Philadelphia’s Murals

July 24, 2016


The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the oldest art museums in the country, and one of its very best.  But there is another kind of art in Philly, a city sandwiched between the financial capital of the world and the nation’s capital, a city that admits to feeling a certain inferiority.  But perhaps being out of the spotlight, living under the radar, is a gift.  People get on with the art of living, which involves caring, sharing, and doing for someone or something outside of yourself.

The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, which grew out of the city’s effort to control graffiti in the 1980s, is extraordinarily successful on all levels.  It has made of Philadelphia a true art city, adding to its iconic Museum of Art the public art that now decorates building facades across town.  It is the catalyst that brings different ages and races and cultures together in the creation of a vision.  The program has given meaning to individuals and a voice to communities.   And the murals, instructive, decorative and poignant, have become the biography of a city.

They are worthy of a guided visit.

Meditations #76

July 21, 2016


In the twilight of the past,

history cannot be distinguished from myth.

The mists have opened and closed over this rock that rises

like an emerald from the dark sea.


Ulysses, Augustus, Tiberius.

Hardy islanders, and strangers with peculiar habits.

Photo:  Jeremy Lindblad

Location:  Capri, Italy




July 15, 2016


It amazes me that, loving sushi as I do, I continually find delicious Japanese restaurants that I have never heard of!  Last night I had an indulgent dinner with my son and daughter-in-law, served at Neta’s sushi bar by Jay, a gentle Tibetan sushi chef with his own private stash of special fish.

The menu is large and unusual – uni porridge is just one such dish – but we, having just spent two weeks in Italy gorging on pasta, cured meats and cheese, were longing for nigiri.  Here were some of the outstanding bites: Spot prawn, Mediterranean sea bream, sweet shrimp, delicious yellowtail and, of course, uni,  from the West Coast, Chile or Japan.  Not only were the pieces prepared in those desirous small bites, but some were topped with finely grated lime rind, shiso leaf or crispy nori.  Delicious.

To be noted, the executive chef of Neta is Korean,
Chef Sungchul Shim. Chef Shim brings a unique combination of Western and Eastern culinary craft and philosophy to Neta, honed from years of formal study and practical training in fine dining in Asia and the United States.

He began his career as a chef in the U.S. with an externship at the three Michelin star Le Bernardin and then continued to expand his knowledge working in many of New York’s finest kitchens, including Aureole, and Bouley among others.

In less than three years, Chef Shim’s impressive skills and creativity secured him a position in the kitchen of the three Michelin star Per Se.


July 12, 2016


It is an amazing island because of its deep history stretching back millenia, because of its more recent history as a glamorous watering spot, because, in the face of a daily onslaught of day trippers, it maintains a dignity and a humor that is almost dismissive.

I also believe there is something in the rock.  There is a magic to the island’s profile, in its curves and dips and folds, in its extraordinary fertility that breeds lofty pines, walls of flowering vines, pots of geranium and impatiens and feeds out-sized populations of chameleons, songbirds, gulls and, even, three foot tree snakes.

Some favorites:

…to see: La Certosa, Villa San Michele, the floor of the Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo

to wander…Capri’s backstreets in the early morning, out to the belvedere above via Tuoro, up to Villa Jovis

to shop…Eco Capri for Laetitia Cerio’s wonderful prints, Cabana for Helen White’s fine eye,  Laboratorio for something a little different, Antonio Viva for sandals, Capri Home for household linens

to eat…Ristorante Mamma, Aurora, Da Tonino, Panorama, La Faraglioni, Buca di Bacco, il Riccio

to know… if you want to swim in the ocean you have two options – you can either go to one of the many beach clubs (La Fontelina is the most famous) where you must purchase a chair or sunbed before you can swim OR hire a self-drive or captained boat, and head out with baguette, cheese and fruit in search of a private cove and flat rock to sun and snorkel.

