Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kinfolk Dinner

{On The Merits of Whiskey Sours & Meeting Online Frienz}

It's been crazytown this past week with meetings, all-nighters, show prep, and studio visits up the wazoo, but come hell or bespoke artisanal chocolate bar I wasn't going to miss the Kinfolk dinner in Brooklyn on Sunday night.  Nate Williams, the fella behind all the Kinfolk Magazine magic, gave a beautiful toast at the start of the dinner that really stuck with me. I've been thinking about it all week, axamally.

Nate pointed out that a common theme in many articles and features in Kinfolk -and in many of the blogs and magazines we all probably read- seems to feature urbanites escaping from the city to the county to reconnect with nature, reconnect with each other, reconnect with themselves. It's so true that for many of us urban dwellers, the daily grind fantasy lies in the escape to the country. Let's call it Arcadian Escapism. (Guilty as charged.)

And then Nate made the humble argument that we don't actually need to go anywhere to have that kind of experience when we have this incredible community right here in the middle of this gritty, exhausting city. And this doesn't just apply to New York. The few hours spent over a simple table of home-cooked food with friends new and old is what makes life fruitful, wholesome, adventurous, and worthwhile. [Queue emotive earnest youth-empowering Fleet Foxes song.....NOW!]

I'm rolling my eyes at that last sentence but I'm also dead-serious. The Kinfolk dinner proved Nate's point most poetically. Over leek bread pudding and pork loin with port-soaked figs I finally had the pure delight to meet the marvelous real-life flower fairies Amy Merrick and Sarah Winward, as well as hug with all my might the jovial Amanda Jane Jones, who has put up with my 2am edits and ninja yoga moves of deadline-elasticity for this upcoming issue of Kinfolk. And it's been through Kinfolk that I've gotten to know the immensely wonderful Jen Causey, the woman behind the Makers Project. The energy, creativity, wit and humor of these women is truly inspiring.

And about the food, I'll just say the team at Jewels of New York knocked it out of the park. I can't wait to try my hand at this celery root potato pear mash as soon as I have an hour of free time. Also, will someone please have their wedding at the Green Building? It's got the charming kind of Dutch New York industrial warehouse feel without that pesky sweatshop vibe. (Because nothing kills a party like the whiff of 19th century child labor, m'I right?)

I tiptoed out of the party after dessert, and as I rode the subway back to the studio for a late night of work I couldn't help but think back to some of the magical desert dinners P. and I enjoyed with friends and strangers in Joshua Tree. To be honest, when we left the desert I feared we'd never find that same sense of community again, ever, period, end of story. And yet Sunday's dinner in Brooklyn was one of the most magical nights in my adult life, and, for what it's worth, only further proves my hypotheses that any social event in which whiskey sours are served is going to be a wholelotta fun. (Although to be perfectly honest the thought of meeting a bunch of people I only knew via the internet initially made me break out in high school reunion-style social anxiety-induced hives.) It wasn't just a good time; muggles, I was totally blown away and inspired.

And so we end our happy story with a questionnaire. Do you live near a North American city? Do you eat food? Are you a human? If the answer is yes to all three questions, congratulations! A Kinfolk dinner might coming to a city near you. Check for updates here. Or even better yet -and I'm going to take my own advice here- organize a simple dinner party with a few close friends, like, SOON. It doesn't have to be an elaborate affair; a bottle of wine, a thrown-together salad and some candlelight is enough to make the indignities of the workweek evaporate as the company of friends fills us with joy and gratitude.

 Hope you're getting through your week with great aplomb, and here's to many wonderful evenings of good food and friendship wherever you may be. Cheers

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cabin Fever

{Plus Five Links Worth Clicking}

Just back from a much-needed trip to the wilds of New Hampshire with the huz and a crew of nine wonderful friends. On Sunday afternoon as everyone napped off their hangovers P. and I hiked up to the one-room board-and-batten log cabin his grandparents' friends built back in the late '50s. Off the grid is a euphemism here; the outhouse is a slippery scramble down the hill and there's no electricity, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't start researching build-your-own cabin plans as soon as we got home. You see, we're aspiring to graduate from the Scamp to a slightly larger structure, maybe something that even has a foundation if you wanna get fancy about it. We've got cabin fever something turrible.

Speaking of cabin fever, some links you may or may not have seen floating around the web which either way deserve your immediate attention. Pour another cup of coffee and prepare to lose the next hour of productivity:

Cabin Porn
Beaver Brook (and the original article about the place in NYMag)
Downton Abbey paper dolls
Maddie the coonhound standing on stuff

You're welcome. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Amy Merrick Bouquets! In the West Village! Today!

{Happy Valenthymes, Muggles}

If you're in New York today stop by Castor & Pollux (238 W. 10th St between Bleeker and Hudson in the West Village) where the divine Amy Merrick has set up shop from 12-7 and will be putting together her beautiful bouquets for $25. I'm headed there m'self momentarily. (P.S. have you seen her new website? Holy moly.)

Picture above of my beautiful sister Grier from this past summer in the old walled garden on the farm. All our dahlias are from the beloved D. Landreth Seed Co., which you should click over to this very minute and place your order for spring dahlia tubers. Or send some to your mom for a late Valentine's Day prezzie, which is precisely what I just did. (So much for surprises!) I'm a sucker for the giant dinner plate dahlias and the wee pompoms: breakout,  Clara Huston, and Valley Porcupine.  Heaven, I tell you.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Holy Honey

{Or, Your Standard Friday Evening in Agra}

Flashback to our trip to Agra to visit our beloved friend Mukul, who was and always will be the gold standard of effervescent Indian hospitality. Mukul was born and raised in Agra, has a PhD from the Sorbonne in architecture, and is a scholar of Mogul Empire India. So basically the perfect tour guide to one of India's most complex, oft-maligned, but utterly mind-blowing cities. On our last afternoon in Agra he insisted we visit Jama Masjid, or the Friday Mosque, built in 1648 by Shah Jahan, and it's a good thing he did; our visit there was one of the most phantasmagorical evenings in the subcontinent for this entomologically-obsessed blogger.

