Firenze nella luce del mattino

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Buildings aglow on the Arno.

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Porticoes without people in the early morning.

I have waited months and weeks and days for this trip to finally arrive. I have sent countless emails to hoteliers, restaurants, bloggers, and friends. I have spent hours on review sites. I have made pages of lists and notes. Now that I am finally in Florence, and I can feel the sun gently streaming in behind the curtains, and I can hear the odd passerby on the narrow cobblestoned street, I do not want to waste one minute.

Mornings are my favorite time of day. More precisely, I yearn for the single hour just after the sun rises but before the people steadily fill the streets. Before cars whizz by, before stores open, before the majority of the city washes its hair and makes its bed and begins another day. This is my walking time, my exploring time, my photographing time. This is my looking around time, my noticing things time, my discovery time. I make note of streets that I want to walk down again, stores that I want to re-visit, vantage points that I want to photograph again and again.

Even the Ponte Vecchio is void of its usual hoards. The ancient viaduct feels as if it is resting. As the sun rises over its crest, it is taking a large breath; building up strength for another day of jewelry-shoppers and visitors vying for a path along the merchant-lined bridge.

Florence, like many Italian cities and provinces, seems to be made for this hour. The yellow and orange buildings are aglow. They reflect off of the Arno, their beauty as humble as their people. Locals are jogging along the river, through the shadowy streets past favorite cafes and on to Piazzale Michelangelo, or perhaps upwards towards the ‘Poggi’ roads, a neighborhood of winding serpentine streets lined with private residences; a picturesque setting with tall grasses and mystical views over the entire city.

I can walk down the center of Via Tornabuoni, my eyes darting left and right at the luxurious window displays. I criss-cross, ogling over Italian designer clothing, jewelry, and glassware. I am impressed by Florentine entryways, elaborate doorknobs on oversized doors, and garages that resemble fortresses. Muted-toned shutters and endless archways, flower pots and overhanging growth on balconies, statues, towers, cathedrals… the Florentines leave no detail behind. Architecture, aesthetics, gardening, stonework, and design are so clearly a priority to each and every person. I spot not one piece of litter. Florentines take pride in their small city. They live in beauty and vie to keep Florence a gem, and with great generosity inherent to the Florentine people, they share their city with the millions of tourists who fill their cobblestoned streets each year.

As I wander farther from the center, past the Museo Stefano Bardini, I see a group of Florentines placing a wooden rowboat in the river. They push and pull down the center of the Arno, their arms tanned, their eyes alight with il sole. What a glorious way to enjoy this morning hour, from the center of the water. The light follows them as they glide past me, and I watch them grow smaller as I make my way towards a cafe join the rising Florentines for a cappuccino. As I stand at the bar, listening to the patter of cups on saucers, I wonder why there aren’t more Florentines wandering their empty city in the glowing morning hour, soaking in the place that, with buona fortuna, they call home.

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Santa Trinita Bridge

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Elegance from head to toe around Via Tornabuoni

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Il sole casting shadows

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Crossing bridges

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Italians wear orange so well.

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Morning rowing on the Arno.

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Empty porticoes along the Arno.

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Via Tornabuoni

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Bottega nella mattina.

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Museo Stefano Bardini

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Firenze nella mattina

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Sleeping motorbikes.

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The Duomo in the morning shadows.

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Detailed doors.

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Morning light on the Arno

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Mornings on the Arno.

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Yellows and oranges on the Arno.

Firenze

At the beginning of Via Tornabuoni.

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Villa Cora: Just five minutes from Florence, serenity and superb service await

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The spectacular piscina at Villa Cora

villa cora Admittedly, we wavered about staying outside of the city center. We wanted to walk out the door and experience the heart of Florence with all five senses, yet we wondered if it might be something of a treat to escape the crowds. Villa Cora plays the balancing act quite perfectly. The complimentary shuttle takes not even five minutes to reach the Arno, and as we drive up the hill on a mostly residential street, scattered with grand private villas, we feel as if we are going home, (daydreaming on vacanza is encouraged). It is quite special to be only minutes from the center, yet to return to such a tranquil, pristine property carefully strewn with flora and fragrant roses and an outdoor fitness center overlooking the property. We can indulge in an afternoon swim in the beautifully designed pool, with the most aesthetically pleasing pleated umbrellas and water that lapses over the rim like a calm waterfall. We can nurture our tired muscles in the underground spa. What is more humanizing than a sauna and a steam after a whirlwind day of shopping and art-seeing in the center?

