NYBG Day Trip: Glass Menagerie

If you haven’t yet made the trek up to the New York Botanical Garden to see the glorious Chihuly installation, it’s not too late: the exhibit continues through October 29. And it is so worth the trip!

We began our tour at the Mertz Library, beckoned by the Blue Polyvitro Crystals in the fountain. Made of resin rather than glass, they are a departure from Chihuly’s usual medium, but still worth a gander:

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The Library presents an up-and-down-the-stairs treasure hunt to view Chihuly’s older works. There is an elevator – it appears to have been designed for Munchkins – but either way the flow is a bit complicated, although you do get to see some stunners:

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Fortunately, there is a dazzling pay-off as you descend the stairs to the fourth floor: Chihuly’s brilliant ten-foot-tall Palazzo Ducale Tower is a must-see:

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The real whimsy and grandeur of the installation comes alive as you walk up Garden Way and encounter the Sapphire Star

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and then Red Reeds on Logs at the Reflecting Pool:

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Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses, or, well, the coreopsis? This one had a bee in its bonnet:

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First glimpse of the magnificent Haupt Conservatory: I would (and did) ride three trains just to step inside this lovely building.

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And then the dazzling Sol de Citrón at the entrance! I couldn’t get a good photo of it so I borrowed this one from the NYBG site:

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Chihuly’s glass is set perfectly – like jewels – among the Garden’s plants. These are titled Glasshouse Fiori:

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the stately White Belugas:

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the Macchia Forest:

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and White Tower with Fiori:

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At the end of our tour we were rewarded with a view of one perfect Sacred Lotus. I’d love to see a Chihuly interpretation of this:

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If you go (and you should!): you can reach the NYBG via subway or Metro-North train, but there’s either a bus ride or a 20-minute hike from the subway station, so we took the Metro-North from GCT which takes you right to the NYBG Mosholu Gate entrance. You can take a tram ride through the Garden if you aren’t up to walking, although even on a drowsy Friday afternoon the lines for the tram were somewhat daunting. Another way to see the exhibit is at night although be advised that these evenings sell out quickly. Oh, and for the love of God, whenever you go, wear comfortable walking shoes!

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In which I howl about coyotes.

I heard them again the other night. Yip-yip-yipping somewhere behind our property. It’s an almost nightly serenade, a pack of coyotes, celebrating their latest kill; maybe a gopher or a squirrel, but more likely a bunny rabbit or some careless neighbor’s unfortunate pet.

Whether you hear them or see them or pass your day blissfully unaware of them, coyotes are always nearby. According to Dan Flores, author of Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History (288 pages, published by Basic Books, 2016) if you live in the continental United States, you are never more than one mile away from a coyote. Yes, even in New York City, where they are seen in Queens and rumored to roam Central Park, as evidenced by this New York Daily News photo:

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In California, I encountered a pair of them a few months ago on my morning walk. Brazen and brindle-coated, they regarded me absolutely without fear. They conveyed with a muscular clarity that it was I who intruded upon their morning rounds, not they upon mine. They did not move toward me, but neither did they back away, and I passed them uneasily, with many backward glances to be sure they did not follow.  That’s when I decided to read up on them: Know thy enemy, and all that.

Everyone has an opinion about coyotes. My California neighbors are divided right down the middle on them. Half harbor a notion to flout the rules and impose some vigilante justice; the other half vociferously vow to protect them, their packs and their pups at all costs. I’d say the split roughly reflects those of us who have cats, small dogs and poultry, versus those who don’t. Author Flores is an admirer, nay, a veritable acolyte of the coyote and thus his book is a paean to the beast, which didn’t sit so well with me after my close encounter, but I must admit a grudging fascination with the creature.

The American coyote, then popularly regarded as a “prairie wolf” was depicted as early as 1819 by artist Titian Ramsay Peale but first scientifically catalogued by Thomas Say in 1823 as canis latrans.

