Agnes Street

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In the heart of Detroit’s West Village is Agnes Street home to The Red Hook cafe, Vegan Soul, Craftwork Restaurant and Bar and a beautiful  Ouizi mural on the Parkstone Garage (between Parker and Van Dyke).

Take a self-guided tour of Ouizi (aka Louise Chen)’s murals—starting on Agnes Street where you’ll also spy one on the ceiling of The Red Hook cafe across the street which offers great coffee and pastries.

Next door, even our carnivorous friends revel in Detroit Vegan Soul’s menu of “soul food made from whole food” like cornmeal battered “catfish” tofu, broccoli/corn medley, redskin potatoes & onions, and hush puppies.

And Vegan Soul’s neighbor,  Craftwork offers a great menu for appetizers and drinks. Pull up a stool to enjoy a nosh of house-made ricotta with olives, cheese, reduced balsamic vinegar and warm flatbread. And top it off with an Agnes Lemon Drop—Hendrick’s, St. Germain, Chartreuse, and lemon.  (There is parking in the back beyond which Villages Bier & Weingarten benefits local nonprofits and across the street from which Paramita Sound sells records).  

Belle Isle

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Just over a small bridge in the international waters of the Detroit River lies Belle Isle— a 982 acre island park created in the late 1800s.

Belle isle is to Detroit what Central Park is to New York. Both parks are urban oases  designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. A third of Belle Isle is covered by forests, lakes, lagoon and wetlands that are home to pheasants, owls, fox, white trout lily, wild garlic, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, small and largemouth bass, northern pike, channel catfish and more.  

The island once boasted a casino (now available for private events), and is still home to the oldest crew club in North America, The Detroit Boat Club Crew (founded in 1839).

The Beaux Art Belle Isle Acquarium (designed by Albert Kahn in 1904) and the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory gardens seem untouched from their original conception (though restoration efforts are actually ongoing).

There are  endless other draws to the Island, including beaches, hiking trails, a $1-a-ride giant slide, and the mid-July Detroit Kite Festival.

Today funds are being raised to create and maintain a Piet Oudolf garden  on Belle Isle (to rival his four season garden on The High Line in New York).

Foxtown

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On Woodward Avenue in the center of Detroit reigns The Fox Theater—a grand, 5,000+ seat performing arts center built in 1928.

This National Historic Landmark was designed by C. Howard Crane, the architect of 250 American ‘movie palaces’.  Honestly attending any show performed here is an excuse to drink in its opulence and imagine what it must have been like to see Berry Gordy’s annual 1960s Motown Revues featuring Smokey Robinson, The Temptations or The Supremes!

Rose's Oh-so-fine Fine Food

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Rose’s Fine Food is an authentic diner whose living-wage-paid staff is continually making and serving delicious, homemade food from locally sourced ingredients.  

Rose's aspires to be “the ultimate diner” but you will never see a semi unloading frozen food into the back of their kitchen. The atmosphere is lovely. And even their sides—housemade toast, organic grits, herby beans, flapjacks, griddled potatoes, cultured butter deserve center stage. Be forewarned that it is impossible to pass up dessert, even at breakfast, with beauties like a chocolate beet layer cake seducing you from the counter.

Cliff Bell’s Jazz Joint

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On Detroit’s Park Avenue (just a few blocks from the Fox Theater), is a jewel of a jazz joint built in 1935—Cliff Bell's.

Bell kicked off his career as a child working his father’s Irish Pub, then went underground during prohibition working at speakeasies all over town before opening The Commodore Club which thrived after the repeal of prohibition.

The luxurious Cliff Bell’s followed in 1935—its Art Deco design realized in mahogany and brass with leather banquets, beautiful wall murals, vaulted ceilings, and a horseshoe bar now serving a twist on Prohibition era cocktails.  

It has a beautiful full brunch and dinner menu (with vegan and vegetarian options) that invites guest to “please plan for a leisurely dining experience”. A plate of truffle fries and a Detroit Dirty martini with vodka and McClure’s pickle brine would satisfy.

Not incidentally, it’s a beautiful, intimate place to listen to jazz.

Packard Plant

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The motor city is known for its tenacity. And the historic ruins of its once innovative Packard automobile plant illustrate this doggedness. On touring the plant—now undergoing a long term renovation— the perseverance of the city's graffiti artists and local flora are similarly striking.