Reading the room service menu, I gather that Villa Cora is a property for the wellness-inclined. There are green juices, detox and gluten-free options, organic, and whole wheat items. Italy is not often a place where one finds all of the above. Many cafes are yet to give in to ‘scremato,’ skim milk. At Villa Cora, one need not lose sight of their waistline simply because pasta, cured meats, and breakfast cakes abound. At the spa, guests can take advantage of London beauty guru Sarah Chapman’s products. There are Thai massages, water treatments, body wraps, a hammam, and extracts galore. One could stay a month at Villa Cora and still not exhaust the spa menu.

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Colazione at Villa Cora

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Villa Cora breakfast setting

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The breakfast room adjacent to la piscina

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Breakfast buffet at Villa Cora

Colazione a Villa Cora

For juicing, at Villa Cora

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Parmigiano at every meal, because we are in Italy, after all.

The villa itself was built in 1868 as a wedding gift from Gustavo Adolphus Baron Oppenheim to his bride, Eugenia Fenzi. Indeed from our perch in room 205, with our rose-scented bath products by Santa Maria Novella, our pristine white bathroom, and our canopy bed, I feel a bit like a princess, or at least an aristocrat of some sort. I envision Signora Eugenia looking out the picture window over all of Florence, breathing in fresh Tuscan air, yet only a few minutes from the country’s finest dressmakers and the Boboli gardens. The pink and light green fabrics that adorn our room on the themed ‘Rose Floor’ bring the outdoors in; the greens mesh into the treetops, the pinks perfectly resemble the roses that line the property.

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As if walking all over Florence is not enough, at Villa Cora one can indulge in traditional exercise overlooking the property.

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La piscina

IMG_5003 The mansion is undeniably ornate; it is filled with grand rooms and grander furniture, and when the hotel is not hosting one of many weddings or events, (it is also a favorite for photographers and set designers; many a fashion photo shoot take place at Villa Cora, even one outside our window one morning), the large rooms filled with 19th century furniture feel a tad formal. I wonder how many people sit down at the straight-backed velvet chairs in the dining room during their stay. I myself would much prefer to relax in a lounge chair by the pool.

Nevertheless, these eclectically decorated rooms were in high usage during the time of Villa Oppenheim as the mansion became a setting for the city’s greatest social gatherings. Guests included Napoleon III and his wife Empress Eugenie.  Apparently, Oppenheim’s bride required more than grand social gatherings and a picture perfect view; she could not keep her adultery a secret from Oppenheim, and in thespian fashion, he threatened to blow up the Villa, (a trifle histrionic if you ask me, but I suppose marriage counseling was less fashionable those days).

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Roses line the pebbled pathways at Villa Cora

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La spa at Villa Cora

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The lounge at Villa Cora’s spa

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Massage room at Villa Cora

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The Thai massage room at Villa Cora

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The Thai massage room at Villa Cora

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This underground hallway connects the main villa to the spa and pool dining room

IMG_4999 Post the Oppenheims, Villa Cora became home to ex-empress Eugenie, widow of Napoleon III, who maintained a more innocent love affair; this time with roses. Thus the name of the second floor. Subsequent fascinating characters in history lived in Villa Cora, all contributing to the property’s worldliness. Twelve years ago, the mansion was bought by the president of Whythebest Hotels’ group, Antonella Gatti Fratini. Antonella and Sandro Fratini restored the villa to its original splendor with the intention of presenting it as a luxury hotel. The furnishings have been uniquely designed based on original drawings, and they are joined by antique pieces in both the halls and the private rooms. The Grand Hotel Villa Cora re-opened in 2011 after a long, detailed restoration.

The rooms are comfortable yet certainly remind one of the Villa’s most celebrated time. They vary in size; ours was not large, but it was certainly beautiful. The shower was oversized, and the entrance hall allowed for two large closets. If I had to nitpick, I would question the lack of hooks and surfaces in the bathroom. There was not a designated place to hang my lush bathrobe, thoughtfully embroidered with a rose.

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Our lovely room on the Rose Floor

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The canopy bed and embroidered bedding at Villa Cora

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Our washroom

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Beautiful white marble in our bagno at Villa Cora

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19th century details at Villa Cora

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On the second floor, it is all about roses and femininity. The bath products are rose-scented by Santa Maria Novella, and our turn-down goodies one night was a sweet little bag of jellybeans.

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If we still sent postcards, this would be mine: the view from our window on the second floor.

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One of the many main rooms in the Villa

Beyond the exquisite pool and the mesmerizing 360 degree views from the fifth floor rooftop, the service at Villa Cora is exemplary. The staff are incredibly helpful, welcoming, friendly, and accommodating, as are most all Florentines. With only 48 rooms, the property feels intimate and molto tranquilla, and the staff respond to every request with calm speed. In fact, I am almost certain that if I had asked for a gold hook to be affixed to our bathroom wall so that I could hang my bathrobe, they would have a silent drill in hand within seconds.

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From Villa Cora’s fifth floor rooftop, mesmerizing 360 degree views of Florence and Tuscan treetops

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Views from the roof deck at Villa Cora

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Afternoon refreshments in the lobby at Villa Cora; heavenly cookies and refreshing fruit and cucumber infused water.

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Afternoon refreshments in the lobby: seasonal fruit infused water.

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Instead of an old-fashioned reception counter, check-in takes place in these velvet chairs designed after the Villa’s 19th century furniture

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A Glance at Notting Hill

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Westbourne Grove galleries and boutiques. Notting Hill holds dear to its quirkiness and character wherever it can.

Yes, yes, go to Portobello Market. Call it ‘moseying’ if you must, but a walk down this infamous road can feel a bit more disneyland than you likely intended. There are pastel houses and neon doors, and you can tell that once upon a time this was a truly special place, but now it is laden with tchotchki and knickknacks for tourists. You might be able to find the odd original piece if your patience withstands.

My idea of a lovely afternoon is ‘moseying’ around the quiet, picturesque streets that drape across Westbourne Grove, the fashionable main shopping street for Londoners, complete with contemporary and designer stores, home furnishing spots, galleries, and casual eateries. The homes in the area are pastel and pristine, the cafes and eateries plentiful (including the crowd favorite, Ottolenghi, complete with constant queue), and the boutiques are of interest and originality. Venture beyond the main roads; chances are you will discover loads of examples of how the next generation is modernizing their unique northwest neighborhood whilst keeping a firm grasp on its roots and personality.

A rather embarrassing short list of suggestions- admittedly, I need to spend a bit more time in the neighborhood myself…

-Ottolenghi, Ledbury Road

-Nama Foods 

-Daylesford, Organic Food, Westbourne Grove

-Brissi, Home Furnishing, Westbourne Grove

-Matches, Fashion, Ledbury Road

-Wolf & Badger, Fashion and Jewellery, Ledbury Road

 

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At the start of Portobello Road, paint testing before the crowds thicken.

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Quirky Portobello Road

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On Portobello Road

Off Portobello Road

Just off Portobello Road

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On Westbourne Grove

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Off Ledbury Road

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Outside Ottolenghi on Ledbury Road; as soon as I left, the queue was out the door as per standard Saturday procedure.

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Goodies at Ottolenghi.

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Very patient staff at Ottolenghi.

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Sublime food and gorgeous arrangements at Ottolenghi on Ledbury Street.

Ottolenghi, Notting Hill

Ottolenghi, Notting Hill

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Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill

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Inside view at 202 on Westbourne Grove, a shop cum casual cafe.

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Pops of color on Westbourne Grove.

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Pastel streets of Notting Hill

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Where it all began: Ottolenghi Notting Hill

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Glorious colors in Notting Hill.

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Notting Hill

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At Nama Foods in Notting Hill: a vegan, raw foods cafe.

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Inside Nama Foods.


