June 30, 2015
Located in the Puck Building on Mulberry just off Houston, Chefs Club is a masterful, innovative dining experience. The daily menu is created by four chefs drawn from Food & Wine Magazine’s choice of the year’s best, but prepared by two permanent chefs; that is, until the four celebrated chefs make limited engagement star appearances (announced on the website) in the Studio Kitchen, located within the restaurant, and offering an exclusive venue for just a handful of guests.
Our meal – a selection of appetizers and entrees that we shared – was delicious. We sat happily at the bar, only one of a number of different table options that include round, family style and high top, all overlooked by a rock mountain of Himalayan salt bound in beautiful Japanese knotted rope. Kitchens are open, the ceiling soars, the noise factor is comfortable. This is a supremely satisfying evening, a rare thing, I find, in the restaurant scene today.
June 27, 2015
soft yet tough, Lamu’s dhow sails are patched together into a wonderful weekender Tanga bag decorated with a star or heart and sporting a tag jangling from rope handles. Sourced by Artisan Speak’s owner, Martina Reznick, during an African walkabout, profits support the Lamu craftsmen, something she is fiercely committed to.
June 26, 2015
Atul Gawande, Being Mortal‘s author, is one of those rare and remarkable beings: Practicing surgeon, writer for the New Yorker, author of seminal books and, because of these accomplishments, a thought leader.
I was advised to read the book by my mother’s doctor. This young doctor met my 92-year old mother recently. Before we parted, she mentioned the title and suggested that it might give me a new perspective on the journey we are engaged in, a journey that she, as well, is on along with almost everyone I know.
It is a deeply moving book but it is also a transformative one. It highlights the limitations and failures of contemporary medicine in the care of the aged and the dying and it provides a wonderfully clear, cogent, deeply human alternative paradigm: that what counts is to provide a good life to the end rather than a good death. The shift in thinking is profound and profoundly effects our behavior.
June 24, 2015
I live on a young island, with one foot on the Eurasion, another on the North Atlantic plate. Slowly, steadily, they drift apart, and the rift widens.
Our livelihoods are at the mercy of capricious weather; our fortunes rise and fall on the smell of sulfur and fish; our landscapes are of ice and snow, vented steam, and lava sculpted in tubes, scattered in boulders, ground fine as sand, wrapped in fragile mosses, three decades old and a spongey perfection.
The earth smokes, volcanoes belch, glaciers melt in great torrents, and seed, sewn neatly on narrow ribbons of fertile soil, are blown into Nazca patterns. This restless land, at once muscular and fragile, breeds liminal creatures, and we have those too: trolls, witches and ghosts ride our trails and hide in our caves.
|Inside Thrihnukagigur Volcano’s magma chamber, Iceland|
May 28, 2015
New York-Rejkyavik is a mere 4h37m, a remarkably short time in which to travel to a virtual moon.
We all know that NASA sent its astronauts to practice their moon landing walks in Iceland’s northern lava fields, but that does not prepare you for the stunning beauty of the country, the diversity of its landscapes, the sounds of roaring mud pots and erupting geysers, the omnipresent smell of money – and by that I mean the smell of sulfur and fish. Iceland, the world’s oldest democracy, is a country that, in spite of a roiling underworld and a lashing sea, has thrived on fishing, farming and the harnessing of its geothermal power. (more…)
May 20, 2015
In the narrow places of life, it is important to be still. In those precarious moments, we need a steady walk and an absence of noise. We need to seek a wider perspective and to stare our options squarely in the eye.
There are places on earth that lend themselves to this.
Photo: Rebecca MacGregor
Kumaon, Indian Himalayas
May 10, 2015
The most wonderful show, China Through the Looking Glass, has opened at the Met Museum and will be up until August 16. It is a stunning, meandering journey through a (mostly) Western fantasy of China. The marvelous mannequins – with heads and headdresses designed by milliner Stephen Jones – inhabit three floors, the second of which encompasses the Museum’s many rooms of Chinese art including the famous Astor Court. The sprawling show is multi-vocal, encompassing music and film, art objects, scrolls, and Buddhist art, which, together, produce a fascinating, sometimes familiar, always romantic view of a culture on the other side of the world. The haute couture fashions are set in their appropriate rooms – the blue and white above, for example, is surrounded by blue and white porcelain, and dresses with Chinese characters appear in the hall of scrolls. Gao Pei’s magnificent saffron gown holds center place in my favorite room of Buddhist figures.
One of the loveliest things about this show is the wide cultural net that is cast. In one fell swoop you are seeing wonderful clothes, listening to evocative music, enjoying scenes from Wong Kar Wai’s films, and revisiting the art treasures of the museum’s collection. You emerge from the show, heady with enchanted imagery and great beauty.
May 7, 2015
Many years ago, when the wonderful animal behaviorist and naturalist, George Schaller, was studying snow leopard, he spoke to me of the Tibetan Plateau where he lived, alone, for months on end. He described its remote, stark beauty, sharing pictures both in word and and photograph, that enlivened my imagination.
Olivier Follmi, the photographer, has captured this same windswept landscape that seems to float on the doorstep of heaven, a sweep of treeless plain across which travel ruddy-skinned, black-maned men, women and children on rugged horses and shaggy yaks.
And then, almost a year ago, I saw this image.
And this one.
And there, in one image, two passions of mine joined hands: the landscape of my imagination and a textile, enticing in feel, color and drape.
The textiles come from a social enterprise of a unique kind called Norlha Textiles. The brainchild of a remarkable woman, Kim Yeshi, it seeks to transform raw yak wool into items of great beauty and quality, using local raw materials, skills and ingenuity. The product is deeply satisfying in the hand and exquisite to the eye. And, when carefully examined, each border and lining, every tassle and hem — all fashioned and finished by hand – is perfectly balanced, hued, and textured.
In their words:
“Norlha is a new concept that links sustainability with luxury…Norlha believes in innovation: It combines traditional techniques with more modern technology to create luxurious textiles in an endless variety of patterns and weights, suitable for all seasons.”
Norlha textiles can be purchased via their website or from Atelier Courbet, located in New York City.
All photographs courtesy of Norlha Textiles
April 22, 2015
It is a new 50-room gem located in Costa Rica’s southern highlands. Built by a prominent family whose great wealth came, in part, from farming (they sold vast holdings to Del Monte Foods), it offers unparalleled accommodations, South America’s finest spa, a wonderful stable of fine horses and three restaurants with delicious food. It also yearns for visitors to wind their memory clock back to simpler times and to grasp the opportunity of enjoying – again – simple pleasures: walking barefoot in soft grass; roasting marshmallows at the fire pi;, enjoying long, peaceful walks in gorgeous surroundings. Coupled with these back to nature pleasures are some decidedly more high tech ones: they have 8 ultralights for guests and an airstrip that accommodates all manner of fixed wing planes to explore the countryside.