Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On the terrace right now

A hardwood fire is spitting and crackling and threatening to shoot holes in the hostas and singe my corneas when I come too close. Grass fed short ribs from Staubitz reclined in a soy bath before hissing and wafting wonderful smells into the Brooklyn evening. Thank you, dear beef.

In Brooklyn slugs get the best, because part of our living-in-Brooklyn contract stipulates that we sell our moist garden pests to the local restaurant (in our case the Henry Street Public) down the road as bar snacks. 90 minute Dogfish Head Indian Pale Ale will tenderise and flavour the gentle creepers. I like slugs, somehow. But when Hurricane Irene passed us without damage she did only one bad thing: all the pots went onto the floor of the terrace, and the slugs that live there suddenly discovered: strawberries; and moved into the pots. And I have noticed ominous holes in the plectranthus and even basil so it's time. Beer trap for the basil-infused slugs.

The good beer, very expensive beer, was an experiment, but we hate it. Neither the Frenchie nor I is a fan of bitter beer. Both of us tend towards lagers and German style weissbrews. We slum it with Miller, or El Presidente, and we loved the Russian No. 5 at the Beach Farm. Deep roasts are just too toasty and overwhelming for us. We know that there are better informed persons out there (specifically on Union Street just north of 7th Avenue) who would disagree vehemently. So, we are weak in some departments.

Tomorrow will reveal what slugs think of the $4 Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA. Tomorrow generally reveals a lot. If you took care of today. Or not. 

Sometimes, supper is strange

Un assembled banh mi. Do it yourself. Here's the recipe for the filling. In last nights' case, leftover roast chicken was the base). Yes, that is Miller Draft. And that is all I am saying about that. I am not a beer drinker, and I like it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's my tomato

So Gourmet Live, a rather lovely Conde Nast website, risen from the ashes of Gourmet, writes to ask me for permission to use a photograph of mine, of an heirloom tomato, as their featured Image of the Day. There it is, up there. In return I would get a link to 66 Square Feet. Fine, I thought, I'd love to. Nice site, rubbing shoulders with good things. Will do.

Oh, but there's the question of the release form I must sign. So I read it.

Here it is (underlining is mine). Read the first paragraph:

As we discussed, GourmetLive would like to publish your photograph(s) of      .  This letter will confirm your agreement that we may publish the photograph(s), and that any publication or republication by GourmetLive or anyone authorized by GourmetLive of the article or other material with which the photograph(s) are published, in any media now in existence or hereafter developed, may include the photograph(s).  The photograph(s) may also be used in the advertising and promotion of GourmetLive and its information products and services.  GourmetLive may retouch, crop, or otherwise alter the photograph(s) for publication, in its discretion.

You represent and warrant that you created the photograph(s) and/or that you are authorized to allow us to use the photograph(s) as provided herein, and that our publication of the photograph(s) will not infringe any third party’s copyright or other rights.  No contrary or inconsistent terms, conditions, restrictions, or other provisions in delivery memos, invoices, letters or other documents will be binding on GourmetLive unless expressly agreed to in writing by GourmetLive.

We understand that this grant of permission is non-exclusive, that you may authorize others to use the photograph(s), and that no fee will be due for the use of the photograph(s).

So that our files are complete, please sign and return the copy of this letter that is enclosed.  Thank you for your consideration.


So I wrote back saying I can swallow this all but may we make one small change and add that the photographer shall be given credit for any possible future use of this image?

The response, from the friendly-sounding Allison Poindexter:

Unfortunately we can not allow changes to the agreement. This is the same agreement that every blogger has to sign when they are featured on the blog. Let me know if we can still feature the image, otherwise, thank you so much for you interest. 

So, it appears that bloggers get their own agreement, and sign their photos over, for free, for any hypothetical future use, sans credit. Because they are...just bloggers? What if you are blogger who is a photographer? Actually, does that matter? No. The principle does.

And it wasn't my interest. You guys approached me.

So I thought a bit. Pros, cons, exposure. Then I realized, Wait! I 'm behaving as though I am being blackmailed. Because the truth is that bloggers - and increasingly all entities working on their own - are scared of making a noise about this. Because then the big website won't like them. Or link to them, or ask them to write a story for them. So they say nothing, wag their tails, and lick the bone tossed at them.