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SHED Healdsburg

Originally posted on Tavola Del Mondo:

The Shed Healdsburg www.tavoladelmondo.com

The Shed Healdsburg www.tavoladelmondo.com

The SHED only recently opened in the early spring of 2013, but it has already made its mark in the restaurant-infused town of Healdsburg. One part cafe, one part market, one part gardening shop, SHED is a novel idea in the realm of ‘farm to table’ concepts. It is a spacious glass structure with massive garage doors at the front of the building, kept open throughout the day to demonstrate a natural fusion between nature and food, producers and consumers, gardeners and tools.

The Shed Healdsburg www.tavoladelmondo.com

Salmon tartare on a bed of farm fresh lettuce

Their small menu changes daily based on what is available at local farms, thus it is guaranteed to be fresh and thoughtfully crafted. Shoppers, grazers, and diners alike can stand next to the chefs as they prep ingredients and shovel handmade pizzas into the oven. Once seated in a shady spot on the side patio, I opted for…

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Rome: Seen, Heard, and Gesticulated

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The hills of Monti.

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Una bellissima vista.

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Villa Borghese

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Il mercato.

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Those rails are not very comfortable; I tried this spot many times but could not last longer than tre minuti.

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Il mercato.

CIMG1929Scenes that can be seen on any old day in Roma… tutti giorni è un fotografico. CIMG2104 CIMG2114 CIMG2125 CIMG2282 www.tavoladelmondo.com www.tavoladelmondo.com www.tavoladelmondo.com www.tavoladelmondo.com www.tavoladelmondo.com www.tavoladelmondo.com www.tavoladelmondo.com Annalee Archie

Summer in the City (Weekends in the country)

This summer has been more akin to early September, and I am so enjoying the light breeze, the resilient sun, and the humidity-free weather. Weekdays feel quiet in Manhattan, with the exception of lower 7th avenue on Thursday and Friday afternoons, which is a perfectly locked stretch of impatient drivers eager to escape the city for greener pastures and cleaner waters. It is no wonder that dinner reservations are easier to come by.

Mornings at the Union Square Green Market are relaxing and sweet; first came the berries, then the apricots, and now the tables burst with heirloom tomatoes and deep purple plums and eggplants. Each week is a variation on a theme, a theme which I will never fall out of love with.

Evenings are long, and along with our jackets, we have long since shed the anxiousness to get home. Dinners at favorite neighborhood restaurants are drawn out, followed by cobblestone saunters in step with dusk. Aimless walks take on a different perspective on summer nights; I constantly notice something new or different. Federal-style townhomes and hidden gardens evoke a changed character in the warm summer light.

Below is a catch-all photo diary of the past few weeks, out and about in the West Village and its environs, as well as a few from recent weekends in Connecticut. The story connecting the photos is nothing more than summer contentedness; a feeling that can only be experienced via the simplest pleasures of this season. I suppose it goes to show that we want for little and we do not need much to wake up with a smile: the arrival of heirloom tomatoes and the smell of salty sea air is often ample.

Picks in this post:

Il Buco- Bond Street

ABC Kitchen

Navy- Sullivan Street

Three Lives & Co Bookstore- W 10th Street

Bluestone Lane- Greenwich Ave

Buvette- Grove Street

Terra- Tribeca

Union Square Greenmarket

Maison Premiere- Williamsburg

Bar Room at the Modern

VSF West Village- Florist on W 10th Street

Jefferson Market Garden- Greenwich Ave

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Straight from the farm: Connecticut strawberries, green pepper, tomatoes, and cucumber. Sprouts from the Union Square Green Market.

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Rise and shine Washington Square Park.

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Just one of the freshest, most colorful lentil salads ever, with yummy beet hummus, from Bluestone Lane on Greenwich Ave; the new ever-popular Australian cafe in the village.

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Saucy eggs and sugar plums.

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Every girl needs a port in the storm; mine is Buvette on Grove Street.

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July evening on the patio at Maison Premiere, a gem of an oyster restaurant in Williamsburg. The fish is fantastically fresh.

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Crab toast at the bar at ABC Kitchen.

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Roasted carrot and avocado salad at ABC Kitchen.

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The Bar Room at the Modern.

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Chocolate and coffee dome at the Bar Room at the Modern. The black bass with fennel and the crispy chicken were both divine.

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Noon scenes at Why Not Coffee on Christopher Street.

