Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Three Things I Love About Iceland

Economy aside, Iceland has quite a few things going for them:

This rich, dense and natural skyr from Iceland (by way of a Manhattan kitchen) has a refreshingly natural taste. This is not your typical, "fruit on the bottom" or parfait-like yogurt. Skyr is serious but simple. Direct but satisfying. You can enjoy your skyr in 4 flavors: plain, blueberry, orange & ginger and pomegranate & passion fruit.

#2: Kisan Concept Store

At the recent opening of Kisan's New York store, I was delighted to find not just Icelandic products, but a line of carefully selected items from Scandinavia and beyond. Check out their selection of children's toys and 66°NORTH clothing.

125 Greene Street, New York, NY tel. 212.475.2470

#3: "Saviour"

Erla Skuladottir's "Saviour" is a wonderful short about a young girl's search for independence set against the wilderness of Iceland. "Saviour" is the recipient of over 40 international awards. Erla's currently working on her first full length feature so watch out for this talented, up and coming director.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two To Tango

I lovingly fingered the straps to my favorite pair of Comme Il Fauts as I gently slipped my feet into them. Often referred to as the Manolo Blahniks of tango and made in exclusive batches of around 50 pairs a model, these beautifully crafted heels are exquisite and very, very comfortable.

The music started, my partner held me in an embrace, and in one sweeping movement, proceeded to step on my foot.

Being a tango school drop-out, getting back into the fold has proven more difficult than anticipated. My regular partner, Yuri and I had a quest to "catch up" to our former tango instructor, Robin Thomas. He no longer taught the Basic level, which led us to study under different instructors until a later point. This evening was no different at Dance School B:

"One more time!" the instructor barked. "Right foot in! Right foot out! Step forward! STOOOOP! STOOOOP! What are you DOOOOOING?!"

We repeated the steps in a military cadence. There was resignation in each of my class partners' eyes. Some huffed in impatience, other danced in defiance to their own tune. I merely smiled and followed. After all, there is much to be learnt, even from an instructor whose methods may be more...militant than nurturing.

Learning to tango is a pursuit of passion. You have to want it, and you have to want it bad. This is not a dance where you take a month-long crash course and expect to hit a milonga and know all the moves. In fact, it takes years to truly master the craft, but only a few moments to love it.

Everything in tango is about intention. The way a man leads his partner is projected through his confidence in movement, his chest leading the way. If his intentions are clear, his partner is able to move in the right direction, even if blindfolded. Alas, in the valley of tango beginners, the two left-footed advanced novice is Queen.

Photo: © Tango Slovenia. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cinéma Verité: “Strangers”

I accepted a last minute invitation to the Israeli Film Festival yesterday evening. I have always held a curiosity for cultures unlike my own. Even more so, when my passport dictates that I am not allowed to visit. South Africa was crossed out when apartheid ended, and Cuba too, is now a possible destination. But Israel remains out of reach. (Of course there are ways, dear reader, but we will not discuss them).

I normally dismiss love stories as loathe-worthy, saccharine-filled, gag-inducing flicks of boy meets girl and they live happily ever after. However, I am ever humbled by "Strangers," a movie of love, sacrifice, second chances and the power of choice, directed by Erez Tadmor and Guy Nattiv.

Rana and Eyal, both in Berlin for the World Cup, meet on the metro and grab each other’s bag by mistake, sparking a chain of events that lead them both on a life-defining journey. Lubna Azabal (of 2006 Golden Globe winning, “Paradise Now” fame) is paired with TV heartthrob, Liron Levo. The connection between the two was what made the film so incredibly powerful. I was floored to learn that the movie was sans script. Despite the back and forth in English, Hebrew and French, both actors were able to deliver an authenticity of character and dialogue lacking in other films that utilize multiple languages. The scenes shot at the World Cup were especially intimate, capturing the excitement of the moment.

“Strangers” represented to me, a symbol of hope. That differences can be put aside. We are defined not by our past. Who we are being in the present and the choices we make, are what determines our future.

I was touched! Inspired! As the lights came on in the theatre, my movie buddy gave a slight yawn, turned to me and said, "What did I miss? I fell asleep after the disco scene."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dirt Candy

When you’re feeding a tough audience of carnivorous New Yorkers whose vegetarian forays have been marred by creations like, “kelp on a plate” and bean fueled dragon bowls, you better bring it. Amanda Cohen's newly minted Dirt Candy on East 9th St. has brought'n it alright, and oh is it sweet and sassy.

