Sunday, June 29, 2008

NYC Waterfalls

Olafur Eliasson's waterfalls came on this week, and along with seemingly everyone else in the city, we went down to the East River to check them out. The first photo is from the Times, the rest are ours:







And for the sake of comparison, we visited two more New York City waterfalls, the first in the Bronx and the second in Brooklyn:


Friday, June 27, 2008

Cherries at the Greenmarket


The greenmarket in Union Square is a treat all year long, but especially now, when cherries --- sweet, sour, black, Queen Anne, Rainier, and just plain delicious --- are coming into season.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jaws at MoMA


As part of MoMA's "Celebrating Summer" film series, we recently saw Jaws, surely the most frightening of all summer movies, and not just because of Richard Dreyfuss's chest hair. It's both surprising and relieving to see that in 2008 an entire theater of jaded moviegoers--most of whom had no doubt seen Jaws before--can still jump and scream, as this crowd did in abundance. One guy tried to relieve the pre-screening tension by calling out, "You're going to need a bigger movie theater" when he walked in, but no one laughed. We knew what was coming.

Monday, June 23, 2008

© Murakami at the Brooklyn Museum



We’ll say one thing about the Takashi Murakami retrospective: at least it’s honest. Contemporary art is beyond big business these days, a fact Murakami embraces by copyrighting his work (note the symbol in the title) and planting a fully operational Louis Vuitton store smack in the middle of the galleries. The museum didn’t allow any photography of his prints and sculptures, either: if you wanted to take something home, you had to buy it.

Or use your brain to remember it. Sometimes called the “Warhol of Japan,” Murakami heavily borrows imagery from manga, anime, and other components of pop culture. Figures have disproportionately large eyes, tiny bodies, spiky hair, and pale white skin. A better appellation, however, might be “Japanese Jeff Koons.” Both artists like to push buttons, both rely on hypersexuality and cartoons to comment on consumerism, both like to collapse any distinction between traditionally high and low culture. Here, the result is colorfully crazy: rooms covered in smiling flowers, blobby skulls filled with neon, little mushroom creatures fresh out of Saturday morning tv shows, and, of course, his unique take on the iconic LV. So, OK, we'll say two things: it's very happy too. What it lacks in gravitas or substance it makes up for in sheer delight with the world, even if that delight is directly correlated with all the money coming in.

Photos: thanks and thanks

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Franny's

Simplicity and sustainability drive Franny's, one of the newest stars in the New York pizza galaxy. With a focus on rigorously sourced ingredients and straightforward pies, Franny's is the kind of casual but delicious restaurant that makes you ready to pack up stakes and move to the neighborhood. Throw in the delightful and quiet garden in the back, and the realty office a few doors down starts to seem even more inviting.

On a recent visit, we started with a plate of mixed olives, which went wonderfully with our Bardolino and Ambra Rosato, reminding us of the vaguely guilty pleasure of a drinking lunch:




We followed our olives with a bowl of sugar snap peas tossed with green olive oil and lemon; they tasted like nothing so much as summer itself:



The pizza at Franny's is simple--there are only eight varieties that come out of the wood-burning oven, none with more than four ingredients atop the light, crispy, slightly charred crust. We had the tomato and buffalo mozzarella with sausage and the tomato, provolone piccante, and onion (not shown, unfortunately). The former was terrific, the latter among the best pizzas we've had, with the provolone providing a rich spiciness that makes each bit a small but delightful surprise:



And for dessert, the house-made cannolo, covered with pistachios and filled with a delicate lemony cream:



We hold out hope that Franny's will open an outpost in Manhattan; if not, well . . . if Muhammad won't go to the mountain . . .

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Mets at Shea Stadium


It's the last year for Shea and, fittingly, the Mets are struggling. Still, the "impossible green," as a friend called it, never loses its charm.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Harvesters


Pieter Bruegel the Elder's 1565 painting is part of a series of six works documenting the seasons of the year. Five of them survive, three in Vienna (including Hunters in the Snow, a favorite of ours), one in Prague, and The Harvesters at the Met. The paintings are a landmark in the history of Western art because they are among the first to reject the interpretation of nature in terms of religion. Instead, they present landscapes that are decidedly human, a point Bruegel emphasizes in The Harvesters by obscuring the church in the back right. The focus of the painting becomes everyday people living everyday lives in a sometimes uncooperative world. It sounds like it should be dispiriting or pedantic, but Bruegel couples his realism with beautiful tones, like the rich gold in The Harvesters, and deep, dynamic perspectives that emphasize the vast scope of the landscapes we carve out for ourselves.