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Preparing for service at Navy on Sullivan Street.

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The menu at Navy is ever-changing (literally every day), but on this July evening, the crudo was Le Tigre.

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One of the freshest and lightest steak entrees in all of downtown at Navy: summer greens and peaches tossed over perfectly cooked steak.

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It’s not easy to find a quiet spot in Manhattan. Thus my fondness for Jefferson Market Garden.

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One of my favorite dishes of the summer: mussel toast at Navy on Sullivan Street.

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VSF West Village: one of my happy places in the neighborhood.

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Where is the land that grows figs all year round? Organic fruit and walnuts over greek yogurt.

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Predictable and unoriginal snack.

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No fuss weeknight supper: lobster, shrimp, arugula, white nectarine, and green beans.

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Morning light.

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The sun was trying to come out.

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Window seat.

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Farm lunch.

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I had a craving for something sweet: this mini crumble couldn’t be simpler. I mixed peaches with lemon juice and cinnamon, then poured on oats, ground flax, cinnamon, and a pinch of quinoa flour. I baked for about 40 minutes, et voila.

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The first morning that the peaches were finally sweet: Sunday oats with local fruit.

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Gardening.

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A vista that never gets old.

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The sun is already shifting in the evenings; I can feel September in the distance.

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Who is that doggy in the doorway?

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Everybody likes a window seat.

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Aperol spritz at Buvette.

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Summer evenings at Buvette.

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A colorful morning at Bondhitree at Union Square Greenmarket.

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Eggplant stories at Bondhitree at Union Square Greenmarket

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More eggplant varieties.

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Frutta fresca.

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Ficchi and apricots.

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Appreciation guaranteed with these two gifts: Van Leeuwen non-dairy dark chocolate and Jenis brambleberry crisp. Later served with chocolate angel food cake.

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My favorite corner in all the land.

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Couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day for a late outdoor lunch at Il Buco, complete with their famous kale salad and the sweetest plate of local tomatoes.

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Perfection at Il Buco on Bond Street.

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Simple nicoise salads, beets, and broccoli rabe at Terra in Tribeca.

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Molto fresh and light crudo at Il Buco.

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Glorious fig.

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Peak season: giant kiwis, juicy blackberries, sweet melon, and ripe black mission figs. August, you’re not so bad.

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Ripe, ripe, ripe.

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Citrusy tomato, avocado, and basil salad.

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Heaping salad. Kale, arugula, parsley, and red leaf. Melon, plum, and scallions. White and purple beans.

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Lemon Cake Topped with Strawberries and Pistachios

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Lemon cake with a strawberry and pistachio hat.

Now that New England farms seem to have recovered from the harshest of harsh winters, and summer fruits are abundant and most importantly, ripe, I can’t help but plan each recipe-test around Saturday’s finest from the local farm-stand. On this occasion, though I was hoping for raspberries in order to try Bon Appetit‘s June 2014 recipe, I used what was left of the strawberries. If strawberries are not in season, buy frozen organic strawberries; they are just as sweet once defrosted. The pistachios are for crunch and color, and the cake itself is meant to be lemony-light and therefore multi-purpose: sweet and fruity for a none-too-heavy breakfast alongside yogurt, as an accompaniment to afternoon tea, and/or as a summer evening dessert a la mode.

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Batter poured and strawberries ever so gently simmering with lemon juice and a sprinkle of light brown sugar.

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Gently brush the cake with the juices from the strawberry pan.

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Ingredients:

3/4 cup Brown Rice Flour

3/4 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Scant 1 cup light brown sugar

2 tsp pure organic vanilla extract

4 Eggs

2 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest

Juice from at least half a large lemon

3/4 cup olive oil

About 1/2 cup sliced strawberries, more or less if you please

3 tbsp. chopped unsalted raw pistachios
Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Oil or lightly butter a 9″ diameter cake pan. I assume that you can also use a loaf pan, but doing so might change the baking time.

In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt.

In an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar for about five minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla and 1 tbsp. lemon juice. Then slowly add the oil until just combined. Add the flour mixture in thirds; do not add it all at once. Then fold in the lemon zest. Feel free to add more lemon juice to the bowl here, depending on how strong you prefer the lemon flavor.

