Monday, December 28, 2009

NYC Restaurants: Momofuku, Spotted Pig, Prime Meats, Calexico

The Christmas of Everyone Being Supposed to be Somewhere Else is behind us now, in all its craziness, and I will report on my successes and failures as a last-minute hostess to two friends from Moscow and their 18-month-old baby. Our friends were supposed to be connecting through New York to Miami--the Ritz Carlton Palm Beach was left to languish without them--and were one of the last flights to land at JFK, thanks to Saturday's big snowstorm. Imagine their surprise when they discovered that not only was the connecting flight canceled, they were stuck in NYC through Thursday. Well, the Ritz Carlton Palm Beach's loss was my gain.....

These friends are something of bon vivants (clearly!) and we've never hung out extensively in NYC, so I was inspired to provide them with the latest in terms of dining.

Arrival night, in the strange lavender swirl of snow, we ordered Mexican from Calexico, that new place on Union St in Red Hook. Sadly, Viva, the much better Mexican on Sullivan St., has closed. Calexico is ridiculously overpriced for what you get, the menu is very limited, and it's really more of a lunch place. Edible but disappointing. (Oh, and if you're thinking Bon Vivant? Ordered Mexican? Really? Be aware that neither delivery nor Mexican is available in Moscow at all, and we have many friends from all backgrounds who (used to) beg us to order Viva when they came over. R.I.P. )

Day two, after sledding in Prospect Park we took the babies in their snowsuits and stopped at Prime Meats, which I expected to be trendy and unfriendly. Well.... maybe it was the holidays, but they were great. We got a booth right away, the hostess produced two booster seats, and the food was fantastic. The little girls stuffed themselves with spaetzle mac-and-cheese; the sides--sweet, melting braised cabbage; soft pretzel with mustard were delicious, simple, original. In both atmosphere and food it was a great, mellow, casual New York bohemian-type dining experience. As the Russians would say, 'democratic.'

Day three, it worked out that we were by the Spotted Pig shopping right at noon, so I thought I would ride the wave of trendy places being friendly and pleasant. Also had good memories from the Spotted Pig from years ago. Big mistake! Have since heard, and agree, that the kitchen has fallen off dramatically. The liver crostini was still delicious and the Bloody Mary perfectly bitter, but some fish chowder was grossly rich and overly salted, and the artichoke heart salad overdressed and misconceived. Also, the service really irritated my friend by not having mayo for the fries and *refusing* to bring onions for his burger. Just not ok guys, no matter how important you think your chef's opinon is. Tacky.

However, New York City and I redeemed ourselves splendidly Monday night at Momofuku Saam Bar. Ah, Momofuku. Your hype is deserved. We ate oysters. We ate crispy brussel sprouts in a delicate ricey broth. We had pork buns and pickled honeycrisp apples and drank rose wine and then had some duck. We were jammed across from each other at a big communal table and still managed to have a wonderful conversation and everyone's bag was hanging on everyone else's hook and no one minded. My friend was thrilled, and I was thrilled too, that we'd managed to pull off something really special and only in NYC. Even if we were all supposed to be somewhere else.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Favorite NYC Restaurants

Someone just asked me what my favorite NYC restaurants are and the question, or at least my response to it, suprised me. I'm sick of restaurants. This is crazy, because I love to eat and drink and talk and smoke cigarettes and generally subject my body to all the pleasure and abuse I can make time for. Eating out is one of my favorite things in the world. All those size 12s in my closet? A testament to immoderate enjoyment, ordering dessert and eating all of it, drunkeness, the bread basket....

What I'm tired of is the cult of the restaurant in New York City. My friend just tried to organize a birthday party at the private-dining-room Airstream trailer in back of Marlowe & Sons in Williamsburg, and, after days of back-and-forth, they told her they wouldn't be able to do it. When your day includes a rejection from a private-dining Airstream trailer in Williamsburg, things have gotten silly. People take food seriously, which has many wonderful consequences, but maybe too seriously? Don't we have better things to do with our time than spend hours trying to figure out what restaurant to go to? I'm not kidding, in New York, this can take a solid chunk of a Thursday afternoon. Chefs and restaurateurs are caught in a bind, too. To make money, your restaurant needs to be a hot place, but once you're in the white-hot eye of exposure, you're mainly in the business of turning people away, not feeding them. So, that's the long version of my answer. I don't even know anymore about restaurants. It's too much of a pain in the ass to stay on top of it.

The short answer is this classic list, some new, mainly old, all delicious, in no order, but all more-or-less places where you should be able to get a table at little or no notice and eat and drink and relax in a glowing, noisy room amongst friends.

The Good Fork
My Red Hook, Brooklyn local. I have been eating here a few times a month for three years and each time is still a treat. Great wines by the glass. Husband-and-wife maitre 'd/ chef team, lots of walk-in tables, food that balances perfectly between comfort and sophistication, local-fresh-ingredients yadda yadda. I particularly love the steak-and-eggs with kimchee rice (I have tofu instead of steak) or the wild boar ragu. It's a small, quirky, glowy, casual room that the owners designed and built themselves. In the summer there's classic NYC junkyard garden seating out back. The epitome of the kind of laid-back, somewhat scruffy foodie dining that NYC invented.

Dok Suni
119 First Ave between 6th and 7th Sts; (212) 477-9506
No reservations, always packed (but the tables move), pitch-black, poky-elbow-crowded East Village date place with various challenging features like surly service, tiny, hidden bathroom and difficult to manouver metal chopsticks. To me, this gets an A for NYC atmosphere. People say it's not authentic Korean but it's family-owned by some Korean girls and their mom, so who is to say what's authentic? I get the rice wine (?) with the little bits of cucumber floating in it, spreads of kimchee, shrimp dumplings, and always the hot bibimbop, a searing-hot iron pot of crusty-bottomed rice, pickles, vegetables, egg and tart plum sauce (and steak if you so opt).

The Oyster Bar
Like everyone else, I used to for lunch with the coworker I was secretly sleeping with. It's really a lunch and after-work place; it's simply too huge to stay rollicking all night long, but during the day or for an early dinner, I love the Oyster Bar. Eat at the counter. Look no further than a flight of oysters, a bowl of chowder and consume plenty of Bloody Marys on the side. (For the out-of-towners among us, this is a NYC institution in Grand Central Station, which is itself a beautiful city landmark that remains in everyday use, a secular cathedral, warrens of subterraean passages, various strata of heating and humidity, an ebb and flow of people like the tides, quintessential New York....)

Will be a few more, but I'm also tired of looking at last week's post atop my blog, so here goes....

