Here is my sartorial advice: put on a pair of cotton leggings, add a tank top in the same color — black is always good — add some sort of long vest or smock in the same color, add bold earrings, lots of eye make-up and comfortable flat shoes. Now you can go everywhere. Asiatica has the perfect vest-coat and a great “artist’s smock” . We will also have a cool weather version of these in our Fall Trunk Shows.
I went to Japan for my annual two-week trip in late June. Everyone seemed happy to see me and welcomed my spending money. It is very expensive money. Never in the 40 plus years of my visits has the dollar bought so few yen! The proud citizens are trying to keep a stiff upper lip, but it is clear that their trust has been severely shaken — in government, in “experts” and in the forces of nature. It is a culture of enormous discipline and tradition, usually unquestioning and resilient. The general atmosphere was quite unchanged, but Tokyo was somewhat more subdued and Korean and Chinese tourists were largely absent in Kyushu. Food in almost all restaurants was identified with place of origin.
The dealers had plenty of good stock but few customers; but with the exchange rate so unfavorable, i did not buy very much. The antiques Asiatica has in stock are hard to beat. But please let me know if any of you is searching for fine Japanese antiques and I will be happy to be your personal shopper. For example, I saw a lovely very shallow chest with lots of tiny drawers and also some fine lacquers.
I did get about 125 old kimono most of which will be made into clothing. As always, several pieces will be added to the “stash” and will not be taken apart. We are participating this month in a lively and beautiful exhibition of Japanese textiles at Douglas Dawson Gallery in Chicago. (www.douglasdawson.com). If you cannot get to Chicago, you can see most of the pieces on-line and call them for prices — everything is for sale!
We are getting ready for the Fall Trunk Show season. The sewing, cutting, pattern making and design crew is busy and the clothes are wonderful. Nuno had some fine new fabrics and I have found some wild colors in wool and cashmere coat-weight fabrics. I also went to both the accessory and gift shows in New York finding interesting new jewelry. As for scarves, I need to put myself on a scarf diet. I am awaiting delivery of 100′s of absolutely fabulous ones — lots of stripes. Some will be delivered in time for the Fall trunk shows and others will be here for the Holidays.
We have photographed new clothes and accessories for the website and added a few new categories so you can see our exhibitions and other news. They will be posted soon. We are also awaiting the delivery of 50 pairs of Mt. Fuji socks and lots of wonderful tenegui towels from Kyoto.
As for food, eating in Japan was as fresh and delicious as ever. I am posting a few pictures of some dishes. More soon.
2011 is already half gone before I finally sit down and do my blogwork. Perhaps it helps to let the events since January distill. After all, if I cannot remember everything it saves everyone else time.
It is also a good idea for me to spend less time talking about what I have been eating. I have started Pilates. I will say no more and hope my erstwhile body will re-appear someday and I can stop talking about it.
I do find, however, a pile of restaurant receipts on my desk. At the bottom is one from Caffe Boca in Boca Grande, Florida. – 3 cheese scones, a butter croissant and 2 lattes, dated January 28. We can start there.
Florida seemed like a good idea for a January trunk show. We ended up with two shows. The first was in Lost Tree, North Palm Beach, at our friend Ellen Wright’s house. It was a real lark since she and her friend Meredith Brokaw were our sales clerks. We could not have wished for more charming and generous help. The Atlantic was a bit breezy and churning, the hospitality was gracious and we were delighted to have the chance to meet new Asiatica enthusiasts. After 2 days there, Kate and I drove across the state to Boca Grande, where we were invited to join a small group of other merchants in a show at the Crowninshield Community House. BG is bucolic, with the warm Gulf lapping at an empty beach, bicycles, golf carts and a lovely quiet atmosphere. Our friends gave us fancy lodging and we relished seeing another side of Florida and more fans – some old and some new. (We have been invited to return in January next year). The last night in Florida we splurged for a night at the Mondrian Hotel in Miami Beach. What a lark! Next January, perhaps we will also do a show in Naples. Let me know if you will be in the vicinity.
