New York

inspired warm modernism : by larah v moravek





This stunning West Village brownstone in New York city was designed by my dear, dear friend, Larah V. Moravek. I could not wait to feature her work. This coincides with the launch of her new website (which I helped bring to life). 

How GORGEOUS is this apartment? Everything from the colour palette to that fish tank that's suspended from the ceiling is breathtaking. It embodies that warm modernist aesthetic to perfection. 

My favourite details in the space would have to be: 
1)  The petrified wood slices featured on the living room walls– from the Pucci showroom
2) The suspended fish tank – has steel beams built into the ceiling to support 10,000 lbs of weight. The tank also has it's own service equipment room measuring 5x6 feet.
3) The free edge wood slab counter top in the kitchen – from Memphis Woodworking and came from a tree in Maine; intersects a marble counter top and has a 10" overhang allowing people to sit at the bar. 

Suffice it to say, I know who will be designing my own apartment one day. 

dutch boy burger


A friend called to my attention a new burger joint in the neighbourhood called Dutch Boy Burger a couple of weeks ago. So we decided to
walk over there for lunch and try it out. I was naturally curious about the name. The story is, a Dutch Boy paint store used to be in the
same space. The new owners decided to keep and capitalize on the familiar brand name. The extra large Dutch Boy Paints sign established
a great classic diner aesthetic to the small space.

I ordered the Dutch Boy Burger (stout-soaked cheddar sauteed crimini shrooms & caramelized onion; fries included for $8.50) shared a 
generous plate of onion rings and a Foxton Park White Birch soda. So what's the verdict? Everything, including the soda, was really really 
good. The portions are generous, everything fresh and juicy. I must point out that their (Vidalia) onion rings might be the best I've had.  
The batter they coat the rings with was very thin and crispy (and not at all 'bready'). Biting into them revealed the sweetness of the tender  
Vidalia onions. Perfection. And for the comfort food connoisseurs: they fry absolutely everything in duck fat – only on Sundays. Also a nice 
detail to point out, it's also a good spot for locavores. Their suppliers are primarily local. Next time you're in Prospect Heights having drinks  
at Franklin Park, go through the back door and have yourself a burger and rings (the two establishments are attached). 


on being photographed : george pitts, an artist at work

Last week I had the privilege of being the subject of one of the masters of American photography. George Pitts is not only a highly regarded figure in fine art and editorial photography, but also in the world of academia. Few artists have been able to achieve this level of success in all these realms. He started out as a painter and is also a writer. He has been Director of Photography for such publications such as: LIFE magazine and VIBE/SPIN. He is a fine art photographer for the New York Times, Taschen Books, etc. For the past three years, he has been Director of Photographic Practices at Parsons The New School here in New York. Currently, he is also consulting Director of Photography for Latina magazine. He is working on an art book for Taschen featuring provocative photographs of women 35 and older. He was interested in photographing me with the possibility of the photos being published in the book. Needless to say, I was thrilled at the chance to work with him.

I knew after our first meeting that I wanted to be photographed by George Pitts. We had such an interesting discussion about photography and sensuality. I felt that I was dealing with a very thoughtful, humble, intelligent creative and a true artist. I was comfortable around him which was really key for me. He also challenged me and was genuinely interested in my ideas, my biases and my general point of view as a female art director/designer who is conscious and critical of media's image of women. When I asked about the inspiration behind photographing women over 35, he told me that it started out as a personal project, born out of a genuine love for women. He found older women were not only more interesting, but also largely invisible in the media landscape. Unlike the French, there is clearly a glorification of youth in American culture (as with many others). Taschen was so interested in this work that they proposed the idea of a book. Partly because no one else has taken on the subject matter. The fact that he has photographed women from all walks of life (doctors, artists, mothers, writers, etc) for this book project made it even more interesting to me. I saw it as an homage to women and a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

I consider myself a feminist, one that believes in celebrating female sexuality. I think women are entitled to it and should feel confident in owning its power. I knew going into it that it would involve being photographed in the nude. It was something I was, perhaps, intellectually ready for, though it look me a while to fully feel emotionally ready. I took time to really consider my own limitations. But I felt confident that I would be in the hands of someone who had a critical eye and took this art very seriously. 

