06/12/12

Catch an Expeditious App and Put It In Your Pocket!

Geolocation is integrated into Fodor's City Guide apps.

Six cities have updated wanderlusting apps from Fodor’s Travel, who has announced the re-launch of their City Guide apps for iPhone and iPad (Nook and Android versions are in the works). The free apps now integrate partner functionality from Expedia, OpenTable and Ticketmaster, and are available for New York City, Paris, London, Rome, Barcelona and San Francisco. They offer geolocation features and interactive offline maps, which are powered by developer Red Foundry’s new Fusion Platform, the world’s first network uniting app developers and publishers with service providers.

Travelers can book hotels through the Expedia Affiliate Network, make dinner plans with OpenTable, and buy show and concert tickets through TicketsNow, Ticketmaster’s resale marketplace. The geolocation features allow sojourners to see what is nearby by interest—categories include what to see, what to eat, shopping, nightlife/arts, and where to stay.

Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is a trendsetter's alternative to Little Italy in Manhattan. Photo by Paul Clemence.

I decided to take the New York City app for a test drive on my iPad, and it nailed my location quickly. I agreed with many of the “what to see” listings it put up, several of which I would recommend for tourists visiting NYC who want more than the usual suspects of places to see. One of which was Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, which my pal and architectural photographer Paul Clemence has photographed so eloquently, as the above photo proves.

Fodor's City Guide Apps Offer OpenTable Reservations.

The “what to eat” suggestions were a bit all over the place but I did ask for the best recommendations in New York City without determining a culinary style, and the fact that they could narrow it down as tightly as they did impressed me! Shopping brought up everything from Betsey Johnson in SoHo to Beads of Paradise in the Flatiron District and the Bedford Cheese Shop in Brooklyn, which I have frequented (and give the app a high five for referencing).

The oh-so-edgy tiki bar Painkiller wasn’t listed under “Nightlife & the Arts” (though I’ll admit, it would probably cause anyone who is less than an intrepid traveler to freak out when standing on the street in front of the bar’s address and see no discernable sign of a party until someone entering or exiting opened the graffiti panel serving as the venue’s door)-steamy! Pegu Club is there—excellent sourcing by featuring this mixology-driven venue, Fodor’s.

The Lower East Side has its own version of a hip, Parisian cafe for writers and filmmakers to hang.

Kudos to the travel experts for listing the Pink Pony on the Lower East Side. Any café with a mural of Arthur Rimbaud on the wall and a tagline like “Café Littéraire & Ciné Club” is high on my “kicky and quirky venues” list, which we locals pride ourselves in compiling for those times we want something out-of-the-ordinary. The Field Notes section is great—the perfect place for accumulating the lists you’d like to share with friends who will be visitng the same city or for resourcing your highlights the next time Hērmēs, the god of travel, wings you to the same town.

Sax in the City has only one request of the developers: I would like to have seen an easier search function for places by name. Those of us who travel frequently, especially travel journalists who are writing about cities, often go armed with recommendations for venues to experience. This app only allows search by previously determined categories unless it’s not obvious and if it’s not obvious to me someone using this level of technology for the first time wouldn’t likely find it. That said, these apps are definitely well worth the time it takes to download them. Off I go to Paris (if only)!

12/21/10
Johnny's Gratin Dauphinois, a dish he chose for Elizabeth's book..."

Grey’s Gastronomy


Johnny's Gratin Dauphinois, a dish he chose for Elizabeth's book..."

During a recent trip to the UK, I took a very brief train ride—thanks to the expertise of Rail Europe—from London to visit Johnny Grey, having the delicious opportunity to stay at his lovely home, Fyning Copse; to meet his family (hey Becca!); and to sample his flair for cuisine. Johnny prepared Elizabeth David’s recipe for Gnocchi Verdi, and as I sat around the Grey’s generously-sized table surrounded by English pine furniture (one of my favorite woods for bringing warmth to the home), I was happily enveloped in the cheerful laughter that poured forth into the night as easily as the wine flowed into our glasses.

Johnny has graciously agreed to share some of his favorite foodie reads with Roaming By Design readers to kick off this holiday week when it truly is all about the friendship, the festivities and the food. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Johnny Grey, comfortable with himself and at home in the kitchen!

