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Spring 2015 Inspiration
Published: February 14th 2015
Spring 2015 Inspiration
"Pepper has nothing in it that can plead as a recommendation... its only desirable quality being a certain pungency; and yet it is for this we import it all the way from India!" Pliny The Elder, 77 CE
I am always searching for pungency, and Cochin Fort seemed like the perfect place to explore. Tucked in a corner of the state of Kerala, it was once the center of the Indian spice trade with traders from around the world. Its port was settled by Jews, Arabs and Chinese, so I knew I'd find some incredible history to step into. I have to admit I did not enter by sea, which was my wont. Instead I flew from New York. But just to get into the mood, I took a ferry that was jammed to the point of tipping over with cars, motorbikes, and rickshaws to get to the port from the airport.
Spring 2015 Inspiration
Spring 2015 Inspiration
I usually try to make connections in a place through friends of friends or cousins of relatives once-removed from some locals to latch on to. Fortunately, I knew Pip Rau, a famous textile dealer from London, whose very old friend Joerg Drechsel owns a number of properties in Cochin. One evening I landed in the center of the old quarter on one of Drechsel's doorsteps, the Malabar House. The hotel is a lovely old Colonial that Joerg and his Spanish wife, Txuku, renovated.

As I walked under wooden columns into the magical courtyard, South Indian musicians floated past candlelit tables playing traditional melodies. It felt like the India I wanted to see, not the modern country rushing headlong in every direction. So even if this was a choreographed fantasy enclosed in an old house, I was happy to be there. Joerg insisted I go up to the open-air spa for a Kalari massage with two masseurs to stimulate my energy points. Drenched in coconut oil after the massage, I sauntered back to my room, loosened up, unknotted, and ready to find my spring collection.
Spring 2015 Inspiration
Spring 2015 Inspiration
The next day, I took an early yoga class on my teak wood balcony, with a teacher who is also a trainer in Kalarippayat, the oldest martial arts form in Asia. Sanjay calmly guided me into breathing exercises and helped me escape all I had come from. We sat under an awning protected from the glowing sun, and time slowed. Motorbikes stopped passing by. Birds talked. My mind cleared.

Now that I had laundered my karma, I was ready to explore. My first rule of thumb is to get lost, which I have no problem doing since I have a horrible sense of direction. Luckily Malabar House is located right in the historic part of the city. I made my way down to the beach to see the famous Chinese fishing nets. They hang off long bamboo arms, and get slowly lowered into the water like giant spiders spanning 20 meters. These incredible relics of Chinese fishing are mesmerizing to watch as they collapse, then come up gracefully from the water like ballet dancers rising to make a pirouette but full of fish!
Spring 2015 Inspiration
Spring 2015 Inspiration
Near the nets I found a boisterous local market. There, fishmongers were making beautiful stacks of silver, blue, and corral fish in baskets, and I noted those colors for spring. A salesman was selling the latest crank noodle makers; I marveled as he belted out his pitches to the moving sea of people and spun the handle to create Pollack-esque clumps of noodles. Nearby a man sold Spirographs and I bought his tester pieces with their dozens of different designs in blue and red ball point pen, delicate universes that seemed related to the Chinese fishing nets.
Spring 2015 Inspiration
Spring 2015 Inspiration
Further down the crowded boardwalk, couples walking hand-and-hand chatted, snacked, and gawked at the latest novelties as dogs wove in and out, all in harmony. Further down the walk there was a street artist with paintings leaning against the walls depicting a tsunami in modern format, with water rushing down the central avenue. I loved his naïve style and of course I bought a drawing; a recovering artist myself, I always try to support independent artists.

Right by the market is St. Francis Church. Built in 1503, it's the oldest European church in India. The church is painted in aqua and shades of red, and its windows were open letting sunlight stream in. Birds fluttered around as if the Holy Ghost was arriving or departing, I am not sure which. On my way there I saw a statue of a saint on which someone had placed an umbrella to block the sun. I like tropical religion; it seems much more relaxed.
Spring 2015 Inspiration
Spring 2015 Inspiration
On the other side of town I wouldn't miss the Dutch Palace, built in 1555 by the Portuguese as a gift to the Raja of Cochin, but renovated by the Dutch. The floor looks like black marble, but it's actually a material made from burnt coconut shells, charcoal, lime and egg whites, which makes for an incredible glowing surface. The fantastic Hindu murals are painted with tempura in rich colors of eggplant and gold combinations I would take with me. Outside on the sidewalks girls were making rice mandalas in lovely patterns that looked like block prints in white on the charcoal sidewalks. They worked quietly and intensely on complex patterns that would all be blown away.
Spring 2015 Inspiration
Spring 2015 Inspiration
Later in the day I went to see a performance of Kalarippayat, the ancient martial art. If you head up before the show starts you can see the fellows applying makeup with intense concentration, like drag queens getting ready for a showdown. Deep reds, blues, and charcoals inspired me as much as the traditional costumes did, with their many layers in shades of gold.
Spring 2015 Inspiration
Spring 2015 Inspiration
I never skip lunch, especially down South, where you can find the perfect dosas paper-thin crepes made of rice batter and black lentils. I had one filled with coconut chutney and sambar, and washed it down with a spicy chai.