Friday, December 4, 2009

Vice Mag goes to Mecca

This is one of the craziest travel docs I've ever seen:

Paris Bargain Hotel: Hotel Marceau Bastille

There is, for me, a type of hotel that exists in the perfect middle-ground... the type of hotel that is trying to be a boutique hotel, but is the bargain version. What do I need, at the end of the day, in a hotel? I need a nice, comfortable bed with bedding that doesn't make me feel paranoid, in a bright, attractive room. It can be simple, but usually I find the corporate-business-hotel version of simple to be depressing. Anyplace that uses poly comforters or any other comforter that may not have been washed is depressing. Carpet is often depressing. Recently renovated helps a lot in terms of freshness and brightness. Cheaper, new furnishings are often better than well-used high quality ones. I, personally, don't need to stay someplace that has the world's most cutting-edge renovation or design...the jackass-award winner, you know what I mean. Sometimes those hotels are beautiful, and I've certainly stayed in plenty of them. Often it's even easier to find a hotel in the trendy category than the kind I'm talking about, which offers the same basic amenities--clean, modern design; nice bedding; freshness--without the prices/attitude/goofy mustachioed bellhop.

So, thus, voila, the Hotel Marceau Bastille in Paris. . I offer the enormous caveat that I haven't stayed here since 2006, but I love this hotel. I just did a search, and for one of the nicer "ecolo" rooms (which I highly recommend), at short notice in December, it's 150 Euros ($225) for 2 people for a night. For this time of year, at these exchange rates, that is a great deal. This hotel is in the humbler Bastille neighborhood, a short walk from the trendy-hip Marais, and doesn't have room service, but it's always been just right for me. It's not a "destination hotel," but who wants their hotel to be the 'destination' in Paris!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New York over Christmas

So, I've been working on a few epic New York ideas, one is my own personal hotel-guide, since, working for Time Out New York and then living abroad for years, I've stayed in a lot more NYC hotels than the average New Yorker. But what occurs to me at the moment would be most useful is some guidelines on things to do in NYC over the holidays, if you're visiting, since, I'm sorry, but this is the world's worst time to be in New York. If you want to go to one of the big museums, it's going to be hectic. New York is COLD over the holidays, and to go to MoMA, for example, you'll have to stand in a long line for admission outside, and then more to check your coat inside, and then it will be so crowded you'll barely be able to see the art. When I lived in Moscow, I'd arrive home for the holidays with big plans of art I wanted to see, and then would train it up to midtown all mellow and delighted, and then....would see the lines and get upset and just go back to Brooklyn. I realize locals are always more indignant to see things they *expect* to be quick and easy overrun, and for art fans who really want to see the Met or the MoMA, of course it may be worth it. But....I wonder if people would be interested in making their NYC visit less touristy by totally avoiding Midtown, Macys, the Empire State Building and Central Park. I'm going to do a few posts on this in the coming weeks, but the first suggestion is: The Lower East Side.

Even when the rest of the city is overrun, the Lower East Side, during the day, is pretty relaxed. You have to be open to grunge, to some extent, but there are lots of restaurants and little galleries and to me, this kind of grubby-deli, old-school, street-level New York is what New York is all about, anyway. Unfortunately the new New Musuem ( space on the Bowery has a very hot, hot, hot show right now, Urs Fischer: Marguerite De Ponty (through Feb 7), and is overrun, at least, I can testify, on the weekends. If you did happen to go by there midday and it was possible to get in, I'd hit it, but wouldn't stand in line for 20 min. There's also a cute, hip place to have lunch around the corner, Freeman's Alley (, but that's also jammed when the crowds are out. If you keep walking several blocks on Rivington Street, away from the New Museum, you'll cross a cool old park (Chrystie St) that I really recommend a wander through the community garden there (The M'Finda Kalunga Community Garden!), and eventually come across 'inoteca ( at the corner of Ludlow, which is a hip, delicious Italian restaurant that is often crowded at night but open for lunch every day and has great service and a surprisingly friendly, non-snobby attitude, considering the location. Other galleries in the LES: 11 Rivington ( And a list here: Though, the art down here tends to be a bit too fashionable, if you know what I mean, it can provide a nice structure for a wander through a neighborhood that's all bars and restaurants and indie boutiques.....

Also, here's this article in Time Out New York on "top 10 out-of-the-way galleries". I would say these are lesser-known even to New Yorkers, so might be a bit far afield for tourists, but FYI.

Friday, November 6, 2009

'eh rebyata

I can't stop listening to this:

Tree, Bosier_Ракеты полетели

Tree, Bosier | MySpace Video

The band is called Derevo, Bo'je in Russian and they're from a town called Khabarovsky, a town whose location inside Russia near the Chinese border all but guarantees that it is a terrifying place. I found the band though a blog called Far From Moscow (, hosted by the department of Slavic Languages and Literature and controlled by this lean fellow with the piercing gaze:

I want to know what he has to say about music, don't you? Finding his project reminds me of the year (or two or three) that my online procrastination at work consisted almost exclusively of listening to Akvarium on headphones while following along to the translated lyrics on the Bohdisattvas of Babylon website. Sorry, editors of Time Out New York. There is so much amazing new music in Russia and most of the rest of us will never, ever hear it. Until now, thanks to UCLA. The site is broken down into categories like folk and ambient and has postings on Russian rock royalty as well, such as Akvarium and Mumiy Troll....

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why Chelsea Galleries are for Everyone, Despite What Maybe the People who Work There Think

I love Chelsea, and I want everyone else to love it too. I think it's one of the great examples of the multicultural, democratic, high-low mishmash that is New York City. And, it's a relatively contained and easy-to-navigate neighborhood that's conducive to walking, wandering & stumbling on weird stuff, which is also a quintessentially NYC activity that every visitor should experience.

The Chelsea I'm talking about is the gallery area, which runs from roughly, 14th Street to 26th Street, west of 10th Avenue to the water, with the highest concentration being between 22nd Street and 26th Street. This is a neighborhood of old warehouses that in the 90s became the place for cutting-edge contemporary art galleries. The real-estate was cheap, the old brick buildings were generally single-story, with incredible, looming, industrial skylights and you could--and still can--get away with doing weird stuff like digging a enormous hole through the gallery floor into the dirt below. Not that everyone would consider that to be art or enjoy looking at it.

Which brings us to my primary point about why I like Chelsea so much. The layout of the galleries fosters a you-be-the-judge experience. There are so many galleries, on street level, and they're usually just one room, so you can walk in, take a look, and if you think it's boring or ugly or offensively stupid or you don't like it or just don't get it, you walk right back out. No gallery requires a commitment in terms of time or money, like a museum would (admission is 100-percent free, everywhere, and yes I'm aware that free does not need the modifier 100-percent, 'cause either it's free or it ain't, but just for fun, indulge me....), and there's not that pressure to stand respectfully in front of a masterpiece. You spend the day walking around outside, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, and looking at artworks, one or two of which might speak to you. You can regroup at a tapas bar or an Irish pub afterwards and ask your companion, "Did you like anything?" and "Why?" and "What do you think it meant?" And your guess will probably be as good as anyone's.

