Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
To celebrate Time Out's 40th anniversary, Time Out New York interviewed 40 New Yorkers who've made a "positive impact on the city," including Jay Z, Derek Jeter, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tina Fey, Richard Serra, and the Upright Citizens Brigade. All the mini-interviews are worth reading, since it's always neat to hear about other New Yorkers' favorite New York moments and spots, but we particularly liked these answers:
What is your favorite place or thing in New York?
Danny Meyer: My favorite place is whichever sidewalk is beneath my feet because I am just constantly fascinated by walking, and looking and learning. If I’ve already walked a street five times, then the next five times I walk it looking up, and I learn something about the cornices. And if I’ve walked it five times looking at the cornices, then I look at the doors on the buildings. And if I’ve already done that, then I look at the people. It’s the surprise around every corner that never ceases to fascinate me. Outside of that, my favorite place is my own home.
What’s your favorite place in New York City?
Tim Gunn: I love this entire island. I’m an ardent walker and I’m constantly exploring new places in the city. But if I had to choose a single destination where I’d be held captive for the rest of my time in New York, I’d choose the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Tim Gunn: It is my greatest source of inspiration. I’m there whenever I have free time, which isn’t frequent. But it’s where I get my booster shot for returning to my core values and massaging my soul. It’s like a safe and inspiring haven.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
In 1957, paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey, busy rewriting the history of human evolution with his research at Olduvai Gorge, received a phone call from a total stranger, a young woman who was keen on animals and visiting friends in Kenya. Taken with her enthusiasm and intelligence, Leakey invited her up to his camp. His initial impressions were confirmed, so he decided to ask the woman to do something no one had ever successfully done--go live with chimpanzees and find out how our closest relatives go about their lives.
Nearly half a century after she arrived in Tanzania's Gombe Stream National Park (with her mother as her chaperone), Jane Goodall is the most famous primatologist who ever lived, having discovered tool use in chimps, among other accomplishments, and her initial research project is still going strong. Reflecting on her career recently at the 92nd Street Y, she denied having any special talents that propelled her into history. Rather, she said, she never lost the innate curiosity that all children have, and she coupled this wide-eyed enchantment with a deep respect for animals as individuals.
In her 70s now, Goodall travels a grueling 300 days a year promoting conservation and environmental awareness. But her talk made it clear that her beaming demeanor, quick wit ("Tarzan chose the wrong Jane"), and infectious excitement haven't suffered in the slightest. She brims with the same question that she says is in her head every morning in the field: "What am I going to see today?"
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Living in a city with a powerful museum culture has oodles of upsides and one major downside: lots of people want to see the things you want to see when you want to see them. Case in point: MoMA's eagerly anticipated Van Gogh and the Colors of Night exhibition. From what we could see, the show features a pared down selection of maybe 16 smallish works in which the painter explored darkness, stars, the landscape, peasants, and the interplay of cafe light on nearby cobblestones. His ultimate people-pleaser, The Starry Night (1889), is there, of course, but we were particularly taken with his letters to his brother Theo, most of which feature quick sketches (we're suckers for displays of process and method). We also spent a while looking at The Starry Night over the Rhone (1888), focusing on its thick glossy brushstrokes, which resemble nothing so much as stars themselves, until, that is, the crowd moved us somewhere else.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Continuing our love affair with David Lean, we saw Lawrence of Arabia last week. Golly, what a movie. The outsize epic tells the story of T. E. Lawrence, a young British officer who in large part instigates the Arab revolt against the Turks during World War I. He becomes so disillusioned and broken down by the horrors of war and politics, however, that he eventually retreats into anonymity in the English countryside.
The movie begins there, with his death at age 47 from a motorcycle accident (an aside: his doctor was so horrified by Lawrence’s injuries that he went on to create the motorcycle helmet). As the opening credits roll, the camera hovers over a man tinkering with a bike, walking into and out of the frame. Then the point of view switches, and Peter O’Toole’s face fills the screen as he rides, faster and faster, his blonde hair whipping madly. Rather than portray the crash a few minutes later, cinematographer Freddie Young, who won one of the movie’s seven Oscars, zooms in on Lawrence’s goggles, hanging from bare, spindly branches. Here’s a man who lives with passion and conviction, the sequence says, and here’s a movie that’s just big enough and bold enough to capture him.