Reading Amanda's (formerly of Pure Food and Wine, Heirloom) declaration on her website, “I don’t care about your health. I don’t care about your politics either,” I knew I had found a kindred sister from a vegetarian mother.

Something you may not know about me, dear Reader, is that I am an unabashed meat lover. One who unapologetically converts the leaf eating, yoga chanting types. Mr. C and I often chuckle about how an order of short ribs corrupted Missy's sensibilities. She spent the entire weekend holed up in her apartment with a bucket of KFC. But I digress.

Upon entering Dirt Candy, you are greeted by pressed recycled wood paneling framed by opaque glass. In this cozy establishment, the atmosphere is warm, the service attentive yet unobtrusive. Mr. C and I ordered the hush puppies to start. The hush puppies were just so but it was the sweet, subtle maple butter carressing my tongue that left an impression.

My second course was a parpadelle dish that I barely recalled, save the disappointment I felt when tasting it. While the parmesan crusted pine nuts were a nice touch, I did not care for the grape balls and the overall sweetness of my entree. The naked cauliflower however, gets a plus for its slightly charred taste.

Mr. C's stone ground grits with pickled shitakes and a tempura poached egg faired much better. This entree sold me with its comforts, like a warm, toasty blanket on a cold day. There were some "Aha!" moments with this dish, one being the mustard greens sneakily leaving a bite on my tongue.

No meal is complete without dessert. We ordered the chocolate cake with chocolate chili ice cream and sweet potato sorbet as well as the popcorn pudding. The sweet potato sorbet really resonated with me. This is what my Japanese grandmas’s sweet potato sorbet tasted like: sweet and filled with memories of home. (Alas, this is if I were Japanese and had a grandma who could cook, much less whip up ice cream). The popcorn pudding was just delightful. Happy, crunchy, buttery caramel popcorn was paired with a subtle pudding.

One can truly see Amanda Cohen's vision for Dirt Candy. Amanda is extremely chipper and highly likeable. Her enthusiasm and passion for her craft is reflected in her earthy, yet complex dishes. With a little fine-tuning, Dirt Candy has the potential to be the vetegarian establishment it is meant to be

Plough on, Dirt Candy, plough on.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween Adventure

Halloween has always been an adult soiree in NYC. Fairytale and children's tv character themes rant rampant. I too, fell victim to the trend and sported an Alice in Wonderland outfit that was super cute.

Several notable costumes:

Spotted at Union Square

Kermit and Miss Piggy...

15th St. & 5th Ave.

Little Red Riding Hood & the Wolf in Grandma's Jammies...

Tompkins Square Park

The adorable...

9th Street and Broadway

The sexy...(absolutely love this modern take on a 19th century footman)

9th Street and 2nd Ave.

The bizarre....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Merging the Old with the New: Lo Ch'ing at Goedhuis Contemporary

Calling for Wang Wei the Poet-Painter:Northern Hill of Wang Stream Scene, 2002

Merging the Old with the New: Lo Ch'ing at Goedhuis Contemporary

On an Upper East Side townhouse off Fifth Avenue, Chris Ong and I were regaled with witty conversation, wine and contemporary Chinese art. Lo Ch'ing's postmodern take on the Chinese silk painting is absolutely captivating. I have never been a fan of the subjects in this medium (think pandas and bamboo). Lo Ch’ing, however, has provided a fresh perspective:

Mountain Huang: Inspiration Escaping the Dominant Eccentric Peak, 1999

The evening was moving along perfectly until Mr. B walked in.

"Territory encroacher! Bad art collector! What was he doing on MY turf?!"

I silenced my inner voice and sauntered up to him.

“We can’t keep meeting like this. What will the neighbors think?” I quipped.

He laughed, knowing fully well what I had meant.

After 6 years of missed connections and unexplored opportunities, we had come full circle by the bar. The brunette poured us glasses of wine and ignored us from a polite distance. We laughed like old friends, but there was a tinge of sadness in the air. There were unspoken words about unexplained disappearances.

And in the end, nothing mattered, except the cool colors and swirls of brushstrokes on rice paper.

Running late for another engagement, I politely excused myself, put on my coat and disappeared onto the sidewalk.

Lo Ch'ing
October 22, 2008 to November 17, 2008
Goedhuis Contemporary, 42 East 76th Street, New York, NY 10028. Tel: (212) 535-6954

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I found an old poem tucked away in a book I had forgotten. It was written, presumably for a gentleman I was particularly smitten with (or perhaps I was exercising my literary penmanship, I don't quite recall). The constant "first dates" (and no more thereafter) that New York life is prone to can be quite disheartening. But when you find that someone you connect with...


