as-hell Schillers, the garlic shrimp as yummy as ever.

I love New York.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Day for Celebrations

A very careful Eric holding his son, Giao (pr. Zow - it's Vietnamese) Leandro, a little more than 24 hours old and a little less than 6lbs. I would have taken a picture of Mimi, too, but my camera's battery pooped out. Sammy and Anthony came by while I was there so it was just like old times, with all of us being very quiet and reverent. We told Giao that from here, life would be all be downhill: he has a room right over Central Park. I asked Eric if the baby had already applied for Harvard and Eric said he had already been accepted. Of course.

Earlier, at 'inoteca, on the Lower East Side, a birthday lunch for Vivian, from Holly, Wood and Vine. Two dozen roses and two bottles of Prosecco.

Monday, July 16, 2007

It's a GIAO for Eric and Mimi!!!

After all that kneading and rolling, cooking and stirring, tasting and basting... what came out of the oven?? Not a duck, but Giao! This morning you were two and now you are three. My lovely, lovely friends, I can't wait to see you and meet your son.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Will's World

Will let me into his studio after we had dinner to see some new, in-progress work. Much of it will be in his Fall show at Marlborough....

Above: Big Dude (my name for him...)

Little dreadful dude...

Himself making adjustments to my favourite. She's going to be listening to an iPod.

A working bicep...

Who'm I to say what art is, says Will. Art is a human being trying to express itself. And Richard Serra took steel and made it look like velvet. I respect all artists. I might not like them, but I respect them. It's easy to say you don't like an artist. Try being one.

Pearl Oyster Bar was closed. Sunday bloody Sunday.

Sunday, Muggy Sunday

Airconditioning makes bedroom cool. I love airconditioning. The best thing about weekends. Long stay in bed with breakfast and book. Local baguette, French butter, Swedish jam and Danish coffee. Portuguese book.

Last night, after supper at Robin des Bois with Donnie (provenance the Bronx, not Brooklyn - if you've been following; now in Miami Beach and upstate on the Hudson where he lives on a hill in a stone house, prunes his pear and cherry trees and washes dishes in a birdbath)...anyhoo, after supper, or because of it, in their lovely little back courtyard, I promised myself that this morning I would Buy A Plant for the terrace. Wanting an annual vine like mandevilla, and having executed my clematis, I went to GRDN on Hoyt Street, a beautiful little shop with well-considered garden gift-things, cut flowers and a very well-chosen collection of perennials, shrubs and vines out back. No mandevilla, but I found a new thing, this Veronicastrum virginicum. It's tall and flowers from spring to fall, so suits me perfectly. It's a little like agastache and has leaves a lot like the South African wild dagga.

With four F-16's roaring low overhead (whyyyyyy?), I removed my potted plant from its plastic only to find it killing itself with its roots. Bad Grower - I was going to give him a plug, but not now. So I chopped the worst off and planted it...we'll see what happens. I suspect it grows fast and furiously.

There it is...

And more Abraham Derby, with a coleus called Merlot in the background. Very predictable name. Jose, at work, christened it Coleus Midnight Prowler. Excellent.