Up with the Chickens.

Sometimes it just seems like the days blur together. And other times they actually blur together, as in yesterday and today, which were linked, in my world, by only two hours of sleep. Instead of a visit from the  Sandman, I had a dreaded 1 a.m. appointment with the Arch Ghoul of Insomnia, who pulled up a chair and sat awhile…until 5 a.m., actually, when I finally had enough of parrying with that uninvited guest and excused myself to start the day. It’s a yesterday-and-today sandwich, with a very thin slice of nap in between.

I’m not complaining. I don’t really want to miss a moment of these languorous July days anyway. Summer weather finally kicks in here just as the sun begins its post-solstice retreat; we can shed our sweatshirts at long last, but dawn has already slapped on the snooze button and dusk intrudes a minute earlier each evening. I can almost hear summer holding its breath, sensing that its brief moment center stage is about to pass.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one up at 5. Little Miss Nugget is already hard at work when I arrive to open the coop door for the day. She is our first Rhode Island Red and, bless her heart, she is everything that people brag about with this breed. Gentle, alert, curious and such a great layer – up at the crack of dawn almost every day and hard at work on the nest tucking her precious golf balls beneath her for good luck.

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Did you know that egg production is directly correlated to the number of daylight hours? A hen’s endocrine system responds to the change in seasons, triggering increased egg-laying in spring (Easter eggs, anyone?) and summer and tapering off in fall and winter.  Commercial egg production hums along in the winter because those farms keep hens under artificial light to simulate a year-round summer. Talk about the days blurring together!

Nugget and Ava began laying in June, kindly bestowing their first eggs on us the weekend before we left on a trip. They must have been watching the calendar; Ava laid on her 6-month birthday and Nugget the day after. Bella, the Buff Orpington followed up a few weeks later. We are now awash in eggs!

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Ava is still working on her form, egg-wise. Some days her eggs are lighter, some days darker, some days smaller and some days larger. She’s such a beauty:

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But she does need to figure out this egg thing. Hard to believe these two eggs came from the same Australorp:

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Bella is in a class by herself. She missed the memo about Buff Orpingtons being calm and stately. Bella is less belle and more banshee when she’s on the nest:

All this egg-laying makes the girls of summer hungry (well, in Bella’s case, more hangry because she’s such a grump!). They are ravenous for treats, foraging in the underbrush for juicy bugs and bugging the humans for any juicy morsel they might offer up. The CE can never have a solitary snack with them around:

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Which reminds me to remind you that when you see a “vegetarian fed” label emblazoned on an egg carton, pass it by. Chickens are not vegetarians! They are omnivores, so in addition to grain and fruits and vegetables, they love to munch on bugs and worms and anything that flies or crawls or that can’t out-run them. Oh, and our hens particularly love cheese, as sister-in-law Jean, visiting from Florida, discovered during our chicken yard cocktail hour yesterday evening. We “baited” them with some nice aged cheddar in order to get this photo op. Yes, they are wondering who moved their cheese:

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It’s a new, if blurry, day and we’ve had two fresh-laid eggs already this morning from those hard-working hens. I say everyone has earned a mid-morning nap. Me first!

 

 

 

 

 

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Wynn-ing in Las Vegas.

Just back from five sultry summer nights at The Wynn in Las Vegas, where the most sinful thing we did was to order up our morning coffee from room service. Oh, and there was that Béarnaise sauce on our Steak Frites at Mon Ami Gabi…but otherwise it was a very tame trip by Sin City standards.

So why do we go to Vegas?

To begin with, a beautiful hotel room at dead-of-summer rates. The Wynn is quieter and less smokey than some of the other casinos, and the CE found plenty of poker action there, especially since the WSOP was in play while we were in town.

The Wynn Tower Suites lobby is nicely appointed:

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Just enough glitz for us:

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Beautiful rooms if you can score an upgrade:

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And if your husband can win enough at poker to help underwrite the stay:

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And then there is the food. We had dinner our first night at Sinatra, in the adjoining Encore Hotel. The setting is genial, the service always excellent, but we did have to arch an eyebrow at the tab this time. Not even sure Frank could justify the price of pasta at his namesake restaurant. We like sitting by the window overlooking the garden. Excellent Caesar salad; passable panna cotta:

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Our favorite Wynn restaurant is Tableau, tucked between the Tower Suites and the pool, where we enjoy lunch in the whimsically-decorated conservatory. They make a mean chicken soup and their chili-lime-avocado salad is a favorite for the CE.

