Altagracia: Costa Rica’s New Gem

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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.

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http://www.altagracia.cr/

The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky

IMG_2813A stunningly beautiful, moving and, ultimately, sobering exhibition of Plains Indian masterworks is a must see at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Co-produced with the Musee du quai Branley and in partnership with The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, the material has a 2000-year chronological scope and showcases a diversity of forms and media from painting, sculpture, beading and video using leather, metals, porcupine quill, glass beads, textiles and paint.  The aesthetics and handiwork are breathtaking; the fact that the lifestyle which produced such exquisite objects of daily use and desire was virtually eradicated in a 60-year span is a shocking reminder of a genocide.

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The show is narrated with texts written by five distinct voices whose layering creates an instructive, emotional roadmap to a region and its indigenous cultures.  The materials, so wonderfully chosen,  sing the songs of the centuries, the decades and even the specific years in which they were produced.

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Like this Lakota calendar above, which served as a memory aid for an oral historian of the Brule Lakota of South Dakota in 1902, the many objects in this remarkable show are, sadly, memory aids for us about cultures and a way of life that we destroyed in a few years.  If you are unable to see the show, the text and photographs of the exhibition catalogue will relay the story.

http://store.metmuseum.org/exhibition-catalogues/the-plains-indians-artists-of-earth-and-sky/invt/80024911#.VSqfiBPF9Ts

The Nordic Touch

Even though winter is longer than for us in the US Northeast, it seems to wear less on the spirit here

Even though winter is longer than for us in the US Northeast, it seems to wear less on the spirit here

These are taxi driver numbers (and all of our taxi drivers spoke English fluently) — about 5.5 million population in Denmark and between 7 and 800,000 in Copenhagen — and they elicit from me a roll of the eye and an “of course” muttered under my breath as I notice the following:  streets you could spread a picnic on; flowers banking outdoor stands; young and old pedaling against the wind; mothers biking their young in barrow-like contraptions with smiles on their faces; copper politely asking a pair of hungover men to quit their scuffling (actually their tussle looked quite serious); hundreds of bikes left street side, unlocked; museums and shops with attended playrooms; crazy, out there, food, some of it delicious, some a bit strange and all pushing the edge of the sustainable envelope.

sop for moving around with children

sop for moving around with children

Chef Matt Orlando hails from San Diego, worked at Noma, Fat Duck and Per Se, and now presides over AMASS

Chef Matt Orlando hails from San Diego, worked at Noma, Fat Duck and Per Se, and now presides over AMASS

 AMASS is located in a large warehouse outside of town on the water’s edge.  It is a two-story, industrial, wonderfully spacious environment with tables widely spaced, an outside terrace with bonfire and a small lounge area.  All of the tables have a view of the open kitchen which is smoke free (electric stoves), white and stainless steel, pristine.  There are three tasting menus that focus on seasonal produce, locally produced herbs, and fish.  As this was our first dip into the culinary waters of Copenhagen, I associate Amass with the whole sprouted, recycled and repurposed conversation about food – but we heard this again at Relae the following night, so I assume that this is an important topic for chefs.  RELAE, Chef Christian Puglisi’s successful restaurant (both he and Orlando worked for Redzepi at NOMA), also focusses on organic and mostly vegetarian produce.  Again, with a choice of tasting menus, many of the course descriptions included information on the repurposing of the produce.  I preferred my meal at Amass to Relae for I found the latter heavy on butter and cream, but both had some really interesting dishes (Relae’s frozen yoghurt desert with egg yolk was a real conversation piece).  In the end, like the food or not, the vibe and energy in the restaurants, the passion with which they produce and present their fare, the stripped down surroundings (hang your own coat; chef also serves the food) is new and fun – at least for me.

It’s a very appealing place, Copenhagen.  I envy the design, the quality of life (even if taxes range between 40-60%), the high degree of emotional IQ, the attention to the children, to health, to the environment.  A couple of years ago a magazine appeared in Brooklyn, NY, called KINFOLK (see blog posting on it) which enchanted me – mostly for its visuals but also for the message which celebrated slow living, sharing of life’s pleasures, simplicity, quality, soul.  In my hotel room at Hotel d’Angleterre I came across a twin of Kinfolk called OAK

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Kinfolk’s twin?

When I googled the magazine – after devouring the heavy paper and lovely images – I saw it photographed with Kinfolk but I still don’t know if they are from the same folks.  I imagine so as they are too similar in design.  But seeing this and imagining that they are cut from the same cloth makes me a little happier going back to NY tomorrow… maybe we are not so behind the times as I have felt this weekend.

And now, having just returned from my final dinner at Puglisi’s Baest, a fun, relaxed (they are all relaxed..no need to dress at all) restaurant of charcuterie (most made on site) and pizzas, I really am amazed at the breadth and depth of culinary and design acumen..remember, as my taxi driver said, we are a city of 700,000 people here.  Amazing. And if I were 20, I might just come and live here for a stint.

Sunday in Copenhagen

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Sunday started out rainy and gray and then, as we made our way to Torvehallerne, the two covered markets that sell everything from flowers and cheese to artisanal breads and smorrebrode, the sun shone through.  This is a city that truly comes alive in the sun, for the orange and yellow painted building facades pop in the light, as if Copenhagen suddenly hits its mark and moves into the spotlight.  The market is fun – one of the best, in fact – for the loveliness of the produce and for the pleasure families take in the delicious breakfast foods.  And then, as the light rain began again, we hopped an Uber car with Ahmed and headed out of the city to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Located on the water 40 minutes outside of Copenhagen, Louisiana is the foremost contemporary art museum in Denmark

Located on the water 40 minutes outside of Copenhagen, Louisiana is the foremost contemporary art museum in Denmark

Louisiana is wonderful, for its permanent exhibit of garden sculpture, for the marvelous Giacomettis, for the view looking out on the Nordic waters streaked with sun and reaching to a low horizon.

Calder never looked so well

Calder never looked so well

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Installation of Jeff Wall photography

Installation of Jeff Wall photography

We returned with our Uber to town and stopped off to have a look at the much publicized new boutique Hotel SP34 (not terribly impressed) and then ducked in to FIAT once more for lunch (Italian lunch was appealing after all of our Nordic restaurant experimentation).  One of my favorite shops offered the perfect opportunity for a photo befitting bicycle crazy Copenhagen

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Copenhagen selfie

Nimb Hotel

The Nimb

The Nimb’s brilliance is its fine blend of fantasy and attention to detail

 

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With only 17 rooms (more to come in the next year), the Nimb hotel is part of a larger conglomerate, owned by the Tivoli gardens, that includes numerous restaurants, bakery and wine bar.  Sited across the street from Copenhagen’s central train station and backing on to the Tivoli Gardens, this is a real surprise.  Certainly Copenhagen’s best boutique hotel, it is a delightful property that recalls 1001 Nights with its Moorish arches and sprinkling of Asian furniture and objects.  But it is also wholly Scandinavian, with bare, wide plank wooden floors, clean lines and wooden country tables and armoires.  The 17 rooms all look on to the gardens, a fantasy land itself that comes alive in the spring, summer and fall when the gardens are in bloom, lights twinkle, performers take to the stages and children to the skies on the amusement rides that wind up and away.

It has a wonderful vibe as a meeting place to eat and drink but, if you are a guest, you will have a front row seat on to the revelries out your window and off the terraces that spread along the back of the hotel.  And I am assured that, even with floor to ceiling windows in the downstairs suites giving on to the gardens, there is no noise or pedestrian intrusion.

The Nimb, as with any hotel, may not be for everyone but, frankly, I was really taken with it.

http://www.nimb.dk/