It’s often those who are familiar, with traits reflective of my own, yet impossibly foreign that I fall hardest for. Tangiers, the Moroccan city at the northernmost tip of Africa, falls into this dreamy “Interzone.” The caress of its Mediterranean breezes, its cold, crystalline Atlantic waters, the bonsoirs and mercis uttered at cocktail hour on a terrace atop the kasbah, the fragrant spices in its rich taginesI know these nuances. But then there are the secretsthe skin hidden behind hijabs, the foreign Arabic words falling out of open windows like petals, the five-times-daily muezzin that tolls across rooftopsthese are the mysteries that quicken imagination’s pulse.

Asilah, Morocco

Lured by my best friend, antique tribal textile and jewelry dealer, Emilie Irving, I went to this far-flung land and fell madly for it. It’s understandable why literary greatsPaul Bowles, William Burroughs, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and Jean Genet, to name a fewflocked here for inspiration (often in the form of intoxication) and solace from society’s rules. Everywhere the air smells of orange blossoms and adventure. Europe, just nine miles across the Straight of Gibralter, feels a world away. In terms of illicit sex and drugs, it’s more subdued now, perhaps, but Tangiers still has the magnetic seduction of a scoundrel’s utopia.

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Unlike the many luminaries who visited before me, I was tame in Tangiers, but I could feel the magic of what’s lured artists and experimenters there for eons. In the medina, a Berber woman with a creased face pushed prickly pears into my palms, and (much to the consternation of my traveling companion) I ate them, pulp dripping down my chin, as I spoke to her in my threadbare French through a nearby butcher who translated to her native tongue. Simple salads of tender octopus, cherry tomatoes, hummus and zaalouk eaten peacefully at midday at Le Salon Bleu in the kasbah, where it’s always deliciously windy, will stay with me. Savory breakfast pancakes with tangy local cheese and honey will remain the ritual I long for, and the scalding mint tea, sweet and opaque in delicate glasses, thrice daily to quench my dusty throat.

Lunch at le Salon Bleu

The following recipes from Food & Wine are by Paula Wolfert, the award winning writer of The Food of Morocco.

Zaalouk (roasted eggplant, tomato & cumin salad)
Serves 4

1 large eggplant (1 1/4 pounds)
4 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt
1 cup drained, canned diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large enameled cast-iron casserole. Using a fork, prick the eggplant in a few places. Add the eggplant to the casserole, cover and cook over moderately low heat, turning once, until charred on the outside and soft within, about 40 minutes.

Transfer the eggplant to a colander set in the sink. Using a sharp knife, make a lengthwise slit in the eggplant; let drain for 10 minutes. Scrape the flesh into a bowl, discarding the skin and any hard seeds; mash to a puree and transfer to a large skillet.

Using the side of a large knife, mash the garlic to a coarse paste with 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the paste to the skillet along with the tomatoes, olive oil, parsley, cilantro, paprika, cumin and cayenne. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Trout with Preserved Lemons, Raisins and Pine Nuts
Serves 4

Two 8-ounce skinless trout fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons golden raisins
6 scallions, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/8 inch thick on the diagonal (1 cup)
2 medium carrots, sliced 1/8 inch thick on the diagonal
1 teaspoon honey
1 preserved lemon—pulp removed, peel rinsed and minced (see Note)
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

In a shallow dish, season the fish with salt, black pepper and cayenne; spread in a single layer. Sprinkle the fish with 1 tablespoon of the cilantro. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the dish.

In a small bowl, cover the raisins with warm water and let stand until plump, about 10 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, combine the scallions and carrots with 4 cups of water and simmer the vegetables over moderate heat until the carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the honey, preserved lemon peel, raisins and pine nuts, season with salt and black pepper and simmer the mixture for 10 minutes longer.

Slip the trout into the broth, cover and simmer over moderately low heat until the fish is just barely cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drizzle the fish with the olive oil, garnish with the remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro and serve.
Note: Preserved lemons are cured in salt and lemon juice. Other flaky white fish may be substituted for the trout.

Where I stayed:

El Minzah – a “grand hotel” built in 1930 in the middle of the city that was renovated in the 1970s, has a décor somewhere between the Chateau Marmont and the hotel in The Shining. A pool scene of fantastic “people watching of Europeans and Moroccans working on their tans after a daily buffet lunch of prepared salads, stews, fried fish and dessert.

Hotel Nord Pinus – the loveliest boutique hotel at the top of the kasbah, owned by a French woman with a sister hotel in Arles. Everything is impeccable, from the amber soap in the showers to the antique furniture and tapestries in the rooms. The restaurant and its adjacent decks offer a stunning view of the city, the sea and Spain across the Gibralter Straight. Excellent breakfast and dinner offered nightly. Impeccable.