Last Friday was our scheduled shoot date. I came to a studio in Dumbo, Brooklyn – nervous and excited. I was looking forward to the experience and to continue the conversation with him. I had done a lot of thinking since our meeting and was as prepared as I could be. George Pitts used a Mamiya C330 medium format (2 1/4") film camera and used a combination of natural and circular strobe light called a "beauty dish" (I had never seen one before). He also had an old school Polaroid film camera to show me and test the lighting. He meticulously measured light before every shot. The conversation about the photos was a constant throughout the day. He took into consideration my ideas and my thoughts on style which I shared with him at an earlier date via email. He was a consummate professional. He was generous about sharing knowledge about fine art, teaching and publishing. He took notice of my awareness and attention to detail. He talked me through everything he was about to do — always conscious of my comfort level and personal preferences. Admittedly, my only hesitations were limited to personal insecurities about body image – which I knew were normal. During the shoot, we listened to everything from the soundtrack to my favourite film, In The Mood For Love by Wong Kar Wai to Grace Jones and Serge Gainsbourg. As a side note, he told me that the film In The Mood.. is also one of his favourite films and is required viewing for the class he teaches to both graduate and undergraduate fine art students, Picturing Sexuality. We discussed everything from film to art, culture, music, Michael Jackson, dance, ideas about eroticism (and the semantics around it), fashion, you name it. There was a healthy dose of laughter thrown in as well. Conversation was constant. Only interrupted during moments when he was actually taking photographs. I knew I wanted to look elegant. My design background, of course, informed my point of view and taste. He told me that he actually prefers photographing real women as opposed to professional models. 

There were things that I only realized about myself through the process of being photographed. There are things I'm only now able to articulate. My mind was—and still is—spinning from the experience. On some level, it was an out of body experience. Quite surreal. I will write more about it later when I share some of the photos from the shoot. There were many things that were unexpected that came out of working together that were interesting. The experience overall was an empowering one, personally. I am grateful for the opportunity. When we discussed the difference between the term "erotic photography" versus "pornography" he shared this: a model once told him that "erotic photography allows you to dream, whereas pornography erases the need to do so." It was a statement that stuck with him. In a recent interview I read, he mentions that he doesn't "believe the eroticized body only lies in the domain of porn... A central concern of mine is how to render contemporary sexuality creatively, with beauty, wit, depth, intensity and compassion; introducing newer paradigms in the process." This really struck me as well. It is a great learning experience to me to work with someone that is able to have critical dialogue about his work. 

Below is a selection of George Pitt's fine art and editorial photography.


trainset ghetto : peter feigenbaum

I discovered the work of artist Peter Feigenbaum via the Like The Spice Gallery in Williamsburg. I don't know that I've ever seen
anything so meticulously done. According to the artist that this New York urban landscape, entitled Trainset Ghetto is an imagined
one and therefore not modeled after any specific landscapes. It is an "examination of urban architectural vernacular... it is more
than a simple replication; it is an attempt to understand the metaphysics of place within an urban context." Everything in this piece
is based on both vague personal memory and cinematic ones that never existed in reality. I personally can't get past the care and
detail that went into creating this piece. Amazing. 

All images from 


genesis of dance

If you've followed my blog for some time, you're aware of my love of dance. My teacher, Karen Arceneaux at the Alvin Ailey Extension remains a huge inspiration to me. Dancing has given me so much over the past few years. Karen's Horton classes continue to teach me strength and grace through dance – not to mention stress relief, humour, live music and endless fun!

I'm looking forward to seeing Karen's own dance company, Genesis Dance Company perform on July 24th, 2010 as part of their 8th annual NY Performance. if you're a fan of dance and in the NY area this month, go see this one night only performance in Brooklyn's Kumble Theater. I absolutely loved last year's show. 

Check the Genesis Dance Company website or for more info. 

Pictured above: Karen Arceneaux, Photo by: Rachel Neville Photography 2009

the sign on the door read 'cookbooks'

While strolling down Greenwich Street late Saturday afternoon this weekend with a friend, we stumbled upon the
cutest little shop I had never seen or heard of before. It looked to be closed for the day, so we couldn't walk in. But
the old iMac and the clutter suggested that there would normally be some level of activity taking place in the room.
I wasn't sure what it was at first. Only a curious sign that read 'Cookbooks' on a metal plate adhered to an old door. 
When we looked inside, I was fascinated. It was like a room you would see in an old doll house. There was dusty
old wallpaper on the walls and the doorways looked shorter than usual. It was filled with – safe to assume – cookbooks.
It (and the old building it was in) was adorable. I had to find out more. 

