Happy Thanksgiving

This is a time to pause and be grateful for all the colour, the adventure and the opportunity. To be thankful for the love of family and the kindness of strangers. To know that life is what you make it, that pumpkin can decorate and be delicious. And to know that whatever happens next will be the cream on the cake…

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Buon Appetito!

A small sandwich shop in the middle of the financial district is the last place you would expect to find love. This is the tough end of town, where wolves from Wall Street and politicians from City Hall prowl around wheeling and dealing. You have to be something special to survive. Eatily may be the glamorous new addition up the road, and South Seaport to the East may fringe Brooklyn views with trending waterfront eateries. But Pisillo on Nassau Street has Carmelo & Antonella and a team of Italians that are as passionate about their welcome as they are about food.

Seeking out the famously generous and authentic sandwiches favored by Mayor De Blasio and the ravenous locals, Sean & I were caught out by the cash only sign. Not wanting to venture back out into the 2*C wind for a bank, I presented $11 and asked if this would work for a taste of Italy. It may as well have been a hundred dollars. Within moments we were presented with a mega panini bursting with fresh mozzarella, roasted tomatoes and layer upon layer of finely flounced prosciutto. This was not just a sandwich, it was a work of art.

The windows and walls of Pisillo are covered with messages from happy customers around the city, and around the world. No wonder they have expanded into next door with coffee and cake offerings – they are going to need the wall space. And that’s before the Australians arrive. When I spoke to Carmelo about coming back before he gave everything away, he just smiled. This is a love affair that is just beginning…

 

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Blessed are the Cheesemakers

The sun is up, the sunshine is glorious and there is much to celebrate. Forever onward! Sisters are grandparents for the first time, old train sets are running anew for anyone who can fit inside the bubble, leaves are setting Central Park alight, and ice skaters are not the only hot property in Bryant Park. Newly installed festive fooderies have visuals to tempt the best of us, particularly when a dangerously diminishing round of baked cheese melts in front of your eyes, the grilled gooiness of raclette dripping onto a crusty ciabatta with smoked ham… trainssamshowoffracletteblessedmeltingmelting2melting3

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Don’t say I told you!

The Amateur Comedy Club on East 36th street is a club for members only, they do not advertise and they actively discourage publicity. There are no signs outside, no listing of performances in the press, there are no tickets issued for shows and money does not change hands. Ah, the success of an ( almost ) secret society! If it were not for the immense merriment that glows from this clandestine clique, then I would not be in the know. Not that I am, and not that I’m telling you about it…

The club grew out of an intense boredom with Victorian dramas, when, in 1884, six fellows got together and elected an absent seventh as president. Thus began an actor’s club for members who like to drink, or alternatively, a drinking club for members who like to act. Men only of course, producing and acting each show, with female roles being played by guests of the club. This is a quirky tradition that has survived three thousand nine hundred and thirty four performances, and that’s not all. Female players are ‘announced’ at the beginning of the show, but not the men, unless they are making their debut. At half time, lemonade and coffee are served in the library as is alcohol at the end – unless you have access to the men’s locker room where whiskey and vodka are stashed. Black tie is mandatory at the weekend performances and if you come underdressed, wardrobe will be provided to accommodate those ‘delinquent’ members of the audience. Then there’s the Snarks, the sister group of women actors, who put on their own performances each year and no doubt have their own collection of eccentricities.

Last week I was privileged to be invited on a member’s allocation of seats to see How the Other Half Loves, a gleeful comedy of misadventure from Alan Ayckbourn. The play was delightful, and all the more fabulous just by being in the club itself. The walls in the library where we took club crested coffee were covered in rich memories. Posters from performances long past, photographs of famous actors, books, leather couches and reviews. No-one gets a bad one at The Amateur Comedy Club and perhaps that is why this is the oldest continuously performing theatrical group in the United States. There’s no judgement, it’s just all about having some fun…

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Need a coffee…?!

It’s all Paul Hogan’s fault. What started as a simple shrimp 30 years ago has become beaut grub as the love affair with all things Australian continues to sweep NYC off it’s feet. Taylor Street Baristas on East 40th and Madison is the latest addition to the Antipodean coffee scene, coming the long way around from London where three siblings from Sydney set up shop in 2006. They brought Vegemite and lamingtons with them and are capitalising on the branding opportunity that colloquialisms inspire. The coffee is so good it actually speaks for itself, so the dunny door may not be entirely necessary. But for the locals it will be something noyce… diff’rent… unewesual…

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The morning after

As an optimist I went to bed last night believing that regardless of what happened overnight, the sun would come up the next morning.