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We also discovered Jardin restaurant at Encore this trip. Casual, light and airy; nice spot for lunch. I had the chicken meatballs; an appetizer portion that was more than enough for lunch:

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The Wynn is at the north end of the Strip, and is convenient to The Palazzo and The Venetian. Well, as convenient as anything is in Las Vegas – bring your walking shoes! You can easily log a mile just walking back and forth from dinner, which is a good thing if you’re going to dine at Bouchon, where the Poulet Rôti reigns supreme:

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Highlight of this trip – Britney was in town! Great, great show! We would go again tomorrow if we could. Incredible production values and so fun to watch her flip that pony tail:

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Our favorite meal in Las Vegas is always, always on the terrace at Mon Ami Gabi at the Paris hotel. It was a tough trek over there in 108 degree heat, but they keep a steady stream of mist going along the rail and a breath of cooling air blowing from the interior of the restaurant. Once the sun sets behind The Bellagio, the terrace cools off and it’s the best people-watching spot on The Strip. You can’t go wrong with their Salad Maison and Steak Frites:

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As long as you stay hydrated and sun-screened, July is as good as January in Las Vegas. We’ll be back next summer!

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Q: Does Dining in Brooklyn Make You Hipper?

A: Close. But with that extra whisper of an i. Not hipster, not hipper, sadly, just hippier. But, at least briefly, also happier!

We always enter Brooklyn with breath held, suspecting we may be turned back at the border for grossly exceeding the age limit. And yet, they keep letting us in! We go over the river and through the ‘hoods and find ourselves in what is, for us, mostly uncharted territory, uptowners that we are.

Last trip it was fine breakfast dining at Diner and dinner at Peter Luger, both in Williamsburg. A few visits before that was an outstanding dinner at Noodle Pudding in Brooklyn Heights. Luger’s won’t take plastic, but they’ll write your reservation down in a book that looks like it dates from the ’40’s. Possibly the 1840’s.  Noodle Pudding does everything they can to keep you away, starting with a name that belies their authentic Italian cuisine and moving right along to refusing credit cards OR reservations. And if I recall, there isn’t really even a decent sign out in front, so its easy to miss the place entirely. But if you can find it, bring cash, and are willing to wait for a table and are good-humored  about the withering up-and-down you will receive from the locals for clearly being from across the river, you will be richly rewarded with an amazing meal at a very fair price. Homemade pasta, fresh basil, a little bit of Brooklyn heaven:

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This trip we ventured anew to Brooklyn, cabbing it over on a Saturday night because the weekend subway service is just that bad. Capricious. Flyers appended to walls, fluttering in the subway breeze, impromptu notices that the M train is taking the weekend off. The suggested alternate routes add up to a misbegotten geo-caching adventure. Not sure how that contributes to justify Brooklyn’s title as the most unaffordable place to live in the country. “Can’t get from here to there or there to here. Let’s raise the rent.”

But I digress. We alighted on Old Fulton Street sweaty and jangled and smelling of ancient,  ripped Yellow Cab seats after our 45-minute ride but otherwise no worse for the wear. The river view improves every attitude, even those of unnamed persons who made the mistake of insisting the cabbie should take the West Side Highway which turned out to be a parking lot that particular evening.

Our destination was The River Café, a sweet little jewel box literally bobbing in the Hudson just beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. We were here to celebrate son Daniel’s birthday and it was our first visit since the restaurant was completely re-done after suffering the ravages of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Bless that hurricane is all I can say. The restaurant, which was looking a bit tired before Sandy rinsed it with Hudson river water, now sparkles as brightly as the lights on the bridge above. The views have always been breathtaking, but now they are properly framed. Even if you don’t want to cough up the cash for the $125 prix fixe, you can sit a bit in the verdant entry garden or step inside (jackets required for men, please) for a drink at the bar and gawk at the view. Absolutely stunning. Kind and attentive service. We had a magical evening and so will you.

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We ventured back to Brooklyn a week later on a sleepy Sunday morning. This time no traffic. We Uber’ed door to door from Columbus Circle to Williamsburg in an impressive seventeen minutes. Which was good, because everyone was starving! The occasion this time was brunch for Daniel – still milking that birthday – and the friends who had flown across the country to fête him.

The CE and I stepped into Reynard at the Wythe Hotel to claim our table, our confidence bolstered by the fact that we saw someone even older than us in the lobby. Young friends Teri and Billy had introduced us to Reynard a few years back and, if anything, the place has just gotten better. The service at this now gratuity-free restaurant was warm and welcoming; the menu fun and eclectic. Our group sat happily around the farm-style table and devoured the signature Dutch Pancake, various takes on eggs and a snappy chili-ed up version of Fried Chicken.

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Peter and Victoria made weekend guest appearances:

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All good meals must come to an end, although the wonderful memories linger. So, apparently, does the fried chicken and the Dutch Pancake, if the scale doesn’t lie. But those are all calories under the Williamsburg Bridge. I’ve embarked on a new plan. I call it the Brooklyn Diet, and it’s very simple: no bread, no dessert, and just stay the heck on the other side of the Hudson.

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Posted in All Things Family, Friends, Gastronomy, New York city, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Get to the Met: The Pergamon Exhibit

What the Hellenistic?! This is special! Breathtaking, really.

