Places

Hello Tokyo

Places, Travel February 25th, 2013 — by:

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During a recent trip to Bangkok, my travel plans had me flying through Tokyo. Since I had long been intrigued with the city, it was a no-brainer – an extended layover was in order! I’m a true fan of the extended layover, for those times where you hit cool cities en route to your final destination, even if just for one night. But this time around I gave myself 72 hours to explore the legendary fashion districts and sashimi, ramen, and tempura restaurants. Tea houses, street fashion, subway stations, sub-cultures, the neon lights, the energy. In an instant, I fell utterly in love with the city. Stunning and immensely dynamic, I found the culture to be elegant and the cuisine just as gorgeous as it was delicious. The people were incredibly welcoming and helpful, as referenced by the kind gentleman who helped me navigate the transit system to find my hotel… while insisting he carry my suitcase. And then there was the unforgettable experience of getting transformed into a traditional geisha. Tokyo has my heart, far surpassing any expectations I may have had. If you have the opportunity, I implore you to visit. And when you do, here are a few of my personal recommendations,

 

stay

The Peninsula

eat

for sushi, Sukeroku (Ginza) | for ramen, Nagi (Shibuya)

 

do

visit the world’s busiest fish market, Tsukiji, for the famed tuna auctions

 

shop

Ginza for high-end & Harajuku for edgy fashion, and Asakusa for traditional décor & kitchenware

Speaking of shopping, here are a few Taigan gems that are reminiscent of my time in Tokyo,

Ciotola Capri Gellato Bowl by 100% Capri | $80

bowl

Tokyo Note Cards by Karen Adams Designs | $28

 karen adams

Carnelian Turquoise and Clear Quartz Earrings by Bounkit | $430

 earrings

Burgundy Leather Dress by Exclusive for Beige | $1,299

 leather dress

Julia Meech’s Designed for Pleasure by Books & Books | $125

 book

 

Happy Travels,

-Lila

Lila Fox, Fetch Magazine’s Travel Blogger, is owner of New Orleans-based Constant Tourist Travel, a travel agency specializing in luxury leisure travel worldwide. Follow her on Twitter @lilathetourist.

Summer in the City

Places, Travel July 12th, 2011 — by:

Though much of Fetch this week is devoted to accoutrements needed for long weekends at the beach or in the country, I feel obliged to sing the praises of summer weekends in the city.

During much of last weekend, I was in New Orleans, a city that is notoriously—and often unbearably—hot in the summer. Fortunately, the business community understands the importance of almost frigid air conditioning. I have spent many a happy summer weekend wrapped in a sweater, watching back-to-back movies at the Canal Place theaters on the edge of the French Quarter or having long lunches Galatoire’s, which does not close between lunch and dinner and is by far the coldest restaurant in town. I can think of worse ways to idle away a summer day, but there are still more ingenious options to take one’s mind off the heat. Last weekend, for example, the city emulated the annual shenanigans in Pamplona, Spain and hosted its own running of the bulls. For a brief moment, I wondered where exactly the bulls would be coming from—while we are currently having a big problem with the throngs of coyotes who’ve been flushed out of their habitat by high water, bulls are not exactly commonplace. But it turned out that the bulls were not bulls at all, but roller derby queens outfitted with horned headgear. Before the event, I ran into a huge contingent of men, dressed appropriately in red and white, just dying for the chance to run from the ladies. This is not the kind of activity that takes place in the country.

Now, of course I love the country, and I particularly love it when generous friends with large country houses invite me to come visit them there. So far this summer I am having a particularly good run. In June, I visited my friend Alexander Chancellor at his gorgeous Inigo Jones pavilions in Northhampton, a scant hour and a half from London. As I write, my husband and I are happily on our way to visit our friends Jon and Keith Meacham at the house they rented in Goult, France. I once even had my very own house in the country—a cottage in Bridgehampton shared with my dear friend Helen Bransford. I can no longer remember what we paid to rent it for two summers, but I’m sure it was nowhere near the current prices—and it was certainly nowhere near $5,392,500, the astonishing average listing price for houses for sale in Bridgehampton for the week ending June 29. Our house had Popsicle stick lamps and air so damp and full of allergens that a visiting friend chose to sleep in my car rather than in our guest bedroom. There was a potato field across the road (into which my black cat escaped one harrowing night) and an ancient charcoal grill on which we grilled fresh blue fish and tuna and endless ears of corn.

