Favorite Things Lately, Volume 1

1 WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum: This installation was a punch in the gut. It explored the history of modern wars through 400 images and objects dating back to the mid 1800s. Some of the images were graphically violent. Others were uplifting. The complex tangle of emotions I felt from start to finish was raw and ran the spectrum from shame and disgust to euphoria and joy. The stoic wedding photo of a severely burned marine and his wife, whose love-conquers-all story I vividly remember reading in 2006, was brought into real-world focus when the placard explained that they divorced in 2008 and he died in 2012. Though spread over only two rooms (albeit, one quite large), the exhibit felt incredibly comprehensive. A visitor’s comment card posted to a wall as you exit summarized my–and I’m sure many others’–feelings perfectly: “We can do better.” See it before it closes February 2nd. While you’re there, check out the imaginative, over-the-top Jean Paul Gualtier fashion retrospective as well.

Displaying Palu - OJ Orjuela

Louie Palu (Canadian, b. 1968). U.S. Marine Gysgt. Carlos “OJ” Orjuela, age 31, Garmsir District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from Project: Home Front, 2008; courtesy of Brooklyn Museum

2. The garden at Elizabeth Street Gallery & Garden: This striking sculpture garden adjacent to an antiques gallery was only recently opened to the public. And residents are currently embroiled in a battle to save it from development. It’s a worthy fight. The green space is the Secret Garden of Nolita, filled with classical statues, stone benches, flower beds and a romantic gazebo. Since passersby aren’t always sure what it is, they’re often hesitant to go in, usually making for a pleasantly uncrowded experience. On a mild fall afternoon filled with changing leaves, a visit here was a nice way to bid adieu to the temperate weather.

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The garden in late October

3. Tom Swafford at the 7th Avenue Q/B and Grand Army Plaza 2/3: One of my favorite things about commuting from the aforementioned subway stops is that Tom Swafford is often busking. Tom is an accomplished violinist who plays an eclectic array of music, from weepy dirges to twangy ditties. If I’m not in too much of a hurry I’m often secretly relieved to have just missed the train.

4. Tacos at Los Tacos No. 1: This may just be New York City’s answer to LA’s taco superiority. Small, well-crafted tacos using freshly-pressed tortillas, tender meats (and for the vegetarians: grilled cactus) and authentic toppings like onions, a thin guacamole sauce and cilantro. A one-star rating on Yelp complained that there was no cheese or sour cream–the best kind of unintentional endorsement.


Courtesy of Los Tacos No. 1

5. This recipe for a chocolate chip skillet cookie: This is a show-stopper of a homemade dessert. Who doesn’t love a frisbee sized melty chocolate chip cookie straight out of the oven? Top it with vanilla bean ice cream, grab a bunch of spoons and let people dig in. I’ve made it twice and it was a certifiable hit both times. And, it’s actually easy to make. No joke. I highly recommend chopping up a gourmet chocolate bar (which is usually about 3 oz., the recommended amount) over using bagged chocolate chips–it makes for a better texture. If you’re preparing it for a party and don’t want to spend more than 10 or so minutes in the kitchen, divvy the ingredients up into tupperware containers beforehand.

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