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I lived in Barcelona for a hot second. It wasn’t so very long ago, though it feels another lifetime. In the February of 2012 I moved there for the only thing essential enough to tear me from my native city: love.

Let’s pretend, for the sake of decorum, that it was my love of food that lured me: that it was the nutty, purple-hued, fat-veined jamón Iberico that beckoned me with its black cloven hooves. Let’s assume it was the promise of pintxos on platters like glistening gems in a jewel box, awaiting my eager grab. Let’s let it be the menus del día (daily changing chef’s tasting menus) with their accompanying Tempranillo and desserts. Sure, it could have been so. Thankfully, I need now travel only 10 blocks to Huertas, the new Basque restaurant in the East Village, to satisfy my nostalgia.

I returned to Spain last night, guided by chef Jonah Miller’s take on traditional bites, like lollies of boquerones (marinated white anchovies wrapped around pickled peppers eaten off a stick) and patatas “Braviolas”—Huertas’ version of the classic tapas dish of crispy potatoes with spicy tomato sauce, here served with the requisite aioli drizzled artfully over top and garnished with bias-cut green onions. In fact, those Braviolas were so good, I’d be hard pressed to find simple Spanish food executed with the same exacting eye in Spain.

The clever crew of native New Yorkers who opened Huertas in April adopt commonplace tapas dishes like patatas rotas and tortilla Española (fried potato omelet), and deliver them with rapt respect for their origin as well as great ingredients; it’s a gastronomic holiday, no passport needed.

While we nibbled pulpo a la Gallega (octopus braised with aromatics then grilled on the planchaI’m guessing here), with crisp salty, spicy pimentón exterior and tender moist white meat within, we sipped cold Galícian Albarino tasting of the sea and propelling us to reach for our next savory bite. A green salad with pickled veg (beets and scallions) refreshed before we dove into a bowl of meaty mushrooms, aka setas: rich, oily hen-of-the-woods, scored boletus stems and quartered creminis, balanced with clean parsley, which could have been a meal in and of themselves.

The nonchalant enchantment of a night in Spain surrounded us as arrays of pintxos were passed on trays, lending an inclusive celebratory atmosphere. The best were toasts of egg salad with celery crunch and a just-cooked shrimp atop, and the shimmering mussels escabeche, served in their half shell. The herbal, garlic-laced aromas that wafted from the open kitchen to our ready noses made us desirous of “well, maybe just one more…”

Huertas embodies that special Spanish relaxed magic, where things start late and go later—appropriately, Huertas is the last stop in Bon Appétit‘s upcoming Grub Crawl, so New Yorkers can experience the endless procession of a summer night in Spain, where life is not so easily defined by time, but instead by enjoyment. What better way to end an evening of excellent noshing and sipping than with Huertas house-made vermouth, served as I endlessly drank it in Spain: on the rocks with a twist. Theirs has a negroni nose and flavors of sherry-soaked cherries, while Channing Daughters‘ new VerVino vermouth, which they carry, is light and herbal in comparison, so full of lemon balm and verbena, I could happily be convinced it would do the same job as a pot of verveinne tea before bed (though it might produce opposite results).

I have a two-prong plan for Huertas. Next time I’ll go early and enjoy the tasting menu, including spring green ‘migas‘—soaked yet still crunchy croutons beneath a slow-poached egg with garlic scapes and sugar snap peas, and the duck—Catalán-style, with crisp-skinned pink breast and sautéed chard with sweet confit raisins. Or I’ll stop by late, when savory anchovies, a plate of cheeses, some pintxos and an herbal concoction are the only things that can set me straight. Either way, I know I’ll reap the rewards of Spain (in the East Village).

107 1st Ave (6th – 7th St.)

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For months I’ve been in constant motion, throwing myself into projects, side jobs, dinners; idle hands, and some such nonsense about the devil, as my rationale. So when a friend, Kenyan Paris Lewis, asked if I’d host a Memorial Day shindig at his upstate home, there was narry a pause before I said yes.

The ManorInterior and set designers, Kenyan and his partner Meghan Auld, are artfully restoring the James Oliver Manor in Stone Ridge, NY, a historic stone house that briefly functioned as the State Capitol for U.S. founding fathers during Constitutional formation. They are scavengers with keen, whimsical eyes, who see the beauty in yellowing Deco dentist’s drawers, a taxidermy bear wearing a top hat, a set of old amber apothecary bottles, a vintage safari hat on display like a bouquet. The house is a cabinet of curiosities and with its many barns and sheds, a cavernous third floor and enormous hearths, it’s the perfect backdrop for a fantasy party. Of course, I said yes!