Standing in front of this painting recently, we were interrupted by an elderly man, who turned and asked if we had seen it before. When we said yes, he told us that he'd been visiting The Harvesters for 45 years, ever since he was a child. He said that on school field trips he and his classmates would only be taken to a handful of paintings, but this was always one of them. Now that he's moved away, he makes a special trip to see it every time he's in the city. After we'd gone on to explore some of the other galleries, we passed back through and saw him again, standing closer this time, lost in Bruegel's world.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Water III at the Met




On our way to the Jeff Koons exhibit, we ran into a performance by human kinetics movement arts, a group that melds dance to the visual arts to create installation pieces in specific locations around the city--in this case, inside the dry fountains in front of the Met. Wrapped in blue fabric, the female dancers mimicked the undulating rhythms of water. If only they could have channeled its cooling properties as well.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Jeff Koons at the Met





Friday, June 13, 2008

Di Fara





Di Fara is perhaps the most demanding god in the pantheon of New York pizzerias. The sacrifices required include a long trip out to Midwood, Brooklyn, potential waits of up to 2 hours for a simple cheese pizza, and dining in surroundings that vaguely resemble a museum exhibit on The Great Unfinished Basements of 1973. But once you receive your reward for passing these tests, you have no doubt of its divine origins.

Domenico DeMarco has been making pies here since 1964, and now, in his 70's, he's still the only one whose hands come into contact with your pizza. He makes nothing in advance; only after you place your order does he begin to knead the dough for your pizza, and he sees each pie all the way into the oven before he starts on the next. Using his own secret sauce and herbs grown right in the store, DeMarco works methodically on each pie, making the same motions he has for 40 years. It's truly transfixing to watch, and people gather around the counter in an almost reverential silence. After the pizza comes out of the oven, he grinds some fresh parmiggiano reggiano by hand and sprinkles it over your pie, then cuts as much fresh basil as you'd like and spreads it out beneath a drizzle of olive oil.

The crust is lightly burned and achingly thin, with a droopy end and firm center. The first bite you take is a revelation, pizza raised to a level of smoky richness that leaves you wondering what you've been eating all your life. It's not easy to get into heaven, but it sure is worth the trouble.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Voce



When Andrew Carmellini was running the kitchen at Cafe Boulud, Daniel Boulud’s celebrated Upper East Side restaurant, he was constantly sneaking Italian dishes onto the nominally French menu and winning great acclaim in the process, including a James Beard Award in 2005. Indeed, Carmellini turned Cafe Boulud into such an idiosyncratically great restaurant that people started to think of it as his and forget the famous name at the top of the menu. In this town, you can’t make that many people happy at a restaurant and not have investors offering their kidneys to team up with you, and in 2006 Carmellini left Cafe Boulud to start his own restaurant, the burningly popular A Voce. So successful has A Voce (“word of mouth”) been that after a mere 18 months in existence a second outlet was announced, this one slated for the Time Warner Center.

There for dinner recently, we saw why so many people love A Voce so much. (And we’ll add here that the diners on both sides of us spent most of the meal talking about their love for the restaurant, how frequently they come, how much they think about it when they’re away, and so on. They may well carry photos of A Voce around with them to show to their friends and neighbors.) The food isn’t as ambitious as what Mario Batali’s kitchens produce around town, nor is it the kind of traditional Italian standards one finds at restaurants like San Domenico. A Voce aims for a middle ground, food that is accessibly straightforward with just enough of a spin to leave you wondering why you can’t cook like this at home. You’re supposed to leave spreading the word, not speechless.

