MAY 2014

Manhattan monsoon season is up and running.   Jumping overfilled gutters only to be sprayed by a passing bus.   Delicately hopping puddles of water in the subway station and wishing the umbrella I grabbed on the way out the door is the one that really opens. This weather calls for a braised dish and a large, warm red wine.

Perusing my little wine fridge, I come across a Chateau La Nerth, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 1998. Probably the first wine I bought to put away and not one I would be inclined to buy today, but at the time I wanted an impressive wine with ageing potential. Now I’m into the unknown, obscure producer living in the middle of his vineyard in an airstream!   When I buy wines to set aside for ageing I go for two or three of the same bottle in case I really love it and to gauge how it opens up over time. Keep in mind my apartment and wine fridge are miniscule and all above ground. The other Chateau La Nerth I opened a few years ago and had lost it’s funk and I assumed this one had also. A good time to clear the cellar to make room for new bottles and feed my new charred wood vinegar barrel. Well…….this one made the journey , it was a perfect example of an aged old-style Rhone, delicate yet powerful, touch of jam, spice, smoke, earth and black velvet tannins. Many wines coming out of the Rhone now are high alcohol powerhouses but this was more of a hefty version of burgundy. The vinegar barrel will have to wait!IMG_4058

Assuming this bottle was going in the vinegar barrel, it was not the perfect match to my chicken cacciatore and potato, fennel, pecorino gratin, but with an addition of mushrooms to the chicken it was good enough……

Usually this would be a special occasion wine with friends, but I had it all to myself for two days as the wine continued to open and unfold. Age is a funny thing, sonnets are written, a year is etched in the memory, this is why we get so obsessed with this nectar……..a sweet spring so far!






Glad to see someone besides the French Women speaking out about this issue. Check out an article by Beck’s former chef. Although olive oil is my fat of choice most of the time, I love my french aop butter, drink whole milk, use half and half or cream in my coffee and eat an egg, yolk and all at least once a day. I enjoy meat about 3 times a week and always look for the most natural choice within my budget. The “diet” food industry has cut out much of the flavor, taste and satisfaction one gets from the “real” thing. The devil is in the portions!

Signs of Spring – Armory Show 2014


The Big Apple has been especially frosty this winter.  Transitioning from winter to spring culminates at the Armory shows in NYC at pier 91, 92nd and the Park Ave Armory every year late February and early March.   The Armory show in New York City is the oldest of the art fairs that now happen around the globe and increasingly look like the future of the art world.  For Galleries it is a high powered magnet to attract collectors from every corner of the world in one big art mall for the weekend.   If that were not enough visual intake, there are plenty of small alternative fairs scattered around the city.  This year I went with artist friend Melanie Kozol.  Admission charge has tripled over the years and luckily the people watching and overview of the global art market make it worthwhile………but where’s our free champagne!      

Here are a few pictures from the piers…


Elizabeth Neel

Lots of abstraction, color and raw canvas…..


Mary Heilman

Mary Heilman spreads some happiness!


Thomas Raat

Dutch artist Thomas Ratt’s series “An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth and More…” takes it’s inspiration from non-fiction bookcovers from the 1940s to early 70s dealing with avant garde ideas….


Edmund de Waal

Morandi meets Agnes Martin in 3-D, Edmund de Waal really made a splash this year!

My favorite new discovery is an Aussie artist, Julian Martin, at Philadelphia Gallery Fleisher Ollman.  Playful, quirky pastel drawings ala Klee and Nozkowski…..


Julian Martin

I even ran into a couple of old buddies!


