Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Seduction of Decay

If a picture is worth a thousand words,

...last nights opening of “The Seduction of Decay” now hanging in the ClockTowerSalon at Bruckner and Lincoln in the Bronx, is worth a thousand pictures.

This gorgeous show runs from the tranquil all the way to the disturbing...

...from flatblack plywood peepshows and gristly cleaver imaginings to amazing bridgeclimbs and high-end, glossy elegance.

The content is provocative.

And often for very different reasons.

The Seduction of Decay, a group exhibition of international photography featuring the images of Salvador Angel, Emily J. Hara, Shane Perez, and Diana Rivera, through October 30th.

Be seduced.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tonight! 7pm! Partayyyy

Don't forget! Tonight!

The ClockTower Salon presents The Seduction of Decay, a group exhibition of international photography curated by Diana Rivera, featuring the images of Salvador Angel, Emily J. Hara, Shane Perez, and Rivera herself.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

my incomprehensible habit

In keeping with my incomprehensible habit of shooting Romanesque architecture in the rain…’s Engine 36 at 120 East 125th Street in Harlem, another Romanesque beauty but with a twist. Built as a firehouse in 1888 just two years after our ClockTower, it was designated a landmark in June 1997.

Alas, it was closed for budgetary reasons in May 2003 when it was determined that the more modern Engine 35 at 124th and Third (barely a block away) could offer neighborhood response times still below the city average. I love the nifty dragon ironwork, no doubt original.

This building has all the architectural earmarks of our ClockTower including the show-off brickwork, the round top window and the inlay bas-relief detail, but with a distinctive difference. True Richardsonian Romanesque features cast-terracotta detailing but Engine 36’s detail is in carved stone, a forward-looking departure that anticipates the neo-classic era about to take over and continue through the turn of the century, all the way through World War One. 1914-1918.
That progression can be seen here from right to left: 

Engine 36 from 1888, then the Apple Bank built by the Harlem Savings Bank in the neo-classic style in 1908 for $350,000 (!), then the $14.5 million dollar Pathmark begun in August 1997 as part of the federal government’s $300 million dollar “Empowerment Zone” initiative, targeted at spurring private industry in Harlem.
Do you have some cash lying around?

The City Planning Commission approved disposition of Engine 36 on April 9, 2007. Anyone with the funding and acting within landmark and local zoning laws can purchase and reuse the building for private interest. At the moment, this wonderful building sits empty and unused.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Three strikes.

He’s out.


with a hat tip to boingboing

this time

When faced with indecision, do nothing until clarity arrives. This is the basic principle of Wu wei 無爲;  wúwéi, 無為,

...a concept of Taoism that involves knowing when to act and when not to act.

Wu Wei implies natural, effortless action; as planets revolve around the sun, they do this revolving but without "doing" it; or as trees grow, they do but without "doing."

Lao-Tzu, ancient philosopher of China, observed…
“Seek not happiness too greedily, 
and be not fearful of happiness.” 
Food, this time, for thought.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pull the cork. Have a glass. Breathe deep.

The weather is getting chilly and we are at that crossroads of Summer into Autumn. For a few weeks the last of the Summer tomatoes will still be fine and yet the weather calls for heartier fare than the simple Summer dishes we’ve been making. I love the braises and ragouts, (wra-gooz), where tougher cuts of meat bubble for an eternity in stocks and wine. The aroma’s in your home will make you dizzy and I like the feeling of a good meal bubbling away in the background while I work, especially as it gets darker earlier.

Lamb chops are unaffordable at twenty bucks a pound but the shoulder is perfect for recessionary cooking. It’s cheap, bone-in and because the muscles work as the lamb walks around, the meat is tough and extremely flavorful. The bones are big, too, have the butcher saw it up onto chunks. 
The shoulder is way too tough to grill or roast. It needs to braise in a liquid to reach an edible tenderness. You have frozen stock on hand, right? From the veggies and bones you’d have typically thrown away? Great. If not, now’s the time to make it.

Or use bouillon cubes, or commercial stock from the market. You’ll need about three quarts and a bottle of red.
Start with a few strips of bacon in a thick bottomed pot. Render it until the bacon fat is hot and the bacon is very crisp. While the bacon is frying, pepper the lamb; lots and lots of freshground peppercorns. The pre-ground stuff is like sawdust compared to grinding your own.

Now sieve out the bacon, leave the heat at fairly high, dredge the lamb in flour…

...knock off the extra flour then drop the lamb into the hot fat. No lid. We want the moisture to cook off at this point so we can brown the floury meat crispy on all sides. Turn the meat now and then to put every surface into the red-hot pot bottom and brown it all thoroughly.
The aroma as you brown the meat is amazing. Pull the cork. Have a glass. Breathe deep. 
Don’t get too precious in chopping the vegetables, this part isn’t art.