I find the art world to be largely stifling and full of shit, but Chelsea, itself, is freeing. And that thought gets me all teary on how I think New York City is the center of the free world (despite the fact that previous US presidents made 'freedom' a dirty word), but that is a matter for a different posting. Try it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Devi Cafe, Moscow:Possibly the best Indian resaurant outside of India at the Institute of International People's Friendship

Three years after moving away from Moscow, this is the only restaurant that I actively miss. (And ok, sometimes the Noev Kovcheg for hangover delivery food. That will occasion its own writeup someday, I promise.) So, the place is Devi Cafe, and it is at 21 Mikluka Miklaya. The address is only half the story, though, as the place is very hard to find. As with so many Moscow venues, it's hidden in the basement of one of many poorly marked buildings in a courtyard. You have to walk past a schlagbaum or step over a little chain to even get into the courtyard, so the journey feels wrong from the inception. We've been to Devi Cafe a dozen times and we still sometimes get lost and have to wander around the wonderfully weird environs of the International Uni, looking for it. This is the only place in Moscow (all of Russia?) that's truly ethnically mixed up, and on nice days there will be brilliant groups of black Africans and Asians and other sort of diffident and lost-looking young people playing badminton on the walkways, hanging out, smoking, selling CDs, etc. It is bizarre and I love it. The uni's full name is something like The Institute of International People's Friendship Named After Patrice Lumumba and I guess it's a good, cheap option for students without a lot of money whose home countries don't have good schooling options. But what must these enterprising young people from warm, friendly places make of the hideous post-industrial sprawl on the outskirts of Moscow? Not to mention the weather and the virulent racism? Wow. Also this restaurant is a 20 minute walk from Ug-Zapadnaya Metro, at the end of the red line. I hesitate to recommend trying to find it to any but the most experienced travelers.....

But onward! Find it if you can. It's down a flight of stairs past an Indian grocery. The telly will be blaring Bollywood or obscure sporting events, the waiters speak good English and every single dish is sublime. The raita comes in a tall copper vessel and is thick with various vegetables & laced with cucumber and dill. I've never seen it like that anywhere else before. Otherwise can't remember specific dishes but I think it may be impossible to go wrong.

Friday, October 23, 2009

So you're curious about the difference between Russian perfective and imperfective verbs, are you?

The following is my work of mad genius on a topic I have contemplated for way, way too long: Perfective and Imperfective verbs in Russian.

I was confused for years about when to use perfective v. imperfective, despite the fact that I of course do it correctly in English all day long...I just don't know I'm doing it. (Or I didn't know I was doing it, until learning Russian. That's one of the great things about picking up a second or third language; insights into the languages you already speak.)

So, as you probably already know, or will learn soon, each Russian verb comes as a perfective-imperfective pair. (Verbs of motion in Russian sort of have this too, but are much more complicated, so best to forget about them for this discussion.) Every time you learn a verb, you need to memorize both forms.

People tend to get bogged down here in a few ways. There are some kinda-rules about forming the perfectives. Also sometimes perfectives are made just by adding a prefix to the imperfective form, so you might think, Ah, There is a Method to This Madness. Trust me, it's not that helpful in the beginning. It is best to let knowledge about those rules & prefixes to accumulate as it may without trying to make too much sense of it. Ditto, the meaning of the prefixes. This will only confuse you when you're trying to choose a verb tense. As you get more sophisticated, you'll enjoy knowing the meaning, but you don't need it to use the verbs correctly. Also, just don't worry about the rare cases when your teacher tells you that there's no perfective, or no imperfective, or that it isn't really used or whatever. People tend to fixate on stuff like that, like "ahhh, it's even more confusing". Forget about it.

Here is how to do it:

When you are using a verb in the present tense, always use the imperfective. There is no present-perfect, so this is easy.

When you need to say something in the past or the future, your default verb is the perfective. This is your simple, "I did X or Y", "I'm gonna do X or Y" form. I've told this to Russian teachers and they all scream and say, no, it's not really more common or simple, etc., but for me thinking of it this way has been a godsend in terms of picking the right verb. Yesterday, I scheduled a meeting. (perfective) Yesterday, I gave X a gift (perfective). Tomorrow, I'm going to wash my face and read the newspaper (perfective). And so on.

The only time you want to use the past imperfective, or the future imperfective, is when you're saying something imperfective. That's anything that in English you would use a verb tense like, "I had been reading" "I will have been reading" "I was reading my book when X happened"...i.e. to indicate a continuing action. I'm sure your Russian teacher will tell you at length, better than I can, what "imperfective" means.... An uncompleted action, any action that you are speaking about in general, that you are specifying that you do every day or as a matter of habit, or for a specific duration of time.

I often got confused about this because, say, I was going to say, "Tomorrow I'll get up and wash my face." I would think, "well, that's something I do every day, thus it's habitual, etc., maybe I should use imperfective." No. You use the perfective, unless you are *specifying* that the action is either a) usual, or b) in the process of going on.

Yow. Ok. Well I hope that might help. In my experience with learning Russian, I'd spend years struggling to really grasp a point of grammar, and then once I did, I'd find a really easy way of organizing it mentally so I wouldn't forget it. Then I'd wish the teacher had just told me that easy way in the beginning. But I'm not sure, actually, that anyone gets to skip the lengthy-confusion period. !

Probably you aren't going to Pakistan, but....

I don't have a Pakistan destination page, and I'm unlikely to be starting one anytime soon, though since I know a few journalists and war-photographers, I may have more of a line on the place than I think I do. However, if I did have a Pakistan destination page, I would put this album and video on it.

The artist is a Swedish folkie named Victoria Bergsman, who was a singer for The Concretes before launching her solo project, Taken by Trees. For her second album, East of Eden, she went to Pakistan and did some gonzo recording with local musicans playing traditional middle eastern instruments. National Geographic also did a brief docu-film on the trip, which might show up below if I've done my coding right. If not, you can see it here:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Locanda Verde in the new De Niro hotel, NYC

In my 20s, I never went to nightclubs partially because I couldn't get my head around a plan for the evening that involved Maybe Not Getting In. In hindsight, it seems like it should have been pretty simple to try it and then move on, but especially in NYC the club would be somewhere inconvenient on the West Side and you'd be trying to meet friends and my prime potential-clubgoing years were pre-cell-phone.... Anyway, I never set foot in any of those places, the Tunnel, the Limelight, the Roxy (? was that even the name?) unless some better-connected friend had put me on the list.