After a week at home, Angela and I set off for California – another culture entirely. I do believe everyone should live in California once. Been there; did that in its heyday. (UCBerkeley, 1964; 68 etc.) While I love everything about the Bay, the landscape, the fog, the food, the friends and the family, I cannot abide the traffic, the parking. In that respect I have been spoiled by the wide open Midwest where you can actually predict exactly how long it will take to get anywhere. The opportunity to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles and back to return the van has its pleasures: scenery, agriculture, but few good eating or art opportunities if you take Highway 5.
As always, markets, restaurants and other food opportunities abound. Since we had to go to all our old favorites, we did not uncover many new ones. Angela and I did chase the Kogi truck in Los Angeles and while doing so ate some bacon infested tacos in the van in a parking lot. We also had some favorite treats at Mozza. We bought great scarves for you all at Dosa.; saw a marvelous costume show at LACMA and on the way back to Oakland from Los Angeles visited Just Folk in Summerland, just south of Santa Barbara. What a fabulous place. Lots of wonderful and rare things – Bill Traylor paintings, bold and beautiful geometric quilts, good painted furniture, and work by Larry Calkins. I could not resist a beautiful old blue-painted American basket.
The next travel treat came immediately. Two weeks in Sicily!! I have hundreds of pictures to show you on my IPhone. Remind me next time we meet. Few shopping opportunities, but delicious fish, pasta, vegetables, gelato and sweets. And, most importantly, great architecture of all kinds– Greek, Roman, Norman and Baroque — spectacular views, lovely people and rich history. We can hardly wait to go again. We stayed in a chrming palazzo-apartment in Palermo, Butera 28; and thanks to a friend in Los Angeles at the lovely Hotel Algila in Siracusa.
Four days after our return, the great KC-East Coast road trip one more time. This time trying unsuccessfully to outrun and expected blizzard in Kansas City I drove to St.Louis on Sunday afternoon. I woke up to scrape 3 inches of wet snow off the van.
One of the highlights of our NYC visit was the astounding and inventive exhibit of red and white quilts belonging to Joanna Rose (an “Asiaticat”) at the Park Avenue Armory. The quilts appeared as striking graphic rectangles brilliantly displayed in the vast 64th Street armory. What a thrill!
As for NYC foods, new places included The John Dory Oyster Bar in the Ace Hotel. Delicious, inventive, expensive and slightly skimpy – but very “happening”: Kate and I had drinks, bottarga, parfait, ceviche, frika, pan roast and parker rolls (using the abbreviations on the receipt).
We had delicious squid ink soup at Kin Shop. It was black and tasty and I think I liked it better than Angela did. Sam Sifton also recommended a Hunan restaurant in Flushing (take the No.7 to the end of the line and find yourself in China). The name has escaped me, but the meal was the best Chinese food we have had in years – and cheap! Also in Flushing is Spicy and Tasty which he also recommended.. Katherine came for the Quilt Show, so we went to The Importance of Being Earnest – wonderful.—and ate at Balthazar and Union Square Café.
The “Mocow Mule” at Ma Peche has become my fancy drink standby – on the same street as The Lombardy, so very handy. Also the broccoli salad. We love the Lombardy and will return for as long as they will have us.
New York is absolutely wonderful as inspiration 3 times a year. I can do “fashion research”both in stores and on the street. Because everyone is walking on the streets all the time, their clothes are always on parade. This urban environment is unlike any other American city. It means you have to be “dressed” (although many are not). There is no hiding in your car to go the grocery store or anywhere else. This is why New Yorkers need us. You always look dressed without feeling dressed-up.
In Boston, our van got towed while we were enjoying the delicious drinks and space at Drink.We were trying to save the $5. parking fee and parked on a side street without noticing the sign on the side of a building about 25 feet ahead of the car. $140. cash and a taxi ride to Roxbury. Good thing we had the drink! They should have been ashamed of towing an old minivan with Kansas plates! After we payed the ransom we repaired immediately to Craigie on Main for supper and then to Toscanini for an ice cream. The photo took at Toscanini makes it look more like a study hall with conveniently wired big table for computers. I hope they ate plenty of ice cream too.
Lucky for usThe New York City Ballet was performing at the Kennedy Center while we were in Washington: all Balanchine, all black and white. So modern, timeless, humorous, inventive and musical.and fast!!. Everything I admire in ballet was on display for our delight. No time for museums. Too bad. We always should stay another several days to see more.
