new york

A NY Scrapbook: A Bite of the Big Apple

I was feeling a bit bushed last weekend. I knew that I had things that I needed to get done, but just couldn’t seem to get myself moving. Every time I thought of doing something, it seemed a little too hard. As a result, I spent more than my fair share of time sitting on the couch, watching TV and nattering away to the kids.

Bite of the big appleI know it’s not a bad thing to have a little downtime on the weekends, but I do feel a little remiss if I don’t get any reading done, so I allowed myself a middle ground. I took a nice leisurely look at Monica Trapaga and Lil Tulloch’s A Bite of the Big Apple (Penguin).

As many of you know by now, I’m a massive fan of all things New York, so this reading task was no chore. The fascinating images, recipes and descriptions of NY neighbourhoods made it no effort at all to spend a good hour strolling through Monica and Lil’s compilation…

It’s Ella and Louis. It’s Seinfeld and Woody Allen. It’s the bright lights of Broadway, it’s hot dogs at 2 a.m., it’s bagels and doughnuts and pastrami on rye. It’s also Mexican, Jamaican, Filipino, Puerto Rican and Chinese food, all thrown together in a cultural cacophony quite unlike anywhere else in the world. All of these influences come together when Monica Trápaga, one of Australia’s most-loved entertainers, escapes to New York – and realises she has come home. 

A Bite of the Big Apple is a bit like a hipster’s scrapbook, its collages are childlike but edgy, at times even a little bit gritty. Monica spends her time in the less-than-glamorous neighbourhood of Bedford Stuyversant, melting into the close-knit, slightly volatile community.

Bit of the big apple 2The taxi makes a left into Hancock Avenue and I feel as if we’ve just turned in to Sesame Street. In the pit of my stomach I’m feeling nervous but excited – I wouldn’t be surprised if Oscar the Grouch stuck his head out of a trash can and waved an old sardine in my direction. I pay the cab driver and he is out of there faster than Speedy Gonzales as I hug my luggage and look for the house number.

She and her daughter Lil travel on trains, taking full advantage of the NY subway in order to explore the culinary corners of the Big Apple – Ms Dahlias in Nostrand Avenue, Union Square and its organic markets, Russ and Daughters. What they find in delis and markets across the city is the inspiration for their fresher than fresh food, soulful, rustic combinations of produce and spice. Their Mojitos will knock your socks off and their Potato and Leek Soup will warm your heart.

This is a visually stunning book, and a fabulous story. Monica successfully captures and shares the feeling of New York, the sights and smells of both the high-end of town and the crumbling corners. Once again, I find myself longing to return, to explore New York more fully. But for now, I’ll flick through books like A Bite of the Big Apple and make plans for the future.

If you’d like to find out more about A Bite of the Big Apple you can visit here…

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My Monday: My favourite love-story

I’ve heard it said, that February is the month of romance.

Personally, I’ve always found that February is more the month of no more sleep-ins, a new school year starting, going back to work, and subsequently trying to catch-up after a month of down-time. Bah humbug.

But this year, I’m changing my tune. I’m going to get into the spirit of Valentine’s Day with a little light reading and a classic film.

And so, my first My Monday for 2012 is all about one of my favourite stories of all time – Truman Capote’s heartbreaker Breakfast at Tiffany’s. A tale that can make even me; ever practical, slightly cynical, a little too matter-of-fact, feel positively romantic.

I know it’s not the most original choice for this time of year, but for me, this story is the epitome of style, romance and that New York, New York feeling. Both the film and the novel in equal measure have an undeniable allure, a sweetness, a street-smartness and a delightful element of intrigue.

“Also, she had a cat and she played the guitar. On days when the sun was strong, she would wash her hair, and together with the cat, a red tiger-striped tom, sit out on the fire escape thumbing a guitar while her hair dried. Whenever I heard the music, I would go stand quietly by my window. She played very well, and sometimes sang too. Sang in the hoarse, breaking tones of a boy’s adolescent voice. She know all the show hits, Cole Porter and Kurt Weill; especially she liked the songs from Oklahoma! which were new that summer and everywhere. But there were moments when she played songs that made you wonder where she learned them, where indeed she came from. Harsh-tender wandering tunes with words that smacked of piney-woods or prairie.”

And of course, there’s this:

Each time I read this gorgeous novella I am perplexed by Holly…Is she an innocent? Is she a woman in charge of her own destiny? Or is she simply on a wild, wild ride through 1940s New York – peppered with gangsters, smitten neighbours and trips to the powder-room?

I’m going to read it again tonight, and I’ll try and work her out all over again.

And then of course there’s the film, and there’s Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn has become synonymous with Holly Golightly and her New York style, her sophistication has become iconic, the very measure of beauty.

When I was New York I almost missed out on seeing Central Park and I blame this entirely on the film. I lost myself for hours, deep inside Tiffany’s – hypnotised by sparkle and mental images of Audrey Hepburn, sipping coffee, strolling slowly on a New York morning. Before I knew it, I’d cut my day in half and had time only enough for a quick wander through Central Park. Never mind, next time.

I’d love to be planning another trip to the Big Apple, but a date night to the Astor Theatre will have to suffice – they’re showing Breakfast at Tiffany’s next weekend.

And with that, that’s my February set, and Matt be warned, I’ll expect diamonds this Valentines Day.

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All things NYC

Those of you who know me, know that I love New York. I count the weekend I spent there a few years ago as one of my most exciting ever, and I dream of the day that I can go back again. I’m pretty certain I’m not alone in my obsession, and the fact that every time I switch on the TV at the moment someone or another is running madly through Times Square or cooking in Central Park, reassures me that the love for and fascination with NYC is not fading.

If you’re a fan of New York, or simply love great photography, you’ve really got to check out photographer Melissa Hobb’s upcoming exhibition; NYC -6º Cold Bite of the Big Apple. Opening next week, Wednesday 27 July at Gasworks Art Park the show features a range of beautifully narrative shots of New York in Winter.

What to expect, in Melissa’s words…

New York City = No 1 on my Bucket List. For so many years I’ve wanted to travel to New York. Even more so now that my new profession is encompassed in the art world and New York has so many wonderful galleries.

So when my amazing husband surprised me with a booked holiday, New York was now on the agenda.

The average temperature in New York was -6°C but this didn’t deter me from discovering this amazing city. When 18 inches of snow fell, New York turned into a magical wonderland.

As a keen user of social networking sites Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, not only was I able to share my experiences with everyone back home but I could also share my first hand view of New York through the many images I took. This is my interpretation of New York and the way I saw it. Finally!

About the artist…
Melissa Hobbs is a final year photography commercial major at Photography Studies College. Her dream of being a professional photographer is rapidly being realised. Inspired by such photographers as Paul Strand, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen, Melissa embarked on a journey to NYC with the intention of photographing “the essence of New York” She’s a wife and Mum to two young boys. You can find out more about Melissa’s work at her website or follow her on Twitter @melhobbs.

Photo: Mel Hobbs

Mel would love your company at the opening, or pop on by any time up until 7 August 2011. Also, feel free to let us know what you think of the show…

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