Entitled Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World, the current exhibit in the Tisch Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art showcases exquisite finds from the ancient Greek city of Pergamon, now the city of Bergama in Turkey.  Bookended in time by the conquests of Alexander the Great (323 B.C.) to the reign of Cleopatra (30 B.C.) the period, according to the Met’s description, was characterized by a “concentration of wealth and power in the Hellenistic kingdoms…(that) fostered an unparalleled burst of creativity in all of the arts.

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I’ll say. The artifacts are a triumph of scope and scale – it would be worth the trip to New York just to gaze upon the thirteen-foot-tall statue of Athena – but equally gratifying is the way the entire collection is presented. Far from a dreary plod through endless musty museum rooms, this exhibit flows beautifully and is exquisitely lit. There are well over two hundred magnificent treasures to behold, ranging from sculpture to jewelry to glass. They represent a painstakingly curated international collection, the core of which is in safekeeping from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, currently closed for restoration.

The “face” of the exhibit is a “Fragmentary colossal marble head of a youth”. Achingly beautiful and timeless, it stands almost two feet tall:

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A “Limestone metope with battle scene”:

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Marble Dying Gaul on loan from the National Archaeological Museum in Naples:

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Go. See. But hurry: the exhibit closes July 17. According to Carlos A. Picón, the curator in charge of the Greek and Roman Art department at the Met,“Once the (Pergamon) museum reopens, they won’t send one-third of its collection here. This won’t happen again.”

 

 

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Central Park in June

If I could only spend one June day in the city, I would head to the Park.  It is splendid in every season, but truly outdoes itself in June. No filters required; everything is eye-poppingly green. The dogwoods were just wrapping up their delicate bloom, declaring the end of spring, and the turtles were lazily sunning themselves at lake’s edge as they welcomed the start of summer. A stroll in the Ramble, a stop to admire the angel at Bethesda Terrace, and lunch at the Boathouse. No place I’d rather be.

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“I love New York on summer afternoons when everyone’s away. There’s something very sensuous about it, overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into your hand.”

— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

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Across the Board.

Chalk it up to a rough week. Current events have left me sad, and speechless. Luckily, I’m in New York, where someone else always has something to say.

On the Upper West Side:

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Some thoughts from Hell’s Kitchen:

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And in Soho, a message we can all take to heart:

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Here’s hoping for a better week ahead…

Posted in New York city | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Billion$$ of Reasons to Love Chickens.

Surely you saw the biggest news moment of the week. The one in which Bill Gates professed “It sounds funny, but I mean it when I say that I am excited about chickens.”

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Bill Gates, in case you haven’t heard of him, is the world’s richest man with a current net worth of $79 billion, and is, much more importantly, a chicken enthusiast. “Our foundation is betting on chickens,” he said recently in a post on his gatesnotes blog entitled “Why I Would Raise Chickens”.

He makes a compelling case for the economic wisdom of raising poultry in poverty-stricken countries like West Africa, borrowing a recommendation from Adam Smith’s 1776 page-turner The Wealth of Nations. Smith noted that in Great Britain, chickens were fed “offals of the barn and stables”and thus could be raised almost for free. In a 21st century take on that concept, Gates praises chickens for the fact that “They are easy and inexpensive to take care of. Many breeds can eat whatever they find on the ground (although it’s better if you can feed them, because they’ll grow faster).”

“They’re a good investment,” says Gates. (And I can just see the CE nodding his head in agreement, because we’ve made such a fortune from raising chickens these past eight years, right?)

Okay, maybe we haven’t yet approached Gates’ billions with our chicken venture, but Gates’ point is that chickens make sense for families, especially those in poverty-stricken areas of Africa, living on $2 a day. Gates suggests “Suppose a new farmer starts with five hens. One of her neighbors owns a rooster to fertilize the hens’ eggs. After three months, she can have a flock of 40 chicks. Eventually, with a sale price of $5 per chicken—which is typical in West Africa—she can earn more than $1,000 a year, versus the extreme-poverty line of about $700 a year.

An enterprising recent college graduate in Kenya recently had the same thoughts and is now a successful poultry farmer. As reported in The Daily Nation, Antonio Mudong’i purchased an incubator and some Kuroiler chicken eggs in October of 2015. Today, he collects seven trays of eggs a day and incubates 2,000 a month, getting at least 1,900 chicks. Here he is tending to his investment:

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Gates recently partnered with Heifer International to donate 100,000 chickens in a “Coop Dreams” giveaway and says he may do so again in the near future. Of course, for Bill, 100,000 chickens is, well, chicken feed, but it’s a start. His stated goal is to “eventually help 30 per cent of the rural families in sub-Saharan Africa raise improved breeds of vaccinated chickens, up from just 5 per cent now.”

 

With Bill Gates on board, who can doubt that chickens make the world go ’round?  Many thanks to my friend Katherine for this graphic that proves it once and for all:

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Posted in All Things Poultry, Chicken Facts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments