An Afternoon on the Upper East Side

Last Thursday afternoon Fred and I dipped and went uptown for lunch, a few museums, and dinner with friends. Our first stop was Via Quadronno. I love this place. A classic UES spot that has been there forever. Next to us, three women were speaking fluid Italian, and that suits the place perfectly.

We were off to see the Alice Neel show at the MET. I made the resy’s, as you must do now, for a mid-afternoon time slot. A peak, the MET has 20,000 people on the premises. With COVID, they are capping it at 14,000, and on the weekends, they do fill to capacity. During the week, the numbers are around 7,000.

Going into a museum is a great feeling, but when the show is fantastic, the experience is pure joy. I read every single plaque and took my time. Neel was a woman way before her time. Her commitment to social justice, her portraits of people in her community, her emotional outpouring about motherhood through her paintings are powerful and magical. The show is up through August, if you haven’t seen it, make a resy.

Our next stop was the Frick. The Frick is undergoing renovation and is temporarily located at the old Whitney building, which became the Met Breuer is now Frick Madison. Marcel Breuer’s brutalist building is up there as one of my favorite buildings ever. Good design lasts. You aren’t allowed to take pictures, unclear why, but seeing a Vermeer and ceramics from the 1600s installed in a brutalist building is so good. Again, good design lasts.

The last stop of the night was at Delmonico to meet friends for dinner in the black booths. Nothing fancy. You know what you are getting. When in Rome, order the steak. The wedge was quite good.

All and all, if felt very much back to normal.

The Shed

The Philharmonic played at the Shed this week after not playing indoors for 400 days. You had to be vaccinated. When we entered, we showed our card, an ID and had temperature checks with masks on, and we were good to go. It was seamless.

Chairs were spaciously placed away from each other. Fred and I had two chairs together, separated from other small groups. The show was only 50 minutes long. The group of musicians was smaller than normal.

The conductor was Esa-Pekka Salonen. It was a serious performance without a lot of fanfare. Yet sitting there, hearing live music brought my senses to life.

Immigration and Inequity

Data is key. It just explains the facts.  During covid, it became impossible to ignore the systemic racism that has been intertwined in our history.  Those who don’t understand how difficult it is to rise in the black and brown communities, then just read the data.  Axios came out with several articles around the data this past weekend.  

Shorter lives, lack of healthcare, lack of healthy food, lower incomes.  Could you imagine being a single mother juggling a minimum wage job and raising your family?  I can’t. 

And all of this is finally getting to the point that the drain on the economy is stupid.  Our country is growing more diverse every single day and will continue to.  Our economy thrives on people who come to make a better place for themselves and their children.  Through all of this, many of those children rise to be extremely impactful people in our society.  It is an endless circle.  We should create a country where we open our arms to people who want to have a better life here.  Who will work hard, obey the laws, and be working people in our society  We should be helping them, not hindering their access to healthcare or a great education.  It is time for these changes. 

Someone needs to stand up and fix the immigration problem that will be a benefit to everyone.  What is going on now is a drain on society.  Build that department up quickly and figure out how to have speedier processes.   The entire system needs to be taken apart and rebuilt. It continues to get worse every day.

It kills me that when I see those kids faces, who are here by themselves and think they are already fucked. 

Public Spaces Make Our Cities, Lisa Switkin, Podcast #149

Lisa Switkin is a multidisciplinary architect working in urban planning and landscape architecture. She is a Senior Principal at Field Operations. We got together over zoom to discuss her journey towards a practice focused on creating forward-thinking public spaces and the renewed importance of landscape architecture during Covid.
To learn more about Field Operations, you can visit the website here.

Our next guest on PGG will be Jing Gao, the entrepreneur behind the viral Fly By Jing, a line of Chinese Spices and condiments inspired by her hometown of Chengdu.

You can also listen on Soundcloud here and iTunes here.

Lemon Olive Oil Buttermilk Cake

I am a big fan of lemon desserts. What is great about this recipe is you can easily double it to make the bundt cake or keep it as is and just make a small loaf. Other options are a 9″ round pan or a 8 x 8 square pan. I doubled the recipe—a huge win.

Giving credit, where credit is due. This recipe came from Yossi Arefi, Snacking Cakes. The tag line reads simple treats for any time snacking. Must make more!!

  • 3 lemons ( to get 2 tbsp. lemon zest)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup olive oil (use one that works with the cake)
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350.

Put the zest in a large bowl with the sugar and eggs. Beat until pale and frothy. Add the buttermilk, oil, lemon juice and salt. Beat again until well combined.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a separate small bowl. Add to the other ingredients. Beat until smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until golden. 30-40 minutes if not doubled. 45-50 minutes if doubled in the bundt.

Let cool for about 15 minutes before flipping upside down. Then make a glaze. 1 lemon, a pinch of salt and 1 cup of confectioners sugar whisked together. If you need more liquid, just add some more lemon juice. Pour over the cake and serve.

Museums, art, and soon….theater

You still can’t just wander into a museum; you have to plan. It is one of the first things I have done since being back in NYC.

I went to the show at the New Museum with my daughters this week. The show is called Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America. The show brings together 37 artists whose work reflects the social and political life in the Black community.

The show isn’t that great. I have seen almost the majority of the work before, but being in a museum felt great. Being there with very few people, actually my daughters through most of the exhibit, is a treat.

It is also a treat walking around Soho, realizing I am one of a few people on the street. It also bums me out, but every week I hope it gets busier and busier.