Before entering the expansive compound, P. and I removed our shoes, paid a few rupees for those ubiquitous blue shower caps to wear over our bare feet, and covered our heathen Episcopalian heads. And as we stepped into the sprawling courtyard the murmurs of the pious suddenly gave way to the echo of a million tiny gossamer wings. Mukul smiled and pointed heavenward. Seventy feet up in the sandstone domes of the mosque hung hundreds of colonies of wild Indian honeybees. I'd never seen anything like it my life. Black and amber fins of honeycomb jutted from the pink rock like enormous bisected mushroom caps, and we must have sat open-mouthed, dumbfounded beyond words, for twenty minutes just marveling at the majesty of the whole affair- the industrious bees pouring in and out of their lofty, teeming hives, the call to prayer echoing out over the parapets as the sun set over the city, barefoot boys screaming in glee as a game of cricket commenced in the dirt lot outside the mosque- an extraordinary vignette of rituals both human and animal. Or, your standard Friday evening in Agra. Have a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Ace

{Or, Hotel for Dogs}

What I wouldn't give for a weekend at the Ace in Palm Springs. You know they allow dogs, right? That's the best part. Also wonderful? Their use of local talent. I get a swell of high desert pride when it comes to the Ace because many of the details that make the place such a feast for the design-appreciative eyes were made by Joshua Tree artists: the 70s-inspired stained glass window was made by our friend Steve Halterman (of grain silo pool fame) and the marvelous, gargantuan brass handles on the entrance doors (which remind me of Tibetan gongs and/or monumental robot breasts, take your pick) come courtesy of the masterful Alma Allen (whose studio blog with his amazing wife Nancy Pearce is definitely worth a visit). And so, we conclude with a very brief Q&A session:

Q: How much do we miss the desert?

Pictures from Valentine's Day, 2010

Monday, February 6, 2012

Flatbush Farm

{A Proper Winter Meal & Some bigBANG Housekeeping}

Pictures from a recent dinner at Flatbush Farm, on the edge of Park Slope in Brooklyn. P. and I arrived early and sat at the bar before the place filled up (great barkeep, great music on vinyl), then enjoyed a long dinner catching up with family. Upon my sister-in-law's recommendation I ordered what we shall call THE BEANS (all caps): Rancho Gordo heirloom beans with roasted peppers, chipotle tomato and creamy polenta. It doesn't sound like much, but it's surprisingly sophisticated, nuanced, fiery, and one of the best meals I've had in Brooklyn. Highly recommend for a special treat. Can't wait to go back in warmer weather to sit outside in their walled garden, which is fairly reminiscent of Foreign Cinema in San Francisco. So there's that.

Also. Some housekeeping things here at bigBANG: you can now get new posts delivered to your inbox by entering your email address in the nifty bar over there to the right. I've also started an index of book recommendations, (click on the picture of the paring knife with the strawberries and the book), and I'd LOVE your recommendations, too; feel free to click over there and leave a comment on that page with any recent beloved reads. (For some truly awesome reader input on books, see the comments on this post.) Also, new header. What do we think? I'm long overdue for a face lift over here in a major way (thinking of moving over to the dark side to Wordpress) but this'll do for now. Hope you had a great weekend!

Friday, February 3, 2012


{And Some Thoughts on Kudzu, Pie and The Speculative Real Estate Market}

I'm listening to a story on All Things Considered about how we're all gunna get overtaken and devoured alive by kudzu as climate change fosters rapid kudzuan northern expansion. And the whole time I'm listening I'm thinking, yeah, Audie Cornish, I bet somewhere behind your measured tone and journalistic integrity there's a delightfully evil side of you that hopes midtown Manhattan ends up looking something like this.

Which might not be far from the truth- it was nearly 60 degrees on Wednesday. In February. In New York. The upside is that it's great weather for trespassing and treasure hunts, so the other day P. made a little recon map (a Marine's land nav habits die hard) and we took a stroll together down the hill to explore the Gowanus Canal, which is the best kept secret in Brooklyn as far as I'm concerned. By outward appearances, Gowanus looks like the industrial toxic waste site version of what might remain if you bombed Amsterdam and then let the set designers for The Road do their thing. But in a super charming let's-pretend-it's-the-Industrial Revolution, who-cares-if-its-a-Superfund-site kinda way. You'll just have to believe me on this one, guys: Gowanus is the cat's pajamas.

It's also home to Four & Twenty Blackbirds, the rockingest little pie shop this side of the East River. The thought of a Brooklyn hipster pie shop, in general, makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a tarnished-just-so vintage plated fork, but I promise you, it's not an ironic kinda pie shop, it's just a downright fetching, sincere, lovely little old-fashioned F*CKING DELICIOUS kinda pie shop. Realz good hot chocolate with homemade whipped cream, too. Totally worth a visit if you're in that neck of the woods. (Thanks Jen Causey for the swell recommendation. That girl knows the best spots.)

Have a good weekend, humans. I seem to have the flu and will therefore spend the weekend with my nose firmly planted in Swamplandia! and ignore the five-pound door-stopper I'm supposed to be reading for my aesthetic theory class (do we have any Walter Benjamin scholars in the house? The Arcades Project? Anyone?). See you Monday. And if you have any Gowanus treasures you want to share, spill it, sista.