Thursday, June 25, 2015


There are too many blocks to walk down, too many streets to explore, too many hidden treasures that go missed until one day you discover the unexpected. I stumbled on Gansevoort Market on my way to the new Whitney. The market has its origins dating back to the 1880's when an early morning parade of horse drawn wagons would congregate on the former site of Fort Gansevoort laying out their bounty of fresh produce, meats and dairy.
The new incarnation of the market now operates out of an old warehouse on cobbled stoned Gansevoort Street in the old meatpacking district. It rolled open its garage-like doors in October of 2014 with an array of small vendors selling their wares out of more contemporary versions of the previous market's covered wagons.
Aligned in rows in much the same way they would have been over a hundred years ago it's an epicurean's field day inside the open but air-conditioned market.  The minute you walk into the timber and brick building you're struck by the color and smell of cuisine on the make. This ain't no Mickey D's.
In the back is a sky-lit seating area festooned with a canopy of twisted vines that seem to grow out of the floor forming an enchanted garden perfect for sitting and enjoying your meal. This open sitting area surrounded by an assortment of food vendors is an idea swiped from food courts inhabiting malls in every major and minor city in the country, but here it's done right.
There's an international theme running from booth to booth making it almost impossible to decide which nation is going to make your taste bud compass point in that direction.
There's the traditional Colombian arepas, a sort of tortilla that is prepared in both sweet and savory varieties, at Palenque.
Or you can traverse the Atlantic for crepes prepared the way the French do with drizzled chocolate and fresh cut strawberries.
The hombres of Tocmbi have driven another of their VW vintage vans with the roofs sawed off serving tacos, enchiladas and their homebrewed teas and lemonades.
You could also zigzag your way across the aisles and take a trip to Spain at Donosita with their market of regionally inspired fair
or go on to Italy for a slice of pizza or some chicken parmesan.
I opted for a lobster roll and chips with a blueberry infused lemonade.
Then I went in search of dessert. Every meal of mine has to end with a touch of sweet and the choices at Gansevoort Market makes it difficult to land on just one. The carnival of color at Dana's Bakery made my eyes itch from visual sugar shock but there's no way I can pass up red velvet and here there were several to choose from.
I could go with the red velvet moon pies sitting next to the sprinkle crusted donuts but my final decision was to go with the red velvet twinkie.
How could anyone refuse a red velvet cake in the shape of a Baby Boomer's staple stuffed with sour cream icing?
Then if, like me, you were doing this journey unaccompanied, you could always buy a bouquet to take home to allay your guilt. The market left no stone unturned. If you get a chance please go see for yourself.

Gansevoort Market Opening Day, 1907
Photographer, unknown
Photo image from the Museum of the City of New York

Thursday, June 18, 2015


The pale green and orange chairs now litter Greeley Square as pigeons strut between the tables and under foot picking up bits of dropped Fire Belly Korean BBQ and Red Hook Lobster.
Urbanspaces has lined the square with shack after shack of food vendors for their Broadway Bites event selling tastings smeared on crepes or wrapped in seaweed and rice.
The atmosphere is a melting pot of languages stirred in with a menu filled with ethnic food choices. All of this is available in an outdoor setting rich in culture and diversity. The lanes between the tables and booths are filled with young local shop workers, down-and-outs made to feel a bit normal given a place at a table or tourists feeling as if they've discovered a New York surprise.
The flow of people is endless making the people watching as entertaining as the foods being grilled, baked and scooped from under the makeshift tin roofs of the vending booths.
The menus are so appealing I've now come for the third time since I've been back in New York.
I've tried a kale salad,
Asian cimi balls
and the best dreamsicle snow cone I've ever had.
Tonight it's going to be fish and chips,
or maybe a grilled cheese and truffle sandwich with a cool ginger beer
and a seat on one of those celadon chairs where I can watch the world walk by in al its diverse shapes and voices,
even if the voices are ones I'd wish were whispered rather than screamed

Eating al fresco is more a European tradition than an American one but we're catching on. Ordinances against outdoor dining have fallen off the books in most American cities or put on the same page with laws requiring hands free cellphones to be used while driving or no sodas sold in containers larger than eight ounces. Those restrictions seem to have fallen on the law book page that now read ignore by the enforcers.
There's something so celebratory about outdoor dining under the stars with strings of little lights swaying overhead.
The small Tuscan towns we've loved to venture to have draped their restaurant gardens with these sparks of romanticism. It's such a small gesture but the effect is magical.
The lights in Greeley Square are no different zigzaging overhead adding an artificial star cover to a city whose lightshow burns out the heavenly stars.
Although the outdoor dining is just as wonderful for lunch, it's the evening dining that brings out the best of the Square.
We've taken the look and brought it back to our backyard in Madison and our daughter has taken full advantage.
There's a weekly bonfire with friends where bootlegged beer is hidden in red solo cups and marshmallows are skewered and roasted over the fire for smores.

