I am back to my fall teaching schedule at Hofstra University in New York where I teach oboe, recorder and chamber music. I often combine my trip to New York City with food and art explorations. The crisp cooler air is energizing and I am excited to head out to visit art museums and galleries and to discover more of the wonderful ethnic neighborhoods and small restaurants that make New York City so unique.
One clear and sunny Saturday morning I decided to go to Chelsea; an area on the West Side of Manhattan that stretches from 14th street to the upper 20’s; from the Hudson River to the west and to 6th Avenue to the east.
The neighborhood is known as the center of the city’s art world with over 200 art galleries and recently has seen good a good deal of gentrification. When I was a young music student at Juilliard, my boyfriend at the time lived on a block in Chelsea that had seen better days. The windows in his walk up apartment faced a dark courtyard where feral cats fought and the sound of their loud screeching made a caterwaul that reverberated against the walls- very peaceful. One day, two cats engaged in an especially ferocious battle flew through an open window and landed with an unceremonious thud on the floor of the apartment. I’m not sure who was more surprised; the cats or the people!
Walking down a Chelsea street the other day, I passed by glitzy new high rises, trendy art galleries and fancy restaurants.
I had planned to visit The Rubin Museum of Art, which features masterpieces of Himalayan art. I arrived before the museum opened and decided to visit Chelsea Market, just a few blocks away.
Chelsea Market is housed in an enormous old factory that once was the National Biscuit Company, later known as Nabisco. Built in 1913, the building stretches from 9th to 10th Avenue and fills up a whole city block.
Vendor stalls were selling everything from falafels, sushi, dumplings, noodles, Tai food, etc. Side by side with upscale stores and outposts were of some of the best NYC bakeries. The maze of hallways was somewhat overwhelming with sensory overload. In a small dose it was exhilarating; an atmosphere supercharged with energy and extravagant Halloween decorations.
Walking slowly through the labyrinth of hallways, I enjoyed looking at colorful and vibrant works of art displayed on the walls.
I saw one of my favorite all time bakeries, Amy’s Bread, which makes some of the most delicious bread in the city. At this point, I was just browsing and admiring.
And then I succumbed to temptation; ahead of me was an outpost of the famous bakery/restaurant Sarabeth’s. According to her website, Sarabeth Levine first began her business in 1981 making her family’s unique 200-year-old recipe for Orange Apricot Marmalade at her apartment in New York City.
Manhattan’s Chelsea Market Sarabeth location operates a 15,000 square foot jam manufacturing facility and a 4400 square foot wholesale bakery, café, and retail shop. It was great fun to walk through the bakery. It is setup so that the first thing one sees is the manufacturing facility. I joined in with the tourists and watched the bakers making croissants and English muffins!
Everything in the bakery looked delicious; I chose a pumpkin muffin to savor on my trip home and I was delighted to see a homey pig ceramic figure above the counter.
It reminded me of my own antique 3 little pigs that grace my kitchen window sill.
I headed back to the museum and after the frenetic energy of the Chelsea Market, entering the peaceful and serene atmosphere of the Rubin felt like a calming balm. Himalayan art is featured; including the cultures of Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan as well as the interrelated traditions of India, Mongolia and China. The artwork in the exhibitions depict figures and symbols where sacred images play a prominent role.
The museum was founded by art lovers Shelley and Donald Rubin in 2004 and is the site of the former store, Barney’s-a bastion of New York fashion and celebrity.
There was s0 much to take in, with six floors of art and exhibits. I concentrated on a few masterpieces that were rich with depth and complexity.
And then it was time to savor the pumpkin muffin that I had purchased from Sarabeth’s for the two hour drive home. I bit into the top of the muffin strewn with toasted walnuts and a light crunchy glaze. The texture of the muffin was light but moist, not too sweet and with hints of nutmeg and ginger; pure perfection!
The cooler days have also put me in the mood for cooking with long simmered dishes that fill the house with enticing aromas. I have made countless stews, braises and soups in my heavy blue La Creuset cast iron enamel pot. I like to think that the pot has absorbed it’s own particular character with the many flavors of food cooked in it, but it was starting to exhibit wear and tear, with a stained scratched cooking surface. One day while perusing an online sale from Sur la table, I decided to treat myself to a new bright red La Creuset pot; a tad larger and all the better to make larger amounts of recipes for our guests! For the first dish that I cooked in the pot, I decided on a chicken stew made with red wine, shallot, onion, mushroom, red pepper, thyme, basil, oregano and plenty of garlic. Served over whole wheat rotini, accompanied by sauteed broccoli rabe, freshly grated pecorino cheese and more red wine, it was wonderful first act for my new pot!
Fall Chicken Stew
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 cup red wine
1- 28 ounce can crushed organic tomatoes
4 shallots finely diced
1 medium onion finely diced
1 large red pepper cuts into thin strips
5-6 button mushrooms cut into quarters
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
To Make Chicken Stew:
In a large heavy cast iron pot, heat olive oil.
Add boneless chicken thighs to pot, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper and brown well on each side.
Add chopped onions and chopped shallots; saute until translucent and slightly softened. Add garlic and cook about 2 minutes.
Add dried oregano, thyme and basil.
Add sliced red peppers and chopped mushrooms cook about 3-4 minutes.
Add crushed tomatoes and about 1 cup water. You can always add more water later if the mixture is too dry.
Add red wine and bring mixture to a boil.
Cover pot and reduce to a simmer.
Cook over low heat for about 1 hour until chicken is very tender and vegetables are soft.
Adjust seasoning as desired.
AND: As always, here is the “Tree of the Week.”