Friday, July 20, 2012


Having a fondness for French bistros, Mr. Husband and I went to Balthazar last week for my birthday. The place has an old New York Deco-ish feel to it, with its nickel-plated light fixtures, huge mirrors, marble and glass everywhere. Of course, all this reflective surface can make the place very loud, which it was on the night we were there. Still, we had a great time feasting on little neck clams, a creamy tart with salad, trout, duck confit and cherry clafoutis for dessert. The dessert wine, a not-too-sweet Pieure d'Arche Sauternes, was especially lovely. Quite simple but no less tasty was the tower of French fries that sat in the middle of the table. They were a perfect compliment to the confit and my glass of red, the name of which escapes me now. The pleasure of the evening, however, will be remembered. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

All the world's a stage

I went out yesterday morning to find the City deserted of street traffic and cars. There were parking spaces galore. It seems that everyone had left town. What to do? Walk across the Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

I really can't get enough of the place. And I especially love the Greek and Roman galleries, which are vastly improved since being renovated magnificently. 

Mr. Husband and I took in a few exhibits, had lunch, and then saw a few more. I dipped into Schiaparelli and and Prada: Impossible Conversations right before we left, not spending nearly enough time to really take it in, and plan to return just to see it in a leisurely manner. 

I find clothes fascinating, if only having been onstage for more than two decades. You learn to appreciate the theatricality of clothes being in a theatre, seeing line, form and fit for the illusion and story they create. Clothes, I believe, are about creating a narrative, one that is at once personal and iconic, that is, if one has a sense of style. 

And style? I think it has everything to do with how one moves through space, both physically and mentally. 

Great style, I believe, has a degree of verticality to it. It looks up, not down, and is poised rather than posed. 

Having had to stand stock still for long periods of time onstage, one learns the difference. The person who simply stands there without poise isn't seen, or perhaps worse yet, stands out in the worst possible way.

If half of life is showing up, perhaps the other half is being fully present, that is fully vertical, after having arrived.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

French bread basket

My latest acquisition from the Antiques Garage here in Manhattan is a bread basket. The dealer thought it to be French silver-plate from a well-known company, but, unfortunately, the name escaped him and the basket lacks markings. Is it old? That is hard to say. I am hoping - you the reader - might know more.

In the meanwhile, I will using the basket when I serve a hearty demi-baguette with a wonderful Jacques Pepin recipe from Fast Food My Way.

Egg and Tomato gratin

6 large eggs
2 tablespoons good olive oil 
2 medium onions (about 12 ounces), sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
4 teaspoons chopped garlic
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (14 ounce) can peeled tomatoes
2/3 cup grated Swiss (Gruyére or Emmenthaler) or mozzarella cheese (2 1/2 ounces)

Poke the rounded end of each egg with a pushpin to help prevent it from cracking, and lower the eggs into a saucepan of boiling water to cover. Bring the water back to a boil, then boil the eggs very gently for 10 minutes. Drain and cool in ice water for at least 15 minutes, or until the centers of the eggs are completely cool. Peel the eggs and cut each of them into six wedges. 

Arrange the wedges in a 6-cup capacity gratin dish or baking dish. 

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onions and sauté´for about 2 minutes, then add the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Crush the tomatoes into pieces and add them along with their juice to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and boil gently, covered, for 4 minutes. 

Pour the onion and tomato mixture over the eggs in the gratin dish an sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake the gratin for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile heat the broiler. When the gratin is cooked, broil 3 to 4 inches from the heat source for 2 to 3 minutes to brown the top. Serve. 

A simple salad of lettuce greens with dijon vinaigrette and a dry white wine completes this simple summer fare. Pass the bread and butter! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In Central Park at 54

Today is my 54th birthday and it's a pretty good one, considering that I went to the ER at two am last week with a bowel obstruction and was in the hospital for three days. Oh what fun! What brought that on? Good question. It seems it was one of those perfect storms: I have scar tissue from an operation (things can catch!), but more importantly, I had bronchitis some weeks before and two rounds of antibiotics which killed everything in my gut. Yes, I was eating yogurt before, during and after, but it seems that the kind I as buying didn't have enough probiotics. So there I was, thinking I was doing the right thing as well as helping things along with extra fiber. Trouble is, it all stopped working after lunch one day. 

