Went over the handle bars on the bike last night, and managed to get road rash on my lips and chin; it hurts, but its better than loosing teeth. Friend Teresa did the same thing a couple days ago. Between the two of us it looks like there is a major outbreak of violence in Virgin. Truth be told, it is the hazard of biking with a dog. . . especially when there are rabbits everywhere. Still, settling back into life is sweet, and I visited a few projects in construction today. It’s great to see them after a week away.
One of the great pleasures of being an architect in a small community is the variety of projects one gets to do. Some of the most meaningful are smaller projects. Case in point a gut-rebuild of a small one bedroom home. I first looked at the project in 2005. A couple and their then soon to be teenage daughter were sharing a one bedroom, one bathroom house with no privacy, a microscopic kitchen, and similarly compact bathroom. It was bigger than a micro-home, but not much. Add to that a tiny site crisscrossed by easements and encroachments. For various reasons, the project was mothballed for several years.
Fast forward to 2011, and it was time to act. Although we began again at first, it was not long before I dusted off the last plan that was made in 2005–it was darn close to something that fit all of their needs, and might be achievable on the family’s tight budget. It doubled the size of the 700 square foot home to 1400 square feet, added a real living room, 2 bedrooms and a bath, making a very reasonable, not so big house. More importantly, the home that was formerly closed to a view of the nearby mountains was opened, and a connection was made to the yard. Although the scale of the home is small, the spaces and organization are good–making a home that I think will be a joy to live in. Add to that a fundamentally good energy design and super-insulation, and you have a winner. Ground was broken in April, and we are well on our way to completion.
It’s not all the way there yet, but you can see the bones. A not so big house that is big on life. More than that, it will make a difference in the lives of people I care about–the real joy of it all. Seeing this takes the sting out of a fat bloody lip. . .
Ambitious projects have been on hold while catching up with work, and taking a moment to honor memorial day by simply sitting still. Listened to Joseph Farris, the New Yorker Cartoonist, speak about his war time drawings on “The Story,” worth a few minutes of sitting still: The Story.
That does not mean we are not eating well while making a dent into our egg surplus. One favorite use is simply to put them on salad. Sometimes I will take the time to prepare them like Tamago, but tonight I opted for plain ole’ sunny side up. Runny yolks do well over some par steamed spinach. Nothing against raw, but the world is full of one too many salads made by heaping raw greens on a plate and decorating it. Salad can be so much more–and, tender adult spinach is a good start. I cooked some old broccoli stem in the steaming water–dropped in the peeled bits and let them steep like tea. Radicchio cut on the bias, Avocado, Tomato, and some caramelized shallots, garlic–and a little rice wine vinegar to finish.
I arranged it a bit like Bibimbap–though skipped the stone bowl and raw tuna–if it were a Bibimbap the egg would be dropped in the hot bowl I suppose. . . but the flavor reminded me that Bibimbap has to be on my gotta make list. The rice wine vinegar and shallots made things sweet, but perhaps next time a spicy dressing. Salad does not have to be a cop out.
Tomorrow we pick up our share of some pork from a good friend. . . and the freezer continues to fill.
We returned home to a farm in good order thanks to our farm sitter, a welcome relief after a day of trains, planes, and automobiles: literally. Getting home required no less than the subway, Amtrak, a taxi, a couple of airplanes, and a drive in our own car, 21 hours pillow to pillow (not counting a well placed nap or two in between).
Of course we had no idea that the sitter did not eat eggs–so there are 115 of them accumulated. . . . and that is after the mornings omelet. It is a relief to be in my own kitchen, with cakes to be baked and sauerkraut to be bottled. Fortunately the kale I Left in the fridge was robust enough to survive the time away, as was the scrap of bleu cheese that formed the backbone of our breakfast. Fuel for a day of chores, fence fixing and the like, and tending to some medical issues with a couple of our little feathered friends.
As well as we ate away, it was fun to find out that the pasta made in this kitchen stacks up with what is purported to be the best of the best, and that our lamb ranks (at least by my palate) as good or better than the boutique cut we had in Brooklyn. I have a lot of respect for anyone who puts their food out to the world, and the demands placed on them, so we’ll leave names out of it: I could not do it. That said, there is a mythology and rhetoric that has grown up around “farm to table”, such that the idea of the food surpasses the actual experience of the food. In the end, the food is what counts.
The beauty of Prune, and why it deserves its accolades, is the clarity of the preparation, flavor, and presentation–there are no obfuscations or unnecessary complications. It is real food, made by real people, extremely well, something to which we can all aspire.
If you want a fantastic, delicate cheesecake to dance on your tongue and have a party, do not miss Chikalicious in the East Village. Prix Fix desert served with Japanese precision (and portions for that matter). Entirely worth the cue at the door, fantastic coffee and tea. Chika is behind the counter, smiling up a storm: culinary dweebs will enjoy the open kitchen. No anti-griddle, but the pacojet clearly gets a sorbet making work out. All top flight, whatever you choose, and enough little tastes to keep you happy through it all.
If you want cheesecake capital “C”, at prices reminiscent of Ed Koch’s New York, you want nothing more than Eileen’s Special Cheesecake in Soho; they know what they are doing, and do it well. Classic cheesecake that is not too heavy. Dessert and drip coffee for two? Ten bucks!–leave a generous tip.
Whatever might cross my mind, going to the MOMA is like visiting old friends. Monet, Agnes Martin, Cartier Bresson. I know the paintings and prints. I may not see then every year, but my visits are frequent enough that we are familiar. Even if the new galleries first threw me off balance, it is great to see that MOMA is still the MOMA I know, even if it is now more spacious than Durrell Stone’s digs. To me, the museum as an institution is an artifact in its own right.
I am not sure If I will ever appreciate its place in contemporary life, if only for the fact there were so many good old friends to see.
Prune, is much more than any hype you have heard, and is worth the visit. I had a plan B when we showed up without a reservation, but good luck and a kind hostess had us at the bar in minutes.
Marrow bones? Bingo; Fennel and trout roe? Fantastic. Lamb sausage, shrimp, mussels, peas? Brilliant. We left with breath wreaking of garlic, and fingers bathed in buttery goodness.
Small, intimate, and run by passionate people? 100%, worth every cent, and every ounce of praise. Good food without unnecessary mystery or complication.
It strikes me more than ever that food and architecture are kissing cousins. The right ingredients do not guarantee a good meal; and while you might be able to describe the perfect bite, authoring it is something entirely different.
The truth is in the eating.
Tonight we went to a hip new eatery in Brooklyn. As good as it was, it made me appreciate the old standbys. As I picked through the paired cuts of meat, and the bits of various beans and lentils, I only appreciated the perfection of the potato pancake and perfectly seasoned stew I ate earlier at Veselka. To make something that is simultaneously unpretentious and awe inspiring is an art that Veselka masters.
I appreciate farm to table fresh, and beautiful arrays of cheese–fine ingredients well considered. It is good to be reminded that perfect ingredients do not a meal make. So, while I enjoyed the nights meal, and thanked the chef, it was Ukrainian lunch that stole the show.
Head to Veselka. . .
Whenever I am in Manhattan, I never miss a chance to go to Veselka for some authentic Ukranian comfort food. It is of course entirely possible to eat a meal of tans and browns without a hint of green (at least on the surface). Perfect for a gray rainy day. 9th and 2nd Ave, not to be missed!