Three weeks out from the official launch of summer, we had our first conference call: it would be a fundraiser! There would be fireworks and archery! There would be performances and DJs and dancing beneath the stars! My cohorts–Greg Almas of Assembly, Meshakai Wolf, Kenyan and Meghan–had big plans and we all began to execute them at exactly a snail’s pace. I was silently concerned: I’d been asked to host a party, but this was sounding to me, more and more like a festival. Yet one week out, I sent the invitations (hey, maybe the less time people had to plan, the fewer people would be able to make it).

INVITATIONI asked my dear, dear old pal Chris Miller (a chef & restaurateur with Miller’s Near & Far, Warren 77 and Hometown BBQ) to do the food (which was probably the smartest thing I’ve ever done), and he’d agreed (perhaps one of the craziest things he’s ever done). “I’m thinking a whole animal,” he told me. “I’ll get us a goat.”

readyingChris and I met at The Manor on Saturday afternoon–he with a 70 lb. lamb & 20 lb. baby goat from Paisanos in a cooler in the back of his truck–and I with all the old Ironstone platters I could carry–and we went vegetable shopping. In the car we exchanged worried glances: we were expecting about 50 people, the party was in 26 hours and there was no table, nowhere for the theoretical guests to sit. More worrisome, the 2 additional refrigerators (one of which was for the beasts) were not even cold yet. The ladies we’d left picking parsley and shelling garlic in the kitchen didn’t seem particularly committed to slaving for the next 26 hours, and we needed indentured servants to pull this off. Supposedly people would help us cook, but it was clear already that my “Hostess” duties included being a committed sous chef, which I would enjoy anyway.

When we got back to the house with our asparagus, radishes, cucumber and 144 local eggs, we laid the ground rules: no one was to attempt to cook in the kitchen while we were prepping (“If you’re hungry, order pizza or fire up the grill, but stay out of our way”); don’t leave dishes in the sink. “If you help us, we will make it worth your while,” we told the musicians and hipsters that floated through our kitchen like pollen on sunbeams. I bribed a lovely Swede named Emilie–our truest and most loyal helper: I would make sure she had a full glass of rosé for as long as she remained our kitchen minion. She was the only one who obliged and will never be forgotten.

BEAUTIESI tried to task people with jobs they would enjoy. “Dears,” I told three waify 20-year-olds who were braiding each others’ hair and humming in the dwindling light of the front yard, “You can shell peas and watch the sunset at the same time.” “Ladies, you can compose poetry in the kitchen, while you zest 20 lemons…please?” I know what desperation sounds like and I heard its distinct timbre in my voice.

Naturally, like at a wedding, it was the night before the main event that was the most fun (at least for me). At that point, we’d only been in the kitchen for about six hours, I wasn’t wrecked yet. A house meeting in front of the fireplace in the front parlor was full of laughter and list-making on butcher’s paper. Tasks were doled out and bourbon was passed. Tipsily, we wandered through the hallways and stairways and secrets of the house, listening to musicians strike drums and strum guitars. The girl, Heather Boo of the band Beaû, who’d shelled my peas had the haunting wail of a siren, beckoning us up to the cavernous 1200 sq. ft. attic.

10406901_10204029910450841_3692170032707162933_nAt 6am on Sunday, Kenyan (who was working constantly, had given up his bedroom, and probably hadn’t slept at all) subtly rallied the troops by blaring 1920s music from the kitchen. Only Chris and I emerged, groggily putting on our aprons, like Civil War soldiers pulling on their suspenders, readying for a nearby battle.

Stuffing the lambLike Salinger’s Franny and her repetition of the Jesus Prayer, we cooked without cessation, which is to say, that even when we were having a conversation with the folks in short shorts and floppy hats, skinny jeans and sundresses who arrived first in a trickle and then in a torrent, we were actually thinking of the citronnette and tatziki that needed mixing.

photoBy 11am, we’d gotten the lamb onto the spit and were sewing potatoes, preserved lemons, olives and onions into its belly. I adored every part of this endeavor. My relationship to meat is another story, too long for this post, but to really put your hands on the flesh, to really acquaint yourself with what you are doing, well, it’s the only way. There are no mysteries or illusions: you are eating a noble beast, it deserves respect, and I have nothing but that for it.

photo 3_3Our base camp was the kitchen, but periodically, when we needed a break from picking parsley, we would walk across the back forty to check on the lamb. In order to do so, we’d pass girls in bikinis catching the sun, a “Bushmills Shack” bar and a homemade outhouse that Kenyan had built the day before, and a sawdust speckled guy building us our trestle table. The antique legs were standing in the middle of the grove, the in-progress top pieces were on their sides in sections.

