Goodbye, sweet prince.

He would have had you believe he was a lion king.

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But he was really just a pussycat.

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Where, oh where, did the time go?

2002 Daniel and cody kitten

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Cody cat, aka Shoo Bear, was just a few days short of his sixteenth birthday when we decided we had to let him go. He had been suffering for a long time from chronic renal failure.  At the end, he struggled to eat and drink, and then, could not do either. He was searching for places to hide. It was time. So, so hard to say goodbye.

If Cody had a hashtag I think it would have been #lowkey. He was so relaxed that he spent much of his time draped like a shawl.

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Sometimes, we humiliated him with a lion cut.

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But it always grew out and his dignity would be restored.

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His answer to everything was to purr. You could hear him purring across the room. He purred if you pet him. He really, truly, actually purred if you looked at him.

And though he struggled, he purred, right up to the end.

We will miss him forever.

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“…May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

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My coop runneth over.

There are no April showers in Southern California, so back in the years B.C.  (Before Chickens) I gave hardly a notice to the passage from “winter” (a euphemism where I live) to spring.

But then life went to the birds, and I discovered seasons! By the end of January and certainly February, the extra slivers of light at the beginning and ending of the day begin to add up. And light is the go signal for a hen to lay eggs. You couldn’t possibly know this if your eggs come from the grocery, from factory chickens who are subjected to long hours of artificial light to coax maximum egg production.

But here in the coop, spring is celebrated daily with lots of chatter, squabbling over nest boxes and an abundance of eggs. So many that we’ve been giving them away every day to friends and neighbors with still some to spare. I even pressed a six-pack onto our computer repair guy the other day, who was only too happy to take them off my hands. There is nothing like a fresh egg!

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And yes, that is a green egg, courtesy of our Easter Egger, June. She has become quite the layer, now that she’s grown:

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So my coop runneth over, with eggs and also with chicken love. Those of us who tend a flock know the fulsome pleasures that come with it. The girls are so beautiful, in their admittedly dinosaur-ish way.

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A morning among them can be meditative, like an animated Zen garden, as the hens scratch methodically in the dirt.

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It is comical, as they scold me for whatever perceived injustice has befallen them.

It is sweet, as they rush to follow the CE or cluster like a feathery bouquet at the door to await me. You may be surprised to learn that chickens recognize their flock keepers. Depending on their level of familiarity with you, you will be greeted with affectionate clucks, wary caution or a wide berth and perhaps fearful squawking, especially if you are a toddler who delights in seeing a chicken run away. They are not as bird-brained as you might think.

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I suppose you could say there is a certain amount of drudgery involved with the keeping of chickens. But at the end of each day, as dusk falls and the girls have thumped their way up to their roosting bars in the coop (Pippa on her shelf, Bossy Nugget on the upper roost bar, Bella, June and Ava squeezed together by one window and Ginger in solitude by the other) I cannot resist the urge to step inside and bid them goodnight. They murmur their acknowledgement that I have indeed been fortunate to pass another day in their presence.

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Like many of the precious mysteries of life, I cannot explain chicken love. But it is real.

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Stars. They’re just like us.

Well, just like *me*, at least.

The glamour quotient of chicken-keeping edged up this week. Turns out I’m not the only one up to my elbows in chicken poop.

A friend in NYC sent a link for an appearance at the New York Public Library by actress Isabella Rossellini, discussing her life with chickens on her Bellport, Long Island farm. And, of course, she has written a book about it.

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Rossellini is the daughter of Hollywood great Ingrid Bergman, and has had her own successful modeling and acting career. In an oprah.com article, she spoke of her love of animals: “Something about animals amuses me. And they have a great mystery. It’s the same mystique some people might feel looking at the stars or the ocean.” Same! Let’s hang out!

Looks like her second act is successful as well. Look how happy she is in this Newsday photo:

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In a cosmic coincidence, chickens went viral that day with an Instagram video post from Jennifer Garner, eulogizing her hen Regina George (yes, named after a Mean Girl!):

Last year Garner told a Vanity Fair interviewer that ““If there isn’t a Chicken Lady Day, there really should be.” I totally agree! Let’s do it!

Additional cosmic coincidence: who else remembers that back in the day, Rossellini played Garner’s aunt in the Alias television series? Maybe they’re actually talking about chickens here?