Where do you draw the line?

So I wrote back:

Much as I love Gourmet Live, under the circumstances I can't sign my image over to you for any and every use (as implied in your release), with no compensation or credit given in such use. I earn my living by my images and words. So do many others. When images are signed over for nothing, for your gain and free use, they become worthless.

If it were only for a one time use on your website I would have no issue with it. But the release you require is unreasonable and exploitative. I say that objectively, no ill will intended. I trust you understand.

I consider Gourmet a class act. It would be worth your while to re-visit the wording of that release, and not issue a one-size-fits all. It doesn't reflect well on you.

Small concessions. Respect for good work. Integrity. Give a little, take a little.

I was willing to share that tomato. But I realize that it is, in fact, mine.



Thank you for everyone's input (and encouragement). I may take this farther - not with Gourmet Live but the issue itself. If anyone has been approached via their blogs or Flickr, or Facebook, etc., for photo usage by publications, please get in touch; whether the terms were for free (no terms!), for a link or whether payment was offered. I'd like to start taking notes, and names

High life

14th and 5th Avenue.


My phone rang while I was choosing plums on the sidewalk outside Mr Lee's. It was Vince, recently emerged from the subway and asking whether I needed anything. I told him where I was. And as I left the store with my plums, nectarines, figs and fresh bunch of dill, he was waiting for me on the sidewalk. Something about seeing him there was a lot like seeing him for the first time, at Newark International Airport, in September 2007. Perhaps because he was wearing black, then, too. Taller, slimmer than I had expected, and with broader shoulders. The broad shoulders are especially helpful. 

We wandered our usual stretch, picking up gin for evening cocktails,  an organic chicken, some leaves for salad, and then walked home, where we set the post hurricane terrace and roof to rights...

The cat liked the new, old arrangement. He has not been able to get out for days, as the terrace was clogged with pots.

Some strawberries were sent to the roof, to make more space, here. Later the pots were steadied on their pot-feet and nifty corks.

And then we had big, fat drinks on the silvertop, and discussed the state of things. 

Mine was a Paintbrush, his a martini. Later we ate roast chicken (the first in...all of summer?) stuffed with herbs, and tomatoes stuffed* with rice, dill, etc. Fig and wild arugula salad. Plums for dessert.

1.45pm: Just occurred to me: Was the subtext "get stuffed"?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Goodbye, ShelterPop

Stormy weather in the chien eat chien media world.

A freelancing gig bites the dust.

A brief email just informed me that my next piece for ShelterPop would also be my last, running next Sunday. ShelterPop is being merged into StyList.  I had been expecting it,  in a superficial, sound bite, let's rile the populace, multiple hit media world, but it does not make the abrupt change or the serial killing of real-information writing fro real pay any easier to swallow.

This merge follows the bloodbath earlier in the year when The Huffington Post acquired AOL and hundreds of employees and freelancers lost their jobs. Over the last eighteen months I have seen two of my - excellent - editors move on to other things, ahead of the changes, and perhaps I should have bailed, then. An email to that current, wage-delivering, idea-engaging editor, just bounced right back. A little googling revealed that she left abruptly, too.

Perhaps I can resuscitate the gardeners' Q and A somewhere else.

On the other hand, a book contract I have been waiting is being drafted, and perhaps I need the head space. More about that, later.

What next on the roof farm?

Ahead of Irene, I cut down all the tomatoes and took out the cucumbers. With words like "dire! unprecedented! lethal!" being bandied about by meteorologists, and the prospect of 80mph winds, I didn't want to leave the pots on the roof in their top-heavy state. So, once that eggplant up there is ready, and the remaining peppers picked, that's it. Over. Fat lady has sung.

How can that be? Last September the little roof farm was winning blue ribbons. (That harvest festival will not be repeated. It seem it was a one off stunt, and not worth the bother again for the organizers. A pity - it was a great way to get to know other growers in the area. The food was good. It was  f  u   n.)

Now look at it. Scrappy and ratty. I must plant something. Leaves, of course. But what else? From seed? The microgreens, yes. But what about pretty kale? Spinach?

Last nights' ragged sunset. We still have time. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Post mortem, terrace

Well, she blew by. We were up on the roof somewhere in the wee hours, maybe sometime after 3, as something was rolling around and I thought a satellite dish had worked itself loose. A gust must have blown whatever it was off before I got up there with a flashlight. I found nothing. 

Now, dry air, tugging wind, a collapsed New Dawn rose, but otherwise it is all over. We have a bathful of clean water. Maybe I'll snorkel in it.

We will go out and have a look. Good mushroom weather.

Waiting for Irene

Here are some pictures of the neighbourhood from yesterday evening. Waiting for Irene.

Saturday evening, Court Street. The difference between men and women before a hurricane. The barbershop is deserted, the barbers are sleeping.

The nail salon down the road is hopping. We shall not go into this good night without impeccable pedicures!

Sushi shop on Henry and Pacific took no chances.

Pastry shop bulls eye. Aim storm here. I read in The Times that taping windows is a bad idea? Why? They didn't say.

Restaurant chairs. The were brought in after I took the picture.

Dude, it's closed. A last minute shopper finds Trader Joe's closed.

We'll venture out into the world now after our very late start. I'm not sure what time I went to sleep...More later. I think watching Irene on television must have been more frightening than the real thing, but that is the nature of the beast...


The drink that I shook up for Vincent (I had red wine) on Saturday evening. I call it a Baybreaker.

There is some fear that 'the ocean will meet the bay' at high tide - around 7.30am in that area - on Sunday. The ocean being the Atlantic on the east side of the narrow, sandy string of barrier islands off Long Island: Fire Island, Long Beach, Jones Beach, the Rockaways; the bay being Great South Bay,  Reynolds Channel and Jamaica Bay, on the landward side. This would of course flood many homes, parks, and also a beach farm we are are rooting for.

So here's one in your eye, Irene.

A Baybreaker is northern bayberry-infused gin (the leaves and berries picked off the dunes in the Rockaways themselves), with dry vermouth and a little juice from pickled field garlic, gathered in April in Inwood. Strong juju...

May the barrier islands remain above sea level.

Half past midnight, and it is raining hard.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Weekend Meal No. 1

Is next door at 66 Square Feet (the Food)

A Brooklyn Storm

This is not Irene. It is last week's storm.

Today, we sit at home in airconditioning twiddling our thumbs and waiting for our hurricane (zzzzz). The air outside is like hot, soggy cotton wool. The big shops are closing, the subway has shut down. Only corner stores and small concerns remain open. Mr Lee's (as we refer to our vegetable/fruit shop) is raking it in.

The cat mewing in the background of the video is not frightened, he is hungry. It is dark and that must mean dinner time to a one-track-minded feline. Strangely, he is not afraid either of thunder or of fireworks, being a cat of his times, perhaps, his bodega upbringing in Manhattan accustoming him to both.

Note the fig tree in its storm position, of the edge and on top of the braai.

Storm in a tea cupHurricane checklist on Henry Street

This afternoon, before the pots came down

Bottled water
Charge phone, radio and camera batteries
Extra candles (mood lighting)
All pots down from terrace sides onto terrace floor
Secure climbing roses
Tomatoes and tepees on roof cut down and cages removed
Loose glass from neighbor's roof removed
Batten down the skylight hatch
Waterproof the cat(with butter)
Eat at Al di La before the Gowanus is unpassable
Withdraw cash
Take pictures of hurricane shopping lines
Fill bath with water for flushing in case of water issues
Buy hurricane menu ingredients
Stock up on wine

Happy Hurricane, everyone. I'm itching to see the action: all low-lying areas under mandatory evacuation, but alas, we will stay put (hear that, Mommy? Moenie worry nie). It's going to be crazy enough with subways, buses and trains shutting down altogether starting at noon tomorrow.

Pots down


7.29pm - all city beaches are closed. Starting tomorrow, Central Park, Prospect Park, zoos, all state parks and all* farmers markets will be closed. All Broadway shows canceled Saturday and Sunday.

More info here.

* Union Square, Inwood, Fort Green and Grand Army Plaza markets will be open from 8AM-11AM

Here's a link to see what evacuation zone you live in. 

Sheep and fruit pots ready for evacuation, below.

The last tomatoes. More about them at Edible Manhattan.

And yes, we have flashlights!

