Glass-blowing is at least one thousand years old. The tradition of glass defines the island of Murano which lies across the canal from Venice. Glass, to me, is magic and fascinates me. It’s a substance that is indefinable really. A molten liquid which is blown by mouth, spun by hand, baked in a furnace until it becomes a solid. Yet it is a solid that is fragile, often transparent, and can be amongst the most exquisite, ethereal objects known. Giampaolo Seguso comes from a family who, for more than six hundred years has created glass. Born in Murano, his father Archimedes and his uncle Angelo were the creative force who preceeded Giampaolo. Giampaolo is a passionate creator of glass and, it turns out, of words.
I was honored to attend a reading of his poetry book, The Home of the Heartbeats, on May 9 at the Italian Cultural Institute in NYC. To my amazement, each poem has its own piece of glass with the poem etched on the object. Seguso read about fifteen poems from the book and the pieces were on display. He is as passionate about his words as he is about his craft.
My favorite poem and piece of glass is SNOW. Here is a line:
Later, by the stove, we crumble our minutes amid smiles, staring eyes and embraces.
Another is I ATE MANY CHERRIES which starts: I ate many cherries in my grandfather’s garden…
He not only ate cherries in the garden, he learned his craft generation after generation. It amazes me and leaves me in awe, jealous that he has always known who he is and what he could be. He spoke of seeing himself as one in a long line of relay runners, passing the torch, one to another.
Filed under art glass, Food, travel, writing, glass blowing, Grand Canal, Italy, Manhattan, NYC, Uncategorized, Venice
A House in Sicily
I haven’t blogged for a long while. I’ve been working on some other projects and (of course) travelling. I thought I’d resume the blog with a review of a book about travelling. The charm of this memoir, A House in Sicily, is its delightful narrator and her storytelling ability. Daphne Phelps tells the story of how she happened to inherit a home on a hilltop in the Sicilian town of Taormina. With virtually no money to care for the house and property, she turns the place into a small hotel and invites her friends from England to come and stay for a small fee. These friends include artists and literary luminaries such as the cranky Roald Dahl, Bertrand Russell, and even Caitlin Thomas. Rumor has it that Greta Garbo once stayed in the house for a summer, although Phelps was too classy to admit this. The book is a series of vignettes about her guests, the struggle she had to keep the house and navigate through the Sicilian legal (or not so legal) system, and about the characters who inhabit Taormina. If you have been to Taormina, the book will make you want to go back. If you haven’t, the book will entice you to go. Either way, it’s worth reading. By the way, Casa Cuseni is still a hotel where you can stay. I, for one, am planning to do just that.
Living as I do a train ride away from Manhattan I need no excuse to come into the city. But three or four times a year, the restaurants lure me in with Restaurant Week when hundreds of the best offer prix fix menus for lunch and/or dinner. I have eaten at many of New York City’s best restaurants this way for a fraction of what you would usually pay.
Last week I ate at one of the best I’ve ever tried. It was a gorgeous July day. The sun was shining and there was no humidity. We landed tickets to Anything Goes and headed to mid-town for a matinee. We stopped, as we always do, at Ruby Foo’s for a snack and a Ruby Foococktail. Dozens of people were seated outside in Times Square watching the women play France in the World Cup finals. A group roar could be heard over the traffic when the women scored.
hanging in Times Square
women in the World Cup in NYC
Anything Goes with music by Cole Porter is a tap-dancing, foot-tapping, hum along show that was everything I’d heard it was. See it while Joel Gray and Sutton Foster are still in it.
Then it was downtown to Union Square to eat dinner at Olives, Todd English’s restaurant in the W Hotel. This was my first time here although I’ve eaten at his Blue Zoo in Orlando and loved it.
EVERYTHING about this meal was incredible. Each dish is layered in flavors and it’s really difficult to explain the complex deliciousness of each course. A basket of breads is brought to the table and while I usually pass on the bread, I couldn’t pass on this basket. Focaccia glazed with caramelized onions, two kinds of flatbread, and two kinds of olive tapenade to spread on the bread is more than I can resist.
I also ordered flatbread with prosciutto and chard for my appetizer. It was a huge portion and I ate nearly the entire thing. I also tasted the consommé with fresh peas. It was light and flavorful; the perfect summer soup.
I had the incredible pasta for my main course. Just what I needed; more carbs. It was so worth it. This was the best pasta I’ve ever eaten anywhere, including Italy. The other entrée I tasted was the pastrami beef which was melt in your mouth tender.