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As much as I sometimes wish I had their lives (and their looks!) I guess I’m pretty happy being the Crazy Chicken Lady right here at Chez Poulet. After all, Jennifer Garner had to deal with that rogue Ben Affleck but I get to grow old(er) with the Chicken Emperor, who lets little Pippa snoozle in his jacket every day. Maybe his hen-some good looks could entice Isabella and Jennifer to come visit us!

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Easter: there is good news.

I am sidelined this week, and possibly the next, ugh, hopefully not beyond, from my morning walk. I am not happy about this. I’ve got a bad case of self-righteous self pity over this. Just what, I wonder, does the God of the universe intend by taking away the one little thing I have that permits me the fiction, the pretense, that this broken carapace of a body I lug around has any purpose?

When I tire of railing at God, I’ve been going outside to sulk. And to watch spring unfold. Yesterday, I took a heel of bread with me in hopes of making friends with the birds that are holding morning conventions on the west side of our property. There are at least a few varieties of sparrows. Finches flashing yellow-green as they flit from branch to branch. Crows overhead, already invested in the serious business of heading off hawks from raiding their nestlings. The raucous calls of the scrub jays. Hummingbirds zigging and zooming about. And the drab little towhees with their dull brownish-green cast, blending in perfectly with the large swaths of drought-colored dirt where lawn used to be.

I tore off some bits of bread and sailed them across the deck, one by one, to attract my avian audience. “Bread, guys! The good stuff – come and get it!”

No takers. Not one. Everything went strangely quiet except for a hummingbird, too busy zinging around the wisteria blossoms to even notice me.

One crow swooped onto a branch of the jacaranda tree to watch but would come no closer.

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“Hey! I’ve got bread for you! How can you pass this up?”

I began to feel just the slightest bit impatient with these bird brains. I’ve brought them this terrific gift and they can’t be bothered? All the time they spend miserably grubbing about for sustenance and I offer them sweet, sweet bread and they hang back? Maybe they just think it’s too good to be true. A gift this wonderful for free?

Well, then. I am pretty thick, but the metaphor finally hit home. It is Holy Week, after all. A gift has been offered. The bread of life, no less. Do we peer at it from far off? Do we hide in the shadows? Are we too distracted by a sip of nectar to notice it? (In my case, I can say yes to all of the above at one point or another…)

It is starting to occur to me that maybe it’s a cosmic coincidence that I’ve been sidelined this week. Pay attentionBe still. Maybe even Be still and know that I am God.”

And then, finally, one of those bold, brave scrub jays comes sailing onto the deck and swaggers over to inspect the bread. He takes a piece in his beak and flies off, then returns a minute later and takes more, somehow stuffing three chunks of bread in his beak before swooping away. A few minutes later one of the towhees cautiously hops onto the deck. Careful, but calm, it steadily approaches and takes a nibble of bread, and then another.

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The gift has been offered. I know, it seems too good to be true. But it is true! Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, and what better time to come out of the shadows? Boldly or cautiously, it is the perfect day to accept the good news, the bread of eternal life.

“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.

Whoever comes to me will never go hungry,

and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

                                                                                — John 6:35

 

 

 

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Let’s just call it a “nor-eater”.

Well, you didn’t expect us to starve during the storms, did you?

Lies I tell myself while it’s sneeting, that odious weather condition between sleet and snow: “I’m burning more calories in the cold.” “No one can see how fat I am under this puffer anyway.” “Well, I hardly ever eat dessert…”

Seven memorable meals (not counting that awesome Le Coq Rico brunch), the usual go-back-to’s and a couple of new additions;

First, a fun lunch at Friedmans, a casual cafe with a gluten-free focus. We were headed out to explore the construction progress at Hudson Yards when the lunch whistle blew.  It’s kind of a dining wasteland over there at the moment so Friedman’s is a sight for sore palates on 10th Avenue at 35th St., just a few blocks from the Javits Center. I had a terrific Chopped Chicken Shawarma salad and the one non-gluten item on the menu, matzoh ball soup. Among the best I’ve ever tasted and a definite go-back-to place.