Trattoria L'ingrasciata, 1961
Enzo Sellerio, photographer
Represented by Eric Franck Fine Art

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


This year is the forty-third anniversary of the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club Designer Show House. For all of you familiar with the Show House you know it's really the "Decorator" Show House but I'm too much of a snob to use the lower case "D" word. One hundred percent of the participants are designers and deserve the more accurate title. For these participating designers the goal is charity the hope is recognition and a bit of praise. Every time we attend I'm in awe of the effort and commitment of each and every designer. First, the invitation to participate is not a ticket you can purchase. Invitations are only given out through a strict vetting process. You really have to earn your right to build a dream room in a Kips Bay Show House. Then there's the financial commitment required by each participating designer. Each year the chosen venue has its pluses and minuses. Some are in fairly good condition with a bit of original detail for the designers to build around. Others are completely empty boxes where the designer is starting from scratch or even less than scratch. There's a clause in all the contracts that states the designers need to leave their space in the exact same condition it was in before they started their installation unless the buildings owner asks that the installation remain. Take a look at all the custom work that goes into these rooms and then remember that every piece of molding, every wall covering and even every floor board has to be torn out at the end of the show. There's usually a lottery system for assigning the rooms with some senior and celebrity designers given first choice and then newer participants assigned by numbers pulled out of a hat. This lottery takes place about a month, maybe six weeks, before the opening reception of the finished rooms. That's at best forty-two days after the lottery and the designers first peek at their space to come up with a concept, implement a design on paper and then executing the design by begging for as many industry favors as they've accumulated over their careers. For the newer players that can mean going to the bank and borrowing a wheel-barrow of moolah or cashing in their first born in exchange for this priceless opportunity. All you have to do is look at the final rooms with a calculator in hand and begin assessing the accumulated valur and you'll see what I mean. You may not love every room you see but if you take into mind what went in to each room and the sacrifices each designer had to make it makes appreciating the effort all the easier. You can then top that off with the thousands of kids who through Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club add their gratitude and thanks for what the Show House's revenue provides for them.
This year's Show House is located in the Arthur Sachs Mansion at 58 East 66th Street originally built in 1877 as a rather plan structure. It's a twenty-foot wide five-story residence. It wasn't until after Central Park was completed that the Upper Eastside became a popular neighborhood for the wealthy. In 1908 financier Arthur Sachs of Goldman, Sachs & Co. purchased the building and had it redesigned by architects Buchman & Fox in its current Beaux-Arts style.
This year's designers have transformed the interior into a veritable history lesson in interior design genres starting with the first floor kitchen designed by the perennial participant and board trustee, Christopher Peacock. In the kitchen Peacock's transitional aesthetic is punctuated by a live-edge prep and eating island.
The room extends almost half the length of the entire floor and ends leading out into a tropical backyard garden.
In the garden palms in terra cotta pots along with purple petunias and a suspended chaise decked out in purple accessories complement the matching elements from nature that make the garden into a very modern spot for relaxation.
Perhaps the grandest and most dramatic space is the second floor dining room designed by Los Angeles designer, Mark D. Sikes. Done in red the room's padded fabric walls are segmented by red lacquered frames and moldings surrounding textile paisleys and contrasting large and small check fabrics.
The effect of all this pattern and fabric is like looking inside a Fabrege egg.
A huge crystal chandelier hovers over the dining room table its baubles and jewels reflecting sparks of light throughout the room. It is the quintessence of traditional Park Avenue chic.
There's a small powder room to the front of the dining room designed by Gail Green that has a wall and floor tile covered in Keith Haring interlocking little men crawling around this very sexy, minimalistic bathroom. The accents of red add a touch of Japanese asymmetricality to the design.
Alexandra Branca divides her time between her native Rome, New York, and Chicago. Her designs are impeccable traditional spaces but always with a twist.
Her direction at the Kips Bay Show House was to tint her design with touches drawn from the Chinese handbook of accessorizing.
One of the most serene spaces was a bedroom created by another Los Angeles designer, David Phoenix. A draped queen size bed set against a two-tone plaid fabric wall dominated the room.
Opposite the bed was a fireplace flanked by bookcases with black painted interiors.
There was a manly feel to the room. It was a room not meant for fireworks but for calm contemplation.
This year's design committee was headed by the New York designer, Charles Pavarini III. His room had a very eighties feel with its gold encrusted floor to ceiling fireplace and separate bar with swirls of blues, and reds, and purples.
Charles used a Midas wand on the suite taking us back to time Wall Street was king. I kept looking for Truman Capote to waltz in a flaming cigarette in hand.
Even the South was represented at the show house this year with Cathy Kincaid, a Dallas based designer, who charmed the crowds with her country estate inspired bedroom. A four poster ivory and ebony bed with Hepplewhite accents scattered about the room and faux animal heads on the wall gave the feel of being transported to horse country or the grounds of an English manor where you'd just be rising to the sound of the horn announcing the beginning of the hunt.
It was on the top floor that designer Alan Tanksley decided to install his garret getaway. He had painted a New York rooftop scene on the slanted wall with the arched cutouts framing the view looking out over 66th Street.
Architectural artifacts and two enormous ceramic antlered animal heads decorated his bungalow in the sky.
There were treasures left out of this tour only to entice you to make the journey to see what I haven't shown and to drop your price of entry into the kitty that supports a very worthy cause.

Petit Chateau, William K. Vanderbilt Mansion, 1897
B.J. Falk, photographer
Available through the Library of Congress