Pour the batter into the pan and top with the sliced strawberries and chopped pistachios. If you like, scatter a little light brown sugar over the top. Bake for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserts into the center comes out clean.

Close to finishing time, in a small pan, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice and a handful of strawberries over medium heat. If you would like, you can add a pinch of sugar here as well, or maybe a small bit of honey. Use a wooden spoon to gently slosh around the strawberries so that a syrup forms.

Once the cake is baked, set it on a drying rack in its cake pan. I used a pan with a removable bottom, but it far easier to remove once the cake has cooled. While still hot, use a brush to brush the strawberry and lemon syrup over the cake. Allow to cool.

Gluten Free (Or Not) Cupboard Cookies

This past weekend I made a pie. A homemade, peach and blackberry pie is a treat, but I still had a craving for a cookie. I needed to satisfy the crunch- preferably with a hint of chocolate. With not a whole lot of sweet ingredients in the house, I threw together remnants of this and remnants of that and ended up with a mostly gluten-free, ‘cupboard cookie.’

Patriotic cookie mix

Patriotic cookie mix

You can make this cookie more traditional by using only regular flour, or make it with a mixture of your preferred flours. I had small amounts of almond flour and quinoa flour left in my cupboard, so I aimed to finish them off. Almond flour, when used in large quantities, lends baked goods a sort of mealy, drier taste. I do not suggest using it as the majority flour. The recipe below is slightly altered from the one that I used; I baked my cupboard cookies with too much almond flour, leading them to taste far less sweet than I intended. I always make an effort to limit refined sugars, as they are blatantly detrimental to our health, so I used a very small quantity. If you prefer to skip refined sugars altogether, I suggest adding a high quality maple syrup, raw honey, or even blended dates. For additions, I literally used whatever was around, including farm-fresh blueberries and raspberries, dark chocolate chips (although I suggest shaved dark chocolate rather than chips), toasted organic coconut flakes, organic raisins, and even a little bit of coffee left over from the morning. The berries add natural sugar and bursts of color.

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3/4 cup quinoa flour

1/2 cup almond flour

1/2 cup organic old-fashioned oats

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (not used in my cookies but on second though, highly suggest it)

1/3 cup light brown sugar (I used only 1/4 and they did not come out sweet enough. You can try using honey or maple syrup if you are trying to avoid refined sugars)

1 tbsp. toasted coconut

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp organic vanilla extract

3 tbsp. butter (I only had cultured butter on hand, a European style with a higher fat content)

1 tbsp. coffee (cold)

2 eggs at room temp

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup raspberries

1/4 cup blueberries

Sift together the flours, oats, baking soda, and salt. Add the cooled, toasted coconut and mix to incorporate. Stir in the raisins, blueberries, and raspberries.

In a separate bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mix, mix the eggs with the butter until there are no clumps. You can melt the butter and allow it to cool if you are mixing by hand. Add the vanilla and coffee and mix.

In small batches, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Do not combine them all at once; it will be too hard to mix. Add the dry ingredients in thirds or fourths, mixing as you go.

Cover the batter and cool in the fridge for at least an hour. The longer you chill the batter, the crisper and more satisfying the cookies will be.

When you are ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F and spoon out your preferred cookie size onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. I made mine about one and a half tablespoons each. I baked for about 12 minutes or until I could feel that the cookies were not so soupy anymore when I gently pressed down on one. I suggest checking on them after 10 minutes. You do not want to over bake them, as you risk having them taste more like chalk and less like cookies.

 

Navy: Firmly anchored on Sullivan Street

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Navy by day.

Countless chefs have passed through the streets of New York with the ultimate dream of opening a phenomenally successful, long-lasting restaurant. A few of the tried and true New York favorites are part of a larger group; they have a name attached and will likely garner a following regardless of whether or not all of the ingredients are accounted for. Seldom does a lesser known chef slither onto the scene in the most unassuming of ways, locking in a fantastic location at the crossroads of SoHo and Greenwich Village, and a hop and a skip from the West Village. Seldom does the decor, the ambience, the service, the space, the menu, the flavors- the every detail- seldom do each and every one of these elements excel beyond expectation with the greatest humility and nonchalance. Navy, with the modest and most humble Camille Becerra at its helm, is one of these few wonders.