At the fire pit, we basted the lamb using a wand of rosemary and thyme sprigs, dripping in preserved lemon juice, minced garlic, olive oil, and any other delicious dregs from our prep. As it cooked, the bolts we’d secured through the lamb’s hind quarters and shoulders loosened in the softening flesh. Wearing buckskin gloves we tightened them, but there was something disconcerting about the way that when the spit turned the heavy beast, the weight redistributing with an alarming shudder. I looked at Chris with concern. “It is what it is,” he said. All the comfort I needed.

10302056_10204029920811100_7720188080548014743_nAs I grilled 20 lbs of asparagus and charred pink lemon halves, I could keep a hypnotized eye on the lamb and the desirous dogs that circled it. I also confoundedly watched the progress of the table. I’d learned as a child from my perpetually entertaining mother that the first thing to do was to get the table set so that you could focus on the food and your guests. All I wanted to do was set that table; I couldn’t help but think, “If the table were set, everything would be okay,” but of course, it couldn’t be set, because it was still being built…and sanded…by a blonde model…at 4:47….when dinner was meant to start at 6pm.

photoI left the last batch of flatbread grilling to my trusted friend Kazusa of Lovely Day and her boyfriend and went inside to clean up. We’d been wrestling meat all day, standing in smoke and heat, and drinking rosé like lemonade to calm nerves. Out of my gamey clothes, stretching under a tepid stream of water with soap smells in my nose was a gift. I considered remaining in the shower semi-permanently, but given that the well was already low, I forced myself to dry and dress. I reemerged downstairs a new person in my favorite summer frock with an apron over it that my aunt  made by hand in the ’70s, found the day before in my mother’s linen closet. Finally, it was time to enjoy the party.


Thank you to Kenyan (me of little faith!) for getting that table done so that my nerves could calm and we had a place to gather. Many hands make light work, remember, and in that final hour, when all the elves were hungry to help, the table was set in seconds.

Dinner was only an hour behind schedule at 7pm (which if I’m honest was how I’d always foreseen a 6pm call time). Mediterranean lamb with tatziki & minty salsa verde; potatoes with preserved lemon, olives & onion; bulger salad with pistachios, herbs & manchego; grilled asparagus with charred lemons; greens with avocado, radish pine nuts & pecorino. There was just one issue. We had 60 place-settings, yet an alarming number of people were asking where they could find plates and forks.


“How many people can there be here?” I asked Greg, through my fog. “I think there are close to 90,” was his response. The waifs and hippies who we’d quarantined from the kitchen for 24-hours, plus the legions of guests who had driven up under the auspice of a feast were ravenous. It was a feeding frenzy, and in my enjoyment of the twilight, the arrival of my pals, the cooking being over and the promise that I’d shortly sit to enjoy my first proper meal in 36 hours, I was a bit too relaxed and polite about getting myself a plate of food. Guests firsts, was how I’d been raised, after all.

1964963_10204029929011305_1907316819166638453_nBad call. When I went to the buffet table to make myself a plate only the dregs of our labors remained. Snapping from my daze, I managed to find a large saucer and scraped the remaining bulgar salad, some lamb skin, a spoonful each of tatziki and salsa verde from the bowls–just a taste of everything together was all I needed, anyway. As I was departing the buffet table to find a place to sit, a guest came up to me and asked me about the flatbread: “I saw you grilling some flatbread before, and I don’t see it here…Was just wondering where that might be.”

The f-ing flatbread. Remembering I’d left it warming in the oven, I was instantly consumed by fear that I was about to burn down a historic landmark. I put my plate and rosé down hurriedly, lifted my dress and literally sprinted into the house. Of course, there was no fire; the oven had been on low, and I quickly put it on a platter and carried it back out. When I got to the table, I screamed as though I’d been burned. Someone had taken my tiny plate and there was literally nothing left to eat!

Admittedly, I cried. Food is pretty much all I think about generally and it was certainly all I’d thought about for 36 hours. I was starving and exhausted, and just on the cusp of letting go and having fun and sinking my teeth into our slaved-over feast. People couldn’t tell if I was joking with my weeping because insane laughter at the preposterousness of the whole thing kept creeping in and turning up the corners of my mouth. Greg adorably found some scrapings for me to nibble on and Claireban ministered with rosé and a cocktail from the Bushmills shack and I was more or less fine again in no time.

People keep coming up to me and telling me that it was the one of the best weekends of their life; last night, someone told me that it was like “Shangri-La.” I laughed. In Shangri-La, hopefully I won’t have to slave in the kitchen….well, actually, what kind of paradise would it be without cooking?