We’re still waiting….

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Forever onward

It’s time. At least there is hope that the time for all the political pandemonium of the past months is about to wane. We have had the cap, the recap and the rebut – America is going to be great again, America was always great, and America was never great. We have heard the message through rasping throats and pouted lips. The megalomaniac and the Manchurian candidate have been relentless, and while there has been entertainment, embarrassment and incredulity on a scale that media moguls usually only dream of, the New York Historical Society at least gives us some perspective. With their current exhibition about the changing tone and aesthetic of presidential elections, maybe all is not lost.

In the 1964 contest between Johnson and Goldwater ( who overtook Rockefeller due to the public disapproval of his divorce and second marriage ), the Democrats twisted Goldwater’s slogan of In your heart you know he’s right, to, In your guts you know he’s nut’s. But that did not stop the Republican from marketing his brandname cologne to raise money for the campaign. Gold Water, a dollar an ounce. Nixon on the other hand had his own line of cigarettes. He also featured on a Democrat toilet cover that sort to unseat him, which Nixon eventually did himself with appropriate proximity. But what ever happened to Shirley Chisholm, the first woman to run on a Democrat ticket for president? The world could use people of courage and respect. Shirley visited her rival George Wallace when he was shot during the 1972 primaries, a gesture which he returned by supporting her push for a federal minimum wage several years later.

Presidents and politicians are remembered for their time of greatness, or not, and sometimes for their advice. Life wasn’t meant to be easy. But one certainty is that as soon as the votes are counted this week and the White House has a new tenant, the campaigning for the next presidential election will start all over again. The current will become the curatorial, the cartoonists will thrive, and the historical society may need to open a new wing….

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Happy Halloween!

No matter how scary things may get, food can make you happy. And a cheesecake bandaged classic donut from Dough ( with edible bloodshot eyes ) can make all the difference. Give me cheesecake over pumpkin any day…!

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Peace of the Ladies

Christmas markets for the Upper East Side opened with classic exclusiveness this week courtesy of TEFAF, the world’s pre-eminent fair of art and antiques. A New Normal for Collecting Antiquities in a Post-Loot Culture featured as a paneled discussion within whispering distance of a Buddhist deity from the Ming Dynasty, first editions of Jane Austen and a newly discovered van Gogh painting. But the piece de resistance, the most fabulous of treasures that outshone all other must-haves in the vast Park Avenue armory, was a map created in Italy in 1531. But this was not just any map.

Made from six goatskins, the map is one of only 24 in the world that are known to have survived. Fortunately this one had been rolled and in private ownership for generations, so the condition was excellent. Bright colours in glorious detail, painted in blue lapis and liquid gold, created images of camels and kings, settlements on the Nile, and even unicorns in Rede China. The winds were painted blowing from all directions as were the viewing angles, with ships upside down and around presumably so people could see from all sides. New York was mapped for the first time, under a different name, but it was the politics behind the drawing of the map that overshadowed the $10M price tag.

In 1531 the known world was at war. Genoa had been sacked so many times that the Pope endeavored to find a solution by dividing up the world. Lines on the map indicated that all to the right belonged to the Portugese and all to the left to the Spanish. This did not please the French of course and the wars continued. So the aunt of King Charles V in Spain and the mother of King Francis in France got together and negotiated a peace. The Peace of the Ladies. The map was unsold when I left around lunch time. Maybe buyers from the United Nations came later in the day…

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Crochet Reefers

Australians are making a splash in NYC with a lot of rubbish from home. Twin sisters Margaret and Christine Wertheim currently have an exhibition at MAD featuring regular household plastic they have accumulated over many years. But this is not a one dimensional horror story about plastic, the twins are environmentalists, mathematicians and knitters, they have given TED talks, written books and invited thousands of other artists from around the world to join them in offering ‘ a tender response to dual calamities facing marine life: climate change and plastic trash.’  The result is a colourful collection of crocheted coral made with such precision that from a distance it almost looks real. Anenomes need only a few fish swimming around and beaded coral sparkles seaward. There is bleaching and there is beauty, and there is a sisterhood of science that offers a fresh perspective…

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