In 1904, architect Albert Kahn designed The Packard Plant’s building #10 using his brother Julius Kahn’s innovative trussed concrete steel re-bar reinforcement system—The Kahn bar. With this technique, they were able to build floors, ceilings and columns entirely out of reinforced concrete allowing for floor-to-ceiling windows and wide open spaces. Revolutionizing the auto factory, Packard expanded to employ 40,000 workers in four million square until it stopped production in the late 1950s.

In 2012,  international developer Arte Express Detroit, LLC purchased the abandoned, 40 acre site and has begun a long-term restoration project “to bring back opportunity, jobs and commerce to the east side of Detroit”. It's easy to envision this impressive cluster of modern buildings as artist live/work lofts, community centers, art galleries and retail spaces. 

Formal tours (for those 18 and older) are available on Saturdays and Sundays through Pure Detroit.

 

 

Tutoring Big Apple Kids

Tutoring elementary school students is beyond rewarding. And with class sizes peaking at thirty students, your presence has never been more essential. You can see the difference a little encouragement makes from day one.  On my second day in a new classroom - helping a child with a writing assignment - a half dozen other students asked me to read their work before I left for my day job.

I put together a Mary Poppins style tutoring kit with magic-math-beans (to use as "math manipulables" ), an endless Muji eraser and French mechanical pencil, a sharpener, erasers to add to the chewed end of students’ pencils, colored markers, puffy Japanese stickers for a job well done, and a notebook for recording each day’s progress.

Of course it's your presence that makes a difference. As I write down words in my notebook to show a student struggling the difference between “while” and “wild”, I explained, “Soon all these words will be yours and we’ll use them to write a story of your own!” It's a project they look forward to and are so proud of.

Most volunteer opportunities begin by applying and providing references. Some require completing a training session to provide you with creative ideas for engaging students while teaching them the basics. As a volunteer you'll make the most impact by make a  commitment for a certain amount of time each week over the course of the school year.

Check out Idealist for opportunities.

Paris—A Reading Feast

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We've spent countless holidays in France for the past decade. And these books have been our greatest guides.  

The sweet Knopf,  Mapguide: Paris is reissued every few years and includes the highlights of what to see, eat, drink, or shop in each Parisian neighborhood or arrondisement with a helpful, fold-out map that trumps a GPS.

If you're traveling with a child, Adam Gopnik's Paris to the Moon is a beautiful memoir of this American raising his young son in Paris while his wife is pregnant with their second child. Woven throughout are great 'secrets' like the playground that serves espresso to parents.

Every page of Paris With Kids  features an excursion recommended for kids with detailed information, the address and website, even where to eat and drink nearby. A tiny flip book of a dancing Eiffel Tower in the corners of this pocket-sized book are also a sweet amusement.

When traveling to Paris, we opt to stay in an Air BnB so we can crash out when tired, even invite a few friends to dinner. We love to shop locally and cook a French feast inspired by Patricia Well's Bistro Cooking. Try her simple recipes for leek tart, warm potato salad, (download the e-book for traveling). Her Food Lover's Guide to Paris, promises 500 tips channeling Wells former role as former restaurant critic for The International Herald Tribune. (Be sure to screen Jean Luc Godard's Breathless at some point too!).

Gopnik's The Table Comes First is a great account of the evolution of the restaurant in post-revolutionary France that delves into France, family and the meaning of food. 

Pick up  Marcia DeSanctis' 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go to learn about the best kept secrets of Paris - such as the Musée Edith Piaf, the work of Rodin's mistress Camille Claudel now on view at the restored Rodin Museum. She'll even point you in the direction of a new pair of Bensimon sneakers and a great hike.

 
 

The Hallowed Halls of Kinderhook

Richard Mosse, Everything Merges with the Night, 2015, Digital C-Print, 164x280 inches. 

Jack Shainman Gallery opened its newest gallery, The School, in Kinderhook, just two years (and three stunning exhibitions) ago. The 30,000 square foot exhibition space is, itself, a work of art. One gets the misleading feeling that the former high school was left untouched in its conversion to an art gallery—as if its generous hallways and classrooms were simply stripped down to the underlying plaster and concrete.   

The Summer 2016 exhibition, “A Change of Place,”  features Pierre Dorion, Hayv Kahraman,  Garnett Puett and Richard Mosse.

Pierre Dorion's minimalist, photo-realistic paintings depict the very doorways and windows of the exhibition space—a former high school. He explains "My preference is for formally spare, very minimalist works, in which the boundaries between architecture and the artwork fade away in the painting.”

In her own words, Iraqi emigré, Hayv Kahraman's work explores "the psyche of a refugee, and that sense of detachment you have from your land that you’ve had to leave behind."

Fourth generation beekeeper Garnett Puett collaborates on his sculpture with tens of thousands of honey bees who fill the void of iron sculptures with wax comb or, in one instance, entomb rifles in their cabinet.

The tour-de-force of this show, however,  is Irish photographer Richard Mosse's oversized photos of war-torn regions of the world. You undoubtedly saw his images of U.S. troops occupying the destroyed palaces of Uday and Saddam Hussein a decade ago.  A film accompanying this exhibition explains how his latest, and most stunning, work, Infra, captures the conflict-ridden rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo with Kodak Aerochrome film to render the plant chlorophyll in vibrant hues of red and pink. Mosse tells The British Journal of Photography "I wanted to confront this military reconnaissance technology, to use it reflexively in order to question the ways in which war photography is constructed."   

Richard Mosse, Hunches in Bunches, 2011, Digital C-Print, 88x140 inches

25 Broad Street, Kinderhook, NY 12106
tel. +1 212 645 1701 fax. +1 212 645 8316
Open by appointment only during installation.
Gallery hours: Saturdays, 11am-5pm; and by appointment.

Escaping Time in Chatham, New York

When you walk down the main street of Chatham, New York today, you can almost imagine the daily life of its Dutch and Quaker settlers.  

Once the epicenter of interstate railways, It is a place of history that is in no way lost in time.

Today it boasts the membership-driven, independent Crandell Theatre which opened its doors as a 30cent per show vaudeville house on Christmas Day in 1936.  Across the street is the beautiful and similarly independent Chatham Bookshop which also houses an art supply shop and gallery. 

Bimi's Cheese is a delightful stop for cheese and all its accoutrements—chocolate, jam, bread. (Join the grilled cheese club to reward yourself for every visit to Bimi's grilled cheese bar.) 

Down the street in James Knight's shop Something's Gotta Give where he beautifully curates word work by local artisans—including many pieces by woodworkers Martin Zelonsky and Frank Grusauskas and the ceramics of Kathy Wismar.

Take a stroll past the brewery, liquor shop, clothing and shoe store, Belgian linen shop, yarn store and more up and down the main street of this beautiful Columbia County town. 

 

The Fly-in Pancake Breakfast

More than a dozen years ago, we were tooling around the back roads of the Hudson Valley in an MG Midget when an experimental aircraft buzzed over head. It looked like a lawn mower with wings - not much bigger than our car. A week later we saw the contraption being pulled behind a truck and followed it to a grassy airstrip. As my husband fearlessly took a ride—climbing a thousand feet above the Hudson River—I chatted up one of the pilot's students with feet firmly planted on the ground. 

He introduced us to Chapter 146  of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) which hosts a bi-annual—Spring and Fall—fly-in pancake breakfast at the Kline Kill Airport (NY1) in West Ghent, New York. 

Year after year the event grows bigger and bigger. Dozens of planes—from a shiny silver Cessna to a lipstick red Stinson Flying Station Wagon— line both sides of the green, grassy-lined air strip. 

Sitting across from a total stranger at communal tables eating plates heaped with buttermilk pancakes, eggs, and bacon, it's not uncommon to hear someone ask "what did you folks fly-in this morning?". Alas our MG has not sprouted wings.

Dungeons & Dragons circa 1800

In my elementary school, my son and his friends invented a card game called 'Pocket Fighters' re-dubbed 'Creature Capture', making their own hand-drawn playing cards which they stuffed in their pockets, battling and trading on the playground. They played for years, sometimes just trading stories about the characters while walking home from school—until they discovered Pokémon. Years later, in middle school, my son has discovered Dungeons and Dragons (a game totally off my radar in the 70s). As with the earlier card games,  what he loves about it is creating characters, fabricating stories. And I was so touched to see his interest come full circle the weekend he insisted on pulling out quill pens he'd made with found feathers with his father (yes, they're that creative) to hand draw a map together. We invented territories, clans, obstacles, bodies of water and then our characters before combining our strengths to achieve our collective mission.

Lounging @porchesinnmassmoca

The galleries of MASS MOCA —once home to light manufacturers, a textile mill, and electronics plant—look past the Hoosic River  to the long, continuous porch of the 19th Century Victorian row houses that make up the Porches Inn.

While we come to North Adams, Massachusetts for the art—including the Tadao Ando-designed museum, The Clark, in neighboring Williamstown—we stay for The Porches. It never disappoints—from the beautifully appointed rooms, to the 24/7 year-round outdoor pool, to the s'mores kits for the fire pit up the hill and the generous breakfast. 

The Inn is charmingly designed with liberal use of wainscoting, a modern take on Shaker chair rails, simple window dressings, claw foot tubs, painted wood floors and walls decorated with mismatched plates and found paintings.

North Adams offers a few nice restaurants. As does nearby Williamstown which also boasts a 100-year-old independent, single-screen film theater

Apple Lemon Clafoutis

In a traditional clafoutis, black cherries of the LImousin region of France are put into a dish — pits and stems intact—then covered with a flan-like batter and baked. The pits themselves lend an almond-like flavor to the dish. Eduoard de Pomaine's delightful 1930 French Cooking in Ten Minutes: Adapting to the Rhythm of Modern Life includes the classic recipe.

In this apple lemon clafoutis—apples, spices and brown sugar are topped with custard, baked in a jelly roll pan, and then doused with fresh lemon juice.

Embracing the spirit of de Pomaine, we've been experimenting wildly - baking a banana clafoutis baked in a Spanish cazuela. For dramatic effect, you can bake the clafoutis without fruit, watch it dramatically expand like a soufflé and serve topped with fresh berries, lemon juice, and a few teaspoons of sugar.

Apple Lemon Clafoutis

Preheat oven to 450F

Slice four apples

Blend together:

  • six eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1.5 cups milk

Put jelly roll pan with 8 Tbs unsalted butter into preheating oven. Once butter is melted, layer apple slices on pan, sprinkle with roughly 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 Tablespoons mixture of cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg.

Pour batter on top of fruit. Bake in oven 20 minutes or until the sides pouf up.

Add juice of one lemon to the top of the finished clafoutis (and a sprinkling of sugar if you like). 

 

The Millefleurs - Thousand Flower Garden at Met Cloisters

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Met Cloisters" is perched on four acres in Fort Tryon Park overlooking the Hudson River. The four 12th Century French cloisters house 2,000 pieces of Romanesque and Gothic arts and architecture. Part of the collection are four beautifully curated courtyard gardens—all a joyful foil to the cold austerity the Medieval interiors.

In the past year, the Trie Garden was completely restored. This garden was originally designed to mimic the gardens of the Cloisters' prized Medieval Unicorn Tapestries' own millefleurs (thousand flour) garden. Now the courtyard garden has been redesigned for "four-season-interest". In mid-September, the blooming flowers and contrasting foliage are spectacular.

Met Cloisters' Managing Horticulturist, Caleb Leech, explains in great detail how his team used the garden as a canvas of their own in a recent blog post. He explains: "The inclusion of our wild garden in the midst of a cloister adds a particular joy for gardeners. The enameled mead, or flowering meadow, which is thought to be a modern trend in gardens, was clearly beloved by those in the Middle Ages. In yet another way, gardens and plants bring us closer to our predecessors." 

The Cloisters is open seven days a week except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's days. A contribution is suggested but, ultimately, MET museums allow you to pay what you can. And a ticket to the Cloisters will grant you same-day admission to The MET Fifth Avenue and the contemporary collection at the MET Breuer.

99 Margaret Corbin Drive
Fort Tryon Park, New York, NY 10040Phone: 212-923-3700

Open Seven Days a Week
March–October: 10 am–5:15 pm
November–February: 10 am–4:45 pm

Charting growth

A child's growth is measured by so many increments—first words, first steps, first foods. First day of school, first scrape on the knee. And along the way we're compelled to mark their height on doorways, window moldings, kitchen cabinets. When in early labor with my son I was stretching and looking out a french glass door at the gravel rock garden beyond. And I saw a tuft of pine tree—no more than three inches tall. I chose that door to chart his growth (two inches while off at sleep-away-camp this summer, five inches in the past five months!). The tree continues to grow (too close to the house), eclipsing him in height. I don't have the courage to move it, just like I'll never have the courage to wash those measurements from the wall. He'll have to do it someday—and perhaps he'll appreciate that his growth in that home was far more than physical. That he learned values to instill in his own children he'll measure in similar increments.