We started with a trio of appetizers: a vegetable antipasti plate featuring sweet peppers, gooey burrata cremosa, and eggplant aggrodolce; roasted asparagus topped with a fried eggplant, brasaole, and truffle dressing; and one of the most raved-about appetizers in New York, the duck and foie gras meatballs, a perfect combination of sweet, rich, and meaty. The effusive server recommended the scampi ravioli, and we paired that with a mezzi rigatoni with lamb amatriciana (instead of the standard pork and beef), a hearty dish that might not be in keeping with the season but is eminently satisfying. And for dessert, the bomboloni, puffy Tuscan donuts filled with cream and served with chocolate sauce. After all that, even the sweltering summer night somehow seemed a little more sweet. Now let us just show you this picture in our wallet...

Photos: thanks

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Early Morning Professions of Devotion II

Early yesterday morning we walked by two tourists, hugging. As we sidestepped their profession of devotion, we heard one say to the other, "Thank you so much. I love this city. It's the GREATEST city in the world." Emphasis hers.

Olafur Eliasson at MoMA




Olafur Eliasson is having a moment around these parts. In 2006, there was a positive profile in The New Yorker (key fact: the Danish-Icelandic artist was once a break-dancing champion of Scandinavia); this year there’s the lauded Take Your Time exhibition at MoMA, the off-shoot at PS 1, and the fountains forthcoming in the harbor next month.

Take your time, indeed. Eliasson’s installations are trippy and silly and wonderful. They encourage you to lie down and look up; they make art feel fun again. His work explores looking as a form of social networking, and so participation is integral. A strobe light illuminates each drop of water as it falls from the ceiling and into a trough --- part of the fun is watching the faces of the fellow watchers. The ceiling of one room has been covered with a giant, rotating mirror; elsewhere a gallery’s white walls have been replaced by plastic, which illuminates slowly changing blocks of color (first photo). At both MoMA and PS 1, viewers pointed out neat features of each room or work to strangers, heightening the installations’ feel-good aura.

As it happens, we saw Eliasson's Weather Project at the Tate Modern, another incredible, romantic installation, in which Eliasson basically brought the sun into the huge Turbine Hall (second photo). It's nice to see him still bringing warmth into our lives, albeit a little less literally this time.

Photos: thanks and thanks

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Horse at AMNH



There have been horses in the world for 55 million years, though the earliest ones had three toes and could have fit in a backpack. The American Museum of Natural History is currently featuring an exhibit about this long and storied mammalian history. The exhibit follows horses from the paleocene to the present, showing how they evolved, how their bodies work, how they were domesticated, and how a wide variety of cultures have venerated them. We especially loved the device that lets you see how much horsepower you can deliver. The answer: not much. Together we're less than half a horse, but with an animal this interesting, that's still pretty good.

Photos: thanks

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Hillary Rodham Clinton


So Hillary won't be the first female presidential nominee this year, although maybe she'll be the second female vice presidential nominee. We'll see.

Whatever you might think of her, she ran a remarkable campaign. Her policies and positions sharpened Obama's; her mostly competitive presence through more than 55 primaries demonstrates the potential for women to be successful at such a level. We're proud to have her as our junior senator.

Photo: thanks

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Bourne Trilogy at MoMA


To celebrate the recent acquisition of the Bourne Trilogy by the Film Department, this weekend MoMA screened The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum. In addition, a “Brain and Bourne” panel on Friday night featured director Doug Liman, producer/professor James Schamus, and psychiatrist/neuroscientist Giulio Tononi.

We’re unabashedly enthusiastic about the Bourne movies. The cuts! The woman in power who does the right thing without mothering anyone! The super-smart technology! The car chases and sound editing and cosmopolitan flavor! And the panel only heightened our feelings.

As it turns out, the psychogenic amnesia plaguing Jason Bourne is rare but entirely possible. This tidbit from Tononi shocked Liman, who noted that he “sort of made it up” as he directed the first movie and tonight’s “the first time the movie’s been taken seriously . . . . [A]mnesia was a way for me to do an intelligent spy story.” That got a laugh, as did most of the director’s comments. Liman wore a hangdog expression and seemed completely freaked out to be on stage with an actual scientist for the hour-long event. The night really belonged to Tononi, who came armed with slide after slide of how our brain creates a continuous narrative of our life, shaping memories and forgetting experiences in order to develop a cohesive, acceptable whole. He concluded by reminding the audience to be mindful of the brain, since everything leaves an impression, and those impressions are us.


Photo: thanks

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Allo on the Fire Escape






Summer is almost here, and someone is very excited.

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