Faces & Places: More of My Father’s Color Photos of Southern California in the 1940’s

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Three years ago I posted a dozen or so images digitized from 35 mm colored slides my father made in Southern California in the 1940’s. Those photos were viewed by far more people than anything ever on MacroChef, and a number of commentators asked if there might be more. Having looked through hundreds of slides, I’ve found another batch of photos evocative of that long ago time and place. I hope you enjoy them.

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Photos: Top, a day at Santa Monica Pier, a destination for fishing and amusements since 1909, and more recently, also a historical landmark.  Above: Los Angeles Union Station, built in 1939 in a modernized Mission revival style, is still in use today. Amtrak, commuter rail, and Los Angeles’ new subway lines combine to make it the busiest rail station on the West Coast. (Click on any photo to enlarge it)

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Q: What Would You Do If You Had Only One Afternoon In Paris?

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Paris, ancient as it is, has endured a great plenty of violence, war and revolution. But given the relative peace of recent decades, bloody scenes from the Charlie Hebdo shooting have been shocking indeed. Once again we are reminded that even in one of mankind’s most civilized places, primitive horror can still strike. However, all that was far from my mind on a glorious day last autumn when at the tail end of a European holiday I was privileged to spend a few hours in Paris. I’d been to Paris before and taken in the obligatory sites, so with no agenda, I set out to explore once again a city which never disappoints. Paris really is as gorgeous as the postcards portray. My day ended perfectly too, with a dinner at the atmospheric Left Bank home of my friends, Annette and Robert. So, here are some photos from one afternoon spent wondering the streets of Paris…

___________ P1090901 Photos: Although millions of tourists traipse through the Cathedral of Notre Dame every year, most seem to miss the lovely park just behind the Cathedral, seen here in two views. There are many more of my photos after the jump.

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Journey Back in Time: Take The A Train to The Cloisters

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As a newcomer living in New York some 45 years ago, the city seemed like like an alluring, unknown wonderland, and I felt like an explorer ever ready for a new adventure. And so, one weekend day, a friend and I set out for The Cloisters, not knowing what to expect. What I found was a series of ancient-feeling rooms filled with medieval art, and set in a park on river bluffs high above the Hudson. It was magical, and I made a promise to myself to someday return. Last week, I finally did. And on a chilly, blindingly-white and amazingly clear day, it was magical all over again.

I didn’t know much about medieval art then, and I don’t now, but you don’t need to know a lot  to appreciate the beauty and mystery of the centuries-old sculptures, stained glass windows, tapestries, carvings, architectural elements and religious objects on display. To visit The Cloisters is like taking a condensed tour through medieval France, Italy and Spain, with a bit of the Netherlands added in. Last week, it was empty enough that one could have a chapel all to oneself to sit and meditate, a wonderful luxury in a city like New York.

So, if you find yourself in New York with a half day free, take the A train (yes the same train which famously goes to Harlem) nearly to the tip of Manhattan, exit at 190th Street, and step into another world.

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Life Between Snow Storms: A Wintry (But Fabulous) Week in New York City

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What kind of crazy Californian goes to New York in February? Especially this year, during one of the coldest and snowiest winters in recent memory? Well, I guess that would be me.  Yes, I’ve just returned from a week in the Big City where I had a chilly, but fabulous time. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in Minnesota that the cold in New York doesn’t scare me. I knew enough to come prepared with a warm jacket, stocking cap, gloves, scarf and insulated boots. Thus prepared, I found temperatures in the 20’s to be invigorating rather than chilling.

Fresh out of college, I lived in New York for three years back in the late sixties, and I’ve visited a number of times since, so New York is not unfamiliar to me.  But New York is so vast and ever changing that each visit is a perplexing mix of the familiar with the new and surprising.  I come as both a returning ex-resident and a wide-eyed tourist.

And as much as I love playing tourist in New York, I come, most importantly, to be with friends. Two of my dearest friendships, with Bobby Quidone and Phil Magnuson, I made when we lived, briefly, in the same apartment building at 84 East Third St., in the East Village.  Somehow, we’ve kept a friendship alive for more than 45 years, and it is a joy to see them on the rare occasions when we get together. My other dear New York City friend, Mary Morgan, is a friend of more recent vintage. Until about three years ago, she lived in the Bay Area, and she returns here yearly, so I’m able to see her more frequently.

And so when I do find myself in New York, I’m torn between rushing about to see what is new and exciting, and just wanting to hang out with friends. In the end, I do a little of each.  With only a week to spend, any rational person would compile a precisely-choreographed list of what to to and where to go, so as not to waste a moment.  That’s not me.  I tend to make it up day by day, but I manage to pack quite a lot in, even so.  Here in photos with captions are my impressions of New York c. 2014. See more after the jump, and check back tomorrow for my post on eating in the Big City.

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Photo above: I’d never been to the top of the Empire State Building or the top of Rockefeller Center (The Top of the Rock), so that was on my agenda this time. This photo is from the Top of the Rock observation deck, looking south to the Empire State Building and beyond.  I feared it would be frightfully cold and windy up there, but it was surprisingly pleasant.