I really didn't feel hungry, but had a small salad and a bowl of soup, and starting feeling really strange afterwards which sent me to my doctor in the late afternoon. At first I thought it might appendicitis, but I didn't have enough symptoms for that. My doctor asked me to call him if things got worse. Ok, I said. On the way home, I up-chucked lunch on a Central Park West curb which made me think I had food poisoning. Ok, thought. This is going to pass. Wrong!

Cut to ten PM and I was in pain, sitting in the bathroom with my head in the toilet, still thinking everything was going to be ok. (Earth to Daniel! When you throw up more than twenty times something is wrong!)

Mr. Husband put me in a cab at two am and off we went to the hospital only ten blocks away. They asked twenty questions and shot me up with morphine.

Then they gave me a liter of clear liquid to drink. Designed to light up one's innards for a CatScan, they shot me with more morphine while I waited for the elixir to work. Two hours later, they wheeled me into the room with the big metal doughnut and asked me to hold my breath while they took pictures. Now past dawn, I waited until late morning to be admitted. The morphine shot morphed into an IV drip.  

Once upstairs, a nurse held the back of my head and shoved a big tube up my nose and down my throat. You have to swallow this, she said, which I did, tears rolling down my cheeks. More tubes everywhere, measuring everything going in and out. The deal? Get everything out, take off the pressure, and hope that the obstruction clears itself. 

No food or water, the smell of lunch made me gag. I shared the room with another fellow, but he disappeared. Off to ICU, my nurse said. 

Blood samples, temperature and blood pressure every four hours. A phalanx of doctors arrived morning, noon and night. Have your passed any gas yet? Nope, I answered. But you'll be a first to know.

The first night, I didn't sleep a wink, and by the second, I'm was begging the tall handsome doctor who visits me in the middle of the night if he could give me something. He sent up a tiny Ambien pill which I swallowed without any water. In five minutes I was in pain, sitting on the edge of the bed, groaning like the witches in The Scottish Play. Nurse!

The doctor returned and sheepishly mentioned that I probably shouldn't have had that pill. Really? I looked at him and smiled. An IV drip magically arrived and took me into Somus' arms until morning. 

I awoke to gas which I proudly announced to everyone and anyone. The tubes came out. Now I could move around after lying still for two days. Wonderful!

Later than evening, Mr. Husband and I feasted on Fourth of July fireworks from the hospital's tenth floor, the brilliant display shooting out over the Hudson river. Happy to be alive, I waited until the next morning to see if I could tolerate solid matter.

Tea, jello and apple juice arrived for breakfast and stayed down without the slightest discomfort. Lunch was pasty, tasteless chicken, rice and vegetables and also stayed put. Did I want to stay for dinner, the doctors asked? Are you kidding? I replied. I think I can eat better at home! Smiles all around, the head doctor released me a few hours later.

I'm a lucky man. last thing: culture is good for you. 

Photos taken July 11th, 2012 in Central Park at the Bethesda Terrace and Strawberry Fields. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

American Gothic Candlestick

I've had this American Gothic candlestick for the longest time, finding it at the flea market all beaten up, half smashed in a box of rubbish. It needed some work on the base so that it would sit level as well as a reshaping of the stem so it would stand vertically. Not perfect by any means, it's been sitting here and there around the apartment, coming out for holiday dinners, never quite fully dressed without its crystals.

Yesterday, I made the subway trip down to Chelsea and the Antique's Garage in 100 degree weather and was rewarded with finding a box of old chandelier parts. Spying the crystals you see here, I thought: they might be a little short, or not short enough (it's all about scale), but what the hell, I'm going for it. So I did. Longer, prism-shaped crystals would be more 'period', but the result makes me smile: I like how the circles talk to one another.