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John James Audubon documented the “prairie fox” in 1843:

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My coyote-loving neighbors invariably sing the chorus of “they were here before we were”, and according to Flores, they’re right. The ancient coyote line began in the American Southwest 5.3 million years ago, he says. Los Angeles has long been a favorite urban mecca for them, where the coyote population is estimated to be 5,000, so it’s no surprise that so many of them have migrated up the coast to Santa Barbara. The proliferation of coyotes to urban U.S. settings is a testament to their adaptive genius. Perpetual outcast that the coyote may be, he has learned to shadow the human. For where people go, vermin go, and there goest the coyote.

If only the coyote diet was limited to vermin. Flores insists that their primary prey are mice and rats. “Pets compose only 1-2% of an average coyote’s diet”, he says, and he labors to convince the reader that most coyote attacks on dogs and cats are motivated not by the dinner bell but by territorial issues and competition for food. I remain unconvinced, as I am pretty sure neither of the sweet little kitties or any of the hens we’ve lost to coyotes were competing with them for land or food.

Flores rigorously defends against attempts to control the coyote population, asserting that despite repeated governmental programs to extirpate them via trapping and poison, the coyote population remains resiliently constant. Litter sizes correspond brilliantly to both available resources and attrition; the coyote is all about tenacity.

Flores glories in the predator’s elevation to god-like status by the Aztecs and Native Americans, but he rather glosses over the 1981 coyote killing of a toddler in a Glendale driveway. In 2011, nineteen-year-old aspiring musician Taylor Mitchell was killed by coyotes during a hike in Nova Scotia. According to Wikipedia, USDA and California State University researchers have confirmed at least thirty-five attacks on children in the state in which “the possibility of serious or fatal injury seems likely if the child had not been rescued”.

More recently, the conversation has turned to coywolves and coydogs, hybrids that pose an uptick in alarm. Combining the pack mentalities of wolves and the fearlessness of coyotes, these breed mutations are reputed to have spread throughout the Northeast and to possibly be the source of recent attacks in Toronto and New Jersey.

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Coywolf (wikipedia image)

Conventional wisdom states that coyotes “almost never” attack humans, a mantra I repeated to myself as I made my way past the pair I encountered on my morning walk. But then a friend related her experience of having been stalked by a pair of coyotes in our neighborhood a few years back. She was walking with her dogs and noticed the coyotes tailing her. She changed her route, but they continued to follow. Unnerved, she finally entered a stranger’s driveway, knocked on their door and called for a ride home.

As fall approaches, what I call “coyote season” is soon to be upon us. I tend to see them on my street more frequently in fall and winter; January and February have been the unluckiest months for my hens. I’m still unsure just how worried I should be about wily coyote, but, conventional wisdom aside, I’m a little concerned that the wolf is at the door.

“The only thing smarter than a coyote is God” – Hispanic folk saying

 

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There’s a storm coming.

All our thoughts are with Florida today, as Irma plows forward with the Keys in her crosshairs. I’m so grateful that folks there have their priorities straight – shelter, safety, and chickens.

Hundreds of feral chickens roam the streets of Key West – we had brunch with a number of them underfoot a few years back at the Blue Heaven restaurant – and thankfully someone is looking out for their welfare ahead of the storm. Saw this on Twitter as I tracked the hurricane last night, photo credit to @producerken:

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Some enterprising soul managed to capture a flock of the “gypsy chickens” – and if you’ve ever chased a chicken you know the near impossibility of that feat – then wrapped them in newspaper, wings down to keep them calm, and transported them to safety. A different kind of chicken burrito than you’re used to seeing, for sure.

Also in the good news department, I read that the staff at Hemingway House in Key West have opted to ride out the storm there to care for the fifty-five six-toed cats that live on the property. They are the descendants of Hemingway’s beloved felines “Marilyn Monroe” and “Kim Novak”.  Hemingway, who once aptly quipped “One cat just leads to another” would undoubtedly nod his approval.

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More seriously, we have family members hunkered down in Sarasota, where Irma currently seems determined to beat a path to their door. We’ll be praying for you all!

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End of an Era: Farewell to Downey’s

It was everyone’s favorite restaurant that they never went to. People saved up the prospect of dining at Downey’s as they would lock away a gold coin – something shiny and wonderful to enjoy in the future. But, alas, they waited too long because after thirty-five years as a beacon to fine dining on Santa Barbara’s State Street, chef John Downey and his wife, Liz, have served their last slice of Millefeuille.