We went to fancy dress parties in Southampton and casual clambakes in Amagansett and generally had a grand time, but I still got occasionally homesick for New York.  For one thing, many of the people I spent all week trying to avoid weren’t there anymore—they were the poor saps standing in the endless line at the movie theater in Sag Harbor or spending hours of phone time trying to wangle a table at the latest East Hampton hot spot.  Movie theaters in Manhattan, on the other hand, were virtually empty; tables at even the buzziest restaurants were almost startlingly easy to come by. So were theater tickets, manicure appointments, you name it. I’d meet friends for guacamole and frozen pomegranate margaritas at Rosa Mexicano or brunch at Soho’s I Tre Merli. Being a tourist in my own city somehow became the most relaxing of holidays.

So this summer, at the end of my admittedly luxurious country house tour, I plan to spend at least one long weekend in New York. Flights are cheap and so are hotel rooms. As we inch toward August, barely a local remains, yet all sorts of great stuff is going on. This week for example, you can watch 14 different Marilyn Monroe titles in 35 mm prints at BAM Ceinematek. “Hair,” of all things, has returned to Broadway for a limited run of fun free love, and on July 28, the Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival brings Taj Mahal, Vernon Reid, and many more to the World Financial Center for three days of outdoor music.  I actually like the fact that the sidewalks still flash heat back at you late into the night. The Lovin Spoonful got it right with their lyrics to (Hot Town) Summer in the City: “But at night it’s a different world, Go out and find a girl, Come-on come-on and dance all night, Despite the heat it’ll be alright.” Yep, and there might even be a horned roller derby queen rolling around on the sidewalks.

 

I am in England as I type this, out in the countryside near Northampton at my friend Alexander Chancellor’s stunning Inigo Jones house, where, between fleeting moments of sunshine, it is gray and cold and generally pouring down rain. But it is also the day before summer officially begins and I am about to make a salad.  In fact, we’ve been rather determinedly making salads at every meal for the last three days now—running out to the garden with head down and hood up to grab a handful of rocket (arugula) and snip a few herbs. These we’ve tossed with endive and little gem lettuces, olive oil from Tuscany, a squeeze of lemon and Maldon sea salt.  It may not feel like summer outside, but inside we have summer on a plate.

The Brits get a bum rap about their cuisine. These days, of course, there are brilliant chefs cooking all over London—tomorrow, as it happens, I’ll be dining at Heston Blumenthal’s much-lauded Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Still, people persist in thinking of English food as all bangers and mash, bubble and squeak, lots of over-boiled potatoes and great haunches of meat.  It turns out, though, that what they’ve always been very big on are salads.

My friend Vicki Woods, whose own English garden is overflowing with rocket and mint, basil and chives (not to mention masses of gorgeous English roses), turned me on to Robert May’s “The Accomplisht Cook,” for example.  May, one of England’s first professional cooks, published his recipe for “Another Grand Sallet” in 1660, but it sounds almost exactly like what I’ve been doing for the last few days: “All sorts of good herbs, and little leaves of red sage, the smallest leaves of sorrel, and the leaves of parsley pickt very small, the youngest and smallest leaves of spinach, some leaves of salad burnet, the smallest leaves of lettuce, white endive and charvel, all finely pickt and washed and swung in a strainer of a clean napkin and well drained from water: then dish it out in a clean scowered dish…with good oil and vinegar.”

Three hundred years later, the great English food writer Elizabeth David wrote,  “It seems to me that a salad and its dressing are things we should take more or less for granted at a meal, like bread and salt.”  Her seminal Mediterranean Food reintroduced her War-deprived countrymen to the pleasures of olive oil and herbs, as well as such exotica as gazpacho and “a salad of aubergines.”