Do not presume to know me,
I am a mere illusion.
Bright colours
in the sky.
Escaping visions
on a dark night.
of dreams.
You stand
And I try
to quell,
what you have awaken in me.
The weeping that comes
not from the eyes,
but from the soul.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Me and Mr. Jones

Left: Kara Age, Right: The Mr. Jones Cocktail

Mr. Jones has succeeded in making yakitori sexy. So sexy, in fact, I am getting flustered underneath my buttoned up lace collar recounting last night. It all started when Jam Master Jay called with a sly, "Free this evening?" I immediately canceled my date.

Walking up to the plywood covered façade of Mr. Jones on busy East 14th Street, it felt like a secret mission involving a password (“Yaki! Tori!”), secret knock and handshake. After milling about like a pair of post-NYU grads looking to re-live trouble on a Monday night, the hostess finally opened the makeshift plywood door and ushered us inside.

Mr. Jones is a yakitori lounge which embodies the winning combination of Lesly Bernard's nightlife expertise (of Pravda and Tillman’s fame), Bryan Emperor's culinary skills and Shin Ikeda's (Angel Share and B Flat) carefully crafted cocktails. Mention "yakitori" and most images conjured are of smoky robatas, cramped counter seating and a trip to the dry cleaners after. Mr. Jones is none of that. Instead, you are greeted by a retro-mod space with Japanese sake labels adorning the walls, a curved CaesarStone bar and a bevy of sexy and knowledgeable waitresses who know their Junmai from their Daiginjyo.

Master Jay nearly had to restrain me to my chair when the fried chicken came. Impeccably presented in an acrylic serving tube, each piece was fried to crisp perfection, while maintaining the right amount of moisture when I sunk my teeth into them. I have not been this excited all week amidst talks of a failed bailout plan and subsequently, failed appetite.

The Preview Tasting Menu was impressive and I was enamored by the perfectly marinated Berkshire belly skewer. I politely grunted in acknowledgement of my companion, who was diligently recounting his weekend to me. He stopped abruptly as sounds of my chewing and lip-smacking bounced across the room. Accomplished Illusionist and ultra-hottie, Ryan Oakes, glanced over quizzically several times. I swooned (but it could have been the sake).

"What do I have to do to get as much attention as the skewers?" Jam Master whined.

Two words: Bryan Emperor. A Jean-Georges alum, accomplished sushi chef and man of many talents, he is, in this instance, a robata master: basting, skewering and barbecuing his way into my stomach (and hopefully yours soon).

Highlights from the Preview Tasting Menu

peppered bacon wrapped cherry tomato with bib lettuce and Japanese mayonnaise

~Ton Toro Lemon Shisho~
100% Berkshire black hog belly with lemon and Mongolian mountain salt

~Sakura Smoked Duck~
Japanese cherry wood smoked duck breast

Mr. Jones, 243 East 14th Street, New York, NY 10009. Tel: (212) 253-7670

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Friday Night Delight: Apotheke, NY

On an oft forgotten street after dark, Albert Trummer succeeded in bringing the spotlight to Chinatown with his sexy cocktails at Apotheke. Hidden away behind the façade of the “Golden Flower Restaurant," enter a space that evokes a bygone era of beautiful spies, the gentlemen who pursue them and the cocktails that define them.

The varied apocathery bottles lining the wall behind the marble bar, framed by tinned ceilings above and sultry lighting create an incredible atmosphere that makes every woman (and man, for that matter) feel super sexy the minute they set foot into this establishment. (To my delight, the absolute whimsy that is the watering can-like faucet in the powder room, helped lighten my initially sour mood, brought on by a very tough day at work).

My experience at a bar or restaurant is often colored by the service. Many a time, a meal or drink is tinged by the dour disposition of a waiter or the indifference of a bartender. Apoteke however, succeeded with its well thought out cocktails and personable service. My mixologist, Esteban, perfectly encapsulated the remedy to my ailment: A concoction of lemon-thyme and gin-vodka infusion, yuzu, champagne and a dash of bitters.

So make your reservations and let Albert and his mixologists know of your inclinations and oh, do say hello if you see me perched at the bar.

Pros: Sexy vibe, friendly and knowledgeable staff and incredibly delectable cocktails and patrons.

Watch out for the incline in the room as you walk towards the powder room, or you are bound to trip in your Manolos.

Apotheke, 9 Doyers St, New York, NY 10013. Tel: (212) 406-0400