I bring this up because nowadays I have a similar attitude about getting a table at a hot restaurant. I can almost never get excited about showing up at a place that might make you wait for an hour--and even then might not seat you, when, you know, you're hungry and it's loud and crowded by the bar, if there is even a bar to wait at, etc. This, is, however, I guess how the zillions of people without restaurant-world-pull try these places. Also not that into dining at 5:30 or 10:30. Last night, however, I did manage to dine at Locanda Verde, which is the new restaurant from the chef Andrew Carmellini in Robert De Niro's Greenwich Hotel, and it was both delicious and seemed not-that-impossible to get in. I called same-day got a table for two at 8:30 (it was a monday, but still). We showed up at 7:30, hoping that the table might free up earlier, and they told us that the wait for walk-ins was about an hour. There was a big bar there to wait at/ by and two cute places across the street where one could also drink and wait. Probably should be talking more about the food than the logistics but, what do you want, a place like this with such great buzz and such a wonderful chef is going to be, and was, delicious. We had a great time--celebrating a big professional milestone for Ivan--and thought it was a perfect New York evening.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Toska b mine 4ever

Traveling a lot has made me into an opera fan—somehow, it becomes the kind of thing you do when you're in a foreign city that's known for opera and you aren't sure what else to do. If that makes sense. Like, the same way I've ended up at random classical music concerts in St. Petersburg and Vienna.....

In Moscow especially, it's easy to get great, last-minute seats at the Bolshoi, and the programs offer both English and Russian libretto, which is often just-possible to read in the dim light. (Making this one of the few original-language entertainments that is also semi-doable for tourists.) What you want in Moscow is a Russian opera deep off the shelf--Ivan Susanin, Mazepa, some impenetrable stuff about wars between Russia and Poland that no one has ever heard of, full of big, whirligig set pieces of apple-cheeked singing peasants. What's to like about this? Maybe that....the Bolshoi hasn't been rationalized? The financial pressures that cause opera companies (along with every other form of modern entertainment) to cater to the wallet of the audience haven't penetrated the deepest cultural corners of Post-Soviet Russia, allowing the Bolshoi to continue to mount these moldering, fabulous, ancient productions. Cultural treasures of a vanished world.

In London, I saw a hyper-modern, monochromatic Macbeth once, alone, and drank pink champagne at intermission & marveled at the Brits' sophisticated opera house and superior design sense. But the voices were like drills to the skull.

New York is warmer. The talent is the best in the world (like London, unlike Moscow), the Met's staging of Eugene Onegin is my favorite ever, but....I tend to find the performances distancing. Don Juan, The Barber of Seville, it's all slick & virtuoso and the music is great but I've never had an emotional connection to the show itself. Opera as art for this world, has never been an issue. Until! Funnily, yesterday, at the critically panned new staging of Tosca. There's been a lot of flap about Tosca getting boos, and people have found the new performance unnecessarily idol-bashing, accused the director of adding stuff that shouldn't be there, etc. I went with dread. I'd dragged my poor father down from Boston to go to a matinee. And you know, braced for the worst is always the best way to be blown away by something. This was the first time I cried at an opera, the first time that I felt the humanity of the characters and found some today's-reality in an opera theme. The story is about a painter (Caravadocci) and his singer-lover (Tosca) who because of love and an old friendship with a political rebel, run afoul of their corrupt and brutal government (manifested by the evil police chief Scarpia). Arts & humanity verses power and corruption is a very relevant theme for today's world, for me, at least; individuality and goodness against faceless systemic evil should resonate with all of us.

The sets, loudly complained about, reference prison, concentration camp, brutalist architecture and I found them to be absolutely necessary to bring in the sense of evil, power and corruption that Tosca and her lover, and the music itself, as a thing of surpassing human beauty, are reacting against. I don't know what Puccini would have intended, since his music is so warm & lovely & baroque, but against the death that the director created onstage, this music became a benediction and a lament, luscious, impossible, like Tosca the heroine herself was intended to be, all passion and frailty. Yum. Anyway. This was a brave thing to do, and is such an exciting sign for the new director and the Met. I cannot wait to see what else Peter Gelb comes up with.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hotels with a nice view in NYC

(this is the view from the Hotel on Rivington)

A friend is asking for Manhattan hotels with a nice view in an interesting neighborhood for some visiting Russians.

One note is to tell the friends to wherever they end up staying, ask for a room with a view, because in this tall city most hotels will have some rooms with nice views.

There's that Mandarin Oriental in the Time Warner Center right on Central Park, which I assume has Batman views. I've been to the top once for the restaurant, and it was great. That's on the Upper West Side, which is neighborhood-y old New York, has Lincoln Center, Central Park, close to shopping in Midtown....the real NYC deal. Where John Lennon was shot, Rosemary's Baby was filmed, Woody Allen's NYC.

The most fashionable room right now is in a brand new hotel called The Standard, which is one of those open-book designs like they have on the new Arbat, standing on legs---very Moscow, actually. It has incredible views of the Hudson River and the city, and is in a downtown neighborhood called "the Meatpacking District" which was recently revitalized by the speculative architecture of the bubble economy & is now all bars & restaurants and high-end shopping. Cobblestone streets are a sea of partying people at nights. I wouldn't want to live there, but it's pretty cool to visit. And it's basically in the West Village, which is very charming little winding streets and old buildings. Also, there's this new city park called 'the High Line' which has been built on an abandoned elevated train tracks, & the Standard looks out onto that.

Also similar price (maybe less?) and fashionable scene is The Bowery Hotel, which is very tall in a neighborhood of shorter buildings, so probably has the views. This is between the Village, the East Village, and the Lower East Side, which is where I used to live/hang out in the 90s. Sort of grungy/hip neighborhood with lots of bars & thrift store shopping & cute boutiques. Plus lower Broadway is near there that has all the H&M, Old Navy, chain-store stuff, and the world-famous Soho shopping district, which used to be warehouses & then became artists lofts and is now very pricey.

Even further on the Lower East Side is the Hotel on Rivington, which I might not say was in the ideal location for visiting Russians, but I mention it because it's an amazing glass tower--your room will be a glass box overlooking the city, and some of the rooms have balconies. This is where Ivan and I stayed when we flew in from Moscow to get married, but it has that too-cool attitude where the bellhop has a silly mustache and can't answer any of your questions......