Now, fifty years after that, we have Nigel Slater, the excellent food columnist for The Observer whose book “Tender,” is a beautifully illustrated chronicle of the bounty from his London garden. There are wonderful recipes—Vicki swears by the celery gratin, which elevates that humble garnish to a grand main event—but you can tell that salad is Slater’s number one love. “If there was a recipe that stood for everything I believe about good eating,” he writes, “it would be the quiet understatement that is a single variety of salad leaf in a simple bowl. Each leaf should be perfect, the dressing light and barely present, the whole effect one of generous simplicity. “

As they say over here, good point, well made. Elsewhere on Fetch this week—in what I hope is an illustration of that point—you’ll find a story called “Salad Days,” which includes a gorgeous photograph (by my good friend Gus Schmiege) of a salad tossed with lemon olive oil and sparkling wine vinegar from the St. Helena Olive Oil Co.  I think Slater would approve. Below, you will find his recipe for “A Lemon Dressing for Summer” that is a close approximation of the “O’Kelly Girls Vinaigrette” featured in the photo.  I also include a cucumber salad from David’s “Summer Cooking.” Like May’s 17th century recipe, both are written plainly in the way that people actually talk. They are also examples of elegant restraint that result in some sublime summer salads. It may be cold and wet, but as usual, the noble Brits remain unbowed.

 

Nigel Slater’s “A Lemon Dressing for Summer”

Mix together a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and the juice of half a lemon. Beat in 200 ml olive oil and a teaspoon of grated lemon zest. Leave for a few minutes for the ingredients to get to know one another.

 

Elizabeth David’s “Cucumber and Chive Salad”

A cucumber, a few chives, and, for the dressing a small cupful of cream, a teaspoonful of sugar, olive oil, salt and pepper, a teaspoonful of tarragon vinegar.

Slice the cucumber paper thin. Sprinkle coarse salt over the cucumber and leave it in a colander to drain for half an hour.

Mix the sugar and vinegar together, then add the cream, pepper and salt. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the chopped chives, and pour the dressing over the cucumber in a shallow dish.

 

Shop TAIGAN for Nigel Slater’s Tender at Heirloom Books

 

The Yucca Flats Summer

Places, Travel June 14th, 2011 — by:

One of the great things about my profession is that it’s okay to plagiarize yourself. And—though it happens rarely—we all occasionally write something worth repeating. In this case, I want to share a piece I wrote for Newsweek on that great summer drink, the Yucca Flats. It’s been on my mind a lot lately, not because it’s so hot and a YF would be mighty tasty right about now, but because Nell Yarbrough, the matriarch of the family who first introduced me to them—an extraordinary woman whom I’ve mentioned in this space before—recently died. When we all gathered in Mississippi to celebrate her life, the subject of the Yucca Flats almost immediately came up, and you will see why, below.

So, herewith, the column, with a few changes and additions befitting the moment:

The summers of my youth were spent largely at the house of our neighbors, who had six children (including three good-looking, much older and very funny boys) and a playroom with a pool table, card table, stereo and ancient refrigerator. Depending on the summer, I was invariably in love with one of the brothers or their friends, and it was in their company that I picked up the skills that have contributed to my good health and happiness ever since: how to kiss, play poker, hold my beer—and hum along to pretty much every song on a nonstop vinyl soundtrack that included, but was not limited to, the Allman Brothers, the Rolling Stones and the Sir Douglas Quintet.

The most memorable summer was marked by the introduction of the Yucca Flats—not the nuke site, but a passion-inducing concoction mixed in metal trash cans with floating handfuls of squeezed citrus, and I’ve always wondered what else, exactly, was in there.

The good (and scary) thing about the Internet is that you can locate not just the answers to such questions, but also a lot of people who appear to have lived your same life—when I Googled “Yucca Flats,” a great many cocktail blogs appeared containing such comments as “We drink this when we are playing cards.” One recommended mixing it with your feet. There was some disagreement about the recipe—versions included vodka, gin, rum, tequila or some combination thereof. But the consensus seems to be that a Yucca Flats is a whole lot of gin mixed with equal parts lemon juice and sugar, shaken or stirred with ice until really cold, and topped with maraschino cherries and halves of lemons, limes and oranges.

I intend to try it immediately, and not merely because I’m motivated by nostalgia. For one thing, it is at least as hot in Louisiana, where I now spend most of my time, as it was in my hometown in Mississippi. It’s also time to switch cocktails: warm-weather months have traditionally meant a change from brown liquor to white, from heavy cocktails to those that are lighter and more refreshing—though equally potent.