When we mentioned that we’d be seeing L of A, a friend said, “I’m jealous you get to spend four hours with those eyes.” O’Toole and his baby blues, in their very first movie, completely captivate, as do the panoramic shots of the desert landscape. The story isn’t so bad either, as it shows how an intelligent, iconoclastic army sergeant, an archeologist by training, transforms into a mad, egotistical demigod capable of summoning thousands to the cause. Obviously a movie about a white westerner coming to help a group of nonwhites achieve independence resonates with today’s headlines, but we’ll leave those discussions for other venues. We’d rather just gape.
Photos: thanks and thanks
Thursday, September 18, 2008
We forgot to bring our camera to this tiny Spanish tapas place in Chelsea. Too bad, since we would have loved to capture the perfectly formed deviled eggs ("huevos rellenos"), stuffed with a thick swirl the color of carrots but tasting, faintly, of mustard; the braised short rib special, seared and served over white and yellow and beige beans; textured lamb meatballs, all browns and ecrus; small slices of fried potatoes covered with a tangerine-colored aioli sprinkled with maroon chile powder; and the monochromatically pale but delicious "tortilla espanola," a potato omelet. The two owners famously found the executive chef and her husband, the sous chef, via Craigslist. We sat toward the back of the narrow space, Radiohead playing softly from the speakers at our feet and candlelight flickering against concrete and brick walls. Our only complaint? The seating: bar stools don't encourage the kind of lingering, "try this, then try that" the food deserves.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Film Forum is in the midst of a David Lean retrospective, showing all 16 movies directed by the greatest of British filmmakers. This weekend we went to a double feature of Lean's two Dickens adaptations, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. While there are aspects of the films (especially Oliver Twist) that are slightly off now, Lean's precise control of the camera and mastery of atmosphere make the movies a delight more than half a century later. (The opening of Great Expectations is an absolute marvel.) Sergei Eisenstein famously said that Dickens, through his use of framing and scene, is the conceptual inventor of cinema. These movies show that Lean, in remaking Dickens, is one of its perfecters.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
One of our favorite annual events, the Brooklyn Book Festival brings together people on all sides of the book business--writers, readers, publishers, librarians, and booksellers--for a day of talks, workshops, and that most quintessential of book-related pastimes, browsing.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Featuring more than 1500 specimens and a life-size model of a rain forest, the Hall of Biodiversity is one of our favorite stops at the American Museum of Natural History, even if some of the animals are utterly terrifying.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Heirloom tomatoes have been stopping traffic in the farmers' market for the past several weeks. Dozens upon dozens of varieties encompassing a wide array of shapes, colors, sizes, and tastes--many sporting terrific names like Green Zebra and Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter--have filled the boxes and tables of area farmers. We used a mix-and-match sampler in our friend Howard's great farfalle recipe, making each bite a little bit different from the previous one, but just as delicious.
Friday, September 05, 2008
We finished an outstanding birthday weekend with a trip to one of the best restaurants in town, Babbo. The flagship of Mario Batali's ever-expanding empire, Babbo serves gussied-up rustic Italian food in an atmosphere that manages to be urbane and rollicking at the same time. Babbo reservations are notoriously difficult to come by, but well worth it, with antipasti like an absolutely perfect insalata caprese and a plate of culatello, cured in-house for a year, that was such a terrific marriage of sweet and salty as to make us forget the months that have passed since we were in Rome. Our main dishes were richly flavorful spaghettini with lobster and spaghetti al telefono, made with fruity sungold tomatoes that provided a final burst of summer.
The enthusiastic service--the look in our waiter's eyes when describing the culatello sold it for us--was rounded out with a lovely treat at the end of the meal: the fussy toddler at the next table turned out to belong to Luca Pasquinelli, Babbo's wine director, and his wife, and upon leaving they sent over two glasses of moscato d'asti, a sweet and snappy dessert wine that went wonderfully with our birthday cake. Stepping out into the warm night afterwards, we were a little older and a lot happier.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
River Cafe could easily be a mediocre or even bad restaurant. Looking out at the East River and lower Manhattan from its nestled perch beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, River Cafe could coast on its views alone, which are nothing short of spectacular:
But it's the quality of the food that makes River Cafe more than just a nice photo opportunity. There recently for a birthday celebration, we were impressed by the scallop ceviche and potato and goat cheese terrine, both of which took our attention away from the windows. Our main dishes--filet mignon and a "shellfish duet" of garlicky shrimp and crabcake with avocado and mango--kept our focus on the table, and it was only when the chocolate Brooklyn Bridge arrived at the end that we looked away, this time for comparison's sake. Great food, great views, and great company on a great day.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Last week the city bested 150 competitors to take home first place in the New York State Fair Annual Tap Water Taste-Test Contest. Say that three, four, five, fifteen times fast, because, apparently, we have the state's best water for quenching parched lips and overused larynxes.