Month: November, 2006

Hazy Sunday

Sunday, November 12th, 2006 | All Things, Classes

I woke up this morning to find Columbus Avenue awash in a misty haze. Strange to see the buildings lining the streets disappear into the clouds. The twin columns of the Time Warner Center were completely shrouded from view.

Columbus Circle Mist

Sunday morning cooking class with John at the Williams-Sonoma. This week, in preparation for Thanksgiving, a primer on roasting a turkey.

The key to a juicy, flavorful turkey is in the brining. The additional step keeps the bird moist and tender: sugar and spices added to the brining liquid enhance the meat’s flavor; the salt breaks down some of the meat proteins, allowing more liquid to be absorbed into the bird. When the turkey is roasted over a long period of time, the proteins coagulate, preventing the liquid from escaping, resulting in overall increased moisture content–hence, a juicier turkey.

John with Turkey

After class, coffee at Bouchon and some more photos from the upper floors.

These holiday stars were strung up at the TWC just the evening before; I saw the crew working late into the night, as I walked home. The Time Warner Center debuted this “Under the Stars” installation last November. Brooklyn-based Holiday Image Inc. designed, built, and installed the dozen brushed aluminum stars; each 14-point, 12′ x14′ star weighs 987 pounds. Ted Mather designed the lighting. The structures will eventually be lit from within by over 8,500 color LED’s, shifting colors to coordinate with interpretations of holiday music.

TWC Stars

TWC Stars

A quick bite with B near Herald Square, and then some shopping before the thunderstorms were set to roll in. But not at H&M

Dutch duo Viktor and Rolf unveiled their design collection at H&M on Thursday. This is H&M’s third foray into the elite-desiger/mass-market retail arena: their previous high fashion collaborations featured designs by Karl Lagerfeld (2004) and Stella McCartney (2005).

Such designer pairings ostensibly represent some democratization of design. Michael Graves, Philippe Starck and Isaac Mizrahi for Target come to mind. Unlike Target’s “Design for All,” which has featured several amply stocked lines by each designer, H&M’s lines have been focused on scarcity: extremely limited stock and one-off collections. The strategy had already proven successful: Lagerfeld’s limited edition collection was devoured the morning it hit the floor in 2004; the following year, McCartney’s line sparked riots (and all sorts of unbecoming behavior.) By most accounts, the entire 40 piece collection sold out of all New York City stores within 15 minutes to bargain-hungry fashionistas who had waited on line overnight–while the media giddily covered the frenzy.

Fortune aptly dubbed this marketing trend “mass-clusivity“: limited-edition items created by big chains to generate heat and sell out fast. For the retailer, there’s virtually no downside: the media coverage alone is priceless. And shoppers who arrive after the exclusive goods have sold out may resort to making other purchases. For the most part, what makes these clothes desirable is not their inherent quality–which is immaterial–-but the demand manufactured by their scarcity, i.e., their exclusivity, manufactured or otherwise. What H&M is selling, even more than designer clothes, is the designer experience. And by making their limited edition collections available to anyone willing to invest the hours on line and to throw themselves into the fray, H&M seems to be promoting the democratization of not just design, but designer shopping itself.

So they did it again: this time, to somewhat less insane effect (Viktor & Rolf being more a cult Paris-based label, lacking the label recognition of McCartney, and even Lagerfeld.) Still, there was plenty of madness to cover–not at all limited to the United States.

The centerpiece of the collection was this wedding ensemble: tuxedo and bridal gown (which was limited to an edition of 1,000 worldwide.) Needless to say, by the weekend every shred of V&R was snatched up–hence the “Sold Out” broken heart–though available for purchase on eBay… at a price-gouging markup, of course.

Sold Out

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Trump’s Trees

Saturday, November 11th, 2006 | All Things

Outside the Trump International Hotel and Towers at Columbus Circle.

Trump Trees

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Nice cupcakes

Friday, November 10th, 2006 | All Things, Eats, Friends

Belated celebration for DK’s birthday tonight. After some back and forth, SYB, HH, DK and I finally came upon a date for which all of us were available. (All except LK, who passed on the festivities.) Dinner in Sunnyside!

These birthday gatherings are something of a tradition, though at various times, we have been lax in scheduling them, missing a couple of dates in the interim. But we still try.

SYB generously offered to prepare a home-cooked meal for the occasion, so I was tasked with bringing dessert. HH and I considered a few options (Mini-cake? Little pie? Beard Papa’s cream puffs?), but finally we decided on cupcakes. Who doesn’t like cupcakes? I made the trip to Crumbs Bake Shop after work. So many varieties….!

But, as we all know by now, DK does not eat nuts: no peanuts, no cashews, no almonds… as he put it: “nothing with ‘nut’ in the name,” which includes coconuts. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, one in 200 Americans has this peanut or nut allergy; approximately 50 to 100 people die every year after accidental exposure. (As a result, almost all airlines have stopped serving peanuts on their flights.) Remember the crazy story about the Canadian teenager who suffered a fatal anaphylactic reaction after kissing her boyfriend, who had eaten a peanut-butter sandwich hours earlier?

The strict nut ban cut down on some of the dessert choices — no Reese’s Peanut Butter or Fluffernutter cupcakes — but there were still plenty of elaborate and tasty-looking options. HH and I had our eye on the Red Velvet Cupcake; SYB placed his vote for the Cappuccino.

I made it to the glass counter at Crumbs, just ahead one dour Upper West Side matron, to find the bakery sold out of Red Velvet. Well, it is their best seller. So instead: Cappuccino, Oreo, Blackout, S’More, and Cookie Dough.

Crumbs Cupcakes

HH and I met at Grand Central and arrived at Chez B to find the cooking in progress. The menu tonight made full use of SYB’s and my organic vegetable share: Smothered Pork Chops with Spicy Collard Greens, Mashed Potatoes with Leeks and Orange-Glazed Carrot Ribbons.

After setting the pork chops and collards to braise on the stovetop, we caught up on some television. Actually, a lot of television. I probably watched more television that night than I had in the two weeks prior, combined. First: Celebrity JeopardyLaw and Order edition, featuring stars from all three current L&O franchises — which was filmed this season in New York at Radio City Music Hall. The obviously dumbed-down questions always remind me of the Saturday Night Live Celebrity Jeopardy sketches — there have been 13! — featuring the hilarious, and entirely fictionalized, feud between Alex Trebek (Will Ferrell) and Sean Connery (Darrell Hammond).

We zipped through the new-to-America game show 1 vs 100 with host Bob Saget (verdict: eh) and caught up on episodes of The Office and How I Met Your Mother — all in full HD glory. HH apparently had never watched The Office before (!), so we made a new convert that night. SYB should be earning a commission from NBC for all the new viewers he brings in.

Dinner was delicious, and afterwards, the five of us split up the enormous cupcakes, which the boys seemed to enjoy.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
(the less I seek my source)
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine

— “Closer to Fine,” Indigo Girls (as sung by Jim “Big Tuna” Halpert and Andy Bernard on The Office)

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