Recently there’s been a strong trend toward what master mixologist Dale DeGroff calls “a culinary style of cocktails, utilizing exotic fruit and kitchen ingredients.” So now there’s also a seasonal shift from the stronger and more savory end of that spectrum to the lighter, fruitier end, which also includes the herbs abounding in the garden. You might switch from a properly muddled old-fashioned to, say, a lemon-thyme margarita.

I am thinking seriously of making a new version of the Yucca Flats with rum and mint—or, perhaps, adding some lemon-thyme syrup to the gin version, minus the maraschinos. In a garbage can, after all, there is plenty of room to experiment. I plan to name it after Mrs. Yarbrough and to serve at the First Annual Nell Yarbrough Memorial Invitational Poker Tournament. The Allman Brothers will be on the stereo.

 

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South of Market opened ten years ago after interior designer Kay Douglass went on a shopping trip to France and returned with more than she could possibly keep. Now SOM has stores in Atlanta and Charleston, and Kay and her right hand Dixie Peeples still make constant trips to France and Belgium to unearth the rare and rustic treasures that fill both spaces. They also have lots of fun along the way.

On their most recent trip in May, the pair flew into Belgium, a favorite stomping ground where they met with some of their longtime dealers in city shops and combed through warehouses and barns in the countryside. Next stop was Paris (for “inspiration, of course,” says Dixie) as well as a de riguer visit to the famous Flea Market, known to veteran shoppers as “Les Puces” (“The Fleas”). After Paris they made their way to the South of France to visit the fairs and to call on more dealers—then it was back to Paris and home. Pictured above, are “postcards” from the road filled new discoveries and beloved secret haunts Kay and Dixie were generous enough to share with Fetch readers.

Top row, left: Le Limas, a tiny B&B in Avignon with only five rooms, owned by an artist and her husband. “The building is 16th century. We love the tranquil courtyard and the way it so seamlessly fused modern art and sculpture with the old. On our favorite night there, we got wine and Greek takeout, added some candles and dined alfresco in the courtyard. Truly a little slice of heaven!”

Top row, center: South of Market is known for the brilliant repurposing of found objects, so it is no wonder that these old gears, in a warehouse in France, sparked some interest. “We saw these while shopping at a warehouse in France. There’s a big barn and a lawn surrounding the barn…you never know what you are going to find. All the objects are the kind of things that we like to transform into other things. These cogs were the most vibrant blue and immediately caught our eye. They would make amazing mirrors. They could also be hung as is, or even rest on the floor since they are so sculptural.” Alas, they were already spoken for.

Top row, right: Pallets also found in the South of France. They’ll be repurposed as totally chic and typically unique SOM coffee tables.

Bottom row, left: The salon at Le Limas. “The mobile is composed of well wishes, all handwritten from all over the world.”

Bottom row, center: A dorade, with it’s shimmering silver skin and tender white flesh is one of the most prized catches from the Mediterranean. Kay and Dixie enjoyed it at the Le Jardin du Quai near Avignon. “It’s our MOST favorite restaurant in the South of France. We discovered it many years ago on our travels and now it’s a constant on our trips South. Each time you eat there, you don’t think it can possibly surpass the last meal you had there. But it ALWAYS does! There’s no menu, simply the chef’s selection. This day it was a first course of fresh asparagus, followed by the fish with a side of roasted vegetables in vinaigrette with an ice cream filled with nuts and berries for dessert.”

Bottom row, right: A bedroom at their hotel in Paris, Hotel Gabriel. “While the rooms are sparse, they were impactful and everything had a purpose. We loved the spare use of carpet, the washed floors and the soft color palette in whites and creams.” Kay was particularly impressed by “the way that the cabinetry was integrated into the design of the bed to create a cocoon-like effect. The room was petite but the design very thoughtful. There was even a carved-out nook below the bed to store your suitcase.”

More favorite haunts:
Restaurant 75 in Avignon “for the amazing chocolate soufflés.”

Café Les Philosophes on Rue Vielle du Temple, “a restaurant in the Marais where we love to sit and people watch.”

Anahi in Paris, “a small Argentine restaurant introduced to us by a local. Our favorite dish there is ceviche and the ambience cannot be beat.”

Shop South of Market on TAIGAN.com