The Julie Mehretu show at the Whitney is powerful. Her work is densely layered with architecture as a backdrop, layering on abstract designs representing migration, capitalism, and change.

The works are intense.

Our last art stop is possibly an Instagramable moment but it is fun. The artist, Marcel Alcala, has created a room straight out of Good Night Moon. The pieces are available for sale too.

It felt good getting back into the normal groove. Next week, the Met, and the following theater!



Conservatives don’t like change. Why change when things appear to be working? Evolution is continual, and without it, economies stop growing.

Change inside Government is almost impossible. Change usually comes from outside, private individuals or companies who force change. As we are talking more and more about the need for more taxes to get our country up to speed in an infrastructure that we have ignored for decades, it comes with a price. That price is taxes. What should really take place is rethinking the entire tax system. Still, with lobbyists and special interest groups, and Senators grabbing money for their individual state needs, it is not easy. I don’t mind paying more taxes, but I wish that the money goes to the right place.

Melbourne Australia is pushing to be a carbon-neutral economy by 2030. They have spent the last two years developing a 10-point strategy for the city to become self-sufficient in food, energy, water, and be zero-waste. They believe it would also make the city more profitable.

Creating a circular economy would provide 80,000 jobs. A $100 billion transformation. Solar on every rooftop, community gardening, electric vehicles, more trains, and bikes. It is not only bold; it is brilliant.

You can check out the “new normal” here. Melbourne is leading the way. I do hope that the US follows.

Pounding the City Streets

NYC is a living, breathing, ever-growing place. As I walk through the streets, you can feel that joy of being outside, going into restaurants, and coming out of our homes. The only constant is change.

There is a vibrant, lively food culture that I want to participate in every day. We had dinner at Antons, our local haunt that I could eat at once a week. I go so often I failed to take a pic.

Ate outside at Via Carota, another local spot. The best way to get into this place is to leave your name on the list around 4 to secure a table around 7.

Some streets feel a bit vacant during the day, but at night they begin to hum. Another constant in our lives is King. It always feels like a short trip to Europe.

We finally sat inside, at the bar, in our local sushi spot, Sushi Teru.

The owners of Adda, one of the best new spots in 2018, opened another Dhamaka in the Essex Street Market. The tag line is “Dhamaka is explosive,” and it is. The food is insanely good and crazy spicy. I love this place.

One day I sat outside at the latest Upside pizza, on the corner of Spring and Mulberry. That area is popping during the day, which is supposedly mellow compared to the nights and weekends. You can’t go wrong with any slice here.

As we sat outside doing a tasting, a homeless man walked by, ogling the pies. I asked him if he wanted a piece and then handed him two slices. One thin and one deep pan. He was thankful. About 5 minutes later, he returns to tell me the pizza was cold. Gotta love it. I told him I didn’t know what to say, but it is still good.

Next week, we plan on another round of dinners outside and inside. Each week is bringing an awakening to the city that feels insanely good.

The Big Sweep

There is definitely something about living in NYC and walking the streets to get a feel for where things are going.

We were downtown at Orchard and Canal. One of my favorite neighborhoods in town. There is a grit and edge down there that reminds me of the city when we first moved here. It feels good. Many places have closed, but many have survived as well. That is true for the entire city.

When I grew up, we lived in the DC area. The heat and humidity during the summer were debilitating. It just sucked the life out of you. Every so often, the dark clouds would arrive, and there would be a downpour—a rainstorm where you could barely see in front of you. When the storm ended, the sun would come out and cut down the humidity to a different level. It cleans the streets.

The global pandemic has been like a dark cloud. As the sun comes out, we see a big sweep of the survivors and the ones that couldn’t hold on. My guess is we will begin to see that not only on the streets of cities but in every industry.

The damage is apparent in a city, but it is not as obvious in different industries. The shift of companies that won’t make it, investment firms who won’t be able to raise their next fund, founders who can’t raise their next round, consumer products who can’t get there, and businesses that were barely holding on that never evolved for a new set of customers. It feels very different than two years ago when many of these companies weren’t doing that great but somehow they could hold on. That time is over.

The sweep is coming. It might be a slow crescendo, similar to the pandemic’s past year that nobody expected to last as long as it did, but I predict a massive change to everything.

Are Bodegas the Future of Neighborhoods?

I am obsessed with bodegas. Small localized stores that carry the products the neighborhood wants.

Each neighborhood in NYC has one, and they are growing in LA. If you take a stroll through Flushing, the neighborhood store will carry many Greek items and usually amazing Feta cheese. If you wander through Park Slope, you will find sophisticated bodegas catering to young, affluent families. In the East Village, most will make a delicious egg and cheese bagel sandwich.

As we begin to order more of our basic items for delivery like paper towels and laundry soap, there will be less reason for that to be carried on the shelves of stores. Having huge grocery stores in urban areas where the real estate footprint is costly makes more sense to have small shops unique to each area.

In Paris, the local bodegas are really the local delis. They carry farm-fresh produce, hand-picked bottles of wine or beer, fantastic cheeses, and most importantly, you get to see the local community and get to know the shop owner. Each shop represents the owner’s tastes for the neighborhood.

I love traveling to neighborhoods around NYC and discovering new products on the shelves that wouldn’t necessarily be in my neighborhood. It is a reaction to eCommerce and the reality of diversity from area to area. It is also all of our desires to stay close to our homes in a post-pandemic world. Our needs have changed and how we shop is changing.

I am on the hunt for all the new shops, particularly the bodegas, neighborhood to neighborhood.