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Second, we went upscale for a happy return visit to Café Boulud. And, surprise! Chef Boulud was in the house that day! He didn’t stop by our table so this photo is grainy with distance, but he lingered quite awhile at the tables where all the diners were speaking French. Café Boulud is one of the most welcoming restaurants we’ve been to in the city; we could tell by observing Chef Boulud that the hospitality there starts at the top.

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I will walk across the Park in any storm for their kale salad with kumquats:

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And they were serving an inspired passionfruit tart with the Prix Fixe lunch that day:

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Third, another warm welcome on a day I was dining solo for lunch. It can go either way at a fine restaurant when you show up alone. Sometimes you are scuttled to an out-of-the-way table as a pariah; sometimes you are “adopted” by the staff and fussed over as if you were a long-awaited prodigal. Lucky for me it was the latter at La Goulue, recently reopened on the UES after an eight-year hiatus. I’ve been searching for the perfect UES bistro ever since the precipitous shuttering of L’Absinthe a few years back and this is it. Great location just past Madison on 61st Street, and the Duck Confit was divine:

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Fourth, our standby Grand Central Terminal stalwart, Cipriani Dolce.  The grandeur of Grand Central. The breadsticks. The pasta. The Sancerre in a little pitcher. That meringue cake!

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Fifth, a very special evening at Vaucluse. So very Upper East Side. But not uncomfortably formal. Such a beautiful space at Park Avenue and 63rd:

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Lamb chops don’t photograph well, but they were spectacular:

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Sixth, a memorable Prix Fixe lunch at Gramercy Tavern. Memorable for the lovely time I spent with my friend, Lori, and for the absolutely dreadful weather that day! But you’d never know because it’s always springtime inside Gramercy Tavern:

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These warm biscuits made it so much easier to thaw out our fingers from the cold:

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Then there was the Scallop Ceviche:

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And this mushroom concoction:

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Course after course after course (including succulent duck breast and a beet sherbet palate cleanser!) with a scrumptious finale of vanilla ice cream, caramel, chocolate and sea salt. Remember that lie about hardly ever eating dessert? But who could say no to this?

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Seventh, but hardly least, our favorite standby, Nougatine. When the weather outside is frightful, we just go next door. It felt like winter but their brunch menu is currently all about spring. The fresh pea soup with  is not to be missed!

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Nor is the poppyseed-crusted salmon with crunch quinoa salad and roasted carrots:

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One of my favorite amusements in NYC is reading the sidewalk chalkboards. There was a strangely prescient one this trip. It read: “I wanted to lose 10 lbs this year. Only 13 to go.” That pretty much sums it up. That, and the realization that there is something all too familiar about that Botero sculpture in Time-Warner Center. Back to crackers and water in California…

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Nor sleet nor snow nor’easter…

…can keep us from having a fantastic time in NYC. Weather or not, we had way big fun in the city this trip.

We were there for not one, but two nor’easters. Flew out just a few hours ahead of the third one. You take your chances in February/March:

But there is undeniable beauty in it, as captured by the CE:

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I did actually see a guy in shorts one day. He admitted he was from California. So am I, but I’m sticking with the NYC winter uniform:

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We wouldn’t have missed these two weeks, though. A fun meet-up at Peter Luger with son Daniel and son-in-law John, who was in the city on a business trip:

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We attended the very first performance of the brilliant revival of Three Tall Women. One of the best things we’ve seen on Broadway. Glenda Jackson is incandescent!

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The CE was less (much less) impressed by Carousel, but I’m going out on a limb and saying see it anyway. If you can overlook June is Bustin’ Out All Over you will be rewarded with If I Loved You. Joshua Henry is electric in the challenging role of Billy Bigelow.

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Evening hours at the Met are the best! We had the tiny Medusa exhibit all to ourselves and saw this little jewel:

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Speaking of jewels, we couldn’t resist strolling into the revamped Bulgari flagship store on Fifth Avenue:

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When I win the lottery I’m buying this. Yes, they let me try it on!

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We wandered around the galleries in Chelsea one morning and discovered Gallery Henoch where I fell in love with Patricia Traub’s “Waiting for Something to Move”:

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The Pace Gallery’s exhibit, “Black and White” is a retrospective of Louise Nevelson’s work and very much worth seeing:

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We so enjoyed taking our young friend, Lauren, to her first “La Boheme”, with dessert at The Grand Tier during intermission:

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And since we can never get enough opera, we went back to The Met a few nights later to see their sensational production of Semiramide. Fun to see Ryan “Speedo” Green, whose life story I read about in Daniel Bergner’s “Sing for Your Life”, in the role of high priest Oroe.