Foraging the Union Square Green Market

New York City's Green Markets started out as an experiment in 1977.  John McPhee's New Yorker article "Giving Good Weight" describes the then twelve-month-old experiment in exquisite detail.

Today the Union Square Market alone brings fresh produce to the city from dozens of farms four days a week. In one week, our urban 'foraging' might result in:

  • a breakfast of sunny-side-up eggs with olive oil and thyme, sliced baguette with butter and fresh strawberries
  • a lunch of garlic cheddar cheese, pesto & ripe tomato sandwiches on a baguette  with cucumber spears and a peach

  • a dinner of tri-colored pasta, cherry tomatoes and goat cheese

  • a dessert of greek yogurt with strawberries and honey

It is entirely possible to stock your home entirely from the Union Square Greenmarket which operates four days a week (and where you can compost your kitchen scraps). Some favorite purveyors include:

 

 

The ever toothsome bucatini with artichokes and capers

Bucatini's long, hollow, toothsome noodles are so satisfying. They make a great spaghetti aglio, olio, e peperoncino (Italy's answer to chicken soup).

Another favorite is a one-skillet Bucatini tossed with olive oil, garlic, capers, and artichokes straight from the jar. 

In a large, deep skillet, bring the following to a boil over medium-high heat-stirring occasionally for eight minutes until the sauce thickens:

  • five cups water
  • 1 pound bucatini
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 sprig of lemon thyme
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt

Stir in the juice and zest of one small lemon, two eight-ounce jars of artichoke hearts (drained) and 3 tablespoons salt-packed capers (drained and rinsed).

Serve immediate with more red-pepper flakes, freshly grated parmesan and bread crumbs (if you are carb loading).

 

A Plant's-Eye View of the World

Michael Pollan has written more than a half dozen books on humans' essential relationship to plants. But my favorite remains, The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World.

In The Botany of Desire,  Pollan looks at four epic tales—the Irish Potato Famine, Johnny Appleseed, the Dutch Tulip mania and the ongoing debate around marijuana. And he illustrates just how these particular plants thrive largely because of their successful domestication of us!

Our mutually beneficial relationship with these plants has helped them thrive sometimes at our own expense: our reliance on a monoculture of potatoes, for example, caused a mass famine and emigration from Ireland;  the planting of crab apples in America encouraged alcohol consumption among early settlers;  tulips leveled the 17th century Dutch economy;  and marijuana still sparks political debate.   Pollan is a thoughtful and accessible writer. His Food Rules - especially as illustrated by Maira Kalman - is another great read.

Citibike route: Brunch to Bouldering

Our new favorite route to ride a Citibike is from brunch at the South Street Seaport's Made Fresh Daily bakeshop—over the Brooklyn Bridge—to Dumbo Boulders.

Made Fresh Daily is a sweet café in hundred year old former ice-house on cobblestoned Front Street. Their name says it all: everything they serve is Made Fresh Daily including housemade hummus, soups, chilis, and baked goods. The Weekend Brunch menu includes pancakes, all kinds of delicious eggs, sandwiches and salads.

The bike ride itself is a breathtaking twenty minutes best done in the early morning before the crowds. Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses and/or a hat because there is no shade on the bridge. (And practice Brooklyn Bridge etiquette - staying in the bike lane).

At Dumbo Boulders where you can exert yourself climbing with a $9 daypass (gear included). 

If you're new to Citibike - you can go online to ensure there are bikes available at Peck Slip and Front Street just a block from the bakeshop.  Even better, download the Citibike app. Pay right at the docking station with a credit card ($13.50 for a day pass that allows you to ride 30 minutes at a time before checking in or docking). We like to request a paper receipt to keep track of our docking code. Just enter your code and your bike will be unlocked. Then use the app to find a convenient docking station when you get to Brooklyn. There you can pick up another bike anytime throughout the day to explore Brooklyn Bridge park, or head back to Manhattan.