Books + Looks + Cooks

If you're interested in something new to read, something new to gaze at, something new to concoct in the kitchen—here's potential inspiration acquired from new activities all around town.

Cutty McGill

NOTES AND SKETCHES: Travel Journals of William P. Rayner

For three decades globetrotting William Rayner has been recording travels to almost every far-flung destination on earth, and now his adventures are collected in two volumes of witty remarks and evocative watercolors.  Along with his personal recollections, both literal and visual, the charming books include photographs, menus, wine labels, ticket stubs and other ephemera from stays in Marrakech, Madras, Libya.  Whether Rayner is helping Morocco's King Hassan II celebrate the 24th year of his reign or wrangling with Libyan hotel managers over smuggled scotch his engrossing tales don't fail to captivate and delight.  Shoppers stopping by his book signing took home the author's actual signature to complement his art.

ELEGANT ROOMS THAT WORK: Fantasy and Function in Interior Design

Comfortable, multipurpose spaces are a signature feature of rooms designed by Stephanie Stokes who creates beautiful rooms that are functional. Employing multiple flexible seating areas, tucking recessed drawers under kitchen cabinets, installing narrow vertical pullouts in closet corners for jewelry storage are some of the tricks described in her new design book.  As she explained in a presentation at Vaughan in the D&D Building, Stokes believes that by saving time and energy, well thought out rooms make life easier. 


 Intrigued to discover why students in Finland, South Korea, Poland progress beyond Americans in critical thinking skills, math, science, and reading, "Time" and "The Atlantic" reporter Amanda Ripley set out to find the reasons.  At a recent reception held by Common Good founder Philip Howard, Ripley introduced two of the American students who studied overseas "embedded" to provide first-hand contrasts of their studies at home and abroad and noted her findings that focused parents, rigorous teachers, and children who bought into the promise of education made a difference even in less developed countries.  Noting that overseas students often have less homework than is assigned in this country she concluded that quality of schooling can be more effective than mere quantity. 


Beyond "once upon a time," telling a story is an exhilarating and challenging process.  Best selling author Dani Shapiro's "Still Writing" is a collection of advice and personal stories, her own and others,' in an elegant searching look at the creative process. Being a writer, she notes, requires courage, patience, empathy, openness, the ability to be alone with oneself and discipline while taking risks.  Speaking at a reception hosted by realtor Carolyn Klemm, Shapiro reiterated that celebrating with friends is a pleasant contrast to the solitary nature of a writer's life. 

INVITATION TO CHATEAU GRAND-LUCE: Decorating a Great French Country House

The process of restoring a dilapidated 18th century French chateau is chronicled in designer Timothy Corrigan's book "Invitation to Chateau Grand-Luce."  At a recent book-signing reception, Corrigan recalled occasionally grappling with French preservation authorities over color schemes and details while managing to transform the historic mansion into an elegant yet comfortable home.  Tracing the process, the book's pages escort readers through the imposing entrance gates into the striking entry hall up the grand staircase and on tours of the public spaces, fourteen well-appointed guest rooms, and lush gardens.  With decorating tips, a touch of history, and charming personal reminiscences, the book rewards readers with the feeling of having passed a pleasant weekend with the author at his remarkable home.

Transitioning from books to exhibits—start with a major author featured in a major exhibit:

EDGAR ALLAN POE: Terror of the Soul

America's preeminent writer of thrillers and horror fiction is featured in a retrospective at the Morgan Library.  Tracing the author's career with first editions, drawings, paintings, and letters -- even a movie poster -- viewers come to an understanding that besides writing acclaimed detective stories and tales of the macabre, Poe was a celebrated poet and superb literary critic. His pervasive influence on subsequent writers from Dickens to T.S. Eliot to Nabokov and Stephen King is evident from typescripts manuscripts and drafts of their work also on display. A haunting "Ultima Thule" daguerreotype, made just four days after Poe's laudanum overdose attempt to commit suicide is a haunting image of the troubled genius.

DAVIS CONE: Movie Houses

Cars drive by, shoppers pass, a few people buy tickets in Davis Cone's paintings of Art Deco movie theaters.  Meticulously chronicling these disappearing icons of American life, the photorealist artist preserves them and their "main street" settings in exquisite detail.  The Forum Gallery is showing the works through November 16th.


JFK NOVEMBER 22 1963: A Bystander's View of History

Captured by reporters and unsuspecting witnesses, pictures chronicling the shooting of the President, the hunt for the assassin, the swearing in or the new President, the widow's grief, the funeral, the shooting of Oswald—all are chronicled in snapshots, Polaroid photos and other images which disrupted conventional views of photography as fact or evidence.  In addition to stills from the famous Zapruder film there is a moving video clip account of Mary Moorman describing how she happened to have her Polaroid camera focused on the tragedy. 


Two exhibits focus on the groundbreaking work of early 20th century photographer Lewis Hine whose subjects were child labor, the building of the Empire State Building, Ellis Island and Immigration. Later Hine documented workers and working conditions of the New Deal in pictures showing the variety of agricultural, manufacturing, and mining activities. 


Photographs originally exhibited in annual outdoor exhibits in a public space under Philadelphia's I-95 are searing, unflinching looks at the economic struggles and hardscrabble lives of people in Zoe Strauss' community. A self-taught photographer and political activist, Strauss sees her work as a type of social intervention.

PARTICIPATORY CITY: 100 Urban Trends from the BMW Guggenheim Lab

What may be mistaken for a giant grey potato is an inventive garden bench.  Each of the indentations collects rainwater and stores it in the bench and an underground tank to be handy for later use watering the garden.  Designed to help ease the water shortage in Mumbai, it is one of the solutions resulting from the two-year collaboration between the Guggenheim Museum and BMW.  At the community center set up in New York, Berlin, and Mumbai, residents engaged with the Lab's free public programs, urban projects, and research initiatives to explore new approaches to urban living and new thinking about cities.  One hundred of the most talked-about ideas are on display in the museum through January 5th.

And here are some tasty dishes we've come across one way or another


Give 16 different cooks the same ingredients:  basil, oil, salt, pine nuts, garlic, cheese and tell them to make the same thing. What do you end up with: sixteen different versions of pesto!!  Using wood pestles, (marble is too hard and grinds down the texture) the ingredients are blended, and the experts advise that it's all in the wrist.  Saltier, cheesier, nuttier, every batch was different.  And all of them were delicious.  Organized by the Italy-American Chamber of Commerce, the event promoted Ospitalita Italiana, the "Authentic Italian Table" and great Italian restaurants in New York.

KITCHEN, SOUL, DESIGN: l'Italia che vivre

Over in Loft Eleven/Studio 450, the cooks were noted restaurant designer Adam Tihany, Eataly stores executive Dino Borri, and chef Cesare Casella.  Organized by FederlegnoArredo, the Italian Federation of wood, cork, furniture, and furnishing industries and moderated by Fern Mallis the evening focused on the innovation and beauty of Italian kitchens, spaces with a vibrant soul that become theatres of creativity and emotion -- vibrant background sources of delicious cuisine. 


There was an exotic scarf dancer twirling overhead and a bank of tv screens projecting video stories, but we were distracted mainly by the food served at the opening of Suite 36, a new  restaurant and lounge in midtown.  Crab beignets in.

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