JOHNNY GREY’S PICKS FOR THE BEST FOOD BOOKS OF 2010

It’s been a great year for food books. With thousands of titles on the market it is hard to pinpoint those worth buying. I hope you find these ten books of recipes, food stories and fine writing saves you some of the bother of seeking them out. They have certainly enhanced my year. At Elizabeth David’s Table, Her very best everyday recipes by  Elizabeth David. Contemporary compilation with photographs for the first time. A nod towards vegetarian choices, classic favourites and neglected  recipes from her six main books. It is a very personal book because I helped select 45 of the recipes. Jill Norman, her editor and literary executor, put the book together, aiming it at introducing her work to a younger audience, and 25,000 copies have already been presold in the USA where it is out on the spring. I suspect it will quickly become my most thumbed cookery book and I hope so for others too.

The Flavor Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. A most original tour de force of imaginative and exhaustive research into flavours and how they that match. Filed alphabetically here, a selection of entries from ‘M’ includes how the mustiness of forest floor mushrooms suits the earthy flavours of freshwater fish. Shitake brings out the flavour of Salmon; as mushrooms contain no salt she suggests they work well with Parmesan for risottos or Gruyere when served with toast. Mushrooms and truffles are described as kissing cousins so you can use truffle oil, which are butter to mushroom dishes like a push-up bra to the sensual figure: the aim being to give more ordinary fungi (which is mostly what we can buy in supermarkets) the full, in-your-face sexiness of the truffle.  A proper stocking filler with an evocative twist!

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan. Our greatest contemporary polemicist on food has produced this shortened version of his masterpiece, In Defense of Food. He brings sanity to the (sometimes) complex business of working out what to eat, especially if one wants to be ethical and healthy and still receive pleasure from food.  His training as a nature writer means you get the benefit of someone who brings elegance and wit to his writing. Being chastised is not how you want to be treated when looking for new ways of going about eating and he always avoids that by making you feel that you are able to be a good human being.

Kitchenella: The secrets of women: heroic, simple, nurturing cookery – for everyone by Rose Prince. A compliment to At Elizabeth David’s table, this book aims to show working women how they can cook imaginatively, healthily, affordably. “My mother wasn’t a yummy-mummy who made fun cakes with us. She was quite stern about passing things on. She saw it as training. Women are still the main carers of others but there is silence now. Secrets are not passed on. The concern is that kids grow up without learning because mothers don’t answer this call to nurture.” I met Rose when she co-produced “A Matter of Taste,” the TV biography of Elizabeth David’s, and realised how serious she was about communicating the values and recipes associated with English food. Very modern is her dislike of waste and her drive to make cooking an everyday family affair. Useful for working men too!

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham. Eye opening, easy-to-read account that is a must read for all kitchen designers and those interested in neuroscience. He combines paleoantropology, archaeology, chemistry and physics of food with human biology. It explains how we developed brains and how our skills developed through cooking food. It also spends the deathnel to raw food obsessionists and shows that cooking is the key to our evolutionary success. Mr Wrangham should be confirmed as the patron saint of kitchen designers!

Vefa’s Kitchen by Vefa Alexiadou. Greek regional cooking from Greece’s best-selling cookery writer. I am always reminded on trips to Greece that we are not appreciative enough of just how authentic and digestible Greek cooking is, particularly in smaller local taverns or restaurants. It’s unfair, too, that the country’s cuisine has never been celebrated as the mother of Mediterranean food, a fact that is put right in this compendium. I was given this by Harry and Emma, my eldest son and his fiancé, after they had visited Crete and we have all used it. Regional cooking is always the best kind of cooking to do at home, including Greek.

Plenty by Yotem Ottolengi. Otto has a striking food philosophy and real life offering, particularly with vegetables and patisseries. Although not a vegetarian, his mini-cuisine is visually arresting, original and innovative. It’s based on strong flavours and stunning, fresh combinations, bringing a desirable angle to being vegetarian. Ingredients have to “have a clear voice, plain characteristics that are lucid and powerful, with images, tastes and aromas you can remember and yearn for.” His growing collection of London café-style restaurants make each one worth a visit to see and taste his recipes for yourself.