Sojourn in Italy

July 7, 2016

Villa Nozzole, Greve in Chianti
Villa Nozzole, Greve in Chianti

I have grown up with Italy’s Chianti and Capri in my blood. I have returned this summer with my family, my little tribe of two sons, a daughter-in-law and fiancee.  When you rent houses, which is what we have done, they tend to be Saturday to Saturday and so we have had the luxury of two weeks soaking up the charms of this part of Italy, a region that is astoundingly timeless and unchanging.  Indeed there ARE changes but Italy has been such a tourist mecca for millennia that those changes don’t shock so much as fold into the character of the place.

Tuscany’s Chianti is what I  know best and our house on the Folonari estate of Nozzole was right on the Gallo Nero route.  Surrounded by vineyards and blessed with carpets of wildflowers that prospered in the weeks of rain that preceded our arrival, the landscapes quiet the soul.  The town of Greve, with its charming oddly-shaped piazza banked with terraced restaurants and starring the Macelleria Folorni, is a great town to anchor your stay. (more…)

Meditations #75

June 22, 2016


There is a magic to this valley, they say, with its flowered meadows

and aspen groves cut by the Roaring Fork.

And those sublime snowcapped peaks that dominate it all.

There is a kinship here, nurtured in the mountain’s fold,

as well as a fierce commitment to protect what is so dearly loved.

Photo:  Forest Woodward

Location:  Aspen, CO


Sweaty Palms

June 18, 2016


A recent trip to Miami was made all the more fun because of the new openings — The Faena in South Beach, Francis Mallmann’s restaurant, Los Fuegos, in that hotel, and Quinta La Huella on the 3rd floor of the East Hotel on Brickell.  For me, who schlepps down to Uruguay to enjoy the magic of Pueblo Garzon, the original La Huella in Jose Ignacio and the charms of Francis’ hotel and restaurant Garzon a street away from my house, finding my landmarks so close to home made me simultaneously happy and sad.  The sad is just ego, I know.  We need to share the joys of our discoveries, no matter how much that niggly voice wants to claim them for yourself!

My friend, who calls south Florida his home, also calls it “sweaty palms” at this time of year.  But the humidity delights me, and it is the roaring a/c that confuses my body and makes me bolt from indoors to out and dress and undress in rapid succession.

We stayed at the One, the eco hotel that charms with its huge rooms, its wonderful natural textures and sane in-room amenities like filtered water taps instead of plastic bottles.


But my god how large their footprint must be in the energy world..I needed to carry around eyeglass cloths to wipe the condensation away every time I sought a warm up on the terrace! I looked at the Edition hotel as well which is also very cool but, if hip, trendy and super young is not your bag, The Betsey is charming.


The Betsey’s plantation style is rather Ralph Lauren meets South Beach but I found it had soul.  They are in the middle of an important expansion which will give them a rooftop pool and more rooms.

And then, of course, there is the new Faena.  OTT, yes..but it is fun and original and has a sense of humor which is not in great supply anywhere I find.


Red is such a happy color and I found the details – the lovely blankets on the beds (made in Mexico) and the rioutous rugs, shapely furniture –  to be quite pleasing.  And the light..look at the photo above and tell me that is not a pleasing room (unless you hate red!)

It is the food that suprises in South Beach..everyone is there but the arrival of Francis Mallmann, the maestro of delicious food cooked over fire, and of his proteges – Martin and Guzman who have opened Quinta la Huella in East  Hotel on Brickell – is the real news.

Francis was voted the best chef in the world back in the 1990’s, but his star has become brilliant since his appearance in the Netflix film, Chef’s Table, and his feature in the inaugural catalogue of the shop, Best Made . Francis cooks divinely, and his method of cooking with fire has now come to Miami with his restaurant, Los Fuegos (soon to expand to Europe).


And then there is Quinta la Huella.  Martin and Guzman worked with Francis years ago and then opened La  Huella – a feet in the sand kind of place -in Jose Ignacio which is 20 minutes from my house in Pueblo Garzon.