Maybe more reasonably priced is the W Hotel in Union Square; it's tall and may have views. (Maybe not though!) This is a W Hotel Chain (you know this chain? Maybe only American) which is like 'packaged creativity', like the Starbucks chain is a faux neighborhood coffee-shop. There's all kinds of silly 'W' 'Wonderland' branding--the concierge is the 'whatever-whenever' desk, which I find maddening-- and the rooms are small & the halls usually dark as a nightclub, but the beds & bedding are awesome. You can stay there and not suffer. The Union Square location is not amazing on its own, but is incredibly central, between downtown and midtown, all the trains stop there, and it does have the city's biggest farmer's market, four days a week. This market is probably my favorite thing in all of New York City.

But anyway, all of this assumes that you can spend at the very least $350 a night.

Friday, September 4, 2009

"It's always cold on Labor Day"

That's what the woman at the Springs Corner Store told me this morning. "It's like nature just knows the summer is over."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

One summer of obsessing about the traffic

Okay if you don't drive you won't care, and maybe not all drivers will care, but I can't drive anywhere in the city without obsessing about what the fastest route is going to be. (Hamptons is included in 'city,' for these purposes.) When is the best time to get to the Hamptons?, you ask. Is the traffic that terrible? Do people really sometimes spend 4 hours on the LIE? Does it create a slow death of the soul and ruin the sense of relaxation provided by a weekend at the beach?

Would love to know what others think but so far, I've found that it hasn't been that much of a problem. I'm driving from the Atlantic Ave entrance on the BQE, through Queens to 495, and then picking up 27 from Exit 68, which seems to be the classic way. I have left at 8:15 on a Thursday night and gotten to Amagansett in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Same with leaving at 8:00a.m. on a Sunday morning, to return trip. Last night I left at 8 and stopped for gas, got a traffic ticket and stopped at the 7/11 in Yaphunk (how could I resist?), and it took 2 hours and 45 min. The profile seems to be that there's traffic getting out of the city and around to exit 35 on the LIE, then it's fine, then it takes anywhere from 30 min with no traffic or an hour or more with it once 27 becomes one lane. More often than not city is the real hangup, not the Hamptons, so what you need to consider is almost less the commuter rush to the Hamptons on a Friday, but the ordinary commuter movements of the city.

I say this now, but am sure 27 will be back-to-back all weekend. I have been wanting to go to the Flavin exhibit all summer but haven't made it because it involves driving to Bridgehampton on a weekend. Also, two weekends ago our friend George was unable to even stop for coffee because all the shops were so crowded!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

La Fondita also of acceptable delicousness

La Fondita is a fairly fabulous destination, despite that it's a Mexican lunch counter, so I was skeptical about the food but, happy surprise, it's good. The portions are small, but the tacos and specials and so on are sophisticated, flavorful & made from nice, fresh ingredients. And the whole vibe is fun, with loud music, an outdoor garden to eat in, bronzed & fabulous vacationers.

sexy-trashy-money and good fish at Sen in Sag Harbor

The Long Island edition of the NY Times recently did a story recommending six restaurants out here that don't suck (a very tall order, as I've discovered) and last night I tried another one, Sen, a sushi place in Sag Harbor. We arrived at 8:15 with no reservation and got a table for two by 8:45. Service was good, and the sushi was a B+, which, in a no-grade-inflation world (my world!) means it was very good. I'm reserving an A+ for sushi I haven't yet tried, probably in Japan, and an A for sushi in L.A. Sen gets wild rave reviews out here , which it would deserve not just "for Sag Harbor" but anywhere. Also, if you are into the sexy-trashy-money scene, it was good for that. A hot, tall man in fashion track pants taking out model-y girl in a vintage fringe top and skinny jeans. Two sexy Italian girls dining outside (one with the brastrap-showing look; good look!) with a companion in white loafers and a navy sweater over the shoulders, etc. Everyone looking tanner in the dark. It was loud, people seemed drunk, the food was good and the wait had barely died down by the time we left at 10pm........ I liked it

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Status safari: expensive, amusing jackassery at Mary's Marvelous in Amagansett

I still love the food at Marty's (especially for the prices) but will admit that Mary's Marvelous wins big in the people-watching department. We saw Alec Baldwin there last month. As Ivan noted, he was wearing *pants that unzipped at the knees to become shorts*. (Ivy, mind blown: "Where does a guy like that even get such a garment!?" I'm sure he's going to rush out and buy some). So we were there for breakfast the day before yesterday and, looming out of the pre-caffinated chaos I saw a guy, or rather I saw a watch. Lately Ivan has been schooling me in the secret language of watches, and this one was gold and shiny with a leather band and I thought that a person who could read the code would have a lot to say about this door-knocker. Turns out the watch was a Panerai, and the guy was wearing a matching promotional cap for the watch. He also had a keychain sticking half out of his pocket so that everyone could see it was a keychain for a Maserati. Otherwise the outfit was classic prep: a braided belt, cargo shorts, tucked in white buttondown with a blue check. Now, an innocent like me would probably be impressed, but Ivan says that 1. it's only a grand a month to lease a Maserati, an option available to many wanna-bes and 2. the watch is a sucker purchase. An expensive watch can be an investment; there's a hot resale market and they hold their value well. But Panerai brand is sort of a fake. It was a military watch in the 40s and then fell into obscurity until recently being revived by a big ad campaign as a luxury brand. Its value hasn't held & grown over time; the ads have created a perception of a tradition of value but not the reality. Also, it's neither fish nor fowl, because it was a steel bracelet utilitarian thing that's now been tricked out in gold. Sort of silly. But deliciously silly!

"lobster roll" hate it; American Hotel in Sag Harbor, love it

So there are all those fish frys on the way to Montauk, one called Cyril's, one just called "lobster roll," and driving past them you know that they're going to be tourist traps, but still they're so perfect looking, and fried fish or a lobster roll is such the quintessential food for Montauk, that you want to stop. Well, I suppose the food is edible, but neither is that good and they're both painfully overpriced. I had the lobster roll at "lobster roll" yesterday and it was slightly too mayo-y and totally chock-full of celery, which feels like a cheat at $20 for a sandwich on a hot-dog bun. Both the lobster roll I had last weekend in Wellfleet and the Fairway lobster roll are much better. Sorry the pic is unappetizing. That's $56 for lunch for two, not including tip.

