Gallery Going with the Ladies from Larchmont

I met my friend Jane fresh out of college when we worked at the Pucker Safrai art gallery together in Boston.  In addition to being incredibly smart, creative and witty, Jane’s always very up-to-the-minute with everything from the latest cooking utensil to this season’s hottest nail color.  (That happens to be Opi’s Moon over Mumbai—a sort of lavender grey—one of those small, yet necessary tidbits I learned when she teased me about my freshly applied ruby red, aptly named After Sex.  I thought that shade would be fun and fresh with my summer togs, but what’s a mountain girl to know anyway?)  So when Jane told me about a planned excursion to Neue Galerie, one of Manhattan’s more recent additions to the arts scene that showcases German and Austrian art, I jumped at the chance to go along.

Our outing was to include Jane’s friend, another very snappy gal from Larchmont, her mother-in-law and Jane’s daughter, a lovely young lady in her mid teens that I later discovered had clearly adopted her mother’s interest in the arts.  Both Jane and her friend looked particularly chic in stylish dresses that would have also worked well for a sophisticated garden party.  (Jane aptly dubbed her cream-colored linen shift very Frieda Callo.)  Standing there in my well cut jean bermudas and colorful, clingy top, I was almost sorry I hadn’t taken it up a notch.  Thank goodness I wore my beautiful, glass beads.

“You look very mountain-like, MB,” Jane observed without an ounce of snootiness.  She tossed me a purple pashmina.  “Here, that’s perfect.  Just the right touch of namasté.  You’ll need it for the museum.”

I had grown accustomed to a life without air conditioning in Colorado and was constantly amazed that the A.C. was cranked so high in other parts of the country.

We chatted excitedly the whole drive into the city.  I learned that women in Larchmont were very possessive about sharing their babysitters’ names and numbers, a seemingly disconcerting matter for Jane and her friend.

“That’s how it is with French women and their recipes,” I explained.  “Most only do a few signature dishes and they don’t like to share their recipes for fear that their spécialités might show up at someone else’s dinner party.”

We all scoffed at that.  “Yes, I was even convinced at one point that one of my former sisters-in-law would deliberately leave out an ingredient or two so that her recipe could not be duplicated.  I would make these cakes that would be total flops,” I trailed off.

Entrance to Galerie Neue

Entrance to Neue Galerie

We laughed and commiserated about about some of the more tedious aspects of life until we pulled up in front of a handsome mansion on the upper east side.  By now we were starved, so we decided to lunch first and look later.  Entering the Café Sabarsky at Neue Galerie was like stepping into  a fine dining room in Vienna.  Dark wood paneling, wooden floors, floral-covered velvet banquettes, little marble café tables and heavy draperies wrapped us in an Old World warmth that we soon realized was more important than ever with the A.C.-induced Arctic chill that blasted us as soon as we walked in the door.  We settled in and began to order coffees and lunch.

Café Sabarsky

The five of us almost hurried through our selections of goulash soup, smoked trout, Weiner Schnitzel and salads in anticipation of the desserts to follow.  (We had already scoped out gorgeous cakes and tortes on the long, marble sideboard on the other side of the room upon entering.)   A rich assortment of treats was later served up with more coffee and in my case, hot chocolate, the perfect accompaniment to an Apfelstrudel on a cold winter’s day.  (Instead of complaining any more about the frosty air, I decided to make it a good excuse for being extra decadent.)

Grand Staircase

Grand Staircase

Finally we were ready to stroll through the exhibition rooms.  We delighted separately, all together and sometimes one-on-one in viewing the many fine works on display here from original furnishings to superbly crafted jewelry.  I paused at great length in front of a glittering painting by Gustav Klimt.  Clearly some of the finest examples of Austrian-German creativity were prominently featured within this nearly six-year old museum.  Neue Galerie is a small gem whose jewel box-like interior is as alluring as the goods inside.  Our hearts had been warmed by all the beauty we took in within this elegant space; our bodies were glad to meet the hot summer air outside.

Neue Galerie New York, 1048 Fifth Avenue, 212-628-6200,

Café Sabarsky is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and for lots of tea, coffee and drinks in between) everyday but Wednesday; 212-288-0665.

