|FORKPLAY June 17, 2014|Remembering My Father. Cherche Midi. Eating Sardinia. Status Crocodile Madness.
Dear Friends and Family,
At dinner last week my friend was telling how at 18 she wanted to study design at the Fashion Institute. Her father discouraged her. "Get a teaching degree," he told her. "It's something you can do till you get married." She's been a creative business woman beside her husband in an expanding company for years now. But she misse
d that fabled innocent (or not-so-innocent) time to make it as a career girl in New York. No Barbizon-Plaza. No basement studio in the Village. No 5 o'clock lickety splits with married men. No meeting blind dates at the Algonquin or drinking one too many at the White Horse Tavern.
That was not my dad. Nathaniel "Nat" Greene was a decade ahead of Betty Friedan in his expectations for women, at least for me. The younger son in an immigrant family, he won a swimming scholarship to a Catholic college and got beaten up a lot because he was Jewish. I'm not sure if his nose was his original nose or the aftermath of a few punches. My father was just 19 when he married my mom, Saralee, already working two jobs to support his mother's household and his own.
My mother asked my dad to shower me with his attention so I wouldn't be jealous of my little sister, Margie. That was the beginning of Daddy's girl. A Daddy's girl stands on Daddy's shoe
s and dances to Frank Sinatra on the record player. A Daddy's girl is precocious and flirtatious. A Daddy's girl goes to his office on Saturdays and pastes up ads like Daddy does. At the age of seven, I wrote some little stories based on family gossip, and my father worked them into a tabloid page called "Chit Chat of This and That" and had it printed. I charged a nickel each for tear sheets that I passed out at holiday dinners when six families converged at Grandma's.
My high school girl friends thought my father was wildly handsome and flirted with him at the store, Nat Greene's, a career change for him in the 50's. I worked after school for 50 cents an hour and made many mistakes. He had a temper. You can hardly blame him when I marked a suede coat $49.95 instead of $149.95 and he had to sell it that way. But even so, this is the message I got from him: "You're brilliant. You'll be a star at whatever you decide to do." I never doubted it. I was brilliant. I would excel in whatever field I chose to exercise my multiple talents -- art, writing, journalism, theater. This may sound like your typical pathological narcissism, and maybe it was. But I would swear it wasn't really anything my ego dreamed up; it was the message he gave me.
Bouts of double vision and joint pain turned out to be multiple sclerosis at a time there was little known the disease. He died of a stroke in his sleep at 56. I had spoken to him on the phone from New York the night before, the weekly call from Mom and Dad. At least, I thought, I had said goodbye.
***As "Nat Greene," my father dressed conservatively -- but I think he'd like his Cadillac in deep, dark blue with rust leather seats, the colors I've chosen today.
***Keith McNally's French Twist
The first thing I notice walking in is the astonishing, golden glow. And next, standing just inside the door, brother Bri
an. Well, it is "Friends and Family" night at Keith McNally's new Cherche Midi
, so it's no surprise to see Brian. You may be too young to remember his glory days in a celebrity whirlwind at Canal Bar
and his triumph at the doomed 150 Wooster
. He's come in from his retreat in Saigon.
I could pretend I'm not wowed by the crowd here tonight -- people who look like you should recognize them and some that you do. "Oh my God, it's you..." The blather and the kiss-kiss,
maybe even a genuine hug. Choosing a chair with a view, sampling my friend's excellent calvados cocktail, ordering one for myself. Studying the cream colored menu, deciding which dish each of us will choose what sets off debate.
Time to notice that the garden chairs that tortured the derriere and the raucous din of McNally's unloved Italian Pulino's
in this space are gone. The window to the street is partly shuttered now, stilling traffic blare. There is insulation in the walls and under the tin ceiling. Pink tablecloths topped with bistro paper are a pretty strong statement in a frugal era of bare wood tables and plastic placemats. Click here to read more
to see if Cherche Midi is for you. 282 Bowery at southwest corner of Houston.
***Arco Cafe: A Taste of Sardinia
Frankly, I wasn't expecting fireworks from
Arco Cafe way up north on Amsterdam in Manhattan Valley. I had no expectations at all. The truth is that for all my travels in Italy, I know nothing about Sardinian Food. Then, sipping a pleasant-enough rosé on a warm evening, with half a dozen soup bowls of pasta lined up on a narrow table for our seven Ethnic adventurers, I fell for spinach-green-ricotta cavatelli with shrimp and pancetta and "traditional" Maloreddos Campidanese, with sausage in a spicy tomato sauce.
It's the spice in a restaurant critic's life -- to wander into some unsung spot a
nd fall in love. Or shall we say, instant like. I'd never heard of the owner here either, Sebastiano Cappitta, or his other value ventures in this area, the pizzerias Isola
. But the bare brick, the bar, and the all-glass façade open to the street felt welcoming on a warm spring evening.
We were seven, some lackadaisical, others with varying opinions. I
suggested each of us order an appetizer, sharing tastes, and then get five or six pastas for the table. Amazingly, we all came to agree on that chilled Sardinian rosé. Then began a modest seduction, a little slow, requiring a second bottle. I liked the Sardinian pane guttiau -- toasted crisps with patches of olive oil delivered on wooden palettes hanging off the edge of our crowded table. Click here to read more about the rustic charms of Sardinian pastas. 886 Amsterdam Avenue between 103rd and 104th Streets.
***Exotic Skins Make Pricey Totes
My favorite handbag at the moment is a ruffled, red plastic clutch my niece bought me at Off-Broadway on West 72nd Street. We walked in, it caught my eye and I said: "This loo
ks like me." She surprised me by sending it in a shopping bag the next day. It holds what I need in the evening including my trim little Canon and a skinny flashlight. It cost exactly $110. I adore it. And so does everyone who sees it.
I tease my friends who carry brand name bags bigger than they are with what strikes me as heavy metal hardware. Gucci. Hermès. Louis Vuitton. The Kelly bag, A Birkin. I tease them for spending thousands to blend in at Sant Ambroeus or The Mayfair Jean Georges with other equally misguided dames.
Then I read in the Times about the Hermès White Nile Crocodile Himalayan Birkin that sold at Heritage Auctions for $115,000. I didn't care that Heritage was suing Christies for wooing away their "Birkin whisperer" and team. That was the news. But the headline inspired me to start tweeting about my own rare, animal skin bags I'm selling on Etsy.
"Pay $116K at auction," I tweeted, "or buy my vintage embossed calf Art Deco clutch
for just $105 (after our 25% June discount on all bags at $100 and up). I pulled out my geometric brown lizard envelope clutch for just $75
and a gorgeous dressmaker ruffled grey and white snake clutch for an astonishing $65
. If it doesn't sell this week, I'm putting it back in my bag drawer.
What is it about me and bags? I couldn't resist. Probably it has to do with no matter what size you are, the bag's size fits. But I'm selling my collection of 40 years now because it's better to find them new homes than to hide them forgotten in drawers. Click here to see my Accidental Bag Lady site on Etsy
and give yourself a treat during the JUNE BLOSSOMS Sale.
Photographs of the frogs legs in green garlic velouté, and the new "It" burger and Keith Mcnally welcoming Barry Wine at Cherche Midi, and the cavatelli and the salumi cheese platter at Arco Cafe
may not be used without permission from Gael Greene. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.