I like an onion, a red pepper, some fresh garlic. And a couple good tomatoes. This stew is sort of peasantlike, so rough chunks of onion and red pepper are fine. I leave the garlic cloves whole. Much of it will disintegrate anyway.
Is the meat browned? 

Take it out to a plate, pour out the excess fat from the pot and then dump in the vegetables. Stir them all around. See those little browned bits stuck to the bottom?

Yum. The onion, garlic and red pepper will sauté in the heat and release a bit of moisture. Turn the flame down a little, we don’t want those bits to burn, and stir the vegetables around now and then gathering those browned bits. Soften and brown the edges of the vegetables. This takes only a few minutes. While you are waiting, strain your stock well and toss out the exhausted vegetables.

Now... just as the ragout vegetables are soft and things start to brown and begin to get a little too hot, dump in two liters or so of the hot stock. PSSSSSSSSSS……..Be careful. It’ll sizzle for a second, then slow everything down. Stir. Perfect. Adjust the heat to a gentle boil and stir it all around again.
Now it comes together. Put the bacon back in, also return the browned lamb and a couple chopped tomatoes. Dump in some red wine, too. A cup or two. And a big stalk of fresh rosemary. Add just enough liquid to cover the meat with stock and wine.

Put the lid on, and let it come to a good boil, then reduce the heat to a slow simmer. We’ll taste it every hour or so but for now, we’re done for awhile.
Let the stock, vegetables, bacon and lamb simmer for hours. Really. Hours. This is the part that makes your loft smell amazing. Just stir it now and then. Three hours later, turn it off and let it stand. It’s not done yet but it’s time to de-fat the stock.
Fat brings flavor and mouthfeel but lamb is fairly greasy and lamb dishes really benefit from degreasing. Pour the stew through a colander collecting the broth in a big pot underneath, set the solids into the fridge and pour the broth into tall plastic containers. These also go into the fridge for a couple hours.

About 2 hours later, see what happens? The bacon and lamb fat rises and congeals into a greasy orange disk right on top. Take a big spoon and scrape it all off and toss it out. We’ll finish with a little butter later.
Now pour the fat-free stock back over the cooked vegetables and lamb and put it all back on low heat again. Add another liter of stock or more wine if it is looking low and let it simmer with the lid on for another couple of hours. About 2 more hours should do it. I cooked mine for about 6 total, not counting fridge time. The idea is that the meat is so tender it can be carved from the bone with a spoon and it cooks down to concentrate the flavors. It should be rich with rosemary. Taste it and adjust the seasonings, add salt or more pepper if you think it needs it.
Now we’ll finish it in the French style.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a thick saucepan and whisk in two or three tablespoons of flour till it bubbles, a classic “roux.” (roo) Keep whisking as the roux begins to tan over the heat…

... then add two or three or four big ladles of the hot stock and whisk it quickly to blend it smooth as silk, then pour that silky sauce back into the stew and stir it all in well. This butter is really the only fat in the dish. It will thicken the sauce to the consistency of gravy and finish it with a buttery texture and flavor for the mashed potatoes you are making.

You are making mashed potatoes, aren’t you?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Here we only CALL them clowns

An interesting story today from Brazil via the BBC reports that the Brazilians take literally what we only imply colloquially.
They elected a clown to federal office.
Tiririca, real name Francisco Oliveira Silva and a professional circus clown and television comedian since the age of eight is now a federal deputy for Sao Paulo elected with 1,353,355 votes, a landslide. His closest challenger garnered 694,000 votes, barely half.
Tiririca’s platform?
"What does a federal deputy do? Truly, I don't know. But vote for me and I will find out for you."

And his campaign slogan?

"It can't get any worse." 


BBC analysts say this reflects a growing disillusion with mainstream politicians, following numerous corruption scandals.
Hat tip to the BBC

Careful, darling.

Long before lasers and LED (light emitting diodes) or compact fluorescent or fibre optic, we had neon. Neon signs have been around for a long time.
This technology is at least 100 years old with stories about its introduction ranging from about 1890 to 1910, with the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago generally agreed as an important debut.

Basically, it’s a glass tube with an inert gas inside that is bombarded with 22,000 to 24,000 volts of electricity until the gas literally glows. For comparison, that standard electrical receptacle in your loft wall offers about 115 volts.

Careful, darling.
By the 1950’s neon was everywhere. That’s the era of these signs on the Fuller Pharmacy at 143rd and Third, a clue that pharmaceuticals have been sold in that location for more than half a century.

Neon is no more energy efficient than regular incandescent lighting but the range of color and arresting glow visible even in daylight quickly made neon the go-to of the postwar commercial signage industry.
A story about the restoration of a similar sign from that same era can be found here:
Take a look next time you pass Fuller Drug.

The 1950’s won’t be around forever.