4 May 2015, 4:00pm
Art & Culture Restaurants:
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The Woman in Gold Movie and Exhibition

Woman in Gold: the Painting in the Movie

Woman in Gold: the Painting in the Movie

I often say I wish I could remember everything I’ve ever read as well as everything I’ve ever written. I give myself a pass on the former but in terms of the latter, I’d think I’d remember most of it. Oh, if only that were the case! In my four guidebooks, one travel memoir, almost four hundred blog posts and an assortment of freelance pieces, I’ve researched and reported intensively on subjects I’m passionate about. And yet, sometimes I catch myself in a sort of black hole-space of my mind.

Take the feature film “Woman in Gold” as an example. I’d been hearing talk about it for months and I vaguely knew about the story of Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece, Adele Bloch-Bauer, the Mona Lisa of Austria, and how it was returned to its rightful owner and found its home in America. It wasn’t until last week, however, upon seeing this fabulous movie starring Helen Mirren, one of my favorite actors, that I realized I had had the pleasure of gazing upon this magnificent work in New York City. I refer to it as “a glittering painting by Gustav Klimt” in my story Gallery Going with the Ladies of Larchmont, one of the first posts to my blog back in 2008.

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Post Election Healing

Museum Going with a Dear Friend

Museum Going with a Dear Friend

Let’s take a collective ten deep breaths. Ommmm. Remember to exhale long and completely. Now try doing that every hour. Yes, that’s ten deep breaths every hour, every day.

Whether consciously or subconsciously, most of us spend every hour of our day trying to manage our stress. We all have so much going on! And yes, one can even feel stressed in a beautiful mountain town surrounded by some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in the world.

Just now, as I began to write this story, the internet at home here was all goofy. RRRRRrrrrrrr. Fortunately, I didn’t let that frustrated feeling set in and I just brushed it off (sort of) and decided to write free form without needing a speedy internet. Lots of letting go here.

I feel the need to address the stress subject with you because so many people have been distraught over the election results. Whether your candidate won or not, everyone has experienced a certain amount of stress over this. (Just think of the Trump supporter attempting to defend his president-elect on social media or at the water cooler. Or, even without saying anything, hearing all the opposition against his or her choice.) It’s hard to move on from it all, especially since the daily news flashes keep bringing bad news to the dems. Ugh.

Try Breathing into this Painting Entitled Friendship by Agnes Martin at the Guggenheim

Try Breathing into this Painting Entitled Friendship by Agnes Martin at the Guggenheim

Just think of the people directly implicated by this. I mean right now. My older brother, Frank Clemente, the driving force behind Americans for Tax Fairness, was to meet with Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren just after the election. Well, you can bet that meeting was cancelled. And now I’d imagine Frank’s work has quadrupled. So discouraging. more »

12 Nov 2009, 1:57pm
Girl Talk New York Restaurants:
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New York Splendor

Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

Serendipity and travel go together like food and wine.  It’s usually the chance encounters or haphazard discoveries that occur along the way that make the difference in your journey, even if that trip lasts only a short while.

This was my experience on a recent flash visit to New York City.  I was to spend just under thirty hours in this bustling metropolis, primarily focused on the more business aspects of my work.  There was little time for travel writing research per se, so I knew I’d have to catch a story on the fly.  My best bet for finding my travel highlight was lunch on the second day when my good friend, Jane (see Gallery Going with the Ladies from Larchmont), was to meet me before I headed out of town.

I counted on Jane—someone who seems to be in the know about just about everything most of the time—to provide the restaurant suggestion.  She proposed Tabla, a swanky Indian restaurant, convenient for us both.  We didn’t call ahead and when I arrived, they apologized that they were exceptionally closed that day for lunch.  The rain was falling in sheets outside and I practically begged for another recommendation close by.  I was informed that their sister property, Eleven Madison Park, was just next door.

“Isn’t that expensive?”  I couldn’t help blurting out, aware nonetheless that these sort of remarks are more than acceptable during these challenging times.

“They have a $28. prix fixe menu,” Kevin, the manager at Tabla, replied.