Also too bad, I don't have a pic of the GOOD restaurant, the American Hotel in Sag Harbor. I saved the Times article about how all the restos out here suck with a few execeptions, the American Hotel being one of the exceptions. So far, this jibes with my experience. And, yes, it was truly delicious. The hotel looks stodgy when you first walk in, but the dining rooms are very cozy, rich, welcoming. It's like a little warren in there with gold-framed paintings and cool wallpaper and moose heads, all a bit eerie and Ancient-Mariner.....sort of the authentic thing that all these modernist interiors with the antlers and white-on-white brocade wallpaper are trying to strip down and imitate. We had the spectacular seafood plate of oysters, clams, mussles, and shrimp. I didn't know until the end that the mustard sauce was for the clams, but that's my fault. The experience was otherwise splendid, some of the freshest shrimp I've ever tasted, sublime local oysters, mussels were great.... Ivan's scallop risotto was also wonderful, as was the clam chowder. The desserts and the bar offerings are old-school, as would be expected, and the wine list is as thick as a September Vogue. Ivan was impressed that they had two pages of Spanish reds (his thing) in tiny type. I think dinner for two was $165 or so, so that's obviously very expensive, know, skip the "lobster roll" and breakfast at the Golden Pear and you'll make up for it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Summerhouse: What I've learned

Probably the best summer innovation comes from Jeff Howe, who discovered that this hippo-shaped baby pool can be turned into an adult flotation device. The mouth provides shade on a sunny day and the pool part keeps you comfortably immersed in the water, without the trouble of having to swim. The shape also catches the breeze at night, causing the hippo to endlessly cruise the pool, casting shadows on the wall of the studio.

The other stuff I've learned all falls into the less idyllic category, and is mainly about how hard it is to be hosts every weekend all summer long. I've always associated summer chilling with effortlessness, and I love to host, cook, dress tables & plan menus and all that. Even though it's work, it's never seemed like work until this summer, when you add endless washing of sheets and towels, general house hassle for two houses, scheduling guests, giving directions and so on. It's basically been a two-month-long dinner party, plus child care and I do feel somewhat like I haven't had the chance to relax and enjoy it. So what have we really learned? Maybe that we need a housekeeper from 5 to 9 every night (not practical, I know!), maybe that we need fewer weeks and fewer guests. Or maybe in some happy alternative universe we'd get really good at the grill, quickie but delicious summer sides, blender drinks and so on, so we could accomplish the same pleasant environments with less chaos. Maybe.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

White Crest Beach, Cape Cod stunningly gorgeous, questionable water

When I saw this beach I felt like I'd seen it before in a dream, or like it was the kind of place that someone might have described to me, late at night in a bar somewhere while I said, 'I have to see that, I have to go', with real yearning. You can't quite get it from the picture, but to get to the beach you go down a steep hill of sand. So it's like a beach that's also a mountain, or at least the side of a mountain. I found it to be very magical. Unfortunately, the water was brown and full of seaweed and smelly. I'm curious if this was an unlucky day or if it's always like that.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hatch's Fish Market, Wellfleet, MA

Wildly overpriced but cult market in Wellfleet, Hatch's fish market. The t-shirts are kind of cute and at $15 are a comparative steal .

More East Hampton beach info

I've refined my understanding of the East Hampton beach parking situation. Not all the beaches have pay parking during the week. I've now discovered that Indian Wells does NOT, but Main Beach and Atlantic Beach do. Also, this just in from Hither Hills on the way to Montauk:

Maybe you already know about this, but Jon found this great state park beach that's only seven dollars a day to park, you can pay park on weekends, and has all the capitalist beach accouterments you need (food shack, deli, bathing suit shack, showers). It's part of a camp ground, so it's not the fashionable Hamptons scene, but there's so much empty beach on either side that it doesn't feel like you are stuck with yahoos, and there were no radios on the beach or anything. We had a really peerless day at the beach today, just GORGEOUS. Although the water practically was carribean warm! but still sparkly and refreshing.

Forgotten Boston childhood treat: Emack and Bolio's

When Emack & Bolio's ice cream shop arrived in Wellesley when I was a kid the whole venture seemed exotic....the weird name, the tall chalkboard wall with all the little hand-lettered signs, the unheard of flavors. My favorite flavor was key lime pie, which was tart, barely sweet and had delicious textural swirls of graham cracker crust. Well, Emacks hasn't spread to the rest of the country like Ben & Jerry's, and that's both too bad and kind of nice since it remains a special local thing. We stopped at the one in Wellfleet this weekend, and I must say that the ice cream has stood the test of time & then some. It's Ciao-Bella-like in its light perfection and bright flavors. The flavors are everything-but-the-kitchen-sink (wonder if this was where Ben & Jerry got it?) if you like that, which I do, and use really great chocolate & other high quality ingredients.

Here's the sign out front. An entry in the time-honored tradition of cheesy small-town signage---two others: The Chocolate Sparrow, Puppies and Pickles

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Beware the Carriage House! Love the Meyer lemon and tarragon martini

These little Cape Cod towns are picturesque but full of lurking dangers....the bad food, the terrible room at the inn, etc. We're here for a wedding and had a few near misses. Our first rooms at the Duck Creeke Inn (C3 and C4 in the carriage house) were dark and smelled worrisomely organic. Fortunately, we were able to switch to quaint rose-and-lace rooms in the main house. No A.C. but still an improvement. My dad read some internet reviews of this place before we came and said that many people commented that the room quality really varies. So, beware the carriage house!

We also went so far as to sit down at the Lighthouse restaurant on Main Street before the lack of other clientele and fried-bar-food menu made us think twice. Ended up at the delicious Bookstore & Restaurant on Kendrick Ave by the harbor. Not everything stood out, but the special of local clams in butter and the lobster roll were both fantastic (lobster fresh, not too much mayo), perfect, seaside, cape-town fare. The place also had great specialty drinks... a meyer lemon and tarragon martini, a lemoncello and iced tea drink! The used bookstore out back was cool but ridiculously overpriced. I bought a pamphlet about crops in the Soviet Union for $5. Who else would ever want that?, you ask. Good question! They should have paid me to take it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

London hotel recommendations, cozy, classy, British

A friend asked for some recommnedations this morning.....

The Knightsbridge
My favorite hotel in London, located on a lovely mews next to Harrods, expensive but worth it, if you can afford it. I love it so much because it feels homey but still glamorous, designed but not trendy. My favorite room with the red poppy curtains is on the first floor directly over the entrance portico and if memory serves, you can step out on the roof. One of the Firmdale hotel chainlet, in my opinion its best.

The Zetter
This is that obvious kind of hip retro boutique hotel but is still pretty fun. The rooms are decorated with awesome, funky textiles, vintage books and a hot water bottle with a chunky knitted cover. The "studio" room on the top floor is like a little apartment (no kitchen). And it's in Clerkenwell, so if you want to spend time in Hoxton/East London it's a good location. There might be deals on price, it's varied quite a bit the different times we've stayed.