Between Bites: Memoirs of a Hungry Hedonist by James Villas. Witty and compelling stories about life as an activist gourmet and writer. As one of America’s top food writers who wrote for Gourmet, Town and Country, Bon Appétit and The New York Times, he stands out for being, in his own words, an outspoken, optimistic rebel. His firsthand knowledge of French cooking, early championing of American food in the 60’s and dining with the great and the good, I found thoroughly riveting. Excellent for a train, plane or simple reading by the fire.

British Food: an Extraordinary Thousand Years of History by Colin Spencer. For years I made do with Dorothy Hartley’s eccentric Food in England for my knowledge of British food. Elizabeth David told me ‘our’ strength lay in farmhouse cooking based upon the high standard of raw ingredients, which left a lot unsaid. This extensive account looks at changes caused by the Black Death, the Enclosures to the Industrial Revolution and the social and commercial trends of the present day. It explains too how we reached such a deficit in the culinary department up till our recent food revolution and it helps one feel less defensive of being British. It is always fascinating to see history explained through media other than politics, particularly through food culture.

12/11/10
Bespoke Boxes for Storing Your Groovy City Guides

The Luxe Touch


Bespoke Boxes for Storing Your Groovy City Guides

Those of you who know me have heard me whining all week that one of the most fabulous trips I’ve ever been offered to Paris was derailed by a head cold. I know you’re all sick of it, cyber pals, but humor me for a moment while I wallow in self pity. For those of you who are just stopping in for the first time, forgive the melodramatics; the read will be worth the intro as I’ve got a few insider travel goodies up my sleeve.

At this very moment, I would have been in the presence of one of the world’s greatest chefs, Alain Ducasse, as he presented his new cooking concept “Essential,” a back-to-basics gastronomy that Chef Ducasse says takes a radical approach. “It takes courage to produce artlessly simple dishes by cooking elegantly,” he explains. “Like an architect that turns his back on flamboyance to achieve perfect harmony through austere lines.” If anyone can create simple elegance, that would be Chef Ducasse. Now are you getting the picture as to why I’m so disappointed to be sitting in front of my computer screen in Brooklyn?

As they liked to shout on those Ginsu knives commercials, “But wait!” I would have been staying at the incredible Hotel Plaza Athénée and I would have luxuriated in a spa treatment at the famed Dior Institut this morning. “But wait!”; that’s not all: I would be heading to Le Meurice this evening for cocktails at Bar 228 and dinner at Restaurant Le Dali, and I would have seen the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris yesterday. Hear that? It’s the sound of my heart breaking!

The Luxe Mobile App for Paris (and the Chic Guide)

How have I made myself feel better as I’ve gone through five boxes of kleenex? By playing with the Luxe City Guides new iPhone app for Paris. Well, a girl’s gotta dream! I’ve used the paper guides for a few years and I love how much information is packed into such a small package without sacrificing wit (and, when it’s warranted, snarkitude). The feisty first-take in each city always includes a tutorial as to a few phrases you’re likely to hear while in town.

Take the Miami edition, which I was carrying with me last week during the Art Basel/Design Miami mania: “Sorry, the sunbeds are all reserved” = “Honey, you’ve got more bush than Australia, ever heard of a wax…?” And who hasn’t bumped into this one in New York City: “Can I help you?” = “You look too poor to shop here and I have no interest in helping you now, or ever.”

My favorites, however, punctuate the opening page of the London guide, which I used during my trip to the UK a few weeks ago when I stayed at two beautiful Dorchester Collection properties, Coworth Park in Ascot and the Dorchester in London. Here are four phrases to help you decipher “Brit-speak”: “Really, how interesting” = “You’re boring me to death”; “Not bad” = “Very good” (Now I realize why they had a difficult time understanding me and vice versa! Not bad = Very good; really?) “Quite good” = “Rather disappointing”; and “Bob’s Your Uncle, Fanny’s Your Aunt” = “Voila!” They had to make me think of Paris again, didn’t they? Just when that fabulous trip to London had distracted me for a moment.

If you’re the hip/no-electronic type, you’ll love the cool bespoke boxes into which you can tuck your printed guides until you’re off on your next adventure. I hope to be back on the road before too long myself. Until then, I’m checking out the “Loves & Loathes” section of the Paris guide on my phone. Guess what? It says Le Meurice has the best luxe lunch deal in town. No kidding! Why don’t you just rub it in! Seriously, happy roaming everyone!