Fairfield Porter


Juan Usle



Armory Show 2014

Armory Show 2014




Peanuts should have a more prominent place on the American table.  Former president Jimmy Carter’s family roots as “peanut farmers”  suggested modest, humble, hard working values and not the southern glamour of Tara. During George Washington Carver’s Administration in the 1930’s a program was initiated to encourage farmers to increase peanut production, and recipes were developed to support this program.  In Colonial America the peanut had mostly been used as a garden crop or for animal feed.   In spite of this promotion peanuts are rarely used in savory dishes and stews as in South America, Africa and Indonesia.  I’m not sure why peanuts are now just starting to show up in the farmer’s market’s here in the Northeast but I’m up for the challenge of developing some vegetarian dishes based on this legume.IMG_2151

I’m a committed carnivore who is just as committed to my non-meat days 2 to 3 times a week.  Here is a vegetarian stew I made after picking up “local” peanuts at my farmers market.  It is best to shell them and toast them briefly in a hot pan or on a baking sheet in the oven to bring out flavor beforehand.  I like my stews chunky and cutting the veggies in ½ inch cubes gives them time to cook and achieve a carmalized surface.

Winter Peanut Stew

Winter Peanut Stew (4 servings)

2 carrots

1 large parsnip

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

2 poblano peppers

¼ cup chopped parsley

large pinch of dried oregano

¾ cup shelled peanuts

¼ cup peanut butter

1 28 oz can peeled tomatos

1 cup vegetable broth

Quinoa- 4 1/2 cup servings

Roast the Poblano chilis over the gas flame on your stove or blister them under the broiler and place in a plastic bag.  Cut the carrots and parsnips into ½ inch cubes, cut the onion into large dice.  Saute the onions in 2 T. grapeseed oil until transparent.  Add the parsnips, carrots and garlic, sauté on medium high heat until they start to brown, salt and pepper.  Add the whole peanuts and a teas of dried oregano.  In a blender puree the tomatoes with the peanut butter and add to the stew.

Cook down for about 10 minutes and then add the vegetable broth, cook uncovered for 30 minutes.  Peel the poblano peppers and cut into ½ inch cubes.  Chop parsley and set aside.  Add the poblanos to the stew for the last 10 minutes.  Cook Quinoa and place ½ cup in the center of a bowl and spoon the stew around the quinoa.  Garnish with chopped parsley.




I finally made a trip to Ana Sortun’s eastern Mediterranean inspired restaurant Oleana in Cambridge this summer.   After a visit to the Gropius House with artist Rebecca Roberts, on a triple digit day, we headed over to Cambridge and braved the back patio at Oleana for an awesome small plates dinner. The kaleidoscopic mezze choices were layered with concentrated flavors and just the right amount of heat.  The wine and drink list is especially thoughtful toward these multifaceted dishes, this place is a gem!  Oleana

Schoepf’s BBQ in Belton Texas is an institution for locals and the service men and women from Fort Hood.  For moi, it is the perfect lunch stop on the Dallas to Austin drive to visit my nephew.  Enter the sweltering smoke house and place your meat Belton TXorder by the pound.  In addition to the usual BBQ carne, pork, chicken, brisket, sausage and turkey breast, this joint even has quail.  Move on to the air-conditioned main restaurant to order your sides, don’t miss the potato salad with ample amounts of Brisket Platerefreshing vinegar and crunchy celery, the perfect counterpart to the fatty ribs.  Dig in with your hands and wash it all down with a shinerbock!

Calliope French Bistro in the east village in Manhattan is the closest experience to dining on the left bank this side of the Atlantic.  It was the ideal place to celebrate a Francophile’s birthday. Manhattan is full of impressive French bistros, but this one goes above and beyond in authenticity. The appetizer Tete de porc, sliced paper thin and tossed with red onions and pickles and parsley, salty and refreshing, not fatty at all.  The eggs mayonnaise perfectly cooked with soft yolks enrobed in a silky gorgeous “real” mayo.  We each ordered a pasta, the rabbit pappardelle is their signature dish, tender rabbit legs with peas in a white wine shallot and herb sauce, delicate and concentrated.  My hot and sour lamb neck with mascarpone agnolotti had just the perfect amount of spice.