 It is my favorite restaurant in the world, and now we have a recreation of it on the 3rd floor of East hotel on Brickell. Backed by Swire (who own East and Upper House in Hong Kong), it is a remarkable rendition of the original updated or adapted for Miami.  The food is sublime, the space outrageously large and wonderful.


So..sweaty palms?  I’ll take it.  If Garzon weren’t so remarkable, I might even have traded it in…but I will be schlepping my 23 hours down to the pueblo as soon as I can!

15 East Restaurant

June 5, 2016


There are so many delicious Japanese restaurants in New York..we are indeed fortunate.  Yesterday, however, I discovered one more on East 15th Street, aptly named 15 East Restaurant.  It was one of those serendipitous evenings.  Jeremy, Katie and I found ourselves on 14th Street West with a looming sky and hungry tummies.  And Jeremy, ever the foodie, steered us, sans reservation, to this Michelin starred sushi eatery.  The restaurant, a two-roomed affair with the sushi bar in one and nicely spaced tables in the second, looked not only alive but full.  And yet, there was the perfect three top, the only empty table in the restaurant, and we were in luck.

Chef Noriyuki Takahashi
Chef Noriyuki Takahashi

Oh my..what a delicious dinner we had!  We started with an array of sushi beautifully plated on a long, white ceramic dish with a clump of fresh ginger and their own wasabi that comes from the Izu Peninsula.  As well, I had my all time favorites — uni, brought from California and Japan, and botanebi, the tiny spotted sweet shrimp.  And then we shared a delicious Arctic Char with poached root vegetables fresh from Union Square Greenmarket, a perfect coda to the dinner.

Relaxed, pretty, easy and, quite simply, delicious

Meditations #74

May 25, 2016

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Tenderness lives where the touch is lightest and the heart lingers.

Souls speaking to each other in the quiet.

It is a sharing, not a possessing, between two beings.

Photographer:  Asuncion Pineyrua

Ballylinch Stud , Ireland


May 22, 2016


“There is a magic to the valley”, they say. I know it. Its seduction lies in the staggering natural beauty of its mountains, rivers, lakes and forests, and in the colorful history so well preserved in the neat and intimate town, the surrounding mines, the museums. There is also the lovely surrounding ranchland, the territory in to which this town of 6000 retreated during the first half of the 20th century when the silver mines went bust, which produces cheese and meats, fruits and vegetables – all, it must be added, organic, artisanal, award-winning. And, finally, there is the contemporary thriving Aspen, the reinvented Aspen so deftly defined and designed by fiercely committed families like the Paepckes. It was these thinkers and doers who founded and funded its arts and environmental studies institutions – the Aspen Festival and ACES. This is a place ‘not out of time’ but, in many ways, ‘ahead of its time’ and that, also, is why it is so appealing. Aspen offers fun, health, intellectual stimulation, artistic outlet – in sum, a way of life that favors its citizens and is hard to come by elsewhere.

DO visit in spring, summer and fall as well as in ski season

DO outfit yourself with the correct clothing – this is the epitome of four seasons in one day

DO allow yourself to get acclimatized to the altitude (7200 feet at Ajax mountain’s base)

DO prepare to explore the secret athlete in you

DO join the full moon cemetery visit with Aspen Historical Society

DO take a dusk badger walk at Hallam Lake

DO take your dog..Aspen is not only dog friendly but dog central. Your pooch will have the time of his life



 Little Nell: A Relais & Chateau property, is the boutique hotel ski in/ski out option and it is terrific. The Paepcke Suite (same family) offers a front row seat to the skiers in winter and a view onto Ajax Mountain’s impossibly green flank in summer. The residences are quieter and more private.

The St. Regis: Just down the road, is a larger hotel with a good spa and varied room combos.

Hotel Jerome: Located in the center of town on Main Street, is a combination of luxury and historic heritage.

Aspen Meadows Resort: The 98 suites look out on to the 40 acres of meadows that are framed by the Roaring Fork River and Castle Creek. This is the home of the Aspen Institute and Festival and, while just steps from town, you feel like you are in the countryside.

