The Beauty of Facades

photo[1] copyI rushed off to see a lovely show at the Met of  Charles Marville’s mid-18th century photographs of Paris streets.  While beautiful in their subtle black and white tones and evocative of another era, they don’t speak fully to me because I cannot connect to the locations.  So much of what we enjoy is because of intangibles –  the references and the memories that connect us.  I don’t know Paris that intimately.

But I do know New York, my home and the home of generations of my family (actually 1626 was the earliest incursion of my family to these parts)  - and not only is it home, it is beloved and known..deeply and intimately known.  Every neighborhood, if not most every street, is a reference point to me because of a story or an event.

Bill Cunningham, the quintessential New York photographer who is a fixture in the NY Times and, if you have a sharp eye, a fixture on these streets, has an exhibition of 75 black and white photographs at the New York Historical Society.  The photos capture fashion and architecture and cleverly match the two, so that the periods jive and, in an interesting way, mirror each other.  An 8-year long project, this photo documentary became a slim paperback entitled Facades.  

It is wonderful and surprising.  The model, photographer Editta Sherman, (she looks like Mrs. Bouquet in Keeping Up Appearances) is wonderfully animated, (an interesting thought on the whole concept of models and modeling) positioned against the facades of the iconic, and the simply beautiful, buildings of the city.  Many of the facades are recognizable but others, taken out of context, stump my visual recognition gene and leave me wanting to take to the streets to find them.  This city – my city – is a beautiful and diverse one, and I love seeing the building facades disembodied, as it were, from their own contexts.

But isn’t that the real meaning of a facade?

https://www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/bill-cunningham-facades

Betony

Screen Shot 2013-10-14 at 3.59.40 PMThe ceilings soar, the service impresses and the food enchants.  The architects of this trifecta are Executive Chef Bryce Shuman, former Executive Sous Chef of Eleven Madison Park, and General Manager Eamon Rockey, formerly of Eleven Madison Avenue as well.  Located just off Fifth Avenue on 57th Street, the food is billed as Modern American and it is sublime.

Of particular note are the Ricotta Gnudi with a delicious Moroccan Olive glaze, Sauteed Skate Wing with shaved Cauliflower I mistook for thinly sliced parmesan, and a wonderfully juicy chicken breast with the most lovely assortment of tiny, garden vegetables.  But, as humble as it might be, the dish that am still longing for is the Grain Salad with labna and sprouts..OMG..I could live on it.

http://www.betony-nyc.com/

UnderOurSky

UnderOurSky_Aracano_008It took a birthday, a friend, and three sisters to lead me to UnderOurSky, a delicious (and dangerously desirous) website of beautiful objects.

My birthday occurred in March when I was in Buenos Aires; my friend, Maita, in her inimitable generous fashion, dropped a present off at the hotel; the three sisters are Maita’s beautiful daughters and founders of UnderOurSky, a website featuring a collection of Argentine-designed-and-made bags, jewelry, fashion and objects.

The present was a bracelet..not the one above but similar..and one that I have worn ceaselessly and to great admiration.

The rap on Argentina is this: “beautiful country, charming people, gorgeous landscapes, but little to offer artisanally.”  I have to admit that I am often dismayed by the paucity of folk artisans in this huge and gorgeous part of the world (for you can include Chile and Uruguay in the same breath).  But, to be honest, one also has to redefine artisans for there are plenty of designers and artisans here..they just happen to be of European descent, and they are not engaged in folk art but rather in contemporary design that competes equally with anything in London, Paris, New York and Rome.

Back to UnderOurSky and the three beautiful sisters, Sofia, Catalina and Lucia.  Well connected as they are and living between Paris, New York and Buenos Aires, they took it upon themselves to gather what their eyes saw as the best, most original design coming out of their country and to launch this eye-popping website.  They tell their story and the stories of their designers and they offer shopping and efficient shipping to all parts of the world.

Take a look and discover Argentina..its metals, its wools, its hides, its woods and its horn.  Their offerings add a dimension to this extraordinarily beautiful country and, for those of you who travel with us and love to shop, we can arrange for visits to the workshops of many of these artisans.

http://www.underoursky.com/

Please Adopt a Friend

Sandy_R98575_3I joined my son and his girlfriend on a day’s outing to find a dog to adopt. Val, Justin’s wonderful adopted chow, died 7 months ago.  The healing has taken place and they are both ready to take on a new creature.

We went to the North Shore Animal League and Manhattan’s ASPCA.  It was probably the most emotionally draining, difficult day I have spent in a very long time.  Sandy, above, is 13 and a mixed lab breed. She is sweet, healthy and, like all of them, simply needs some TLC.  I have Oliver – most of you know him buried under leaves or snow, always with his ball – and Max, the cat, who is a “high rise” cat. 7 years ago he went out the window and dropped 5 flights, a fall that earned him very expensive titanium back legs.  One more animal to love and care for?  The loving is easy but the caring is more difficult and certainly more expensive.  I demurred and came home, heart broken and still considering.america-a21291306_2014feb05_01_0baby_a16813758_0011Because we are in New York, we have a large number of pit bull mixes.  I am a little afraid of them but America and Baby, above, with  gentle dispositions, are beloved by all the ASPCA volunteers.  And then there was Ona, a chihuahua whose owner died a week ago, and who simply cried.  And so many, many more.

We have to take care of the forgotten.  Oliver and Max may well have to share their home with someone else.  And, as always happens in life, we’ll get on with it, and certainly all be happier for the effort.

http://www.aspca.org/

EN Japanese Brasserie

EN-Japanese-BrasserieIn restaurants I usually go for the smaller, more intimate spaces rather than the splashy stage sets of which Jean George’s Spice Market was an early, successful example.  But EN Japanese Brasserie on Hudson and Leroy doesn’t sacrifice its food to the textured, dramatic, warm interior design.  A large restaurant, it offers three types of dining experience – sushi bar, individual dining tables and communal tables with high, comfortable bar stools.

The food is beautifully presented and delicious.

crab-miso-soup

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Small Kyoto dishes, fresh tofu which is sublime, wagyu beef and all manner of seafood added to traditional sashimi and sushi make for a wide assortment of choices.  And the cocktails are marvelous, most particularly cucumber and vodka with lime, a touch of simple syrup and salt and pepper.  That, with a plate of uni, is enough to lure me back right now.

And it is breakfast time as I write…

http://enjb.com/