Vancouver BC

I was fortunate to return to the Pacific Northwest this last spring, visiting old friends in Seattle and my niece Christine who has settled in Vancouver, BC.  I spent a decade in Seattle and would visit Vancouver every chance I could.  The city hasn’t changed much except for the profusion of more glass and steel Christine and Walt at Saltskyscrapers.  Highlights were a visit to Salt tasting room, down an alley in Gastown, where we had the local BC wines and cheese tasting.  Stanley Park and Granville market haven’t changed a bit and the sloping geography of the city allows for spectacular views from every neighborhood.  This is a great multicultural city and the perfect place to sample the authentic cuisines from every corner of the world.


Christine’s boyfriend Walt and family, Canadian’s with roots in Sri Lanka, took us to an amazing South Indian restaurant, House of Dosas.  The dosa’s were gigantic, crisp and delicate and the curry’s delicious.  A specialty of the house is poppers, bowl shaped dosa’s with a poached egg in the bowl and curry on top. IMG_2371









Stanley Park

BEACON, NY   The art rarely changes at Dia Beacon, but I never tire of seeing the collection of minimalist installations in different seasons in the daylight only galleries. Among my favorite’s are the Dan Flavin florescent light sculptures and how they play with the natural light through the grided factory windows.  Indulge in the shaker goodness of the Agnes Martin’s and the On Kawara room, a peaceful homage to time, moments and craftsmanship.  Don’t miss the exquisite Louise Bourgeois pieces in the attic, a wonderful organic contrast to the minimalist work.

Agnes Martin - Dia BeaconThe good news is Beacon the town, just a 90 minute drive north from Manhattan, is finally starting to catch up to its main attraction.  Check out the downtown area, stop into The Hop for house made The Hop -Beacon NYcharcuterie, local cheeses, craft beers and ciders.  The David Rockwell designed old mill building, The Roundhouse, now a farm to table restaurant, boutique hotel and spa is a perfect place for an outdoor cocktail and snack and sits right on the waterfall.  Afterwards rub elbows with the local artist’s at dogwood, a downhome tavern/pub with a great selection of cocktails and craft beers.


Marilyn was right, drink more champagne!  We toasted the new year with Alfred Gratien Rose Champange, a delicious barrel fermented, barrel aged rose champagne. IMG_2234 This rich and opulent full-bodied champagne is from a small grower producer and a great deal compared with other rose champagnes.

 Let’s make a resolution to celebrate more in 2014!


Eat, drink, create and be grateful, Happy 2014 – xo Carlita

Judy Rodgers – Zuni Cafe

Visuals from Zuni Cafe Cookbook

It was sad news this week to hear of the passing of one of my culinary icons, Judy Rodger’s of the Zuni Café in San Francisco.  Her book, The Zuni Café Cookbook, has been a seminal text in my massive cookbook library.  She was passionate and uncompromising in her preparations, and honed her culinary skills in France in the rustic traditions and later worked with Alice Waters in the early years of Chez Panisse in Berkley, CA.  Her writing was impeccable and she was able to translate the cooking process in literary and visual detail.  Her rough puff pastry recipe for crostata is a work of art.  I memorized it years ago and can visualize every step.  Her ideas about salting meats went against everything I was taught, and are now commonplace among chefs and home cooks.  I reproduced her famous Zuni chicken from her recipe and even without the wood-burning oven it was impressive. 

It is rare for a chef to be content with one restaurant and only one cookbook in these “food network” times.  Zuni Café was a mecca for foodies, immune to food trends and a financial success in a difficult business. I’m sorry there will not be a sequel to the cookbook……..

Here is a wonderful tribute by Michael Ruhlman.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Here are a few visuals from my Brooklyn Thanksgiving.  A warm celebration with friends, and a great mix of Italian/American/veggie/carnivorous/Philippino/Queens Hungarian Babka!Welcome to the Holiday Season 2013………