In St.Louis we had really good food at the Brasserie by Niche: steak tartare, mussels and cotriade (fish soup). I was obliged to eat the delicious lemon cake too since it was a variation of the one at Taste in NYC .
Kate and I drove to Chicago and discovered Maude’s Liquor Bar. A dark and interesting spot with good food and a fine Negroni. Of course this was after our first evening had been spent at Avec – straight off the highway and before unpacking at the hotel. We never have enough time in wonderful Chicago, but are planning a kimono show at Douglas Dawson Gallery which will open on June 20th to coincide with one at the Chicago Art Institute.
The last of our ten (10!) Spring Trunk Shows was at the wonderful Anderson-O’Brien Gallery in Omaha. It coincided with Berkshire Hathaway Weekend. Just 2-1/2 hours “up the highway from Kansas City, Omaha is a wonderful town. The Old Market neighborhood is full of delicious and inventively designed places to eat. We tried several: The French Café for Sunday brunch; The Boiler Room for a delicious dinner, breakfast baked goods from Bliss, and a late supper at La Buvette. Our room was a “King Spa Type” with a hot tub in the corner of the bedroom! Is this unique to Omaha. We did not dive in.
Conclusions: business is up a bit; the best thing (and the worst) is that our clothes are too long-lasting. Our customers are very happy that they are. Driving across the country is amusing (especially listening to a great reading of Jane Eyre interspersed with NPR and Bach) There are lots of people whom we do not know who surely would love what we make and whose towns I pass without stopping. There are probably more people in the cities where we do go who would love to know about us. Bring new friends next time or send them to look. A clothing truck could be just like a food truck or a bookmobile. If we bought and outfitted one we could stop everywhere!
Meanwhile I am home in the beautiful Midwest, trying to eat less and find my abs in Pilates class. My annual trip to Japan is next week and the Fall Trunk Show schedule is complete. We all hope for a healthy and happy summer for all and look forward to new adventure … and new clothes.
We were invited to participate in a group trunk show in Boca Grande, and our friend, Ellen Wright, encouraged us to come to Lost Tree (North Palm Beach) on the way. So we had 2 dates on opposite coasts — each for 2 days. We also booked the last night in Miami Beach to top things off and allow us to fly in and out of Fort Lauderdale. Kate and I were joined by the modelling and sales team of team of Ellen and Meredith. They were both terrific sports and we wish they could go with us everywhere.
Today i am sitting cozily at home while the snow falls gently all around outside. Perhaps i should tackle my overfilled closet. Even if i regain my girlish figure of 30 years ago will I wear all these things? That is the question to be answered for every piece. (If you all did the same perhaps you would need more Asiatica pieces.)
To return to Florida for a moment — the food was somewhat disappointing with the exception of a couple of excellent fish soups. But the architecture in Miami is exciting. We onlyl had a chance to visit the Herzog and de Meuron parking garage and stay in the cleverly chic Mondrian Hotel. But there are great things going on there.
Reading the truncated last blog entry further re-affirms that time is passing faster than even I can talk-write. Even though it has a September date, the information seems to be from June.So now you all have the advantage of many memory lapses from events of the last 6 months and can just hear about the highlights.
California in August: If I could start every day with breakfast at Boulette’s Larder life would be even more wonderful. There is always something new on the imaginative menu and the view over the bay and under the bridge is transporting. Here are a few bits from our menus: beignet w.crushed sesame and Kyoto sugar; grapefruit, strawberry, plum,melon and citrus scented honey syrup. One of the bills says only, coffee/large, toast, scrambled, poached and belly. The last has stayed with me.
The alternate San Francisco breakfast is at Tartine. Here the items in the vitrine all tempt, but the best breakfast is the stone fruit bread pudding. Get a large serving if you do not intend to return for a while. (Angela and I each had a small one).
On Saturday morning in San Francisco the ritual involves going to 2 farmer’s markets with my friend Niloufer King. The market on Alemany Boulevard is one I have been visiting since my high school days in the Bay Area. Then it was mostly Italian, now it is Laotian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Afghan and everything else. Niloufer is a beloved regular and is greeted warmly by all her favorite vendors. Prices are lower than those at the Ferry Building farmers’ market which we visit 2nd.
