Life on an Estancia

There are more heads of cattle in Argentina than there are people.  With such a large population of cattle, there are vast ranches, otherwise known as estancia, all over the country.  Several are open to the public so guests can experience the life of a gaucho (or cowboy).  Here I am communing with a fellow blond on the grounds of an estancia near the town of El Calafate in Patagonia.IMG_1369 DSC02893IMG_1367

On Thick Ice

Before this trip, I had never laid eyes on a glacier, let alone stepped foot upon one. I had seen photographs of them but it is difficult to get a sense of their size, scale, and activity from a picture. The Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentine Patagonia is 97 square miles in size. It is one small part of the third largest ice field in the world, which despite global warming, is actually expanding in size. It averages 250 feet in height and there is constant activity as it calves and large chunks of ice split off and crash down into the lake below.   We strapped on our crampons, the spiky footwear of choice, to trek on the glacier. For about an hour and a half, we walked amongst beautiful, richly colored blue ice formations and observed crevasses, streams, and small pools of water.   What a magnificent part of the world, it is no wonder that UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) added it to its list of world heritage sites.

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La Moda de Patagonia

The next stop on our South American journey was Patagonia in the southern part of Chile. The area has magnificent views of glaciers, bright blue glacial lakes, and a litany of wild life that made us feel like we were on a South American safari. There were guanacas (which are related to llama), rhea (which are large flightless birds that resemble ostrich), puma, fox, and many species of birds. Amidst all of this wildlife, are enormous sheep stations, where the population of sheep in this region far outnumbers the population of humans.

Much of our activity was centered around hiking. It may be summer in South America at this time of year but in Patagonia the weather can be very variable, and it can turn on a moment’s notice, so you have to be prepared for everything, all of the time, including cold, heat, wind, rain, and even snow. We outfitted ourselves, primarily, in the brand Patagonia for our trip to Patagonia, with some of our base layers from Under Armour, for additional warmth.   We added and peeled off layers, as needed.

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Chilling in Chilean Desert

My first stop on a trip to South America was to the Atacama Desert in Chile, the driest place on earth. It receives an average of ½ inch of rain per year and, as a result, is extremely barren, resembling Mars in some areas and the moon in others.   At lower elevations, wildlife and vegetation are scarce but at some of the higher elevations, we saw llamas, vicunas (related to alpacas), and flamingos. The area is ringed with high peaks and volcanoes and the views are spectacular. It was well worth the visit to this far-off locale. Next up is the capital city of Santiago and then off to the glaciers of Patagonia.IMG_5217 IMG_5381 IMG_5561IMG_5265Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetIMG_5560

True Blue

For centuries, sailors, both here and abroad, have worn the pea coat.  In the past several decades, however, it became a fashion staple for both men and women because of its smart, classic design.  Although many designers have made their own versions of the pea coat, this particular one is pretty traditional.  It is MADE IN THE USA by Fidelity Sportswear, which has been manufacturing pea coats since 1941, at first for the U.S. Navy (in the color Navy) and then for the general public.  This is the perfect weight coat for fall  and spring and for mild winter days, like today.  

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Roberta’s Farm-to-table

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         I set out to explore the farm-to-table movement that has been gaining momentum in the New York City restaurant community in recent years. I had heard the catchphrase and it seemed to make sense to me. If you source ingredients closer to home, they would be fresher and retain their nutritional value longer than if they sat on a truck for two weeks.   In the process, small, independent farms would benefit from the increased business and the consumer would know the farming practices of those farms.  After decades of consuming overly processed foods, America was ready to re-embrace fresh produce.