 The Limelight: Owned by the Little Nell, LL has good-sized room at more reasonable prices, an relaxed atmosphere, pool, and delicious food.


The Mountains: There are mountains for every activity – from hiking, biking and rock climbing to skiing and paragliding – but Ajax is the mountain that literally falls in to Aspen’s lap. Snowmass mountain, handy for children’s activities, is within 15 minutes, while the other peaks – called collectively the 14ers – call on a range of skills and expertise.

The Rivers: The Roaring Fork is Aspen’s river but, along with others like the Shoshone and the Colorado, all or parts offer themselves for different sports at different times of year. All classes of rafting are available, from a lazy cruise to full on rapids. Kayaking in inflatable duckies is a great afternoon activity. Fly fishing for veterans or newbies is also hugely popular.

Ballooning: Pam does one departure a day at 5:15AM, but it is spectacular.

Paragliding: Alex has two launches in the morning that can be filmed if you wish. Depending on the thermals, the flight can range from 15 minutes to 45.

Horses: Take a long day’s ride up to Maroon Lake, hike around it and then bike back down.

Pure Nature: Visit Hallam Lake, located in town and the seat of ACES, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. Gorgeous 40 acres of pristine creeks, meadows and cottonwoods is preserved as a teaching environment for Aspen’s local schoolchildren as well as for visitors. Offering classes, walks, stories and respite.

ACES also operates Rockbottom Ranch which it also uses as a teaching tool about sustainable agriculture and animal husbandry and wetlands preservation.


Pure Culture: Visit the Stallard Museum for an understanding of Aspen’s tumultuous history. Pop over the Aspen Historical Society’s other museum, the Holden Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum, to understand what the silver boom and bust meant to the town. Tour Smuggler’s mine which, over the course of about 20 years, produced, along with other local silver mines, 1/6 of the US’s silver back in the day. AHS offers other wonderful programs from a full moon storytelling tour in the local cemetery to bike rides around town that stop at significant sites.

Mind Body & Soul: The Aspen Institute is a remarkable nonprofit whose mission is to promote wellbeing in mind, body and soul. It produces the Aspen Ideas Festival and the Aspen Music Festival and School. The Music Festival takes place during the month of August, providing classical music performances both by renowned musicians and by its 600 students from around the world. The Ideas Festival draws together leading thinkers to discuss and share ideas.

And… Plenty of Retail Therapy

 Best Day Trip: If you have kids with you, maybe drive to Paonia, CO to Avalanche Dairy Farm to get a bit of loving from some other kids – goat kids. Here, Wendy Mitchell of Meat & Cheese (see below) raises nanny goats to produce her award-winning cheese. 2-hour drive each way. If you have an overnight, drive four hours each way (or charter a Pilatus) and fly to Moab, UT to visit three gorgeous national parks – Canyonlands, Zion or Arches – and be amazed by the sandstone sculptured outcroppings and the dinosaur and Anasazi remains: tracks, bones and rock art. If you overnight, stay at Sorrel River Ranch Resort.


Cache Cache French and old school

Element 47 is Little Nell’s restaurant. It has the deepest cellar in Aspen and hosts a sommelier’s event each year

Ajax Tavern is Little Nell’s informal venue at the base of the mountain offering great burgers and truffle fries 11-9.

Chefs Club by Food & Wine, located at the St. Regis, brings a roster of Best New Chefs for successive star turns

White House Tavern, located in town, has outdoor seating that is coveted at all times of day. Great guac and salads.

Meat & Cheese across the street from White House Tavern is owned by Wendy Mitchell, proprietor of Avalanche Farm in Paonia which raises goats and her creamerie in Basalt that makes delicious cheeses and the sausage. Great vibe and delicious.

Mezzaluna of New York fame, good for pizza

Casa Tua of Miami fame is a club as well as a restaurant

Matsuhisu, Nobu Matsuhisu’s Aspen outpost

Hooch, Wendy Mitchell’s bar and newest venture