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The lightest of scallop crudos highlighted with surprise punches of flavor, including black sesame seeds, pickle, and whey.

Our waiter was cool and calm and confident about each item on the menu. We left our decisions in his able hands, and he guided us in all of the right directions. It was a hot summer night, and he was refreshingly honest about what plates would be ideal. We were not going to go with the albacore tuna, but he assured us that it was a rare addition to the menu due to its short season, that we should take advantage of its supreme freshness. Seasonality is one of Camille Becerra’s specialties: she works with local farms and fishermen whom she trusts. She understands that in order to serve an exceptional dish, one must start with the highest quality ingredients, at the height of their season, no less. Camille is as hands-on as possible with the Pennsylvania co-op she has partnered with. In fact, all of her sources and producers are within a 100 mile radius.

With a chilled glass of rosé in hand, expertly chosen by our maritime-esque waiter, we commenced the evening with the scallop crudo. The plating was exquisite, (take a peak at Camille’s personal Instragram account- evidence that she has an eye for art, colors, lines, shapes, and scenes. Her photos evoke mood and emotion like that of a photographer. In fact, I would not be surprised if photography is her second most favored hobby after cooking), and the flavors were phenomenal. Camille is a truly inventive chef; I can only assume that others will not be far behind her genius combinations: whey, seeds, pickle… and might I mention that when I returned to the site a few days later to review the menu, the dish had already changed.

We also ordered the summer squash salad with apricot, as apricots deserve full attention at the height of their season. We fully expected it to be a beautiful, colorful plate, and our expectations transcended when we took the first bite of this divinely flavored salad. I quizzed our waiter over and over again- what is that? Coconut maybe? What is that impalpable flavor? It was so simple, so light, yet unlike anything that I had ever tasted. I tried my best to identify as much as I could: toasted nuts, chili oil, paprika, lemon, herbs, and other secrets.

The calamari with fennel, pepper, celery, and herbs was perfectly tender- not an easy feat for calamari. What I really want to talk about, though, is the mussel toast. If you order just one thing, order the mussel toast, a nonpareil across the current NY restaurant scene, complete with caper aioli, cornmeal sourdough, and the freshest of fresh herbs. No other descriptives necessary other than… outstanding.

Navy is the kind of restaurant one must return to every few weeks, as the menu changes almost daily according to Camille’s fine judgments of what ingredients are worth incorporating into her innovative, fresh dishes. Go for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Soak in every detail, as the crew at Navy most definitely nailed them all.

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Scallop crudo: delicate with fantastically balanced flavors. A must order.

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My most favorite summer salad ever.

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Calamari at Navy.

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Camille Becerra’s calamari.

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The albacore tuna did a brief stint on the menu while it was in season.

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The ever so light and beautifully plated albacore tuna with beets and herbs.

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The absolutely stellar mussel toast at Navy NYC. Thank you, Camille, for introducing NYC to this phenom dish.

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The best mussel toast that ever existed at Navy NYC.

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Navy in rare form: on a quiet summer Sunday morning.

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Small details. Stocked and ready for breakfast service.

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Summer in the city: Navy is your oyster.

Grill Night

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Corn grilled in the shucks.

Light the coals. Marinate the prawns. Make the meat patties. Trim the asparagus. Rinse the peppers. Slice the bread. Leave the corn as is.

Sure, we can grill in the colder months. We can put on a big jacket in November and duck in and out of the house to stay warm. To me, though, grilling is a quintessential summer activity. I even like the smell of the coals, the way it wafts over the deck and into my hair. We sit around with chilled glasses of wine, free and easy, a slight evening breeze blowing up the napkins we set out on the table. The scene is placid; the cornfields sway in the field next to the grazing horses. We don’t even realize we’re waiting until our tummies tell us we are hungry and ready to eat.

Anything and everything tastes incredible hot off the grill. I love grilled vegetables, especially asparagus and whole peppers. Rotate the pepper so that each side grills evenly. Corn retains its sweetness when left in its shuck, and what is better than giant prawns or homemade hamburgers with sautéed onion and fresh herbs from the garden?

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Early evening.

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