As I walked around town I saw huge murals snaking around abandoned buildings huge faded heads painted in black down by the port, and a building covered in blue tentacles, as if they have been there for centuries. Cochin is home to one of the largest art fairs in the world, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, where an estimated 500,000 people visit. One consolation to the large crowds is the large number of small art galleries that mount some entertaining installations.
Spring 2015 Inspiration
Spring 2015 Inspiration
Cochin is fun for its southern antiques (as well as for its not-so-antiques that are claimed as antiques). Head over to Jew Town to find all the big dealers, and their wares spilling into the street. A shop called Crafters has some wooden cow heads painted in neon colors that would look tribal hanging over your bed, as well as a huge assortment of Kerala masks, amazing in both scale and detail.
Spring 2015 Inspiration
India is motion. You just have to jump in and swim for your life. On one of my first trips to India I learned never to hesitate when crossing the street, even if a bus is careening towards you. He expects you to keep moving, and if you pause he will hit you. Colors seem to vibrate and mix in the scorching sun, and people are not afraid to wear colors and mix them up, as there will always more saris to choose from. Signs are painted in four languages: Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Tulu, with flowing strokes in a variety of South Indian scripts, pitching and rolling like a boat on a swell.

Design ideas come to me on the fly, as I walk, as I get lost, as I wander the color of a fishermans net, a street artist spinning spirographs, a fleeting mandala painted on a sidewalk, never meant to last. That's the fun part about my job: I get to blend, mix and combine all of the world into designs that can marinate like fish sauce and end up as pungent as pepper at an old sea port.
Spring 2015 Inspiration
Spring 2015 Inspiration
Cochin
"Pepper has nothing in it that can plead as a recommendation ...its only desirable quality is a certain pungency; and yet it is for this that we import it all the way from India." Pliny The Elder.
stay
Malabar House
Malabar House
Great food and wine bar upstairs. Amazing live music live every night.
Trinity Resort
Trinity Resort
On the back waters an hour from Fort Cochin  a must.
eat
Malabar house
Malabar house
For dinner and live performance.
Kashi Gallery on Burgher Street
Kashi Gallery on Burgher Street
Great café for lunch and to see the groovy kids hanging out working on their novels.
Café Jew Town
Café Jew Town
Clean and easy right near the synagogue where you might need a fresh lime soda after.
see
Kalarippayat
Kalarippayat
The oldest martial arts forms of Asia to achieve fitness and prevent injuries. Go for the mark up part if you like seeing men put on makeup with intensity.
Bishops House
Bishops House
Lovely old house with a quirky museum.
St Francis Church
St Francis Church
Built in 1503, I love old Colonial churches with the windows all open painted in fiesta colors with birds swooping over the pews.
Chinese Fishing Nets
Chinese Fishing Nets
In Vasco da Gama Square still working and built in the 14th century!
shop
Crafters
Crafters
One of the big antique shops on Jew Towns main drag. Also, see his spices shop at the end of the road.
Heritage Arts
Heritage Arts
In Jew Town road has 7 massive warehouses dont miss one. Cochin is a port town so its easy to ship to the USA, but argue hard it might be more relaxed than the North but the dealers are not.
Idiom Booksellers
Idiom Booksellers
Amazing collection of books on India.
Warm up fall with our Cauliflower Hazelnut Soup
Published: October 19th 2014
Warm up fall with our Cauliflower Hazelnut Soup
Method

Toast the hazelnuts

Pre-heat the oven to 350º.
Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the skins start to peel away, and they are a light brown. Be careful not to overcook / burn because the flavor of the nuts will change dramatically.

When they are done, allow them to cool slightly and then roll the nuts between your hands to release the skins. Discard the skins and set the peeled hazelnuts aside while you prepare the soup.

Prepare the soup

Place the leeks and garlic in a heavy bottom pot over medium heat with some olive oil. Sauté for about two minutes, until everything is soft. Add in the cauliflower and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cauliflower starts to brown.

Add in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, place a cover loosely over the top and cook for about 20-30 minutes.

Carefully transfer the soup to a blender. Add in 1/2 cup of hazelnuts and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice or vinegar. Blend until you have a smooth puree. Taste and adjust any seasoning as necessary. You will probably want to add a little more salt and maybe another tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Keep in the blender while you prepare the sage.

Fry the sage

In a small cast iron/frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Fry the sage leaves for about 2 minutes on each side until they become nice and crispy. Remove and place on a paper towel.

Assemble the soup

Pour the warm soup into individual bowls. Top with the exrta chopped hazelnuts, fresh cracked pepper, chives, and/or micro greens. Also, if you like, you can sauté a couple of florets of cauliflower to add on top.

This is best served warm, right away. It also makes great leftovers. It will keep for several days in an air-tight container in the fridge.

SPICE UP FALL
Published: October 19th 2014
SPICE UP FALL
Method

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Prepare the dough. Combine flour, salt and butter in cuisinart or bowl. Add ice water slowly while pulsing in cuisinart until it gets clumpy. Gather the dough together, being careful not to over handle it (if overworked it wont be light and flaky). Cover in saran wrap and if you have the time, let it rest in the fridge for 20-30min (or longer if you want to prepare the dough ahead of time, allowing it to return to room temp before working with it).

Butter you tart pan generously. On a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough to be large enough to cover the bottom of the pan and go up the sides. Add additional flour as you roll to keep it from sticking. When finished, roll the dough around your rolling pin and unroll it onto your tarte plan (like Brigitte does in the video). Press the dough down so it fits snug into the pan, cutting off excess dough that falls outside the top of the pan.

Prick a few holes in the dough to prevent it from puffing up. Cook it for about 10 min at 450°F or until it begins to brown.

Spread the tomato achaar on the dough. Layer half of the combination of gruyere, emmental and parmesan cheeses. Then layer your sliced tomatoes and top with another layer of cheese. Cook it for about 20 min at 450°F. The crust needs to be golden to brown and the cheese should be nice and melted and almost browned and crusty.

Sprinkle the finished tarte with fleur de sel, chopped parsley, and drizzle with olive oil. Serve warm or cold.
Morocco 2014
Published: September 21st 2014
Morocco 2014
"Whenever he was en route from one place to another he was able to look at his life with a little more objectivity than usual. It was often on trips that he thought most clearly and made decisions that he could not reach when he was stationary."
Morocco 2014
Mr. and Mrs. Irving were so kind to invite me to Tangier where they rented a fantastic house in the Old Mountain, with views looking out onto the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Emilie Irving is the owner of the wonderful shop Xenomania on East 6th Street and Bowery, which is full of antique textiles and jewelry you must stop by for tea in the fall. She has an impeccable eye and, luckily for us, is an equally great hostess!
Morocco 2014
Landing in Casablanca from New York, we took a meandering train ride to Tangier.
It's approximately a four-hour trip by car and six by train, but I recommend the train as a way to unfold into the Moroccan countryside. Make sure to get first class tickets, as you'll want the air conditioning and the roomier cabins.
Morocco 2014
Morocco 2014
Arriving in Tangier, we visited the fish market where lively fishmongers paraded their wares. The types of fish were astounding: live clams, massive swordfish, and even a shark's head! Emilie sniffed some fish to make sure they were fresh and into our straw market baskets they went.
Morocco 2014
Now that dinner had been decided, it was time for shopping in the famous Tangier Medina. First stop was at a shop called Bazar Tindouf to look for textiles and bric-a-brac. I bought a pair of leather slippers in faint lemon, and the ladies found various jewels. Located down the street was Chez Dounia where I bought a cocoa djellaba (a traditional, long robe). Bargain the Moroccan goods down 30% a relief from the dramatic mark-ups in India!

Continuing on to the famous Madini Perfumer, a tiny shop with large crystal glasses full of exotic fragrances ranging from delicate white sandalwood to Moroccan rose. I bought Oud, which holds its own in any fish market, and my lovely date bought Mimosa. This ancient shop is a must for giftsdont miss the coordinating soaps, which are beautifully packaged.
Morocco 2014
Morocco 2014
The next day we traveled to the beach for a lazy lunch at Da Renzo, a sleepy Italian restaurant. An older gent told us what he was serving for lunch and we went with the flow through wonderful risottos, pastas, and bottles of rosé. Besides the pasta, the real perk was lounging in his private beach spot and watching the camels pass, as well as the general chaos of a beach full of lively locals.
Morocco 2014
Rabat
On the way to Rabat, we hired a car to drive us to Asilah, a sparkling seaside medina, where we stopped for a fish lunch at Casa Garcia. Sit upstairs to have a view of the ocean and afterwards, get lost in the pastel-painted souk. We found subtle green pottery and handmade raffia shoes that were perfect for summer.
Morocco 2014
Morocco 2014
Morocco 2014
Morocco 2014
Casablanca
We had half a day in Casablanca so we focused on Hassan II Mosque, where tours run every hour. Perched on the ocean, this mosque is incredibly constructed of marble from Agadir, cedar from the middle Atlas, granite from Tafraoute - its a tour of materials from all over Morocco.
Morocco 2014
Morocco 2014
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