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We were so fortunate to be in the city again this year for the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. Many thanks to Sunday and Josh of B&B Rare Books, Ltd. for hosting us at the opening night reception.

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I am still dreaming about the set of Middlemarch I saw at the Peter Harrington booth. I might even choose this over the Bulgari bracelet. No, actually, I want both! Dream big, right?

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An incredible highlight of the trip was the Armory Show. Daniel got us tickets for our Christmas present and we all tromped over to Piers 92-94 and had the most amazing afternoon there last weekend.

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I want this for my living room:

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Or this David Hockney would also do:

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Or even this take on Botticelli:

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And, of course, it goes without saying that this Milton Avery Still Life with Skull, 1946 should belong to me.

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Weatherwise, it might not have been the most auspicious of fortnights, but there is simply no bad time to be in NYC. Can’t wait to go back when there are some leaves on the trees…spring is right around the corner!

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At Le Coq Rico: the chicken and the egg.

“We’re going to brunch”, said my husband. Yes, that husband. The one who never willingly goes to brunch.

Okay. Where?

It’s a surprise.

And what a surprise it was! A glorious, whimsical, scrumptious surprise.

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Alsatian chef Antoine Westermann bestowed Le Coq Rico upon NYC in 2016, an iteration of his restaurant by the same name (it translates as “the bistro of beautiful birds”) in Paris. And what a gift it is! We still don’t know which came first, but he serves both the chicken and the egg as you have never experienced them before.

The CE had dined there earlier in the week and lamented that the superb Coq au Vin was not on the brunch menu. “It’s the Tuesday special”, explained General Manager Anthony Battaglia, who may actually know more about chickens as I do, and has a beguiling French accent besides.

Battaglia genially explained the relative merits of the Plymouth Rock, Guinea Fowl and Brune Landaise chickens on the menu and was justifiably proud of the fact that the birds served at Le Coq Rico are pastured for 120 days. Not kept in cages. Not “cage free”, which often means birds are crowded on a platform where there might be an occasional sliver of a glimpse of the outdoors, but pastured. This means that these chickens roam and forage freely, and do so for about three times as long as that shrink-wrapped fowl you bring home from the grocery. Pastured birds are, well, as rare as hen’s teeth, so this is a big deal.  Those in the know, which includes the French-speaking patrons at every table around us, come here for their Saturday “Coq Tales” and roast chicken, which many order en famille, served on a heaping platter.

I settled for the poached and roasted quarter chicken, accompanied by salad and jus. It tasted nothing like any chicken I’ve had before and was a plentiful followup to the sensational En Meurette appetizer – poached egg, red wine reduction, smoked pork belly, onion confit and portobello.

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In the interest of accurate reportage, we were forced to order dessert, and so are you if you go. Because the Ile Flottante was far and away the best I have ever tasted. Seriously, you must have this. Or perhaps the Vanilla Mille-Feuille with Madagascar vanilla custard cream we saw being shared at the neighboring table. It was all I could do not to dip my spoon in.

The exquisite Ile Flottante:

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The restaurant space itself is something to crow about. Acclaimed visual artist Doug Fitch, (who, according to the restaurant web site, once lived with a hen) provided the signature artwork:

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And a most egg-cellent view awaits in the alcove outside the washrooms:

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As the saying goes, even a blind chicken finds a piece of grain now and then, and we are so grateful to have happened upon this truly outstanding bistro. Consider us birds of a feather – we’ll be back!

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If you go: Le Coq Rico is located in the Flatiron district (just a few doors down from Gramercy Tavern) at 30 East 20th Street, New York, NY 10003. 212.267.7426

Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 12 pm – 3 pm; Dinner everyday 5:30 pm – 11 pm; Brunch Saturday and Sunday 12 pm – 4 pm; Bar everyday 12 pm – 11 pm

Reservations: available on the restaurant’s web site and on OpenTable. Gift cards available on the web site: www.lecoqriconyc.com

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Posted in All Things Poultry, Animal/Vegetable/Mineral, Chicken Facts, Gastronomy, New York city, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments