Archive for the ‘dance’ Category


Whenever I travel, my sister asks for a postcard. I always buy a few. I usually write at least one. Sometimes I even get a stamp. Rarely does a card hit a foreign mailbox. Almost always, the cards are hand-delivered. And while one of the postcards has already been signed, stamped, sent, and received, until the others arrive, this post(card) will have to do.

Last month, my friend Sarah and I crisscrossed the Portugal-Spain border. The day I stumbled into Lisbon, still recovering from my red-eye and transfer in Munich, Sarah welcomed me with a box of pastéis de nata. Our time in Portugal revolved around these incredible custard tarts in a caramelized crust. Sarah wanted to sample pastéis de nata from every corner bakery and pasteleria we passed, but once I tried the original from Pastéis de Belém, I couldn’t go back to mere copies. I loved the ones in Belém so much that on our last day in Lisbon, we took a €15 taxi for one final taste. And we did take in a few sights, including ducks, peacocks, and a couple of Portuguese good luck symbols in a little park near our hotel.

If Lisbon was all about the sweet, then Seville was all about the savory and the sensual. (Ahem … tapas and flamenco.)

We started our time in Seville with a tapas tour. Best. Idea. Ever. What better re-introduction to a city I hadn’t visited since college than a four hour (tapas) bar crawl with a virtual local (Shawn) who can find food to satisfy any taste? I like fish and vegetables, Sarah wanted to try everything. And Shawn navigated our preferences as easily as she navigated around the Sunday after-churchgoers vying for space up against the bar under dozens of jamón hanging from the ceiling like the pots and pans that adorn my own kitchen. She also armed us for our own gourmand adventures over the next few days with lists of restaurant recommendations and real-time tweets about where to go and when to show up to guarantee a table early or to catch the kitchen before it closed.

Sarah’s done a great job of cataloging her favorite stops. Just like I can’t stop thinking about the best pastéis de nata in Belém, I keep replaying in my mind our meal at La Azotea until my mouth waters (as cliché as that sounds). After several days of largely fried foods, I was craving more vegetables than salmorejo could offer (more on that cousin of gazpacho in just a bit). La Azotea delivered.

We were greeted and seated just before 1:00 at one of only six tables. Just in time, too, because by 1:15, all six of those tables were filled and the waiters could barely squeeze past the lunching crowd crowding the bar.  Lucky for us, owner Juan helped us choose lunch and wine and dessert. Course after course,we pulled out our cameras and peppered Juan with questions.

When I asked for a recommendation on a good local wine store, Juan slipped out the front door with us, crossed the street and unlocked the door to Vinos y Más. Only open in the evening, the restaurant’s wine bar is filled with some of Spain’s best goodies, from local wines and olive oils lining two walls to cheeses and meats behind a glass case. Wine barrels scattered in the small space serve as high-top tables. I leaned against one as Juan helped me pick out several wines to bring home (to be carried back, as usual, in my suitcase).

When we finally followed the scent of orange blossoms  back to Santa Cruz, it was nearly 5:00 pm.

After days of stuffing ourselves with tapas and walking from monument to cathedral to clothing store, we dedicated our nights to flamenco. We saw one,  sometimes two shows a night: in tablaos like my favorite El Arenal and the more commercial Los Gallos; at Museo del Baille Flamenco – the flamenco museum where I also took a flamenco dance class (!!); at La Carbonería (Levíes, 18), a hidden-from-the-street almost subterranean bar with a nightly flamenc0 gathering at 11:00 pm. Clearly we should have hit La Carbonería before our last night when we had to catch a midnight bus back to Lisbon.

Flamenco is all about the interplay between the dance, the music, and the song. Assuming that I would mainly watch the dancer, I found myself again and again drawn to the guitarist’s fingers strumming, plucking, tapping the strings and reflected in the dancer’s expression and fanning hands.

My dance training always emphasized that even the most difficult step should appear light and effortless. In flamenco, emotion is at the fore and effort-full movement follows. They literally dance from the soles of their feet to the tips of their fingers. The result is passion. It’s not always pretty, but it’s very very real. (Can you tell I’m planning to take some more classes?)

Don’t worry…I didn’t forget about that salmorejo  recipe I promised. Every day (sometimes twice a day) I ate this tomato-only, slightly thicker with the addition of more day-old bread, riff on gazpacho. Or maybe gazpacho is a riff on salmorejo. Luckily, I love them both.


Salmorejo is a creamy chilled tomato soup thickened with bread. It is traditionally served with a sprinkle of diced egg and ham.


– 8-12 ripe tomatoes

– 2 garlic cloves

– 1/4 C sherry vinegar (can substitute wine vinegar)

– sea salt to taste (I used ~2 t)

– 3/4 C extra virgin olive oil

– 2/3 day old baguette (~200 gm) — in a pinch, I’ve used pita!

– Fruity olive oil (Spanish arbequina is perfect for salmorejo – if you can’t get it in Spain, Unió is my favorite and available online and at Whole Foods)

– 2 eggs

Purée. Core and roughly chop the tomatoes. You can peel them for a smoother consistency, but I haven’t found that it makes an appreciable difference. Throw them in blender with the garlic and purée. A lot. The mix will be a light red. Add vinegar, salt, and regular olive oil. Keep puréeing until smooth and orange. This can take a few minutes. You might need to do it in 2 batches.

Soak. Tear up the bread and drop into the blender with the tomato mixture. Let soak for about 15 minutes until soggy.

Boil. Hard boil the eggs. Cool.

Purée again. Once the bread is good and soggy, purée until smooth and even lighter orange.

Garnish. Drizzle with a special fruity olive oil and sprinkle with chopped egg (and ham if you want).

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a taste of my NY

I was in NY this past weekend and my time can be summarized in a few words – family/friends, food, and art. Not surprisingly, much of the latter two were shared with the former. It was such a NY weekend. And for the first time in a long time, the only thing I bought were things to fill my pantry and fridge.

pantry and fridge items purchased in NY

my NY goodie bag

I got everything on my list and then some. In addition to good balsamic, parmesan, and fun demura (and white) sugar cubes, I found kosher beef jerky, gnocci from italy, ras al hanout spice mixture (which honestly I could have found up here, but I saw it in Fairway so I just bought it), and the pièce de résistance…Hazelnut oil. I found the hazelnut oil in Zabar’s (specific info on the oil on my resources page) and had bought the same one a few years ago but let it go rancid because I didn’t realize it needed to be refrigerated. I was SO happy to find this oil again!

Besides visiting the old classics foodie haunts on the UWS (Zabar’s, Fairway, Gourmet Garage), I stopped in to the newly renovated Kosher Marketplace — one of the higher end all kosher grocery stores in my old “chood” to see what it looked like. No longer a cramped tiny store, and still carrying some very high end products and interesting products, but check out the pictures below, and giggle along with me about some of the product placement issues they’re still working on (Meira — these are for you) …

expensive chocolate + bean dip!

yum...Payard's kosher collection...

fancy french apple sauce - French Lau in London used to order these to remind her of home

Delis compote aux pommes: authentic fancy French apple sauce - French Lau, living in London, used to order these to remind her of home

I didn’t just shop for food … I took advantage of NY’s culinary and cultural variety.

I got into the city only 3 hours before sundown, wanted to catch a small photography exhibit at a Chelsea gallery, and needed to find food for shabbat for my sister and my friend. This is probably only possible in NY and a handful of cities. We went to the exhibit — photography of female Israeli soldiers and dancers in Russia (captured poignantly not in performance, but behind the scenes which is where, as Elvera, who I met when we were in a dance company together, and I know only too well, the real emotion is), met the artist (!), and managed to pick up Indian food just cross town in “Curry Hill” and get back to my friend’s apartment more or less in time for shabbat to begin. Only in NY!

Saturday afternoon, we ate Indian leftovers and then walked to The Jewish Museum to see their exhibit on Chagall and the Russian Theater which is only around for 2 more weeks. What made the exhibit really interesting was that Elvera is originally from the Ukraine and could give her own commentary about life and the theater (having trained in dance there) in the more modern Soviet Union, when it was still united.

And then in the evening, I went to a CityStep benefit held at the Alvin Ailey building. Right outside the room where our benefit was being held, there is a stunning mosaic of Judith Jamison (who, I might add, received an honorary Doctorate of Arts the same year I walked…) that I just can’t resist sharing with you.

mosaic of Judith Jamison at Ailey

mosaic of Judith Jamison at Ailey

I had Sunday brunch at Pain Quotidien with some of my international friends that I so sorely miss. And interestingly enough, a guy wearing a yarmulke was eating in there too…Romy and Thierry wouldn’t let me take a picture of him eating his baguette and butter. And I wasn’t in the mood to approach him to start a discussion. Clearly we both subscribe to the “traditional French (and Belgian) baguettes are kosher; check that they are made on a floured (not greased) baking sheet/stone” rule and believe that this rule does not only apply to France (Belgium) … <ignoring the fact that I have become a bit more lax about eating out>.

After strolling through the MoMA and seeing some classics that I’m embarrassed to say I had never seen before in person, I was treated (and I mean treated!) to one of my favorite meat places for an early dinner. It has been so long since I’ve eaten meat out in a restaurant — and especially red meat — that I truly savored each bite of my Wolf&Lamb ribeye  burger with grilled onions. This was no meagre hamburger. This was the kind of burger that melts into the bun. No ketchup required. I couldn’t decide whether to eat it with my hands or a knife and fork. So, I alternated between hands and cutlery. It may not have been pretty, but it tasted pretty great. And the company, my dear friend MD, made it all the better. And thanks for the help with the picture — otherwise it would have been all bun!

Wolf&Lamb ribeye burger

And then it started to snow.

And snow.

And snow.

And eventually I got home.

But, wow…I did a lot in just a few days. You always hear about a NY minute. I think it took me six months away to realize and appreciate the vivaciousness of this city. And these were just a few tastes of my NY. I can’t wait to return for more. Imagine what I can do if I actually plan…

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I have been writing content for this blog for several months, have told scores of friends about this endeavor, have been cooking and baking and trying to take pictures of my experiments, but have put off actually “going live.” I’m not sure what I’ve been waiting for.

I made the decision to pull together all of my recipes and cooking adventures and travel after meeting Clotilde clotildeDusoulier in Paris last November for a book reading and signing. If you don’t know who she is, you should. She writes Chocolate & Zucchini (she’s at the top of my list of favorite blogs…check out her French “edible idioms” if you love the French language as much as I do), and everything I have ever made from her site and cookbooks has turned out well. Coming from me, that’s saying a lot. At the signing, she suggested using a blog, at the very least, as a way to keep track of your recipes and maybe to eventually share them with the world. She signed one of her books to me: “Pour Gayle – le bonheur est dans la cuisine! Clotilde” — “happiness is in cooking/the kitchen.” More on Clotilde later, but suffice it to say that my visits to France have led to many memorable experiences.

A year and a half ago, I spent about a month taking dance classes in Paris and Nice. At a later time, I’m sure I’ll write about the amazing food I ate, the (mostly positive) reactions I got to wearing a Jewish star the whole time, but right now, I’m going to focus on the issue at hand and some words of wisdom I received from one of my dance teachers in Nice. I was taking a jazz and tap dance atelier (workshop) at OffJazz that taught me so much more than dance. Given the world renown of the the school as well at its amazing location, students came from all over Europe and the world to train with Gianin Loringett and Gianin's classother teachers. (I hung out with people from London, Paris, Cannes, Prague, the Hague, Denmark, Brazil, and Cuba, and have gone back to visit a few dancers in their home cities.) What I found amazing, besides the instruction, was Gianin’s ability to switch seamlessly from one language to another. I consider myself lucky to speak passable French, but this guy is amazing. Our last week, we had several Italian students in one of our classes and as Gianin was demonstrating some steps, he stopped and stared at one dancer standing back and watching rather than practicing and yelled out, “Non pensare, fare.” For the rest of us whose common language was English, he translated as only he could: “If you sit around and think and wait, the train will leave you at the station.”

So there we go. I’ve started my blog. I’m on the train. And since this is about food, I guess I need to post at least one yummy picture. So, here is an authentic salade nicoise from, yup…you guessed it, Nice.

salade nicoise a Nice

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