Category Archives: Art

Dina’s 10 Favorite Book Stores in New York City

I love book stores–almost as much as I love bakeries. And I have some favorite ones in New York City. Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Amazon Books–Of course, I like Amazon books because I published my book through Amazon.
  2. Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks–This is one of the coolest book stores in NYC. Bonnie sells only cookbooks and she has many classic cookbooks as well as antique cookbooks. She’s very friendly too and will help you find what you are looking for.
  3. Bluestockings–This is also a very cool book store for the radical. I liked and attended the feminist book club here.
  4. Rizzoli–The classic New York book store known for its art and fashion books. It also has a good newsstand of European magazines as well as foreign language books. 
  5. Barnes and Noble–My original favorite NYC book store. I particularly like the Union Square location but also used to like the old Astor Place one too.
  6. The Strand–A NYC institution. Tons of books, especially hard-to-find ones and ones about NYC. I remember the days when you used to have to check your bags before you went through the turnstile here. Glad you don’t have to do that anymore.
  7. Idlewild–This is a book store for the global traveler and language lover. They have travel and language books, as well as language classes.
  8. Kinokuniya–This is a Japanese book store. I love the stationery department downstairs and also the Japanese craft books and cookbooks.
  9. Pauline Books and Media–This Catholic book store has a chapel for a calm escape from the city.
  10. NYU Book Store–I like to check out the book store at my alma mater. Great selection of scholarly books.
  11. Casa Magazines–OK, they have only magazines here, but it’s a great collection of foreign language magazines.

–Dina Di Maio

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Old Ragu Spaghetti Sauce Ad on Building in Tribeca

I don’t think it’s widely known that Ragu pasta sauce company was started by Italian immigrants. Assunta and Giovanni Cantisano immigrated from Potenza, Italy, to Rochester, NY, and began canning tomatoes for sauce. They started their company in 1937. At one time, the Cantisanos’s factory employed over 300 people. In the 1950s, Ralph Cantisano, the Cantisanos’s son, added the gondola to Ragu’s label. In 1969, they sold the name Ragu to Chesebrough-Pond’s. (Unilever owned Ragu for a long time, but Mizkan Group, a Japanese food manufacturer, bought Ragu and Bertolli in 2014 for $2.5 billion.) After the sale, the Cantisanos made pasta sauce under other names, including Francesco Rinaldi, which they purchased in 1981. An employee’s family bought their company in 2002, renaming it LiDestri Foods, and is a successful sauce maker today.

I read on Forgotten New York that there was an old Ragu spaghetti sauce sign painted on a building in Tribeca on 6th Avenue between White and Walker Streets. So I had to stop by and photograph it myself.

 

8 ’till late: Grocery Store Art Installation

You walk into your local corner store with all your favorite products on the shelves.  But when you reach for that box of Ritz crackers, it’s soft to the touch…and made of felt.  This is what British felt artist Lucy Sparrow’s debut US exhibition 8 ’till late:  A Felt Convenience Store is like.

Situated in a storefront on Little West 12th Street behind the Biergarten at the Standard Hotel near the High Line, it looks like your neighborhood bodega with everything you could possibly need from fruits and veggies

to frozen pies and ice cream.

But here, it’s all recreated in felt.

You can even get a felt Coca-Cola from a felt Coke machine.

Mmm…pupusas…my new favorite food…

In the back room, the felt pieces are displayed as art, with an Andy Warhol-like depiction of Campell’s Soup.

The items may not be edible but you can purchase them.  Prices are a bit steep, but I couldn’t resist taking home this package of one of my favorite childhood candies, Skittles.

This exhibition has been here since June 5 and will be ending next Friday, June 30, so get there while you can.  There may be a line but it went quickly when we visited.  The exhibit is free to attend, but the felt pieces are for purchase and prices vary.

 

Day 10: 12 Days of Southern Food Gifts

To represent the 12 Days of Christmas (which start the day after Christmas but I’m doing it earlier so you can give these as Christmas gifts), I’m showcasing 12 days of delicious artisanal food treats from the American South.  These are hand-picked by me, Dina, because I’ve tried them and they are delicious.

pottery, bacon cooker

Day 10, Seagrove, North Carolina: Bacon cooker pottery

North Carolina is known for its pottery, and the town of Seagrove boasts the largest community of potters in the country. It’s a fun day trip to tour the different studios. I have a collection of North Carolina pottery, and I’m always looking for an interesting new piece. The hot pottery of the season is the bacon cooker, made to cook bacon in the microwave, and it is available in many colors from many different potters. Mine is from McNeill’s pottery. If you pick one, make sure you get one like mine that has a tall enough cup to fit the bacon onto.

Day 5: 12 Days of Southern Food Gifts

To represent the 12 Days of Christmas (which start the day after Christmas but I’m doing it earlier so you can give these as Christmas gifts), I’m showcasing 12 days of delicious artisanal food treats from the American South.  These are hand-picked by me, Dina, because I’ve tried them and they are delicious.