Friday, August 26, 2011


For a tomatolicious orgy, visit  Edible Manhattan.

(And Frank, the Beach Farm is there too...)

Tomatoes. More.

Thursday's Borough Hall Farmers' Market. Wilklow Orchards' tomatoes, fresh from the Hudson River Valley. It was muggy, raining intermittently, my hair was frizzing, my chin sweating, in other words, the return of August.

I had to buy one of each. Which was not cheap. But I had to, just once.

Now, what to do with them? Heirloom consommé, turned into a jelly? Stuffed again with rice and dill and pine nuts and currants? Or should I eat them one at time, raw, to understand the flavour of each? What would you do?

I also found a huge bunch of lush purslane for $2.50, so that became supper, the leaves cooked in a slow lamb curry, with more, raw leaves in yogurt. I bought a puny, stunted bunch of dill (thinking about stuffed tomatoes) from the same stall for $1.50. Funny price comparison.

Friday, and the hurricane cometh. I want to see it from the beach. Vince says maybe (he knows hurricane better than I do, being an ex-islander).

What about a hurricane menu?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Moody August

Yesterday's September light.

Today's rain. Even without the water, the air was a wet blanket.

This evening's pickings. I will probably yank some of the tomatoes tomorrow, ahead of Irene. Take down the tepees, secure the rooftop pots, hustle the beaded sheep to shelter, remove all the pots from the edges of the terrace, just in case.

Green-Wood Cemetery

I knew about Green-Wood Cemetery, or at least that it existed, and was big, and that Frank and Betsy had said we must visit, and that it is mentioned in birding blogs, and that in spring it is full of flowers. I was not prepared for the scale of it, nor its depth of field, nor its endless green grass and hills, nor, especially, its very beautiful trees. Old trees. Nor even that to get there all we had to do was ride the R two stops farther than usual. One becomes so used to habit and pattern that an entire world can be missed. Everyone should ride the subway two stops farther, and then get out, and see what happens.

It did not hurt, either, that I fell over some mushrooms within two minutes of entering its gates and walking up its imposing drive.

A storm was coming. After spending some time with the green parrots and the mushrooms we went farther in, through the massive archway - we had entered from the 5th Avenue (Brooklyn!) side, and up a steep hill between appropriate yew trees.

It is going to be breathtaking in the fall.

Other than us, no living souls were abroad.

Hearing the rumbling from the purple clouds gathering in force to the south, we turned around early. The storm caught us at the gate, opening the sky all at once, and we ran. Within two blocks we were back in the subway, soaking.

We need more time to explore, next time, and will head back when the leaves have started to turn. Perhaps we'll find where Leonard Bernstein is and have a picnic with him.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Sloppy food.

Brandywine from the roof, baguette from Sahadi's, basil from the terrace. Bread briefly toasted then rubbed with a clove of garlic, tomato piled on, salt and pepper, basil, a drip of olive oil.  Tasted like the perfect middle point of perfect summer afternoon, where nothing else matters beyond the next bite.

Shaken and stirred

The post-earthquake martini. Gin, vermouth, olive stuffed with garlic.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Earthquake NYC

Cat ready for evacuation.

First the chair shook, then it went on shaking, then I heard the building creaking and realized it was all going back and forth. Bits of plaster fell from the skylights.

I immediately blamed the major construction across the road and thought of sinkholes, and stuffed the howling cat in his pet carrier.

At 1.55pm I emailed our landlord: Brian, our building is shaking. May be construction across the road. No exaggeration. Shaking.

I grabbed clothes, found my wallet and passport, and all the while the creaks and cracklings continued in the roof and walls. Creepy. Called 311. Line busy, and then realized the shaking had stopped. My hands were trembling.


The real thing must be awful. Brian felt it, too. For once, tenant and landlord have bonded.

Sunset in August

Imperceptible. Just the other day we could picnic up here at 8 o'clock and see everything well. Now it is dusk before the hour.

On the roof, you can smell the strawberries.

The cherry tomatoes, especially Lemon Drop, still do well. But the bushes are blighted.

The light disorients me. It does not belong to summer. Times are changing. Falls plans are being laid. How to arrest what is perfect, to extend the lovely, impede the awful and prevent the inevitable? With the light come the questions.