I made a quick calculation in my head, figuring the price of at least one glass of wine, a coffee, tax and gratuity.  I had just come from my publisher, St. Martin’s Press, located nearby in the Flat Iron Building and possessed more of a sense of optimism about the publishing world than I had in a while.  It felt right.

I placed a call to Jane and made it a go.  A wave of excitement hit me as I realized I was about to experience the restaurant in New York that I really wanted to go to some day.  I had read a review of Eleven Madison Park in The New York Times a few months ago, one of the last written by Frank Bruni, their renowned restaurant critic, who bestowed four-stars upon this beloved New York dining establishment.  His description of this superior dining establishment was so vivid that I easily imagined myself seated in the restaurant enjoying a superlative meal with a glass or two of wine.

Jane and I were escorted to a corner banquette that furnished wide-angle views of the restaurant’s stately, high-ceilinged dining room.  “It’s a quintessential New York restaurant,” Jane remarked, referring most certainly to the dramatic tone set by this vast space and its decorative architectural embellishments, all representative of Art Deco design.  “We brought our friends from California here when they came to New York and they loved it.”

We took turns observing the details that make any dining or lodging experience stand out.  Jane pointed out the embossed decoration of leaves (representing the four seasons, not too unlike those of the Four Seasons), the trademark of the restaurant, on the butter.  I commented on the salt served as a side to the butter and made a mental note to ask about its provenance (but never did, sorry).  Of course we opted for the $28. prix fixe, one appetizer, one entrée menu and then selected a half bottle of chablis from the $28. page of the wine list that included two bottles, two half bottles and a few glasses, all at the $28. price.  The manager explained that these prices were introduced a year ago and are here to stay, at least for now.  “Oh, a woman must have designed that,” Jane quipped, an insightful remark lost on the manager that I didn’t comprehend until about ten seconds later.

We laughed and chatted, vainly attempting to encapsulate the essential of our current lives into a two-hour lunch.  Our attention hardly waned, however, from our table and the entire room.  A flourish of amuse bouches (mini-apps), which included heirloom tomato marshmallows and black pepper sablés topped with foie gras and cranberry gelée, wooed us from the get-go.  And we practically swooned over the savory gougères and mini olive ficelles and baguettes that had been served up both warm and imperceptibly.

Snippets of our table side critique continued in between volleys about our very different lives, hers in New York, mine in Colorado.  Our commentaries about each other’s activities intermingled with our impressions of our appetizers (Heirloom Beets with Lynnhaven Farms Chèvre Frais for Jane; Red Endive with Buffalo Mozzarrella, Basil and Persimmon for me).   All had been exquisitely plated.  Our entrées (Ricotta Gnocchi with Artichokes, Taggiasca Olives and Bacon for Jane; Seared Scallop with Celery, Meyer Lemon and Black Truffles for me) continued to provide a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.  For me, the utensils were far too small, especially in proportion to the over-sized plates.  For Jane, they were just right.  “Must be a European thing,” I commented.  “In France at least, the utensils are large and weighty.”

The end of our lunch neared, our broad plates were swept away and a most refined dessert cart was wheeled before us.  No gloppy confections here.  Instead we marveled at an array of stream-lined sweets that would be the envy of Paris’s most sophisticated pâtisserie.  Sadly we declined this great temptation since we had surely surpassed our calorie count and budget by now.

We wrapped up our visit over rich coffee, served with hot, steamy milk.  I was waiting expectedly for a little tray of sweets to be placed before us, just like in fine French restaurants.  (Eleven Madison Park is a Relais & Châteaux after all.)  Nothing came but I thought that maybe it was best not to overdo, keeping totally within the spirit of this sleek establishment.  It’s O.K. to feel totally satisfied yet wanting a little more.

I felt this way about Jane as well when we bid each other goodbye as I ducked into a cab outside of Eleven Madison Park.  I took solace in knowing that she’d be a best friend for life and that we had shared such an exceptional moment together.  Maybe next time we’ll try Tabla.

Eleven Madison Park, 11 Madison Avenue at 24th Street, 212-889-0905,

Tabla, 11 Madison Avenue at 25th Street, 212-889-0667,

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