I also happen to have a few pictures of breakfast at Fifi’s house. No one elses would rightly go to such aesthetic lengths. Thanks to her original thinking our clothing project follows similar thoughtful roads to beauty.
One of the attractions of the Ferry Building Market is that if you are a special friend of Boulette’s they will serve you a cup of coffee if you sit hiding behind the bouquet on what is the kitchen table during the rest of the week. You can stock up on all sorts of things at Boulette’s. Of course there are wonderful things to buy at the Ferry Building Market – Hog Island Oysters right out of the shell, breads, dried fruits, etc. , fresh produce of all kinds. People watching is also a pleasure. Yuet Lee is still the best Chinese restaurant in my book. Lovely interior (there must have been a markdown can of green paint); plentiful and delicious food for lunch in this instance.
We did some other things as well: drove up to Edgewood Avenue to visit my mothers old house (and got a flat tire bumping the curb); saw a marvelous Maira Kalman exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum; had a Pisco Sour with my nephew at La Mar; and dinner at Great Eastern in Chinatown thereafter. In Berkeley I just had to stop at the Tail of the Yak which is one of the loveliest and most imaginative stores I know. Another regular stop is The Gardener. Of course, if there is no line at Ici, you had better go in and order several pints of delicious ice cream to bring to someone nearby – in that case, Emily Ahlvin our wonderful graphic designer. I am so glad that all these temptations are not everyday things for me so that i can look forward to them.
I do not want to forget to mention a wonderful exhibition at the DeYoung Museum which included several pieces from Fifi’s collection as well as a kimono of Asiatica’s.
We drove to Los Angeles on Highway 5 through the magnificent Central Valley. Everyone says it is boring, but it is fast and broad and full of growing things. (If you go on that route do not forget the Center for Japanese Art and Culture, a short worthwhile detour.) Bring some fresh fruit, nuts and breakfast leftovers to munch along the way since we have not yet found a food opportunity. Los Angeles is wonderful. Ethnic food opportunities abound. This time Korean fast-food chicken at Kyochon Chicken – dinner for 3 with leftovers was 35. and we could have done without broccoli salad.
Japanese food – tempura soba — was only so-so at Mishima. More homework needed on the Japanese food front. As always Osteria Mozza was delicious, though the counter is more fun than a table. The bill says we ate burrata w.leeks; burrata w.bacon; burrata w.artichokes; tagliatta and more. Marc came and spent 2 days at the Getty Villa and a fabulous day at the Norton Simon Museum. Too bad Angela and I had to work.
Des Moines. We had a quick 2-day trunk show trip (3 hours from Kanas City) to Des Moines the first of September. The best dinner was at Alba –a lemongrass mojito accompanied by toasted farro salad and cheese burger – followed by a movie. Des Moines is a wonderful, clean and enthusiastic town with a great Art Center, Pappajohn Sculpture Park and the most extraordinary Iowa State Capitol Building . Absolutely worth seeing.
After that trip we set off for the East Coast with a loaded van. Kansas City to NYC with a night in Columbus Ohio is the route again. Bach, Chopin, Mozart and preferable Christopher Hitchens, plus NPR are the companions. (Best road food: a jar of sugar-coated fennel seeds from the Indian grocery, a few Diet Cokes and a double shot of espresso, if available, whenever you stop for gas).
Having a car on Saturday night in NYC tempted me to try to go to Momofuku. (Then again, anything will tempt me to go there). No chance of getting there – traffic chaos. So I drove West to Giorgione which is pleasantly chic and tasty. The bill says: ricotta pecora, pizza crudo, tocai and pist.honey gelato. Sounds like I ate too much. Again.
Sunday, September 12th was the last day of the exhibition of Richard Feigen’s Italian paintings at the Yale Art Museum, so I drove to New Haven to relish them. It was well worth the trip. The Center for British Art across the street provided another hour of wonder at its perfect calm and beautiful pictures in those beautiful and luminous spaces. No photography allowed of the Feigen pictures, but here are a few from the museums’ collections.