12/7/10
The stony coastline of Brighton, England

No Woman Is An Island

The stony coastline of Brighton, England

Today’s Let’s Blog Off topic is “You’ve just been given an island” and the charge for those of us who get into this madcap game of throwing up posts “on topic” every couple of weeks (see my creative compatriots here) is “The only thing to consider is once you move there, you can’t leave. Who and what would you bring? What are the rules?”

If I had an island, I’d turn it into an amazing writer’s retreat and only creatively-driven people would be invited to visit. We’d all write poetry and plays, essays and novels, and be as curmudgeonly as our deepest writerly selves desired. There wouldn’t be very many rules beyond living authentically creative lives. I’d be writing poems rather than writing articles, though I am having a good day by journalism standards, as I’m writing a piece about the exuberant Chef Gordon Ramsay, who I interviewed in Tuscany this past fall, and I’m interviewing John Lennon’s son, Julian, this morning, wishing tomorrow wasn’t a sadly significant day for that family as it’s the anniversary of John’s death. So, it’s back to work. Oh, and you’re all invited to come and be creative if that deed for an island shows up in my mailbox or my inbox!

11/11/10
Gauguin's "The Loss of Virginity"

Savage Blood

 

During my UK adventure last week, I had one of the most sensually remarkable experiences of my life. You might surmise it was enjoying the opulence of the famed Dorchester in London’s Mayfair across from Hyde Park, and while that was truly a sumptuous experience, the mind-blowingly arousing escapade was visiting Gauguin: Maker of Myth, the new exhibition at the Tate Modern that opened the day I arrived in London. There were two other journalists on the press tour who wanted to see the show, Tara Weingarten and Alain Gayot.

I surmised that opening day tickets would be difficult if not impossible to get but the Dorchester came through and I was awed by the collection of paintings the Tate Modern had pulled together from museums, institutions and collectors around the globe. Most of my favorites of Gauguin’s Tahitian paintings were there and to have the opportunity to walk through room after room of his work was remarkable. When I saw the letters that Gauguin had written to Van Gogh, the sketches he’d inserted into the body of the text beautifully illustrative of his words (thanks to Gayot’s translating the French), I felt time falling away and a pinpoint of history exploding in the room. What a pleasure to see!

Yes, Jeeves, there’s an app for that!

I’ve long been fascinated with Gauguin’s Tahitian period. When I read Noa Noa, his Tahitian Journal, I was struck by how tortured the man had become by that time in his life, taking arsenic with regularity because he was struggling so. “For some time past I had been growing restless,” he wrote. “My work suffered under it. It is true that I lacked many of the essential implements; it irritated me to be reduced to impotence in the face of artistic projects to which I had passionately given myself. But it was joy most of all which I lacked.”

As I read how the further he entered into his fantasies, the more shattered they became, I decided to write a play called “Ghost of a Chance.” I was honored with a staged reading several years ago and received some excellent advice from the actors who gave their time and talents to the process. The exhibition has motivated me to work on it again. Happy sensual roaming everyone! If you get to London, don’t miss this show!

11/5/10
Aubrey Beardsley's Salome, 1894

Dig Yourself, Brighton!

Aubrey Beardsley's Salome, 1894

I’ve been exploring Brighton, England, the past few days and have had a blast getting to know this terrific seaside town. I was so surprised how easy it was to get here: just a bit over an hour by train thanks to Rail Europe’s excellent handling of my itinerary. It’s such an interesting mix of the artful, the commercial and the soulful (with the ocean churning below a moisture-infused sky etched in soft gray, the elemental is ever-present and powerful).

I’ve been learning about the history of the place–the Pavilion with its quirky royal secrecy, the abundance of fresh seafood, and Brighton’s famous residents. One of my favorite artists was born here (Aubrey Beardsley, whose Salome was drawn in 1894) and a very talented musician that I’ve had a longstanding love/hate relationship with (I either love or hate Nick Cave’s music: there’s really no in-between). Thought I’d share one of my loves with you as I say goodbye to Brighton tomorrow morning and head back to the U.S. “I don’t know what it is but there’s definitely something going on upstairs!”

11/2/10
Is This Sign Funny to You?

What Makes You Laugh?

Is This Sign Funny to You?