         I did an internet search of farm-to-table restaurants in New York City and the same names kept popping up: Blue Hill, Rosemary’s, ABC Kitchen and others. I selected Roberta’s because of its reasonable prices, its emphasis on pizzas, and its no-reservation policy. I trekked out to Bushwick, Brooklyn, on a Sunday at 4 PM and found myself in an industrial neighborhood that is still on the frontier of gentrification. Roberta’s is housed in a former auto-body shop retrofitted, as basically as you could imagine, as a restaurant. Out back, along with an outdoor eating area and a tented dining room, is a garden. Roberta’s takes farm-to-table right to its own backyard. They have hothouses, which during the course of the year, grow as many as 70 different crops, ranging from strawberries to mustard greens and many hard-to-find herbs and vegetables. These gardens do not provide enough produce to feed all of the diners that pass through this restaurant annually. According to their cookbook, “At best, 10 percent of what’s served at Roberta’s is grown here.” However, it serves as a test garden for some of the interesting, more obscure crops that it hopes to incorporate into its dishes.  The chefs source a fair amount of their produce at the Brooklyn Grange in Long Island City and the Brooklyn Navy Yards, which is one of the largest rooftop farms in the world. They cure their own meats, make some of their own cheeses, and continually look for new purveyors of locally sourced ingredients.

          I arrived at 4 and unbeknownst to me, the kitchen was closed between the hours of 4 and 5 as they transitioned from lunch to dinner. The only items that they were serving were their renowned brick-oven pizza and their meat plate of prosciuttos and salamis, served with fresh baked bread. There were, perhaps, 10 varieties of pizzas and maybe another 20 toppings to choose from so I was in heaven. I chose a traditional Margherita pizza, which was one of the best that I have tasted in New York City. I know a thing or two about Neapolitan pizza and I can tell you that Roberta’s pizza is a fabulous facsimile of those served in Southern Italy. Made in a wood-burning oven, imported from Italy, the crust is thin in the center but perfectly singed and crispy on the ends. The sauce is made from San Marzano tomatoes, which are imported from Italy, not sourced locally but the cheese is made on the premises. I hope to return there soon because I would love to try some of the other dishes on the menu, which I have read, are delicious. The New York Times gave Roberta’s a fabulous review and the Zagat’s guide gives it a 26 out of 30. However, I might opt for the pizzas again because they were that good.

          I would consider Roberta’s a hybrid farm-to-table restaurant because, while many items are sourced close to home, several do come from afar. They just utilize the best quality ingredients and they deliver delicious food in a creative way. The ambience at Roberta’s is lively, the wait staff is knowledgeable and friendly, and the experience is worth the trek to the new frontier of Bushwick, Brooklyn.

The Calm Before the Storm

A few days ago, I spent a gorgeous day at the beach in Bridgehampton, NY.  The sky was a rich color blue, the sun was blindingly bright, the water was calm, and the temperature was a balmy 60 degrees.  As we know, though, the temperatures can go up and down like a yo-yo, at this time of year.  Today, we saw a dramatic change in the weather with sleet pounding the New York area and other parts of the northeast.  I sincerely hope that this weather does not forebode another polar vortex, like we had last winter.  I still haven’t recovered from that one, yet. 

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Bushwick, the New Frontier

Slowly but surely the boundaries of cool are expanding in Brooklyn, especially as store rents and housing prices soar. People are looking to set up shop and home in more affordable neighborhoods so sections of Brooklyn that may not have been so desirable in years past are suddenly booming with activity. One such neighborhood is Bushwick, which is on the verge of a rebirth. I went there recently to eat at the famed restaurant, Roberta’s, which is known for its pizzas. It is housed in a ramshackle building, formerly an auto body shop, but between the delicious food – I stuck with the pizza, which did not disappoint – and the crowd of young, hip people (“hipsters”), it was an experience worth traveling for. The buildings in the area are covered with street art, which makes it a great backdrop for pictures so I did not pass up the opportunity to take some photos.

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Senseless Tragedy, Selfless Act

This beautiful, little girl named Layla Peterson was murdered while sitting on her grandfather’s lap in the living room of his own home. Despite their obvious state of grief, her parents showed true compassion when they announced that they would donate her precious little heart to another child in dire need of one to stay alive.  Organ donation is a selfless act that benefits a stranger whose life depends on the death of another.  Truly heartfelt, yet inspiring story! Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 12.35.58 AM

Spooktacular

I must confess that Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year, especially when it falls on a weekend. I love it all—the costumes, the decorations, and the candy. I take the “more is more” approach: if one costume is good, two is better. This year, I’m dressing as a motorcyclist by day and a boxer by night. Here are some photos of the spooktacular decorations around the city.

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