East Coast driving is very difficult since the signs require much more information than they have room for (e.g. is exit 27B on the left or right; why is it called the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge in one direction, and the Triboro from the other?) and the drivers are impatient and incompetent. Oh well, everyone said to take the train! Here is a shot through the windshield on my return to NYC.
Two unbelievable New York meals stand out. The first at Sushi Yasuda which is always a lovely experience in every way. Put yourself in the hands of any of the men behind the counter – you must sit at the counter. Pick a couple of firsts from the menu card and then enjoy yourselves. A bit expensive, but worth it. I will return again.
The second was a tour-de-force at Momofuku Ko. The reservation system is a bit strict, but once you get there you will understand the necessity. It‘s like many fine Japanese restaurants in Japan where the chef prepares a wide variety of dishes and serves them to you directly. You need do nothing but enjoy. All decisions – save drinks – have already been made. I wrote down what we ate, surreptiously. There were at least 13 different dishes served in succession. Ingredients included marrow; oysters, fluke, poblano soup; smoked egg; tortellini; foie gras, lamb rib; onion soda (the only weak point); strawberries……..Perfectly executed and tasty and beautiful. I do not really need to go again, but am delighted to have gone and had such a rare meal — convoluted to good effect.
Apropos Momofuku, we also went to the Ssam Bar and had several delicious meals and breakfast, lunch and several dinners at Ma Peche. David Chang is deserving of all the praise lavished on him.
Dinner another night at The Grocery in Carroll Gardens. Lovely space, attentive young owners, good company.
After 2 weeks in NYC I retrieved my van on Saturday morning and decided to drive via Williamstown – The Clark Institute and MassMOCA to meet up with Angela again in Boston on Sunday night. Booked a room at The Porches in North Adams. I took the Taconic and exited onto the Mass Pike for a bit and then headed north to Williamstown. Beautiful day with fine vistas and very little traffic once I got out of NYC. Here are a few pictures from the Clark and a sculpture in its Ando annex. I like Ando.
Then I had an auto adventure: My fine van decided it did not want to shift from first gear as I was passing through Lenox. Triple A said no garages or dealers in their network would be open until Monday. The van was working, but in first gear only, so I kept driving towards Williamstown slowly while planning what to do if I had to abandon the van and get myself and all the goods – including a load of desperately needed laundry – to Boston by Sunday night. Lo and behold rounding a corner I spied Purple Valley Automotive, a filling station with 3 open bays and two handsome mechanics working at 4.30 on a Saturday afternoon. They happened to be friendly and smart. They diagnosed the problem correctly – speed sensor, not transmission – went to town to get the needed part, fixed it and charged me a pittance. The bonus was that there was a brand-new coin laundry across the street.
So within 2 hours, I had a working car, clean clothes and a feeling of unbelievable gratitude and euphoria which lasted for several days. Just imagine such an event on: I-70, the Taconic, the next day on the Mohawk Trail etc.
Dinner of delicious paella at Gramercy at Mass MOCA. Looked at wonderful pictures at The Clark, saw Sol Lewitt and more at Mass MOCA the next morning. Drove to Boston via the gorgeous Mohawk Trail, took a nostalgic turn through Worcester –where I grew up—and pulled into Boston at dusk. Lucky girl! Pictures below are of Mass Moca in North Adams. Beautiful exhibitions, plus Sol Lewitt.
There is not much time to explore Boston when we are there for only 2 days – and after all, we are working! Angela and I returned to some of our favorite places –B&G Oysters, The Butcher Shop (only a glass of wine), Coppa Enoteca, Craigie St. Bistro. But we did discover some of the finest ice cream ever at Toscanini in Cambridge. Easy to remember the name.
On a sunny Wednesday we drove down to Washington via an alternate route to 95. It took us right through Valhalla, where Angela’s brother was at work making monuments. A beautiful spot among many enroute. Our choices for food in D.C.were Café Atlantico and Central.