The #LetsBlogOff question of the day is an interesting one given I’m traveling abroad. “What makes you laugh?” is the question. The answers, as the #LetsBlogOff riffs always are, will be as varied as the participants, a list of which you can find here. For those of you who responded to my last blog-off post so generously, I was to be in Trouville, France, right now exploring Marguerite Duras’ favorite seaside town where she and Yann Andrea Steiner made literary magic. I’m thrilled to be in Brighton a day early, thanks to Modenus’ Veronika Miller and Tim Bogan, but let’s just say strikes and gasoline shortages aren’t at all funny, and not just because they keep you from getting where you want to go.

So back to the question: what does make me laugh? I have realized since traveling through England that my sense of humor is, uh, American. Imagine that! I might not have even thought about the fact that humor is a cultural thing had I not been in Europe while writing this. As I was traveling around with a group of American journalists brought over to tour several Dorchester Collection properties, it was clear that we were not laughing about the same things the Brits found funny. In fact, the stories that we told each night as we reconvened for drinks or dinner were of cultural flubs from one perspective or the other. One of our group was asked if she was a “red indian” by one of our drivers, who also noted that the other ladies in the car were simply “plain” compared to her (we never did figure out which was a compliment and it was too ridiculous to ask)! Another driver said he’d been a “trolly dolly” for British Airways for years and then proceeded to laugh himself silly. It’s a delightful term for an airline steward but was it really that funny?

None of the Brits we told about the sign we found in Eton for The Porny School thought it was humorous while we’d laughed until we cried. As it turned out, it is a school for young children. No, child pornography isn’t funny, but bumping into such a sign for such a place in such a context was the perfect comic relief for a bunch of stressed-out journalists who were under pressure to get their story angles right and get them filed.

It’s election day in America and I’m quite nervous about it. If the Republicans regain control, we could be in for a frustrating several years that I don’t want to have to bear but that’s politics as they say. To close this rather rambling post (apologies but I am out rambling at the moment), I thought I’d let one of my favorite Brits dish about one of my least favorite politicians on this tenuous election day. No, I truly don’t think politics are funny but John Cleese on Sarah Palin is: Monty Python could have written it, indeed!

10/28/10
photo.jpg.scaled.500

The Art of Travel

I’m in the British Airways lounge at JFK on my way to the UK to visit two properties in the Dorchester Collection. I’m really impressed with the art collection here. Such a nice Basquiat!
I’m always curious to know my readers’ favorite museums: Metropolitan Museum of Art? Museum of Art and Design? Museum of Modern Art? Brooklyn Museum of Art?
10/8/10
Johnny Grey

Booking it to England

Johnny Grey

You all know what a sucker I am for books, and you might have guessed that any subject addressing a lack of soul in design would get my attention as well. There’s an event in Birmingham, England, this weekend that looks to be an interesting exploration of emotional design entitled “Home Is Where the Heart Is: Interior Design with Emotion.” Johnny Grey will join designer, writer and TV presenter Kevin McCloud; Habitat creative director Theo Williams; and designer, author and TV presenter Naomi Cleaver at Grand Designs Live on Saturday, October 9th at 1:15 p.m. to discuss the timely subject. The panel will be moderated by producer Aidan Walker.

Johnny’s talk, which he’s calling “Ten Books: Sources of Influence,” will explore his favourite titles and demonstrate how they have influenced his work as well as what value they offer to clients, designers and architects. They include, A Perfect Mess by Eric Abrahamson and David Freeman; The World of Goods by Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood; Happiness: Lessons from a New Science by Richard Layard; I’m Still Here by John Zeisel; Healing Spaces by Esther Sternberg; Wabi Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers by Leonard Koren; The Art Instinct by Denis Dutton; The Alexander Technique by John Gray; The Craftsman by Richard Sennett; and House as a Mirror of Selfby Clare Cooper Marcus.

“I want to spread ideas to designers and homemakers on ways of embedding soul and comfort, using new tools from brain research, psychology, art, food and the five senses via ten original and powerful books,” Grey says. “Over the years many books with powerful ideas do not find tipping points, and designers don’t have enough time to read and tend to stick design books. I’d like to see this change: I think we’d be all the better for it.”

Here’s a sneak peak as to what Grey had to say about Happiness during his presentation at Decorex last week.