I discovered that this charming little shop is actually Joanne Hendricks, Cookbooks. It is filled with all types of
cookbooks and books about food, wine, dining, etiquette, old and out of print books, obscure books, menus and
paraphernalia. There's even a corresponding online shop called Greenwich Street Cookbooks. I would love to
come back and look around. There's no end to great little places to discover in this city. I love it. So if you're ever
near the corner of Greenwich St. and Canal, stop in.


inspired at madame geneva


I attended a good friend's going away party at Madame Geneva a couple of weeks ago. It was another instance where I thought: "How did I not know about this place?!?" It is a gorgeous bar. It's adjacent to and is by the people behind Double Crown next door. I believe both are designed and owned by AvroKo, the company behind Public. It's small, dark, cavernous and sexy. The kind of place you could imagine trysts would be happening at all hours of the night and any day of the week. The crowd did not look too young (a plus for me). I also love a bar with a good bar menu. This one is colonial Asian inspired and well done. I particularly liked the duck steamed buns (they are more like rolls). They were so delicious. As I sipped cocktails, devoured steamed buns and chatted with friends that night, I realized that I just found a new favourite spot.

Madame Geneva


Madame Geneva

Madame Geneva

Madame Geneva


Madame Geneva
Click on photos to see source


a reincarnation : limelight marketplace

Opening day at the reincarnated Limelight Marketplace seemed quite successful. I must point out that this piece of architecture, formerly a church, has gone through many lifetimes and identities. It's been several nightclubs/performance spaces – which has had, at times, a very dark history. Overall, I like what they've done with the space. Some of the retailers beautiful and interesting, some not so much. It's a tight space which is also maze-like in some corners. There are three levels and no elevators. We helped one of our clients set up the store and design print and press material (that's for another blog for a different day). It'll be interesting to see how it fares. The opening of Grimaldi's Pizza will be a welcome addition to the neighbourhood (and to Manhattan).

inspired dining : zenkichi

To continue my birthday week of decadence, my friends Melanie and Jacquelyn took me to Zenkichi Modern Japanese Brasserie in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was my first time and I have to say that it has to be New York's best. First of all, the interior design reminded me immediately of one of my favourite films: In The Mood For Love. The space is very dark, cavernous and maze-like. The reception area looks and feels like a spa and definitely sets you up for the dining experience. Each table was very private, you don't really feel other diners. There is also a button to call the servers, otherwise, they really leave you alone. The service was superb, almost ceremonial. A shade separates your table from everything and it gets lifted and lowered as each course is delivered to your table. The lighting design of this very dark space is also well done. It all makes for one of the sexiest restaurant designs I've seen in New York. And the food? Well, I was very impressed. We had the 3-course pre fix and a sake flight. Everything from beginning to end was incredible. I loved my Saikyo black cod main course (above, marinated in Saikyo miso) – probably the best I've ever had. The desserts (I had the chance to try both) were: Frozen Black Sesame Mousse (chocolate-based silky frozen sesame mousse) and Matcha & Blueberry Rare Cheesecake (blueberry infused Japanese-style, non-baked cheesecake with bitter Matcha green tea powder from Kyoto). They were simply amazing. All of it made for a truly superb dining experience. A great way to end my birthday week (thanks to Jac and Mel!). I will definitely be back – next time I will bring a hot date ;)

New Yorkers, what are your favourite sexy dining spots?

The Amazing Sake Flight (they have over 50 varieties)

chinatown cake club

After what was already a pretty decadent two days of birthday celebrations, I spent a couple of hours with my friend Jacquelyn on Sunday at the Chinatown Cake Club – a private club in an Chinatown apartment that holds monthly events featuring only cakes and desserts. Founder Victoria Howe, a pastry chef and hostess, describes it as a "secret bakery" for those in the know. Well, it's gaining popularity. I will say that it isn't for the unadventurous. Some of her desserts are very inventive and would challenge even an experienced palette. I was brave enough to try the durian pound cake, but kind of regret it. It actually tasted savoury. If you're not familiar with durian, it's a tropical fruit that is extremely odorous. The scent has been described as resembling rotting food, bad body odor, etc. It tastes very similar to the way it smells but is a delicacy — even an aphrodisiac — in many Asian countries.