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I rhapsodize often about restaurants in Manhattan or wherever else we happen to alight, but there’s nary a peep in these pages about hometown dining. Because, truth be told – with a few happy exceptions – the restaurant scene in Santa Barbara is mostly meh. Blah. Sometimes really awful.

Downey’s, though, was different. Gabe Saglia lovingly detailed the restaurant’s history in this swan song recently published in the Santa Barbara News-Press but I’m just here to talk about the duck. Twice a year we would make a pilgrimage all the way downtown (about a ten minute drive…) so that I could order the Mary’s Farm Duck served with Exotic Grains.

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Baby turnips were the traditional accompaniment, although by the time we enjoyed our “last supper” as things wound down last week, the turnip truck had apparently stopped delivering so instead there were, disappointingly, a few slices of pluots on the plate where the turnips would have, should have been.

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And there were no more half bottles of  the excellent Crossbarn by Paul Hobbs’ Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to savor along with the duck.  Cue Joni Mitchell: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”

Most else was as it should be, however. There was the incredible fresh-baked Irish soda bread in its homely little basket:

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And there was the Santa Rosa Island Crab and Papaya Salad with Fresh Ginger-Lime Dressing. You could set your watch by the two tiny, tart lime segments on the edge of the plate – how will we go on without them?

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After the duck, the ritual demanded a taste of the Stilton with fig and tomato jam:

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And the finale, from which we never wavered (despite the allure of a Chocolate Marquise and a Peach Melba) was the aforementioned Millefeuille. Lusciously thick white chocolate buttercream studded with fresh raspberries and encased in divinely crisp layers of puff pastry. Luckily, the recipe has been preserved for posterity at thetrailofcrumbs.com.

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A new restaurant is slated to open soon at the Downey’s address and we can only hope they might include a few legacy items on their menu. Like all of them, maybe?

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Family Album: More Maui, Please.

Every trip to Ka’anapali is the best trip, but this one, seriously, was the best of the best.

Well, except for the getting there. Nine of us arrived at LAX all ready to hula but our airplane decided not to dance. Boarded. Waited. Waited. Waited. De-planed. Waited. Waited. Waited. You know how it goes.

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But finally a new plane was found and we made it to Maui before sunset:

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Taylor was already there, making good use of his time:

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It was all worth waiting for. Angie got this shot of the kids at sunset:

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Then we settled down to the tough job of checking off the to-do list.

1) say hello to Keoki, the sulfur-crested cockatoo who we’ve greeted on every trip to Ka’anapali since the 1980’s:

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2) James takes a ride on the water slide:

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3) Head to the Hula Grill for dinner at a table in the sand:

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4) Grandpa always pops for ice cream at Whalers Village after dinner:

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Repeat, repeat, repeat as the days melt away. We ate so many times at Hula Grill that they awarded us a complimentary slice of Hula Pie:

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A surprise visit from John made our tribe almost complete:

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All we were missing was Daniel, but he was there in spirit:

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Taylor and Thomas conquered Black Rock:

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Such a great uncle:

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And such beautiful families:

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It’s a little slice of Paradise:

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Hey, CE, can we start planning the next trip?

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Mahalo, everyone, for making Maui 2017 so special!

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Walk with me: Ka’anapali

All in all, August might not be the best time for a trip to Maui. Unless you are fond of crowds. Crowds with lots and lots of children. We certainly did our part.

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But my philosophy regarding Hawaii is that if you get a chance to go, you go. Any time, any island. And so, August at Ka’anapali. Where the competition for pool lounges is so fierce we saw at least one altercation between some folks who were most definitely not hanging loose.

Our solution was to rise before the sun and before the crowds. Early morning walks at Ka’anapali are spectacular: miles and miles of ocean view and mostly on the flat. If you start early enough – meaning in the dark – you can even walk without being jostled by those pesky joggers who come out of nowhere and make you spill your coffee.

And by early, I do mean early. You good with 5:30 a.m.? The swans at the Ka’anapali Hyatt are awake by then, so you should be, too:

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It doesn’t take long for the sky to lighten along the boardwalk. 5:45 a.m.:

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By 6: 15 a.m. the day has truly begun:

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The egrets have begun their morning shift, patrolling the hedges for unwary geckos:

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And looking out over Black Rock, all early risers are rewarded with a morning rainbow:

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Good morning to the koi at the Ka’anapali Sheraton:

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And to these guys, too. I have really big feet so you get that these are really big snails!