The Vancouver Studios
This is where I stay when I'm on my own and pretending I'm in my 20s. It's dirt cheap (L50 night?), the kind of hotel with a kitchenette in the tiny room, but it's in one of those charming old London buildings and it's clean and the beds and linens are ok. I usually get flowers, put out my books and throw a scarf over the bed and voila, quaint. Also, it's on Prince's square near Queensway, the park, and Notting Hill, which is just where you want to be, unless you have a strong reason for needing to be near another neighborhood.

A few other things we've tried: a site called home away that rents out flats. It is a pain to search through their listings and the place we found was tiny, but perfectly acceptable. And there is Guesthouse West in Notting Hill, which is small and too party-central for us, but cheap for a boutique hotel and located just where you want it to be.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Marty's Old Stone Market, Mary's Marvelous, Golden Pear Cafe / Breakfast and Lunch in East Hampton

(Photo is of the Golden Pear, see below)

Marty's market on Old Stone Highway, maybe 5 minutes by car north of Amagansett, is the best breakfast/lunch place I've found so far, probably no accident that it's off the main highway. Seating is either outdoors with a view of a parking lot or there's a long table stuffed into the aisles, last I saw it piled with stuff & not looking very appealing as a place to sit, but never mind that. Prices are reasonable and the sandwiches are made-to-order and delicious. Yesterday had a cubano with pickles and mayo, a brisket bbq, and a fresh mozzarella amongst our group and everyone thought they were great. They also make all kinds of deli take-out lasagnas, roasted banana cake, rice pudding, spinach pie, cakes and cobblers to order. Overall there's an authentic home-made, small-town vibe, which is what I'm looking for when in the countryside.

The other two local cult breakfast/lunch places I've heard of around here are Mary's Marvelous in Amagansett and the Golden Pear, a chain with an outpost in East Hampton. Mary's is more sophisticated, looks more like a baked-goods shop, has a full espresso bar (unlike Marty's) and some deli stuff. I tried a $10 quart of pea soup that was quite good and had a nice muffin from there as well, but there's no grill and the sandwiches appear to be pre-made. Jury is still out. Tried the Golden Pear this morning and.....found the high prices to be exploitative feeling (a $14 waffle), the vibe soulless and the aroma of hazelnut coffee unpleasant, but the food wasn't too bad. It looked worse than it tasted. Sort of reminded me of Sarabeth's kitchen, which once seemed gourmet and exciting and now hasn't really kept up with the changing, ever more sophisticated palate of American diners. The omelet of the day was spinach, tomato and goat cheese, for example, which feels kind of 80s.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Blue Parrot East Hampton in fact rotten

Not worth saying much about, but we went to the Blue Parrot, supposedly a hot opening in East Hampton village. It was Thursday at lunch & there were plenty of tables and the service wasn't overtaxed, which is what I'd been worried about....but there may have been a reason for that. The first bad sign was that the lime that came with the Dos Equis was slumped over the mouth of the bottle like a Dali clock, slimy and rotten. We should have cut our losses and fled. You can tell when a culture of lack-of-care has its grip on a place, and the food will never be good under those conditions. And it wasn't. I could smell my fish sandwich as it approached the table. The quesadilla used Chedder cheese (which melts too greasy for a need Mexican cheeses) the overdressed side salads didn't even try to be "mexican influenced." Killer Mexican indeed.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The BBC List, improved

I've been tagged on Facebook again with this fake BBC book list. The conceit is that these are great books that everyone should have read and most people have only read 6. Probably anyone participating has read more than that, and thus gets to feel well-read, which might account for the success of the meme, but the list is a maddening mishmash of pop trash and classics, wih sort of seems to focus on British literature but then doesn't really, includes 'Hamlet' twice, etc. I am hereby amending it to be a better list of must-reads, including books by Brits and their subjects (Australia! Canada!). Caveat that I'm working off the original list, so it's not really MY 100 top reads, but my interpretation of what their British popular classics should have been. And I'm tweaking it a bit to make it more vacation-read friendly, to go with the theme of the blog.

Original list (with my x's indicating what I've read, below my list).


1. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (original list had many Austen; I love her, but one represents just fine)
3. Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy (ditto Hardy)
4. Dracula, Bram Stoker
5. Middlemarch, George Eliot
6. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
7. Vilette, Charlotte Bronte
8. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
9. The Bible (this was on the original list and I'm not going to remove it, though it doesn't much seem to fit)
10. A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare (complete works was on the other list; I'm making it easier to check that box & picking my favorite play.)
11. Hamlet, William Shakespeare
12. The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
13. Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
14. Ulysses, James Joyce
15. The Inferno, Dante
16. Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome
17. Germinal, Emile Zola
18. Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
19. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
20. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
21. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
22. The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas
23. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
24. Under the Volcano, Malcom Lowry (Replacing Madame Bovary, since there shouldn't be any Frenchies on a British list!)
25. A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry (I haven't read this but it was on the original list)
26. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier (I haven't read this but it was on the original list)
27. Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck (have cut out most Americans but, at random, left a few)
28. Collected Stories, Flannery O'Connor (to replace To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee)
29. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
30. Notes From A Small Island, Bill Bryson
31. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard
32. Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
33. Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
34. Catch 22, Joseph Heller
35. The Regeneration Trilogy, Pat Barker
36. Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers
37. Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell (1984 and Animal Farm were on the original list)
38. Burmese Days, George Orwell
39. Goodbye to All That, Robert Graves
40. I, Claudius, Robert Graves
41. The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch
42. The Magus, John Fowles
43. A Maggot, John Fowles
44. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
45. The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
46. The Moviegoer, Walker Percy (to replace A Confederacy of Dunces; John Kennedy Toole)
47. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute (?)
48. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
49. Lady Chatterly's Lover, D.H. Lawrence
50. Of Human Bondage, Somerset Maugham
51. The Return of Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse
52. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulk
53. The Swimming Pool Library, Alan Hollinghurst
54. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
55. The World According to Garp, John Irving
56. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
57. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons (haven't read this)
58. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
59. The Buddha of Suburbia, Hanif Kureshi
60. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon (haven't read this)
61. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding (this was on the original list!)
62. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
63. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
64. Arlington Park, Rachel Cusk
65. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
66. The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks
67. Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
68. Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts
69. Ken Follett, Pillars of the Earth
70. Possession, AS Byatt (also a dubious stet from original list); possible replace with Night Watch by Sarah Waters
71. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
72. In the Place of Fallen Leaves, Tim Pears
73. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
74. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
75. Atonement, Ian McEwan
76. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
77. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
78. Crime and Punishment, Fydor Dostoevsky
79. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
80.(Ok, because they included some Russians, I'm going to do my Russian must-read list, starting here): The Brothers Karamazov, Fydor Dostoevsky
81. Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
82. Evgeny Onegin, Alexsander Pushkin
83. Collected Stories, Nikolai Gogol
84. The Compromise, Sergei Dovlatov
85. Moscow to Petushki, Venedikt Erofeev
86. Heart of a Dog, Mikhail Bulgakov
87. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien (original list had this huge children's section)
88. His Dark Materials, Phillip Pullman
89. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
90. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
91. A Grief Observed, CS Lewis (Substituting for the Chronicles of Narnia, which really fall apart towards the end)
92. Anne of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
93. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
94. Dune, Frank Herbert
95. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
96. Farenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
97. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
98. Watership Down, Richard Adams
99. Charlotte’s Web, EB White
100. The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper


1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen - x
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien x
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte -x
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee -x
6 The Bible - x
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte - x
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell -x
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman x
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens-x
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott -x
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy x
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare - x
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien x
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk x
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger -x
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot (Augie March, and it was a real drag!) x
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell x
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - x
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens x
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy - x
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams - x
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky x
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck - x
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll - x
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy - x
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens x
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis x
34 Emma- Jane Austen-x
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen-x
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis - x
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini - X (seriously? jesus!)
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres x
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden -
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne -
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell - x
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez - x
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving x
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery - x
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy -x
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood -x
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding -x
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan - x
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert x
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen-x
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley x
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez -x
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck - x
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov -x
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt x
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold _ x
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac -x
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy- x
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding x
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker x
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett - x
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce x
76 The Inferno – Dante - x
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt-x
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell x
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker - x
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert x
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White - x
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad -x
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery -x
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks x
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams - x
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole -x
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare - x
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl - x
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"What if I lived here?"

Just because you're on vacation doesn't mean you can't look at real estate:

This house at 364 Old Stone Highway has one of those "the owner is crazy" signs in the front yard saying it is for sale. When I stopped to take a picture, I saw a curtain in the window move, and hot-footed it away quickly.

There was an open house at 450 Old Stone Highway from Hampton Realty on a somewhat exposed & uncharming plot of land, that looked like it might be a vintage farmhouse, no pic.

No. 284 Old Stone Highway had an open house sign from Prudential Douglas Elliman, though it wasn't clear if it was the front house or the back which was for sale, since both were vacant. In front was a tiny, cheap-but-clean redo of an original farmhouse, keeping some original detail and adding some fun touches like a back wall off the kitchen that opened entirely up to the pool area and would be great for grilling & parties. In the front yard was a stand of the beautiful, twisted, inclement-climate trees that grow around here. The back house looked to be either new or gutted, probably new, with a fancy white granite island other status symbols of modern design-living.

Here are the trees:

This is the house in the front, you can see the open wall detail. The next pic is the house in back, followed by two details from the interior of the house in front. You can see one of those steep staircases like they had in old farmhouses.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Worst Grilled Cheese/Best Mac-n-Cheese at Atlantic Beach, East Hampton

I'm not proud that I've eaten my way through the menu at the beach shack at Atlantic Beach it is. I've now had the veggie burger, the 'beach burger' with russian dressing, bacon and fixins, the PB&J, the grilled cheese, the mac n' cheese, the lemonade and probably some things I'm not thinking of. (All drinks come in styrofoam cups so enormous you could use them to quarantine the head of a dog who's recently had surgery. Yay, environment.) The grilled cheese was, as my friend Karren said, probably the worst grilled cheese ever made, even on the scale of bad beach grilled cheeses. The classic of the genre is made with slices of orange American cheese, the kind that goes rubbery instead of melting, and butter-pasted Wonder Bread fried golden and crispy. That's a humble meal, a classic combination of semi-chemical flavors, but it can be delicious at the right moment. The grilled cheeses at Atlantic Beach use the orange glue-cheese and the cheap bread but were limp & barely browned. File under the category of things I didn't know could be fked up. The mac and cheese, on the other hand, costs $3 for a styrofoam cup of it & may have come from outer space, but it's pretty good. If anyone wants my critique of the burger or veggie burger, feel free to ask.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Children on the Deck of the Summerhouse

Content of relevance to no one, testing the image-post capabilities. 

Hamptons Parking Update

There is a whole cult of hype around the parking permits here and how difficult it is to park by the beaches and if it's even worth it to get a house if you are not a permanent resident, a situation creating a miasma of fear and belonging--or fear of not belonging--made worse by the fact that the rules have just changed. 

Well, I just learned that you can park at any of these supposed exclusive beaches on the ocean during the week for around $20 a day, and during the weekend you can take cabs. So, though it's pay to play here as always, it's very possible to enjoy your vacation without a permanent resident pass. And, frankly, on the weekends when the parking lots are crazy-crammed, taking a taxi starts to look smart option. 

Scrappy East Hampton Springs is better than "South of the Highway"

My Hamptons philosophy has always been to be anti- the anti-Hamptons people. The East End of Long Island is fking gorgeous and has long, wide beaches with tall waves and the ice-cold water that puts the sublime chill in a summer day, one dip and you're cool and comfortable on the beach for hours, so who really cares if the people here are too fashionable or too trashy or too sceney or what? If you don't like them, ignore them. And if you do, then there's lots of fun to be had.....  

I've always come here to visit a particular college friend (whose parents have an amazing house, a pool and a membership to the Maidstone Club) and we never went out at all, just trundled from beach to pool to sitting around on the deck with wine, being in our 20s talking about who and when we might get married and what we'd become in our lives, and smoking cigarettes and being perfectly happy.  

Fast-forward 10 years to trying to find a house here. My Central Park South dentist recommended Devlin McNiff real estate and insisted that we live "South of the Highway,"---which is very nice mansion-land if you can and want to live like the Pasha of Pashminaville (to flash a best forgotten 90s status symbol). And then there are the people who are like "Oh the Bay, the Bay, the Bay is so much cooler" and you think, "Yeah, but it's flat and it smells like fish."  

Here is what I have concluded: You need a car anyway, so if you want a semi-rural experience with tiny saltbox cottages and yards with tumbledown sheds and country stores, a neighborhood where it's nice to walk around peeking at houses that look like they're lived in by locals--the heart of the place, the bones, that which made it cool in the first place, the Hamptons lived in by Jackson Pollack and Sylvia Plath (that last one I don't know really where she lived with Ted Hughes baking cakes just like Gwynnie in a movie but it should have been here), the the Springs is for you. It will not be significantly inconvenient for beach-going.  

Also, apparently the Bennett family was one of the first to settle the East End and in these parts, on Neck Path and Old Stone Highway up to Louse Point (Rouse Point?) you see lots of mailboxes that say Bennett.