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A Week of Eating Out, And In, In Manhattan and Brooklyn

Food and New York just go together. New Yorkers clearly love to eat. On some Manhattan blocks, every single storefront is a restaurant. As cold weather always stimulates my appetite, you can be sure I did my share of eating. So, I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t share with you a little bit of what happened food-wise during my week in the big city.

P1080929There are not as many hip and welcoming coffee-shop type cafés in Manhattan as one might think. One that I found and liked quite a bit is Think Coffee, 248 Mercer St., between 3rd and 4th Streets. They have four other locations in the Village and one in Seoul, Korea. Starbucks is present, of course, but for a chain coffee place, I found The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf stores to be less crowded and more comfortable. One place I stumbled upon and wanted to try for lunch was The Clinton Street Baking Company and Restaurant, 4 Clinton St. near East Houston, on the Lower East Side. However, at 2:30 on a Wednesday afternoon the waiting line seemed long, so I decided to pass. I hope to make it back to this popular spot some day because it looked like it would be really good.

P1080761P1080766One of the relative new-comers to the Manhattan museum scene, is the Neue Gallerie, Fifth Avenue at 86th St., which specializes in showing art and design from Germany and Austria. I was amazed by a show of  early  20th Century German posters. The museum’s popular restaurant, Café Sabarsky, offers a Viennese menu and ambiance in a space with views of  Central Park. Photos above: My friend Mary Morgan samples the excellent beet borscht, and lunchtime in the café.

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Travel: Are Truffles Really Worth All The Fuss Made About Them?

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ROBERT BONNELL, OUR CORRESPONDENT IN FRANCE, SAYS YES

Editor’s Note: Truffles, those little knobs of fungus, have long been a prized ingredient in French and Italian cooking, and in recent years have begun to appear on more and more high-end American restaurant menus. Are they really worth their high price and do they live up to all the hype?  Robert Bonnell takes us on a visit to a winter truffle market in France, and explains what the fuss is all about. And yes, you read the above photo correctly, those lovely little buggers will cost you 700 € (about $1,000) a kilogram. Robert reports:

The black truffle, tuber melanosporum, is a devilishly expensive fungus which lives underground, associated with the root systems of oaks and several other trees. In France, truffles are harvested from late November until early March and are considered a great delicacy, their unique taste and aroma making them an exalted addition to a variety of dishes.

Commonly associated with the more southerly French regions of Périgord and Provence, black truffles are also found in the southern Loire Valley. Some are still found wild in the woods, but many come from plantations of truffle oaks, grown from seedlings whose roots were infused with truffle spores. But even in the plantations, a truffle hunter needs help to find them. Once performed by pigs, locating truffles is now the work of dogs. (As one purveyor of truffles says, it’s not easy to talk a pig into getting into the car.) At any rate, an effective truffle-hunting dog at work is a wonder to behold.

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Travel: Notes From A Foodie Weekend in Portland

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It’s not exactly a secret that Portland, Oregon has become one of America’s premiere food cities, known as it is for its fresh, local, seasonal, and largely organic cuisine. So, when I made a quick pre-Christmas trip there to visit my fellow foodie friend, Adele, I knew I was in store for some wonderful eating.  I was not disappointed. I was barely off the plane when Adele whisked me to Tan Tan, a friendly, family-run Vietnamese joint in the close-in western suburb of Beaverton. This is an easy-to-love restaurant, serving really fresh food, casual and inexpensive.  Reviewers on Yelp rave about the bahn mi sandwiches, but I found the more unusual Vietnamese crepe to be completely satisfying, and not to forget the spring roll. Most spring rolls don’t get me excited, but this vegan version, stuffed with seitan, tofu, and the usual rice noodles and veggies, delivered so much clean flavor you really didn’t even need to dip it in the rich peanut sauce. Pho, the much loved Vietnamese noodle soup, is  another specialty here.

Several factors have contributed to Portland’s rise as a food city. The relatively mild climate and proximity to the fertile Willamette and Hood River vallies would be two, but also there is Portland’s comparatively low cost of living which has attracted young chefs, because the cost of opening a food business is a fraction of what it would be in Manhattan, San Francisco or most big cities. Diners benefit as well, as prices nearly everywhere seem to be downright reasonable compared to the Bay Area (and Oregonians love to rub in the fact that there’s no sales tax). It would take a couple weeks of eating and food shopping in and around Portland to even skim the surface of its food culture, but in a few days, I was able to squeeze in quite a bit.  My report is after the jump.

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Vegan spring rolls at Tan Tan, with a luscious peanut dipping sauce.

Photos: From the top–1) Vietnamese Crepe with dipping sauce at Tan Tan in Beaverton, 2) Food carts in the S.W. Alder area of downtown Portland, and click on this video for a humorous, but informative report on Portland’s food cart scene. , 3) Retail store at Bob’s Red Mill, 4) Vegetarian Spring roll at Tan Tan contained both seitan and tofu, really yummy!

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