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Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Before winter closes in on us, Marty, Sue, Rob and I decide to grab one of those last glorious days to spend in Piermont, NY right on the Hudson River. Everything you think a NYC suburb should be, Piermont is not. With its man-made Erie Railroad pier jutting out into the Hudson, Piermont provides space for walkers, bikers, drivers, and runners. Benches along the walkways and mini-greens allow for picnickers, sun-worshippers, and resters. Galleries and shops along its main streets provide opportunities for artists and tourists. Sundays offer a Farmer's Market. Restaurants offer a multitude of choices in price range as well as in cuisine. The marina offers safe harbor. On our Sunday, the sun's warmth crowds out a normally brisk November day on the water making for a perfect outing.

We aren’t the only folks hungry for the last of the warm weather, and we park a few blocks away from the pier. Once we reach the waterfront, we are treated to spectacular views; upriver to the left stretches the Tappan Zee Bridge, its graceful span curving on the Westchester side. Downriver we can't quite see the George Washington Bridge, but the Hudson's width and beauty makes the view majestic.

Along the walk back toward Piermont, we pass condos built along the waterfront. There's an open house in one. While Rob and I soak in the rays, Sue and Marty take a tour. Want to know what this beautiful view will cost you? This two-bedroom apt with a windowless kitchen but with a balcony and big windows goes for 1.5 million dollars. Taxes are $26,000. Monthly carrying charges are $1,200. I am sooooo happy I love Warwick and do not hanker to live here. If any of you are interested, it wouldn't surprise me one iota if the apartment is still available.

We wander through the Farmer's Market, but it is getting late and they're packing up. Still we get a chance to sample some pickles but decline buying them at $12.00 a quart. We also sample a pretty good Cabernet from Slate Hill Winery. There are plenty of gorgeous vegetables as well as organic meats available for these suburbanites, and we see people enjoying the choice. Rob and I recognize two of the vendors from our own area.

On to an early dinner at Pasta Amore. We can see the world through the big picture windows. The restaurant shuns the techno look with no sound absorbers, so rather than being noisy and loud, the volume is comfortable and we four can enjoy conversation without effort. That's two plusses already, and we haven't even looked at the menu! Zagat compliments Pasta Amore’s views, comfortable casualness, and excellent Northern Italian food. Our great day gets better each moment.

It's early, and this is not a day to rush, so we order appetizers. Sue chooses the Portabello, Grifilata, a large Roman Mushroom brushed with olive oil and garlic, served over tri-color green with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. It’s as attractive and as tasty as it sounds. Marty is happy with his Grilled Vegetable Plate, marinated fresh vegetables served with a balsamic vinaigrette. Rob's choice is Insalata di Frutti di Mare, an absolutely beautiful presentation of calamari, scungilli, pulpo, scallops, and shrimp served with a lemon vegetable vinaigrette. I favor the Calamari Fritta, served delicately breaded, a rarity, and accompanied by a Fra Diavlo sauce. It is delicious, not dried but just chewy enough. The serving is so big we four could have shared it. Everyone tastes and agrees it is delicious. I take some home with me.

For my entree, I order Pollo Involtini, a combination and presentation entirely new to me. Here is chicken stuffed with ricotta, prosciutto, and basil served with a Fra Diavlo sauce. It is served as a long stuffed roll, partially sliced, entirely tantalizing, and accompanied by a medley of steamed vegetables. The portion is huge, and after the calamari, I take some of this home with me. I really enjoy it.

Sue orders Pollo Grandama, a breast of chicken sautéed with mushrooms, walnuts and black truffles in a marsala wine sauce. Once again, the chef has hit on a winner. Rob chooses Roughy Ligurian Style, sautéed orange roughy with fresh and sundried tomatoes, capers, olives, shallots and herbs in a white wine sauce. He liked it as much as Marty enjoyed the Salmon al Porro, sautéed with leeks, fresh tomatoes and herbs in a white wine garlic sauce. Beautiful preparation and presentation.

It is a lovely meal that leaves us no room for the tempting desserts. It does make us want to go back out and walk—to explore more of Piermont and to walk off some of our dinner.

We enter the Piermont Fine Arts Gallery, an amazing cooperative of 24 artists. Serendipitously we run into Marty’s and my former colleague, abstract artist Alan Levine whose exhibition has just ended. He has his portfolio with him and we get to peek at a sampling of his work. Even more incredible is that Sue knows the artist whose photography is currently on exhibition, Mariela Dujovne Melamed. This day is the opening of her show. Of course we spend a lot of time there.

It is a long day, but it is a lovely day with good friends, wonderful weather, excellent food, and a bit of art. Can you think of a better way to spend a Sunday?

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Friday, November 06, 2009



Although the clouds blanketed the Chugash Mountains, we were prepared for the rain. Taking the free shuttle out to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, we found one of the best museums of this kind we’ve ever seen. Staffed by young people, some still in high school and others in college, the museum is alive with history and culture, and we learned of an Alaska no one ever showed us in school.

The building was an eye opener. There are eleven or twelve recognized tribes, but because of geographical isolation, about twenty languages are spoken, and the differences often make it impossible for the tribes to communicate with one another. Because Alaska is so huge and so varied, the tribes survive in different ways. Some live solely by the sea, others are farmers, others are hunters and fishermen. This is definitely NOT a one size fits all state.

Outside the main building is Lake Tiulana, around which there are replicas of the different living quarters of the five predominant cultures. While we are in a museum, much of what we see still exists as tribes maintain their ways of life, particularly in some of the remote and challenging regions of the state. It’s also true that modern conveniences have been incorporated; some dog sleds have been replaced by snow machines, and modern communication systems are used when possible. However, values, and proven methods of existence continue unchanged. Guides answer our questions about the way each tribe lives, and it’s particularly interesting to see how the native Alaskans hunker down for the long winter—not only in their preparation for physical survival but also for social survival through music, dance, story telling, etc. Picture a long winter in tight quarters….

The young dancers in the videos explained that because space in the winter quarters is limited, too much foot movement is difficult, so tribes developed “hand dancing.” Hand movements had meaning, and we learned some movements so we could follow the story of the dance. These dances are still created, often about more modern themes.

Today there are native games—competition in the athletics of the tribes and limited to those who are native Alaskans. You’ll see the skill, strength and balance required by these young athletes in the video. Notice in the photo that she is balanced on one hand while she reaches overhead to the ball. You can also imagine the practical aspects of maintaining strength and agility as a necessity for survival.
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Rob and I had lunch at the center. First a wonderful chowder brimming with salmon, lobster, potatoes and other vegetables. Then we had caribou stew—a rich, dark, tender stew with meat leaner than beef. Excellent. We’re not going to get that kind of food in the lower 48.

There is a concerted effort to make native Alaskan culture accessible to all. There is a move, as well, to inculcate the culture into the young people. They study and learn here, and they are able to learn at the universities. There is an effort to develop a written language to preserve the cultures, but it is an exceedingly challenging effort. The Native Heritage Center, therefore, plays an important part in preserving as well as in educating everyone who enters. For us it was a thoroughly enriching experience.

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