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The beach walk pops out behind the Sheraton and continues up a slight hill along a golf course. And you can keep going and going and going. Just be sure to say hello to the neighborhood cats:

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My favorite stretch is along the Kai Ala boardwalk:

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Then onward to North Ka’anapali and the Westin Villas, and a few more felines along the way:

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It’s time to turn back when I reach the lovely cassia javanica trees in the Maui Kai parking lot:

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I easily clocked six miles before breakfast. It is the best, most beautiful walk I know, and I can’t wait to go back. Aloha, Maui…

“Walking is man’s best medicine” – Hippocrates

 

 

 

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Hungry in Manhattan: The Prix Fixe Lunch, Part IV

What’s the first thing I think of when you say “New York”?

“Statue of Liberty?” Nope.

“Times Square?” Nawww.

“Shrimp Salad with Avocado, Tomato and Champagne Vinegar Dressing?”

How did you guess?

The prix-fixe lunch at Nougatine is an essential memory of nearly every trip we’ve made to NYC in the past decade. Because it’s that good. And because, while one could certainly argue that $38 is an eye-popping price to pay for lunch, it is really, truly an excellent value. Chef Jean-Georges debuted Nougatine as the casual sister to his eponymous, 3-Michelin starred restaurant Jean-Georges twenty years ago and both are going strong. Smack in the center of the city that is the center of the universe,  you’ll find them next to the globe at Columbus Circle in the Trump International Hotel building.

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The exterior view is of Central Park and the interior view can be interesting, as well. Back in the day we once sat next to former NYC mayor “How am I doin’?” Ed Koch. More recently I was nudged by a table mate to look up from my shrimp salad and see Reba McEntire seated nearby. And sometimes, celebrity chef Jean-Georges himself can be spotted greeting guests.

Speaking of that shrimp salad, let me strongly recommend it as the first of your three lunch courses. Despite the lure of the Tuna Tartare and, seasonally, the Spring Pea Soup, it is the shrimp salad that brings us back again and again. We’ve decided that the secret to this salad is that the shrimp, butterflied and succulent, are served warm. And every single time, when the last bite of shrimp and the final slice of avocado are gone, we declare that it was a meal in itself and that we could easily be done. But there’s more!

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For the second course, the CE is partial to the Roasted Hake, but my go-to fave is the Organic Chicken, with accompaniments that change seasonally. A glass of Grüner Veltliner goes nicely with this, by the way. Other entrée options are Rigatoni with Meatballs and there is a nice Veal Milanese. You can even get a Cheeseburger if that’s your heart’s desire.

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By now you are truly and entirely full, and whatever plans you had for galloping around the city after lunch are now being re-thought along the lines of an afternoon nap. Especially since the waiter has just arrived with dessert!

Almost everyone orders the Jean-Georges Warm Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. It’s that deceptive-looking cake that goes molten the moment you approach it. (Kind of like my heart when I’m thinking about NYC.) But there’s always an alternative; lately it has been a lovely Strawberry Pavlova.

But the ultimate Nougatine dessert (which is not on the prix-fixe menu and therefore requires an uncharge but is so completely worth it!) is their Butterscotch Pudding. Like none you’ve ever had with its thick, caramelized top layer and the occasional chip of sea salt. Just know that you’ll be canceling dinner plans if you go this route.

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Location: 1 Central Park West, at Columbus Circle

High points: Their house-made sodas are especially good.

Reservations: A must. And make them sooner than later, as it can be hard to get in. OpenTable or call 212-299-3900.

Dress Code: The business casual dress code is gently but firmly enforced. No flip flops and no shorts, no matter how pink or preppy. Luckily, there is an H&M and a Hugo Boss store in the Time-Warner Center across the street if you need an instant wardrobe upgrade.

The last word: We’ve talked about some great lunches in this series, but there is no question that the iconic NYC prix-fixe prize goes to Nougatine. My advice is to go there first, last and often.

 

 

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