The Manor is available to rent for private events, weddings, product launches, retreats, location, studio space, prop rental and more. Contact for more information. 



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 Photo credits to Brie Welch, Kenyan Paris Lewis & moi.


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We begin with uni, which is always a good way to start. It sits gelid in a small bowl atop a tomato dashi ice coin until our “personal chef” pours a broth as cold as the urchin’s native Maine waters over it. Lemony wood sorrel, violets and poppy seeds gathering on my spoon, as if in an eddy. There is brine and sweetness; subtle grass smells on sea air.

At Box Kite, the bite-size coffee joint that becomes a tasting table in the evenings, chefs Justin Slojkowski and Dave Gulino are doing something crazy. They’re serving a literal handful of clever, lucky patrons a chef’s menu of delectable, market driven morsels that evolve nightly and materialize from a “toaster oven” and low boy appropriate in size for an East Village studio apartment. Barely-seared luxurious Scottish langoustines arrive from this organized, minimalist set up beneath fried cabbage chips with apple, cabbage and a rich broken parsley oil–the cooking liquid enhanced from simmering with the langoustines’ heads atop a Bukowski-worthy hotplate-cum-stove (okay, it’s a little fancier, but you get the drift). Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart radiates good vinyl vibes from the turntable next to the espresso machine.


Slojkowski and Gulino are both recent ACME alumns (they cooked at Roberta’s together, too), and I see it in their dishes: the raw foie shaved over fresh fluke with hackleback roe is rich, sure, but restrained, too, balanced and gently seasoned; and considering the dish sequence, certainly brings to mind Mads Refslund’s signature foie and langoustines menu staple. Arugula flowers and chick wheat lend additional pleasant earthen, grassy notes, balanced by brown buttery sage cream. At this point my mother and I exchange knowing glances. We’ve stepped from the contact headshop high of St. Marks Place into our preferred drug den: a tiny restaurant where two chefs are cooking–well–for just the two of us.

Like I said, patrons of Box Kite are clever and lucky, because now that the Times has shouted about it, I doubt one could hope for an experience quite like ours. It’s a spring evening, full of promise, and we sit in a mini prism that, like a speck of light concentrated through a magnifying glass, is about to catch on like wild fire. In a way, it already has. Chefs know about this tiny treasure and in a boastful moment the sous makes sure we understand and names a few who have been in. My mother and I exchange another knowing glance. Okay, we get it, bud, you’re stoked…and when it’s the ingredients they’re naming, it’s contagious. The laundry list of components that the chefs rattle off as they place our dishes in front of us feels earnest and precise, like a proud speller at a bee, rather than serious or overblown.

Roast beets dusted with fennel and bee pollen, bitters and pickled huckleberries are nothing special until we drag from a dime size dollop of orange sea buckthorn juice, plated expressly for that enhancing intent. The food here has the exuberance of youthful penmanship: it’s thoughtful and purposeful, but sometimes can’t help but veer outside the lines, which is endearing, and generally a pleasure. White asparagus poached gently and served with Meyer lemon marmalade and ‘nduja highlights the season and is the highpoint of our meal: the glorious, fatty sausage cut by the smooth texture of the milky -hued spears and citrus clean.


There’s an Asian influence–sensible considering we New Yorkers are obsessed with our Asian food. Stout columns of ricotta gnudi textured like silken tofu, served with chanterelles, duck fat-confited walnuts, foamy Winnemire cheese from Jasper Hill Farm, dandelion greens and ramps feels vaguely Japanese. Octopus served with black garlic mayo, pungent radish slices, potatoes cured in Benton’s Ham and dusted with olive oil powder has a Korean blush to it. A final savory course of sous vide skirt steak with dried beef sauce, lamb’s quarters and alium melts on our satiated palates, rendering us silly and sleepy. We’re offered a coffee course but I ask if I can come back in the morning to cash in on it….

We opt to share the desserts: a sorrel semifredo with lovage, parsnip granita and parsnip broken butter cake is at once restorative and ritzy. A Thai tea panna cotta with milk chips and marmalade is orange, opaque and familiar. The hi-fi lo-fi at play makes sense because, it’s now, it’s New York. Chefs are forming new shapes out of old materials. The references are evident yet disintegrating into foamy, floaty shapes in the sky. It’s trippy, it’s delicious, it’s heady, it’s soaring into the ether. Strawberry Fields, Nirvana, it’s old, it’s new, it’s bold, it’s a box kite, rising up from the grey tenement roofs, into the blue.

Box Kite
115 St. Marks Place (1st & A)

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