TJ in Olives
I’m not usually a dessert person but—you guessed it—I ate every morsel of my pineapple upside down cake. Maybe it was because the pineapple was doused in bourbon which gave it an irresistible flavor. The other choice was a strawberry concoction that was fabulous, as well.
I will definitely come back to Olives, restaurant week or not.
Filed under Broadway, Food, travel, writing, New York, NYC, NYC tourist attractions, OLIVES, Restaurant Week NYC, Todd English, Uncategorized
New Year’s in NYC 2012
Although I would rather swallow red ants than go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve, I did go traipsing about Manhattan on January 30, 2011. The day was mild and sunny and the crowds were out and about. You would think they were giving away baubles on the streets there were that many people.
I love New York in all seasons. It would be impossible for me to pick my favorite. Every year during the Christmas season, my daughter and I revisit some of our traditional favorite spots and we try to add at least one new one. As many years as we have been doing this, there is always something new to try. This year, we added the Plaza Hotel where the lobbied is adorned with pink decorations and a glorious pink tree, all done by the delightful and inimitable Betsey Johnson.
We love Todd English’s food so we waited for forty-five minutes (after being told it would be a mere 15!) to eat at the Food Court in the Plaza. Although the prices are absurd, we splurged and his food, as always, was delicious. I had a fig and prosciutto flat bread pizza cooked in an open fire oven
and my daughter had a tuna burger that was cooked to perfection.
We were seated in the Ocean section of the Food Court. There are eight possible seatings, but you can order from any of the stations no matter where you sit. We got to watch as an intense young chef sliced gorgeous tuna into gorgeous slices. But the highlight drama was when a purveyor from Urban Truffles showed up, opened a cloth napkin to reveal more than a dozen black truffles. That got the chef’s attention and he stopped everything to make a purchase. It was like watching a high end drug deal go down. I don’t understand how the young purveyor trots around Manhattan so casually with such expensive merchandise. I’d have a minor breakdown. Then again, I probably wouldn’t part with those truffles in the first place. There is no flavor that is more incredible than fresh truffles.
Of course we saw all the windows. Of course we saw the tree. We stopped inside Bloomingdale’s to use the ladies lounge and bought cupcakes at the fabulous Magnolia Cupcakes. My favorite was the Hummingbird. No idea why it’s called that, but it was light and airy and filled with pieces of pineapple. Yum.
I hope everyone had a great 2011. I had two fabulous trips to Europe and a few smaller ones within the US. Happy and Healthy New Year to all!
Happy New Year
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,600 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 43 trips to carry that many people.
Click here to see the complete report.
Avignon is a good base for side trips to smaller towns in Provence. From here I took a day trip to St. Remy, Les Baux, Uzes, Villeneuve-Lez-Avignon. I had planned to visit Nimes but was blocked from seeing it because there were bullfights at the time I was there and was told the roads were impassable.
The significant structure here is the Place du Palais, the Pope’s Palace. I’ve been to Siena, Italy a number of times and I knew the story of Saint Catherine, the patron saint of Siena, and how she convinced the Pope to return from France back to Italy. In the 13thcentury things had gotten dicey in Italy and Pope Clement V fled to Avignon. A few Popes later, the Palace was built and Avignon was the de facto capital of Christendom. Young Catherine had a vision and traveled from Siena to Avignon (no easy trip even now) and somehow convinced Pope Gregory XI to leave this lovely place and return to Italy, ensuring her fame and sainthood.
Avignon bridgegrotto in Pope's gardenview from the Pope's palace
Popes knew how to choose real estate. The Palace sits on the highest point of Avignon and is still a stunning spot. The views from the Popes Palace are miles long and are still unspoiled. From the Palace and the surrounding gardens you can see the Rhone River, the mountain, and the famous Avignon bridge.
I enjoyed strolling through the gardens. They are serene and beautifully kept. The view from there is spectacular. The square in front of the Palace is lively and full of street performers and places to have a snack or a drink.
statue in the garden
Speaking of food, my favorite place in Avignon is the famed indoor market Les Halles. I bought breakfast there early one Sunday morning. I took it outside and sat facing Les Halles in the little square. Me, a few old men chattering in French, a couple of pigeons, and my panecone. I was blissfully happy. I’d rather be sitting there than inside a dusty Palace, even if it was the one where Catherine persuaded a Pope to come back home.
in the market