I do love that she chooses an artist each month as inspiration for a cake. This time, she chose two: Notorious B.I.G. and Gerard Richter. Check out the Biggie Smalls (and the durian) cake below. (apologies for the unsharp photos – very difficult low light conditions)

Here was Sunday night's menu:

Dragon Fruit Trifle – small spheres of fresh dragon fruit layered between lightly sweetened palm sugar whipped cream and cake trimmings

Green and Black Cake – dark chocolate fudge cake, filled with avocado mousse & covered with bittersweet Valrhona ganache

Café Sua Da Torte – espresso chocolate layered with condensed milk (my favourite)

Banana Leaf Sticky Rice – caramelized bananas and black rice sweetened with

Coconut Cream Taro Cake – pale purple taro chiffon cake layered with coconut cream, seven minute frosting and trimmed with toasted coconut flakes

Almond Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches – Chinese toasted almond cookies layered between sesame oil ice cream

Durian Pound Cake – Pouncake flavoured with fresh durian, covered with durian buttercream

Home made Ice Creams – sugar cane, soy sauce, chrysanthemum, sesame oil (I wasn't brave enough to try the soy sauce one)

Artist Series Cake #5: Tribute to Notorious B.I.G. – golden buttermilk cake soaked in Hennessy simple syrup, layered with roasted plantains and covered in gilded vanilla frosting

Artist Series Cake #6: Tribute to Gerard Richter – fragrant black sesame seed cake frosted with vanilla swiss buttercream

I don't know that I would devour that much sugar again in one sitting but it was definitely an experience. Check the website for more info on how to sign up the monthly events.

brooklyn street seasons

I realized last night that I photographed virtually the same spot on the street in my neighbourhood where I walk Lexie everyday – during two different seasons. Seeing these next to one another really emphasizes the contrast between them. We've come a long way since the snow days in January and February. I'm a much bigger fan of the spring. I now plan to take the same photo with my iPhone this summer, fall and once more next winter to complete the set.

an inspired afternoon at strand bookstore


One of the best things to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon is to lose track of time browsing through Strand Bookstore. It's a New York institution, it's where books live. There's something about how unpolished, worn-in and creaky that's so romantic about this place. It even smells old. New books are on the same shelf as old ones. There is beauty in the chaos of it's mismatched shelving units and narrow, meandering aisles. I personally always purchased the oldest copies of books available.
Although it was a gorgeous Sunday, I stopped into the Strand looking for Witold Rybcyzynski's Waiting for the Weekend. It's an extended essay on the two-day weekend, it's history and ideas behind leisure throughout history. It was recommended by a friend who knows I'm a big fan of Alain de Botton's books. This seems to be right up the same alley.
I hope you enjoy my little iPhone photo essay :)


brooklyn blossoms

For the past couple of years, I've shied away from Brooklyn Botanic Gardens' Sakura Matsuri (cherry blossom festival) due to my usually debilitating spring time allergies. This year, the allergies are shockingly under control. So when I heard that the cherry blossoms were peaking last weekend, I had to come by. It was an explosion of gorgeous color. I played around with the macro setting on my camera. I'm pretty happy with the result. Close-up photos look so much more interesting – especially since the gardens were packed with people taking obligatory photos standing in front of cherry trees. I wish I could convey the scents in the air that day. I highly recommend going. The late afternoon sun was perfect for photos. I felt lucky to live only steps away from so much beauty.

View my Flickr site to see more from Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

inspired space for art and food : loading dock


My friend Dave Pinter clued me into the existence of the coolest new Brooklyn spot: Loading Dock. The restaurant features Baja-style Mexican food formerly of Brooklyn Flea fame. It's very casual and inexpensive. I love the fact that the restaurant is built into a former garment factory and that the space is also an art gallery. Everything in the space is retains a warehouse feel, rough-hewn and spare. As my friend Dave referred to it: "60-grit" feel (as in sandpaper). The charm is it's unpolished restraint. They also didn't fill the dining area/gallery with too many pieces of furniture. They've mixed mid-century chairs with work tables. I adore the fake fireplace flanked by old Adirondak chairs and fur pelts. Staying true to it's taco truck roots is the kitchen – an actual taco truck built right onto the front of the building. We got in there JUST before people started streaming in and managed to get a couple of quick photos literally seconds before everyone sat down. I can't fail to mention that the food did not disappoint, we loved our dishes! The second this place gets a liquor license, it will quickly become the newest, hottest new bar in Brooklyn. It would make a great event space too. It's another Brooklyn favourite. I will definitely be back – and soon!



a light experience : vaga lume

My newest (and most excellent) iPhone app, NY ArtBeat lead me to this gorgeous art installation last week while strolling through the Lower East Side. It's entitled "Vaga Lume" by artist Valeska Soares. It's a large grid of thousands of light bulbs installed onto the ceiling, each one with it's own chain switch that can be turned on and off by the viewer. In Portuguese, the title means light that is subtle/vague or transient. Visually, it's quite stunning (even during the day) and the thousands of chains hanging down look like a waterfall or even rain. It's an art piece that begs to be experienced in person. The viewer is forced to walk through the veil of chains very slowly and carefully. I could have stayed there for hours. The interactive element of the piece makes the viewer as much a part of the work as the work itself. Beautiful and brilliant. :)

Hurry, the show closes in 3 days.