The drive home via Columbus, Ohio was largely uneventful. We stopped in Wheeling, West Virgina for a moment for Angela to hug an old friend in the Denny’s parking lot. She discovered a fine Vietnamese restaurant in Columbus; we found that Columbus has great architectural salvage, the wonderful Wexner Center and delicious croissants for breakfast at Pistaccia Vera in the lovingly restored German neighborhood south of I-70.
At the end of October we drove to Oklahoma City and did a trunk show at the very imaginative (Artspace) at Untitled. Our lovely friend, Laura Warriner, took care of us from beginning to end. She introduced us to all the fabulous new architecture in Oklahoma City and we witnessed at close range the unbelievable Halloween parade with the leader of the Flaming Lips walking in a transparent rolling ball with 1000 skeletons and hundreds of zombies preceding him. Wow!!!!!!!Laura and her husband own a magnificent and celebrated house designed by the late great Bruce Goff. Next time we go we need to see more Goff.
St.Louis and Chicago made one long driving loop. In St.Louis we saw the new Citygarden downtown. This was such a treat. The weather was mild, it was dusk and the fabulous Gateway Arch (everyone knows that Kansas City is the real gateway to the West and that the arch should rightfully be here) was lit against an invisible sky. The arch acted as a backdrop to a long rectangular park with a beautiful and varied landscaping scheme embedded with great sculpture of all kinds. Grownups and children were walking around and taking pictures of each other in front of the sculpture. I was so glad to be introduced to yet one more imaginative and artistically original use of downtown space. (See also the Highline; the Seattle sculpture Park etc.)
Our friend Michael Olszewski has taken on the Fashion Department at Columbia College in Chicago after many years living in Philadelphia. So we enjoyed looking at the city through his fresh eyes. We were crushed to find that our favorite restaurant, Avec, had had a fire and was closed. But we made do with breakfast at Xoco and 2 (!) dinners at Keefer’s. The artistic highlight, however, was the stupendous exhibition of drawings from Mary and Richard Gray’s collection at the Chicago Art Institute. I am so glad that our customers’ great taste also extends to buying great art (or vice versa). So many and such varied pieces of such superb quality beautifully installed and juxtaposed.
Finally, back to New York for the Holiday Trunk Show. Our last at the wonderful Carlton House. Once again we are victims of creeping renovation of these great pre-War hotels with slightly shabby, but large, living rooms spaces. We are decamping to the Hotel Lombardy on 56th Street for the spring show. (Pretty soon we might get all our UES customers to follow us anywhere.) Kansas City? OOur friend Frederico DeVera has a new branch of his gorgeous empire on 81st Street, just west of Madison. (He is also on Crosby St. across from Ted Muehling in NYC).
I saw three things on Broadway and loved them all: La Bete, Brief Encounter and Long Story Short. I tried to hear the Bach Clavier Ubung on the new organ at Alice Tully Hall, but woefully underestimated the crowd and could not get a ticket. So I went and saw Carmen at the Met instead. Quite a contrast and just wonderful. I love to be spontaneous in New York and the activities available make it so simple. Dinner afterwards was croque monsieur at Bar Boulud and a walk home.
The art highlights were the Kublai Khan at the Metropolitan Musem (the Nelson-Atkins Museum was one of the major lenders) and the Gossart show. Quite a contrast.
New restaurants included ABC Kitchen which was beautiful and delicious (a bit pricey, though); and Morell Wine Bar before the theater. Once again, having Ma Peche so close by was dangerous. We went at least 4 times. We are very sorry that Tabla has closed. But we have the cookbook – small consolation.
Too much to remember and lots forgotten, I am sure. In any case, the adventure of schlepping our wares all over, meeting you all in a variety of circumstances and places and being able to partake in so many cultural, culinary and other adventures is what keeps me going. We set off to Florida at the end of this month – both coasts in one week. We look forward to new adventures this year and wish you all good health and adventures of your own.
My New Year’s Resolution is to eat less, blog more often.
Since May, I have been to New York for 2 days, Japan for 2 weeks, Santa Fe for a week, California for 2 weeks and Des Moines for 2 days. At home there has been lots of heat, some rain, plenty of weeds, a fine cherry crop and lots of peaches. Unfortunately, the cherries are ripe just as I am leaving for Japan and the peaches just as i am leaving for California. I think I need to change the travel dates.