Vesta

Day 5, Raleigh, North Carolina: Benny T’s Vesta dry hot sauce

What is dry hot sauce, you ask? Creator Ben Tuorto has the answer. It’s a topping made to enhance the flavor of food, not overpower it with heat. With Vesta, you can taste the flavor of the chiles. After moving to North Carolina, Ben discovered chiles at the state farmers’ market downtown and began experimenting with them. Now, Ben makes four varieties of Vesta. Hot and very hot are available all year long while ghost and moruga are seasonal because they are made with superhot chiles that are grown in season. Ben’s favorite variety is very hot. “I put heat on everything,” he says. And when I caught up with him at Gather‘s grand reopening party and Made by Men market last night in Raleigh, he was eating a slice of pizza with a sprinkle of Vesta on top. (Gather is a super-cool gift shop that also has crafting classes.) I like my Vesta hot and my favorite way to eat it is on a crostini with ricotta.

Why Foodies Will Want to Visit the New Whitney Museum

The Whitney Museum made a smart move to the highly trafficked High Line in the popular Meatpacking District.  While it was a great idea to draw more crowds, I have to say I prefer the old building and space.  Why?  Not sure.  If it’s not broke, don’t fix it?  Having said that, the museum still has the same great art and many more acquisitions.  The good news is while there is a line to get in, it is short and moves fast.  It’s very efficient–others could learn from its example of how to keep a line moving.  Inside, there’s a small gift shop area near the ticket line.  Once through the ticket line, take an elevator up to view the art–if you’re lucky, you’ll get to ride the huge freight elevator with a horde of other art lovers wondering how much weight this elevator can hold.  On the top floor, step out on the balcony for great views of the city.  The museum is also right on the High Line, so you can stroll through after your museum tour.

Now–for the foodies.  The Whitney has a Danny Meyer restaurant, Untitled.  Besides Untitled, foodies may want to visit just to see Wayne Thiebaud’s cakes.  While the museum has a number of his works, only one is on view, Pie Counter.

Skylight A Play for Foodies

Last night, Skylight won a Tony award for best revival of a play.  While I wrote a theater column for a local newspaper once, I didn’t expect to write a play review on my food blog.  That is, until I saw Skylight.  Skylight is about many things, mostly relationships, but it is also about food and the food industry.  The two main characters are a successful restaurateur, Tom, and his younger former employee, Kyra.  As we watch, we learn that they were once lovers, but when Tom’s wife found out about the affair, Kyra left.  The two lovers are reunited years later, when Tom visits Kyra after his wife dies.  Kyra now teaches underpriviliged kids and lives in a shanty apartment on the poor side of town.  During this reunion, they argue and discuss their lives and views of the world while she attempts to cook spaghetti–another thing they argue about. Tom wants to go to a restaurant for a real meal, and when Kyra asks him to grate the cheese, he scoffs at the tiny pebble of cheese she has.

Onstage, to make the sauce, she really chops onions and carrots with a knife.  As she was talking and chopping, her eyes kept leaving the cutting board, and I was afraid she’d cut her finger.  She put the vegetables in the pot and it sizzled.  At first, I thought it might be sound effects until I could smell the onions cooking (my seats were close to the stage).  She also added chopped meat.  During intermission, a stage hand came to fiddle with the pot.  I think he must’ve replaced the chopped meat sauce with a cooked version, as Kyra eats a bit of it later.

Both Nighy and Mulligan are excellent actors who played these parts well.  The age difference of the actors was a bit of a stretch for me for a passionate love story, but it is explained away by Kyra’s naivete when they initially met.  Perhaps she admired Tom for working his way to the top?  They have opposite life experiences–Tom was once poor but became wealthy and Kyra was wealthy but lives meagerly.  The person who started out poor (Tom) is pro-capitalism while the person who started out wealthy (Kyra) is anti-capitalism.  Both characters are very focused on social class.  While the play is about Tom and Kyra’s relationship and attraction, which is passionate, or explosive, the play also touches on what I suspect are the playwright’s views on social class, including education, housing, wealth and opportunity.  At times, these ideas seem less like Kyra’s and more like the playwright taking a political liberty (no matter how much I agreed with it).   With the back and forth arguing and contrived conversation, the play itself fell a bit flat for me.  Despite some of the play’s failings, one thing that intrigued me was the food symbolism.

While they never eat the spaghetti, Kyra makes a late night snack of a peanut butter sandwich.  It seems like she is always preparing food, but in the end, no one ever eats because they are busy arguing about their different world views.  When she finally eats, the food is prepared for her–when Tom’s son brings her breakfast from the Ritz.  He makes this gesture because he wants her to reunite with his father, and because she said breakfast was the one thing she missed.

Skylight runs only through June 21, so get your tickets now.

Where to eat near the show:

If the frying of onions gets you in the mood for spaghetti, Carmine’s Italian is around the block on 44th.  Also, John’s of Time Square pizza is too.  For a classic NY experience, Frankie & Johnnie’s steakhouse is across the street.  Junior’s diner is on the same block.  Reunion surf bar is an avenue over.  Shake Shack is a block south.  Carlo’s Cake Boss bakery is two blocks south.  Restaurant Row is one block north.