Vaga Lume

Vaga Lume
all photos by myturtleneck

the brooklyn flea at one hanson place

I finally made it to the One Hanson Place location of the Brooklyn Flea last weekend. I was accompanied by my friend Sparrow Hall (seen shopping for vintage shirts below) following the great brunch In Fort Greene. I went into it with the thought of not spending money (I can't afford to at the moment) but more so to finally check out the space. Well, it was even more captivating than I expected. I loved the appropriation of an old bank into a place for local commerce. And it was packed with excellent goods (old and new) and loaded with good stuff to eat. Almost very inch of the space was utilized. My visit ended up on the weekend my good friends at Whimsy & Spice were away. The ceilings are very dramatic, catherdral-like and gorgeous. I never run out of reasons to love Brooklyn, and this just got added to the list.

at home in ditmas park : purple yam restaurant


I had the rare treat of dining out on Filipino food this weekend. Unlike Korean or Malaysian food, for instance, Filipino food hasn't become mainstream (though it's only a matter of time). So when I have it, it's usually at home or with family.
I've been dying to try Purple Yam, a reincarnation of the now closed Cendrillion restaurant in SoHo. They opened in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn — out of the way, but I knew it would be worth it. I read about their tocino sliders a couple of weeks ago and could not get it out of my head. So our menu for the evening was as follows:
1) Tocino sliders (sugar-achuete cured pork) in purple yam pan de sal bread, served with pickled persimmon
2) The special dumplings – with shrimp and water chestnuts
3) Pomelo, green mango and jicama salad
4) Chicken adobo (braised in vinegar, garlic, soy sauce and coconut milk)
5) Pancit bihon (Philippine rice noodles with chicken, pork and veggies)
1) Halo halo (Philippine iced dessert with sweet beans, palm seed, cocogel, coconut sport [macapuno], jackfruit, topped with flan and purple yam ice cream)
2) Champorrado with coffee ice cream (sweet rice in chocolate and cream)
My friends and I LOVED it – even more than the original. It was such a treat for me and the best meal I've had in a while. It's as tasty as home cooked meals but with an occasional innovative twist utilizing all the authentic ingredients. The staff was sweet, as was the owner and gracious host, Amy Besa. My favourites had to be the sliders (we had three orders of it), the adobo and the desserts. Their house made ice cream is to die for, especially the coffee one. Purple Yam is so worth the trip out. Think of it as a mini-field trip, it's only a few stops past Park Slope on the Q train. Their back patio area surrounded by bamboo looks really lovely too. I'll definitely be back.
Loved the lighting sculpture at the front of the restaurant


fort greene blooms

This weekend, I spent a good part of Saturday afternoon in Fort Greene, one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Brooklyn. The gorgeous weather called for a very lovely outdoor brunch at Madiba. My brunch mate and good friend, Sparrow Hall was donning his dapper Brooklyn spring duds and hat. I was dressed hoping to get some sun on my face and shoulders.

A stroll through the area and the Brooklyn Flea (photos to come) and a dachshund meetup at Fort Greene Park was a perfect way to spend the day. It was great to see the first spring blooms — and the neighbourhood come alive. I loved this (Easter) egg garden installation (bottom photo) in front of a brownstone building. I figured it must belong to someone who has access to stage/movie props. Each giant egg was sitting in it's own nest. Funny!

all photos by myturtleneck

once upon a time in brooklyn

I recently stumbled upon this old photo of me (circa 1999-2000) that was taken by my sister Caroline using her medium format FILM Hasselblad camera. Among her endless list of talents, she is also a trained photographer.

Remember the days when we still used film?

Anyway, it was kind of amazing to realize that this would be the only photo I have of the towers with me in the frame. There's something timeless about this photo – it's more than the fact that it's in black and white. It's not the most flattering photos of my face, but it's a classic photo of me. It was taken on a rooftop in Park Slope. So much has happened since this photo was taken. I've been here in New York a long time and I still love it.

me in Park Slope, pre 9/11